Rotary International honours former Ethiopian President for Polio eradication

   The Former President of Ethiopia, Girma Wolde-Giorgis, will be honoured on Sunday, November 17, 2013 with the ‘Rotary International Polio Free Award’.

President Girma achieved a polio-free Ethiopia during his last five years in office. The award ceremony will be held at the National Presidential (Jubilee) Palace and attended by President Dr. Mulatu Teshome, Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health of Ethiopia, and representatives of the diplomatic community as well as other long standing Rotary partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative including include WHO, UNICEF, The US Centerefor Disease Control, USAID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to the organizers, “this prestigious award will be presented by Ezra Teshome, Rotary District 5030 Governor, on behalf of the Trustees of Rotary International.” Ezra has been instrumental in bringing Rotarians to Ethiopia for polio National Immunization Day (NID) campaigns for the past 18 years.  This year’s group that arrived last Sunday, November 10 includes 26 Rotary leaders from across the United States and seven from Canada.

The visiting Rotarians will be staying in Ethiopia until November 17. They have been in Hawassa from November 14 to 16, launching and taking part in the National immunization activity in response to the recent wild polio virus attack in the Horn of Africa.

Over 1,000 Rotarians have made this trip from North America each fall.  “This year’s trip has the added urgency of the recent outbreak of new polio cases (six) along the Somalia border, in Dollo Zone, Somali Region,” said a statement from the organizers. Five of the cases are from Galadi Woreda and one from Bohk Woreda; both Woredas share international border with Somalia.

In a meeting with officials from the African Union, the group urged the organization to declare polio a priority. Meetings were also held with UNICEF, WHO, the US and Canadian Embassies, among other partners.

The 2013 NID campaign plans to reach 12 million children across the country. Polio cases have declined rapidly since 1985 achieving 99% polio free status globally but the fight isn’t over. But organizers say “more than 10 million children under the age of five could be paralyzed in the next 40 years, unless Polio is eradicated once and for all.”

In Ethiopia, there are 11 Rotary clubs, seven of them in Addis Ababa, with over 300 dedicated members.

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