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Government of Japan pledges new USD 9.6 million agreement with UNICEF and WHO to strengthen immunization in the Pacific

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Pledging Ceremony for 'The Project for Strengthening Immunization Programs in Pacific Island Countries' held in Fiji. © UNICEFPacific/2021/Sharma

Suva, Fiji, 27 January 2021 – Today, the Government of Japan pledged a new USD 9.6 million agreement with UNICEF and WHO to strengthen immunization in the Pacific region. The agreement will support Pacific governments including Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau and Republic of Marshall Islands. UNICEF and WHO in the Pacific will work collaboratively with national health authorities to strengthen health programmes through effective and safe immunization.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan, H.E. Kawakami Fumihiro said, “This is truly an auspicious occasion for people of Japan, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Palau. We just committed the Project titled, ‘Strengthening Immunization Programs in Pacific Island Countries.’ UNICEF and WHO, with their learned expertise and proven processes and systems will be implementing the project in the five island countries.”

“Essentially, this project will improve five island countries’ immunization coverage for children, identification and response to vaccine preventable disease outbreaks as well as maintenance of vaccine availability and quality. I shall also stress this project is crucial for the introduction of COVID vaccines,” His Excellency added.

Providing quality immunization services is one of the safest and most cost-effective tools to end vaccine preventable child deaths. However, despite a high average national immunization coverage across the Pacific, a significant number of the most vulnerable children in the region living in remote areas still miss out and do not receive the recommended number of vaccine doses. Healthcare workers in the Pacific region will be supported to better respond to vaccine preventable disease outbreaks through this four year partnership, with more than 110,000 children benefitting from improved immunization programmes.

"Ministry of Health & Medical Services reaffirm its commitment to protecting the lives of infants, young children and adolescents through the immunization programme and now with COVID-19 vaccines for the adult population. I extend my deepest appreciation to all the stakeholders, particularly the Government of Japan for continuously assisting Fiji and the Pacific Island Countries in their efforts to improve the lives of our people through the provision of enhanced medical care,” Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said.

“While we struggle to address the current pandemic, we can’t ignore the devastating impact of other vaccine preventable diseases on children,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. “We thank the Government of Japan for supporting our joint efforts to improve routine immunization coverage, and ensuring that a strong cold chain is in place to reach all children and their families.”

The Government of Japan supported programme will aim to strengthen immunization services in the Pacific island countries in line with their commitments to polio eradication, measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus elimination and hepatitis B control in the Pacific region. Key components of the programme will include developing immunization policy and procedures; building surveillance and in-country laboratory capacities for the early detection, investigation and management of vaccine preventable diseases; improving cold chain capacity; and management and strengthening of information management systems.

This support to Pacific island governments will reach those children who are located in the remote rural areas and outer islands who are most at risk of missing out on important recommended vaccinations.

WHO Representative Dr Corinne Capuano said, “WHO is grateful for this generous support from the Government of Japan. Recent outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases like measles have highlighted gaps in routine immunization systems across the Pacific. This support will enable us, in close partnership with UNICEF, to work with five Pacific island countries to address these gaps and ensure they have the systems in place to quickly detect and confirm vaccine preventable diseases. It will also enable us to ensure efforts to strengthen their routine immunization systems follow the latest guidance and technical advice.”

UNICEF and WHO will be working closely with the Governments of the five Pacific Island countries to ensure that the WHO immunization target of more than 95 per cent coverage for childhood vaccines is achieved with overall improved quality of immunization services and optimally maintained vaccine cold chains.

Notes to Editors:

About the Government of Japan:

Japan provides funds (grants, loans, etc.) and technologies that are useful for “development”, including peacebuilding, governance, promotion of basic human rights and humanitarian assistance, in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to eligible countries and regions. ODA includes bilateral aid to directly assist developing countries and regions, and multilateral aid, which consist of contributions to international organizations such as UNICEF, UNDP, and WHO.

About WHO:

The World Health Organization is the United Nation’s specialized agency for international public health. In the Pacific, WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support (a decentralized division of WHO’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific) provides tailored, timely support to 21 Pacific island countries and areas: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.

For more information, please contact:

**Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services: **Sunil Chandra, sunil.chandra@health.gov.fj

**UNICEF Pacific: **Sheenal Sharma, shesharma@unicef.org; 869 8831

World Health Organization: Benedicte Galichet, galichetb@who.int; 323 4126

Embassy of Japan in Fiji: Peni Saurara, peni.saurara@fj.mofa.go.jp; 330 4633