Luanda, Angola, 11 June 2023 – For more than five years, Angola has been experiencing an increase in meningitis cases, particularly in Huambo province, with a high lethality rate. Between January and May this year alone, 103 patients were reported, of which 42 resulted in death, with an estimated lethality rate of 40.8%.
According to Dr. Kuku Muhau, WHO emergency officer in Angola, meningitis is a severe contagious disease that can kill if the patient is not treated quickly, which worries the Angolan health authorities and the WHO. She added that “for the effective fight against meningitis, WHO recommends six essential approaches, namely 1) epidemiological surveillance, 2) data collection and processing, 3) routine vaccination, 4) safe collection and transport of samples, 5) case management, and 6) risk communication and continuous engagement of communities.”
” WHO shares the concerns of the Government about the number of cases in Huambo; this situation should mobilize and engage everyone to protect our children who continue to die from a preventable and curable disease.”
The Angolan Ministry of Health has been carrying out multisectoral actions within the scope of the integrated response to combat meningitis, which emphasize the strengthening of integrated disease surveillance in communities, sample collection, elaboration, validation, and distribution of treatment protocol in health units, management of meningitis cases and intensification of routine vaccination in all municipalities in the province.
To accelerate ongoing actions in the management of communication and engagement of communities, a joint mission of experts from the National Directorate of Public Health and WHO took place in Huambo province for 20 days, supporting local initiatives to educate and raise awareness among communities about the behavior of the pathology, the dangers, and the appropriate measures to be taken to prevent and treat meningitis.
During the mission, actions were carried out to strengthen partnerships and active participation of key actors, identification of risk groups and factors, with priority for the most vulnerable groups, advocacy with local leaders for engagement in the dissemination of critical messages to communities, as well as a rapid qualitative study on the socio-behavioral determinants of population adherence to public health and social measures for the prevention and treatment of meningitis cases.
Among the main results of the mission is the training of 37 health technicians in risk communication and community engagement, 1548 social mobilizers, the capacity building of 30 social communicators, the engagement of 595 community leaders, therapists, and community workers from all municipalities to disseminate critical messages in the communities.
In recent weeks, due to the reinforcement of education and engagement of communities, Huambo province has been registering a significant increase in the number of suspected cases that occur in health units, representing a total gain for the timely treatment of patients and the prevention of meningitis mortality.