WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International urge to sustain the polio-free status of Ethiopia

24 October 2017, Addis Ababa: Today, as the world commemorates World Polio Day, we, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Rotary International, reaffirm our commitment to building on the success of our joint polio eradication efforts and sustaining the polio free status of the country.

Today, we are looking back at nearly three decades of concerted global polio eradication efforts. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was created in 1988 after the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate poliomyelitis globally and has since made remarkable progress towards reaching the eradication target. As a result, polio cases globally decreased by over 99 per cent from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988, to only 37 reported cases in 2016. Furthermore, the number of countries with polio endemic decreased from 125 to only three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, until the polio virus transmission is interrupted in these polio endemic countries, all countries remain at risk of polio importation.

 

Nahom Alemseged gets a mark after receiving a polio vaccination
Nahom Alemseged get his finger marked after receiving a polio vaccination during a national campaign. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet

Ethiopia maintained its polio-free status for almost four years (45 months) after the last wild polio case was reported in Somali region in January 2014. We recognize that this achievement is a result of the effective leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health and the great partnership of polio eradication initiative collaborators, donors and partners including: Rotary International; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; WHO; UNICEF; USAID; CDC; CORE Group; and many frontline health workers who have played a key role in the successful fight against polio. 

We are committed to building on the recommendations which Ethiopia received from the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) in June 2017 when Ethiopia’s submission of a national polio free status report was accepted. As such, we will strive to strengthen and maintain routine immunization and surveillance with a particular focus on pastoralist communities, refugees, hard to reach and border areas as well as strengthening outbreak preparedness and coordination, cross-border surveillance with Somalia and others.

The theme for this year’s World Polio Day in Ethiopia is Commending Ethiopia polio free status, sustaining the gain.While we celebrate Ethiopia’s polio eradication success, we remain committed to continuing our joint polio eradication efforts in order to sustain this incredible achievement. In particular, we will build on the lessons learned as we strive to achieve regional certification.

The Polio Eradication and End Game Strategic Plan, developed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, envisages a polio free world by 2018. While we have come very close to achieving this goal, much remains to be done. We would like to call on all stakeholders to renew their commitment to a world which is free of polio.

 

Amidst risks posed by drought, joint response brings scabies under control

By Paul Schemm

ADIGUDOM, Ethiopia, 27 April 2016 – For Kibrom Mekonnen, the itching was the worst at night, all over his hands and chest and keeping him awake.

“When I slept it just kept itching,” said the 14-year-old, sitting in the examination room at the Adigudom Primary Hospital in Hintalo Wejarat Woreda (district) in the Tigray Region. “But I was afraid if I started scratching, it would get worse.”

Scabies response in drought-affected areas
Kibrom Mekonnen, 14, listens as a nurse explains how to use the special soap and medication to combat scabies. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Balasundaram

Kibrom’s instincts were right because he has scabies, a contagious skin infection caused by mites that burrow along the top layer of the skin, lay eggs, hatch and spread throughout causing terrible itching.

The real danger, however, can be in the scratching which opens up sores in the skin.

“By itself, it is irritating and itchy but it also exposes you to other infections,” explained UNICEF Heath Specialist Yayneshet Gebreyohannes. “It can result in systemic infections if left untreated.”

Drought brings scabies revival

Scabies has actually been fairly rare in Ethiopia for the past several years, but with the sharp drop in the availability of water due to the worst drought the country has faced in decades, it reappeared.

Casual contact, a handshake or even a hug, is not enough to transmit the mites. There has to be prolonged skin contact or sharing of clothes, which means that outbreaks often happen within the tight confines of homes and schools.

With less water available to wash and maintain personal hygiene, there have been outbreaks in the country.

In the Tigray Region for instance, there were 27,000 new cases reported between October last year to March this year, and nearly 10,000 of those were in Kibrom’s woreda.

