Ethiopia preps for third round nationwide polio eradication campaign

Ethiopia plans to launch a massive integrated preventive Polio campaign nationwide.
Health minister Dr. Lia Tadesse met on August 31 with Rotary National Polio Plus committee chair, Teguest Yilma, senior program officer at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Andrew Stein and Dr. Kimberly Porter and representing WHO Afro region Chris Kamugisha in view of the recent outbreaks of polio around the world and the importance of good outbreak preparedness and response in Ethiopia.
As indicated during the meeting, Ethiopia has made progress in controlling the polio outbreak and conducted successful national and sub-national polio campaigns in the last two years. Moreover, great strides have been achieved to strengthen routine immunization with enhanced surveillance activities and social mobilization strategies, in addition to awareness creation within the population.
However, given the recent outbreaks and new cases of polio virus in Africa and beyond, Rotary international recognizes that the global polio eradication initiative is at a critical juncture that challenges countries to intensify their efforts, as any form of poliovirus anywhere in the world is a threat to children everywhere.
Ethiopia joined the polio eradication effort in 1996 and was able to interrupt endemic wild polio virus transmission in 2001. The country has experienced, over the years, five different importations from neighboring countries between in 2004 and 2014.
Although Ethiopia had achieved polio free status in June 2017 and the African continent was certified polio free in August 2020 by Africa Regional Certification Committee (ARCC), the country experienced in 2019 an ongoing cluster of cVDPV2 (Circulating vaccine derived polio virus) outbreaks with the first onset of paralysis recorded on 20 May 2019 in Somali Region, Dollo Zone .
Since May 2019, more than 50 cVDPV2 cases have been detected and reported in Ethiopia.
As a response to these outbreaks, supplemental immunization activities (SIAs) were conducted in 6 regions in selected high-risk zones – Somali, Oromia, SNNPR, Addis Ababa, Hareri, and Dire Dawa – in 2020.
Ethiopia further conducted two rounds of NIDs in October 2021 and April 2022 where over 17 million under five children were vaccinated in each round. Since then no new cVDPV2 case was detected. The last case was reported on 16 September 2021 from Darimu, Ilubabor Zone, Oromia Region.
Ethiopia’s progress in controlling the polio outbreak and strengthening routine immunization despite the COVID 19 pandemic was noted as highly commendable during the meeting. Forging ahead in leveraging the partnership for preventive campaigns and support on polio transition and surveillance system was also stated as vital in assisting the country’s effort to end polio.
These measures coupled with continued political commitment have been identified as critical to building on the progress and achieving eradication.
It was noted how vital it is to implement campaign especially in conflict areas, but the danger of importation from Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea where polio cases have been identified was also acknowledged at the meeting. A coordinated polio immunization campaigns with neighboring countries were encouraged.
The newly revised response plan that is being implemented focuses on polio surveillance activities, routine immunization strengthening, mapping of cross-border movements and integration of polio eradication activities with humanitarian responses.
The upcoming massive integrated preventive campaign is scheduled for October-November this year. It will not only target polio, but also includes rendering measles, fistula, cleft palate, deworming and nutrition related supports, so as to utilize resources efficiently as indicated by the minister during the meeting.

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