Abu Dhabi hosts leaders of Global Polio Eradication Initiative to discuss progress and challenges to end polio

Abu Dhabi, 29th April, 2015 (WAM) – Two years after the historic Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, leaders of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) returned to the UAE for the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) meeting to discuss progress and challenges in the final stretch to end polio.
Attendees include representatives of polio-affected countries and leaders from the GPEI partner organizations: the World Health Organization (WHO), Unicef, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International and the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, Khaleej Times reported.
The 2013 Global Vaccine Summit was held in partnership with His Highness Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. Donors at the summit, including the UAE, pledged AED 14.7 billion towards ridding the world of polio, a crippling disease that mostly strikes children at an early age.
“Thanks to continued commitment from international partners and donors like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Islamic Development Bank, and partners on the ground, we have never been closer to wiping polio off the face of the Earth. In the past few months, Africa has seen strong progress. With no wild poliovirus cases reported since August 2014, the continent is on the cusp of becoming polio-free. Nigeria, one of the three remaining countries that have never stopped transmission of the virus, has not seen a case of wild poliovirus since July 2014,” said Dr Hamid Jafari, director of Polio Operations and Research at WHO.
“In the Middle East, an outbreak that began in 2013 and threatened to destabilize the global eradication effort now appears to have been stopped. In one of the most difficult humanitarian responses ever conducted, vaccinators managed to repeatedly reach more than 20 million children across seven countries and stop the virus. Organizations on the ground continue to strengthen vaccination services for vulnerable populations to ensure that children remain protected from polio.
“The generous contributions and commitment of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, along with the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, have been instrumental in supporting the outbreak response efforts in Syria and the Horn of Africa. The UAE has been a key partner providing not only funding, but on-the-ground support as well. In Pakistan, the UAE is helping to reach children in some of the toughest areas that were previously inaccessible to vaccinators, and is working with community leaders to improve confidence in the vaccination program.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are now the only two countries that have recorded polio cases in 2015. Currently, Pakistan remains the single largest risk to the eradication effort. In 2014, more than 85% of global cases were reported in Pakistan and the majority of Afghanistan’s cases were tied to Pakistan. Both countries must succeed together to achieve sustained cessation of polio.
“Pakistan now has an opportunity to get back on track and take the world over the finish line on eradication. Recent progress vaccinating previously unreached children, increasing national and provincial commitment and the establishment of new Emergency Operations Centres to coordinate eradication efforts are promising signs. Continued partnership with regional leaders, local community aocates and international organizations will be critical to stopping transmission.
“Governments of polio-affected countries must redouble their efforts to reach children, especially in insecure areas, with the polio vaccine and the international community must follow through on its financial and political commitments. We have an opportunity to end polio once and for all and ensure future generations can live without the threat of this devastating disease.”