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UAE’s $23M polio aid to help eradicate polio in Pakistan

Despite international financial support, Pakistan has been unable to completely eliminate polio. It is one of the only two countries that are still struggling with polio. World awaits Pakistan and Afghanistan's efforts in health sector to eliminate this disease from the planet.

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has made available a total of US $ 23 million in funding for polio campaigns and around US $ 376,000 for the procurement of frontline immunization workers’ personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them against COVID-19 in 84 high-risk districts of Pakistan.

In an announcement made in this regard on Saturday, on behalf of the Polio Eradication Initiative, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that this funding and donation will be utilized between the months of January to December 2021.

It will enable the polio programme to keep up the momentum of implementing effective monthly polio campaigns targeting 16 million children in the highest-risk districts of Pakistan. Since 2014, UAE has contributed over US $ 200 million to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, it added.

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

Read more: Pakistan’s polio conundrum, only reforms can help

“UAE has firmly stood by the polio programme 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.”

Pakistan has reported only one wild polio case in the first six months of the year. This is a significant decrease, with over 98%, compared to 59 cases during the same point in time last year.

The Government of Pakistan is fully committed to getting the country to zero wild polio in the coming months. To be certified as polio-free, Pakistan is required to report that there were no children affected by the wild poliovirus over a period of three years.

UAE continues its role through their Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAE-PAP) to ensure that further gains can be made where it is needed the most. The “Initiative of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Eradicate Polio Globally,” the “Emirates Polio Campaign,” has been instrumental in driving on-the-ground eradication gains and efforts within the most vulnerable communities in Pakistan.

In 2020, UAE-PAP support ensured close to 16 million children under five years received protection through repeated polio campaigns – under the name “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 the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme, Abdullah Khalifa Alghfeli, praised the humanitarian approach and the generous support of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

He explained that this humanitarian initiative to eradicate polio is a major factor contributing to the elimination of the disease in the last reservoir of the virus in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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

Read more: PM Khan committed to making Pakistan polio free

Dr Shahzad Baig, National Coordinator of the Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for polio eradication warm-heartedly welcomed the UAE contribution and said that is an important boost to ensure that the programme 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.”

Courtesy: APP

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