In first-ever visit to Pakistan, Bill Gates hails polio eradication campaign

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks with Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad on February 17, 2022 (left) and President Arif Alvi bestows Hilal-e-Pakistan on the philanthropist February 17, 2022. — PID
  • Bill Gates holds a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Imran.
  • The Microsoft co-founder attends the NCOC morning session.
  • President Alvi awards the Hilal-e-Pakistan Prize to Gates.

ISLAMABAD: Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates on Thursday enjoyed Pakistan’s polio eradication campaign during his first trip to the country.

Gates, who is visiting Pakistan for a day, landed early in the morning and held meetings with senior government officials, including a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to a statement from the office of the President. Prime Minister.

The philanthropist attended a meeting of the National Polio Eradication Task Force, where he noted that despite COVID-19 restrictions, Pakistan has performed “astonishingly” in polio eradication .

Gates thanked the prime minister for inviting him and extending warm hospitality to him on his very first visit. He appreciated the efforts of leaders, health workers and parents who worked tirelessly to ensure that polio never paralyzed a child again.

SAPM Dr Faisal Sultan, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shah Farman, Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar, Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan, Prime Minister AJ&K Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan Niazi, Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Khalid Khurshid, Provincial Ministers of Health Azra Fazal Pechuho and Ehsan Shah, representatives of international organizations and senior officers attending the meeting, while deputy commissioners from across Pakistan joined via video link.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister thanked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its continued support and partnership with the government of Pakistan in eradicating polio.

The Prime Minister underlined that the government is fully committed and determined towards the eradication of poliomyelitis.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Afghanistan, being the major source of polio incidence in the two bordering provinces of Pakistan, needs urgent international support to avert a humanitarian crisis.

“Pakistan is giving full support to the 40 million Afghans who need basic amenities,” the prime minister told the philanthropist.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister also asked the deputy commissioners of the districts adjoining the borders of Afghanistan, especially the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to remain vigilant and proactive against poliovirus contamination.

“The task force paid tribute to the 36 frontline workers and 14 law enforcement personnel who lost their lives while vaccinating children against polio across the country,” the statement from the office of the Prime Minister.

Earlier, the task force was informed that Pakistan has completed one year without polio incidence.

However, the virus has been detected in environmental samples in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan province.

The meeting was informed that national polio vaccination campaigns were launched in December 2021 and January 2022 with the integration of routine vaccinations for children, the statement said.

“There is effective coordination between the federal and provincial governments with the support of law enforcement agencies to [the] ensure security in at-risk areas,” the statement read.

The Prime Minister’s office said provincial governments briefed the meeting on the resources allocated to the polio campaign and expressed their full commitment to making Pakistan polio-free.

Bill Gates visits NCOC headquarters

Meanwhile, the NCOC released a statement saying Gates and his delegation visited the forum’s headquarters in Islamabad and attended its morning session. On this occasion, the philanthropist met Asad Umar, head of NCOC and Federal Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, and Dr. Faisal Sultan of SAPM.

During the NCOC session, Gates and his delegation were briefed on the role and methodology of the NCOC, its achievements since the start of the pandemic, the recent COVID-19 situation across Pakistan and the various restrictions imposed by forums to control the spread of disease and ensure public safety. and well being.

A comprehensive review of Pakistan’s efforts against COVID-19 along with a briefing on genome sequencing (prevalence of various variants in the country) was presented to visiting dignitaries.

“Mr. Gates took a keen interest in various initiatives of the NCOC, especially the smart lockdown, the enforcement measures of the smart micro-lockdown strategy, Pakistan’s vaccine administration regime which enabled the forum to formulate and implement a comprehensive coronavirus response,” the statement read.

Additionally, Umar acknowledged the efforts of the philanthropist and his foundation to support COVID-19 initiatives in Pakistan, while the former appreciated Pakistan’s success in fighting the pandemic despite resource constraints.

Gates also praised Pakistan for introducing excellent initiatives and measures for public health security.

Meanwhile, sources said Gates would also visit the COVID-19 treatment facility at Chak Shahzad before leaving Pakistan the same evening.

President bestows Hilal-e-Pakistan on Gates

Later that day, President Dr. Arif Alvi conferred Hilal-e-Pakistan on Gates in recognition of his meritorious service to the people of Pakistan, especially for the eradication of poliomyelitis.

President Dr Arif Alvi presenting (right) the Hilal-e-Pakistan award to Bill Gates.  — RadioPakistan
President Dr Arif Alvi presenting (right) the Hilal-e-Pakistan award to Bill Gates. — RadioPakistan

The prize was awarded at a special investiture ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, in the presence of Begum Samina Alvi, federal ministers and senior officials.

The Foundation plays a vital role in the eradication of polio in Pakistan and supports the financial system through various interventions.

It focuses on eliminating global inequalities and increasing opportunities for people in need through programs addressing global agricultural and economic development, medical research, and public health initiatives in developing countries.

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