One year without polio: Angola’s success story
By SOLA OGUNDIPE
August 10 2012 marked a milestone in Angola. It was the day the Southern African country recorded one year without report of a single new case of wild polio virus. By extrapolation, the country could be said to have moved a step closer towards eradication of the contagious crippling disease.
A joint press release by the Ministry of Health of Angola, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, noted that 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.
Angola, which eliminated polio from 2001 to 2004, has been plagued by re-emergence since May 2005. The disease spread to Namibia (2006), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2006, 2008 and 2010), and the Republic of Congo (2010).
It was gatherd that in recent years, the country made significant progress against polio by improving disease surveillance, strengthening the quality and coverage of mass polio vaccination campaigns, expanding and improving routine immunisation services as well as expanding access at a household level to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.
Also in the last year, Angola has sought to better control of 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.
In the view of the Deputy Minister of Health, Evelize Fresta, “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.
“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.”
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.
According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, GPEI, in 2012, 103 cases have been reported as of 1 August 2012, and only three countries remain endemic: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The acting WHO Representative in Angola, Factors such as improvement in quality of campaigns, high commitment of government at all levels, and implementation of community-based strategies played a significant role. Since 1988, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 per cent.