The Federal Government of Nigeria and the Federal Republic of Japan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a loan facility to the tune of 85 Million US Dollars to be given to Nigeria to eradicate polio.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in Abuja Monday, the Minister of Health, Prof.C.O.Onyebuchi Chukwu said that the signing ceremony of the Japanese loan Aid for polio Eradication Project in Nigeria signifies an important milestone in the fight against polio in Nigeria.
He explained that the objective of the polio eradication Project is to optimize the immunization of children under 5 years against polio by procuring oral polio vaccines, and thereby contributing to the eradication of polio in the whole country.
He said that the Japanese loan Aid is part of the international support to the national polio eradication Programme to ensure vaccine availability for the polio campaigns from June, 2014 adding that will serve as a guarantee for the procurement of the vaccines for polio campaign by UNICEF.
He also added that it will ensure timely delivery and availability of the polio vaccines for the national polio immunisation campaigns.
He expressed optimism that Nigeria has recorded significant achievements in 2013 in the eradication of poliomyelitis with at least 58% reduction in the number of Wild Polio Virus1 (WPV1) cases compared to 2012.
He noted that there has also been a 50% reduction in the number of infected Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 2013 compared to 2012 with the geographical restriction of cases to only two local governments in one state out of the 36 states of the Nigerian Federation.
He said that so far in 2014, only 3 cases of WPV1 have been recorded compared to 2013, adding that this represents 86% reduction in incidence.
Prof.Chukwu expressed hope that with the loan aid from Japan and with the support of other international partners as well as national stakeholders; polio transmission will be interrupted this year.
He reaffirmed that the Federal Government is committed to interrupting polio transmission in Nigeria in 2014. He said: “We shall do all within our powers to ensure that we meet the target of the polio eradication project in Nigeria.”
He thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for guaranteeing the buy-down of the loan noting that the foundation remains a major contributor to the polio eradication effort in Nigeria and indeed globally.
In his keynote address, the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr.Ryuichi Shoji said that his country’s financial contribution to Nigeria will build a robust bridge for Nigerian people that lead to the goal of polio eradication in Nigeria.
He stressed that the Government of Japan has been a faithful partner of Nigeria over 14 years and provided assistance in the fight against polio since Japanese fiscal year 2000.
He said that until now, remarkable progress has been made, and Nigeria stands at a final stage in the fight against polio.
He observed that when polio is finally eradicated in Nigeria, beneficiaries would not be limited to the people of Nigeria pointing out that as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of polio.
Continuing, he said WHO has recently certified in March 2014 that 11 countries in South-East Asia are polio free after three years without reporting a single new case.
He also said that a WHO statement issued in May 2014 indicates that there are still three countries namely Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan that are being plagued by the polio virus.
He said that the global situation concerning polio spread requires an urgent action stressing that the polio eradication project in Nigeria will constitute an important step towards the world free of polio.
Also in her goodwill message, the Country Representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Mairo Mandara said that the Foundation has been working with the Japanese partners for many months to extend the loan facility to Nigeria that would narrow the funding gap for the polio eradication programme.
She stressed that the loan is also intended to be useful tool for the Federal Government of Nigeria to help improve immunization coverage rates in areas that need additional support to stop transmission.
She assured that after Nigeria has executed the loan agreement, the Foundation will commit to repay the loan to Japan with interest on behalf of Nigeria if the required immunization rates are met by Nigeria.