ISLAMABAD: The Government of Japan has announced a grant of Yen 520 million
to support the supply of essential polio vaccines for mop-up vaccination campaigns during the low transmission season of the poliovirus in 2017 to 2018.
The grant was signed and exchanged on Wednesday between the Government of Japan, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The grant that comes to the amount of US$ 4.63 million will support the procurement of over 28 million doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). These will be sufficient for vaccinating 25 million children under the age of five, in the high risk districts across Pakistan, enabling the programme to quickly close immunity gaps.
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Speaking at the signing ceremony, National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Federal Minister Saira Afzal Tarar said: “The steady support from the Government of Japan, other partners and the resultant collaboration has been a crucial reason for our success over the last two years. Working together to defeat polio motivates us to address broader health priorities, while also motivating us to achieve more development milestones for the children and people of Pakistan.”
Acknowledging the commitment by the Government of Japan, Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said “Over the years, not only the Japanese government but also their people have stood by us, even through the most trying of times. Today Pakistan’s programme is rated among one of the best public health service initiatives across the globe. We are proud of our achievements so far and are keen to achieve our goal of eradicating the poliovirus during the low season. With only five registered cases at this point in 2017, our programme has never been in a better place to do so.”
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Pakistan Ambassador Takashi Kurai said, “Polio is indeed a global challenge for public health but the crippling disease is preventable by vaccination. Japan continues to support polio vaccination in Pakistan and I do hope that every child is vaccinated. Very soon the goal of polio eradication from Pakistan will be achieved.”
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JICA Chief Representative in Pakistan Yasuhiro Tojo said: “The determination of Pakistan to wipe out polio can be judged by the low number of cases this year. We are glad to be part of this admirable effort and hope that our support to procure additional oral polio vaccines will accelerate the country’s pace towards achieving a polio-free nation.”
UNICEF Acting Country Representative Cristian Munduate said “The new grant comes at a time when the country is almost at the cusp of stopping the transmission of the poliovirus. I am confident that with the commitment from the Government of Pakistan and strong support from all partners, together we will defeat the virus during the low transmission season.”
Pakistan is making significant progress in the fight against polio as only five cases have been recorded so far this year compared to the 16 cases reported last year. The purpose of multiple vaccinations is to protect each child and ensure that there is high immunity against the virus.
Under the National Emergency Action Plan, the programme has planned to conduct 10 national and sub-national immunisation campaigns during the 2017 to 2018’s low season. There are also special efforts being made to address immunity gaps in selected areas while maintaining permanent and transit point vaccinations.
This aggressive plan automatically increases the demand for the OPV, which will be covered by the existing funding while the Japanese grant will cover the full case response requirement.
The Government of Japan has been supporting the polio eradication initiative in Pakistan since 1996. Approximately Yen 24 billion (US$ 218.35 million) has already been sent in, including the new grant. Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination Federal Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch and ECO National Coordinator Dr Rana Safdar were present at the ceremony.