Islamabad: Japan has unveiled aid worth 510 million yen (Dh16.6 million) for Pakistan’s polio vaccine programme, to support the country’s campaigns during the 2018/19 low transmission season.

The notes of the grant were signed and exchanged on Monday between the government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), a press release issued by the Embassy of Japan here said.

The grant, worth US$4.6 million, will support the procurement of 25 million doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV); sufficient to vaccinate children under the age of five in the high-risk districts across Pakistan; enabling the programme to quickly close the immunity gaps.

Speaking at the ceremony, Aamer Mahmoud Kiani, Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said, “The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is resolutely committed to eradicate polio.”

He said polio eradication is a top priority of his ministry and no effort will be spared in attaining the goal of a polio-free Pakistan.

He thanked the government of Japan and other partners for their continued support in eradicating polio.

Acknowledging the commitment by the Government of Japan, Babar Bin Atta, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication said, “Over the years, the government and people of Japan stood by us even during the difficult times. Pakistan’s programme today is rated among one of the best public health service delivery initiative across the globe.”

“We are proud of our achievements so far and are keen to achieve our goal of interrupting the polio virus during this critical low season. I want to thank the government and people of Japan and all partners whose support has been critical over the years to bring us to where we are today”.

Takashi Kurai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Pakistan said: “Polio is indeed a global challenge for public health but this crippling disease is preventable by vaccination. Japan continues to support Polio eradication in Pakistan and I do hope that very soon, we will achieve the long cherished goal of complete eradication of this disease from Pakistan.”

Yasuhiro Tojo, Chief Representative, JICA in Pakistan said “the determination of Pakistan to wipe out the poliovirus can be seen clearly in the record low number of cases. We are glad to be part of this admirable effort and hope that our support to procure additional oral polio vaccine will accelerate the country’s pace towards achieving this milestone.”

Cristian Munduate, Deputy Representative of Unicef Pakistan said, “the new grant comes at a time when the country is making headway towards stopping poliovirus circulation. I am confident that with the sustained commitment from the Government of Pakistan and strong support from all partners, together we will defeat the virus very soon.”

Pakistan’s drive to become polio-free where the crippling virus can no longer ruin the lives of children and communities has been remarkable. This achievement was made possible through the systematic implementation of well planned, high-quality campaigns that reached all children with the essential vaccine before the deadly virus was able to reach them.

Over the last four years, Pakistan achieved significant progress in the fight against polio. From 306 cases in 2014, the number of cases declined to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016, and down to eight in 2017. So far in 2018, a total of eight polio cases have been reported.