In a grand effort to protect millions of children from polio in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, the Japanese government announced this week that it would grant a $33.3 million in humanitarian emergency funding to UNICEF.
Last August, a year after Nigeria was declared “polio-free,” new cases popped up in areas affected by conflicts in the Borno State. The outbreak followed the large-scale movement of families coming from north-eastern Nigeria, an area inaccessible to health services.
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In response to the emergency, Japan has provided funding from their supplementary budget envelope, which will go into purchasing polio vaccines, conducting house-to-house polio campaigns and supporting the current communication efforts to mobilize communities for vaccination in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.
“This additional funding is very timely to support the ongoing polio vaccination campaigns and give Africa the very real opportunity to be completely polio-free,” said UNICEF Director of Polio Eradication Reza Hossaini. “These campaigns aim to not only stop transmission of polio in north-eastern Nigeria but protect its neighbours against the spread of the virus through provision of vaccines and targeted social mobilization activities.”
Since 2002, Japan has donated more than $333 million through UNICEF to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the Global Health agenda in general. The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) collaborated with BMGF in Nigeria and Pakistan to carry out the generous donation. Their leadership in the crisis has proven instrumental in the historic eradication of wild poliovirus transmission globally.
Other national governments in collaboration with GPEI — comprised of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International, CDC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — have also been on the ground implementing emergency vaccination campaigns shortly after the reappearance.
In 2016, wild poliovirus transmission was limited to just 37 cases globally in the three remaining polio-endemic countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This year, to date, only two cases have been recorded worldwide, both in Afghanistan.
“As long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease,” declared the WHO in a statement in 2015. “Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.”