Community Health and HIV
Polio is all but unheard of in the West, thanks to the near-universal use of vaccines to stop the disease in its tracks before it has a chance to infect its victims. But the same is not true in the other parts of the world, where access to polio vaccine is limited by lack of resources, war or cultural taboos. The crippling illness can still strike children in poor communities, and its debilitating effects last a lifetime.
Thanks in part to the efforts of The Salvation Army World Service Office, its regional partners, and its generous donors, polio has been successfully eradicated from the African nation of Angola. In 2010, 33 cases of wild poliovirus disease were reported in the country. The following year, that number was down to five. Four new cases appeared in the opening months of 2012 but, as of March of that year, no new cases have been detected.
From the beginning of the project – undertaken in partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – its leadership knew eradicating polio would be a marathon rather than a sprint. Monitoring and prevention efforts – conducted by a large group of young volunteers working in their communities alongside The Salvation Army Angola’s Polio Project – continued for five years. Children received vaccinations, their parents received education and communities were mobilized to report any suspected cases of polio.
“The Salvation Army in Angola can be very proud of this project,” said Lisa Firth, SAWSO technical advisor for health. “It’s been a privilege for me to work with the project’s staff and dedicated volunteers. Because of their good work, polio is no longer a threat to Angola’s children.”
It’s important to celebrate these hard-won victories, and the lives saved and improved through the efforts of our staff, our partners, our donors and our Creator. It’s also vital to maintain morale and persevere in the battles that aren’t yet over. As long as illness plagues the world, The Salvation Army World Service Office will be there to help fight for a cure.