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Five million Angolan children to be protected against polio

UNICEF Representative Mario Ferrari vaccinating children in Angola as the first round of Angola’s 2004 National Immunization Day begins

LUANDA, Angola, 23 July, 2004 -- Five million children under five years old are the target of the first round of Angola’s 2004 National Immunization Days (NIDs) against polio which begins today.

“The success of Angola in eradicating polio is the solid base that will allow improvement in the provision of health services to the population, including routine immunization and monitoring of diseases and epidemics at a national level,” said Angola’s National Director for Public Health, Dra. Adelaide de Carvalho.

Nearly 164 tons of immunisation equipment has been distributed throughout the country.  More than 12,000 vaccination teams and 47,000 activists and volunteers for social mobilization, including health technicians, members of churches, traditional leaders, theatre groups, NGOs and others, have been mobilized and are ready to join the effort.

“It is important to recognize the efforts that the Government is demonstrating with the support from the international community, aiming to rebuild the health system, which will guarantee child mortality reduction as well as the eradication of polio out of Angola and out of the continent, ” said Mario Ferrari, UNICEF Representative in Angola.

Reinforced by a climate of peace and bolstered by the successful campaigns from recent years, the current NIDs are to be implemented at a time when health professionals are seriously suspicious of the risks associated with importing the wild polio virus from endemic neighboring countries in the region. 

This year in June, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an alert call given the registration of cases of “importation” of the polio virus by nearly ten African countries previously free of the disease.  Botswana, only 60 km from Angola’s southern border, is one of these countries.

Angola has adopted two measures to ensure that the dangerous polio virus is not imported.  First, has been to improve surveillance related to suspicious cases of polio and second, has been a foal of increasing routine immunization coverage rates, with emphasis in cross-border communities as well as the more populated areas.

“The Ministry of Health aims to reach up to 80 per cent in routine immunization in all municipalities and improve the quality of NIDs,” said Dr Fatima Valente, National Coordinator of the Immunization Program of Angola.

A national strategy against poliomyelitis and imuno-preventable diseases still includes the continuous training of health staff and a greater involvement of community groups, NGOs, traditional therapists and women’s groups.

“The strong leadership of the Ministry of Health and the close partnership formed by WHO, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, USAID, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CORE Group and donor countries are factors of success of this initiative,” said  Daniel Kertesz, acting Representative of WHO.

 “WHO and all of the partners of the Ministry of Health will continue to provide technical assistance as required and to mobilize the resources so that the world witnesses the success of Angola against polio,” he added.

One in four Angolan children die before their fifth birthday. Angola has the world’s fourth worst child mortality rate. A second round of NIDs is expected to take place later in August.



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