The government of Japan on Monday announced a $4.35 million grant as part of its continued support to Pakistan for its polio eradication efforts.
The grant will be utilised for the procurement of 24 million oral doses of vaccines. It will allow the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme to reach around 21 million children under the age of five, especially in high-risk districts.
The vaccines will be used during immunisation drives planned in 2022.
According to the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) 2021-2023, the polio programme’s strategic goal is to permanently curb all poliovirus transmission in Pakistan by the end of 2023.
The notes of the grant were signed and exchanged between the Japanese government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), while the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Fund signed the agreement.
During the signing ceremony, National Coordinator of the programme Dr Shahzad Baig said that “the polio eradication efforts made substantive progress this year by limiting the virus circulation, resulting in a significant decrease of polio cases despite challenges posed by Covid-19.”
He further stated that the programme was confident to permanently curb all types of polioviruses by the end of 2023.
Appreciating the support of the Japanese government, Dr Shahzad said that “we are grateful to the people and the government of Japan for their unwavering support for the children of Pakistan,” adding that the new funding will enable the country to reach every child in need for the vaccine.
Japan Ambassador to Pakistan Wada Mitsuhiro appreciated the significant progress made this year in controlling the spread of poliovirus, saying that “we are now only one step away from the goal: polio-free Pakistan.”
He reiterated his support for the initiative for eradicating all types of polioviruses by the end of 2023 and noted that Japan has provided assistance in maternal and child health, polio eradication and routine immunisation in Pakistan for decades, and will continue its support.
Unicef Representative in Pakistan, Aida Girma, also said that Pakistan has achieved tremendous success against interrupting poliovirus this year.
She added that from 84 reported polio cases in 2020, the incidence has come down to one case in the last 11 months.
“The last mile towards eradication, however, will be tough and requires continuous support from the partners like the government of Japan to achieve a polio-free status,” said Girma.
The new funding is part of Japan’s continuous support for Pakistan’s polio eradication programme since 1996. To date, the grant and loan contribution from Japan has amounted to approximately $230.497 million.