At an event hosted by the UAE Ministry of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD), speaking on behalf of the Minister MICAD, HE Sheikha Lubna Bint Khaled Al Qasimi, 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 during the 69th 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, "The end of polio is within our reach. Success now depends on a handful of countries: we urgently need the active support and direct oversight of the leaders of Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. 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. The decisive operation against militants in North Waziristan has kindled hope and given a new fillip to not only this campaign but all development sector initiatives stalled by a retrogressive mindset. 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, "To eradicate polio we need both leadership at the highest levels of government within Pakistan and support from the global community. 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."
In addition to the panelists, the following individuals made interventions showcasing the importance of the issue and how either their countries or organisations have participated in the financial assistance or reaped the benefits of polio eradication programs:
- Pekka Haavisto, Minister for International Development, Finland
- 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
- Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
- Daouda Malle, Director, Human Development Dept. of Islamic Development Bank
- Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
- Mr. Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development, Canada
- Liz Ditchburn, Director of Policy at DFID
- John Germ, Chair of the International Polio Plus Committee, Rotary International
United Arab Emirates Ministry of International Cooperation and Development