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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK

World: Africa

Angola: 'No place for a child'

Angola is one of the few countries where polio is still rife

Some time later this year, a child will be born bringing the world's population to six billion people.

That child will be unlucky if it is born in Angola.

Greg Barrow reports from Luanda's children's hospital
The country has been singled out in a United Nations report published on Thursday as the worst in the world for a child to grow up in.

The continuing civil war between the government and Unita rebels in the countryside, the virtual collapse of the health system, the lack of basic education and country-wide food shortages make Angola the most difficult country in the world for young children, according to Unicef's annual Progress of Nations report.

Polio epidemic

But while the outlook for young children in Angola is bleak, some positive progress is being made in efforts to eradicate the disease polio.

[ image:  ]
Earlier this year, the country was the target of the biggest epidemic of polio in Africa since 1995.

Nearly 100 children died of polio in Luanda alone.

Almost two-thirds of Angola's population is under 14 years of age.

More than 1.5 million of these people have been forced from their homes and now live in crowded, insanitary conditions in towns and cities.

The makeshift camps where they eke out an existence have become a breeding-ground for diseases which have long since been consigned to the history books in most countries.

People wash in the same water they use to cook and drink - perfect conditions for the spread of polio.

[ image:  ]
Mariana Antonio - barely a year old - is a survivor from that outbreak, but has lost the use of both her legs. But her 18-year-old mother Suzannah is at a loss to know what more she can do.

In the children's hospital in Luanda the staff do not see an end to polio yet.

Dr Ivan Camanor says with the poor security throughout the country because of the fighting it is not possible to protect the whole population.

But despite the fighting a high profile campaign has been launched with the aim of banishing the disease completely within two years.

Traditional street theatre is part of the strategy to persuade parents to have their children immunised.

The BBC's Greg Barrow, recently in Angola, says the progress in immunisation so far is a national triumph in a country which has seen almost 30 years of conflict.

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