Donors including the crown prince of Abu Dhabi promised $1.2bn to help finish the job of eradicating the crippling disease polio at a meeting in Atlanta, US, on Monday.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed joined with the governments of Canada and Japan, the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others to pledge $30m towards the estimated $1.5bn needed to snuff out the last pockets of polio.
The money will be spent on vaccination – including reaching children in conflict areas - disease surveillance and other activities critical to stopping the spread of the virus.
“We are closer than ever to making history,” said Chris Elias, global development president at Gates Foundation. “These new commitments will help ensure that we finish the job.”
Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. Children under the age of 5 are most at risk of contracting the disease.
An international effort has cut polio cases by more than 99 per cent since 1988, and the disease is now close to being only the second in history – after smallpox in 1980 – to be banished.
India – historically the biggest barrier to eradication – hasn’t reported a case in more than six years.
The virus remains endemic in only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, but imported cases from these countries threaten other developing nations, where conflict, poor sanitation and transient populations have hampered vaccine access.
Three new cases of polio were confirmed last week in an area of Syria partly held by Islamic State, marking the first reemergence of the virus in the country since 2014.