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ISLAMABAD: The Government of Japan has announced a new USD 3.62 million grant to procure essential oral polio vaccines as part of its continued support to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan.

Pakistan Polio Programme will use these funds to procure more than 21 million doses of vaccines to support polio campaigns in 2024.

Pakistan is one of only two countries globally that has yet to stop polio. In 2023, Pakistan reported a total of six cases of polio. With polio cases cornered to only a few locations in the country, the Government of Pakistan and partners are preparing to launch an aggressive plan of activities in 2024 to stop this life-altering disease for children.

Each national immunization drive targets over 44 million children under the age of five, with more than 370,000 frontline workers, predominantly women, playing a crucial role to ensure the Polio Programme’s outreach.

“Despite the challenges, Pakistan will remain relentless in our drive to put an end to polio in the next year,” said Dr Nadeem Jan, Federal Health Minister.

“As we prepare to launch polio campaigns in 2024, together with our partners we will maintain an emergency focus towards resolving the remaining challenges that stand in our way to reach all children.”

“The unwavering support of the Government of Japan has been instrumental in helping us get closer to reaching zero cases. We are thankful to the government and people of Japan for their continued support towards polio eradication in Pakistan,” Dr Jan added.

ITO Takeshi, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of Japan to Pakistan, appreciated the significant gains made last year in controlling the spread of poliovirus.

“I would like to express my sincere respect to polio workers and law enforcement agencies for their dedicated mission for humanity,” said ITO. Noting the importance of a clear and strong commitment by the Pakistani leadership to end polio, he said, “Japan would like to renew its commitment to continuing its efforts toward the ultimate goal of polio eradication by promoting routine immunization.”

The new funding is part of the continuous support from the Government of Japan to the Polio Eradication Programme since 1996. To date, the grant and loan contribution from the Government of Japan has amounted to approx. USD 242.16 million to support the polio programme in Pakistan through UNICEF.

“We appreciate the government’s commitment to making all-out efforts to ensure all children receive the essential vaccine. We believe that vaccines, the most effective way to strengthen children’s immunity, will be used effectively with the understanding of parents and communities and the efforts of frontline workers. We sincerely hope that all the polio campaigns of this year will be conducted successfully toward zero polio cases,” said Tsuyoshi Hara, senior representative, JICA Pakistan Office.

“With fewer cases reported in 2023 compared to 2022, we find ourselves at the crossroads between progress and regression. Six cases are far too many, meaning six children affected permanently by polio,” said Melissa Corkum, UNICEF Chief of Polio in Pakistan.

“Today with this generous pledge from the government and people of Japan, we renew our commitment to ensuring a polio-free world. One step forward, no steps back towards reaching all children with life-saving vaccines.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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