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Ethiopia, 7 November 2013: Millions of Ethiopian Children to be Protected Each Year Against Leading Cause of Severe Diarrhoea

Ethiopia becomes the 17th  country to introduce rotavirus vaccine with support of GAVI partners 

ADDIS ABABA, 7 November 2013 – Ethiopia will today begin protecting the 2.8 million children born in the country each year with a vaccine against rotavirus, which leads to severe, and often fatal, diarrhoea.  

The country has one of the greatest burdens of rotavirus anywhere in the world, accounting  for 6 per cent of all deaths from the disease globally. Ethiopia is the 17th  country to introduce the rotavirus vaccine with GAVI Alliance support. 

“Few things in the world have a greater impact on public health than vaccines,” said GAVI CEO Dr Seth Berkley. “Rotavirus vaccine offers the best hope for preventing the deadly dehydrating diarrhoea caused by this disease and preventing thousands of deaths of young children in Ethiopia.” 

“Diarrhoea takes the lives of more than 38,500 Ethiopian children under-five each year, rotavirus being responsible for close to two-thirds of the deaths,” said Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr Admasu Kesetebirhan. “Providing rotavirus vaccines to our children and integrating them with appropriate diarrhoeal disease control interventions will further support our efforts to reduce child mortality.” 

Ethiopia has undertaken significant work to introduce the rotavirus vaccine nationally. It has significantly expanded its cold chain facilities nationwide and deployed health extension workers to provide immunisation services in each village with at least 5,000 people, in a country with 84 million people spread across 1.1 million square kilometres.  

Ethiopia has a policy of reaching the hard-to-reach parts of the country and focusing on prevention of disease, health promotion and transferring responsibility to individual families,” said Dr Kesetebirhan. 

The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation recently reported that Ethiopia had achieved United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4), by reducing its under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2012.  

“Ethiopia is becoming a development leader on the African continent, the success is driven by political commitment, advances in science and technology and improvements in health, nutrition and family planning services, particularly in the rural areas,” said Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia. 

GAVI has worked with Ethiopia since 2001. Two years ago, in October 2011, with GAVI support, Ethiopia introduced pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to protect children against the leading cause of pneumonia.  Earlier this year, Ethiopia conducted supplementary campaigns against measles and last week introduced meningitis A vaccine, also with GAVI support.

The World Health Organization underscored Ethiopia's progress. "Recently, immunisation programmes from central to regional levels were strengthened following a survey that showed a drop in immunisation coverage figures," said Dr. Pierre M'Pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia. "There has been major improvement in the cold chain system as new vaccines are introduced."

In addition to the support it receives from GAVI and Development Partners, the Government of Ethiopia also allocates domestic budget to procure other vaccines such as BCG, TT, Measles as well as co-finances a matching budget to procure vaccines supported through GAVI funding.

GAVI and its partners plan to support the introduction of life-saving rotavirus vaccines in at least 30 of the world's poorest countries by 2015.

Globally, rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children under 5 years of age, killing more than 450,000 children each year and hospitalising millions more.  In GAVI-eligible countries, where 95% of deaths due to rotavirus occur, the implementation of rotavirus vaccination has the potential to save the lives of more than 800,000 children between 2011 and 2020.


GAVI Alliance

The GAVI Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in developing countries. The Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. GAVI uses innovative finance mechanisms, including co-financing by recipient countries, to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, GAVI has financed the immunisation of an additional 370 million children and prevented more than 5.5 million premature deaths. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. 

GAVI is funded by governments [Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States], the European Commission, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as private and corporate partners [Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, Dutch Postcode Lottery, His Highness Sheikh Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs, OPEC and Vodafone]. 

Media Contact: 

GAVI, Frédérique Tissandier,; Mob. +41 79 300 8253 
FMOH,Tewodros Bekele,; Mob. +251 911 30 38 59 
WHO Ethiopia Country office, ViiviErkkilä,; Mob. +251 936 811 947 
UNICEF Ethiopia, Alexandra Westerbeek,; Mob. +251 911 255 109



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