Angola Red Cross volunteers declare war against cholera in Luanda

تم النشر: 15 يونيو 2006 0:00 CET

Tapiwa Gomo in Luanda

They wake up early in the morning and wait for a Red Cross car to pick them up. Angola Red Cross volunteers in Luanda are on their way again to help eradicating cholera from their communities. So far, the cholera outbreak affecting Angola has claimed more than 1,600 lives and 40,000 cases have been reported. Half of the cases were recorded in the Luanda area.

“It feels so bad to see our people suffering from a preventable disease,” says Madalena Neves, 17, who has been a first aid volunteer for the past two years. “I have traveled all the way from Kilamba Kiaxa to join my fellow volunteers to teach people good hygiene.”

As soon as they get to the starting point where they receive instructions for the day from their supervisor, they start walking door to door distributing chlorine tablets or calcium hypochlorite used to purify water. They are also teaching communities about good hygiene and sanitation via colorful pamphlets.

The Ministry of Health is providing volunteers with chlorine tablets and the calcium hypochlorite, whilst the Angola Red Cross society in collaboration with the government supplies the pamphlets and give health education to population at risk. Radio and television stations are making frequent announcements on cholera and this has created a huge demand for information as the communities want to keep the small but useful pamphlet in their home for reference.

“As a young volunteer, I strongly feel we are the future of the country and we have to make a difference in our communities. It is our responsibility to educate our people on simple health hygiene,” says Madalena.

She is also aware that cholera is caused by poor hygiene and sanitation which is the biggest challenge in Luanda. “When we go back to the families that we have visited before, we realize that they are now practicing some of the cholera prevention methods we taught them.”

Luanda is a fast growing province with an estimated population of five million people. They are 60 volunteers in Luanda working on cholera prevention and immediate treatment, when oral rehydration solution is available. Over the past few months, more than 30 000 families have been reached through public awareness campaigns.

Thousands more families have received soap and bleach which also helped to improve the situation. Most volunteers come from the affected communities. They were trained by the Angolan Red Cross together with the Ministry of Health on different aspects of cholera management.

“The provision of tablets is a good starting point as they can be used to disinfect 20 liters of water and it is done directly in the house. The recipients are also disinfected at the same time,” says Richard Munz, the International Federation Field Assessment Team health specialist pointing out there is an urgent need for community based response to end this epidemic, reaching the vulnerable population directly in their houses.

But more support to acquire enough chlorine is required to cover a wider area in Luanda and prevent further spread of cholera in the capital city.

Odeli Gomes is among the people who received help from the Red Cross volunteers and she is happy to be able to treat her own water. “The chlorine that I got from the Red Cross will help keeping diseases away,” she says with a smile on her face. She knows how deadly cholera is especially after seeing her neighbor’s experiences with the disease. “I don’t want to suffer from diarrhea and I will use the water treatment according to instructions,” she concludes