Let’s End Polio And Build A Healthier Future
The Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDs rally against polio
“Let’s End Polio and Build a Healthier Future” was a united call for action to end polio of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) members on 31 January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This event was jointly organized by OAFLA with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the other partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative of polio in Africa is edging into sight. Nigeria is the last polio endemic country in the African continent, and over six months have passed since the most recent case of wild poliovirus type 1 in Nigeria. Now is the chance for Africa to be polio-free.
H.E. Mrs. Hind Deby Itno, First Lady of Chad and President of OAFLA, led the charge to obtain agreement of First Ladies to commit to and to support a polio-free Africa as a top priority for 2015, with an added benefit of establishing a legacy of supporting a strong foundation from which immunization systems can grow and thrive after polio is eradicated. The First Ladies of Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia pledged their commitment to deliver a polio-free Africa through increased advocacy and personal participation in supplementary immunization and accelerated routine immunization activities. H.E. Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, First Lady of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia stated, “Now is the chance for Africa to truly be polio-free. We need a strong final push to make this a reality.” Calls of actions were heard from First Ladies including H. E. Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E. Mrs. Margaret Gakuo Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, and H.E. Mrs. Jeanette Kagame, First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda.
Mrs. Marie Irene Richmond-Ahoua, District Officer for Rotary International, Cote d’Ivoire noted, “We are confident that this progress is genuine because we have vastly improved our ability to detect cases and respond to outbreaks when they occur. There are more laboratories and more trained health workers than ever before.” She further said that through efforts, new ways have been found to reach every child with polio vaccination and that hard work has brought the continent to the threshold of a polio free Africa.
No time is more urgent for African countries to protect their gains by ensuring every child is vaccinated against polio and that they are able to detect an y importations of wild poliovirus.
The First Ladies of OAFLA enthusiastically received the call of action, and have tentatively adopted a formal “Declaration on Polio Eradication in Africa: Our Historic Legacy to Future Generations.” The next step is to finalize the resolution at their meeting in June 2015. It is expected that First Ladies of Africa will call attention to polio eradication efforts in their respective nations and participate in key immunization activities. OAFLA Vice President Mrs. Kagame commented that: “The only way to achieve a polio-free Africa is to prevent infection-relentlessly-by immunizing every child until transmission stops.” As next steps, GPEI partners will work with OAFLA to identify specific activities in their countries, especially around the upcoming African Vaccination Week in April 2015.