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News note

Polio campaign targets 2.1 million Ethiopian children

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 16 October 2003 – A house-to-house polio campaign targeting 2.1 million children under five years of age is being launched tomorrow by the Ministry of Health as part of the Sub-National Immunisation Days (SNIDs).

The polio campaign begins Friday, 17 October, in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) targeting almost 1.8 million children under the age of five. Some 274,000 children under the age of five in Afar and another 70,000 in Gambella will be immunised by the end of the year. Ethiopia is not yet free of the scourge of polio, a crippling disease which needs three years of close surveillance without new cases before the country can be certified polio-free. 

The total cost of the polio campaign is USD 1.45 million and is funded by the United States Government through the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as by the Japanese Government and Rotary International. Almost 100 Rotary members  from the US, Canada and Europe have travelled to Ethiopia to help facilitate the campaign and immunise as many children as possible. To conduct this campaign successfully, 10,438 health workers (vaccinators and guides) will be deployed.

Ethiopia is no longer among the polio endemic priority countries since the last case of wild polio virus was reported in January 2001. However, to reach the goal of polio eradication by 2005, the MOH with support from partner agencies has been regularly conducting polio immunisation campaigns since 1996.

From October through December 2003, some 10.1 million children between 6 months to 14 years of age will be provided with measles and Vitamin A supplementation in 16 zones in Oromia, Amhara and Tigray regions. The measles – Vitamin A campaign has been supported by the Measles Partnership (American Red Cross, UN Foundation, CDC, WHO and UNICEF) and by CIDA, USAID, SIDA, DFID, as well as the Governments of Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium. The total available funding for the 2003/2004 measles – Vitamin A campaigns is USD 10.75 million. 

Measles remains a major childhood killer disease in Ethiopia. Children, weakened by malnutrition, are particularly susceptible to the disease, which can lead to blindness, deafness, brain damage and death. WHO estimates that there are 1.72 million measles cases and 69,000 child deaths annually in Ethiopia due to the disease. The measles – Vitamin A campaigns, which started in December 2002, aim to protect all children under 15 years of age in Ethiopia with particular emphasis on drought-affected areas. By the end of 2003, some 22 million children will have benefited from measles - Vitamin A campaigns. Next year, an additional 8.3 million children will be targeted for measles and Vitamin A supplementation.

In addition to measles – Vitamin A and Polio Campaigns, the MOH, in collaboration with partner organisations, will conduct a third round of Tetanus Toxoid vaccinations in Oromia and Amhara regions in November, targeting a total of 2.6 million women of childbearing age between the ages of 15 to 49 years. The aim of this campaign is to help Ethiopia achieve the goal of Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination (MNTE) by Year 2005.  The MNTE campaigns have been made possible through the generous support of the US Committee for UNICEF, the UK Committee for UNICEF and the Portuguese Committee for UNICEF. The total cost of the campaign is estimated at USD 2.32 million.

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For more information, please contact:

MOH, telephone 251-1-517011, ext. 210

UNICEF, telephone: 251-1-515155 or 444400; fax: 517111

WHO, telephone: 251-1-444231/49; fax 251-1-514037





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