Service Above Self: Rotarians active participation in polio eradication saves lives

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Former president Girma Wolde-Giorgis awarded

“The Polio Eradication Initiative is a unique health intervention, targeting children less than five years old;

from which we can tap its legacy and learn from its process,” said President Mulatu Teshome while addressing Rotarians he received at the National Jubilee Palace on Sunday November 17th in connection with the National Polio Immunization Advocacy Activity in Ethiopia.
The event came after the launch of the National immunization activities held in Hawassa from November 14th to 16th. 32 Rotarians from the US and Canada visited Ethiopia and participated in the national immunization activities in response to the recent wild polio virus attack in the Horn of Africa. Six polio cases were reported in Ethiopia, Doolo zone, an area bordering Somalia.   Led by Ezra Teshome, Rotary District 5030 Governor, over the past 18 years, more than a thousand Rotarians have traveled to Ethiopia to contribute their share in the fight against polio. This year’s Rotarians advocacy visit was even more crucial in view of the recent outbreak along the Ethiopia and Somalia borders.
“A polio free world means one enemy less and a leverage to attack other enemies,” President Mulatu said and urged the Rotarians to continue their support with polio eradication campaigns.  
“I would like to thank guest Rotarians from the USA and Canada who have made the Polio Eradication Initiative High Level Advocacy a standing communication issue. For over a decade, you have taken active part in the house to house Polio Eradication Activities Campaigns; in the mean time you have observed and learnt about the problems of implementing the immunization program in Ethiopia,” said Health Minister Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu.
The health minister further stated that the government will continue its effort to strengthening the health system to provide quality health care services to all. “The government will also give particular attention for immunization services and improving routine immunization coverage through intensified support for health extension workers deployed in different areas,” the minister said.
In 1985, Rotary International (RI) initiated PolioPlus, a program aimed at immunizing all the world’s children against polio. To date, Rotary has been able to contribute around 1.2 billion dollars and a significant amount of volunteer hours for the protection of over 2 billion children in 122 countries.
RI recently raised an additional 200 million dollars to match a 355 million dollar challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, RI has played a major role in decisions by donor governments to contribute over 8 billion dollars to the effort.
During the debriefing ceremony held at the National Jubilee Palace, former Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis was honored with the ‘Rotary International Polio Free Award’ as a gesture of thanks to his efforts that helped Ethiopia become a polio-free country during the last five years of his presidency. The award was presented by District Governor Ezra Teshome on behalf of the Trustees of Rotary International.
“It is only appropriate to mention the priceless support you have bestowed to Rotary programs in Ethiopia and particularly towards a polio free world since your Excellency assumed office. You will always be remembered in our Polio Eradication Endeavors,” said Ezra thanking President Girma Wolde-Giorgis for his efforts.
Statistics show that more than 10 million children under the age of five could be paralyzed in the next 40 years unless Polio is completely eradicated from earth. Across the world, polio cases have declined rapidly since 1985 achieving 99 percent polio free status. Unfortunately there are areas where the virus still causes devastation.
Currently, three countries; Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan remain the three endemic countries with 119 polio case as of this month. Thirteen news cases of the virus were also confirmed in Syria and in neighboring countries Somalia and Kenya with 180 and 14 cases reported respectively.