National Immunization Days in Angola
Leadership takes to the streets to ensure children are vaccinated
In response to a lengthy and growing polio outbreak in Angola, leaders at national and provincial levels were out in force during the country’s nationwide vaccination campaign last weekend. The Minister of Health, as well as the Governor and Vice-Governor of Luanda province, toured neighbourhoods where vaccinators were going door to door, immunizing 5.6 million children under five years old. While it is too early to determine the impact of the leadership’s engagement on the coverage achieved during the campaigns, it is clear that the programme is being scrutinized by sub-national leadership. In all countries, it is leadership at this level which has been essential to eradicating polio. The Government is supported by civil society – the Angola Red Cross, Rotary International, religious groups, other NGOs and the business community.
To finish the outbreak, which began in April 2007, vaccination coverage gaps must be filled: data from previous campaigns indicate that some 30% of children are still missed in Luanda, for example. Outbreak response strategies work only if all children are vaccinated, and Angola itself has stopped several importations of polio before this current one.
Earlier this year, the public engagement of the Head of State in Chad turned around a similar situation in that country. In turn, the visible commitment from Angolan leadership, from national, to provincial to municipalities and communes, can bring swift change. Sustaining the leadership demonstrated this year with clear instructions to all Municipality administrators to provide personal oversight and actively supervise the polio campaigns, can end polio in Angola again.
Angola was polio-free for three years until it became re-infected with multiple poliovirus importations from northern India.