ISLAMABAD: The French Development Agency (AFD) has joined global polio eradication partners with its commitment to filling the funding gap of Pakistan government in its efforts to eradicate polio.

According to a statement issued by the health ministry on Sunday, a delegation of the AFD and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation met the special health secretary and visited the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Erad­ication.

The meetings were part of the delegation’s week-long visit to Pakistan to help support the country in areas of health and social protection.

During a briefing at the NEOC, the AFD committed to supporting the government’s 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, 2022-26) that the programme needed.

The AFD delegation was headed by Agnès Soucat, Director of Health and Social Protection, while the Gates Foundation delegation was led by Jay Wegner, Global Head for Polio Eradication.

The delegation held a meeting with the Country’s Representatives of WHO and Unicef and discussed how the polio infrastructure was at the forefront of responding to Covid-19 and recent floods.

After the NEOC meeting, Special Health Secretary Mirza Nasiruddin Mashhood Ahmad said, “Despite the challenges of the 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.”

NEOC Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said: “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.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2023

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