COVID-19: Impact of our Emergency Response in Luanda

Em Luanda, Angola, a luta contra a COVID-19 ganha força por meio do envolvimento de voluntários e da advocacia com o governo para mudar vidas
Monday, August 23, 2021

We were quick to support the health authorities and the communities in Luanda in the fight against COVID-19. Over the years, we have intervened in various emergency response situations in Angola, and this experience helps us act with speed and resilience. Luanda's case was worrisome; the shortage of health professionals per citizen is alarming.

With this in mind, World Vision launched two projects to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in Angola between October 2020 and January 2021, to strengthen primary health care and ensure access to prevention information, promotion, and protection aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and its dissemination in urban areas and outskirts of Luanda.

In total, the projects cover five municipalities in the province of Luanda. From the newly annexed Icolo e Bengo, in the province's interior, to the peripheral districts of Cacuaco, Viana, Talatona, and Cazenga.

The first project received funding from the Block 15 Association (ExxonMobil, BP, ENI, EQUINOR, SONANGOL) and ANPG (National Oil, Gas, and Biofuels Agency). World Vision implemented it in partnership with the Luanda Provincial Health Office, Municipal Health Directorates, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The second project, funded by British Petroleum (BP), aims to contribute to the prevention and control of the spread of COVID-19 through strengthening primary health care in the Municipal Hospitals of Cacuaco, Viana, and Talatona. These hospitals already benefit from another health project funded by BP: Mais e Melhor Saúde.

Since the design and implementation of both projects, more than 86,000 children have benefited from information provided by local volunteers, who take the message of prevention and hygiene to families and individuals in the streets of Luanda.

Initially, 360 volunteers from eight CSOs (AJACOM, ACPR, ANLD, JUCICA, JUCARENTE, FOJASSIDA, NAÇÃO VERDE, and CHILD CARE) joined World Vision and the Luanda Provincial Health Office in door-to-door awareness raising.

In April, both projects integrated more than 120 volunteers, and, in total, the 480 volunteers have already sensitised more than 56,700 families and more than 290,000 passersby in selected municipalities. In addition, volunteers delivered more than 7,000 masks and 4,000 bars of soap to vulnerable people and families identified by CSOs.

"In the beginning, we had trouble getting our message across to the communities because most people didn't believe the pandemic was real. Over time, our volunteers realised that by simplifying our message and thoroughly explaining the full context to families, people became more receptive to using masks and constantly washing their hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19 even when not solicited by local authorities", Antonio Fortes - Nação Verde.

In essence, the projects aim to facilitate self-sustainable community action, carrying out Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities on hygiene and prevention measures against COVID-19 to encourage each member of the communities where the project was implemented to take responsibility for their well-being.

The Youth Association in Support of Young People in Need (Associação Juvenil de Apoio à Jovens Carentes - JUCARENTE), created more than a decade ago, has education, citizenship and health as its social focus. The diversity of its project portfolio and its social impact caught the attention of World Vision at the beginning of the projects.

With 40 volunteers in the municipality of Cacuaco, JUCARENTE has sensitised more than 18,000 families since the beginning of 2021. Many of the areas operated by JUCARENTE are difficult to access and are devastated by poverty and hunger.

Mulenvos de Baixo is one of those areas. Attached to a state reserve, the area is gaining notoriety as news emerges in the media about the high level of crime and the deteriorating socio-economic situation of the neighbourhood.

If the hills covered in waste do not denounce the challenges residents face in the Mulenvos de Baixo neighborhood; the arid and isolated landscape will. Here, nutrition screening volunteers from the Acute Malnutrition Community Management Project, which World Vision implements in partnership with WFP, met five-year-old Ngueve and his family, composed of 20 women and children, aged between 70 and four years old.

As far as Paulo - Ngueve's father - knows, the boy was born with infantile paralysis. Confined to controlling less than 5% of his body, Ngueve spent his days dragging himself around his backyard, visibly wanting to participate in the games with his brothers and cousins. JUCARENTE answered WFP's call and met with Paulo.

Paulo is 52 years old and is a temp pharmacy worker. Paulo took up residence in the neighbourhood 20 years ago when he was still young, newly married, and dreaming of a better future with his wife, Fernanda. At the time, they had no children.

20 years later, and after his wife's death, Paulo struggles to support his large family.

In addition to his seven children, Paulo also took in 11 nieces and nephews after the death of two of his siblings. "It's not easy, but we manage to survive", Paulo said with a smile forming in the corner of his mouth.

Ngueve can't speak. He relies on his father’s help to stay upright, but his legs soon give way, and the discomfort this exercise causes gives voice to Ngueve's only vocalizations: Pain.

“We are grateful for World Vision's training and guidance because it has enabled us not only to seek different methods of disseminating information, but it has helped us to have a more evident impact on the lives of the most vulnerable children”, volunteers - JUCARENTE.

The training facilitated by World Vision enabled JUCARENTE to go further in its collaboration with the Health Directorate, which, in turn, donated a wheelchair and physiotherapy sessions to Ngueve. At the same time, WFP continues to provide nutritional assistance. All this, invaluable to Ngueve's family.

 “We wanted, from the beginning, to empower civil society with training and transfer of technical knowledge using work tools adapted to the needs of CSOs. With this, we seek to support community-based epidemiological surveillance”, said Vagno Gomes, Project Manager at World Vision in Angola.

Going beyond expectations, the projects have helped bridge the communication gap between government institutions and front-line volunteers to improve the lives of residents in the municipalities where the projects are implemented.

This aim is evident in Erineu’s story.  

Erineu and his mother Irina, aged 6 and 27 respectively, live in Talatona in a one-bedroom house where they are exempted from paying rent. Irina has been unemployed for a year and survives by asking for help and donations in her neighbourhood.

Erineu fell ill suddenly. Irina cannot explain her only child's diagnosis or why doctors decided to keep Erineu’s intestines exposed; she knows, however, that the second procedure - which should have taken place three months after the first but ended up happening three years after - saved her son's life.

This action was coordinated by the organisation Nação Verde, which first visited the mother and son to help them fight COVID-19 but was motivated to help Irina find a solution to improve her son's life.

Like JUCARENTE, Nação Verde sought out the local health authorities and arranged for Erineu to undergo a second surgery.

Three months after the operation, Erineu is a new child. He was always a happy, if lonely, child; the children were afraid of him, and he had to be careful when playing so as not to get hurt. Now Erineu has many friends. When we got to his house, he wasn't there; he had gone out to play with 16 of his closest friends.

A future firefighter, Erineu brightens the day with his smile. His favourite game is daydreaming about all the toys he will have one day; at the moment, he has none.

Erineu doesn't go to school yet, but he's looking forward to the day he will. Irina is looking for a job to support herself and her child with a lighter heart, glad to know that her son has a healthy future ahead.

COVID-19 response efforts went far beyond their purpose of spreading prevention and hygiene messages. Without a doubt, the response has improved the lives of countless children and equips social organisations to continue a legacy of good neighbourliness and volunteerism.

As of 18 August 2021, Angola has recorded a cumulative 44,972 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which more than 36,000 cases have been recovered.