December 13, 2016
On December 13, 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 1.262 billion yen for assistance for the Project for Infectious Diseases Prevention for Children.
The project will provide support for procuring vaccines needed for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) and polio vaccination campaigns planned by the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the entire country, for improving the capacity of vaccination workers, and for social mobilization and educational activities for communities with the objectives of strengthening the quality of vaccination activities, and thereby preventing communicable diseases in children.
While improvements are seen each year, the child mortality rate in Afghanistan remains high, even when compared to other developing countries, with a ranking of the sixteenth highest in the world for the under-five mortality rate  and one of the highest rankings in the world for the death rate of children overall. Due to the large number of deaths still caused by infectious diseases that can be prevented through immunization, strengthening routine immunization programs through the EPI is a priority. This project will procure vaccines against polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B for 1.3 million children under the age of one, as well as tetanus vaccines for 2.5 million women of childbearing age. There are also plans to provide communities with information about preventing infectious diseases, and to develop the capacity of vaccination workers and others engaged in vaccination activities. Through this assistance for saving the lives of mothers and children, JICA will support Afghanistan’s efforts to combat infectious diseases in mothers and children in Afghanistan at the national level.
The number of new polio cases in Afghanistan has repeatedly fluctuated in recent years, and there is an on-going need for high-quality vaccination campaigns in addition to the EPI. Despite security and other issues that make working in Afghanistan difficult, no new polio cases have been detected there since October 2016 and there have been no cases of polio virus infections spreading outside the country since August. The many years of efforts have begun to show and the country now faces the last critical stage in achieving polio eradication . By procuring the vaccines needed for polio vaccination campaigns for 9.5 million children under the age of five, this project will support the steps Afghanistan is taking in eradicating polio.
Currently, polio remains in only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and cooperative efforts are being carried out particularly in the epidemiological block of Afghanistan and Pakistan which share a border that people cross on a daily basis. Further cooperative measures are being planned, such as implementing polio campaigns over the same period in both countries near border areas. To support such measures in both countries, JICA has been providing on-going support to Pakistan since 1996 and to Afghanistan since 2009 for the procurement of vaccines for the Government of Afghanistan for the EPI and polio campaigns. In addition, to address individual challenges in each of these countries, JICA has supported the introduction of mother and child health handbooks to thoroughly document polio and other vaccination records and improve the quality of health care service delivery. In Pakistan, JICA has supported capacity building for vaccination workers through the Project for Strengthening of Routine Immunization and supported the procurement and stable supply of polio vaccines through the Polio Eradication Project (Phase 2). JICA will continue to provide support toward eradicating polio by 2019, the target year for both countries, with a focus on geographical aspects to the issue.
1: Source: “The State of the World’s Children 2016: A fair chance for every child,” UNICEF, 2016
2: Eradication is considered successful when no new cases are confirmed for three years.