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Bill Gates Meets Prime Minister Imran Khan to Discuss Progress Against Polio, Steps to Overcome Final Challenges to Eradication

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SEATTLE (February 17, 2022) – Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today met with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and other leaders in Islamabad to discuss the country's progress in the effort to stop poliovirus transmission. Pakistan is one of two countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, where wild polio continues to circulate, although not a single child has been paralyzed by the wild polio virus in Pakistan for more than a year.

"Pakistan’s commitment to ending polio is inspiring,” said Bill Gates. “Government leaders, health workers, and parents are working tirelessly to ensure this disease never paralyzes a child again. 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.”

Discussions throughout the day focused on what’s needed to overcome the final obstacles to eradication. For example, wild poliovirus was detected in December 2021 in sewage samples in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province located in the northwestern region of the country. Other challenges include vaccine hesitancy and reaching children in insecure areas. Gates also attended a briefing at the National Emergency Operations Center for polio eradication, where he heard from program leaders about current successes and challenges.

“Polio eradication is a top priority for our government,” said Prime Minister Khan. “We are working at all levels to ensure that every child is protected with the polio vaccine and are grateful for the continued partnership and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and our other polio partners. 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.”

Last year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership led by national governments with six partners—the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance—launched a new five-year strategy that outlines new tactics to address barriers to ending all forms of polio. In Pakistan, these include strengthening relationships with communities at high risk for polio and delivering other health services and vaccines during polio campaigns to help increase uptake of the polio vaccine.

In 2022, select polio vaccination campaigns across all four provinces in Pakistan will be followed by health camps that offer communities free routine vaccinations, nutrition services, and referrals to health facilities.

While in Pakistan, Gates also met with Senator Sania Nishtar, special assistant on poverty alleviation and social safety to Prime Minister Khan, to discuss progress on Pakistan’s flagship poverty alleviation program, Ehsaas, and visited the COVID-19 National Command and Operation Center (NCOC). The NCOC has led the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on resources and lessons learned from the polio program to coordinate the country’s response, including data analysis, vaccine campaign planning, and community engagement.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.

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