The world’s fa­tal blow to dis­eases starts here

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES LANG­TON Com­ment, page 14

Abu Dhabi will today host a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence with the am­bi­tious goal of erad­i­cat­ing the world’s most de­struc­tive dis­eases.

Reach­ing the Last Mile will be held un­der the pa­tron­age of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the Armed Forces, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion.

The con­fer­ence re­lates to po­lio and Guinea worm dis­ease, which are on the verge of erad­i­ca­tion.

It will gather more than 200 global health lead­ers in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, lead­ers from aid or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­dus­try, health ex­perts and phi­lan­thropists.

They will as­sess con­tin­u­ing ef­forts to erad­i­cate these dis­eases and ex­am­ine strate­gies for the fu­ture.

The fo­rum will in­clude the first Reach Awards, which recog­nise peo­ple who have made out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to elim­i­nat­ing in­fec­tious dis­eases.

The UAE has a long his­tory of such philanthropy. Sheikh Zayed, the Found­ing Fa­ther, made an early con­tri­bu­tion to the Carter Foun­da­tion, set up by for­mer US pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter, which has been at the fore­front of elim­i­nat­ing Guinea worm dis­ease. Sheikh Mohammed has per­son­ally do­nated US$235 mil­lion to global ef­forts to in­fec­tious dis­eases since 2011.

“Abu Dhabi wel­comes the guests of the global health fo­rum Reach­ing the Last Mile,” he said last night. “In­ter­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion and col­lec­tive ac­tion is our way to ad­dress the health chal­lenges that af­flict hu­man­ity.”

Reach­ing the Last Mile Global Health Fo­rum will take place today un­der the pa­tron­age of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the UAE Armed Forces. It will fo­cus on the elim­i­na­tion of pre­ventable deadly dis­eases that have dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on pub­lic health and hin­der the prospects of the world’s poor­est peo­ple. The fo­rum en­deav­ours to sup­port in­ter­na­tional ini­tia­tives in pub­lic health and dis­ease con­trol and to high­light hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts to elim­i­nate in­fec­tious dis­eases.

The host­ing of this fo­rum will un­der­score the role played by the UAE. That role is an ex­ten­sion of the hu­man­i­tar­ian ap­proach of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the coun­try. The pres­ence of a se­lect group of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, heads of in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions and phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tions, as well as global health ex­perts, rep­re­sents ev­i­dence and recog­ni­tion of the im­por­tance of the hu­man­i­tar­ian role played by the UAE in its ef­forts to pro­tect hu­man health from deadly, in­fec­tious dis­eases.

The gen­er­ous sup­port of the UAE over four decades has cul­mi­nated in world-class hu­man­i­tar­ian achieve­ments and in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, rank­ing top aid donor state in of­fi­cial de­vel­op­ment aid in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

One of the most im­por­tant ar­eas of as­sis­tance pro­vided by the UAE is to health­care. Many coun­tries have ben­e­fited from the con­struc­tion of hos­pi­tals, clin­ics, lab­o­ra­to­ries and nurs­ing in­sti­tutes, the pro­vi­sion of med­i­cal equip­ment, the pur­chase of medicines and vac­cines, and fund­ing for the treat­ment of sick and dis­abled. This is in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing sup­port with field hos­pi­tals and spe­cialised med­i­cal teams to help and re­lieve dis­as­ter af­fected ar­eas and cri­sis emer­gency. Fur­ther­more, the UAE pro­vides sup­port to var­i­ous UN or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­ter­na­tional foun­da­tions and hu­man­i­tar­ian and phil­an­thropic pro­grammes, by of­fer­ing fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions and op­er­a­tional ex­per­tise.

The UAE’s hu­man­i­tar­ian role is not lim­ited to the above, but ex­tends to in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal re­search cen­tres, by pro­vid­ing them with the nec­es­sary fi­nan­cial, tech­ni­cal and tech­ni­cal sup­port to help them suc­ceed in dis­cov­er­ing the treat­ments for in­cur­able dis­eases and de­vel­op­ing medicines and vac­cines.

Sheikh Mohammed has a vi­sion de­rived from the prin­ci­ple of con­tin­u­ing sup­port for hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues, pro­tect­ing the health of the peo­ples of the world and strength­en­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to erad­i­cate in­fec­tious and deadly dis­eases, such as po­lio, guinea worm, malaria and other con­di­tions.

Since 2011, Sheikh Mohammed has do­nated sub­stan­tial funds to help global health ef­forts, in­clud­ing an amount al­lo­cated to sup­port global ef­forts to erad­i­cate po­lio, as well as other con­tri­bu­tions to the Global Al­liance for Vac­cines and Im­mu­ni­sa­tion and the Global Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive.

Sheikh Mohammed’s ef­forts in the fight against po­lio are not lim­ited to fund­ing. He has con­veyed his hu­man­i­tar­ian mes­sage to the world, re­it­er­at­ing the UAE’s vi­sion of achiev­ing a bright fu­ture for all chil­dren. Sheikh Mohammed said: “We are con­tin­u­ing with the spirit of one team to erad­i­cate this dis­ease un­til the last child is cured… It is the mes­sage of the UAE to the world.”

Today bears wit­ness to this hu­man­i­tar­ian mes­sage. Pos­i­tive re­sults in erad­i­cat­ing po­lio in­di­cate that we are closer than ever to reach­ing the fi­nal mile in elim­i­nat­ing the dis­ease.

The ini­tia­tive was fur­ther trans­lated into ac­tion through the launch of the UAE po­lio vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign in Pak­istan in 2014, which as of this year has tar­geted more than 43 mil­lion chil­dren. The cam­paign has been suc­cess­ful, con­tribut­ing to a re­duc­tion of cases in 2014 to only five cases in the first 10 months of 2017, a de­crease of 98 per cent.

Sheikh Mohammed also recog­nised the ef­forts of front line health work­ers at the Heroes of Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion (Hope Awards) held in Abu Dhabi in De­cem­ber 2015, in co­op­er­a­tion with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion. Sheikh Mohammed’s recog­ni­tion had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the lives and morale of vac­ci­na­tion teams who ded­i­cated their lives to fight­ing dis­ease.

In the fight against other dis­eases and the sup­port of in­ter­na­tional ef­forts and pro­grammes to erad­i­cate them, Sheikh Mohammed has al­lo­cated funds to sup­port ef­forts to erad­i­cate malaria. He also pledged aid to sup­port the Roll Back Malaria pro­gramme over the next three years, and has pro­vided a grant to the Carter Cen­ter to sup­port ef­forts to erad­i­cate guinea-worm dis­ease.

His ef­forts to com­bat dis­ease are not lim­ited to the above. He con­tin­ues to have an im­por­tant role in pro­mot­ing and de­vel­op­ing global health agen­das. This is re­flected in the host­ing of var­i­ous fo­rums that bring to­gether lead­ers and ex­perts to de­velop strate­gies to im­prove health. Sheikh Mohammed’s ef­forts con­vey a clear mes­sage to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions: act gen­er­ously and stand in sol­i­dar­ity with the poor and the needy, wher­ever they may be.

Sheikh Mohammed’s ef­forts con­vey a clear mes­sage to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions

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