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.

In Ethiopia, pneumonia is a leading single disease killing under-five children

Kokeb Negussie and her husband Teshome watch their two month old son Moges rest in Romey Village-Amhara Region
Kokeb Negussie and her husband Teshome watch their two month old son Moges rest in Romey Village-Amhara Region ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Getachew

NEW YORK/Addis Ababa, 12 November 2014 – Significant declines in child deaths from pneumonia prove that strategies to defeat the disease are working, UNICEF said on the fifth World Pneumonia Day. But much more is needed to stop hundreds of thousands of children from succumbing to this preventable illness each year.

Pneumonia is still among the leading killers of children – accounting for 15 per cent of deaths, or approximately 940,000 children per year – but deaths from the disease have declined by 44 per cent since 2000, according to figures released recently by UNICEF.

“Pneumonia is still a very dangerous disease – it kills more children under five than HIV/AIDS, malaria, injuries and measles combined – and though the numbers are declining, with nearly 1 million deaths a year, there is no room for complacency,” said Dr. Mickey Chopra, head of UNICEF’s global health programmes. “Poverty is the biggest risk factor, and that means our efforts need to reach every child, no matter how marginalized.”

Deaths from pneumonia are highest in poor rural communities. Household air pollution is a major cause of pneumonia, so children from households which rely on solid fuels such as wood, dung or charcoal for cooking or heating, are at high risk. Overcrowded homes also contribute to higher pneumonia levels. In addition poor children are less likely to be immunized against measles and whooping cough, which are also among major causes of the disease.

Health Extension Worker Shewaye Berhanu administers the PCV vaccine
Health Extension Worker Shewaye Berhanu administers the PCV vaccine ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2011/Lemma

In Ethiopia, pneumonia is a leading single disease killing under-five children. It is estimated that 3,370,000 children encounter pneumonia annually which contributes to 20 per cent of all causes of deaths killing over 40,000 under-five children every year[1]. These deaths are easily preventable and treatable through simple and cost effective interventions. Immunization, good nutrition, exclusive breast feeding, appropriate complementary feeding and hand washing are among the preventive while administration of amoxicillin dispersible tablets and other antibiotics are among the curative methods which can save lives.

With the objective of increasing access to these lifesaving interventions, Ethiopia has made a policy breakthrough of introducing community based treatment of pneumonia through health extension workers in 2010[2]. Since then over 38,000 health extension workers from nearly 15,000 health posts are equipped with the skills and supplies to treat pneumonia at community level using the integrated community case management (iCCM) approach.[3]

Early diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia, and access to health care, will save lives, thus strategies must target low income communities.

The increased use of pneumonia vaccines, particularly in low income countries has led to progress against the disease, but inequities exist even in countries with wide coverage.

 “Closing the treatment gap between the poor and the better off is crucial to bringing down preventable deaths from pneumonia,” Dr Chopra said. “The more we focus on the causes and the known solutions, the faster we will bring this childhood scourge under control.”

UNICEF’s Supply Division has today put out a call to innovators for new, improved and more easily affordable respiratory rate timers to aid in the timely recognition and management of pneumonia.

One simple treatment has had great success: trained community health workers give sick children the antibiotic amoxicillin in a child-friendly tablet form, as part of an integrated case management programme at the community level. Scaling up the availability of similar inexpensive medicines will help to reduce the treatment gap especially among hard to reach populations.

Simple measures such as early and exclusive breastfeeding; handwashing with soap; vaccination; and provision of micronutrients will also reduce the incidence of pneumonia.

[1] Fischer Walker, 2013

[2] National plan on Integrated Community Case management of common childhood illness, FMOH, 2010

[3] UNICEF, Ethiopia Central Data Base, October 2014

Ten million childhood disabilities prevented in campaign to end polio – UNICEF

ADDIS ABABA/NEW YORK, 23 October – Every day, a thousand or so children have been protected from disability during a 26-year global effort to eradicate polio.  The worldwide campaign has immunised millions of previously-unreached children across the globe, UNICEF said on the eve of World Polio Day.

A child gets a mark after polio vaccination
Ayan Hassan marks a child after polio vaccination. Warder, Somali region, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet

Some 10 million people today would otherwise have been paralysed, while an additional 1.5 million lives have been saved through the routine administration of Vitamin A during polio vaccination drives.

The annual number of polio cases has fallen from 350,000 in 1988, to 416 in 2013, and 243 so far this year – an extraordinary drop of more than 99 percentAll but three countries where polio was firmly entrenched – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – have eliminated the virus within their borders. And multiple outbreaks have been contained over the past 26 years.

“In 1988 polio was a leading cause of childhood disability,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “In country after country since then, a generation of children has grown up without the spectre of polio.”

“The success of the eradication effort – reaching some of the most disadvantaged communities in some of the most dangerous circumstances – proves that it is possible to reach all children,” Lake added. “Our most ambitious and audacious goals for children can be met. And if they can be, they must be.”

In Ethiopia, 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, which can only be prevented through vaccination. 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 to date. The date of onset of the last case confirmed in Somalia was in August 2014, indicating ongoing circulation of WPV in the region. Up until 2013, Ethiopia was polio-free since 2008. However, since last year, Ethiopia has confirmed 10 cases of polio – a tragic setback for the country and for the families and children affected.

Legs of Ayan Yasin Confirmed Wild Polio Virus (WPV-1) case in Degafur rural village
Legs of Ayan Yasin Confirmed Wild Polio Virus (WPV-1) case in Degafur rural village, Somali region of Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Sewunet

 Rotary International, a lead in the global polio eradication initiative, has contributed more than US$1.3 billion to eradication efforts globally to date. A new campaign promises that every dollar donated to Rotary will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Rotary has announced a US$44.7 million grant to fight polio in Africa, Asia and the Middle East on 21st October this year and Ethiopia will receive US$ 2 million for polio eradication efforts in the country.

”Rotary International’s commitment to polio eradication has been instrumental in the swift and robust outbreak response in Ethiopia,” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative, UNICEF Ethiopia. “As partners in the fight against polio, we remain resolved to ensure no child is left unimmunized. Every child deserves the basic human right to health and we thank Rotary for their unwavering commitment in this endeavour.”

Nigeria has had only 6 cases this year, down from 49 in 2013. Afghanistan has reduced transmission to very low levels, with most cases linked to Pakistan.  With 206 cases already reported this year, Pakistan is now the world’s largest remaining reservoir of polio.

While polio remains endemic in only three countries, it continues to pose a risk to children everywhere, especially in countries which have not made routine immunization a priority, like South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ukraine. Outbreaks in Syria, Iraq, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia can be traced to Pakistan and Nigeria.  

UNICEF procures 1.7 billion doses of oral polio vaccine to reach 500 million children every year. And UNICEF’s social mobilisation work helps persuade families to accept the vaccine when it reaches them.  Intensive efforts over the past decade have seen acceptance of the polio vaccine at their highest levels ever in countries where polio remains endemic.

 “The world has never been closer to this once-in-a-generation opportunity of eradicating polio for good,” Lake said. “Every child deserves to live in a polio-free world.”