Every year, a number of Rotarians from the US and Canada come to Ethiopia to take part in the National Immunization Campaigns and visit projects funded through Rotary International. This year, 24 Rotarians got in on the fight against polio in Ethiopia and saw changes achieved with their contributions.
Currently, only two countries in the world remain with endemic polio; Afghanistan and Pakistan have never been free of the disease. Nigeria which previously belonged to the list of countries with endemic polio was removed by the World Health Organization (WHO) this year. The announcement came after all samples in the polio laboratory tested negative for wild poliovirus a whole year, after the most recent case on 24 July 2014. This is the first time that Nigeria has successfully interrupted transmission of wild poliovirus, bringing the country and the African continent closer than ever to being certified polio-free.
Cheshire Service Ethiopia inaugurates hydrotherapy facility
Cheshire Service Ethiopia, a local NGO that works with children with disabilities, inaugurated a new hydrotherapy service facility on Monday October 5, 2015. The facility, built at a cost of 3.9 million birr, is expected to significantly contribute to the rehabilitation of those affected by the polio virus.
“Cheshire Service Ethiopia has been a pioneer in initiating and implementing innovative ideas in its service provision to rehabilitate persons with disabilities. The provision of short term institutional care, mobile outreach program to underserved areas and our community based rehabilitation approach are some of the things that make this NGO a pioneer,” said Tadesse Telahun, Chair and President of Cheshire Service Ethiopia, speaking at the inauguration of the hydrotherapy facility.
He further stated that construction and equipping the hydrotherapy facility took a year and a half and was completed successfully. “The board of Cheshire Service Ethiopia will do its level best to provide standard services to those who need it,” he said.
Rotarian Denny Wilford, initiator of the hydrotherapy facility project, noted that this kind of therapy is something that will make an impact on the lives of those affected by polio.
“I had polio as a child and I lived with the lot of the things the kids here have to go through. When I first came here, I was so impressed with how happy the kids were. That was an infectious thing that I wanted to be a part of,” he said.
It was explained at the event that hydrotherapy, being able to be in water, not only gives those with polio the opportunity to move for the first time, but also gives those affected a sense of freedom that they otherwise may not have. The therapy allows the muscles to get stronger, allowing people to pick up weight they would not be able to while on land. The therapy also helps some regain function of their muscles.
Keder Kasim, who is a hydro-therapist at the Cheshire Service Ethiopia Menagesha Rehabilitation Center, stated that the facility has the capacity to give services to 12 children. The services’ frequency and time varies according to the needs of the children and prescription of physicians.
“This kind of water therapy is different because it is fun and relaxing. Some of the other therapies could be painful because they are done against gravity; the water makes things a lot easier,” he said. Currently Hydrotherapy is only in used by in-house patients, but according to Keder, the service may be available for other patients as well.
International researches show that hydrotherapy has huge benefits in rehabilitating people who suffer from different mobility and muscle disorders.
Currently, there are six trained physical therapists at the Menagesha Rehabilitation Center with two practitioners assigned to carry out the work.
Cheshire Services is an independent non-profit organization, founded in 1962, that provides orthopedic and social rehabilitation services for children and young people with disabilities.
WHO praises progress, points to gaps in eradicating polio
A World Health Organization (WHO) briefing session was held for Rotarians visiting from the US and Canada to participate in this year’s National Immunization Campaign. The briefing session focused on the progress made in Ethiopia with regards to the eradication of polio and strategies on how to eradicate polio from the Horn of Africa region.
Dr. Kathlen M. Gallagher of WHO stated that several developments have contributed to the success of the eradication of polio in Ethiopia. Increased human resource surge to high risk areas, capacity building, weekly feedback on performance indicators, regular review meeting at regional and national level, intensified cross border surveillance including cross border case notification and community based surveillance were cited as vital for eradication.
She also stated that despite the progress made, there were several challenges ahead. “In the Somali region contest, challenges included; missed children in nomadic/pastoralist communities including Dollo zone, communication and security challenges in high-risk zones as well as staff capacity and turn over,” she said. She further said that community awareness, surveillance and case detection have not yet been optimized in Somali region.
According to Dr. Thomas Karengera, Team Leader of the Expanded Program on Immunization at WHO Country Office Ethiopia, low intensity, undetected transmission in Somalia, re-importation and emergence of Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus (VDPV) in populations with low levels of immunity against polio, continue to be huge challenges.
Immunization coverage has been increasing gradually over the last decade. The proportion of fully immunized children has remained at 50 percent between 2006 and 2012. For more than 14 months now, no polio virus has been detected in the Somali Region.
Since the onset of the outbreak of polio in 2013, 15 polio vaccination campaigns have been successfully completed In Ethiopia; close to 80 million doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) have been administered to contain the outbreak.
Cross-border collaboration has also been enhanced in the Horn of Africa. Synchronized activities to respond to the outbreak were conducted along the border with Somalia and Kenya. Over 65,000 children under 15 years of age have been vaccinated at permanent cross-border vaccination posts in the Somali region over the last 18 months.
President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) meets with Rotarians
President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) met with Rotarians from Canada and the US at the National Palace on Wednesday, October 7, 2015. The President acknowledged Rotary International’s commitment to fight polio as well as its continued support to Ethiopia.
The President called on the Rotarians to show the same commitment in other areas that need intervention.
The Rotarians in return also acknowledged efforts by the Ethiopian government in supporting the polio eradication campaign. The Rotary delegation leader Ezra Teshome said that Africa has not seen a new polio case for almost a year and this fact is encouraging to Africa as well as the rest of the world.
Ezra further indicated that health practitioners have played a significant role in Ethiopia in the fight against polio. “Despite the harsh conditions, health practitioners and others have shown unreserved commitment to polio eradication and deserve appreciation”.