Global health chief hails Sheikh Mohamed for contribution to fight against polio

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, said the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi's support was crucial to eradication efforts

A global health chief has lauded Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed for his leading role in the fight to eradicate polio.

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.

The UAE has been at the forefront of efforts to drive down infection rates across the world in recent years through a major vaccination programme.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, also Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has pledged more than $250 million (Dh918m) to combating the debilitating disease in high-risk areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only two countries in which polio is still in existence.

"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 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.

Vaccines can be hugely effective in safeguarding the lives of children against the threat of polio.

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.

The Emirates Polio Campaign, established in 2014 under the directives of President Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohamed, has provided vital assistance to Pakistan.

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

In marking World Polio day on Saturday, Sheikh Mohamed commended the work of health workers during the unique challenges of a pandemic.

Between July and September this year, 28 million vaccine doses were delivered and more than 16 million children were reached by the Emirates Polio Campaign, he said.

“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.