Gates and al-Kuwari signing the agreement yesterday at Qatar Charity headquarters.

By Ayman Adly/Staff Reporter

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation signed yesterday a co-operation agreement with Qatar Charity (QC) targeting the eradication of polio in Pakistan in an effort to attain a polio-free world.

Bill Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, expressed his happiness at the  partnership. He pointed out that the focus is on those most in need to eradicate this easily preventable disease, so resources would be collected and directed to such places employing the best possible ways to raise awareness and reach the targeted category of people.

Gates said that starting now to stop the spread of polio in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria would save tens of billions of dollars to be redirected for research to eradicate other dangerous diseases such as malaria in different parts of the world. He also stressed the importance of related education and awareness efforts.

According to the agreement QC will start a fund-raising campaign to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) new, comprehensive six-year plan to achieve polio eradication by 2018.  In particular, the funds raised by QC would be directed to polio vaccination campaigns to protect children in targeted areas and to help raise awareness of the importance of permanently ending polio in Pakistan. In turn, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would contribute a similar amount of the funds raised by QC for the same cause.

The agreement was signed by Gates, and QC CEO Yousef bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, ahead of the Global Vaccine Summit, being held in Abu Dhabi during World Immunisation Week (April 24-30). The Summit has been organised to continue the momentum of the Decade of Vaccines, a vision and commitment to reach all people with the vaccines they need. Critical to this vision is polio eradication, along with the development of affordable new vaccines and the ability for every country in the world to deliver vaccines to every child.

“We have been conducting humanitarian work in Pakistan for many years and we have maintained good relations there and great experiences of the region. Besides Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributions, we have been working in co-operation with the Pakistani Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unesco and other international organisations,” said the CEO of QC.

He hoped that QC would manage to collect around $6mn for the campaign, which would focus on vaccination besides related education and awareness campaign. He pointed out that QC was approached by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because of its strong active presence in Pakistan for a long time.

In the meantime, QC signed a three-year contract with Sheikh Soaud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee, to act as an ambassador for QC to promote its humanitarian projects and efforts.

Sheikh Soaud expressed his happiness about assuming the position. He said that QC has distinguished itself in development efforts besides the charity work, which makes its efforts sustainable.    

“Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that can lead to paralysis or death.  Due to tremendous advances in 2012, today there are the fewest number of polio cases in the fewest countries ever, creating a unique opportunity to end the disease forever. Today polio remains endemic in only three countries:  Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, down from 125 countries in 1988. In response to this opportunity, the GPEI developed a long-term strategy to achieve global eradication by 2018,” a QC statement explained.  

It added that the joint co-operation hopes to support other future causes.

The six-year GPEI plan simultaneously addresses the need to interrupt transmission of the wild poliovirus by the end of 2014, strengthen routine immunisation, and lay the groundwork for securing a lasting polio-free world.

It is estimated that GPEI could deliver net benefits of $40-50bn by 2035.





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