WAM Abu Dhabi, 24th April 2013, (WAM)– His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, today pledged a donation of US$120m (AED440m) in support of global efforts to eradicate polio by 2018, with a specific contribution towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The pledge comes on the eve of the inaugural Global Vaccine Summit being held in Abu Dhabi in partnership with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and co-chair of the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates.
The Summit brings together 300 global leaders, health and development experts, vaccinators, philanthropists, and business leaders to endorse the critical role that vaccines and immunization play in giving children a healthy start to life, and will include additional financial pledges to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) new, comprehensive six-year plan.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan stated: “Saving generations of children from preventable diseases is an humanitarian initiative that can only be achieved through global collaboration. Under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE strives to engage in global partnerships that solve these significant international issues.” “With global polio cases at a record low the world has an historic opportunity to eradicate this debilitating disease within the next six years. Together, the international community can successfully tackle this challenge at this critical moment to create a world without polio for the lasting benefit of future generations,” His Highness added.
His Highness further said “Hosting the Summit is a reflection of the UAE’s commitment to continue to serve as a meaningful facilitator of international humanitarian initiatives.” This is the second major donation made by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to support the delivery of lifesaving vaccines to children around the world.
In 2011, His Highness and the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation announced a strategic partnership that made a combined donation of US$100m to fund the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines to the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Through this partnership, US$34m has been spent delivering 85 million doses of oral polio vaccine in Afghanistan and Pakistan and an additional US$66m has been allocated to the delivery of pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccines in Afghanistan. It is estimated that the partnership will deliver pentavalent vaccines to a total of 3.94 million children and pneumococcal vaccines to up to 3.96 million children.
“Today’s announcement is a critical step towards fully funding the world’s comprehensive plan to achieve a polio-free world and protect children for all time from this preventable disease. I’m grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his leadership, friendship and commitment to ensuring all children have access to the life-saving vaccines they need,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation and a co-host of the Global Vaccine Summit.
Despite significant progress, millions of children do not receive the vaccines they need. Every 20 seconds a child dies from diseases that can be prevented with existing vaccines. Polio, once a disease that caused widespread fear because of its crippling effects is now more than 99 percent eradicated.
Now, the world has a unique opportunity to end polio due to tremendous advances in 2012. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were only 223 cases of polio during 2012 – down from 650 cases in 2011 – representing the lowest number of cases in the fewest countries ever and the largest drop in a decade. India has now been polio free for two years while Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have both re-established polio-free status, leaving Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan as the only remaining polio-endemic countries.
The new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) strategic plan addresses the operational challenges of vaccinating children, including in densely populated urban areas, hard-to-reach areas and in areas of insecurity. The plan includes the use of polio eradication experience and resources to strengthen immunization systems in high-priority countries. It also lays out a process for planning how to transition the GPEI’s resources and lessons, particularly in reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable children and communities, so that they continue to be of service to other public health efforts. It is estimated that GPEI’s efforts to eradicate polio could deliver total net benefits of US$40-50 billion by 2035 from reduced treatment costs and gains in productivity.
The GPEI, launched in 1988, is spearheaded by national governments, the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill ‘&’ Melinda Gates Foundation.