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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Fight to eradicate the world's worst infectious diseases comes to Abu Dhabi 

Reaching the Last Mile forum is under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Reaching the Last Mile is under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (right) and Bill Gates, founder of the Gates Foundation (left). Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court
Reaching the Last Mile is under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (right) and Bill Gates, founder of the Gates Foundation (left). Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court

Abu Dhabi will host a major international conference on Wednesday with the ambitious goal of eradicating many of the world’s most destructive diseases.

Reaching the Last Mile is under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and the Gates Foundation, set up by Bill and Melinda Gates.

The title of the conference directly relates to two diseases, polio and Guinea worm disease, which are on the verge of eradication.

Other diseases, including malaria and river blindness, still bring misery and sickness to millions around the world, and particularly in Africa.

Last night, Sheikh Mohammed said: "Abu Dhabi welcomes the guests of the global health forum #ReachingtheLastMile which will be launched tomorrow. Our best wishes for a successful event. International cooperation and collective action is our way to address the health challenges that afflict humanity."

The gathering will bring together more than 200 global health leaders, including government officials, leaders from aid organisations and industry global health experts and philanthropists.

They will assess continuing efforts to eliminate and eradicate these diseases and examine strategies for the future.

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The forum will also see the presentation of the first REACH Awards, which will recognise individuals who have made outstanding contributions for eliminating infectious diseases. The first awards will honour those involved in the fight against Guinea worm disease.

The UAE has long been involved in the war on infectious disease, with Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the first President of the UAE, making an early contribution to the Carter Foundation, set up by former US president Jimmy Carter, and which has been in the forefront of eliminating Guinea worm disease.

Thanks to these efforts, the parasitic sickness, once widespread across Africa, is now reduced to a small area of a single country.

Since 2011, Sheikh Mohammed has personally committed US$235 million to global efforts to infectious diseases, with the UAE prominent in campaigns to end polio, which is now restricted to a handful of cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.