Since then however, there has been a significant drop in the number of cases due to the Government leadership and solid response and also UNICEF support to prevent and treat the disease.

In addition to providing medicated soap and permethrin lotion to treat the disease, UNICEF has distributed brochures and teaching guides to educate people about how to combat it and most importantly, not to stigmatize the victims.

Stopping the itch

Kibrom thinks he was infected by a visiting relative, about his age, when the latter visited from a rural village and shared Kibrom’s bed about a week earlier.

Scabies response in drought-affected areas
Kibrom applies sulphur ointment, one of the methods used to treat scabies, to his hands. UNICEF has partnered with the Federal Ministry of Health in its scabies response and has provided permethrin lotion, medicated soap and brochures and guides to inform communities about the diseases. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Balasundaram

The nurse examines his hands where telltale rashes have appeared in the folds of the skin at the joints.

She walks him through the three-day treatment of soap and medication and promises to visit his family home to advise them on precautions to be taken and provide medication for the rest of the family.

For instance his clothes will have to be treated with boiling water, as will his bed linens and many of the fabrics in the house.

Kibrom is lucky in that his home has piped water, but when water is unavailable, health workers advise people to tie clothes into plastic bags for three days – the lifespan of the mite.

Kibrom is also lucky because his area was targeted by the information campaign so that someone at school identified his condition and explained to him what the horrific itching was all about. Otherwise, he might have just tried to endure – and possibly infected others.

“I kept thinking it was going to go away on its own,” he recalled.

The scabies response is part of UNICEF’s health, communication, and water, hygiene and sanitation  response for drought and flood-affected populations. UNICEF also provides financial support, supplies including medicines and vaccines, and technical assistance to the Government for the prevention and treatment of major causes of childhood illnesses and deaths such as acute watery diarrhoea and other diarrhoeal diseases, vaccine preventable diseases, as well as other diseases such as meningitis.

Joining hands to finish the race for polio eradication

Rotary International advocates, UN advocates and Rotaracts gathered to participate in the National Polio Immunizations campaign at Shinile and Dire Dawa.
Rotary International advocates, UN advocates and Rotaracts gathered to participate in the National Polio Immunization campaign at Shinile and Dire Dawa ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International, on the occasion of World Polio Day 2015, renew their commitment to finish the race for polio eradication and secure a long-lasting legacy for a healthy Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, 23 October 2015 – Marking the occasion of World Polio Day 2015, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International, jointly reaffirm their commitment to ensure Ethiopia joins all countries in a polio-free world by 2018 – the global target for polio eradication world-wide. 

Ethiopia has been free of the wild-polio virus (WPV) for the last 21 months, since the last confirmed case in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. The 2013-2014 Horn of Africa (HOA) polio outbreak resulted in 223 WPV cases across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia combined. Out of this number, 10 WPV type-1 (WPV1) cases were reported in Ethiopia, all in the Somali Region. The HOA polio outbreak was a devastating setback for the region, Ethiopia as a country and its people.

Due to the aggressive and innovative response led by the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and polio partners, the outbreak was declared successfully interrupted by national and international experts in June 2015. The last reported wild polio virus WPV on the entire continent of Africa was 14 months ago – with the last WPV1 case confirmed in neighboring Somalia in August 2014. While these successes are cause for celebration; we also underline the importance of sustained commitment at every level. 

In an effort to maintain the momentum, we each play our part as polio partners and bring an important and unique contribution to the polio eradication efforts. “Thirty years ago, we told the world what Rotary believes: that we can achieve the eradication of only the second human disease in history. Our belief is close to becoming reality. For every child, let’s make sure that reality is a bright one. On 23 October, Rotary will host its third annual World Polio Day event,” states   K.R. Ravindran Rotary International President in his friendly call to partners and allies to join World polio Day 2015. 

