France has pledged $55 million to help support polio eradication in Pakistan.
With this, the French Development Agency (AFD) has become part of global polio eradication partners with its commitment to filling the funding gap of the Pakistan government in its efforts to end polio.
The funding was announced during a visit by an AFD delegation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for polio eradication in Islamabad.
The visits were part of the delegation’s week-long visit to Pakistan to help support the country in areas of health and social protection.
The French agency delegation was headed by director of health and social protection, Agnès Soucat, while the Gates Foundation delegation was led by Global Head for Polio Eradication Jay Wegner.
During a briefing at the NEOC, the AFD committed to supporting the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) in immunisation activities, disease surveillance, polio campaign monitoring and other technical areas, and filling the funding gap of $55 million (under the PC-1 for polio eradication, 2022-2026) that the programme needed.
NEOC Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig emphasised the significance of the polio infrastructure to Pakistan’s healthcare. “We are very grateful to the French government for this support.”
“The Pakistan polio eradication programme is a vital part of our healthcare system and investing in polio is an investment in the country’s overall health system,” he said.
He added, “The polio infrastructure has proven how it can offer the most reliable support for the most challenging of health emergencies, like we saw with the COVID-19 response, which capitalised on the experiences of polio surveillance teams.”
After the NEOC meeting, Special Health Secretary Mirza Nasiruddin Mashhood Ahmad held a debrief at the Ministry of Health and spoke about the impact on Pakistan’s health infrastructure after the 2022 floods, which left 2,000 health facilities damaged.
“Despite the challenges of last year, the government did not waver in its resolve to eradicate polio. We remain committed to the cause and the multiple vaccination campaigns we have held since the floods are a testament to that commitment,” the health secretary said.
Pakistan reported the year’s first polio case last week when a three-year-old child was paralysed by wild poliovirus 1 in Bannu.
Most of the country has remained polio free for nearly two years. Wild poliovirus remains in circulation in seven districts of southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it continues to pose a threat to children with low immunity and poor nutrition.
The PEI, with support from its partners, has intensified vaccination schedules in these districts and continues to implement strategies, such as vaccination of nomadic children and transit vaccinations, to reach every child.
With additional input from APP