September 22, 2003

Fast-track immunisation launched

Two United Nations agencies have launched a fast-track programme to support the implementation of routine immunisation across Angola. The country's Ministry of Health, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) hope to maintain routine immunisation of 75 percent of children under the age of one year in three-quarters of the country by December 2003. "We have made sound progress in boosting immunisation across Angola. Routine immunisation boosts efficiency and saves lives and money. As such, this announcement underlines the common commitment of government, WHO and UNICEF to rebuild and benefit millions of Angolan children, and quickly," WHO Angola Representative Dr Paolo Balladelli said in statement on Monday.

Angola has one of the highest child mortality rates, with one child in four dying before they reach the age of five years, the statement noted.

The initial phase of the immunisation drive is expected to cover 59 municipalities, representing 75 percent of the country's population. Other municipalities will follow next year. Community leaders are participating in the country's "biggest-ever" immunisation workshop. "Around 100 of Angola's top local leaders are currently being instructed in Luanda (the capital) in everything from safe syringe disposal to interpersonal communication and vaccine conservation," the UN agencies said. Health professionals have also received training in three key areas.

"Firstly, in vaccine handling, conservation, administration and the safe disposal of needles and syringes; secondly, in interpersonal communication skills, so that health workers can encourage mothers and carers to utilise routine immunisation; and thirdly, in microplanning involving strategies to improve access and outreach activities, so that, for example, mobile teams can reach peri-urban and rural populations," the statement explained. Balladelli concluded: "Make no mistake, routine vaccination is essential for the redevelopment of Angola's health facilities, and this training is a critical first step in creating conditions that will enable it to happen." (IRIN)

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