Crown Prince’s po­lio do­na­tion vac­ci­nates 300 mil­lion chil­dren

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES LANGTON

The UAE has funded nearly 300 mil­lion po­lio vac­ci­na­tion shots for chil­dren in Pak­istan.

A US$120 mil­lion (Dh440.7m) pledge in 2013 by Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the Armed Forces, has been com­pleted, it was an­nounced yes­ter­day.

Sheikh Mo­hammed also pledged an ex­tra $30m in the fight to elim­i­nate a dis­ease that once killed and dis­abled mil­lions, the Global Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive said.

Po­lio has been en­tirely elim­i­nated in most of the world but Pak­istan is one of the last hot spots.

Last year, the low­est num­ber of po­lio dis­ease cases in med­i­cal his­tory was recorded – just 22. In Pak­istan, re­ported cases fell by 97 per cent be­tween 2014 and last year.

While there is no cure for the dis­ease, vac­ci­na­tions can pre­vent it be­ing caught. As a re­sult, it is es­ti­mated that 1.5 mil­lion child­hood deaths have been pre­vented since 1988, while 16 mil­lion have es­caped paral­y­sis.

When the po­lio erad­i­ca­tion cam­paign started 30 years ago, the dis­ease in 125 coun­tries paral­ysed 350,000 chil­dren a year.

Dr Te­dros Ghe­breye­sus, di­rec­tor of World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, thanked Sheikh Mo­hammed for his “long-term, gen­er­ous sup­port and un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion to po­lio erad­i­ca­tion”.

“This is the kind of sup­port that will en­sure we reach ev­ery last child to com­plete the job and to show the way to de­liv­er­ing health to all,” Dr Ghe­breye­sus said.

More grat­i­tude came from Akhil Iyer, di­rec­tor of po­lio erad­i­ca­tion at Unicef, the UN

chil­dren’s or­gan­i­sa­tion, who called the UAE’s do­na­tions “a gift not only to the chil­dren of Pak­istan but to all fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren ev­ery­where, who are so close to the goal of be­ing able to be born and raised in a po­lio-free world”.

Through the UAE-Pak­istan Al­liance, the Emi­rates is fund­ing 5,000 vac­ci­na­tors work­ing in some of the most re­mote com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try.

Afghanistan and Nige­ria are still listed as hav­ing po­lio present, but Pak­istan re­mains the last and tough­est chal­lenge.

Among the prob­lems are tribal mi­gra­tory pat­terns, the iso­la­tion of af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and mis­lead­ing claims by ex­trem­ist groups, such as the Tal­iban, who have spread ru­mours that the vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes are a west­ern at­tempt at mass ster­il­i­sa­tion.

In some in­stances, vac­ci­na­tion teams have been at­tacked and killed as they go about their work.

The sup­port of the UAE, a Mus­lim coun­try, has helped to over­come these pre­con­cep­tions.

But even with a his­toric low num­ber of in­fec­tions, the WHO said that with­out con­tin­ued sup­port, po­lio could eas­ily re­bound to 200,000 cases world­wide within a decade.

“The UAE’s piv­otal role in erad­i­cat­ing po­lio com­pletely is not lim­ited to be­ing a donor only, but ex­tends to in­clude its ca­pac­ity to con­vene key groups and pro­vide on-ground sup­port to de­liver vac­cines in the high­est risk ar­eas of Pak­istan,” said Mo­hammed Al Mazrouei, un­der­sec­re­tary at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mo­hammed has worked closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, and the wider pro­gramme of dis­ease erad­i­ca­tion.

Last year, Abu Dhabi hosted the launch of Reach­ing the Last Mile, a $100m fund to elim­i­nate two fur­ther dis­eases, river blind­ness and lym­phatic fi­lar­i­a­sis.

The UAE and Sheikh Mo­hammed had shown an “un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to end po­lio”, said Dr Chris Elias, pres­i­dent of the Global De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme at the Gates Foun­da­tion.

“We are de­lighted to part­ner with them in this ef­fort. With­out their in­volve­ment, achiev­ing a record low num­ber of po­lio cases in 2017 would not have been pos­si­ble.”

Po­lio erad­i­ca­tion work has led to the low­est num­ber of recorded cases in med­i­cal his­tory

Global Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive

The Global Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive says the UAE has com­pleted the $120m com­mit­ment made by Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the Armed Forces, in Pak­istan

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