Bill Gates hails UAE as 'essential partner' in fight against polio

The entrepreneur has worked closely with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, to combat infectious diseases in poorer parts of the world

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Bill Gates said the UAE is an "essential partner" in the mission to wipe out polio in Pakistan.

The billionaire philanthropist has worked alongside Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in recent years to provide key investment to boost vaccines and combat polio and other diseases.

The UAE has been at the forefront of efforts to drive down infection rates in Pakistan.

The Emirates Polio Campaign (EPC), established in 2014 under the directives of President Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohamed, has provided vital assistance to the South Asian country.

Since its launch, the campaign has delivered more than 483 million polio vaccines, reaching 86 million children across the country.

"The UAE is an essential partner in stopping polio in Pakistan. Thank you Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed for your continued commitment to polio eradication," Mr Gates said on his Twitter account.

The two men came together at the Reaching the Last Mile forum in the UAE capital last year to deliver crucial support in the fight against preventable diseases that impact some of the world's poorest people under the Global Eradication Initiative.

At that event, $2.6 billion was pledged by governments and charitable organisations to finally stamp out polio. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two remaining countries with the virus in circulation.

Mr Gates, the founder of Microsoft, pledged an extra $1.08bn to the final drive to eradicate polio, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sheikh Mohamed delivered a further $160 million, with nations including Pakistan, the UK, Germany, United States and Norway also committing significant resources.

Despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak, the EPC administered more than 28 million vaccine doses in Pakistan between July and September.

In marking World Polio day on Saturday, Sheikh Mohamed commended EPC health workers for helping to safeguard lives by carrying out their essential duties amid a pandemic.

“Never has the world been closer to eradicating polio. Today, wild polio can only be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Sheikh Mohamed said on Twitter.

Nigeria officially eliminated polio last year, moving the world a step closer to defeating the disease.

Earlier this week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi's contribution was crucial to realising the long-held goal of eradicating polio.

"I extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed for the support of the UAE and its great contribution to the global efforts aimed at eradicating polio," Mr Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.

"This goal can only be achieved with partners like you."

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus.

The virus spreads from person to person and can infect the spinal cord, causing paralysis.

According to the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 99 per cent of children who receive all recommended doses of the inactivated polio vaccine will be protected against the virus.