Joint WHO-UNICEF-ROTARY statement on World Polio Day

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WHO, UNICEF and ROTARY reaffirm their commitment to sustain Africa’s polio-free status by ensuring Ethiopia stays polio-free

Addis Ababa, 24 October 2020 – Today as the world commemorates World Polio Day, we, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and ROTARY, reaffirm our commitment to continue working with the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that Ethiopia stays polio free so we can maintain the success achieved in certification of the WHO African Region as free of wild poliovirus (WPV).

On 25 August 2020, the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared that the WHO African Region that constitutes 47 member states is free of wild poliovirus (WPV).

Prior to 1996 when the “Kick Polio Out of Africa!” campaign commenced, wild poliovirus used to paralyze about 75,000 children annually in the African continent. However, today, it has been four years since Africa reported a poliomyelitis case caused by wild poliovirus. This is a historic milestone for Africa.

In Ethiopia, the last indigenous wild poliovirus case was reported in 2001. However, imported WPV cases were detected along the years, with the last case detected on 5 January 2014. Years of aggressive surveillance and response through reactive and preventive mass immunization campaigns, including in hard-to-reach areas, together with cross-border collaboration ensured that no cases were recorded after 2014.

This achievement was gained through the leadership of the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, commitment of frontline workers and generous support of polio partners such as WHO, UNICEF, ROTARY, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, CCRDA/ CORE Group and other immunizations partners.

As we commemorate World Polio Day 2020, we acknowledge that global eradication of wild poliovirus hasn’t yet been achieved and hence the risk of importation and an ensuing outbreak remains a challenge. We therefore underscore the need to remain vigilant, and to strengthen routine immunization and disease surveillance in order to ensure Ethiopia and neighboring countries remain polio-free until the day that we can come as one global community to celebrate eradication of the virus from the face of the Earth.

The theme for this year’s World Polio Day in Ethiopia is “Take Action, Eradicate the Disease Forever!” To achieve this ambitious goal, we need to ensure that every child in under-immunized communities is vaccinated – aiming to leave not a single child behind – and strengthen disease surveillance for early detection and response.

While we celebrate Ethiopia’s wild-poliovirus-free status and the Africa Region’s certification as wild poliovirus free, we remain committed to continuing our joint polio eradication efforts in order to sustain this incredible achievement, and we call on the Government of Ethiopia and our immunization partners to renew their commitment until polio is eradicated worldwide.