3 June 2016

Angola: SOS Children’s Villages Increases Preventative Measures to Combat Yellow Fever Outbreak

Benguela, ANGOLA, June 3, 2016 – A yellow fever outbreak which began early this year in Angola has spread to the Benguela province where SOS Children’s Villages operates many of its programs.

The first case of yellow fever was documented in December 2015 in the capital, Luanda.  Since then, more than 2,500 cases have been reported and almost 750 have been confirmed, with 301 fatal. Cases have also been reported in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.

According to the World Health Organization, yellow fever is transmitted by infected mosquitos which causes severe symptoms including fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

SOS Children’s Villages Angola has not had a single case reported in any of its programs located in three provinces of the country. There are no programs in the capital or Luanda province. However, as cases of yellow fever have been reported in 14 of the 18 provinces, the SOS Children’s Villages Angola management team has taken proactive steps to prevent the disease from affecting more than 3,000 children, young persons and parents in its programs.

 “Our interactions with the national government have led to the SOS Medical Center in Benguela and the SOS Clinic in Lubango receiving adequate vaccines that enabled us to vaccinate most of our program beneficiaries, including members of the surrounding communities and SOS co-workers”, said Afonso Castro, National Director of SOS Angola. “Extensive advocacy on our part led to government health personnel conducting vaccinations in SOS Children’s Village Huambo – our third location – with children and caregivers from our families of origin also benefitting.”

The clinic in Lubango has 2,000 beneficiaries and the medical center provides nearly 5,000 single services per year.

According to Castro, the advocacy work involved SOS health and social workers in a massive awareness campaign, especially in communities where outreach programs are run. SOS Children’s Villages Angola has a large focus on working with people living with HIV and AIDS in order to strengthen families where children are at risk of losing parental care.

Sanitation continues to be the main focus of the campaign at the moment. SOS families and community members are at all times fighting potential sources of mosquitoes and taking precautionary measures against mosquito bites. In addition, the government is running an awareness campaign on all broadcast media and people are receiving alerts by text message, whilst non-governmental organizations, like SOS Children’s Villages, have been called to help with community education.

“The outbreak is worrying considering the lives it has already claimed and especially because of the insufficient capacity on the side of government to deal with crises such as these against the current financial difficulties the country has,” said Castro. The fall in oil prices globally has impacted greatly on Angola, dependent on its oil sales.

“Initially vaccines were so scarce that we saw it being illegally commercialized at the inflated price of around $107 for those who could afford it. We also saw people using their influence in the health department to get their families vaccinated first. There are improvements in the access to vaccines, but most of the population – especially those in remote areas were not reached. It’s now also almost impossible to find impregnated mosquito nets in the market,” said Castro. The normal rate for a vaccine should be less than $40.

SOS mothers have been trained to ensure good sanitation habits, which they share with the children in their care. The kindergartens and primary schools run by SOS in Benguela and Lubango have had external and internal health professionals talk to learners so that preventive and curative measures were consistently reinforced.

SOS Children’s Villages is present in Benguela, Lubango, and Huambo where it operates family based care, family strengthening programs, schools and medical facilities.