File photo of a child being given the vaccine under UAE's polio eradication campaign in Pakistan. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Top health officials in the UAE have highlighted the country’s role in helping control and eradicate polio locally and globally as the world prepares to mark World Polio Day (October 24) on Sunday.

Abdul Rahman bin Mohamed Al Owais

Abdul Rahman bin Mohamed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, said that the UAE represents an exemplary role model in polio control and eradication, stressing that the UAE’s leadership has attached the utmost importance to the national programme for polio eradication.

Al Owais made the statement for World Polio Day, observed annually on October 24, underlining that the ministry works relentlessly to maintain this achievement by establishing a strong and effective system that enhances community health.

Support of leadership

The health minister pointed out that His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has played a prominent role since 2011 in supporting international efforts to eradicate polio.

He also highlighted the role of ‘WHO EMRO Regional Subcommittee on Polio Eradication and Outbreaks’ together with the support to Sheikh Mohamed to eradicate polio and the funding he provides in this respect. Al Owais said the move reflects Sheikh Mohamed’s humanitarian commitment to lend a helping hand to millions of people in order for them to enjoy a healthy and decent life.

No cases in UAE

Dr Mohammed Salim Al Olama

Dr Mohammed Salim Al Olama, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health and Prevention and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Health Services, said that since 1992, no polio cases have originated in the UAE, thanks to the strong polio surveillance system and universal vaccination coverage.

He said such an achievement wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the support and directives of the UAE’s leadership in the field of disease control and the provision of the health care services in accordance with the international standard.

“The UAE has successfully established an exemplary role model in eradicating and controlling polio and achieved outstanding results in dealing with this disease,” he said.

Al Olama added that the preventive measures and the handling of suspected polio cases are implemented in a scientifically accurate manner.

Role of immunisation

He stressed that the ministry is committed to raising the strategic indicator of the rate of children’s coverage of immunisations in the first year, as well as the continuous development of medical and technical staff in order to keep pace with the latest updates in the field of immunisation and prevention.

Strategic partners

Dr Yousef Mohammed Al Serkal

Dr Yousef Mohammed Al Serkal, Director-General of the Emirates Health Services (EHS), stated that World Polio Day constitutes an important occasion to highlight the pioneering efforts made by the UAE to combat this disease at the local and regional levels.

Since 1994, the UAE has been providing support and assistance to countries to eradicate the disease in coordination and partnership with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the Emirates Red Crescent, he added.

Al Serkal noted that the UAE has been declared a polio-free country in 2007, something that wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the support of the UAE’s leadership and the provision of the necessary capabilities and resources.

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He highlighted the EHS's keenness to enhance its efforts to maintain the leading position of the UAE in the fight against polio, stressing that the EHS remains committed to implementing the WHO recommendations and working to raise the strategic indicator of children's vaccination coverage rate.