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.

World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International, appreciate frontline workers in the fight against polio and call for sustained support for eradication efforts.

World Polio Day 2014 banner
Addis Ababa, 24 October 2014 – The World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International stand together in the fight against polio and in commemoration of World Polio Day, 24 October 2014.

Despite significant progress made in polio eradication since the launch of the initiative in 1988, the wild poliovirus (WPV) continues to infect people, causing life-long paralysis and disability. The Horn of Africa was struck with a polio outbreak in April 2013. To date, 223 cases of WPV1 have been confirmed in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. The date of onset of the last case confirmed in Somalia was in August 2014.

Up until 2013, Ethiopia was polio-free since 2008. However, since last year, Ethiopia has confirmed 10 cases of polio in Doolo Zone, Somali Region. Ethiopia’s response to this crisis has been fast and aggressive. Since June 2013, 11 rounds of polio immunization campaigns have been conducted in addition to ongoing border vaccination at 45 permanent vaccination posts along the border with Somalia. National immunization days (NIDs) in October and December 2013 reached over 12 million and 15 million children, respectively. Due to these aggressive efforts, the last case of WPV in Ethiopia was confirmed more than 9 months ago, in January 2014.

The success of these polio immunization efforts is a result of national commitment and the coordinated efforts of immunization partners. We recognize those who are in the forefront of the fight against this debilitating disease: health workers, vaccination teams, mobilizers, traditional and religious leaders, partners and others who work long hours, and walk long distances, to ensure all children are reached with the polio vaccine.

Rotary International launched a new campaign that promises every dollar donated to Rotary will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. On 21 October 2014, Rotary International announced the release of US$ 2 million to support polio eradication efforts in Ethiopia. UNICEF supports communication and social mobilization, vaccine procurement, cold chain and logistics and technical assistance while WHO is providing technical assistance, coordination support, including across cross border coordination, and surveillance support.

As World Polio Day is commemorated on the same day as UN Day today, we remember our efforts within the broader context, a day when we uphold a child’s right to health as a basic human right for all. As we look to 2015, we measure the success of our efforts against achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, acknowledging the contribution of polio immunization efforts to MDG achievement. In two weeks, Ethiopia will conduct the first of two rounds of the 2014 NIDs aiming to vaccinate over 13 million children. We look to all partners, decision makers, donors, leaders and other stakeholders to provide their support so that we can ensure no child is left behind. We will continue to work together to END POLIO NOW.

 

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For further information, please contact:

Mohammed Idris, Rotary International, +251911197755, mohammedsany@gmail.com

Wossen Mulatu, UNICEF, +251 11 518 4028, wmulatu@unicef.org

Fiona Braka, WHO, +251 11 553 4777, brakaf@who.int

Eager for the polio vaccine in Ethiopia

Rotary Voices

By John Adams, a member of the Rotary Club of Somerset-Pulaski County, Kentucky, USA

A mother seeks the polio vaccine for her child during immunization activities in southern Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of John Adams

At first, I thought the pull on my volunteer’s vest was one of the 50 or so village children who were following us, touching me to see if I was indeed real, because I was so different from them. But this was more than a child’s curious touch; it was a pull that caused me to lose my balance.

I turned in the direction of the pull to find it was not a playful child; but a determined mother, holding an infant. I will never forget her expression. I had no idea what she said in her dialect of Amharic or the local tribal language, but I knew exactly what she wanted.

I understood because I am the father of a 3 year old and I want the same for my child. We share the want to protect our children from polio. She came to me because I could protect her infant child. It is a powerful and gratifying emotion to know you can instantly change the life of another for the better. I called over to Nancy, a Rotarian from Indiana, USA, who had a ready vial of polio vaccine and we vaccinated the infant against polio.

I understand health workers in other parts of Africa have to spend considerable amounts of time convincing parents to let their children be vaccinated against polio. Not so in the ethnic division of Ethiopia known as the Southern Nations. These folks remember polio from a few years ago before Ethiopia was free of polio. I don’t think they actually know about the recent cases of polio in Ethiopia which migrated from neighboring countries. They just know that when health workers, even volunteers of another skin color from 8,000 miles away, have the vaccine you make sure your small children get the two precious drops. Read more

Rotary International guests from US and Canada visit UNICEF Ethiopia to support polio eradication efforts

By Shalini Rozario

Group photo: Rotary International guests from US and Canada visit UNICEF EthiopiaOn 12 November 2013, members of Rotary International’s Polio Advocacy Group paid a visit to UNICEF Ethiopia to meet with Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative, to discuss the status of the wild polio virus circulation within the Horn of Africa and to learn more about UNICEF activities and contribution.

UNICEF welcomed the visitors with much appreciation for their dedication and interest in immunization efforts. A presentation was given by Dr. Salama on the overview of UNICEF response alongside a short film on community engagement for polio immunization highlighting communication activities supported by polio partners including Rotary International and the National Polio Plus Committee. Following the presentation, the discussion included topics such as access challenges to reach remote communities; flexible funding for the evolving outbreak and how broader strategies could help to maximize large scale community participation and support to polio, routine immunization and child survival generally.

Community Engagement for Polio Immunization in Ethiopia

The Rotary Advocacy Group is part of a larger group of 45 Rotarians from the United States and Canada who are visiting Ethiopia this week to demonstrate their interest and support for the polio eradication efforts.

Globally, Rotary International has supported polio eradication efforts for the last 34 years and is one of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Partners alongside the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.

See photos from the visit here.