SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Canada supports battle against polio in Pakistan

Canada will contribute $20 million over the course of three years to support an initiative in Pakistan to increase coverage, access and effectiveness of the polio vaccine, the country announced on Tuesday.

Tim Uppal, Canada's minister of state (multiculturalism), concluded a visit to Pakistan on Tuesday where he announced Canada's latest contribution to the battle against polio. During his visit, Uppal met with vaccinators, doctors, UNICEF staff and local government officials.

The $20 million contribution will go toward the UNICEF Polio Plus initiative in Pakistan, which targets three primary endemic high-risk areas and addresses multiple virus transmission factors.

"Canada is leading the fight to eradicate polio globally," Uppal said. "In Pakistan, Canada was the first donor to tackle the conditions that allow polio to continue to keep a foothold, something of which we can all be proud. Canada's continued support will increase the number of children immunized, improve access for vaccinators by increasing community acceptance and increase the effectiveness of the vaccine by decreasing vulnerability to polio from malnutrition and illness."

In April, Canada announced it would contribute $250 million between 2013 and 2018 to support the global goal of eradicating polio and strengthening health systems, particularly in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the three remaining polio endemic countries. The $250 million package of investments includes the $20 million contribution to the Polio Plus initiative, which will be distributed between 2013 and 2016.

After Pakistan's number of polio cases dropped from 198 in 2011 to 58 in 2012, the number increased again last year to 70 cases. Environmental testing showed widespread presence of the polio virus, which continues to pose a risk to local eradication efforts.