Islamabad November 20, 2019

Dr. Zafar Mirza, Minister of Health of Pakistan, met with Bill Gates in the Polio Pledging Moment, taking place during “Reaching the Last Mile Forum (RLM Forum) hosted by the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Bill Gates appreciated the Government of Pakistan’s transformation efforts in administrative and operational aspects of Polio Eradication Program. Dr. Zafar Mirza shared the country's resolve to bring improvements in Polio, routine Immunization, nutrition, reproductive health and family planning. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) pledged to provide US$1.08 billion and along with other development partner organizations and governments in total the meeting got impressive pledges of $2.6 billion including $160 million announced by Dr Zafar Mirza on behalf of Government of Pakistan eradicate polio from the world. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries left in the world with circulating wild polio virus which is still crippling children.
RLM Forum is a biennial event that brings together the global health leaders to share insights and best practices on how to map out, eliminate and eradicate infectious diseases. This year under the theme “Accelerating the Pace” the Forum is brought together more than 250 eminent global leaders, high level functionaries from across government, private sector, philanthropy and academia to discuss “reaching the last mile of disease elimination faster.

Dr. Zafar Mirza also met with the State Minister of Norway Aksal Jacosen, the Director, Centers for Disease Control Robert Redfield, and President of BMGF Global Development Program Dr. Chris Elias. The purpose of the meetings was to increase collaboration in funding, technical assistance, and the help of global experts toward improving health, nutrition and financial inclusion in Pakistan.

In meeting with the State Minister of Norway Aksal Jacosen, Dr. Zafar highlighted the broader agenda of Pakistan in investments in human capital and emphasized the importance of strengthening bilateral development cooperation for developing welfare state in Pakistan which is the vision is the Prime Minister Imran Khan. Norway is known for its welfare state model. In his meeting with the Director, Centers for Disease Control Robert Redfield both sides discussed broader health agenda. Dr. Zafar Mirza appreciated the efforts of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Pakistan. He said that “CDC is an active supporter in many health initiatives in Pakistan”. He also shared details of national action plan on injection safety, the HIV outbreak and the challenges faced by Pakistan. He also highlighted the government efforts and strategy to control the diseases. The Director CDC committed to provide all support to control the outbreak of polio in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Dr. Zafar Mirza in his meeting with Dr. Chris Elias of BMGF expressed fullest commitment to put measures in place to end polio once and for all.

The Minister emphasized on the unification of the program with EPI to strengthen routine immunization in the country and to ensure polio transition in the longer run. He said 2020 will be a year of transformation for the program. The President of BMGF appreciated the commitment of government of Pakistan and assured maximum support. He said that “this collaboration continues the foundation’s more than decade-long work in Pakistan. Throughout that time, polio – a disease that stands on the brink of eradication across the world – has remained the top priority.”

It is also of note that on the sidelines of POB, the HON MOH along with delegation from Pakistan had detailed discussions with Afghanistan's Team. Issues of mutual interest and concepts of one epidemiological block were discussed. Challenges both countries face in the wake of epidemiology evolution were the focus and plans for addressing them were exchanged. Both the Hon MOH agreed to have joint efforts in fighting the common cause.