Angola celebrates one year without new polio case

Angola celebrated an entire year without a new wild poliovirus case on Friday, bringing the world closer to the goal of completely eradicating the contagious and crippling disease.

The southern African nation registered 33 cases of the disease in 2010, five in 2011 and no cases in 2012. The last case of wild poliovirus was found in a 14-month-old child from the northwest part of the country in the Uige Province in July 2011.

Angola worked with partners to strengthen the quality and coverage of mass polio vaccine campaigns, improve disease surveillance, expand household access to hygiene and improve and expand routine immunization services.

"This achievement reflects the leadership and commitment of the government, who contribute around 89 percent of operational costs of the polio campaigns," Evelize Fresta, Angola's deputy minister of health, said. "It also signifies the impact of our investment in strengthening access to primary health care services. 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."

For the first time in the nation's history, 95 percent of children targeted in the campaign were reached.

"This interruption of the poliovirus circulation is significant, but we cannot afford to be complaisant," Koenraad Vanormelingen, UNICEF's representative in Angola, said. "These investments demonstrate the importance of building strong primary health care for all the country's children. 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."

Angola eliminated polio between 2001 and 2004, but the virus reemerged after May 2005.