World

UAE re-affirms long-standing commitment to end polio in Pakistan

July 24, 2021

ISLAMABAD — The World Health Organization (WHO), on behalf of the Polio Eradication Initiative, has announced Saturday that the United Arab Emirates has made available a total of $23 million funding for polio campaigns and around $376,000 for the procurement of frontline worker personal protective equipment for protection against COVID-19 in 84 highest-risk districts.

This funding and donation are to be utilized during 2021. It will enable the polio program to maintain momentum to implement monthly polio campaigns targeting 16 million children in the highest-risk districts of Pakistan. Since 2014, United Arab Emirates has contributed over $200 million to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan.

Speaking on behalf of the Polio Eradication Initiative partners, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO representative in Pakistan, thanked the UAE for their generous contribution.

"United Arab Emirates has firmly stood by the polio program, with vital yearly contributions and responding to pleas for extra funding to address unforeseen challenges such as COVID-19. With their steadfast commitment to the shared goal of polio eradication, we can further strengthen our efforts to protect children from lifelong paralysis. This would not be possible without their support," he said.

Pakistan has reported only 1 wild polio case in the first 6 months of the year. This is a significant decrease, over 98 percent, compared to 59 cases during the same period last year. The Government of Pakistan is fully committed to getting the country to zero wild polio cases over the coming months. To be certified as polio-free, Pakistan is required to report that there are no children affected by the wild poliovirus over a period of 3 years.

The UAE continues its role through its Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAE-PAP) to ensure that further gains can be made where they are needed most. The Initiative of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to eradicate polio globally has been instrumental in driving on-the-ground eradication efforts and gains within the most vulnerable communities in Pakistan.

In 2020, UAE-PAP support ensured that close to 16 million children under 5 years received protection through repeated polio campaigns as part of the umbrella Emirates Polio Campaign and all frontline workers in 84 districts received personal protective equipment and training to facilitate protection from COVID-19.

The Director of UAE-PAP, Abdulla Khalifa Alghfeli, praised the humanitarian approach and the generous support of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. Alghfeli explained that Sheikh Mohamed’s humanitarian initiative to eradicate polio is a major factor contributing to the elimination of the disease in the last reservoir of the virus in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The efforts and sacrifices of the field vaccination teams, who face difficult field conditions and dangerous challenges, greatly contribute to the success of the campaigns and reducing the spread of poliovirus in Pakistan," he added.

Dr. Shahzad Baig, the national coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication (NEOC), wholeheartedly welcomed the UAE contribution as an important boost to ensure that the program can control the virus through door-to-door polio campaigns.

"We are getting closer to our goal, but this is not the time to be complacent. We are re-doubling our efforts to ensure the gains of the past don’t slip away," he said. — WAM


July 24, 2021
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