UNICEF, WHO pledge $71 million for polio eradication

The government signed agreements with UNICEF in Pakistan and the World Health Organisation (WHO) worth $72 million to sustain its polio campaign in a ceremony held at the Inter-Provincial Coordination Division on Friday.
On behalf of the government, Inter-Provincial Coordination Division Secretary Arif Azeem signed the agreements, whereas from the international partner agencies, UNICEF in Pakistan Country Representative Dan Rohrmann and WHO Representative to Pakistan Dr Guido Sabatinelli inked the documents. The first agreement signed between Pakistan and UNICEF is worth $41 million. The agreement states that World Bank support will be channelled through UNICEF in the form of polio vaccines provided to the government.
The second agreement, between the government and the World Health Organisation worth $31 million, promises support by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to be channelled through the WHO. Speaking on the occasion, Azeem said the support was vital to sustain the supply of polio vaccines in the country, through which 32 million children were being protected annually from lifelong disabilities.
He said though “we are confronted with a daunting task, with 75 cases of polio reported so far this year, experience in Punjab and Sindh has shown that the targets are achievable”. The secretary added that he was pleased to inform that Punjab, the country’s most populous province, had reported no polio cases so far this year. “Sindh has also done remarkably well and there has been a turnaround with no polio case reported over a considerable period of time,” he said.
Rohrmann expressed all out support for the initiative. He said the support worth $41 million will be used by UNICEF to provide 250 million doses of polio vaccine to Pakistan. This will meet the country’s requirements for nine months. “I am pleased that UNICEF is a part of these major efforts to eradicate, only the second time in the history of the world, a disease that affects so many children around the world,” Rohrmann said.
Sabatinelli said the support provided through his organisation would help meet the operational expenses for polio campaigns conducted across the country. The funds would also be used to provide additional incentives to vaccinators part of the polio teams, with a view to improving their performance, he added. Japan International Cooperation Agency in Pakistan Chief Representative Takatoshi Nishikata said his country had been providing support to Pakistan to fight polio since 1996.
JICA was committed to supporting the country’s drive to root out polio once and for all, he said. Earlier, Expanded Programme on Immunisation National Manager Dr Altaf Bosan said accessibility to children had increased in FATA with the help of the armed forces, whereas the district managements in high risk areas in Balochistan were fully geared up.
Referring to the agreements signed he said the World Bank mission had visited in July 2010 and upon reviewing all indicators, it had suggested a continuation of the third partnership which was signed between Economic Affairs Division and World Bank in July 2009 by financing polio vaccines from July 2011 to June 2012.