It is another busy day at the ’Quilômetro trinta’ market in Viana, a municipality in Luanda Province. Considered as one of the country’s biggest market, ’kilometre 30’ is crowded and buzzing with activity. Colorfully dressed women are swiftly slipping between carts piled high with wooden boxes, while skillfully balancing heavy merchandises on their heads.
In front of a small shop, a large group of people is gathered tightly around a table - carrier boys, elderly people, women with babies on their backs - attentively listening to the information being provided by the people in white uniforms from the Angola Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, more people are being directed to the table by the volunteers of Angola Red Cross. They are listening to important information about yellow fever and getting vaccinated against the potentially deadly virus.
Since last December, more than 360 people have died of yellow fever in Angola, most of them between 14 to 20 years old. Almost two thirds of which were reported in the Luanda province. The virus spread quickly and widely over a short period, particularly in densely crowded and mosquito-ridden areas, where most people had little or no immunity because of the low vaccination rate among the population.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Angola Red Cross has been working with the local authorities, UNICEF and other partners to respond to the critical situation by carrying out social mobilization and vector control activities in the affected communities.
According to the Secretary General of Angola Red Cross, Mr Valter Quifica: “The Red Cross is focused on engaging with the communities with essential, life-saving information through our trained volunteers in the affected areas.”
“In Luanda, for eight consecutive days now, our volunteers together with public health workers, have been setting up and running dozens of vaccination points in strategic locations such as markets, all around the province. This is our third time carrying out these type of activities since the beginning of the outbreak. Prevention is the key to end the spread of the virus,” said Mr Quifica.
The vaccination rate for the yellow fever virus in the country is at 83 per cent. The Angola Red Cross aims to identify people who have not been vaccinated and encourage them to get the injection and receive the now famous yellow card as proof that they are immune.
The number of suspected and confirmed cases has started to decline, signaling that the outbreak could be on its way to being contained. However, the expected rainfall in September, as the rainy season begins, could hamper the progress made.
“Despite a decreasing trend in the last weeks, the outbreak in Angola remains of high concern to us. The vaccination coverage is still far from reaching 100 per cent and we have persistent local transmission in the capital, report of infections in new districts and the spread of the outbreak to neighbouring countries. It is a race against time,” said Mr Quifica.