Rotarians travel to Ethiopia to immunize children against polio
A Rotarian immunizes a child against polio in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
More than 70 Rotarians from the United States and Canada are working with fellow Rotarians, volunteers, and health workers to administer the oral polio vaccine to children as part of a nationwide immunization campaign in Ethiopia 18-20 October.
Ezra Teshome of of the Rotary Club of University District of Seattle, Washington, USA, who has led seven other immunization campaigns in Ethiopia, is leading the group. Teshome emigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in 1971.
“This is a historic opportunity to end polio in my former homeland – and worldwide,” he says. “We must remain committed until every child is protected against the tragic, fatal consequences of this disease.”
Significant progress has been made toward ending polio in Ethiopia, which has not reported a single case of the disease this year. The country recorded 22 cases in 2005 and 17 in 2006 after an outbreak in the Horn of Africa. Vigilant surveillance remains critical, especially during the upcoming season of traditional pilgrimages that bring many travelers to the region.
In addition to protecting children from polio, the group will visit a Rotary club-supported well project that provides clean drinking water to about 30 villages.
For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease for life. To date, the annual number of polio cases worldwide has been reduced from 350,000 in the mid-1980s to approximately 2,000 cases in 2006. Only four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan – are still polio endemic.
Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest-ever private sector support of a global health initiative. In 1985, Rotary members worldwide vowed to immunize all the world’s children against polio. Since then, Rotary has contributed US$620 million to polio eradication, of which $7.7 million has supported immunization campaigns in Ethiopia.
In addition to raising and contributing funds, over one million Rotarians have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries during national immunization campaigns.