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Angola aims to vaccinate over 5 million children to ensure a polio-free nation

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“I’m delighted because my children are protected against polio” — Lucie Lusungu.

During chaos, sometimes you can only find relief away from home. Memories are left behind because being safe is now worth more than anything. The experience of migration is a determining factor in health and well-being. Lucie Lusungu and her family are part of the 82.4 million people around the world who, according to the UN Refugee Agency, are displaced from their country, which makes them vulnerable to health, social and mental problems.

Located in the province of Lunda Norte in Angola, about 100 kilometres from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Lóvua Refugee Settlement represents a haven for Lucie Lusungu and thousands of families, offering shelter and basic essential services such as access to primary health care through the Settlement Clinic, which serves the community in the areas of nutrition, paediatrics, reproductive health, prevention of HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

After Angola reported poliovirus imported from neighbouring countries, the fight against polio gained momentum in the Lóvua refugee settlement. With more than 1,700 vulnerable children living in the settlement, the polio vaccination campaign, implemented by the Angolan Ministry of Health with technical and financial support from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners, brings peace of mind to Lucie and the other families. They can now have confidence in a healthy future for their children, knowing they will not be crippled by poliovirus.

“This vaccination campaign is welcome here in the camp, as the settlement’s clinic is close to the borders, where there is entry and exit.” — Maria da Graça, Director of the Lóvua Settlement Clinic, IEIA/ACNUR.

Families had the opportunity to receive their vaccinations at the settlement’s clinic, and vaccination teams went door-to-door to ensure that no child was left behind. The health technicians, mobilisers, registrars, vaccinators, and all the living forces involved contributed to the success of this initiative, demonstrating the Angolan Ministry of Health’s commitment to promoting child health and strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities.

“I feel grateful to be able to contribute to protecting children. Since we started the awareness-raising and mobilisation campaign, the residents have had open arms, and some have even followed us to ensure that all children are vaccinated.” — Francisco Cavula, campaign mobiliser at the refugee settlement.

As a result of the commendable work of the Ministry of Health and partners in strengthening immunisation, Angola has remained free of wild poliovirus since July 2011 and officially declared the interruption of polio transmission in November 2015. Unfortunately, this year, Angola reported other variants of poliovirus from environmental samples and susceptible children. As a response, a national polio vaccination campaign was carried out from May 17 to 19, 2024, to reach more than 5.5 million children under five. This initiative seeks to protect children against the threat of polio, a debilitating disease that can cause permanent paralysis.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Angola.

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