WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International urge to sustain the polio-free status of Ethiopia

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Joint Statement on World Polio Day

24 October 2017, Addis Ababa: Today, as the world commemorates World Polio Day we, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Rotary International, reaffirm our commitment to building on the success of our joint polio eradication efforts and sustaining the polio free status of the country.

Today, we are looking back at nearly three decades of concerted global polio eradication efforts. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was created in 1988 after the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate poliomyelitis globally and has since made remarkable progress towards reaching the eradication target. As a result, polio cases globally decreased by over 99 per cent from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988, to only 37 reported cases in 2016. Furthermore, the number of polio endemic countries decreased from 125 to only three countries - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, until the polio virus transmission is interrupted in these polio endemic countries, all countries remain at risk of polio importation.

Ethiopia maintained its polio-free status for almost four years (45 months) after the last wild polio case was reported in Somali region in January 2014. We recognize that this achievement is a result of the effective leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health and the great partnership of polio eradication initiative collaborators, donors and partners including: Rotary International; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; USAID; CDC; WHO; UNICEF; CORE Group; and many frontline health workers who have played a key role in the successful fight against polio.

We are committed to building on the recommendations which Ethiopia received from the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) in June 2017 when Ethiopia’s submission of a national polio free status report was accepted. As such, we will strive to strengthen and maintain routine immunization and surveillance with a particular focus on pastoralist communities, refugees, hard to reach and border areas as well as strengthening outbreak preparedness and coordination, cross-border surveillance with neighbouring countries particularly Somalia and South Sudan.

The theme for this year’s World Polio Day in Ethiopia is “Commending Ethiopia polio free status, sustaining the gain.” While we celebrate Ethiopia’s polio free status, we remain committed to continuing our joint polio eradication efforts in order to sustain this incredible achievement. In particular, we will build on the lessons learned as we strive to achieve regional certification.

The Polio Eradication and End Game Strategic Plan, developed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, envisages a polio free world by 2018. While we have come very close to achieving this goal, much remains to be done. We would like to call on all stakeholders to renew their commitment to a world which is free of polio.

For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Yilma Selamawit

Tel: +251 911 671134
Email: yilmas [at] who.int

Mohammed Sani

Rotary International
Tel: +251 911 19 77 55
Email: mohammedsani [at] gmail.com

Wossen Mulatu

UNICEF
Tel: +251 11 518 4028
Email: wmulatu [at] unicef.org