Picture: UNICEF/Iman Morooka
Rotary has approved a US$500,000 Rapid Response grant to address a recent polio outbreak in Somalia.
As of 14 August 2013, there have been 110 cases of wild poliovirus reported in the Horn of Africa- 100 cases in Somalia, and 10 cases in Kenya. The outbreak in Somalia occurred in the Banadir Region of the country, where a large number of children had not been vaccinated against polio due to inaccessibility. This is the first outbreak in Somalia since 2007 and in Kenya since 2011.
The Rotary grant to the World Health Organization will cover operational costs, including human resources, training, and transportation of health workers during August immunization activities aimed at reaching children under 10 in all accessible areas of Somalia.
To date, five vaccination campaigns have been held in Somalia, three in Kenya, two each in Ethiopia and Yemen and one in Djibouti. Additional campaigns are planned through the end of the year.
Until polio is eradicated, outbreaks are anticipated and a plan for addressing them has been built into the long term strategy for the program, which includes a rapid response activity based on lessons learned from previous outbreaks. As a result, the first vaccination round was held within a week of confirmation of the first case.
Rotary has provided emergency funding for this and other outbreaks, which has been critical to ensuring that immunization activities proceed without interruption and to minimizing the risk of further international spread.
In addition to the Rotary funds, the governments of the United Kingdom and Japan recently announced financial commitments of US$15.3 million and US$1.3 million, respectively, to fund similar emergency vaccination campaigns in the Horn of Africa.
The UK’s assistance will allow the World Health Organization to immunize 6.1 million people most at risk from the disease in Somalia, northern Kenya and other countries in the region. The United Nations has warned that without further support the disease could quickly develop into an epidemic across East Africa and put countless lives and livelihoods at risk.
This new funding is in addition to a £300 million pledge by the United Kingdom to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative made in April 2013.
Japan’s emergency grant will pay for more than 5 million doses of oral polio vaccines for two rounds of Supplementary Immunization Activities for November and December. More than 2.8 million children under the age of 10 are expected to be reached in these campaigns. Read more about the GPEI combatting the polio outbreak.
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