The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, pledged a donation of USD 120 million (AED 440 million) in support of a child health initiative to eradicate polio by 2018, worldwide. The prime focus will be in the regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where polio still remains endemic.
Despite significant progress, millions of children do not receive the vaccines they need. Every 20 seconds a child dies from diseases that can be prevented with existing vaccines. Polio, once a disease that caused widespread fear because of its crippling effects is now more than 99 percent eradicated.
According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative, though most of Afghanistan is polio-free, persistent wild polio virus transmission is largely restricted to 13 districts in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan in the south of the country, where accessing children is difficult due to insecurity and conflict. In addition, Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan repeatedly re-infect one other, with Afghanistan appearing to receive a higher share of the polio virus importations.
Serious flaws in the management and accountability of the polio eradication programme and poor access were compounded by a failure to sufficiently communicate to parents and communities the importance of polio eradication.
In Pakistan, persistent wild polio virus transmission is restricted to three groups of districts: (1) Karachi city, (2) a group of districts in Balochistan Province, and (3) districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In addition, Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan repeatedly re-infect one other, due to the substantial population movements within and between the countries. In 2011, Pakistan was responsible for the spread of the wild polio virus to China, where it caused an outbreak in the western Xinjiang province.
Considering the financial, operational and management discrepancies, in the polio management programme in these areas, his Highness’ pledge comes on the eve of the inaugural Global Vaccine Summit being held in Abu Dhabi in partnership with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Summit brings together 300 global leaders, health and development experts, vaccinators, philanthropists and business leaders to endorse the critical role that vaccines and immunization play in giving children a healthy start to life, and will include additional financial pledges to support the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) comprehensive six-year plan.
“Saving generations of children from preventable diseases is an humanitarian initiative that can only be achieved through global collaboration. Under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE strives to engage in global partnerships that solve these significant international issues. With global polio cases at a record low the world has an historic opportunity to eradicate this debilitating disease within the next six years. Together, the international community can successfully tackle this challenge at this critical moment to create a world without polio for the lasting benefit of future generations.
Hosting the Summit is a reflection of the UAE’s commitment to continue to serve as a meaningful facilitator of international humanitarian initiatives.” — Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
This is the second major donation made by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to support the delivery of lifesaving vaccines to children around the world.
In 2011, His Highness and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a strategic partnership that made a combined donation of USD 100m to fund the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines to the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Through this partnership, USD 34m has been spent delivering 85 million doses of oral polio vaccine in Afghanistan and Pakistan and an additional USD 66m has been allocated to the delivery of pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccines in Afghanistan. It is estimated that the partnership will deliver pentavalent vaccines to a total of 3.94 million children and pneumococcal vaccines to up to 3.96 million children.
“Today’s announcement is a critical step towards fully funding the world’s comprehensive plan to achieve a polio-free world and protect children for all time from this preventable disease. I’m grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his leadership, friendship and commitment to ensuring all children have access to the life-saving vaccines they need.” — Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a co-host of the Global Vaccine Summit
Due to tremendous advances made in 2012, the world has a unique opportunity to end polio. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were only 223 cases of polio during 2012, down from 650 cases in 2011 — representing the lowest number of cases in the fewest countries ever, and the largest drop in a decade. India has now been polio free for two years while Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have both re-established polio-free status, leaving Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan as the only remaining polio-endemic countries.
The new GPEI strategy will focus on addressing the operational and logistical challenges of vaccinating children in 3 main areas; Densely populated Urban areas, inaccessible areas and areas of insecurity. It is estimated that GPEI’s efforts to eradicate polio could deliver net benefits of USD 40-50 billion by 2035 from reduced costs and increased productivity.
The GPEI, launched in 1988, is spearheaded by national governments, the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, with support from key partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.