Poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease most often referred to as Polio. Polio mostly affects the leg muscles but can also occur in the muscles of the head, neck, and diaphragm. The disease was widely spread in Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan but it was estimated in August 2015 that polio cases are down 75% YTD in Pakistan. In Nigeria and Afghanistan however, the disease remains endemic.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made the complete eradication of polio its mission. Since 2011, there has been a partnership between UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together they have been working on spreading awareness of the crippling disease internationally, fundraising resources to producing and distributing vaccines against polio.
In 2013, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bill Gates hosted the very first Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi. During the event, Bill Gates announced that polio eradication was close and very much an achievable goal. The event was attended by a representative from each of the polio-affected countries and a number of organizations such as the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and Rotary International – all part of the GPEI.
Over $100 million have been geared towards supporting the immunization process. In order to spread awareness of the undertaken action, a documentary was filmed that showcases the vaccination efforts of healthcare workers in Pakistan. The documentary is called Every Last Child and is produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi.
The UAE/Pakistani assistance in the eradication of polio has produced amazing results. In May 2015, estimates show that over 86.6 million vaccination doses have been administered and more than 20.6 million children under the age of five have received vaccination and have been protected from the polio virus. In 2013, The United Arab Emirates have also contained the polio outbreak in Syria. In Nigeria there has not been a single case of polio since 2014, proving that a polio-free world can be achieved.
With only Pakistan and Afghanistan left the effort continues. In addition to working with the Gates Foundation, the UAE has also partnered with USAID and a number of nongovernmental organizations. These partnerships will continue the fight to eradicate the polio virus from Pakistan and Afghanistan by continuing to spread awareness worldwide and raise resources for vaccines.