UNICEF Ethiopia, Rotary International and Somali Regional Health Bureau team members with the signed Pledge of Commitment on the Eradication of Polio
UNICEF Ethiopia, Rotary International and Somali Regional Health Bureau team members with the signed Pledge of Commitment on the Eradication of Polio ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Getachew

WHO and UNICEF continue to prioritise quality polio supplementary immunisation activities (SIA); alongside sustained quality disease surveillance; coordination and technical assistance; social mobilisation; vaccine procurement; cold chain and logistic support. Routine immunisation, the backbone to polio prevention, is the flagship programme for FMOH, WHO, UNICEF and other partners.

The National Routine Immunization Improvement Plan 2014-2016, with the objective to achieve national Penta 3 coverage of 95 per cent by 2016, provides focused support to 51 zones, home to the vast majority of unimmunized children of the country.

“In the spirit of the polio legacy, we as UNICEF and as a global polio eradication partner, are working together towards a country with a strong routine immunization system, to protect all children, everywhere against polio and vaccine preventable diseases, paving the way for a better future for all,” states Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge of UNICEF Ethiopia.

As we commemorate World Polio Day 2015 alongside the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we reflect upon and celebrate the polio eradication initiative contribution to themes of development and human rights; and we envision further contributions to an even brighter future. Closing out 2015 we celebrate together in recognising Ethiopia’s achievements made towards the Millennium Development Goals particularly the reduction of under-five mortality; and we look towards a polio-free world by 2018.

WHO Representative, Dr Pierre M’pele Kilebou affirms, “WHO is proud of its contribution towards the success attained so far in achieving MDG 4, interruption of WPV transmission and routine immunization improvement; and our efforts would continue to sustain the gain that Ethiopia have realized.”

Even more ambitiously, we all envision the polio eradication legacy contribution to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for equitable health and development for all children and families. The possibilities are endless; the successes are at our fingertips. In partnership, we are almost there. We will continue to work together for a polio-free Ethiopia until the job is done. And then we will keep going.

A drop to ensure no child is paralysed because of polio – Photo Blog

Rotary International advocates, UNICEF advocates and Rotaracts gathered to participate in the National Polio Immunization campaign at Shinile and Dire Dawa.
Never before in the history of polio have so few children in so few countries contracted the crippling virus – but we cannot rest until the number of cases is zero ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha
Polio vaccination a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa
Over 100 million doses of #polio vaccine procured to respond to the polio outbreak since June 2013 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet
A man informs communities about upcoming campaign on Polio vaccination ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Heger
Clinical nurses Ermias Amare (front) and Salah Kedir, traveling on motorcycle between pastoral settlements
Clinical nurses Ermias Amare (front) and Salah Kedir, traveling on motorcycle between pastoral settlements in Tulugulid District, Fafan Zone, Somali Region, to provide polio vaccinations for children five years and younger during the Polio NIDs Campaign, 9 February 2015 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Getachew
Ayan Hassan and Sahro Ahmed travel long distance to deliver polio vaccination in hard to reach areas
Ayan Hassan and Sahro Ahmed, trained vaccinators, travel long distance to deliver polio vaccination in hard to reach areas in Somali region of Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet
Polio Administration-Hamer district
A child in Hamer, indigionius community in south omo, SNNPR, Ethiopia, recieves polio vaccine during a nation wide campaign in 2005 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Getachew
NIDs volunteer Haile Dooch administers Polio Vaccine-Hamer District
National Immunisation Day volunteer Haile Dooch vaccinates child against polio in Karo Duss village, Hamer District, during July/August Polio NIDs campaign in 2005. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Getachew
Polio vaccination, a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa.
Barwoqo Hassen, 3 years gets polio vaccination in Shinelle zone, Somali region Ethiopia. Polio vaccination, a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha
Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia
Dr Kesete Birhane Admasu Minister of Health gives an anti polio drop to a child at Selam Health Centre. Sustaining the Achievements in Polio Eradication in Ethiopia: High level Vaccination Session during the Financing for Development conferince to obtain a better understanding of ongoing routine immunisation efforts to eradicate polio in Ethiopia and advocate for sustained efforts, through a practical demonstration of polio vaccination in Selam Health Center Gulele Sub city, Addis Ababa. Tuesday 14 July 2015. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Ayene
Health and nutrition
A health professional gives an anti-polio drop to a young refugee 24, June 2014 Pagak South Sudanese refugee reception centre Gambella Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene
Mother and Child in their home
A child smiles after receiving an oral drop against polio, in Tigray region, Ethiopia. National Polio Vaccination Campaign 2005. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2005/Heger
Legs of Ayan Yasin Confirmed Wild Polio Virus (WPV-1) case in Degafur rural village
In 1988 UNICEF joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and committed to ensure oral polio vaccine would be made available for and reach every child to rid the world of this devastating virus which at the time was paralyzing thousands of children every day ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet

