Walking the Last Mile Against Polio in Angola

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In 1988, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio and launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Since then, new cases of polio, a highly infectious disease that mainly affects children and can cause paralysis, have decreased by 99% – with just 406 new cases reported worldwide in 2013.

But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Within 10 years, failure to completely eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases throughout the world every year.

In Angola, The Salvation Army partnered with WHO, UNICEF, Red Cross, and the Angolan Ministry of Health (MOH) in planning, implementing, and evaluating activities to address the country’s efforts to fight polio.

The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) assisted in strengthening national and regional immunizations programs through an intensification of mobile and outreach vaccination teams with the objective of reaching all the children with vaccinations. The Salvation Army participated in and supported MOH nurses vaccinator training, conducted refreshers training on volunteer mobilization skills, and provided technical assistance during vaccination.

New polio vaccines have been introduced, and The Salvation Army brought together community and church leaders to inform them about these new vaccines and about polio and to ask their assistance in mobilizing their communities to actively participate in community-based surveillance.

Salvation Army workers also intensified efforts to supervise community volunteers to encourage them to be strong leaders in their communities’ education efforts. The volunteers conducted house-to-house visits to inform mothers about the new vaccines and to encourage them to take their children to be immunized. The volunteers championed vaccinations of all newborns and prioritized medical assistance for expectant mothers.

SAWSO continues to walk in partnership with other organizations, and with the vulnerable children of Angola and their families – until the last mile has been walked and polio is no more.

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Check out SAWSO’s latest annual report for more information.