Polio transmission deemed interrupted in Ethiopia by 4th polio external assessment; final decision awaited by Horn of Africa Final Assessment on 17 June.
Assessment recommendations include sustaining polio achievements for “polio legacy” in Ethiopia.
By Shalini Rozario
12 June 2015
Addis Ababa. From 8-12 June 2015, the 4th Polio External Assessment took place in Addis Ababa, to review the progress to date of the polio outbreak response, and determine the quality and status of the outbreak in the country. The assessment team was led by WHO and included members from CDC, Core Group, the Gates Foundation, UNICEF and others. The assessment team looked in detail at key elements of the polio programme including surveillance, campaign quality, communication, vaccine supply and logistics and other factors contributing to the interruption of the polio virus transmission.
On Friday afternoon, 12 June, the external assessment team debriefed His Excellency Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister to the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia along with Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia; Gillian Mellsop, Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia along with key polio partners, and reviewed findings of the week-long assessment.
The overall conclusion was that the assessment believes that transmission in Ethiopia has been interrupted and called for sustained government support to ensure sustained gains.
Since the onset of the Horn of Africa (HOA) polio outbreak in May 2013, Ethiopia responded intensively. Following confirmation of cases in Somalia and Kenya, the first confirmed WPV case in Ethiopia was in August 2013 in the Somali Region resulting in a total of 10 WPV type-1 (wild poliovirus type 1) cases in the Doolo Zone of Somali Region. The last WPV case was confirmed in January 2014 — nearly 17 months ago – an indicator of interruption of transmission due to the intensive vaccination response, which includes 14 vaccination campaigns reaching children in all corners of the country with OPV (oral polio vaccine), including 4 rounds of National Immunization Days (NIDs), targeting between 12 to over 14 million children. All campaigns were supported with intensified communication and social mobilization activities, and engaged partnerships for solid community awareness, knowledge and acceptance of OPV.
H.E. Dr. Kebede responded enthusiastically to the assessment outcome, and stated, “The outbreak was closed due to the frontline teams and practioners on the ground.” He expressed support and said to value the recommendations to strengthen routine immunization, surveillance and quality SIAs (campaigns), which will benefit children and the health system in general. H.E. Dr. Kebede expressed gratitude to the leadership of the regional governments, particularly in the Somali Region. He appreciated efforts of community leaders, including religious leaders of the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, who played a key role in the outbreak response. Dr. Kebede thanked Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, for his commitment, and for his frequent visits to the outbreak epicenter, Doolo Zone of the Somali Region. He also welcomed Gillian Mellsop, as the new Country Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia and appreciated both partners for their contributions along with the other Polio Eradication Initiative partners such as CDC, Core Group, the Gates Foundation and Rotary International.
Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou and Gillian Mellsop, congratulated the Ministry of Health on their achievements, expressed their support for the polio programme, and acknowledged the importance of drawing on the successes and lessons learned for the “polio legacy” in Ethiopia.
Final recommendations will be delivered to the Horn of Africa countries, government representatives and partners on 17 June 2015 in Nairobi at the Horn of Africa Outbreak Final Assessment Debriefing.