February 17, 2016
Signing ceremony (photo provided by UNICEF Afghanistan/2016/Mehareen)
On February 17, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a grant agreement (G/A) with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to provide grant aid of up to 1.748 billion yen for assistance for the the Project for Infectious Diseases Prevention for Children.
This project aims to provide assistance in improving routine immunization as well as the quality of polio vaccination campaigns throughout Afghanistan by providing vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B. The project is expected to cover approximately 1.2 million infants under one year of age with immunizations and approximately 5.6 million children under the age of five under the polio campaigns. In addition, tetanus vaccinations will be provided to 2.5 million pregnant women to protect the lives of newborns and mothers. Through this project, JICA is supporting nationwide efforts to halt infectious diseases in mothers and children in Afghanistan.
While improving each year, the child mortality rate in Afghanistan is still high even among developing countries, being the sixteenth highest globally with a rate of 97 deaths per 1,000 children under the age of five (2013). The rate of deaths due to infectious diseases that can be prevented by vaccination is also high, and Afghanistan is one of two countries in the world that still have wild poliovirus (Pakistan being the other). The Government of Afghanistan is focusing on improving the vaccination coverage of polio and other infectious diseases to lower the death rate of children under the age of five, and on-going support from the international community is necessary for the country to implement measures.
In addition to this project, JICA provides wide support to fight infectious diseases in the country, including the construction of the National Tuberculosis Institute and the provision of equipment and medicine through grant aid, and capacity development for Ministry of Public Health officials, laboratory technicians and medical personnel through technical cooperation. It is hoped that, through this support, infections and deaths caused by preventable diseases can be prevented, improving the state of health for children and expectant and nursing mothers in Afghanistan.