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At a glance: Japan

Japan supports UNICEF in the fight against polio

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010
From left (seated) at a signing ceremony in Pakistan: Takatoshi Nishikata, Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Pakistan; H.E. Chihiro Atsumi, Ambassador of Japan; H.E. Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Pakistan's Federal Minister of Health; and Daniel Toole, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia and Special Representative for Flood Response in Pakistan.

By Naoko Iwasaki

TOKYO, Japan, 22 December 2010 – The Government of Japan has made a total contribution of approximately $25.4 million for the prevention of polio and other infectious diseases in Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan in the past month. Since 1993, Japan has been actively providing oral polio vaccine to the world’s children through UNICEF.

Poliomyelitis is an infectious viral disease that damages the nervous system. Although children under the age of five are the most vulnerable to the disease, timely vaccination can prevent infection. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5 to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. There are four endemic countries remaining today – namely, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Sudan is also suspected as a country with re-established transmission. 

Prone to infection

Marginalized children are especially prone to polio infection. Since the virus can be transmitted through contaminated water, food or an infected person’s faecal matter or saliva, children from families or communities with poor water and sanitation facilities are vulnerable.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010
H.E. Chihiro Atsumi, Ambassador of Japan (left), and Daniel Toole, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia and Special Representative for Flood Response in Pakistan (right), exchange notes at the signing ceremony on funding for maternal and child health interventions.

Children and women in three countries will benefit, through UNICEF, from this year’s Japanese grant for maternal and child health.

In Sudan, $10.3 million from the Government of Japan will be used to promote health in both the north and the south, reaching over 11 million women and children. The key interventions include immunization campaigns against polio, measles and tetanus, as well as training for midwives in villages in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.         

Another $10.4 million will support UNICEF’s work in Nigeria, funding the procurement of oral polio vaccine and strengthening of the cold-chain system for vaccine preservation. The funds will also allow UNICEF to conduct a Child Health Week featuring high-impact child survival interventions – including the distribution of medicines for intermittent prophylactic treatment of pregnant women, which can be effective in preventing malaria during pregnancy.

'Concrete actions'

On 14 December, the remaining portion of the grant for maternal and child health, $4.7 million, was formalized at a signing ceremony in Islamabad, Pakistan. Floods have severely affected water and sanitation conditions in the country since August, leaving many children at risk of polio and increasing the challenges that face existing polio-eradication efforts. With the aid from Japan, UNICEF can provide some 8.3 million children with much-needed vaccines for the coming year.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Ramoneda
A child gets a vaccination at a camp for people displaced by floods in Sukkur, Pakistan.

The Director of the UNICEF Tokyo Office, Dr. Kunihiko Chris Hirabayashi, underlined the significance of the Japan’s long-term commitment to polio eradication.

“The Government of Japan has been a strong advocate for human security, a concept which embraces assistance and protection for needy children,” he said. “With the type of contributions UNICEF received this time, Japan is putting the concept into concrete actions, which will benefit some of the most vulnerable children in the world.”



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