Bill Gates visits Pakistan, says nearing end-game against polio

Islamabad, Feb 17 (EFE).- Co-founder of Microsoft and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said during his first-ever visit to Pakistan that the world was getting close to ending polio and praised the South Asian country’s commitment tackling the disease.

Gates landed in Islamabad on Thursday for a day-long visit where he met Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi and other government officials.

“We are nearing the end-game against polio,” Gates said during meeting with Khan.

Government leaders, health workers and parents were working tirelessly to ensure this disease never paralyzes a child again in the South Asian nation, a statement issued by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said.

“This is the final, and hardest, phase of the eradication effort, but by keeping up the momentum and staying vigilant, Pakistan has an opportunity to make history by ending polio for good,” Gates said, according to the statement.

“Polio eradication is a top priority for our government,” said Khan during meeting, adding: “we are working at all levels to ensure that every child is protected with the polio vaccine.

“We have a clear plan to stop this virus, and I am committed to seeing it implemented in full so that Pakistan can help secure a polio-free world.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic.

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, not a single child has been paralyzed by the wild polio virus in Pakistan in more than a year.

It added the wild poliovirus was detected in December 2021 in sewage samples in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Last year Pakistan reported only one polio case in its remote southwestern Baluchistan province.

Gates also attended a briefing at the National Emergency Operations Center for polio eradication, where he was briefed on recent successes and current challenges.

The statement said Gates discussed ways to overcome the obstacles to eradicating polio including vaccine hesitancy and reaching children in insecure areas.

President Alvi conferred country’s second-highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Pakistan, to Gates in recognition of his work to alleviate poverty and eradicating diseases like polio and others.

During the trip, Gates also visited the National Command Operations Center (NCOC), the body overseeing country’s coronavirus efforts.

He was briefed on steps taken by Pakistan to stop the spread of the virus and the vaccination drive.

The NCOC said in a statement that Gates recognized Pakistan’s success against COVID-19 despite its limited resources.


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