Dubai: Partnerships with the UAE to eradicate polio are an excellent example of innovative collaborations that played a significant role in reducing polio cases globally, panellists said at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD).

Hassan Al Damluji, Head of Middle East Relations at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, joined development experts in a panel discussion to discuss how the foundation’s partnerships with established development organisations in the Middle East have enabled the foundation to share its innovation and expertise to improve the lives of millions.

The Washington-based foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.

During the panel, titled ‘Partnerships for Innovation; Incentives to Make a Difference’, Al Damluji said: “Our collaboration with the UAE to eradicate polio is an excellent example of an innovative partnership. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces] generously donated more than $120 million (Dh440.75 million) to polio eradication, but his contribution to the cause went beyond this,” he said.

“The UAE hosted a Global Vaccine Summit in 2013 that raised $4 billion, and used its strong cultural links to carry out anti-polio campaigns in hard-to-access regions in Pakistan. This partnership played a significant role in reducing global polio cases from thousands per year to just 74 cases last year.”

He said another “great example” is the Lives and Livelihoods Fund. “It’s a $2.5 billion fund launched in partnership between our foundation and the Islamic Development Bank, which will loan money for projects in health, agriculture and basic infrastructure in Muslim-majority countries.”

Al Damluji said this innovative fund provides concessional loans that are more affordable than conventional loans but require greater ownership and responsibility from project recipients than grants do. “We look forward to the first projects taking off later this year.”

Dr Valerie Nkamgang Bemo, from the foundation’s Emergency Response Team said partnerships are vital in enabling aid to have a bigger impact in emergency response situations.

“With the refugee crisis becoming a global endemic, governments and aid organisations across the world need to engage with each other to find lasting and sustainable solutions. Whether in an emergency response role or agricultural improvement, security is the biggest challenge to development, and it is up to all of us to work together to nurture peace in the region.”

Now in its 13th year, DIHAD is one of the largest events focused on humanitarian aid and development in the Middle East. The three-day event attracts regional and international humanitarian decision makers and innovators and is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.