Fledgling anti-polio campaign: ‘Donors shy away from pledged loans’

Bill Gates and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, too, pledged $100 million to deliver vaccines to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan this year. PHOTO: FILE

Bill Gates and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, too, pledged $100 million to deliver vaccines to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan this year. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: International donors refused to grant soft loans to Pakistan after the country failed at ensuring transparency in its health sector and executing its vaccination programmes, according to officials and documents available with The Express Tribune.

The government spent a staggering $1.2 billion on its polio eradication programme during the last two years but its fight against the polio virus was botched up. The country also has sub-standard eradication programmes for measles, read the documents.

Due to this failure in meeting the health targets, donors put a hold on the pledged loans. The World Bank’s Board of Directors had approved $74 million, while $41 million were promised by the Asian Development Bank in 2011-12 to support Pakistan’s polio immunisation campaign that affected 34.8 million children, a health department official told The Express Tribune.

In addition, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government announced a donation of $120 million for the next three years for polio eradication. Bill Gates and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, too, pledged $100 million to deliver vaccines to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan this year. But there is no let-up in the detection and spread of poliovirus, he added.

For the first time, Pakistan borrowed $32 million, a high-interest loan, from the Islamic Development Bank and handed the whole amount over to the World Health Organisation (WHO),” according to the documents. WHO Country Director Nima Abid Saeed explained that the United Nations is only supposed to provide technical assistance to countries fighting polio and the Pakistan government has to take the initiative in executing the programme and producing results.

With this epidemic, health expert Dr Sania Nishtar fears that Islamabad may face an international travel ban as it failed to control both the measles outbreak and the poliovirus. The government needs to take measures to control the spread of the outbreak immediately, she warned.

Meanwhile, State Minister for National Health Regulation Saira Afzal Tarrar calls for a new national health policy as the system is failing to deliver for the last five years. “I want to clean the mess. Our predecessors spent billions on health but to no avail,” she said.

Source: The Express Tribune

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