Top officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are arriving in Angola this weekend to help boost the Government’s efforts to halt an ongoing polio outbreak centred in the capital, Luanda.
The visit by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Dr. Tachi Yamada, President of the Global Health Program of The Gates Foundation, comes as authorities prepare to mount a renewed effort to stop the transmission of polio by increasing vital immunization coverage.
Last year 32 people contracted polio in Angola, a “disappointing turnaround” from 2004, when Angola celebrated three consecutive years free from the virus and the country stood ready to be declared polio-free, UNICEF stated in a news release.
But by May of 2005, the disease returned and quickly spread to Namibia (2006), Democratic Republic of the Congo (2006, 2008 and 2010), and the Republic of Congo (2010).
“Every new case of polio is a personal tragedy, and every new case is a setback in our global fight to defeat this crippling, deadly disease,” said Mr. Lake.
“UNICEF is committed to supporting Angola’s efforts to stop transmission of the deadly polio virus by ensuring that every child is vaccinated.”
While in Luanda, Mr. Lake and Dr. Yamada will meet with senior government officials and partners in the fight against polio – a contagious viral disease which causes paralysis – as well visit families, volunteers and health services. Among other things, they will discuss how to support national, provincial and municipal efforts in Angola to interrupt transmission.
“We support the Government as it commits to strengthening the polio programme in the country and pursues a polio-free Angola,” said Dr. Yamada. “Winning against polio can also set the stage to save Angolan children from all vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Globally, polio has been eradicated in all but four countries – Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Afghanistan.