$2.6 Billion Pledged to Eradicate Polio at Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) Forum on Global Health in Abu DhabiNovember 20, 2019
On Tuesday, 19 November 2019, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bill Gates, and other global leaders and organizations pledged $2.6 billion to eradicate polio at the Reaching the Last Mile Forum, a biennial global health event, at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Reaching the Last Mile Forum convenes global health leaders to share insights and best practices on how to map out, eliminate, and eradicate infectious diseases.
This year’s event featured over 250 preeminent global leaders from across government, the private sector, philanthropy, and academia. Interactive sessions, discussions, workshops, and presentations celebrated successes, highlighted challenges, and identified solutions in tackling issues central to the eradication of infectious diseases. The year’s theme “Accelerating the Pace” guided conversation, putting the focus on reaching the last mile of disease elimination more quickly.
Pledges came from a diverse array of donor countries, philanthropic organizations, and companies, including:
- $160 million from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
- $1.08 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- $215.92 million from the United States
- $160 million from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- $150 million from Rotary International
- $105.05 million from Germany
- $84.17 million from the Federal Government of Nigeria
- $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bill Gates, and other global leaders attend the 2019 Reaching the Last Mile Forum
The Forum began with an opening keynote address by Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, U.A.E. Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director of Expo 2020 Dubai. Her Excellency focused on the U.A.E’s commitment to global health, stating, “Today, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is continuing to set global health as a national priority. It is part of our humanitarian assistance and international cooperation–funded by one of the highest national rates of giving in the world.”
She also elaborated on the Emirates Polio Campaign, explaining that the initiative has “delivered more than 430 million polio vaccines in some of the most remote areas of Pakistan.” The Emirates Polio Campaign was initiated in 2014 in support of the World Health Organization’s Global Polio Eradication Initative (GPEI),
Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Cabinet Member and Minister of State for International Cooperation, speaks at Reaching the Last Mile Forum
Dr. Tedros Adgabin Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) spoke next. In his address, Dr. Ghebreyesus expanded on the importance of the GPEI and its wide-reaching impact. He explained, “From supporting one of the world’s largest health workforces, to reaching every last child with vaccines, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is not only moving us closer to a polio-free world, it’s also building essential health infrastructure to address a range of other health needs.”
Speaking to the audience of global leaders, he added, “There are few greater gifts we can give future generations than to eradicate a disease. We ourselves know what that’s like. Smallpox was only officially declared eradicated in 1980 – less than 40 years ago. And yet already, it is becoming a distant memory.”
Dr. Tedros Adgabin Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), delivers a keynote address
The forum continued with a presentation on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). These diseases, including river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, are rare in wealthy countries but threaten populations who lack access to clean water and healthcare services. By causing impairments like blindness and disfigurement, NTDs perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
Institutions that have been at the forefront of combating NTDs include The Global Institute for Disease Elimation (GLIDE), an Abu Dhabi-based institution aiming to eliminate five diseases, and the Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF), a 10-year, $100 million fund launched in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development. Already, much progress has been made in reducing the number of people in need of interventions. Still, Reaching the Last Mile aims to do more to accelerate progress through new partnerships and initiatives.
One such initiative, a first-ever World NTD Day taking place January 30, 2020, aims to raise awareness of NTDs and spur action and investment. Furthermore, new funding partnerships with ELMA Philanthropies; Bader Faris Al Hilali, an Abu Dhabi-based philanthropist; and Planet, an advanced satellite service that will be used to monitor river systems in remote areas, will contribute to eradication efforts. A new REACH Campaign, spearheaded by Emirates Red Crescent, will administer fundraising campaigns to further boost efforts to combat NTDs. ADNOC and Etihad Airlines have signed on as founding partners.
Reaching the Last Mile Fund introduces new initiatives designed to eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
Following a break and networking opportunity, global leaders and philanthropists took the stage to make pledges to the GPEI.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed Bill Gates to the stage. Mr. Gates acknowledged the work of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stating, “I’ve seen his dedication, not only in his generous financial support, but also in bringing together the global health community. Today is one example of that.” Mr. Gates then pledged $1.08 billion to the eradication of polio on behalf of The Gates Foundation.
Other donors, including countries, philanthropic foundations, and businesses, made pledges as well, contributing to a grand total of $2.6 billion.
Bill Gates pledges $1.08 billion to the eradication of polio
The Forum concluded with the biennial Recognizing Excellence Around Champions of Health (REACH) Awards ceremony. The REACH Awards celebrate individuals who exhibit extraordinary leadership and commitment on the front lines of disease elimination. Selected by a jury of esteemed global health leaders from multilateral organizations, foundations, medicine, technical fields, and governments, individuals were recognized on the basis of their contributions and global impact.
A full list of the accomplished and inspiring finalists can be found here: https://www.reachingthelastmile.com/reach-awards/finalists/
Bill Gates presents the Unsung Hero Award to Rahane Lawal for her work in advancing polio eradication in Nigeria
The Reaching the Last Mile Forum embodies the spirit of collaboration and shared commitment necessary to eliminate and eradicate disease for future generations. Moreover, the event highlights the U.A.E.’s role in connecting countries, organizations, and individuals from all around the world to work toward a common good.
Moving forward, the U.A.E. will continue to work closely with global partners and multilateral initiatives to keep the elimination of preventable diseases at the top of the political agenda, raise funding levels, and overall, increase global impact.Back to News