The First Ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa kicks off in Addis Ababa
Co-organized by the African Union, World Health Organization and the Government of Ethiopia, the First-Ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa kicked off today (February 24, 2016) at the African Union Plenary Hall. The conference which is being held under the theme “Fulfilling a promise: ensuring Immunization for all Africa” is attended by high-level political dignitaries and decision makers from all over Africa and stakeholders and invited partners across the world. Among the first opening remarks was a televised video statement by H.E Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO, who praised the success in conducting the first immunization Ministerial conference of Africa, and stressed on the importance of Immunization and vaccines development, the need for country ownership and accountability, as well as global access to Immunization. Dr Chan emphasized multilayered benefits of immunization, as it is a cost effective mechanism, and as the same time builds productive future generations and drives economic and health development. She said, “Immunization saves lives and money” and underlined the importance of exercising country ownership. In this regard, Dr Chan praised countries for coming together to share their respective experiences.
H.E Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated “Ethiopia is proud to host this landmark conference, which is being convened by the World Health Organization’s Regional Offices for Africa and Eastern Mediterranean in collaboration with the African Union Commission.” In his remarks Prime Minister Hailemariam thanked Government Ministers, Parliamentarians, religious leaders, civic society, and international partners for their respective roles in bringing life-saving vaccines to all children across the African continent. The Prime Minister noting the purpose of the conference said, “We have all come together today for one simple reason. We have achieved great things so far, but we have much more to do” with respect to vaccines and access to immunization. He said, “Since 1990, we have achieved a 50% reduction in child death rates in Africa, thanks in large part due to our expansion of infant immunization programs.” Describing the success in Africa, the Prime Minister said, “We are currently in the process of reaching an historic milestone. Africa is celebrating 18 months without a case of polio, an important step toward making Africa polio-free forever.”
And speaking about Ethiopia the Prime Minister noted “Africa’s success in immunization is also mirrored here in Ethiopia.” He said, “We’ve first launched our national immunization program 36 years ago,” adding that in all these, the country had partnered with numerous health advocacy organizations, other stakeholders, and international agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” The Prime Minister further said these organizations contributed tremendously in expanding access to life-saving vaccines for several children in Ethiopia.