ISLAMABAD – The World Bank's Board of Directors has approved a $24 million second additional financing for the Third Partnership for Polio Eradication Project (TPPEP) to support Pakistan government’s efforts to immunise about 34.8 million children against polio, with the goal of eradicating the disease from the country.

In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched, nearly 125 countries reported an estimated 350,000 cases of polio each year. With the implementation of the strategies, recommended by the initiative, cases of polio dropped by 99 per cent by the year 2006 and are now limited to only three countries, among them Pakistan.  "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 is still impacting lives adversely," said World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud.

"Pakistan still has a large role to play to aggressively stop the transmission of polio virus to help achieve the global cause of polio eradication.”

Besides, the recent floods also forced large scale population movements, resulting in a large number of people living together in groups in temporary settlements with inadequate water and sanitation facilities. This, in turn, has led to the exposure of people to the polio virus.

In addition, the prevailing security situation affecting the population in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has seriously affected the immunisation coverage, with an estimated 90 per cent of children under 5 years no longer receiving adequate anti-polio vaccines. "Pakistan can eradicate polio from its territory.

In order to achieve this, it needs to ensure that every child under 5 is vaccinated during each vaccination round," Tayyeb Masud, Senior Health Specialist, World Bank, said while adding, "Overcoming security-related barriers has become critical since a majority of the confirmed polio cases are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Tribal Areas."

Starting from 2003, financial resources have been provided to the Pakistan government to procure anti-polio vaccines under the polio eradication project as a part of the global campaign.

It is also a part of global efforts against polio and is being supported through an innovative partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Rotary International through the UN Foundation. The credits are from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's concessionary lending arm.  These carry a 0.75 per cent service charge, and 1.25 per cent interest rate, 5 years of grace period and a maturity of 25 years.