Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed donates $120m to end polio

Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nayhan pledges $120m to eradicate polio

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nayhan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on Wednesday pledged $120m to support global efforts to eradicate polio by 2018.

Part of the money will be used to wipe out the paralysing virus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two of only three countries still affected by the disease.

The pledge was the first announced by an Arab leader at the inaugural Global Vaccine Summit, which opened yesterday in the UAE capital and continues today.

“With global polio cases at a record low, the world has an historic opportunity to eradicate this debilitating disease within the next six years,” said Sheikh Mohamed, who is also Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces.

“Together, the international community can successfully tackle this challenge at this critical moment to create a world without polio for the lasting benefit of future generations.”

As recently as 1988, polio affected 125 countries worldwide, attacking 350,000 people each year. Today, the virus has been beaten back into just three: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. In 2012, there were fewer than 225 cases of polio worldwide, but intensified immunisation drives are needed to eradicate the disease.

The Global Vaccine summit will bring together more than 300 global leaders, health experts and business chiefs, including billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

Addressing delegates on Wednesday night, Bill Gates said increased funding and better delivery of vaccines was needed to rid the world of polio.

“Right now, we live in a world where a child born in a poor country does not have the same shot at life as a child born in a rich country,” he said. “At the same time we live in a world where we have the power to correct this injustice. We have a unique window of opportunity now to end polio and save millions of lives with vaccines.”

Sheikh Mohamed’s donation builds on an existing partnership between the Crown Prince and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2011, they made a joint pledge of $100m to buy and deliver vaccines to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.