Rotary International (RI) granted 3.5 million birr to two UN agencies, WHO and UNICEF, through its National PolioPlus Committee (NPPC).
The grant spearheaded by Rotary International partners is shared among the agencies to be used for vaccine, cold chains, conduct advocacy and logistic gaps in the local Polio SIAs (Supplementary Immunization Activities) areas, specifically in 171 priority Woredas for 2013.
Past District Governor Nahusenaye Araya, Chairman of the National Polio+ Committee donated the grant to Peter Salama, Country Director of UNICEF, and Khaled Bessaoud Country Director of WHO at a ceremony held at the UNCC on Friday December 14.
Rotary International representatives said during the grant ceremony that as long as polio is not totally eradicated from the world there is always a continuing risk of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) importation from neighboring or other countries and vaccine drive polio virus (cVDPV) circulation from within.
Though Ethiopia has remained polio free since April 2008, the country’s susceptibility to polio importation, particularly in border regions, remains a point of concern.
The last indigenous case of a wild polio virus in Ethiopia was reported 11 years ago. However, from 2004 to 2008, the country experienced five separate importations of the virus. The outbreaks were successfully interrupted and a polio free status has been maintained for more than four years now.
Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in some parts of Africa and Asia. It can strike and cause physical damage at any age but mainly affects children under the age of five.
This grant is, therefore for activities based on Interagency Coordination Committee (ICC) recommendation for high risk boarding areas and within WHO’s and UNICEF’s scope of operations.
Polio Eradication Initiative program is Rotary International’s major program. Considering the potential Wild Polio Virus circulation at border areas of the country, National PolioPlus Committee established the Horn of Africa Cross Border Collaboration Meeting (CBM) that include the five countries bordering Ethiopia; Djibouti, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya to assess the risks.
Since then four cross border meetings were held in August 2012 with these neighboring countries to strengthen collaborative efforts in surveillance, routine immunization, and synchronization of campaigns along the borders. Ethiopia shares a 6,000 kilometer long border with these five countries. These targeted cross border areas are noted to have relatively poor routine immunization coverage and poor surveillance indicators.
The Polio Technical Advisory Group for the Horn of Africa noted that the region is at a significant risk for polio outbreak. The high risk is attributed to a number of factors including the circulation of undetected wild polio virus and suboptimal routine immunization coverage, according to UNICEF.
In response to this threat, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution that declares polio eradication an emergency for global public health. The resolution calls for increased commitment and accountability by all member states and partners in the fight to end polio.
Although good progress has been made, Ethiopia ranks fifth on the list of countries in the world with large numbers of unvaccinated children.
To maintain the polio free status and avert possible risks of importation, Ethiopia conducted supplementary sub national polio immunization activities in October and November 2012 in 23 high risk border regions of the country. To realize this, the National PolioPlus Committee donated almost one million birr.
The total grant received from the Rotary International during 2012 amounts to 5.2 million birr. Rotary is fully committed to the world wide eradication of polio it initiated in 1985 and so far its financial contribution is well over USD 1.2 billion.
In 1985, Rotary International created PolioPlus, a program to immunize the world’s children against polio. Rotary has contributed more than 1.2 billion USD and volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries to date. It has recently raised an additional 200 million USD toward a 355 million USD challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These efforts are providing much needed operational support, medical personnel, laboratory equipment, and educational materials for health workers and parents. In addition, Rotary has played a major role in decisions by donor governments to contribute over 8 billion USD to the effort.
Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, nearly six million potential disabilities due to polio have been prevented. Through the efforts and investments of the initiative, the number of wild polio cases was reduced from 350 thousand in 125 countries to 650 cases in four endemic countries by the end of 2011.
In February 2012, the WHO removed India from the list of countries with active wild endemic polio virus, leaving only three countries with endemic polio virus; Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Led by District Governor-Elect Ezra Teshome from Seattle, USA, every year for the past 15 years Rotarians from the US, Canada and Hawaii have been coming to Ethiopia benevolently, on their own initiative, covering their full expenses to help launch the national polio immunization campaign and raise money.