ISLAMABAD: The Japanese government on Monday announced a 510 million Yen in grant aid to support the supply of the essential polio vaccine for the campaigns during the 2018/19 low transmission season of the poliovirus, a press release from the Japanese embassy said.
According to the press release, notes of the grant were signed and exchanged on Monday between the government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The grant, worth US$ 4.6 million, will support the procurement of 25 million doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV); sufficient to vaccinate children under the age of five in the high-risk districts across Pakistan; enabling the programme to quickly close the immunity gaps.
Speaking at the ceremony, Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Aamer Mehmood Kiani said, “Imran Khan’s government is resolutely committed to eradicating polio. Polio eradication is a top priority of his Ministry and no effort will be spared in attaining the goal of a polio-free Pakistan.”
He also thanked the Japanese government and other partners for their continued support in eradicating polio.
Moreover, PM’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta said, “Over the years, the government and people of Japan stood by us even during the difficult times. Pakistan’s programme today is rated among one of the best public health service delivery initiative across the globe.”
“We are proud of our achievements so far and are keen to achieve our goal of interrupting the poliovirus during this critical low season. I want to thank the government and people of Japan and all partners whose support has been critical over the years to bring us to where we are today,” he added.
Japan’s Ambassador to Pakistan for Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Takashi Kurai said, “Polio is indeed a global challenge for public health but this crippling disease is preventable by vaccination. Japan continues to support Polio eradication in Pakistan and I do hope that very soon, we will achieve the long-cherished goal of complete eradication of this disease from Pakistan.”
Further, the Chief Representative of JICA Yasuhiro Tojo said, “The determination of Pakistan to wipe out the poliovirus can be seen clearly in the record low number of cases. We are glad to be part of this admirable effort and hope that our support to procure additional oral polio vaccine will accelerate the country’s pace towards achieving this milestone.”
Deputy Representative of UNICEF Pakistan Cristian Munduate added, “The new grant comes at a time when the country is making headway towards stopping poliovirus circulation. I am confident that with the sustained commitment from the Government of Pakistan and strong support from all partners, together we will defeat the virus very soon.”
Over the last four years, Pakistan achieved significant progress in the fight against polio. From 306 cases in 2014, the number of cases declined to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016, and down to eight in 2017. So far in 2018, a total of eight polio cases have been reported. The purpose of multiple vaccinations is to fully protect each individual child and to contribute to the protection of every child within the community by building and maintaining high population immunity to stop transmission of the wild poliovirus, the press release added.
The statement further said, Under the National Emergency Action Plan, the programme has planned to conduct nine national and sub-national immunization campaigns during the 2018/19 low season besides undertaking the special efforts to address immunity gaps in select areas and maintain permanent and transit point vaccination. This aggressive plan necessitates increased demand for the OPV during the various immunization activities, 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. The grant and loan contribution from the Government of Japan has amounted to 24,483 million Japanese Yen (approx. US$ 225.12 million).