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Press release

UNICEF calls on Angola to lead by example

As a measles vaccination campaign is launched, the children's agency calls on the Angolan Government to continue "putting money where children are."

LUANDA / NEW YORK/ GENEVA, 21 April 2003 - UNICEF today urged the Angolan government to support the nation's nascent peace process with increased spending on health and education for children.

Speaking after the launch of a nationwide measles vaccination campaign that will immunize seven million children in the next four weeks, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that the Government of Angola should "harness the omentum of this massive health campaign, and continue to direct that energy towards education, and basic health services."

Bellamy added, "We're asking the Government to continue putting money where the children are. Give Angola a stable future by protecting her children. This will be the real peace dividend."

UNICEF's statement carries a particular resonance in Angola, which has a population of 14 million, more than half of whom are under eighteen years old. Since the signing of a peace accord last year that ended 27-years civil war, UNICEF has consistently asked the Government of Angola to re-direct resources that were once earmarked for war towards basic social services.

UNICEF estimates that 5000 schools and 60 per cent of all hospitals were destroyed in the war. Forty-five per cent of Angola's children suffer from chronic malnutrition and the country has one of the world's worst child and maternal mortality rates.

Bellamy praised Angola's steps to support the peace agreement through social programmes, pointing to the current vaccination drive - the largest health initiative ever undertaken in Angola - as an example. But she said much remained to be done, and called upon the government to fulfill its commitments by:

  • Targeting the reduction of child and maternal mortality.
  • Supporting a nation-wide Back-to-School programme.
  • Increasing spending on education and basic health services on par with the budgets of the Southern African Development Committee.
  • Placing the respect and protection of children's rights at the top of the peace and stabilization agenda.

"What we're seeing today are promising first steps," said Bellamy. "And this country has the potential to lead Africa by example. But one million children remain out of school. The entire health system must be strengthened and conditions established across Angola for effective delivery of routine vaccinations. If this is done, then we will look back in five years time, when children are in school and child mortality rates falling, and 2003 will be recognised as the year Angolan children were put first on the agenda."

Bellamy called also for the international community to be supportive to the efforts of the Government. "Against sizeable odds, Angolans striving to strengthen the entire health and education system, restore the public service's presence in remote areas, and fight the causes of child mortality. Much of this must come from within, but I trust the international community will continue to support Angola in these goals of reconstruction. For now is the moment when strong partnerships will be rewarded by results."

UNICEF is working with several organizations and agencies that are contributing funds and expertise toward the measles campaign: the Canadian International Development Agency, the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Angolan Red Cross Society.

On her third trip to the southern African nation, Bellamy's two-day visit included meetings with the President, five Ministers, a tour of schools, and a visit to the central province of Malange which suffered greatly during Angola's three-decade war.

Some Facts:

  • More than 10,000 Angolan children die each year from measles, with 95 per cent of cases occurring in children below 15 years of age.
  • Measles remains the leading cause of vaccine preventable mortality in Angola. In the developed world 999 out of 1000 children will survive measles. In Angola 100 will perish from the disease.
  • Angola has one of the world's worst under-five mortality rates, with one in four children dying before their fifth birthday.
  • Angola is among the 10 countries in the world with the worst immunization coverage, and well below the average coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was estimated in 2001 at 46 per cent.
  • Only 27 percent of one-year-old children are fully immunized against preventable diseases.
  • 45 percent of Angola's children suffer from chronic malnutrition, illustrating the long-term negative effect of almost three decades of war on the healthy growth of children.
  • Despite a Back to School campaign that will benefit 500,000 children, one million Angolan children remain out of school.

For further information, please contact:

Patricia Cervantes, Head of Information UNICEF Angola, (244) 91-501 943 pcervantes@unicef.org

James Elder, Communications Officer UNICEF Angola (244) 91 - 219 524 jelder@unicef.org

Jose Luis Mendonca, Information Officer UNICEF Angola (244) 2 - 332348 (ext 409) jlmendonca@unicef.org

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, 917) 796 9845 e-mail kdonovan@unicef.org




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