His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meets Pakistan’s frontline polio health workers to mark World Polio Day

24 October 2023

His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has met with frontline health workers of the Emirates Polio Campaign (EPC) in Pakistan to thank them for their skill and tireless efforts in helping to stamp out polio.

In a video call to mark World Polio Day, His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed heard first-hand of the achievements and challenges of polio eradicators and described health workers as the foundation for progress towards a polio-free world.

Addressing the health workers, His Highness Sheikh Theyab said: “On behalf of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and through the support of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court, I would like to share our recognition, gratitude, and appreciation for your vital and tireless contributions towards ending polio.”

He continued: “In partnership with the Government of Pakistan, and through his support for the Emirates Polio Campaign, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed is committed to ensuring future generations of children are freed from the threat of polio.

“That we are closer than ever before to achieving this goal is the direct result of your efforts and your resolve to ensure every last child, in every community, is immunized against poliovirus. With your continued support, I am confident that together, we can end polio.”

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under five years of age. The virus, which is transmitted by person-to-person contact, invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

As a global leader in eradicating polio, the UAE supports the delivery of lifesaving vaccines to protect millions of vulnerable and hard-to-reach children across Pakistan and other countries.

UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is a leading funder of polio eradication efforts through Reaching the Last Mile, a portfolio of global health programs and investments driven by his private philanthropy.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has personally given more than US$376 million to global efforts to end polio since 2011, with funding disbursed through Reaching the Last Mile. This includes $232 million disbursed to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, organizations that are part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and also to the Emirates Polio Campaign (EPC), part of the UAE’s Pakistan Assistance Program (PAP).

In 2022, $29 million was disbursed to support Pakistan and 13 countries experiencing polio outbreaks. In 2022, EPC vaccinated more than 16.2 million children in Pakistan during the 12-month period.

From its launch in 2014 to October 2023, EPC has distributed more than 700 million vaccine doses to children in Pakistan.

At the heart of EPC’s work are frontline health workers, who go house to house – often in dangerous and difficult terrains – to vaccinate children. EPC is supported by more than 103,000 frontline health workers, over half of whom are women, and they play a vital role in gaining the trust of communities, combating misinformation about vaccines, and raising awareness of the risks of polio.

During the call with His Highness Sheikh Theyab, the health workers described the progress they have made towards eradication efforts in Pakistan, and the challenges they face in polio surveillance and in ensuring children even within remote communities are immunized.

EPC vaccination campaigns have included outreach to 85 high-risk locations, with polio workers and security personnel working to immunize children within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab, and various tribal areas. Field teams have also vaccinated more than 597,000 Afghan refugee children in Pakistan, reaching families in camps, cities, and provinces.

“Under the leadership of the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emirates Polio Campaign is proud to work hand-in-hand with the Government of Pakistan to combat polio and protect children from this preventable disease,” said Abdullah Khalifa Al-Ghafli, Director of PAP.

“Pakistan today is on the brink of ending polio. This progress reflects the tremendous engagement, leadership, and commitment of our partners in Pakistan and those on the frontlines of eradication efforts. While work remains to realize the promise of a polio-free Pakistan, we stand united in our commitment to achieving it.”

In 1988, polio paralyzed an estimated 350,000 people a year. Decades of progress, reflecting the work of thousands, has driven a 99% decline in wild poliovirus cases, with just 30 reported in 2022.

Poliovirus is today endemic in just two countries. However, recent outbreaks of the virus in previously polio-free countries serve as a reminder that polio anywhere is a threat to communities everywhere. The UAE will continue to support global eradication efforts through funding commitments, strategic partnerships, and targeted advocacy.