ISLAMABAD, Oct 3: The World Bank has approved $24 million as second additional financing for the Third Partnership for Polio Eradication Project aimed at supporting the government’s plan to immunise 34.8 million children against the crippling disease.

The project is the third in a series being implemented since 2003 under which funds are provided to the government to procure the Oral Polio Vaccine as part of the global campaign, the World Bank resident mission in Islamabad announced on Wednesday.

The project is part of a global effort to eradicate polio and is being supported through an innovative partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International through the United Nations Foundation.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988 and at the time 125 countries reported an estimated 350,000 polio cases each year. With the implementation of the strategies recommended by the initiative, cases of polio transmission dropped by 99 per cent by 2006 and are now limited to only three countries. Pakistan is among those countries.

“Although Pakistan has seen great progress in the reduction of polio over the last 20 years, it remains one of the few countries where polio still impacts lives and recent cases are worrying,” said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “Pakistan still has a large role to play to aggressively stop transmission of polio virus,” he added.

The recent floods forced large-scale displacements, resulting in big population groups living together in temporary housing with inadequate water and sanitation facilities. This, in turn, led to exposure of people who had not been previously exposed to the polio virus.

The security situation in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has also affected immunisation coverage, with an estimated 90 per cent of children under 5 years of age no longer receiving adequate immunisation.

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