Rotarians visit to Ethiopia – a true demonstration of commitment

By Shalini Rozario

Rotary International advocacy visit to Ethiopia to support the polio eradication efforts and participate in the National Polio Immunization campaign
Rotary International advocacy visit to Ethiopia to support the polio eradication efforts and participate in the National Polio Immunization campaign ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Tsegaye

36 Rotarians from Ethiopia, Canada and the United States visited East Shewa zone in the Oromia region of Ethiopia to deliver polio vaccinations to more than 600 children under the age of five.

The visit marked the launch of the first round of polio National Immunisation Days in the country and the group also visited the country office of UNICEF Ethiopia, which is a partner in the global polio eradication initiative.

The visit coincided with an intensified immunisation campaign in Ethiopia, in response to the polio outbreak which began in August 2013, triggered by the Horn of Africa outbreak in Somalia and Kenya.

As of November 2014, 10 cases of Wild Poliovirus Type 1 (WPV1) had been confirmed in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

At the UNICEF Ethiopia offices, members of the Rotary Polio Advocacy Group were shown a video and presentation on polio eradication efforts in the country, followed by a discussion.

Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia, welcomed the Rotarians and thanked them for their continued support in efforts to eradicate polio, which included a recent grant.

The grant is part of a larger announcement by Rotary International marking World Polio Day of a pledge of $44.7 million to fight polio in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

To date, Rotary has donated more than $1.3 billion to global eradication efforts, allowing the mobilisation of resources at the grass-roots level through volunteer leaders.

Rotary International advocacy visit to Ethiopia to support the polio eradication efforts and participate in the National Polio Immunization campaign
Rotary International advocacy visit to Ethiopia to support the polio eradication efforts and participate in the National Polio Immunisation campaign ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Tsegaye

During their visit to the Oromia region, the Rotarians attended a colourful ceremony at a primary school, alongside Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister at the Federal Ministry of Health and Dr Taye Tolera, Special Adviser to the State Minister of Health.

They were joined by the Federal Ministry of Health Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) team, staff from the East Shewa Zone Health Office, UNICEF, WHO and other partners.

The group visited several kebeles within East Shewa Zone to visit people’s homes and carry out vaccinations, accompanied by kebele Health Extension Workers and Health Workers.

The Lume district health office and Shara Didandiba Health Post organised a kebele launching ceremony to mark the Rotarians’ visit. The Rotarians handed out t-shirts and caps to children and parents at the event.

The visiting Rotarians have a range of backgrounds, but share a common interest in supporting polio immunsation, child health and development programmes in Ethiopia. Some members of the group have visited Ethiopia several times.

The visit was intended to inform and promote polio advocacy work in Canada and the US through advocacy and fundraising, as well as engagement with US Congressional leaders.

Rotary International is spearheading the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, alongside the World Health Organisation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and UNICEF. It has been at the forefront of the global fight against polio for the last three decades.

Drop by drop closer to polio-free Ethiopia

Polio vaccination a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa
Polio vaccination a response of a recent polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet

 

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.