UAE Calls For Intensified Efforts Against Polio

Abu Dhabi, New York, 22 September 2014: At an event organized by the UAE Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), HE Dr. Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, called for an intensification of the global campaign to eradicate polio.

The event, held under the banner ‘Polio Eradication: A Call to Action,’ was held on the sidelines of the 69th session of General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. High-level representatives from international organizations, polio-affected countries, and donor countries and organizations were in attendance.

“It is deeply regrettable that polio, so close to eradication, is now afflicting the most vulnerable children in areas of armed conflict and poverty,” HE Dr Gargash said when addressing the event. He added, “As well as being a debilitating and sometimes lethal disease targeting the younger generations, polio has far reaching consequences for whole communities. The eradication of polio is, therefore, not an end in itself, but a means to supporting greater development and well-being more generally.”

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, in her remarks to the meeting, recalled the WHO announcement of May 2014 that polio had once again become a global health emergency. Dr. Chan said, “We must redouble our efforts to deliver a polio-free Africa this year, and help Pakistan to get back on track to stop transmission by the end of 2015. The alternative is to face the potential consequences of a new polio pandemic that could disable hundreds of thousands of children within a decade.”

The Pakistan Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Ms. Ayesha Raza Farooq, spoke of the formidable challenges faced by Pakistan in the efforts to overcome the resurgence of polio in her country. She said, “With resilience, unwavering commitment and strong determination, the Government and people of Pakistan are carrying forward the epic fight against Polio. Gratitude is due for vital support extended by brotherly nations like the UAE whose unstinted support in difficult times has been a shot in the arm. Together we shall rid Pakistan and the world of the shadows of disability caused by Polio.”

Speaking on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the President of the Global Development Program, Mr. Chris Elias, said, “This is not a disease that can be fought alone — and the UAE’s persistence and innovation in Pakistan exemplifies how countries can partner and work together to wipe the deadly disease off the face of the Earth.”

Interveners from the floor included Norway’s increased level of support for efforts to eradicate polio to NOK 240 million (USD 40 million) and Japan’s International Cooperation Agency’s  (JICA) partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The JICA pledge to support polio eradication in Pakistan reached approximately $65 million. In addition to the panelists, the following individuals made interventions showcasing the importance of the issue and how either their countries or organizations have participated in the financial assistance or reaped the benefits of polio eradication programs:

  • Mr. Pekka Haavisto, Minister for International Development, Finland
  • Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • Mr. Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development, Canada
  • António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF
  • Dr. Takao Toda, Director General of Human Development Department, JICA 
  • Dr. Tore Godal, Special Advisor on Health to the Foreign Minister, Norway
  • Daouda Malle, Director, Human Development Dept. of Islamic Development Bank
  • Liz Ditchburn, Director of Policy at DFID
  • John Germ, Chair of the International Polio Plus Committee, Rotary International