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Canada Leading Fight to Eradicate Polio in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- (Marketwired) -- 01/07/14 -- Canada's Minister of State (Multiculturalism) Tim Uppal today concluded a visit to Pakistan where he met with vaccinators, doctors and UNICEF staff and announced Canada's latest contribution to the fight to eradicate polio in Pakistan and around the world. While in Pakistan Minister Uppal also met with local Pakistan government officials as well as visited a mosque, Gurudwara Nankana Sahib, and Joseph colony (a Christian community in Lahore).

"Canada is leading the fight to eradicate polio globally. 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," said Minister of State Uppal. "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."

Canada is a leading supporter of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's goal of eradicating polio by 2018. Canada supports the fight against polio in several critical areas, including sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan and in three primary endemic high-risk areas in Pakistan. Today's announcement of $20 million over three years will support the UNICEF Polio Plus initiative in Pakistan which seeks polio eradication by increasing coverage, access and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

During Minister of State Uppal's trip to Pakistan and India, he met with government officials and took part in the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce trade mission in New Delhi.

For more information on Canada's development assistance to Pakistan, visit the DFATD website.

BACKGROUNDER

Today's announcement is for a total contribution of $20 million over three years, 2013-2016. This will support the UNICEF Polio Plus initiative in Pakistan.

Pakistan is one of three remaining polio endemic countries along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. There has been considerable progress in recent years, however challenges remain. The number of cases in Pakistan has declined from 198 in 2011 to 58 in 2012. It has unfortunately risen again to over 70 cases reported to date in 2013. Environmental testing shows continued widespread presence of the virus, posing a continued risk of derailing eradication efforts.

This initiative supports polio eradication by increasing coverage, access and the effectiveness of the vaccine and targets three primary endemic high-risk areas: a section of the city of Karachi; districts in Balochistan province; and districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Polio Plus initiative addresses the factors that have led to the continued transmission of the polio virus in Pakistan, such as the number of children immunized and the access to the vaccine. It will also address related health issues such as malnutrition, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and poor maternal, newborn and child health care, all of which mean that polio continues to have a foothold in Pakistan.

A key element of polio eradication is enhancing community acceptance of the polio vaccine specifically, and immunisation more generally. The Polio Plus initiative directly engages community groups, religious leaders and elders in endemic areas to address gaps in the delivery of social services, enhance community sensitization and trust which in turn increases acceptance and safe passage for polio vaccination teams.

On April 25, 2013, at the Global Vaccine Summit co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Government of Canada announced $250 million between 2013 and 2018 to support the global goal of eradicating polio and strengthen health systems, particularly in the three polio endemic countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan). This initiative is part of the $250 million package of investments to support the Immunization and Polio Strategy, which was announced at the Vaccine Summit.

The fight against polio supports Canada's commitment to improve maternal, newborn and child health around the globe.

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