Angola: Red Cross races against time to halt yellow fever outbreak before rainy season begins

تم النشر: 26 يوليه 2016 19:25 CET

By Marine Ronzi, Monaco Red Cross

It is another busy day at the ’Quilômetro trinta’ market in Viana, a municipality in Luanda Province, Angola. Considered one of the country’s biggest markets, ’kilometre 30’ is crowded and buzzing with activity. Colourfully dressed women are swiftly slipping between carts piled high with wooden boxes, while skillfully balancing heavy merchandise on their heads.

In front of a small shop, a large group of people is gathered tightly around a table - carrier boys, elderly people, women with babies on their backs - attentively listening to the information being provided by the people in white uniforms from the Angola Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, more people are being directed to the table by the volunteers of Angola Red Cross. They are listening to important information about yellow fever and getting vaccinated against the potentially deadly virus. Since last December, more than 360 people have died of yellow fever in Angola, most of them between the ages of 14 and 20, almost two-thirds of whom were reported in Luanda province. The virus spread quickly and widely over a short period, particularly in densely crowded and mosquito-ridden areas, where most people had little or no immunity because of the low vaccination rate. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Angola Red Cross has been working with local authorities, UNICEF and other partners to respond to the critical situation by carrying out social mobilization and vector control activities in affected communities.

According to the Secretary General of the Angola Red Cross, Mr Valter Quifica, “The Red Cross is focused on engaging with the communities with essential, life-saving information through our trained volunteers in the affected areas.  

“In Luanda, for eight consecutive days now, our volunteers, together with public health workers, have been setting up and running dozens of vaccination points in strategic locations such as markets, all around the province. This is our third time carrying out these type of activities since the beginning of the outbreak. Prevention is the key to end the spread of the virus.” 

Yellow fever response in pictures

The vaccination rate for the yellow fever virus in the country is at 83 per cent. The Angola Red Cross aims to identify people who have not been vaccinated and encourages them to get the injection and receive the now famous yellow card as proof that they are immune.

The number of suspected and confirmed cases has started to decline, signaling that the outbreak could be on its way to being contained. However, the expected rainfall in September, as the rainy season begins, could hamper the progress made.

Despite a decreasing trend in the last weeks, the outbreak in Angola remains of high concern to us. The vaccination coverage is still far from reaching 100 per cent and we have persistent local transmission in the capital, reports of infections in new districts, and the spread of the outbreak to neighbouring countries. It is a race against time,” said Quifica.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has allocated over 173,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the Angola Red Cross in providing assistance to affected communities. The IFRC has also launched an emergency appeal for 1.4 million Swiss francs so the Red Cross can provide assistance to 4 million people affected by the outbreak and is able to reach a further 5 million people with life-saving information through its social mobilization activities. The appeal is currently 6 per cent funded.