Islamabad - For the eradication of polio, the government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed agreements on Monday to make sure that children are vaccinated in Pakistan.

Amir Sheikh, joint secretary ministry of national health services, regulations and coordination (MoNHSRC), witnessed the ceremony on behalf of the government of Pakistan.

The US $5.4 million (562 million Japanese yen) grant will contribute to supporting UNICEF’s commitment towards polio eradication effort during the period December 2014-November 2015.

Japan’s donation will make it possible for UNICEF to procure 15 million doses of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) for mop-up campaigns, 1.3 million doses of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) for children in high-risk areas of the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) and Karachi, 100 solar ice-lined refrigerators (ILRs) for districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and FATA, backup generators and temperature monitoring systems for strengthening the cold chain at federal, KP, Balochistan and FATA vaccine stores.

The grant will also strengthen the vaccine management through provision of cold chain and logistic personnel at federal, FATA and four provinces.

Hiroshi Inomata, ambassador of Japan to Pakistan, reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to help Pakistan get rid of this preventable disease.

He recalled that the government of Japan had supported the polio eradication initiative in Pakistan since 1996. Japan’s assistance amounts to approximately US $149 million.

Given a large increase in the number of polio cases this year, Ambassador Inomata called on the government of Pakistan and its partners to redouble their efforts to address the existing complex challenge in the fight against polio. He welcomed the commitment of the government of Pakistan shown in the National Task Force meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on November 5.

He reiterated Japan’s commitment to working together until the day of its complete eradication.

Mitsuyoshi Kawasaki, chief representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Pakistan, emphasised urgent needs of fully organised service delivery system of immunisation programme.

“This grant addresses urgent needs of current polio situation in Pakistan and will enable children to acquire rapid immunisation among children influx from FATA who have had zero dose since June 2012 and children who hardly get immunity with OPV.

Provision of ILRs and human resource for vaccine management will contribute to make immunisation activities further effective. We are hopeful that this grant will serve as a drive for the final phase of Pakistan’s fight against polio virus.”

Angela Kearney, UNICEF representative in Pakistan, said, “This latest contribution by the government of Japan comes at a critical time when the number of children paralysed by polio and the risk of transmission to other countries is the highest in a decade.”

Pakistan is at crossroads on polio eradication. The number of polio cases has been on the rise and concerted efforts are necessary to reverse this trend and achieve the goal of a world free of polio. Eradicating polio will not only benefit children in Pakistan but will ensure that no child anywhere will ever suffer from this disease again.