Bill Gates has committed supporting Pakistan in its fight against polio by raising funds to bridge the existing resource gap. Bill Gates made the pledge during his meeting with a Pakistani delegation that met him in New Delhi under the leadership of special assistant to the Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali.
The delegation included, among others, member of the National Assembly Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, chief secretary of Balochistan Babar Yaqoob, secretary of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Co-ordination (IPC) Ain-ul-Hasnain Musavi and secretary health of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ishfaq Khan. The meeting featured a briefing given to Bill Gates, who is currently Pakistan’s major donor for the polio eradication programme by Shahnaz Wazir Ali. She apprised him of the challenges facing the country in wiping out the disease. “In Pakistan, the cause has both political and societal support. Substantial gains have been made during the current year owing to a strict regime of monitoring and oversight,” Shahnaz is reported to have told him.
Shahnaz told Gates that zero tolerance for under-performance has had a major impact on the quality of implementation. She told him that Pakistan was facing a $24 million funding gap for procurement of vaccines and arrangement of logistics to sustain the nationwide campaigns during 2012. “Pakistan is looking at different potential sources of funding including the Islamic Development Bank and China,” she reportedly said. Shahnaz also made a mention of challenges such as problems of access to children in FATA, for which a transit team strategy has been put in place, migrant populations, children on the move and out of home children.
Bill Gates is said to have appreciated Pakistan’s determination to get to the root of issues hampering progress in its fight against polio. He called for strengthening the surveillance system and uninterrupted supply of vaccines for all preventable childhood diseases. He emphasised the need to build the capacity of the provinces, especially of the Ministry of IPC, to effectively coordinate and deal with such issues. He recommended that a team of experts based in the Ministry of IPC should work with the provinces on issues related to childhood immunisation. To this end, he pledged all-out support.