|UNICEF/ HQ96-0110/Giacomo Pirozzi|
|This photo, taken during a different trip, shows an Angolan boy in a UNICEF-assisted centre for children orphaned by the war.|
Adam Fifield is visiting UNICEF programs in Angola and Swaziland and phoned in this dispatch.
Greetings from Angola. I arrived here early Sunday morning as part of a U.S. Fund for UNICEF group visiting this captivating, yet struggling, country on Africa’s southwest coast.
Angola is a nation of stark contrasts. After 40 years of war, and only six years of peace, this former Portuguese colony now has the second fastest growing economy in all of Africa, and a wealth of natural resources including oil and diamonds. But the majority of Angola’s estimated 18 million people have been left out of the country’s new prosperity, with 62 percent living on less than two dollars a day. The child mortality rate is staggering”one out of every four children dies before their fifth birthday. But UNICEF Angola is striving to change that. It is an extraordinary and humbling experience to come from the New York offices of the U.S. Fund, where we talk a lot about doing whatever it takes to save a child, and to see”first hand, in a place like Angola”that these words are not just a slogan. And that the determination of UNICEF staff to save children”any children, anywhere”is boundless. But their resources are not boundless, of course. UNICEF has done some amazing work here”some of it described below”but it could do so much more to meet this country’s overwhelming needs if it had additional resources.
Here are some highlights of the trip so far:
On Monday, in the quiet southern city of Lubango, we visited a rural school where UNICEF had delivered supplies, supported teacher training, and provided desks and a blackboard among other things. A father, whose three children attended 5th grade in the renovated two-room building, said he was grateful his son and two daughters had the opportunity for a better future through education.
Tuesday was an emotionally taxing day for everyone in our group. In the morning, we visited a UNICEF-supported community health center. A dense crowd of mothers with babies on their hips packed a long large waiting area. Some waited with their children on the grass outside. At this center, UNICEF has partnered with the local government to provide an integrated package of proven interventions to save mothers and babies. When a pregnant woman arrives for prenatal care, for instance, she also receives Vitamin A supplementation, vaccinations, and a mosquito net to protect against malaria.
This approach is part of UNICEF Angola’s Accelerated Child Survival and Development program, which aims to provide a wide range of interventions through health centers, mobile health teams, and community-based initiatives.
Later that afternoon, we went to a field on the outskirts of Lubango to see UNICEF-supported health outreach efforts. In the shade of a towering mango tree, health workers administered vitamin A supplementation and vaccines, including shots to protect against maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT).
At a pediatric hospital, also in Lubango, we entered a room where about a dozen mothers sat with their malnourished babies. One little boy, who was slumped shyly in his mother’s lap, had large, swollen feet as a result of malnutrition. But like many of the children being treated there, he had improved and was expected to recover.
Though the sight of these children suffering is heartrending, the fact that their mothers brought them to this hospital”and the fact that the hospital can help them”is a sign of hope, said UNICEF Angola’s country representative, Angela, Kearney. “There’s joy, because the mothers have got this place to come to,” Kearney said.
Have you ever been to Angola? Do you follow news about Angola? Do you know about UNICEF’s work in Angola? Tell me about it.