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Angola Begins Massive Measles Immunization Effort - 2003-04-22


Angola has launched the biggest health campaign in the country's history. During the next three to four weeks, several United Nations agencies, working with Angola's Ministry of Health, intend to immunize seven million Angolan children against measles. The U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, said measles kills more Angolan children than any other preventable disease.

UNICEF spokesman Damian Personnaz said one in every 10, more than 10,000 children in all, dies of measles in Angola every year. In comparison, he said the disease kills one child out of 1,000 in developed countries.

"The child mortality rate in Angola is the [second] worst in the world, just after Niger. So, for sure, the nutritional status is extremely bad. The health status is bad. The education system is very low, which is also a very important factor for the mothers to know basic knowledge about how to take care of their kids. Children in Angola are most probably in the worst condition of all the children in the world nowadays," he said.

Mr. Personnaz said the campaign will try to vaccinate every child between nine months and 15 years of age. He said a massive media and education campaign has preceded the start of the operation.

He said 10,000 health workers have been trained and that 23,000 other workers from all sectors of the government, private aid agencies, churches, and institutions are involved. Mr. Personnaz said the World Health Organization and World Food Program also are lending logistical support.

The UNICEF spokesman said that during the campaign the government will establish its presence in remote areas that were largely inaccessible throughout Angola's long-running civil war.

Another benefit, he said, is that the measles campaign will be an opportunity to revamp many of the basic health services, which were destroyed during the war.

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