- The measles campaign in Angola is set to reach a record 7.6 million children. The recent peace in the vast country enables humanitarian organisations and the government to catch up with decades of failure to provide rural Angolans with decent and basic health efforts.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today it is set to achieve its ambitious target to vaccinate 7.6 million Angolan children against measles, making it the biggest health initiative in the country's history.
UNICEF said more than 5 million children have already been successfully vaccinated during the first two phases of the National Measles Campaign launched last 21 April. Data indicated that every single Angolan boy and girl between the ages of nine months and 15 years - totalling 7.6 million - is likely to be protected from this lethal disease when the campaign ends in a few days, the UN agency added.
- The success is particularly remarkable as the campaign is operating under challenging conditions, since 27 years of civil war left Angola's basic infrastructure in disarray before a peace accord was signed last year, the UN notes. In practical terms, neither the government nor the defeated UNITA rebels cared to give rural civilians access to basic needs, let alone by international agencies. The country therefore lags decades behind its neighbours, especially when it comes to vaccinations.
The UN however chooses a more optimistic approach after finally being enabled to do its work. "Angola's national measles campaign is complicated by post-war difficulties of poor access and damaged transportation routes," UNICEF Representative Mario Ferrari said. "At a time when bridges are broken, roads ruined, mines ubiquitous, and populations on the move, the challenges of the operation cannot be underestimated."
Around 10,000 Angolan children die each year from measles, with 95 per cent of cases occurring in children below 15 years of age. Most neighbouring countries have significantly lower occurrences of the deadly disease that easily can be stopped by vaccinations.
These numbers translate to "30 children dying every day from a disease that can be readily prevented," Mr Ferrari stated. "These are the numbers that must be reversed. And I am happy to say the success of the National Measles Campaign means that process is now beginning in Angola," he added.
UNICEF said it is, in collaboration with its partners, currently reaching the most inaccessible rural areas in the campaign's third and final phase through the use of military helicopters, personnel carriers, cargo planes and four-wheel drive vehicles.
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