The UAE has been playing a decisive role in the global fight against Guinea worm disease and polio eradication efforts since 1970s, according to a representative of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court.
Speaking ahead of the international forum, 'Reaching the Last Mile - Mobilising together to eliminate infectious diseases - that will be held in Abu Dhabi today, Dr Maha Barakat, who is also member of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board, said that His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has contributed, till date, $235 million to eradicate and control debilitating diseases, including polio, malaria and Guinea worm disease, among others.
Over 200 global health leaders will convene in the Capital to seek international action to eradicate infectious diseases like malaria, river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, among others.
For the international medical community, the eradication of polio and Guinea worm disease is the next major health challenge after the global eradication of smallpox.
Dr Maha Barakat added: "For the UAE, it is a continuation of the journey started by our founding father late Sheikh Zayed, who was a firm believer in humanitarian aid and helping people have access to clean and safe drinking water.
"Now, more than ever, we understand the importance of clean drinking water in preventing many diseases. The UAE had started these initiatives in the '70s. This forum is a continuation of that journey started by the late Sheikh Zayed."
"In 1980, the world was declared free of smallpox, the deadly virus that claimed many lives. Now, the international community cannot wait for the day to declare the same about polio and Guinea worm."
Dr Barakat noted:"We are in the last mile, and it is crucial to keep the momentum till the end game," "In the 1980s, there were 3.5 million Guinea worm cases, across 21 countries. By November 2017, we were able to bring it down to just 26 cases in two countries."
The forum, held in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Carter Center, will explore what needs to be done to end polio and Guinea worm disease, examining new treatment methods, technological advances and challenges. "
The forum will also see three big pledges for the cause, in addition to an award ceremony to honour the frontline fighters of this global fight against infectious and preventable diseases." Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, will deliver the keynote address and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will speak about using technology to solve health challenges.
A session led by Reem Al Hashimy, cabinet member and Minister of State for International Cooperation, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, will focus on the importance of robust and targeted partnerships to eliminate infectious diseases.