Giving polio drops
In early November, a group of 35 Rotarians from the US and Canada traveled to Ethiopia to participate in National Immunization Days (NIDs), a polio immunization campaign that helps ensure all children in the country receive the polio vaccine. As part of the campaign, volunteers go door-to-door, providing oral polio drops (OPV) to all of the children under 5 who have not yet been immunized. It is an amazing process the requires meticulous planning and preparation, from determining on maps where the reach children, to keeping the vaccine cold in portable carriers, to organizing enough volunteers to travel door to door with the vaccine. Ethiopia had an outbreak of polio in 2013 that began as a result of an importation from Somalia. After intense outbreak response activities and a total of 10 cases, the last case in Ethiopia was reported in January 2014. The Ethiopian government, together with Rotarians, and other public health organizations like WHO and UNICEF have been working to ensure no additional cases occur and the country can return to its polio free status.
The group of Rotarians who joined this effort were headed by Ezra Teshome, a Seattle Rotarian and native Ethiopian who has been taking groups of volunteers to participate in NIDs for the last 19 years. He is revered by everyone who meets him, both for his kind nature, and for his commitment to this longstanding cause as well as many other projects he supports in Ethiopia. The group participating in the NIDs were a diverse and passionate bunch. Many had traveled in previous years to help immunize children, and developed their own projects as a result. Denny, a polio survivor from the Washington area, is helping to build a hydratherapy pool at the polio rehabilitation center called The Chesire Homes that the group visited. Denny has just a few thousand dollars left to raise before the pool is finished, and the clients at the home will have the welcome relief of doing their therapy in water, which is much easier on their joints and withered leg muscles.
On 6-7 November, the Rotarians traveled out from Addis Ababa to the Adama area, where they participated in polio immunization activities in the surrounding rural communites. They participated in a launching ceremony at a local grade school, where about 60 kids were immunized and then went door to door in farming communities where accessing children is a little more difficult. The families were very familiar with polio drops and eager to have their children immunized, and so the visitors in the orange End Polio Now t-shirts were a welcome site. I know every member of the Rotary team was touched by the opportunity to experience firsthand what it means to immunize a child against polio, and to know that child will never suffer from this debilitating virus. We are truly within reach of our final goal, and look forward to the day when a trip to Ethiopia can take place in the context of a polio free world.
Polio Rehab Center
Playing soccer with the kids
Happy children, jumping and playing
The whole group
Hydrotherapy Project and Polio Rehab Clinic