Date Published: 21 January 2011
Effort to halt polio outbreak in Luanda, Angola
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF have announced that Mr. Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, and Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Global Health Program of The Gates Foundation, will arrive this weekend in Angola, where the government is poised to mount a renewed effort to halt an ongoing polio outbreak centered in Luanda.
The visit by Dr. Yamada and Mr. Lake aims to boost the Government of Angola’s efforts to stop transmission of polio in the country by increasing vital immunization coverage. The government has faced several challenges following the aftermath of the war, including massive rural migration to the urban areas which strained health and sanitation services and harbored conditions for the spread of polio.
In 2010, 32 people contracted polio in Angola, a disappointing turnaround from 2004, when Angola celebrated three consecutive years free from the virus and the country stood ready to be declared polio-free. But by May of 2005, the disease returned and quickly spread to Namibia (2006), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2006, 2008 and 2010), and the Republic of Congo (2010). This sequence of events shows that children remain at risk everywhere as long as polio transmission is not interrupted globally.
" Every new case of polio is a personal tragedy, and every new case is a setback in our global fight to defeat this crippling, deadly disease,” said Mr. Lake.
"UNICEF is committed to supporting Angola's efforts to stop transmission of the deadly polio virus by ensuring that every child is vaccinated."
While in Luanda, Mr. Lake and Dr. Yamada will meet with senior government officials and partners in the fight against polio to urge an increased commitment of all levels of society. They will also discuss how to support national, provincial and municipal efforts in Angola to interrupt transmission. As part of the mission, they will visit families, volunteers and health services in peri-urban areas of Luanda, visiting the frontline in the fight against the virus and observing what action communities are taking.
“ We support the government as it commits to strengthening the polio program in the country and pursues a polio-free Angola,” said Dr. Yamada.
“ Winning against polio can also set the stage to save Angolan children from all vaccine-preventable diseases.”