Progress Towards Polio Eradication in Yemen [Archives:2000/46/Health]

November 13 2000

Mohammed Ali Kolaise
National EPI Manager
Ministry of Public Health
In 1988 the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate poliomyelitis globally by the end of 2000. In 1996 The Government of Yemen committed to eradicate polio along with other countries..
The eradication activities began in 1996 with conducted National Immunization Days (NIDs) followed by two rounds of NIDs per year over a short period, targeted all children below 5 years in which two doses of oral polio vaccine administered regardless of previous vaccination status with an interval of 4 weeks between doses.
The (NIDs) for polio eradication conducted as strategy to interrupt transmission of wild poliovirus – during a low transmission session in particular winter session.
Yemen has so far implemented 5 campaigns of very successful nationwide NIDs the first NIDs conducted to immunize 2.6 million children under the age of five with Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) during November and December 1996. Despite numerous difficulties, the coverage result of the NIDs surpassed all expectations. During the first round of the NIDs 3.1 million children received a dose of OPV, while 3.5 million children were immunized during the second round.
In 1997, 1998, 1999 the better successes continued annually, The NIDS 2000 conducted the first round on 8 – 10 Oct and the second round conducted on 5 – 7 Nov 2000, were 4,320,203 children immunized during second round and 471,303 children at age 6-11 months received concentrated dose Vit A capsule 100,000 IU , 3,383359 children age group 12-59 months received concentrated dose of Vit A capsule 200,000 IU, it was a very good opportunity that both round launched by H.E president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
H.E. the only president worldwide who launched 5 NIDs were the last NIDs launched both rounds, the president received a letter of thanks and appreciation from the regional director of the world health organization for his efforts and support committed to eradicate polio from Yemen.
The polio eradication activities in Yemen, achieved a tremendous achievements towards eradicate poliomyelitis, in march 2000 the words health organization excluded Yemen from the map of endemic countries due to the good indicators presented as outcome of successful activities and efforts achieved in the country.

The main reasons for the success include:
– Very high political commitment
– Cooperation of different government sectors
– Effective social mobilization
– Strong community participation
– Dedicated health care workers and volunteers
– Good Support from international partners mainly (WHO, UNICEF, Japan, CDC)
– High demand of immunization among the public
– Detailed and accurate planning

In addition to achieving a high coverage of OPV, the success of the NIDs had major impact in the effort of revitalizing the immunization program. Some of these impacts include:

Future Goals
Now, the objective is to utilize the success of the NIDs, and the momentum to strengthen the EPI and the primary health care system as a whole. Activities that need to be implemented immediately include:

1- Revitalizing the EPI program to achieve sustainable high routine immunization coverage
2- Continue implementing polio eradication strategies until the eradication goal is achieved.
3- Conducting yearly NIDs and Sub- NIDs until cessation of wild polio transmission is proven, and strong surveillance system, capable of identifying any case of suspected polio, is established
4- Strengthening Developing surveillance system to identify any suspected case of polio – Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance, and other diseases
5- Increasing and maintain high level of routine immunization coverage at least 90% of children less than one year with OPV 3.