ISLAMABAD, March 1: The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) signed on Friday a financing package of $227 million with Pakistan to fund polio eradication activities in the country.

Under the arrangement, Pakistan will repay the principal amount to the IDB while the Gates Foundation will provide support for the administrative costs associated with the financing package.

By paying the mark-up averaging $3.55m per year, the Gates Foundation is able to pool its risks in achieving one of its philanthropic goals and at the same time is able to finance more projects in many more countries from the resources it would have spent only on this project.

The IDB has termed the package a ‘groundbreaking financial models’ which will allow the bank to give low-income countries access to concessionary funding for a variety of health and development initiatives that they could not otherwise obtain.

The exchange of notes for the financing package took place at the Economic Affairs Division between EAD Secretary Javed Iqbal and IDB Resident Representative in Pakistan, Shahid Ahmed. Special Assistant to Prime Minister, Shahnaz Wazirali, who is heading the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, was also present on the occasion.

Three countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — where polio is still endemic are members of the Islamic Development Bank.

The newly-engineered innovative financing mechanism is different because its use in the Pakistan polio programme is the first time that such a mechanism is being utilised by an international financing institution to avail considerable amount of ordinary resources, softened through philanthropic contributions, to social sector programmes and projects in a developing country, IDB says.

Speaking at the ceremony, Shahnaz Wazirali stated that the financial support would enable the federal government to provide uninterrupted polio vaccine to provinces to protect children from the scourge of polio and help the country wipe out the polio virus.

The Muslim world is concerned that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are now spreading this disease all over the world. Saudi Arabia has placed travel restrictions on Pakistanis travelling to the Holy land who now require taking vaccination against polio before entering the Kingdom. The entire Muslim world, except the three countries, has eradicated polio using repeated vaccination campaigns and reaching every child with the oral polio vaccine, said Ms Wazirali.

Speaking on the occasion, IDB Resident Representative Shahid Ahmed said that the financial assistance provided by IDB reflects the commitment of the entire Muslim Ummah in eradication of polio from the world as resolved in the OIC extraordinary summit which was held in holy city of Makkah.

The financing is from all the shareholders of IDB which reflected the collective desire of all Muslim countries to help children in the brotherly country of Pakistan to enable them to grow as normal human beings without having to suffer the sever and lifelong consequences of polio, he explained.

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