The Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme is seeking yet another loan of $35 million, against the $24.85 million actually needed, from the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to “swiftly run the polio campaign in 2012”.
Documents available with The Express Tribune show that there was a difference of almost $10 million between the amount shared with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as the actual need of the programme and the funding request placed with the international banks on April 23.
The new loan is needed to run the expensive operations of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the programme claims.
During a task force meeting held earlier, briefing the government on the programme’s financial situation in 2012, the prime minister was informed that there is a funding gap of about $24.85 million whereas the documents available with The Express Tribune show that the loan amount requested is $35 million instead.
Meanwhile, there is also a huge difference between the amounts of contribution shared with the PM by one of the largest donors for the polio programme, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The PM was told that JICA contributed $45.73 million for the polio eradication during the current year.
However, when contacted, JICA representative Tomoyuki Nagita said: “In the National Task Force Meeting held in the beginning of this month, our ambassador clearly stated that the government of Japan has agreed to provide a soft loan of approximately $65 million. Therefore, I have no idea how you have got the figure of $45 million.” He added: “I cannot say $45 million for the year 2012, because this loan is $65 million with a project period of around 2 years (August 2011 -June 2013).”
Meanwhile, the PM’s focal person on the polio eradication campaign, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, told The Express Tribune she had no information about the $35 million loan request made in the letter written to the international banks seeking financial assistance. She confirmed that the programme was seeking funding but added that it was not needed for the current fiscal year but for the coming years in order to run the polio programme “smoothly”.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health Inter-Provincial Coordination Joint Secretary Abdul Jalil also expressed his ignorance about this amount. He said that according to his knowledge, the amount required was $24 million out of which $6 million was required for WHO and $18 million for UNICEF.
However, he said that the reason behind the discrepancy in numbers could be because of the re-organising of national immunisation days several times to meet the satisfactory results as the past the performance had remained highly disappointing.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2012.
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