24 October 2017, Addis Ababa: Ethiopia commemorated World Polio Day on October 24, 2017. The dignitaries at this historic event were former President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) His Excellency Mr. Girma Wolde Georgis, His Excellency Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, other distinguished government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, heads and delegates of UN agencies and honorable representatives of international organizations. Members of Rotary International and National Rotary Clubs, Representatives of CSOs, NITAG members and National Polio Committee chairs were also in attendance. The Federal Police Orchestra rejuvenated the WPD.
H.E. Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health of Ethiopia in his key note address said, ”Today is a great day to congratulate each other for achievement of Ethiopia as a polio free country after walking the long walk for 21 years in implementing the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Strategies represents hard work with significant human and physical sacrifices”. His Excellency recognized Rotary International, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, UNICEF and US Government for their commitment and continuous supports for polio eradication efforts in the country”. H.E. added, “While we are closer to achieving a polio free world, our commitments will shift towards tackling other public health challenges. Polio Eradication is now an opportunity for countries and partners working on child survival as it leaves a legacy of stronger health system”.
Dr Akpaka A. Kalu, Representative to WHO Ethiopia Country Office, speaking on the World Polio Day event said, “The polio free status of Ethiopia has been achieved despite the fact that the country is at risk of polio importation because of cross-border movements of populations of six countries, being the most populous nation in the Horn of Africa Region with difficult topographies and hard to reach areas, achieving the goal of polio free status will assure us that we can make it possible to have a world free of polio”. Dr Kalu added, “I am confident that the country will continue to work hard to maintain its polio free status, and WHO will continue to support strengthening routine immunization and disease surveillance to ensure protection of children through high quality immunization service and rapid detection of suspected cases for investigation.”
Dr. Tadesse Alemu National Polio Plus Committee Chairman and Member of African Polio Plus Committee, said, “In 2016, more than 450 million children were vaccinated multiple times using more than two billion doses of oral polio vaccine, which will continue until the whole world is certified polio free and Rotary funds will help do this.” In the same note, the Chairman said that at Rotary’s 2017 International Convention in Atlanta, global leaders pledged $1.2 billion to fight to eradicate polio. Under the expanded partnership, every new $1 Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched to two additional Dollars from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which amounts to $ 50 million per year.
A press conference on The polio free status of Ethiopia was also organized to the media outlets. This was led by H.E. Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, Dr Akpaka A. Kalu WHO Representative, Dr Solomon Zewdu Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Marisa Ricardo UNICEF and representatives from other polio eradication partners have taken in the press release. Awards were also given to Professor Reda Teklehaimanot and Dr. Hailu Kenea for their services in the fight against polio particularly during the early years of the programme.
This 5th World Polio Day was commemorated alongside the anniversary of the United Nations Day as the UN turns to 72 years on 24th October 2017, which was celebrated at ECA compound in Addis Ababa in the presence of Government Officials, UN resident Coordinator, UN agency representatives and UN staffs.