His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan , Chairman of the Office of Development and Martyrs Families Affairs at the Presidential Court, has met digitally with frontline health workers of the Emirates Polio Campaign (EPC), working in Pakistan, to thank them for their skill and tireless efforts in helping to eradicate polio.

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

His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan 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.

“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 immunised against polio virus. 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 programmes and investments driven by his private philanthropy.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has given more than AED1.3bn ($376m) to global efforts to end polio since 2011, with funding disbursed through Reaching the Last Mile. This includes more than AED850m ($232m) disbursed to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, organisations 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, EPC vaccinated more than 16.2 million children in Pakistan.

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 hard-to-reach areas, to vaccinate children. EPC is supported by more than 103,000 frontline health workers, over half of whom are women, who 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 bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 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 immunised.

EPC vaccination campaigns have included outreach to 85 high-risk locations, with polio workers and security personnel working to immunise 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.

Abdullah Khalifa Al-Ghafli, Director of Pakistan Assistance Program, said: “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.

“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 realise the promise of a polio-free Pakistan, we stand united in our commitment to achieving it.”

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