“This generous donation by the Japanese Government will support our efforts to rid Ethiopia of the scourge of polio and protect children from its devastating effects of paralysis,” said UNICEF Representative Bjorn Ljungqvist at Monday’s ceremony. “In addition, we will use this money to achieve the national goal of less than one case of neonatal tetanus per 1,000 births in each district of Ethiopia.”
The Japanese donation will be used to conduct two nationwide polio immunization rounds in early 2005. The campaign will target 95 per cent of children under five nationwide. An estimated 14.2 million children will benefit from the campaign.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has been consistently conducting immunization campaigns since 1996 in line with its national commitment towards the eradication of polio. The country has made tremendous strides, as confirmed by the absence of wild poliovirus in Ethiopia since January 2001.
Additional Japanese funds will be used to conduct three rounds of Tetanus Toxoid (TT) Supplementary Immunization Activities, which will protect 2.7 million women of childbearing age in nine selected zones in 2004-2005.
The National Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) considers the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) as one of the priorities of its disease control objectives. Ethiopia is ranked fourth highest in the world for the number of deaths due to neonatal tetanus, with more than 14,000 infants killed by the disease annually. It is estimated that some 2,000 mothers die every year due to maternal tetanus infection.
Immunization of women of childbearing age with at least three (optimally, five) doses of TT vaccine provides complete protection against both maternal and neonatal tetanus.
Between 1999 and 2004, the Japanese Government has donated a total of almost $20 million dollars to UNICEF for prevention of infectious diseases and disease eradication activities for children in Ethiopia, including polio and neonatal and maternal tetanus.