Angola marks a year without polio

Saturday, August 11, 2012
Luanda, Angola: Angola marked a year without a new wild poliovirus case, moving the world a step closer to the final global goal of eradicating this contagious crippling disease forever.

After a concerted effort to stop polio transmission the number of polio cases dropped from 33 in 2010 to five in 2011 and no cases registered in 2012. Laboratory results have 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.

In recent years, Angola has made significant progress in the fight 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, the country has sought to better control the 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 per cent 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.

The country invested in improving the quality of massive vaccination campaigns, where thousands of health workers and volunteers were deployed to ensure door to door 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 per cent 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.”

Dr. Yameogo also emphasized that the Angolan government took the National Immunization Polio Days over by increasing gradually its financial contribution to the polio emergency plans since 2010.

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).

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, and is supported by key partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Since 1988 (the year the GPEI was launched), the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 per cent. In 1988, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed each year in more than 125 endemic countries.  In 2012, 103 cases have been reported as of 1 August 2012, and only three countries remain endemic:  Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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