Rotary International President visits Ethiopia

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Photo: Anteneh Aklilu

Holds high level advocacy with government on polio eradication

Rotary International President, Barry Rassin visited Ethiopia this past week and held talks with high level government officials to advocate Ethiopia’s engagement and leadership on polio eradication initiatives.

He was accompanied by Rotary International Director, Olayinka Hakeem Babalola and Rotary District 9212 Governor Jeffrey Bamford through a series of meetings with the government and stakeholders.
He confirmed Rotary’s commitment to supporting Ethiopia’s polio eradication efforts, both at the national level and through Rotarians’ volunteer activities aimed at educating communities about polio and ensuring every child is immunized.
Advocacy with Ministry of Health, partners and allies

Barry Rassin meeting with State Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse and representatives from WHO, UNICEF, USAID, CDC, and Core Group

Rassin met with State Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse and representatives from WHO, UNICEF, USAID, CDC, and Core Group, working to enhance health services in the country and held talks concerning Ethiopia’s polio transition plan and Rotary’s work.
During the discussions, Dr. Lia expressed her appreciation for Rotary’s support in

eradicating polio from the country. She said that it has been five years since polio transmission was interrupted in Ethiopia and that her ministry would work to ensure that it doesn’t return in the horn of Africa.
She said that the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) will ensure routine polio immunizations are conducted regularly, especially in critical areas along the borders of the country. Ethiopia shares borders with six countries.

Ethiopia achieved its Polio Free Status in June 2017. The last case of polio was recorded on January 5, 2014 and since June 2014 the transmission of polio was declared officially interrupted.
Still, Ethiopia can only be free when the whole region is certified polio-free. Throughout the year, the Ministry of Health conducts several vaccination campaigns with the support of partners and allies – WHO, UNICEF, USAID, CDC, and Core Group- targeting children under five. About five million children are vaccinated each time, mainly in Somali Wardher, Dollo Zone, Afar, Tigray, Gondar, and Gambella regions, including refugee camps.
According to the FMoH, the objectives outlined in Ethiopia’s polio transition plan is to maintain its polio free status and to ensure that in a post eradication era, Ethiopia can continue to address its most pressing public health and humanitarian needs by applying the lessons learned through its polio eradication efforts.

To address the remaining challenges and implement the transition plan successfully, there is a budget deficit of around 12 million USD; funds which the FMoH is working on raising.
Rassin commended the work done so far to render the country polio free. “You have done wonderful work, but you still need to remain vigilant,” he said. “Now the hard work starts; we need to reach out to every child along every border or else this disease can blow up in no time. This is critical and Rotary is committed through the end,” he reiterated.
Rotary International Director, Olayinka Hakeem Babalola on his part noted that intensive surveillance is critical to ensure potential cases are detected quickly in all the countries of the region.
This work is an important part of guaranteeing that Africa can achieve its polio free status, he stressed assuring that Rotary will be working together with all stakeholders until polio is completely eliminated from the world.

Recognizing the state’s achievement

President Sahle-Work Zewde receiving recognition certificate for polio eradication

Rassin also presented a certificate of recognition to Ethiopia for its efforts to eradicate polio. President Sahle-Work Zewde received the certificate on Monday, March 4 at the Presidential Palace where she exchanged views with RI delegation on the achievements made by Rotary in Ethiopia, according to the office of the President.
Rassin said the strong partnership between the Government and Rotary played a key role in helping the organization carry out successful activities in Ethiopia. He also pledged to continue cooperating with the Ethiopian government.
“It is because of this high level engagement and leadership that Ethiopia has succeeded in maintaining its polio-free status, even as other areas of the Horn of Africa are affected by a polio outbreak,” Rassin commended.
President Sahle-Work on her part said that the government will provide all the necessary support for the organization’s activities in Ethiopia. She further said a new civil society law was recently ratified by Parliament in order to create favorable conditions for non-governmental organizations.
Exploring Potential Partnerships

RI President Barry Rassin and his team with the Executive Secretary of UNECA, Vera Songwe

In addition to the traditional partners, Rassin and his team held a courtesy visit with the Chief of Staff and Chief Advisor El-Ghasssim Wane of the African Union Commission the same day.
Rotary International Representative to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Samson Tesfaye said that the discussion revolved around the partnership between Rotary International and the African Union Commission. He said that the “African Union’s vision of Agenda 2063 and Rotary’s six areas of focus have shared values that can pave way for an area of collaboration between the two organizations for the betterment of the African population.”
Rassin also held a courtesy visit with the Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe. The two organizations explored possible ways to collaborate on digital health and economic development.
Rotary National Day & Clubs Chartering in Hawassa

Chartering ceremony of RC of Hawassa and RC of Hawassa Lake

The fourth National Rotary Day was colorfully celebrated on Saturday, March 2 at St. Joseph’s School in the presence of RI president and his delegation. The Rotary Clubs in Ethiopia showcased their projects at the national day celebration, with Betty G entertaining the joyful crowd of Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interacts, all celebrating their work together.
Rotary Country Chair, Azeb Asrat, marked the occasion by saying, “What an honor and privilege to have the visit of RI President and senior Rotary officials to Ethiopia.” Such a visit will inspire local Rotarians and encourage voluntarism. “Rotary stands to change lives,” she added
On Sunday, March 3, Rassin installed two Rotary clubs chartered this month in Hawassa; RC of Hawassa and RC of Hawassa Lake.
Recognizing selfless polio warrior

PDG Ezra Teshome introducing Rotarian Mohammed Idris recognized for his significant & active personal service toward the goal of polio eradication

Before leaving, Rassin also presented a meritorious award to Rotarian Mohammed Idris, in recognition of his significant and active personal service toward the goal of polio eradication.
“Rtn. Mohamed has worked tirelessly, since the start of the GPEI (global polio eradication initiative) first with WHO and then with Rotary through the National Polio Plus Committee, liaising with MoH, partners and allies,” said Past District Governor Ezra Teshome.
Rassin said this Regional Service Award is a high level recognition from the Rotary Foundation Trustees’ Chair, Paul A Netzel.

Rotarian Mohammed Idris receiving Regional Service Award

Rotary and Polio

RI Director Olayinka Babalola discussing with National PolioPlus Committee team (Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who come together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad.
Thirty years ago in 1988, when Rotary started the fight against polio, there were 350,000 cases of polio estimated in 125 endemic countries; one thousand children per day were paralyzed by polio. Today in 2019, there are only 6 cases in the world.