Islamabad, 13 December 2021 (TDI): The Government of Japan announced a grant to support the Polio eradication programme in Pakistan. The US$ 4.35 million grant will help in the procurement of vital oral polio vaccines as part of Japan’s steady support to Pakistan for Polio elimination.

24 million oral doses of vaccines will be procured through this latest grant. Resultantly, the programme will be able to reach approximately 21 million children under five years old. The focus of the programme will be the high-risk districts with relentless poliovirus transmission. Vaccines bought through this grant will be used during the planned vaccination drives of 2022.

As per the National Action Plan (NEAP) 2021-2023, the strategic goal of the Polio Porgramme is to perpetually interrupt all poliovirus transmission in the country, by the end of 2023.

The documents related to the grant were exchanged and signed between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Japan, whereas the grant agreement was signed between the UNICEF and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Dr. Shahzad Baig, the National Coordinator of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme stated that the Polio eradication efforts made worthwhile advancements this year by restricting the virus circulation. Consequently, a significant decrease has been observed in the spread of Polio, despite challenges posed by COVID-19.

He further expressed confidence that the programme will permanently interrupt all types of polioviruses by the end of 2023.

Dr. Shahzad lauded the support of the Government of Japan and expressed gratitude for its unwavering support for the children of Pakistan. According to him, the new funding will enable the country to reach every child with the necessary polio vaccine.

WADA Mitsuhiro, the Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan, appreciated this year’s notable progress with regards to controlling the spread of poliovirus. He enunciated that Pakistan is only one step away from being polio-free. Furthermore, he reiterated his help for the initiative for eliminating all types of poliovirus by the end of 2023.

WADA Mitsuhiro underscored that Japan has also provided assistance in child and maternal health, routine immunization, and polio eradication in Pakistan for decades and will continue to do so.

Shigeki Furuta, the Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expressed his satisfaction on witnessing the collaborative effort between the Expanded Program on Immunization and Polio Programme.

The Expanded Program on Immunization included the recently conducted Polio and Measles-Rubella campaign.

Shigeki Furuta stated that it is an honor for JICA that various Polio program experiences are employed to fight against COVID-19. These include the PCR test capacity at Polio Laboratory, 1166 helpline, and vaccinators’ training by JICA Project.

He further reaffirmed that by the end of 2023, JICA aims to see all types of Poliovirus interruption. Moreover, he praised the frontline health workers and the unflagging leadership of the Government of Pakistan.

Aida Girma, the UNICEF Representative in Pakistan was also present at the occasion. Highlighting the consistent efforts of the Government of Pakistan and partners, she stated that in terms of interrupting Poliovirus, Pakistan has achieved tremendous success.

So much so that only one case has been detected in the last eleven months, as compared to the 84 reported polio cases in the year 2020.

Regardless, she pointed out that the last mile towards eradication will be challenging and requires persistent support from partners like the Government of Japan to acquire a polio-free status.

This latest grant is part of the staunch support of the Japan Government in the Polio Eradication Programme since 1996. The loan and grant contribution from the Japanese Government has amounted to approximately US$ 230.497 million dollars to fund the Polio Programme through UNICEF, in Pakistan to date.

Polio is an extremely infectious disease caused by a virus that primarily affects children under the age of five. It intrudes the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. Vaccination is the only effective way to protect children from this crippling disease, as there is no cure.

Whenever children under the age of five get the polio vaccine, they are more protected. Such recurrent immunizations have made most of the countries around the world Polio-free and saved millions of children from this disease.