This year, Bill and Melinda Gates, the billionaire philanthropists, conveyed some good news in the annual letter released by their foundation: polio is about to be eradicated from the face of the earth. This achievement, Mr Gates acknowledged in February, would not have been possible without the assistance of the UAE.
Pakistan has long been one of the last remaining outposts of poliomyelitis. The task of immunisation was made difficult by the fact that a vast majority of the people most vulnerable to the disease were concentrated in some of the least accessible parts of the country. Misgovernance, conflict and the challenges posed by terrain conspired to inhibit efforts to vaccinate children. Then stepped in the UAE with its Pakistan Assistance Programme, an initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 66 high-risk regions of Pakistan, the programme delivered, over three phases, polio vaccinations to more than 30 million children. The result is that polio in Pakistan is now on the verge of eradication. Globally, there were 37 reported cases of polio last year.
Will the success of the polio eradication campaign be replicated in other areas? Last week, Mr Gates expressed concern that nations worldwide are cutting their aid budgets and urged them to follow the example of the UAE. Donor fatigue is real, but nations that fear that donations might be mismanaged ignore the fact that aid doesn't stop at giving. Mr Gates singled out the UAE as a model for others because its focus is not just on making donation, but also on organising groundwork, supervising execution and reporting on success. Properly managed, aid can succeed in saving lives. The UAE's success in the fight against polio proves this.
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