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.

Ethiopia takes action against rotavirus

In September, Ethiopia and UNICEF announced that the country had reduced its under-five mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2012 – the required reduction for meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) on child survival.

“Ethiopia is becoming a development leader on the African continent, the success is driven by political commitment, advances in science and technology and improvements in health, nutrition and family planning services, particularly in the rural areas,” said Peter Salama, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia. Read more

Ethiopia Set to Save Children from Diarrhoea

This content originally appeared on newbusinessethiopia.com

Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Keseteberhan Admassu makes official launching statement of Rotavirus Vaccine introduction to Ethiopia“Diarrhoea takes the lives of more than 38,500 Ethiopian children under-five each year, rotavirus being responsible for close to two-thirds of the deaths,” said Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr Admasu Kesetebirhan. “Providing rotavirus vaccines to our children and integrating them with appropriate diarrhoeal disease control interventions will further support our efforts to reduce child mortality.”

Ethiopia has undertaken significant work to introduce the rotavirus vaccine nationally. It has significantly expanded its cold chain facilities nationwide and deployed health extension workers to provide immunisation services in each village with at least 5,000 people, in a country with 84 million people spread across 1.1 million square kilometres.

“Ethiopia is becoming a development leader on the African continent, the success is driven by political commitment, advances in science and technology and improvements in health, nutrition and family planning services, particularly in the rural areas,” said Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia. Read more

Ethiopia administers vaccine against rotavirus

Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Keseteberhan Admassu launches Rotavirus Vaccine introduction by giving the first drops to a child  at Zewditu hospital, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaEthiopia has started administering a vaccine against a rotavirus which leads to severe and often fatal diarrhea in children under the age of five, according to the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Administration of the vaccine is expected to protect 2.8 million children born in Ethiopia. The country has one of the highest fatality rates from rotavirus with more than 38,500 children under the age of five dying every year because of diarrhea, of which two-third of death related to the virus.

“Ethiopia is becoming a development leader on the African continent, the success is driven by political commitment, advances in science and technology and improvements in health, nutrition and family planning services, particularly in the rural areas,” Peter Salama, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia stated. Read more

Nation introduces Rota Vaccine

The Ministry of Health (MoH) inaugurated a vaccine against rota virus which helps the nation to decrease under five mortality. Annually, 28,000 Ethiopian children under five die from diarrhoea caused by rota virus.

At the inaugural ceremony of the vaccine at Zewditu Referral Hospital yesterday, Health Minister Dr. Kesete-Birhan Admassu said that the scaling up of the immunization programme in the country has made significant contribution to achieve MDG-4 (reduction of child mortality) by 2/3, three years ahead of time. “Our collaborative effort of bringing more life-saving vaccines into routine immunization programme will continue to contribute immensely towards the saving of precious lives,” he added.

Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia, speaks  On the Occasion of the launch of Rotavirus Vaccine introduction in Ethiopia

UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia Patrizia Di Giovanni said that prevention, rather than treatment of infection through immunization is one of the safest and least expensive means to avoid unnecessary child death. Ethiopia has expanded the programme of immunization with the support of GABI and partners. The implementation of the vaccine has been rapidly creating opportunities for providing fullest benefit of vaccines, She added.

She said that Ethiopia recognizes diarrhoea caused by rota virus as a formidable public health problem. As rota virus infection is associated with the most severe types of diarrhea in infants and young children, today’s introduction of rota virus vaccine is expected to save children’s lives lost to one of the leading causes of child mortality in the country — diarrhoeal disease. Read more

Ethiopia launches Rotavirus vaccine

A smiling child after receiving the first Rotavirus Vaccine in Ethiopia
A smiling child after receiving the first Rotavirus Vaccine in Ethiopia

The Federal Ministry of Ethiopia launches Rotavirus Vaccine at Zewditu hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This momentum in increasing efforts to reduce child mortality is a showcase to the country’s commitment to improve children’s health and survival. Ethiopia has recently become one of the countries who have achieved the Millennium Development Goal four of reducing child mortality by two thirds (MDG4), three years in advance.  

The event was marked by the presence of Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu and representatives from A.A city Administration Health bureau, WHO, GAVI alliance, PATH, CHAI, and the media. “The introduction of Rota vaccine will help Ethiopia consolidate its gain in reducing Infant mortality and end preventable child deaths” said Dr. Kesetebirhan in his opening remark. He stressed on the importance of partnership on Ethiopia’s Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) and acknowledged the support of UNICEF, GAVI Alliance, WHO, PATH, CHAI & others.

Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia, speaks  On the Occasion of the launch of Rotavirus Vaccine introduction in Ethiopia
Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia, speaks On the Occasion of the launch of Rotavirus Vaccine introduction in Ethiopia

Rotavirus, the most common cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in young children worldwide, takes the lives of more than 28,000 Ethiopian children under five each year. “Today, with this important new vaccine we have a golden opportunity to strengthen our efforts to advance innovative and appropriate approaches to reach the un-reached children; to further build the capacity of health workers, to expand cold chain capacity and to most importantly to renew our collective advocacy to mobilize communities to reap the benefits of routine immunization.” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia

Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Keseteberhan Admassu launches Rotavirus Vaccine introduction by giving the first drops to a child  at Zewditu hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Keseteberhan Admassu launches Rotavirus Vaccine introduction by giving the first drops to a child at Zewditu hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Before the end of the event Dr. Kesetebirhan was joined by the high level delegation of partners to vaccinate children in the hospital.

See pictures form the launch here.

Joint GAVI, Ministry of Health, UNICEF and WHO media release “Millions of Ethiopian Children to be Protected Each Year Against Leading Cause of Severe Diarrhoea – Ethiopia becomes the 17th country to introduce rotavirus vaccine with support of GAVI partners”

Patrizia Di Giovanni (UNICEF Deputy Representative to Ethiopia) speech during the launch of Rotavirus Vaccine introduction