Thursday, March 3, 2011

Japan partners with UNICEF to help eradicate polio in Angola


TOKYO, Japan -– The Government of Japan has contributed approximately $4.7 million towards UNICEF’s efforts to eradicate polio in Angola.

At a signing ceremony in Tokyo last week, His Excellency Seiji Maehara, Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency George Chicoty, Minister of External Relations of Angola, and Dr. Kunihiko Chris Hirabayashi, Director of UNICEF’s Tokyo office, formally acknowledged the donation.

Today, transmission of the wild poliovirus has been interrupted in all but four endemic countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Stopping virus transmission in these countries is the final challenge to overcome in achieving global eradication.

For its part, Angola has nearly achieved polio eradication before, with no cases of the paralyzing and sometimes fatal disease reported from 2001 to 2005. However, due to the country’s weak routine-immunization performance and health system, as well as difficulties with logistics and access to remote areas, the trend was reversed.

Since 2005, Angola has been one of the countries affected by re-importation of the wild poliovirus.

In order to eradicate polio, Angola has to reach all of its children – including those in the most remote areas – with high-quality vaccines. In addition, an effective monitoring system needs to be maintained in all municipalities.

With the Japanese grant, UNICEF and its partners aim to make Angola polio-free. The contribution will allow UNICEF to procure oral polio vaccine for nearly 6 million children under the age of five, and to provide the Ministry of Health with much-needed technical assistance.

“We are really thankful for the consistent support of the Japanese Government for polio eradication, particularly as we are now in the last mile,” said UNICEF Representative in Angola Dr. Koenraad Vanormelingen. “This contribution will ensure polio vaccine procurement is financed for supplementary activities throughout the year.”