LUANDA, Angola — The Angolan capital’s war-ravaged infrastructure is complicating the fight against polio, which has re-emerged here spread to neighbouring countries after experts thought it had been defeated, health experts said Monday.
Top officials from the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation converged on Luanda to draw attention to the setback to international efforts to eradicate polio, a paralyzing and potentially fatal disease spread primarily by the feces of an infected person getting into the food chain.
The disease has dropped by more than 99 per cent since the U.N. World Health Organization and partners launched a vaccine initiative in 1988. But the numbers of cases — fewer than 2,000 annually — have remained at a virtual standstill since 2000.
WHO official Matshidiso R. Moeti said the challenges in Luanda include the concentration of people. Waves of refugees have come to the capital, starting during an anti-colonial war that began in the 1960s, followed by a civil war after independence from Portugal in 1975. Lack of development in a countryside strewn with land mines has kept Angolans in their capital. The city’s poor live in cramped neighbourhoods along rutted roads.
UNICEF director Anthony Lake met a child paralyzed by polio in Luanda Monday. Lake said UNICEF’s priorities were training more workers and making vaccination campaigns more efficient.