Today I’m pleased to share news of an important collaboration with United Arab Emirates’ deputy supreme commander, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. We’re joining together to immunize a generation of children through the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines that will save Afghan and Pakistani children and prevent disease for a lifetime.
Despite more than 12 thousand kilometers and a 12-hour time difference between us, Sheikh Mohammed and I share similar views when it comes to protecting children from preventable, deadly diseases. We both realize the incredible impact that cost-effective solutions like childhood vaccines can make; the importance of focusing efforts on the most vulnerable children in conflict regions; and, the potential to help a generation of children, their families and communities build a more stable future.
That’s why HH Sheikh Mohammed and the foundation, together, are committing a total of $100 million to global health partners – the GAVI Alliance, the World Health Organization and UNICEF – to purchase life-saving pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccines and the oral polio vaccine.
Political unrest and recent natural disasters in these countries have left children under five highly vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. Infant and under-five mortality rates in Afghanistan are among the world’s highest, and pneumonia, the leading killer of children under five, accounts for 26 percent of deaths.
Although worldwide polio has been reduced by 99 percent during the past 20 years, Afghanistan and Pakistan are two of only four countries where polio is endemic. This crippling, but preventable, disease continues to affect young children in these countries. With the two countries repeatedly re-infecting one another, it’s crucial that we wipe polio out once and for all.
I’m encouraged by the support of world leaders like HH Sheikh Mohammed. And, I’m hopeful that together we’ll make tremendous strides to improve child health in the Middle East by providing Afghan and Pakistani children the best way to a healthy start to life.