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Japan donates US$ 5 million to counter malaria outbreak and spread of polio in Ethiopia

Amid fears of a malaria epidemic and the spread of polio in Ethiopia, Japan’s donation will go a long way. Despite this and other generous new donations, the Ethiopian humanitarian appeal for children remains critically under-funded

© UNICEF Ethiopia 2005
A girl in Karo Duss village, Ethiopia under an insecticide treated mosquito net.
ADDIS ABABA, 15 August 2005 – The Government of Japan today donated US$ 5 million to UNICEF to help wipe out polio and prevent an epidemic of malaria across Ethiopia.
The Japanese contribution, the single largest donation to UNICEF for disease prevention programmes in Ethiopia, comes as the country braces for a possible malaria epidemic later this year.

The Japanese donation will also be a vital boost to the country's race to contain the spread of the polio virus.

“We were on the verge of eliminating polio from Ethiopia when the virus marched back into Ethiopia from the Sudan,” said Bjorn Ljungqvist, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “It is now following trade and transport routes into the interior of the country unraveling years of successful polio eradication activities attained at great effort and expense.”
A country needs three consecutive years without a single case polio to be certified polio free.  Prior to cross-border transmission from Sudan earlier this year, the last case of polio in Ethiopia was confirmed in January 2001. Since the beginning of this year, 13 cases of polio have been confirmed in Tigray and Amhara regions in north-west Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia has no alternative but to repeat the Herculean task of defeating the virus by going door-to-door across this vast country to immunize every single child under five,” said Ljungqvist. “The committed support from Japan will help to ensure that Ethiopia will again triumph against polio.”
Three rounds of Polio National Immunization Days (NIDs) targeting 15 million children under the age of five were conducted in April, May and July 2005 to stop any further circulation of the virus in Ethiopia.
An additional two rounds are planned for October and November and will cost US$ 20 million. With half of this Japanese donation going to polio eradication, UNICEF, alongside Ethiopia's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and other partners now requires an additional US$ 17.5 million to conduct these campaigns.

“The increased need for polio immunization campaigns is over and above the humanitarian appeal for 2005 and as evidence of a major malaria epidemic during the second half of 2005 is becoming apparent it now seems that malaria control may also need additional funding,” said Ljungqvist.
Sharp increases in the number of reported malaria cases in May and June 2005 suggest there may be a widespread malaria epidemic later in the year. Reports from several regions this year indicate that there are four to ten times the number of malaria cases compared to similar periods during the past two years.

Malaria is prevalent in 75 per cent of the country, putting over 50 million people at risk.  During an average year an estimated 80,000 Ethiopian children die from malaria. During the last major epidemic in 2003 an estimated extra 40,000 people died from malaria. There were also up to 16 million cases of malaria - 6 million more than in an average year.

UNICEF is currently working with the Ethiopian Government and other bodies to roll out the largest anti-malaria programme in Ethiopia's history.  This year, over 2.5 million emergency treatments of the new more effective artemisinin-containing combination therapy (ACTs) have been imported by UNICEF as part of this initiative.

In addition, more than two million insecticide treated nets (ITNs) to protect children against malaria are expected in Ethiopia by the end of September. These nets were paid for by UNICEF and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and another 500,000 nets are due to arrive by June 2006.

By the end of 2005, over 3.5 million ITNs will be protecting children and pregnant women in 1.8 million Ethiopian households. However, the total number of ITNs needed in Ethiopia to reduce malaria by half by 2010 is estimated at over eight million. Ethiopia still needs 4.5 million ITNs.

“This will be the first time that ACTs are used to contain epidemic malaria in Ethiopia,” said Ljungqvist. “No child or mother need die from malaria with the technology and drugs that are now available. This Japanese contribution comes at a critical moment as we prepare to stave off an epidemic and prevent suffering and death among Ethiopia’s most vulnerable children and women.”

But quantities of both anti-malaria drugs and ITNs still fall short of total requirements, especially if there is a major epidemic. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health and Roll Back Malaria partners will be issuing an emergency appeal for malaria control.

In addition to supporting polio eradication efforts, the Japanese contribution will provide 300,000 insecticide treated anti-malaria bed nets which will provide three years of protection from malaria infections for over 600,000 children and pregnant women.

Japanese funds will also be used to import 600,000 rapid tests to improve diagnosis of malaria and allow prompt and effective treatment using ACTs.

On top of this Japanese generosity, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have made recent contributions for child survival interventions against Ethiopia’s humanitarian appeal.

Up to half a million Ethiopian children a year die from preventable deaths as a result of malnutrition and disease. UNICEF warned that the number of Ethiopian children dying from malnutrition would double to 170,000 this year if protective measures to safe-guard their lives were not put in place.

The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the European Union were first to respond to the initial emergency appeal.  Following revisions announced in May to reflect the growing emergency needs of vulnerable children in Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada have come forward with new contributions.
The United Kingdom has donated US$ 3.8 million for nutritional screening of children and pregnant women, vitamin A supplementation, deworming, immunization against measles, malaria protection and increasing the capacity of health centers in drought prone districts to treat cases of severe malnutrition.
The United States’ contribution of US$ 2 million will strengthen disaster response capacity and provide logistical support for emergency activities, while the Canadian donation of close to US$ 370,000 will go toward the establishment of therapeutic feeding centers and recovery assistance for victims of flooding in Somali Region.
UNICEF still requires US$ 36 million in emergency funds to save the lives of the Ethiopia’s most vulnerable children, including for water and sanitation interventions, which are proven to be as important as food for the survival of children during emergency situations, but remain 82 per cent short of funds.

For further information contact:

Indrias Getachew, UNICEF Ethiopia, tel: +251 1 44 43 64, +251 1 51 51 55, cell: +251 9 25 40 18, igetachew@unicef.org

Andrew Heavens, UNICEF Ethiopia, tel : 2+51 1 51 51 55, cell: +251 9 68 31 90, aheavens@unicef.org




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