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.

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.