PESHAWAR, June 9: The United Arab Emirate has pledged to provide financial support to polio eradication efforts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas for the next three years, according to officials.

“We have sent plan for 2013-15 to the UAE government regarding polio immunisation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. The UAE will start financing the campaigns from July,” they said.

Presently, the polio vaccination programme in Pakistan, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata is being run through $330 million loan secured by the government from Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

The officials said that IDB was approached last year by the government after refusals by the international donors to provide funds to the programme.

The UAE had already contributed $120 million to $5.5 billion to the five-year (2013-18) global polio eradication plan, to eliminate the vaccine-preventable childhood ailment by the 2015, officials said.

According to conservative estimates, the global plan seeks to eradicate polio by 2014 from Pakistan and by 2015 from Afghanistan and Nigeria, the other two endemic countries.

The UAE government has agreed to sponsor the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata polio eradication programmes from the amount, it has already donated to the global plan.

The officials said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata would stop using IDB’s loan next month, when it would start getting exclusive funding from the UAE.

They said that Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded nine cases -- the former having five and the latter four, out of the total 13 registered cases nationwide in 2013 so far.

Last year, both accounted by 47 cases of the total 58 in Pakistan and had been under the focus of international donors. Fata has a total of 1.1 million under-five population but authorities are required to administer anti-polio drops to about 800,000 because the remaining children live in North and South Waziristan agencies where Taliban have banned vaccination.

Officials said that Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, the main donor of the $5.5 billion global polio eradication plan, had sought support of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan in polio eradication efforts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where his party was in power.

According to them, US Microsoft giant Bill Gates had requested Imran Khan in a letter to further polio eradication in the province and safeguard children against disabilities.

Bill Gates commitment to polio eradication resulted in his support for a massive anti-polio programme in Pakistan, Imran Khan tweeted. “The PTI is already committed to eliminating life threatening diseases from Pakistan through health education and immunisation programmes,” he said.

According to officials, Mr Khan tweeted in response to the letter delivered to him through his emissary on Friday that he would be calling him (Bill Gates) to discuss modalities of moving against polio that took lives of so many children in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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