Yellow Fever Epidemic in Luanda Claims Three Siblings

An epidemic of yellow fever on the outskirts of the Angolan capital, Luanda, which has already claimed an estimated 100 lives, has scythed through one family , taking three of their four children in a single day.  The siblings, Mauro Julião dos Santos (7), Sofia Juliao dos Santos (5) and Lucrécia Julião dos Santos (3) succumbed to the fever within 24 hours of showing symptoms.  The youngest sister, Natália Julião dos Santos (1) is fighting for her life.

The cause of death has been confirmed by Cajueiros hospital, which issued death certificates stating that the children died from yellow fever.  Tragically, the family – despite sharing a name with the Angolan President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos – is so poor that they cannot even afford makeshift coffins for the tiny victims.  The grandparents put out an appeal to the authorities to show compassion:  “Can the government please help us with money to buy coffins?  We are truly desperate”, sobbed Maria de Sousa, the children’s grandmother.

With the parents too distraught to speak, the children’s grandmother blamed the insanitary conditions of the area in Cacuaco district, Malueca, where the family lives.  “There are no basic sanitary conditions.  Instead there is a large amount of trash and stagnant water all around which offers a fertile breeding ground for the mosquitos that carry the disease”.  Even getting the children to the nearest hospital was an ordeal.  Travel from Malueca to central Cacuaco, a 40 minute journey, is mainly by truck due to the poor state of the gravel roads. It takes three and a half hours to get to Americo Boavida Hospital’s pediatric ward in the city of Luanda.   An aunt who accompanied the parents and child to that hospital says they were kept waiting in a corridor for over 12 hours.   “A doctor saw the child and said it was yellow fever”, a relative reported.  “But nothing has been done since then.”  Maka Angola contacted the hospital but has yet to receive a response.

Official figures in Angola show there have been more than 600 cases of yellow fever so far this year.   The Portuguese news agency, Lusa, reported that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is trying to raise $2.3 million US dollars from the international community to fight the epidemic. WHO is quoted as saying that the Angolan government was facing too many obstacles to successfully fight yellow fever, with a shortage of educational materials, staff, equipment and funds to transport vaccines.   Yet the sum they are trying to raise is roughly equivalent to what the President’s daughter and chair of the Angolan Red Cross, billionaire Isabel dos Santos, paid singer Nicki Minaj to appear in Luanda for a one-night show last December.