Saudi Arabia pledges $500m for polio research at World Economic Forum in Riyadh

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to open regional office in Saudi Arabia as part of programme's implementation

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Riyadh, on Sunday. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia has pledged to give $500 million to efforts to help eradicate the polio in children around the world.

The pledge was made on Sunday at a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Riyadh, with the money being donated to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership led by governments with six partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As part of the agreement, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will open an office in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia also vowed to give $100m to the Lives and Livelihood Fund – which aims to help lift people out of poverty by providing better access to healthcare and improve basic infrastructures.

“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last remaining polio-endemic countries, we have seen significant progress, yet work remains to be done as the world pushes towards making eradication possible," said Dr Abdullah A Al Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KS Relief).

"The pledge from Saudi Arabia today will enhance the innovation and collaboration needed to eradicate this disease.

"Together with our partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Islamic Development Bank and key countries across the region, our support will not only aim to end polio but to also strengthen health systems in these countries.”

The WEF is holding a two-day meeting in Riyadh to discuss global collaboration, growth and energy for development, as well as global challenges as geopolitical tensions increase.

“Polio is a horrific disease that deserves to be in the history books once and for all,” said Bill Gates.

“I am proud to see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, together with partners across the Middle East, step up to help deliver more polio vaccines, measles immunisations, and other vital health services to millions of children every year.

"This global health investment will help strengthen and build more resilient health systems and communities, at a time of multiple crises around the world."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also working with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health to ensure a safe and healthy Hajj pilgrimage by improving disease surveillance and testing.

"This investment towards global health isn't just good to have; it's a strategic imperative for a thriving, more resilient future together,” said Fahad bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel, Minister of Health of Saudi Arabia.

“The world faces many health challenges, and it is part of our responsibility and leadership to contribute with our partners in bridging the gaps, and through concerted efforts, we will be able to alleviate the suffering of many people.”

KS Relief and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are both donating $4 million as a humanitarian relief grant in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has disproportionately impacted women and children.

Updated: April 29, 2024, 2:44 AM