ISLAMABAD: The Japanese government has approved a loan of $59 million for the polio eradication programme in Pakistan in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help optimise immunisation against polio of children under the age of 5.
The loan will enable the government to procure about 273 million doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to conduct campaigns from 2016 to 2018.
To formalise the loan, the Japanese ambassador in Pakistan, Takashi Kurai, and Additional Secretary of Economic Affairs Division Amin Anjum Assad exchanged and signed the document at an event on Thursday.
Since 1996, Japan has supported polio eradication campaigns in Pakistan by procuring the vaccine, strengthening the logistics for delivery through cold chain system, improvement in the treatment of vaccinators and dispatching Japanese medical experts. With the new loan, Japanese assistance reaches about $212.5 million in total. Ambassador Kurai said: “Our assistance this year of about Rs6.2 billion is the biggest we have provided so far in this area and we sincerely hope that this loan will… lead to complete polio eradication.”
According to the coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre, Rana Mohammad Safdar, Karachi was the core reservoir for the poliovirus since there were large slums in the city. He added that this made it more critical but claimed that response was increasing.
He explained that there was a low-level of virus transmission in Larkana, Sukkur and the Khyber-Peshawar corridor. He said that with the start of the military operation, children in previously inaccessible areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were now within reach to administer the vaccine.