Angola Red Cross volunteers responding to their country’s yellow fever outbreak are using a number of skills in their life-saving disease prevention work – medical knowledge, patience, kindness… and languages.
The Angola Red Cross, in its role as humanitarian auxiliary to the national government, has been an active partner in the health ministry’s work to contain the outbreak, and improve vaccination rates across the country.
Red Cross volunteer Pedro Ricardo explains that Angola’s size and diversity means that languages are vital in social mobilization work such as the yellow fever vaccination campaign.
“There are places where people speak other languages than Portuguese,” he said. “Each area has its own languages – we have Kimbundu, Kikingo, Gangela, Fiote, Panhama. The great majority of people who live [in this neighbourhood] use Kikongo. So we need to know the Kikong language to understand [the people in need] and convince them to be vaccinated.
“We also need to include languages from abroad, because here live a lot of people who have migrated and we also include their languages and dialects in our mobilization work.”
Mr Makumbundu Kiala, the Angola Red Cross’ Luanda Province Secretary, said: “Our main role, as State auxiliaries, is to support the Angolan Ministry of Health in their vaccination mission. In total, 125 of our volunteers were sent. This number has since increased because we keep on recruiting more volunteers.”
Angola’s yellow outbreak began in January 2016 and has caused 369 deaths to date. Nearly 4,000 suspected cases have been reported, of which 879 have been confirmed, and the disease has also affected neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Fifty-six of DRC’s 74 confirmed cases were imported from Angola.