The UAE’s commitment to humanitarian drives around the world reaffirmed its impact on the occasion of World Polio Day yesterday as its sterling contributions to polio eradication were revealed to have led to an overall 97 per cent drop in wild polio virus cases in Pakistan since 2014. This is a path-defining achievement, a benchmark in how a country can catalyse positive health-care outcomes through strong policies, and their implementation backed by a humane vision.
When the global polio eradication effort was launched in 1988, 350,000 children were paralysed by polio every year across 125 countries. Though the scourge has diminished by 99 per cent across the globe, three countries still remain vulnerable to it: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, with the success story of Pakistan’s eradication efforts inextricably linked to the UAE’s unstinting support and implementation.
In 2017 alone, more than 12.8 million children in Pakistan’s high-risk areas benefited from the UAE’s assistance through the administration of around 96 million polio drops. Between January and September 2018, with the UAE’s help, more than 92 million polio drops were given to 13.5 million children in Pakistan, according to WHO Pakistan. Since 2011, the UAE’s contribution to eliminating polio in Pakistan totals $167.8 million (Dh616.32 million).
These are not only impressive and highly reassuring numbers, they are also a testimony to how the UAE, having taken a pledge to contribute to polio eradication in 2013 at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, has systematically applied its intent to achieve results. With its help, what was once considered by experts as a “public health emergency of international concern” in Pakistan is now nearly on the brink of cessation.
The issue of tackling polio in Pakistan comes with its own set of challenges due to a host of factors, including accessibility to remote terrain, the need to overcome conservative beliefs on health-care options and tracking the shifting segments of population due to cross-border migration between Pakistan and Afghanistan that make vaccine administration a fraught issue.
Against this backdrop, the rate of effectiveness achieved by Pakistan is an endorsement of the UAE’s support, whose role is not limited to being a donor, but also extends to include its capacity to convene key groups and provide logistical support so vaccines can reach the risk-prone areas. Every child immunised is a national resource strengthened and herein lies the power of the polio eradication drive — it protects a country’s biggest national asset, its children, from falling prey to this debilitating disease.
According to experts, the current polio eradication status is the closest the world has ever been to its goal of a total polio wipeout and the UAE needs to be justifiably proud of its contributions.