IFRC

Angola: Thousands of children vaccinated in mass Red Cross campaign

Published: 6 July 2009 0:00 CET

Rudolpho Kikolo and Matthew Cochrane in Luanda

The line of children and their parents began to grow as soon as the Red Cross arrived. Many of the children looked slightly anxious: there was something a bit different about this morning, they could tell. But for their parents, there was a clear sense of relief.

Today, in Kikolo, a settlement just outside of Luanda, the Angola Red Cross (CVA) is in the second day of a three day campaign to vaccinate more than 7,500 children against polio, as part of the IFRC’s continental response to recent outbreaks of the illness.

“The campaign was launched because of sudden outbreaks of wild polio virus in 14 countries across Africa,” says John Fleming, regional health and care coordinator for the IFRC.

“The Red Cross’ role is ‘to bring the arm to the needle’ – to make sure that children who need to be vaccinated against this illness have access to these services and that their families are informed.

Measles

The volunteers are also vaccinating children against measles, an initiative that Ricardo Kapimgoda, the CVA’s regional volunteer coordinator, is particularly happy about.

“In May of this year, 29 children died of measles in Kikolo or close by. So we are happy that we are able to provide these vaccinations. Kapimgoda’s relief is shared by Antonio Domingoes, who arrived at the vaccination site with his four year old son and three year old daughter.

“This is a good initiative. I am very happy about this.What worries me is measles and other illnesses that I can’t explain. I’m glad we are here.”

This site on the side of the road is one of many set up this morning throughout the township. Some are manned by Red Cross volunteers, others by staff from the Ministry of Health and local authorities. All are being run in close coordination.

Looking ahead

In the coming weeks, CVA’s fight against polio and measles will be rolled out into rural areas. Here, the Red Cross’ volunteer network will really come to the fore. In rural areas, where communities have less access to social services, it will be volunteers reaching out to communities, sensitizing them to health threats and providing them with support, including vaccinations.

At the same time, measles campaigns are also being run by the Red Cross in Namibia and Swaziland. These campaigns are staggeringly successful. Between 2000 and 2006, such community-based efforts have resulted in a 89 per cent decrease in measles deaths amongst children in sub-Saharan Africa.




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