5.5 m under five Angolan children to be immunized against polio

By Henry Neondo

Angola is to conduct a massive immunisation agaisnt polio beginning December 2-4 and expects to immunize 5,5 million under five years children in all the 18 provinces.

The initiative has the leadership of the Government at central and provincial levels and is being supported by the National and International coalition partners involved in the polio eradication, namely the WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, European Union, CORE group, Red Cross, USAID, National Army, Churches among other.

In July and September 2006, Angola carried out successfully two NID rounds, reaching more than 100% of the target population.

Together with the oral polio vaccine (OPV), Vitamin A will be also administered to five million children aged from 6 months to 5 years, as part of the national strategy aimed at reducing the burden of childhood diseases.

To ensure the success of this third round of the NIDs, Angola and its polio eradication partners have mobilized 24,950 vaccinators and 6.861 social mobilizers, distributed by 164 municipalities and 491
villages over the Country.

About USD 2,5 million have been disbursed to finance this effort, with contributions from the government and the partners involved in the polio eradication initiative.

During three days, mobile vaccination teams including vaccinators, social mobilizers and health supervisors will walk through roads, hills, forests and remote villages to be sure that every under
five years child takes the oral polio vaccine, as a key condition to stop the circulation of wild virus within the country.

These teams include health professionals, students, UN Staff members, NGOs, Churches, Army, scouts and other partners.

This third round of the NIDS for polio eradication occurs when Angola faces a new circulation of wild polio virus since June 2005, after been reporting zero polio case since September 2001.

Two Angola’s neighbouring countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Republic of Namibia, are also affected by the wild polio virus.

The low routine vaccination coverage (less than 60%) and the migratory movements, including in the cross borders, are the main factors that contribute for the spread of the wild polio virus. Up to now, the
polio virus has been confirmed in five out of the 18 Angolan provinces, namely in Benguela, Luanda, Lunda-Sul, Moxico and Huíla.

From June 2005 to November 2006, a total of 11 polio cases were confirmed in Angola. The implementation of the RED strategy (Reaching Every District), as recommended by WHO, and the training of the health personnel and the strengthening of the cold chain remain the main challenges that Angola needs to address to consolidate the progress achieved in polio eradication.

Since the last polio outbreak occurred in 1999 with a total of 1.117 cases and 113 deaths, the country has accelerated the polio eradication activities by carrying out three rounds of NIDS, every year,
including synchronized immunization days with the neighbouring countries (such as the DR Congo, Congo, Gabon, Namibia and Zambia).

In spite of the military conflict and the lack of stability, the target of children to be vaccinated overwhelmed the expectations, with a coverage that ranged from 70 per cent to 100 per cent (around two and three 3 million of children under five years of age).

WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and other partners involved in polio eradication provided a full technical, logistic and financial support to the Ministry of Health to ensure the success of polio
eradication activities. The National Army, in special, is providing a very important role to reach the population living in the most remote areas.

Besides door to door vaccination of the children under five years, the strategy adopted by Angola to eradicate polio also includes the reinforce of the epidemiological surveillance, a greater involvement of
communities and local authorities, the use of social mobilization mobile teams as well as the and the participation of the media, which played a very critical role to sensitize parents to bring their
children to vaccination in order to protect them against the wild polio virus.

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