The external assessment team that conducted the final Polio outbreak assessment in Ethiopia on 8-12 June 2015 confirmed that Ethiopia has successfully interrupted polio transmission. This encouraging conclusion was received nearly two years after the outbreak was confirmed in the Horn of Africa and outbreak activities initiated to respond to and interrupt Polio transmission.
The assessment team, composed of experts from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Rotary International, USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), CORE Group, UNICEF, WHO /HQ and WHO Horn of Africa Polio Coordination Office, aimed to simultaneously evaluate the response undertaken since the start of the outbreak in all the three outbreak affected countries – Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia – and confirm if the outbreak response met the global standards and whether polio transmission has been interrupted. The final assessment in Ethiopia was conducted at central level with desk review and meetings with the Ministry of Health, ICC and selected partners.
The assessment team received updates from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and partners on key issues related to the response in Ethiopia including routine immunization progress, supplemental immunization activities, surveillance, laboratory support at EPHI, communication, coordination and funding aspects.
The team presented their findings, conclusions and recommendations to the FMoH on 12 June in the presence of the country representatives of WHO and UNICEF. They recognized the significant improvement in the quality of the response since the onset of the outbreak and appreciated the role of the coordination mechanisms established for the outbreak response at national, regional and zonal levels led by high level government officials, including the State Minister of Health at the national command post level. The collective special efforts of the FMOH, Somali Regional Health Bureau, Dollo Zone Administration, communities, partners and donors in the outbreak response were acknowledged.
The assessment team highlighted the need to update the outbreak preparedness and response plan and to sustain the coordination mechanisms for strengthening surveillance system and routine immunization to increase population immunity.
Honorable Dr. Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health, welcomed the the assessment team’s conclusions and recommendations, and assured the team that the Ministry will continue to implement its Immunization Program with due consideration of the recommendations to strengthen the immunization and surveillance system to sustain the achievements in polio eradication.
Dr. Pierre M Pele Kilebou, WHO Representative, and Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative also affirmed WHO and UNICEF commitment to continue the collective effort and partnership to address the recommendations of the final assessment.
It has now been more than 6 months since the last case of WPV was reported in the Horn of Africa. In particular, the last WPV was reported from Kenya on 14 July 2013, from Ethiopia on 5 January 2014 and from Somalia 11 August 2014.