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Japan's gift bolsters child health

$12.6 Million Contribution to UNICEF for Polio Eradication and Key Health and Nutrition Programs in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

TOKYO/ GENEVA/ NEW YORK, 21 December - The Japanese Government has donated $12.6 million for essential health and nutrition activities in the Afghanistan region, including polio eradication, to bolster the chances of survival for thousands of children in three countries, the United Nations Children's Fund announced today.

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The Japanese gift follows an earlier contribution of $7.8 million for UNICEF's emergency relief efforts in Afghanistan and surrounding countries and extends Japan's sterling track record of major support to child health and polio eradication world-wide.

"This latest contribution by Japan continues a long tradition of outstanding support to the health and well-being of children, particularly with regard to the global eradication of polio," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "The money comes at a critical time when UNICEF and partners are in urgent need of support to head-off tens of thousands of child deaths in the Afghan region," she said.

The donation will cover essential health and nutrition activities in three countries in the sub-region. In Pakistan, $8.2 million will be used for National Immunisation Days to eradicate polio. In Tajikistan, $1.5 million will cover essential drugs and will strengthen the expanded programme of immunization. In Uzbekistan, $2.9 million will provide much-needed health supplies, essential drugs and micronutrients and promote growth monitoring as well as immunization activities.

"This contribution will significantly boost the final push to eradicate polio in the sub-region and certify the world polio free by the end of 2005," Bellamy noted.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are two of the 10 remaining countries where polio is still causing paralysis and death of children. Over 40 percent of the total cases of polio confirmed in South Asia in 2000 occurred in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Bellamy called on other donor nations to step up their support to the global initiative to rid the world of polio. "The campaign is succeeding, and the world is on track of being certified polio-free by 2005, but we need the financial support to achieve the target," she said.

About Polio

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that mainly affects children under three. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Between five and ten per cent of people infected with polio die as a result of the paralysis of their breathing muscles. As there is no cure for polio, the best treatment is prevention. A few drops of a powerful vaccine protect a child for life.

Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988, the annual incidence of poliomyelitis worldwide has dropped by over 99%, from an estimated 350 000 to 2971 reported cases in 2000. A massive, accelerated effort is underway to stop all poliovirus transmission as soon as possible. The Region of the Americas was certified polio-free in 1994, and the Western Pacific Region in 2000.

The Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and UNICEF.

For further information, please contact:
Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7516, mjalloh@unicef.org
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326- 7593, lbarrie@unicef.org

Speeches and Press releases on Afghanistan and region