Dubai: With the eradication of river blindness from Niger and the last five cases of polio - one in Pakistan and four in Afghanistan - the world is at the cusp of eradication of these two diseases and requires total perseverance, commitment, conviction and support of the world community.
This was shared by Simon Bland, CEO of the Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE). Bland who is based in Abu Dhabi, was speaking at the UAE Pavilion of Expo 2020 Dubai, during the Health and Wellness Week, at the launch of four online web episodes by GLIDE.
Spotlight on disease elimination
The series of four ‘webisodes’ was produced as part of GLIDE’s mission to raise awareness of disease elimination and provides insights into global efforts to eliminate infectious diseases of poverty. The current series focuses on malaria, polio, lymphatic filariasis, and river blindness, highlighting work in Pakistan, Cameroon, and the island of Hispaniola.
Bland said: “We want the people of UAE to watch, share and spread our stories from these web series, so that as many people can take action. The episodes highlight the efforts of a team of dedicated global advocates and community workers working round-the clock, to eliminate preventable infectious diseases. We have launched this series amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and at a time when health is at the forefront of the world’s attention, we hope that these stories will resonate with the global community and help accelerate progress towards disease elimination.”
The exclusive screening was attended by key representatives from UAE government such as Dr Maha Barakat, Director General of the Frontline Heroes Office and Board Member of GLIDE and Tala Al Ramahi, Associate Director, Office of Strategic Affairs, Crown Prince Court. The event was moderated by UAE epidemiologist Esraa Bani.
Most NTDs preventable
Dr Barakat pointed out to the immense suffering that Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) unleashed in poor countries. “These diseases which cause immense suffering, can be controlled or eliminated with medical interventions, better sanitary provision, and education. Small pox, one of the major infectious diseases that was completed eradicated, inspires hope for the end of others too. The UAE has long been committed to ridding the world of preventable diseases, a vision which started with the UAE’s Founding Father, Shaikh Zayed, who recognised the importance of investing in global health. GLIDE, being an initiative of the Crown Prince Court and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a direct continuation of Shaikh Zayed’s vision and we hope the webisodes encourage others to step up to the mark and play their role in enabling health for all,” she added.
UAE partner in disease elimination
Taking this opportunity to focus on the massive contribution of the UAE government, Al Ramahi enumerated the deep involvement and commitment of the country in this global initiative. She said: “The UAE has shown consistent commitment in the global eradication of preventable diseases such as malaria, polio, guinea worm disease, and lymphatic filariasis, which have taken a heavy toll of human lives and condemned several countries of the world to bear the burden of the disease with high human toll, quality of life and financial expenditure as well. [Sheikh Mohammad] has spent over Dh440 million on combating these diseases. With partnering on the Last Mile Fund, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UAE continues to be a front line trendsetter in global eradication of diseases.”
Al Ramahi appealed to the people to watch the online web episodes and contribute in every way possible to fight this disease burden. “We need to break the cycle of disease and poverty.”
What’s in the first episode?
‘Polio: The Endgame’ is the first instalment in the commissioned webisode series. It focuses on how we are close to eradicating wild polio, which is endemic in only two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan. If efforts in these countries are successful, polio will be only the second human disease in history to be eradicated. The webisode follows a World Health Organization polio surveillance officer in Pakistan and the methods used to track transmission and conduct immunisation campaigns to bring the world closer to polio eradication.
The remaining webisodes highlight efforts in eliminating river blindness, malaria and lymphatic filariasis across Africa and the Americas.
Malaria, polio and neglected tropical diseases such as river blindness and lymphatic filariasis continue to impact the lives of billions of people around the world, with devastating consequences on their health as well as on communities and economies. Eliminating these preventable infectious diseases would be a great human achievement and improve the lives and livelihood of people in nearly 100 countries.