ANGOLA: Comprehensive child health campaign underway
JOHANNESBURG, 13 July (IRIN) - In a step towards rebuilding a healthcare system devastated by 27 years of civil war, the Angolan government and international aid agencies have launched the biggest ever child immunisation campaign.
"Clinics, which are an important part of the routine immunisation capacity of any country, were destroyed and the reconstruction process is slow. The rural areas are badly affected, and the few functional structures are poorly staffed yet they are overwhelmed by ever-rising needs," the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) Country Director Angela Kearney told IRIN.
Angola's under-five mortality rate is over 50 percent, one of the highest in the world.
The campaign, aimed at the country's 3.6 million children, would vaccinate against measles and polio, provide vitamin A supplements and de-worming medicines. With malaria the largest single killer of children in Angola, insecticide-treated mosquito nets would also be distributed in all seven malaria-prone provinces.
"We hope this programme will help in reviving access to routine healthcare for children in all the provinces. We deliberately integrated the anti-malaria, anti-polio and anti-measles campaigns programmes because these are the major threats to child health," said Kearney.
High child malnutrition has also driven up the mortality rate. "The vitamin A supplement will help boost immunity in heavily malnourished areas, but their mothers also need to be well-fed. We hope that the reopening of more farmland will improve household food security, and therefore contribute to lowering the malnutrition rate," she commented.
The programme, Viva a Vida com Saúde (Enjoy a healthy life), is being implemented under a four-year government plan that aims to reduce the child mortality rate to below 50 percent. "The government has put a lot of money in this programme and all the other partners are committed," Kearney commented.
Also supporting the US$15 million programme are the World Health Organization, the Global Fund to Fight Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, western donors, and 23,000 Angolan health workers and volunteers.