Japan renews commitment to bring Pakistan closer to becoming polio-free

ISLAMABAD: The Government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed an agreement of 360,000,000 Japanese Yen (US$ 2,981,554) worth grant today to support interruption of the wild polio virus in Pakistan.

The grant will help procurement of 16,078,990 doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV); sufficient to vaccinate 14,356,241 children under the age of five in ten mop-up campaigns during 2016.

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister Focal Person for Polio Eradication, applauded the grant saying: “The Government of Japan has been consistently helping children in Pakistan.  These funds come at a critical juncture as the virus is cornered in just three remaining sanctuaries – the Khyber-Peshawar corridor, Karachi and the Quetta block.

“A determined focus on delivering high quality campaigns for the remainder of the low season and finding every missed child is critical to ensure the virus cannot survive and spread”, adds Senator Farooq.

At the signing ceremony, Mr. Junya Matsuura, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of Japan to Pakistan expressed his appreciation for the significant progress of the polio eradication programme in 2015 and emphasized the importance of solidarity of all stakeholders. He also said, “Japan’s commitment and strong partnership with the Government of Pakistan and UNICEF will continue to complete polio eradication in Pakistan”.

Senior Joint Secretary Dr. Amer Sheikh said on this occasion, Pakistan is one of the last two countries still facing menace of polio. Government of Pakistan with the support of its partner and donors has been able to markedly reduce the incidence of polio in the country. However to eradicate polio completely, Pakistan would require support from its both bilateral and multilateral partners.

Dr. Amer Sheikh said Government of Japan for their continual support to Government of Pakistan in its efforts to eradicate polio. The Government of Japan has been consistently helping children in Pakistan.  These funds come at a critical juncture as the virus is concentrated in just three remaining sanctuaries – the Khyber-Peshawar corridor, Karachi and the Quetta block. A determined focus on delivering high quality campaigns for the remainder of the low season and finding every missed child is critical to ensure the virus cannot survive and spread. Today’s ceremony is another step towards eradication of polio from Pakistan. This grant worth around US $ 3million will help procure 16,078,990 doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV); sufficient to vaccinate 14,356,241 children under the age of five in ten mop-up campaigns during 2016.

Mr. Yasuhiro Tojo, Chief Representative of JICA in Pakistan said, “We are hopeful that this grant will serve as a drive for the final phase of Pakistan’s fight against polio virus. Pakistan today stands on the brink of eradicating polio, and there’s every reason to hope that, within the next year, Pakistan will join other countries where transmission of the disease has been halted”.

Pakistan is making significant progress in the fight against polio. Last year, Pakistan achieved an 82% reduction in the number of children paralyzed by polio down to 54 cases compared to 306 in 2014.

The polio eradication programme has undertaken key strategic shift from quantity to quality campaigns, moving the focus to the continuously missed children, putting the frontline worker at the centre of the eradication effort and the establishment of the Emergency Operations Centres to bring greater coordination, planning and oversight for operations which has led to the improvements seen in 2015.

Ms. Angela Kearney, Representative of UNICEF in Pakistan says “this latest contribution by the Government of Japan could not come at a more important time. The upcoming campaigns are some of the best-prepared and highest quality in Pakistan’s history, and if the vaccination campaigns are fully and consistently implemented in all areas, Pakistan could stop polio this year”.

The Government of Japan has supported the Polio Eradication Initiative in Pakistan since 1996. Approximately US$ 153 million (JPY 16.3 billion) has been delivered to date, for procurement of oral polio vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), and, strengthening vaccine management and cold chain system. APP