Jigjiga/Wardher, 9 February 2015: A pledge of commitment for a polio-free Ethiopia was made on 8 February 2015 in Jigjiga and Warher to launch the polio national immunization days (NIDs) in Somali Regional State. Ethiopia has been polio free since 5 January 2014, but the risk of polio cases in Horn of Africa prevails. The campaign running until 11 February 2015 aims to reach over one million children under the age of five in the region.
“Despite the progress, Ethiopia is in a fragile position and the risks for outbreaks remain. We invite all stakeholders to make the goal of a polio-free Africa in 2015 a reality,” said Dr Pierre M’Pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia at the launch event in Jigjiga.
The pledge signatories – the State Ministers of Health, the Vice President of the Somali Regional State, the Head of the Somali Regional Health Bureau, Doollo Zonal Administration, religious and clan leaders, WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and Ethiopian Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency among others, – pledged to do their part to ensure that all children are provided with an equal chance for health and success in life through immunization.
The State Ministers of Health are supervising the work of almost 3000 vaccination teams in Somali Region. H.E. Dr Amir Amin, State Minister of Health, said at the launch in Wardher, the epicentre of the Ethiopian polio outbreak, that the Government, partners, communities and families need to share responsibility to ensure immunization of children and “to save children from sickness, disability and death.” H.E. Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, stressed in Jigjiga that parents should get their children vaccinated even if they had been vaccinated in the previous round.
“Ethiopia is working to find hard-to-reach communities and settlements, to bring vaccination to those areas. So, when polio eradication is achieved, we will end polio everywhere for everyone and leave a legacy of healthy families and communities, rooted in equality for all,” – Ms Anupama Rao Singh, Country Representative a.i. to UNICEF Ethiopia.
The national polio campaigns conducted in all regions of Ethiopia between 6 to 9 February 2015 reached over 13 million children under 5 years of age. Since August 2013, when the outbreak began, 12 rounds of polio immunization campaigns have been conducted in addition to vaccination of children along Ethiopia’s border with Somalia. A total of 10 polio cases are recorded in Ethiopia during the outbreak. Working closely with national and regional authorities, WHO and UNICEF established an Operations base in Wardher, Doollo Zone, in August 2014 to bring together the needed expertise to support polio interventions in the zone and kick polio permanently out of Ethiopia.