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Tuesday, July 23, 2024  
17 Muharram 1446  

Polio campaign: Bill Gates calls for addressing all areas in better way

PM Shehbaz vows to eradicate polio from Pakistan
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on June 24, 2024. PID
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad on June 24, 2024. PID

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates has stressed the need for addressing all the areas in a better way in the next few months to keep up the positive momentum in the fight against polio.

The foundation was committed to Pakistan in its efforts to eradicate polio and address other health-related issues including malnutrition and mother and child healthcare, said Gates, whose multi-billion dollar philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the biggest funders of the polio eradication campaign.

Polio is a virus that spreads in areas with poor sanitation. It attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection. Children under five are the most vulnerable, but polio can be prevented with vaccination.

Gates, who is on a visit to Pakistan, said had addressed a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Ministers, senior officials and relevant authorities were also present during the meeting.

He underlined that they should dedicate themselves to eradicate polio by making progress in the next six months and should continue their successful efforts in the next few years to completely efface polio virus from the country.

PM Shehbaz vows to eradicate polio from Pakistan

PM Shehbaz reiterated that the federal government, along with all the provincial governments, resolved to eliminate the menace of polio forever and said that they were fully committed to controlling its spread through collective efforts.

The polio eradication campaign in the country was progressing positively and they were close to eliminating polio but unfortunately, things turned negative as the virus returned back in certain parts of Pakistan, still, it did not show that they had failed in their efforts, he said.

The prime minister assured Gates that the government was fully committed “to continuing its efforts to protect the lives of our children and make them healthier.”

In the last six months, he said that the government ran two nationwide polio eradication campaigns successfully along with five others targeting the polio-hit areas.

He stressed that they would have to act swiftly to produce results in the coming days and months. All the newly formed federal and provincial governments had completely resolved that they “would spare no efforts” to control this menace, he added.

The prime minister told Bill Gates that they held a holistic security conference the other day and held lengthy discussions to counter the surge of terrorism and other relevant security issues.

While recalling his meeting with Gates in Riyadh on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, the prime minister said that they had held comprehensive discussions on polio eradication and health-related issues in Pakistan.

He lauded the foundation’s efforts and donations for the polio eradication campaigns and for the lifting of sufferings of humanity. Pakistan had been a beneficiary of the foundation’s financial support over malnutrition and mother and child healthcare issues, the premier said.

In polio eradication campaigns, Gates’ cooperation and support had been consistent in the last many years to the tunes of millions of dollars, he said and added that the investment in polio eradication programme in Pakistan had been significant as during the year 2022 it stood at $240 million, in 2023, $263 million and in 2024, $297 million.

The prime minister further informed that during the WEF, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also pledged $500 million dollars for the next five years.

He said that there were other areas of cooperation between Pakistan and the foundation including the digitisation of education and health sectors, expressing gratitude to Gates for the support over the digitisation of the Federal Board of Revenue.

The prime minister said that they would like to seek Gates’ advice on education and health sectors also. He viewed digitisation process to ensure huge dividends to Pakistan’s economy.

He also reassured that the government would utilise all its resources for polio eradication and he would hold regular meetings with the provincial governments and all the stakeholders in this regard.

The prime minister also welcomed Gates and his team to visit Pakistan on behalf of the people, the government and the provincial authorities.

Security of polio workers

Earlier in the day, Gates called on PM Shehbaz at PM’s Office where they agreed to continue working together to not only eradicate polio, but to strengthen health systems across the provinces, and to ensure prosperity for all Pakistanis, especially women and girls.

The prime minister reiterated the commitment to eradicating polio as it remained the “highest priority” for the government and emphasized that all resources of the state shall be employed to provide security to polio workers. “I will personally monitor national efforts until the crippling disease is wiped-out from our soil.”

A digitised eco-system of the entire government structure would result in enhanced revenues that would help improve governance and the government would be able to spend more on public welfare schemes, he added.

The premier thanked the Gates Foundation for being the largest donor for the polio eradication programme.

Gates thanked the prime minister for his continued dedication and personal interest in eradicating wild polio from the country. He also expressed his confidence that with a sustained vaccination campaign and firm commitment of the government, polio eradication drive would get back on track to end polio following the recent surge in environmental detections.

Bill Gates also underscored how Pakistan’s deployment of data science tools and digital technology are important resources to continue to improve the lives of Pakistanis across the country.

PM Shehbaz and Gates also visited the National Emergencies Operations Centre where NDMA Chairman Lt-Gen Inam Haider Malik gave a comprehensive briefing about NDMA and NEOC encompassing the pre and post-disaster mechanisms.

Chairman Gates Foundation appreciated the state of the art facilities at NEOC and underscored the importance of predictions of disasters to mitigate the losses and to expedite reconstruction and rehabilitation in the aftermath.

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