Japan aid boosts lab capacity to track poliovirus

Updated February 22, 2020

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The grant has helped procure essential molecular-biology equipment for the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio. — AFP/File
The grant has helped procure essential molecular-biology equipment for the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio in Pakistan has now become one of the largest and best surveillance networks in the world after being upgraded with a grant of $3.3 million provided by the Japanese government.

The Japanese support will boost Pakistan’s capacity to swiftly track and respond to the poliovirus.

The grant has helped procure essential molecular-biology equipment for the laboratory, including genetic analysers, real-time thermal cylinders, incubators and freezers. The grant also helped replace aging stocks of cold chain materials, reagents and other essential equipment.

The laboratory currently tests more than 30,000 stool samples and 950 environmental samples for polio a year from Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of global efforts to end virus circulation in both polio endemic nations.

Representatives from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, the Japanese government, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) handed over the new equipment during a ceremony at the National Institute for Health (NIH) here on Friday.

Speaking at the ceremony, Secretary of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik said that the Japanese support had been vital to Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate polio.

Recent enhancement to the Regional Reference Laboratory (RRL) will further increase Pakistan’s capacity to effectively tackle the associated risks in timely manner, he added.

JICA president Dr Kitaoka Shinichi expressed gratitude that the Japanese assistance was being utilised effectively in the Regional Reference Laboratory.

“We have been supporting the Polio Eradication Programme for almost 25 years; currently, the programme is going through a very critical and important transformation, and JICA will continue support towards untiring efforts of the Pakistani government,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador of Japan Matsuda Kuninori said that the Japanese government was committed to assisting the Pakistan government in its goal of eradicating polio and added that Japan had provided $229 million in total aid to Pakistan for polio eradication since 1996.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020