The UAE is a leading light in the fight to eliminate preventable deadly diseases, writes Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli
Positive results indicate we are closer than ever to reaching the final mile in eliminating polio
Reaching the Last Mile Global Health Forum will take place on Wednesday under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It will focus on the elimination of preventable deadly diseases that have devastating effects on public health and hinder the prospects of the world’s poorest people. The forum endeavours to support international initiatives in public health and disease control and to highlight humanitarian efforts to eliminate infectious diseases.
The hosting of this forum will underscore the role played by the UAE. That role is an extension of the humanitarian approach of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the country. The presence of a select group of government officials, heads of international development organisations and philanthropic organisations, as well as global health experts, represents evidence and recognition of the importance of the humanitarian role played by the UAE in its efforts to protect human health from deadly, infectious diseases.
The generous support of the UAE over four decades has culminated in world-class humanitarian achievements and international recognition, ranking top aid donor state in official development aid in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
One of the most important areas of assistance provided by the UAE is to health care. Many countries have benefited from the construction of hospitals, clinics, laboratories and nursing institutes, the provision of medical equipment, the purchase of medicines and vaccines, and funding for the treatment of sick and disabled persons. This is in addition to providing support with field hospitals and specialised medical teams to help and relieve disaster affected areas and crisis emergency. Furthermore, the UAE provides support and cooperation to various UN organisations, international foundations and humanitarian and philanthropic programmes, by offering financial contributions and operational expertise.
The UAE's humanitarian role is not limited to the above, but extends - guided by its principles and the leadership of the nation and the spirit of the Emirati people - to international medical research centres, by providing them with the necessary financial, technical and technical support to help them succeed in discovering the treatments for incurable diseases and developing medicines and vaccines.
Sheikh Mohammed has a vision derived from the principle of continuing support for humanitarian issues, protecting the health of the peoples of the world and strengthening international efforts to eradicate infectious and deadly diseases, such as polio, guinea worm, malaria and other conditions.
Since 2011, Sheikh Mohammed has donated substantial funds to help global health efforts, including an amount allocated to support global efforts to eradicate polio, as well as other contributions to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The initiative aims to eradicate the disease and reduce its incidence significantly in targeted nations.
Sheikh Mohammed's efforts in the fight against polio are not limited to funding. He has conveyed his humanitarian message to the world, reiterating the UAE's vision of achieving a bright future for all children. Sheikh Mohammed said: "We are continuing with the spirit of one team to eradicate this disease until the last child is cured… It is the message of the UAE to the world. It is a message of hope and firm belief in the achievement of a bright future for all the children of the world. The children of the world are our children and their joy is the joy of all the children of the UAE."
Today bears witness to this humanitarian message. Positive results in eradicating polio indicate that we are closer than ever to reaching the final mile in eliminating the disease.
The initiative was further translated into action through the launch of the UAE polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan in 2014, which as of this year has targeted more than 43 million children. The campaign has been successful, contributing to a 98 per cent reduction of cases.
Sheikh Mohammed also recognised the efforts of front line health workers at the Heroes of Polio Eradication (Hope Awards) held in Abu Dhabi in December 2015, in cooperation with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Sheikh Mohammed's recognition had a positive impact on the lives and morale of vaccination teams who dedicated their lives to fighting disease.
Sheikh Mohammed said: "There is hope to provide to the world's children an equal chance at life and access to treatment against chronic diseases and epidemics. This brings us together on this day to celebrate the efforts of a group of heroes who bring a glimmer of new hope to the faces of children worldwide."
In the fight against other diseases and the support of international efforts and programmes to eradicate them, Sheikh Mohammed has allocated funds to support efforts to eradicate malaria. He also pledged aid to support the Roll Back Malaria programme over the next three years, and has provided a grant to the Carter Center to support efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease.
His efforts to combat disease are not limited to the above. He continues to have an important role in promoting and developing global health agendas. This is reflected in the hosting of various conferences, forums and exhibitions that bring together leaders and experts to develop strategies to improve health and quality of life. Thanks to these efforts, the UAE has emerged as a leading platform for spearheading international efforts to mobilise resources and develop programmes to eliminate diseases and epidemics.
Sheikh Mohammed's efforts convey a clear message to future generations: act generously and stand in solidarity with the poor and the needy, wherever they may be.
Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli is director of the UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme