Japan renews commitment to support polio eradication efforts in Pakistan

Islamabad: The Government of Japan provides US$ 4.57 million grant to procure essential oral polio vaccine as part of its continued support to Pakistan for polio eradication.

This latest grant will be utilized for the procurement of 23.66 million doses of vaccines. It will allow the programme to reach under five years old children living in the districts with persistent polio virus transmission. Districts across the country during vaccination drives planned in 2021.
The notes of the grant were signed and exchanged between the Government of Japan and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and between Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and UNICEF.

“Polio eradication is the top-most priority of the Government. We are resolutely committed to eradicating polio even in difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Pakistan is grateful to the people and the Government of Japan for their timely and generous support for helping us reach every child with essential polio vaccine. I am confident that we will together reach the milestone of polio-free Pakistan and world,” said Dr. Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.

MATSUDA Kuninori, Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan paid tribute to all the frontline polio workers engaged in vaccination amid the prevailing risk of COVID-19. He added, “Japan remains committed to assisting the people of Pakistan together with UNICEF in their goal of eradicating polio.”

“We highly appreciate the brave and tireless efforts of the Government of Pakistan despite COVID-19 pandemic. With this Grant Aid, JICA will assist the vaccine procurement for children living in high-risk areas through UNICEF. The road towards polio eradication might be rough and steep. However, we will fight together for the earliest realization of polio-free Pakistan.” said Mr. Shigeki Furuta, JICA Chief Representative.

“Last year, from March to July, over 39 million children missed out on vaccination due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased the immunity gap, reversing previous gains made towards eradication. Despite the setback due to the COVID pandemic, the country has continued its efforts to make Pakistan Polio free,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, highlighting the unwavering support of the Government of Pakistan.

“The continuous support from the Government of Japan will help the country to get vaccines to the areas where they are needed most, and help Pakistan rebuild children’s immunity to get back on track to making Pakistan Polio free,” she added.

Pakistan is currently facing a challenging situation in polio eradication with the upsurge of number of polio cases. A total of 84 (19 January 2021) polio cases have been reported including 26 from Balochistan, 22 each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, and 14 from Punjab. The Polio programme suspended vaccination activities from March to mid-July 2020 due to COVID-19, but services resumed after mid-July to get vaccines to children countrywide.

The Government of Japan has been supporting the Polio Eradication programme in Pakistan since 1996. Over these years, the grant and loan contribution from the Government of Japan has amounted to more than US$ 226.37 million dollars to support programme in Pakistan through UNICEF.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus mainly affects children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the only effective way to protect our children from the crippling disease. Every time children under the age of five get the polio vaccine, they are more protected. Such repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio and made most of the countries around the world polio free.