Date Published: 10 August 2012

Angola celebrates a year without polio

Health News from around the world.

Angola has marked a year without a new wild poliovirus case. That is another step towards the global goal of eradicating the contagious crippling disease of polio forever.

After a concerted effort to stop polio transmission the number of polio cases was reduced from 33 in 2010 to five in 2011 and no cases registered in 2012. Laboratory results confirmed that the last case of wild poliovirus was a 14-month-old child from Uige Province in the country's Northwest in July 2011.

During the last few years Angola has made considerable progress in the efforts against polio by working with partners to improve disease surveillance, strengthen the quality and coverage of mass polio vaccination campaigns, expand and improve routine immunization services as well as expand access at a household level to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

In the last year, Angola has taken steps to manage and reduce circulation of the polio virus in reservoirs, particularly in Luanda and Benguela, as well as along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo with steps including synchronizing vaccination campaigns.

" This achievement reflects the leadership and commitment of the Government, who contribute around 89% of operational costs of the polio campaigns. It also signifies the impact of our investment in strengthening access to primary health care services," said Evelize Fresta, Deputy Minister of Health.

" We deeply appreciate the commitment of local, provincial and national Government officials, civil society, international partners and the private sector and the media, who have all played a significant role in achieving this milestone." To sustain the current gains, efforts should be strengthened to improve the routine immunization coverage in the high risk provinces, he added.

Angola has invested in improving the quality of massive vaccination campaigns during which thousands of health workers and volunteers were involved in door to door efforts for vaccination against polio, including vaccination at crossing points, main streets, markets, water points targeting all children under the age of five.

For the first time in the country's history, 95% of children targeted in these campaigns were reached, according to the post-campaign independent monitoring data from the last nationwide polio campaign from June 29 to July 1, 2012.

" This interruption of the poliovirus circulation is significant, but we cannot afford to be complaisant. These investments demonstrate the importance of building strong primary health care for all the country's children." said Koenraad Vanormelingen, UNICEF Angola Representative.
" We have a duty to protect and ensure that all children are born and develop in a healthy polio-free environment, which means we cannot stop until every child is fully vaccinated."

According to the acting WHO Representative in Angola, Dr Jean-Marie Yameogo:

" This success is the result of the improvement in the quality of polio campaigns round after round, the high commitment of the Government at central level, the engagement of the provincial Governors and municipal administrators as well as the implementation of the community-based strategy which brought a much bigger involvement of local leaders, NGOs and churches in the campaign preparation and evaluation particularly in the high-risk provinces like Luanda and Benguela."

Angola, which eliminated polio from 2001 to 2004, has been plagued by the re-emergence of this crippling disease since May 2005. The disease has since spread from Angola to Namibia (2006), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2006, 2008 and 2010), and the Republic of Congo (2010).

Source: UNICEF Press Release

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