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UNICEF supports campaign to prevent spread of Marburg in Angola

LUANDA, 28 March 2005- UNICEF is supporting WHO and the Angolan Ministry of Health in its efforts to prevent the spread of an epidemic caused by the Marburg virus that has killed 111 people, including 92 children under 15 years of age. While the outbreak is mainly concentrated in the northern province of Uige, 5 cases - 2 resulting in deaths- have already been reported in Angola’s capital, Luanda.

A far reaching communication and social mobilisation campaign aimed at informing the population across the country of the existing epidemic outbreak and the measures they ought to take to prevent becoming ill, is underway. “A UNICEF team of experts in social mobilisation is currently fully dedicated to supporting our colleagues from the Ministry of Health and WHO. A timely and relevant communication strategy is absolutely crucial to prevent the virus from spreading,” said Mario Ferrari, UNICEF Representative in Angola.

Elements of the campaign are already up and running in the province of Uige with radio programs constantly broadcasting messages specifically designed to reach the population at risk. In addition, some 600 activists have been trained and given much needed materials to conduct house to house visits and ensure the word on the epidemic reaches the more isolated areas.

Meanwhile, the Scouts of Angola have agreed to mobilise some 5,000 scouts throughout the country to support the dissemination of life-saving information. “Only in Luanda we are expecting to immediately train 750 scouts. By next week-end they should be equipped to distribute information to people and drivers on the street and advice them on how to prevent the hemorrhagic fever and what to do if they come across a suspected case,” says Celso Malavoloneke, UNICEF Assistant to Programme Communication Officer.

Additional posters, stickers, brochures; radio and TV spots are under preparation to complete the communication efforts and expand them throughout the country. 

A UNICEF emergency convoy containing 42 kits of essential drugs and gloves for the health workers arrived in Uige during the Easter week-end to ensure dispensaries are stocked up to treat the related symptoms and other common illnesses. Thanks to the rapid response of UNICEF’s Copenhagen-based supplies team, badly needed disinfectants, intravenous liquids, masks, protection glasses, clothes and boots for health workers are on its way to Angola for prompt distribution to Uige and other provinces.

As Guy Clarysse, Head of Health Section in Angola explains “the epidemic is unfolding and we don’t know yet the full effect it can have. The response needs to be firm, rapid and multilayered. While we make sure the ill are cared for, we need to protect the health personnel. Their commitment is crucial to maintain the faith of the population and ensure they seek help in the hospital and health centres in Uige.”

Key organisations such as CDC, USAID, MSF Spain, Holland, Belgium and France are also part of the National Technical Commission set up to implement the emergency response to the Malburg epidemic. “It is particularly encouraging to note that such an amount of dedicated professionals have been mobilised and are working together to contain what could become a tragic humanitarian crisis, said Guy.

The Marburg virus is a rare cause of viral haemorrhagic fever syndrome that belongs to the same family as Ebola. The main symptoms observed are fever and haemorrhage as well as cough, diarrhoea and vomiting. The Angolan Ministry of Health has formally declared an epidemic in the Province of Uige and is closely monitoring the few cases already reported in Luanda.

For further information please contact:

Macarena Aguilar, Communications Officer - 912 219 524, maaguilar@unicef.org

José Luís Mendonça Informations Officer - 912 233 468, jlmendonca@unicef.org


 

 

 

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