Health Ministry, partners renew commitment to end polio

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

To mark World Polio Day 2019 the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International came together to jointly reaffirm their commitment in the fight against polio, ‘that no child anywhere in the world suffers from this completely preventable disease’.
World Polio Day commemoration was organized on October 24th by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) together with Polio Eradication Initiative partners and allies for the 7th time in Ethiopia, under the theme ‘Let’s sustain the gain to End Polio Now.’
At the event, State Minister of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse said that the government has been working with partners to free the country from polio. “We want everyone to become fully covered with vaccinations, and we are using consecutive campaigns and surveillance systems to increase our immunization coverage. What matters is not only the coverage but the quality as well,” she said. “The government is working hard to sustain the achievements in polio virus eradication not only from Ethiopia but from the region as well.”
WHO’s Representative, Dr. Boureima Hama Sambo on his part, congratulating the FMoH for the successful maintenance of Polio Free status for almost six years, said the day is celebrated “acknowledging what we have achieved so far towards eradicating polio and pledging for tomorrow.” To end Polio for good in the horn of Africa we must take bold steps to addressing the challenges of reaching every child trough routine immunization. Eradicating polio is everyone’s responsibility, he noted.
However, the current reduction in funding is very much affecting health projects, noted Dr. Filimona Bisrat, Representative of Core Group on his key note address. “We need to come together as one with our partners and allies and work in areas especially where surveillance and vaccinations are weak. This huge cut has affected projects we had in the pipeline, but Core Group will use all the resources it has to support and assist all it can to eradicate polio from the world, ” he said.
Dr. Rajeev Gera, lauded Ethiopia’s polio free status on behalf of UNICEF’s representative, saying that effective immunization and strong partnerships are the core tools needed for this achievement “And this is the result of strong and effective leadership. The government of Ethiopia has effectively responded to polio outbreaks and ongoing solid eradication efforts.”
However, our continuous dedication is required given that Ethiopia is still considered a medium risk country for the importation of polio virus. Beside leading the two pillars within this partnership, which are; procurement, communication and social mobilization UNICEF is equally committed to supporting and strengthening routine immunization to sustain the gains we have made this far,” he noted.
National Polio Plus Committee Chair Rtn Teguest Yilma on her part, expressed gratitude for the firm commitment of Ethiopia in polio eradication and called upon the government to sustain its achievements. “Rotary International has been working with the government of Ethiopia to make the country free from polio, and is committed to continue supporting Ethiopia’s Polio eradication efforts until Polio is completely eliminated from the world.”
“We have come a long way in the fight against Polio,” she said. Today there are less than 200 cases of polio reported globally, and are mainly in the last two Polio endemic countries Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she said, a great achievement in the fight against polio considering that 30 years ago when Rotary announced its Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) there were 350,000 cases in the world.
On world Polio day, Rotary and its GPEI partners announced that wild polio virus type 3 has been eradicated worldwide. Following smallpox and wild polio virus type 2, this is the only third infectious human disease to be eradicated from the world.
Ethiopia joined the GPEI in 1996, which was set up in 1988.
The event was held at Qusqwam Entoto Polio Eradication Initiative Park in the presence of Rotary Country Chair Mulu Tenashewa, members of rotary clubs of Ethiopia, rotractors and members of the surrounding community.