Leading UAE currency house Al Ansari Exchange and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have jointly pledged $10m in support of efforts to combat polio and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in the Middle East and Africa.
The donation, which will be channelled through the Gates Foundation’s matching scheme, will help fund new tools and strategies to shrink the burden of NTDs; a band of diseases that affect more than 1.7 billion people, mainly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The pledge will also be used to in support of the ongoing global campaign to wipe out polio.
“We are committed to reducing inequities in healthcare… as we push towards the elimination of neglected tropical diseases and the eradication of polio,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said in a statement.
Money will be directed to the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF), a $100m multi-donor platform launched in 2017 by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, in partnership with the Gates Foundation. The 10-year facility is hosted by the End Fund, a philanthropic initiative dedicated to ending five of the most common NTDs, with a focus on river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.
River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is an eye and skin disease transmitted through bites from infected blackflies. More than 90 per cent of cases occur in Africa. Lymphatic filariasis is a mosquito-borne disease, also known by its symptom elephantiasis. The condition affects more than 890 million people worldwide, incapacitating and disfiguring many of those affected.
At the RLMF's launch, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan contributed $20m to the platform, with Gates Foundation pledging up to $20m in matched funding.