UNICEF and Who aiding Angola polio immunization drive

Officials with UNICEF and the World Health Organization have put out a call to all sectors of government and the community to help participate in Angola’s upcoming polio immunization campaign to make sure all 5.5 million children under the age of five are reached.

The campaign comes on the heels of a WHO report that warned of the risks of international spread of polio due to the large number of cases being reported in Angola this year.

Since the beginning of the year, Angola’s Ministry of Health has reported 19 cases of wild poliovirus in six different provinces. Polio cases originating in Angola have also spread to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and health experts are concerned about further spread of the disease.

UNICEF’s Country Representative, Dr. Koenraad Vanormelingen is among those who have expressed serious concerns about the spread of the disease.

“Polio virus can travel from village to village and country to country, through unimmunized children. Low rates of routine immunization and lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities across Angola and Africa make children particularly vulnerable to polio and other infectious diseases,” Vanormelingen said.

Dr. Rui Gama Vaz, the WHO's acting representative in Angola, agreed, stressing the unique opportunity to rid the country of this disease once and for all.

“We have seen over the past year, successful eradication requires massive and sustained investment as well as a targeted and dedicated effort of the entire health system to ensure each and every child gets vaccinated,” Vaz said. “We can no longer afford to say that we have missed one or two children. We need to reach them all.”