World Polio Day 2014 commemorated in Ethiopia

By Shalini Rozario

On 24 October 2014, UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) gathered to commemorate World Polio Day, which also coincided with United Nations Day. In a Joint Statement issued by WHO, UNICEF and Rotary, the partners appreciated frontline workers in the fight against polio and called for sustained support for eradication efforts.

World Polio Day celebrated in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in the premises of the UNECA compound.
World Polio Day celebrated in Addis Ababa Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

The World Polio day commemoration commenced with a moment of silence for the late Past District Governor (PDG) Nahu Senaye Araya, President of the Rotary National Polio Plus Committee. Ato Araya’s family, in attendance, was presented with a certificate of appreciation by WHO, UNICEF and Rotary for his years of dedicated service to the polio programme.

Dr. Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia, stated in his welcoming remarks, “Today is a reminder of our duty to make sure that no more children are paralyzed by the disease that can be prevented with a simple, easy to administer vaccine.” The screening of two short videos, Help #EndPolio Forever and Curbing the polio spread through nation wide immunisation campaign, followed his welcoming remarks.

Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative to UNICEF Ethiopia commended the contribution of partners in her key note address and emphasized the gains being made to reach all children with the polio vaccine and improved child survival interventions. “As the World Polio Day coincides with UN Day, we place our efforts within the broader context, as we work to uphold a child’s right to health as a basic human right for all. With the deadline fast approaching for measuring progress against achievement of the MDGs, our minds turn to the Ethiopia’s remarkable achievement of reaching MDG4. I believe, if we had the ability to achieve this goal three years ahead of schedule, we can certainly work together to ensure all eligible children are fully immunized by their first birthday.”

PDG Tadesse Alemu speaks at the World Polio Day
PDG Tadesse Alemu speaks at the World Polio Day commoration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

On a keynote address by PDG Dr. Tadesse Alemu, who recalled the commitment and dedication of PDG Nahu Senaye Araya, said “Swift and unprecedented changes in the world has impacted efforts of polio eradication. We must have strong push to end polio now. Dr. Taye Tolera, Special Advisor to the State Minister of Health, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, delivered remarks from the Ministry of Health. He stated, “This joint commemoration clearly shows that all partners and allies have maintained the stamina in the commitment and support to the Expanded Programme on Immunization and the Polio Eradication Initiative.” He called for continued commitment: “We all should be proud of our shared achievements. But, we should continue the journey until this highly interconnected world we all share is free of polio before 2018.”

As part of the World Polio Day events, Rotary International announced earlier in the week a US$44.7 million grant to fight polio in Africa, Asia and the Middle East on 21st October this year with Ethiopia to receive US$ 2 million for polio eradication efforts in the country.

Read the press release by UNICEF here.

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