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Even through Ethiopia has been polio free since June 2014, the recent outbreak in Nigeria is  proof that continuous immunization of children is very important, it was stated during the commemoration of World Polio Day on October 24, 2016 at Elilly International Hotel. Nigeria reported three laboratory confirmed wild polio virus type one cases between July and August 2016

Participants said that countries need to be vigilant and well prepared for a robust and rapid response to children and communities especially in high risk, inaccessible and insecure areas.

“Ethiopia is a hub for the Horn of Africa sharing over 6,000 kilometers of border with six countries. The cross border population is migrant and mobile, hard to reach along Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan and South Sudan. This is a clear manifestation that Ethiopia is at risk of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) importation,” said Dr. Kebede Worku State Minister of Health addressing stakeholders in the fight against polio.

The State minister further noted Ethiopia’s commitment to sustain the polio free status it has enjoyed. “The volatile situation in neighboring Somalia, as regard to WPV transmission, puts the Horn of Africa in serious concern. However, Ethiopia is meticulous in pursuit of prevention and interruption measures. Just days ago, we have conducted a simulation of polio transmission response activity,” he said.

Speaking at the event was UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia Gillian Mellsop who underlined the need to ensure that no child is left behind on Polio Vaccination. “Although Wild Polio transmission has been interrupted in Ethiopia, the ongoing outbreak in Nigeria coupled with reported immunity gaps in Ethiopia necessitates our continued commitment to keeping Ethiopia polio free. In particular, we must sustain our support to children, communities and engage with available platforms and leaders at all levels to strengthen our response,” she said.

Furthermore, Mellsop stated that in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of Polio in the world but in 2016 only 27 new cases are reported. Never before in the history of Polio have there been so few children in so few countries with the crippling virus.

The contribution of all stake holders to end polio was highly recognized and partners such as WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, NGOs, communities as well as donors including USAID, CDC, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others were recognized and called on to continue their support.

“For 17 years we have done it greatly in the Polio Eradication Initiative and I urge donors, partners, allies and health workers to increase the gains. I am confident that we will continue our effort together without fatigue. We must have a strong push to END POLIO NOW and root out polio once and for all,” said Dr. Tadesse Alemu, National PolioPlus Committee Chairman.

The need to strengthen cross boarder collaboration and strengthen collaboration between stakeholders was underlined as a major factor to continued success. “We have to widen and strengthen our partnership to continue and sustain our efforts towards polio eradication activities,” Dr. Filimona Bisrat, Director of the CORE Group asserted.

World Health Organization Acting Representative Dr. Paul Mainuka also acknowledged the efforts and success of the Ministry of Health and the solid commitment of the Ethiopian government in the eradication of polio.

During the event, in recognition of their dedicated work in the fight against polio, two Rotarians where given awards; Rotarian KV. Desikan received a Certificate of Recognition from the national Polio Plus Committee for his long term service while Rotarian Teguest Yilma received the Regional Service Award for a Polio Free World, from the Rotary Foundation Trustees.

Accepting the award, Teguest who is also Managing Director of Capital, stated that it is not time to relax as it doesn’t take much to reverse the gains made so far. She also called on all Rotarians and other stakeholders to continue to work together for continued success. “We have come so far fellow Rotarians; we are so close to see an end to this debilitating disease. Now is not the time to relax, as we know it can come right back if we do,” Teguest said.