Abu Dhabi: Despite tremendous international progress, one child still dies every 20 seconds from preventable diseases like pneumonia, rotavirus, measles, and meningitis, according to a United Nations study.

Hundreds of international health experts and government officials will therefore convene in the capital tomorrow (Wednesday) at the first Global Vaccine Summit to discuss pressing issues in the prevention and eradication of infectious diseases.

This edition of the summit is expected to place special emphasis on polio eradication.

“At present, 99 per cent of all countries have eradicated the disease within their borders. However, polio is still endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and northern Nigeria,” James Whittington, spokesperson for the renowned philanthropic organisation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told Gulf News ahead of the summit.

While fewer new cases of polio have been reported in the first half of 2013 compared to 2012, there is still a lot to be done towards eradication.

“Nearly $5.5 billion (Dh20.2 billion) needs to be raised to provide vaccines and protection for the people still at risk. However, if the polio virus is eliminated, the economic benefits that accrue will be much larger. In fact, it could save up to $40 billion (Dh147 billion) worldwide in funds that are now being used to provide protection and monitor the spread of the virus,” Whittington said.

A six-year comprehensive plan is expected to be launched at the summit to raise the required funds and initiate international efforts.

The summit coincides with World Immunisation Week celebrations, and will also discuss topics such as universal access to vaccines for children and innovations in vaccine delivery.

“The Global Vaccine Summit is an historic gathering of global leaders and innovators whose collaboration can have a significant and positive impact on ensuring a healthy global society,” said General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The event is being held in partnership with General Shaikh Mohammad, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates will also deliver a keynote address.