NEW YORK, 21 June 2002 - The Canadian Government has provided $5.5 million (Canadian) to UNICEF to jump-start a major measles vaccination campaign in Angola, where a recent peace deal has led to the opening of regions not accessed by aid agencies in years.
Measles is the first cause of vaccine-preventable mortality in Angola and is one of the leading killers of Angolan children. The nationwide measles campaign, to be launched late this summer, will help the Government of Angola, UNICEF and WHO reach a crucial objective: to reduce the number of measles cases and deaths by at least 75% over the next 5 years.
"This generous gift from Canada will truly be a life-saver," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "With this measles campaign, millions of children will be protected from this killer disease - most for the first time. And millions of families across Angola will see that peace has real benefits."
Over the past 5 years, the average measles immunization coverage in Angola stood at about 50 per cent, well below the 90 per cent level necessary to control the disease. A recent survey showed that only 91 of 164 municipalities were providing routine vaccination.
With the signing of a cease-fire in Angola in April 2002, the opportunity to reach large, previously inaccessible populations throughout the country will greatly increase the scope of coverage. Measles is a particular threat to children with reduced immunity - including malnourished children and children living in displaced camps. About 70,000 Angolan children are so malnourished that they require supplementary or therapeutic feeding, and 1.4 million Angolans are displaced from their homes.
The ratio of children who die from measles in Angola is 100 times that of developed countries, with up to 30,000 measles deaths among children every year. In recent years, Angola has suffered the third-highest child mortality rate in the world, with 25 per cent of all children dying before they reach their fifth birthday. On average, children under five die at a rate of 18 per hour in Angola.
"The national measles campaign is a first, crucial step in saving young lives," Bellamy said. "We are grateful to the Canadian Government and people for helping make this possible."
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For further information, please contact:
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media, 212) 326-7593
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, 212) 326-7261