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UNICEF applauds Japanese donation to eradicate polio

TOKYO/NEW YORK/GENEVA, 30 May 2002 - UNICEF today announced a donation of US $17 million from the Japanese Government for polio eradication and the control of other infectious diseases in six countries - Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nigeria and Sudan. The contribution brings the total Japan has contributed this year to UNICEF for polio eradication and other child health initiatives to US $31.6 million.

"This donation, in the wake of the UN Special Session on Children demonstrates Japan's commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of children around the world," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.

The Japanese Government's support has been vital in the global effort to eradicate polio and control other childhood diseases such as measles. This contribution comes at a time when the global polio partners urgently need to close a funding gap of US $275 million in order to eradicate the disease. This new donation will boost efforts to help reduce the funding gap. It will be used in:

Bangladesh - US $3 million
Japan has been the single largest donor to the polio eradication campaign in Bangladesh since 1996, contributing almost 48 percent of the total cost. This donation will provide 25 million doses of oral polio vaccine for two polio National Immunization Days planned for this year. Bangladesh has not reported a polio case since 2000, but it needs to maintain high polio immunisation coverage if it is to remain polio-free.

Ethiopia - US $2.59 million
In addition to supporting polio eradication, the contribution will help to strengthen routine immunization with a particular focus on measles, which currently accounts for the deaths of over 72,000 children each year in the country.

Ghana - US $.78 million
The additional funds will be used to provide adequate quantities of oral polio and measles vaccines. It will also be used to procure syringes, safety boxes and other injection materials to ensure injection safety for vaccinations. Ghana also needs to safeguard its polio-free status by maintaining a high level of polio immunisation coverage.

India - US $5.86 million
Japan's contribution will support improved polio immunization activities amongst children living in hard-to-reach communities where polio immunisation coverage lags behind the national average.

Nigeria - US $2.85 million
The new funds will support polio National Immunization Days which aim to reach an estimated 16 million children under five. The country's cold-chain system, necessary to keep the vaccines potent, will also be revitalised with the supply of solar refrigerators, cold boxes and vaccine carriers.

Sudan - US $2.28 million
Sudan will use the new contribution to improve its immunization programme for children under five. This will include the provision of oral polio and measles vaccines, injection materials and other supplies.

"Polio cannot be completely eradicated anywhere, until it has been eradicated everywhere," said Bellamy. "Yet with the support and leadership of countries such as Japan we can make polio a disease of the past."

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF is one of the largest public health campaigns ever. Last year a record 575 million children were immunized in 94 countries. Reported polio cases have reached an all time low of less than 500, compared to an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988, when the campaign began. Today the poliovirus is circulating in only 10 countries, down from 125 in 1988.

"We have made remarkable progress in the polio eradication effort, but our greatest challenge now is closing the funding gap of $275 million to finish the job," said Carol Bellamy. "We are calling on all our friends to help us mobilise the additional funds and political leadership needed to deliver a polio-free world for our children."


For further information, please contact:

Joanne Bailey, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326- 7566 jbailey@unicef.org
Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7516 mjalloh@unicef.org





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