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Joint Statement on World Polio Day: WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International reaffirm their commitments to stop off polio in the Horn of Africa

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24 October 2018, Addis Ababa: As the world commemorates World Polio Day on October 24 2018, we, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Rotary International, reaffirm our commitment to stopping polio in the Horn of Africa.

Polio is a virus which can cause lifelong paralysis. The number of polio cases has decreased globally from 350,000 every single year in 1988 to just 22 in 2017. We are 99% of the way to ending polio for good. However, polio anywhere in the world is a treat to under-immunized children everywhere. Luckily, it can be prevented with a few doses of a simple, safe vaccine. We cannot rest until we have found every case of polio and vaccinated every last child.

The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing two simultaneous outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). Outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus can be stopped in just the same way as wild polio: by vaccinating every last child. The Governments of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as countries across the Horn of Africa, are committed to working together to stop the outbreaks as soon as possible. Increased efforts from all health partners are necessary to stem the outbreaks. While no poliovirus has been found in Ethiopia during this current outbreak, children across the country are at risk due to the high levels of population movement across the border and gaps in the polio surveillance system.

To stop the outbreak, we call on all partners to work together to increase community awareness, enhance surveillance to find the virus wherever it is hiding, and ensure that all children are vaccinated with at least three doses of the oral polio vaccine. We all have a role to play. Parents and communities are working to ensure that their children are protected; donors are committing the necessary funds; partners and governments are working together to keep up momentum. Polio staff on the frontlines are going above and beyond in challenging environments to reach children with vaccines, track the virus and raise awareness.

Smallpox is the only human disease ever to have been eradicated before. The Horn of Africa was the final resting place of smallpox before it was eradicated in 1980. Let’s work together to ensure we are not the final resting place of polio. It is critical for health facilities and parents across the Horn of Africa to work together to help eradicate polio and make history.

Two rounds mOPV2 vaccination campaigns have been held in at-risk areas of Ethiopia in 42 districts of five zones which are bordering with Kenya and Somalia namely Korahey, Afder, Shabele, Liben and Dawa in July and August 2018 to ensure that children are protected and that there is no place for the virus to hide. The next bOPV2campaign is scheduled to take place from the 29th October to 3rd targeting high risk areas which would cover 19% of the total under five children from Oromia, Gambella and Somali regions including the refugee camps found in these respective regions; and the preparation is almost done.

All parents living in these areas should ensure that their child is vaccinated on these dates. The oral polio vaccine is safe and effective, and has brought the world close to eradicating the second disease in human history.

The theme for this year’s World Polio Day in Ethiopia is “Bold steps to end polio.” While we celebrate Ethiopia’s polio-free status, we remain committed to continuing our joint polio eradication efforts shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow countries in the Horn od Africa in order to end polio for good. We must take bold steps to address the remaining challenges and strengthen surveillance to ensure that if polio returns to Ethiopia, we can respond rapidly. By ending this outbreak, the Horn of Africa will contribute not only to protecting the health of our children, but also to the global eradication of polio – a historic feat.

Let us take bold steps together to end this outbreak and keep Ethiopia polio free.

Media Contacts:
Selamawit Yilma; WHO; +251 911 671134;
Victor Chinyama, UNICEF Ethiopia, Tel: +251 115 184 039,
Mohammed Sani, Rotary International +251 911 19 77 55;,