On 24th October 2018 the Ministry of Health in Collaboration with WHO Country Office in Rwanda and the Rotary International celebrated together the National Polio day. Poliomyelitis (polio) is a devastating and highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause crippling paralysis. The initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease can cause paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.
On 04 April 2016, the Government of Rwanda with support from WHO and immunization partners made history as the first country in the African Region to introduce bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) in place of the trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) into the schedule of the routine immunization programme for all children under the age of one. The switch from tOPV to bOPV in Rwanda’s routine immunization programme is part of ongoing global efforts to eradicate polio and strengthen routine immunization.
The Ceremony took place in Huye district, one of eight district that make up Rwanda’s Southern Prefecture. Huye District was chosen because they hadn’t submitted a polio status report in three years and it was important to sensitize the locals regards the need for polio immunization. The event was attended by the Ambassador of the USA, the Rotary and Rotaract members, WHO Country Office in Rwanda, the Vice Mayor of Huye district, Members of the Polio Eradication committee, the Director General of Kabutare, district hospital health professionals and dedicated Community Health Workers of the district.
During the event, eligible children were vaccinated at mobile sites in order to demonstrate the role and importance of vaccination in Polio eradication. The celebration of National Polio Day was also an opportunity to sensitize not only Health Professionals but also Community Health Workers on the importance of sustaining high performance of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance. This advocacy work was not only provided to health professionals and the children, but it also targeted the parents, which are key in the functioning of the monitoring and support system to be provided around the young children.
The organizers vibrantly called upon on all Health Professionals and Community Health Workers to enhance efforts for scaling up AFP surveillance indicators in that sensitive district. During the Ceremony, Dr. Celse Rugambaa representing WHO Country Office in Rwanda said that the country endeavored to fight against polio through vaccinating. He concluded saying that the global goal is to put an end to this viral infection that causes nerve injury and leads to partial or full paralysis by 2020.