June 23, 2024

A decade-long NTD eradication partnership formed between His Highness the Crown Prince and Bill Gates

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From L to R: - Bill Gates-Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Bill Gates, Co-Chairperson of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have recently met in Abu Dhabi for reviewing the triumph of their globalized health partnership. They have also tended to plan for future efforts, ten years past their initial charitable collaboration to tackle diseases in the emerging world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Reaching the Last Mile collaborate on long-term, sustained investment to remove the persistent diseases in the emerging world. The partnership, which commenced in 2011 with a joint commitment to eliminate polio via aiding of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), has since extended to comprise other global health concerns.

Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) is a portfolio of global health programs operational towards disease elimination that is powered by the personal commitment of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

The recent meeting has coincided with an imperative latest milestone in disease eradication as the Government of Niger announced it had accomplished the compulsory evaluations to certify the elimination of river blindness in the nation.

The announcement also proved and reflected the toil of the RLMF and countless global partners which had reinforced the nation in its efforts to abolish the parasitic and debilitating disease.

Statement from The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed

He stated: “Our partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues to deliver tangible results on the ground.  Together, we share the belief that every person deserves the right to live a healthy, fulfilled life.  Our work to eradicate diseases is helping to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest, most marginalized communities.”

He also further continued: “The recent announcement is not only an incredible achievement for Niger, but it also provides a blueprint for eliminating other neglected tropical diseases and thereby helping improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the World. We congratulate Niger for its leadership and commend the bravery and dedication of its frontline health workers that have worked tirelessly to support their communities.”

Statement from Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

He had commented: “Niger’s leadership in the fight against a disease that once seemed impossible to defeat has been exemplary. I have deep gratitude to all who contributed to this achievement, including the Nigeriens whose efforts made it an attainable dream.”

He also stated: “In particular, I want to thank His Highness for his vision in initiating the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, which has brought new technologies and approaches to the NTD sector and supported Niger in reaching the finish line.”

As per both the firm’s participation announcement, over the course of its 10-year partnership, the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have worked in partnership on several global health priorities, helping to contribute to several meaningful milestones:

In support of polio eradication, the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation financially support the GPEI and have co-hosted critical events gathering the global health community to drive progress and increase funding.

The UAE also utilizes its unique access on the ground in Pakistan with the Emirates Polio Program, reaching hard-to-access communities with the polio vaccine and community health support.

Thanks to these efforts and the work of other partners, progress against polio is encouraging – Africa was declared free of wild poliovirus in 2020 and it is now only endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with only one case reported in Pakistan this year and three in Afghanistan.

Malaria remains the leading cause of death in many countries around the world with half the world’s population at risk, but progress is being made.  Through the long-term support of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria, the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation work with affected countries to develop and implement tailored anti-malaria strategies.

And their investment in the Global Fund (which the UAE began contributing to in 2019) is helping save lives on the ground by funding anti-malarial drugs and bed nets. Thanks to the efforts of global partners, roughly 1.1 million lives are estimated to have been saved through preventative measures in the past decade.

At a time when many donors have pulled back from Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have committed to keeping the effort to end NTDs on the global agenda.

Launched in 2017, Reaching the Last Mile Fund (RLMF) is a 10-year, $100 million USD global partnership launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and administered by the private END Fund, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. RLMF aims to eliminate two life-changing diseases, river blindness, and lymphatic filariasis, from the Sahel region as a proof of concept for wider elimination efforts.

The two entities also serve as global advocates for ending NTDs through their support of World NTD Day. Now an official part of the UN calendar, the day provides an important platform for global awareness, coordinated action, and sustained financial commitments on tackling persistent, but often overlooked NTDs.

Polio, malaria, and NTD programs more broadly impact communities by building and strengthening health systems. These programs have played critical roles in health emergencies, including Ebola and COVID-19, while also helping to create jobs and increase education and skill-building through the support of on-the-ground health workers.

The partnership drives innovation and collaboration in global health and beyond, through initiatives like The Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE). Based in Abu Dhabi and co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, GLIDE is the first institute of its kind in the region, focused on actively contributing knowledge and expertise to disease elimination efforts worldwide.

Similarly, the Lives and Livelihood Fund (LLF) is the biggest multilateral development initiative based in the Middle East with over $1bn in projects across Africa and Asia. Founded by the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, alongside the Islamic Development Bank, KSA, and Qatar, LLF’s diverse achievements have included reducing malaria deaths in Senegal and improving rice production across West Africa.

The UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also play an important role as conveners through platforms like the Reaching the Last Mile Forum, which gathers the world’s global health leaders in Abu Dhabi to prioritize disease elimination.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, continued: “Today’s announcement is not only an incredible achievement for Niger, but it also provides a blueprint for eliminating other neglected tropical diseases and thereby helping improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the World. We congratulate Niger for its leadership and commend the bravery and dedication of its frontline health workers that have worked tirelessly to support their communities.”

Upcoming milestones for the partnership include the next World NTD Day on January 30, 2022, and the next iteration of the Reaching the Last Mile Forum, which is due to be held in Abu Dhabi later next year.

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