Lake Chad region gets $33m Japan polio grant

Rafat Salami

Japan has provided yet another grant of US$33 million for emergency polio vaccination efforts in the Lake Chad region.

In statement on Monday, Unicef said the grant is in “response to the urgent need to increase immunity to polio in the region”.

Accoding to Unicef, Japan provided funding from its supplementary budget “to purchase polio vaccines, conduct house-to-house polio vaccination campaigns and support efforts to mobilize communities for vaccination in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.”

The statement quotes the UNICEF Representative Mohamed Fall as saying that “most of the funding, approximately US$27 million, will be used in Nigeria”.

He said “this funding fills an urgent need in supporting the ongoing polio vaccination campaigns,” adding that “it will bring Nigeria back to being within reach of eradicating polio and will protect its neighbours against the spread of the virus.”

Unicef also quotes the Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria Mr. Sadanobu Kusaoke as saying that Japans support for Nigeria is in recognition of the global risk posed by children “as long as even one child is infected with the poliovirus anywhere in the world”.

“It is critical to ensure children are vaccinated against this virus until it is eradicated.” he added.

Unicef said the Government of Japan is also supporting UNICEF’s work in preventing and treating malnutrition among children affected by the conflict in northeast Nigeria.

This year, UNICEF estimates that some 450,000 children will suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition in the three states most affected by the conflict.

Japan is one of the champion donors to the GPEI and the Global Health agenda in general, with contributions to polio eradication through UNICEF since 2002 totalling more than US$333 million.

This funding – and the leadership provided by both the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)’s innovative soft loan in partnership with BMGF in Nigeria and Pakistan for polio eradication – has proven instrumental in the historic reduction of wild poliovirus transmission globally.

In 2016, wild poliovirus transmission was limited to just 37 cases globally in the three remaining polio-endemic countries – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This year, to date, only two cases have been recorded worldwide, both in Afghanistan. However, while the opportunity of finally eradicating polio is real, the risk remains.

The conflict in northeast Nigeria has led to large areas of Borno state being cut off from health services and four cases of the wild poliovirus were detected last year among displaced families who had fled from inaccessible areas.

National Governments in the region, in collaboration with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), comprising the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International, CDC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), have implemented emergency vaccination campaigns throughout the region to rapidly raise childhood immunity to the polio virus and guard against further spread.