This year on 24th October 2018, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO, Rotary International and other Partners celebrated the national Polio Day in Rwanda. The ceremony took place in Huye district where polio surveillance performance indicators were not achieved since last three years. The event was attended by different Guests, the Representative of the Ministry of Health, Dr Aline Kabeja, Director of Epidemic Surveillance and Response in Rwanda Biomedical Center, the Ambassador of USA, Rotary and Rotaract members, WHO Country Office staff, Vice Mayor of Huye district, Members of Polio Eradication committee, Director General of Kabutare district hospital, health professionals and Community health workers in Huye district. Dr Aline Kabeja delivered the message on behalf of the Ministry of Health; Dr Celse Rugambwa, EPI/WHO delivered a circumstantial message on behalf of WHO Country Office, and also Rotary delivered a message to the audience while recalling the obligation of everyone to the polio eradication initiative.
During the event, eligible children were vaccinated at outreach vaccination site as to demonstrate that vaccination is the key intervention for Polio eradication. The main objective was to maintain polio eradication achievements and keep awareness of all stakeholders including communities on polio eradication progress.
In 1988, the World Health Assembly (WHA) approved the global efforts to eradicate poliomyelitis worldwide. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was therefore launched and has four strategies to achieve a world polio free which include the strengthening of childhood immunization systems and ensuring that high polio vaccine coverage is achieved; strong Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance, supplementary and “mop up” immunizations activities.
A considerable success in eradicating poliomyelitis has been achieved; one of the three types of wild polioviruses type 2 was last reported in 1999. The Global incidence of polio cases has decreased by more than 99%. The polio endgame strategy was developed to complete the eradication and containment of all wild, vaccine-related and Sabin polioviruses and achieve a global certification of wild poliovirus eradication by the end 2018. The African region is on track to eradicate polio; the last case of polio was notified by Nigeria in 2016.
Following the 1988 declaration of polio eradication, Rwanda intensified its polio eradication activities. The last case of wild poliovirus in Rwanda was reported in 1993. The country conducted the last National Polio supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) in 2010 and completed its documentation on polio free circulation in 2004. Rwanda switched from the trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) in 2016 and introduced inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
The celebration of National Polio Day in Rwanda was also an opportunity to sensitize health professionals, community health workers and parents on the importance of strengthening routine immunization and sustaining high performance of AFP surveillance.