ABU DHABI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed pledged Dh110 million on Monday in a final push to rid the world of polio.
Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was one of 31 donors contributing to the US$1.2 billion, or Dh4.77bn, needed to wipe out the disease.
“The UAE is proud to be a leader in the effort to end polio,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, the Ambassador to the US. “The Emirates looks forward to a future in which every child around the world is able to experience the full economic and health benefits of polio eradication.”
The pledges were made on Monday at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta, the US, where other donors included the governments of Japan, Germany and Monaco.
Sheikh Mohammed has been a global leader in the fight against a disease that only 30 years ago paralysed more than 350,000 children a year in 125 countries.
In 2011, he linked up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to give $100m for vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 2013, the UAE hosted the inaugural Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, where Sheikh Mohammed pledged $120m more.
Polio has been eliminated everywhere but Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
In those countries, only 74 cases were registered last year and only five so far this year. But children remain at risk everywhere until polio is completely killed off.
“We are closer than ever to making history,” said Chris Elias, global development president at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and chairman of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Oversight Board.
“These new commitments will help ensure that we will finish the job.”
Experts have said that mass migration in the region made the work harder. The UAE has provided more than 116 million polio vaccines to Pakistani children under 5 between 2014 and last year.
The UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme, which runs the Emirates Polio Campaign in Pakistan, said the drive benefited children in 66 areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas from January 2014 to the end of May last year.
The project is part of the UAE Government’s pledge made in 2013 to provide Dh440m to support global efforts towards eradicating polio by 2018, with a focus on Pakistan, which has one of the world’s highest rates of infection.
“We are, together, truly on the verge of eradicating polio from the planet, but only if we work relentlessly to reach the children we have not yet reached,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s executive director.
“We cannot fail to make this last effort because if we do not now we will, and should be, judged harshly by history.”
Other major pledges include $75m from Canada, $61.4m from the European Commission and $55m from Japan.