UAE, Bill Gates Recognize 'Heroes of Polio Eradication' at Awards Ceremony in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 7, 2015 /CNW/ -- The Heroes of Polio Eradication (HOPE) Awards were presented Sunday in Abu Dhabi by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces, and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The awards highlight the incredible progress made toward polio eradication and the dedication of those who have worked tirelessly to end the disease around the world, often in difficult and dangerous situations.

On this occasion, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: "Sharing the hope that all vulnerable children around the world will get equal opportunities in living and accessing treatment against diseases and epidemics, we meet today to recognize the efforts of a number of heroes who have created a new glimpse of hope for children in the world."

His Highness reaffirmed that the humanitarian community, more than any time before, needs to unite its efforts to combat diseases and epidemics and find solutions to all the challenges that prevent the poor from having access to health care, a humanitarian mission that the whole world must shoulder.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan added that the future of the world depends on the success of our concerted efforts today. Children are the responsibility of all of us and protecting them against life-threatening diseases is a goal that the international community should work to achieve, particularly in countries that are living in conflict and crises today. This is the real challenge that we should all address, because providing healthcare for future generations ensures a bright future for the whole world.

His Highness reaffirmed that the UAE's mission to address all that threatens the health and life of humanity is based on a strong commitment and a solid belief in the importance of contributing to the development of the humanitarian community, an authentic principle that has characterized the nation since its inception. In working to achieve this goal, the UAE cooperates with all stakeholders with team spirit to eradicate all that threatens the health, security and safety of mankind.  

His Highness said that it was that approach that earned the UAE its leading position in providing foreign aid and humanitarian relief for all needy communities around the world. His highness added that, by bolstering its cooperation with international organizations and agencies, the UAE has contributed to achieving big strides in eradicating serious diseases that threatened to destroy communities and the future of coming generations. By maintaining this approach, the UAE continues to create hope and a bright future for children around the world.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its efforts to get to the hardest-to-reach regions of the world where it provided help for children, drawing a smile to their faces and creating hope for their future.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan also said: "We continue to work, with team spirit, to eradicate these diseases until the last child is cured. It is the UAE's message to the world as a whole. It is a message of hope and solid faith in ensuring a bright future for all the children in the world. The children of the world are our children; their joy brings joy to the UAE children."

The HOPE awards, created in 2015 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were presented to five individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to stopping polio in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The award winners include:

  • HOPE Humanitarian Award: Mr. Constant Dedo from Ghana received the award for more than a decade of commitment to and perseverance in stopping polio in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Mr. Dedo was shot while working on an immunization campaign and, despite this, continued his work to support polio.
  • HOPE Education Award: Mr. Atta Ullah from Pakistan received the award for his innovative approach to educating communities in Pakistan about the importance of vaccinating children against polio.
  • HOPE Advocacy Award: Bibi Malika from Afghanistan received this award for her instrumental work on polio eradication in hard-to-reach areas, and has served as a community leader, a source of medical wisdom and a female role model in her community.
  • HOPE Innovation Award: Mr. Lawan Didi Misbahu from Nigeria, a polio survivor himself, Chairman of The Association of Polio Survivors of Nigeria and President of the Para-Soccer Federation of Nigeria, received the award for the innovative program focused on engaging and rehabilitating 3000 paraplegics, who are mostly polio survivors in Nigeria. The Association of Polio Survivors has had a core role in Nigeria's polio program, mobilizing nearly 1300 polio survivors.
  • HOPE Achievement Award: Mrs. Freeda, a Lady Health Worker from Pakistan, received this award for efforts to stop polio over the last 15 years, even after a loved one was killed and she was injured in an attack during a vaccination drive.

At the event, Bill Gates thanked polio workers and volunteers from around the world for their efforts in achieving unprecedented progress toward eradicating the disease.

"The five inspiring individuals recognized by the HOPE Awards today represent the thousands of heroes around the world who have selflessly dedicated their lives to bringing an end to polio. It is because of their contributions, and the support of committed partners like the United Arab Emirates, that we are closer than ever to ensuring that no child is ever paralyzed by this disease again," said Bill Gates.

Worldwide, polio cases have been reduced by more than 99.9 percent since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – an international partnership created to stop polio – was launched in 1988. In the past year, only two countries in the entire world – Pakistan and Afghanistan – have reported cases of wild polio and there have been less than 60 cases globally to date in 2015.

The partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UAE responds to the strong leadership and commitment demonstrated by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to sustainable development around the world. In 2011, the Gates Foundation and His Highness announced co-funding in the amount of $100 million to provide life-saving vaccinations to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including for polio eradication.

Building on this joint effort, in 2013 Bill Gates and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed co-hosted the first-ever Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi where $4 billion was pledged for polio eradication, including $120 million by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. The HOPE Awards underpin this continuing and mutual commitment in support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in the final push to eradicate polio.

In addition to its close collaboration with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the foundation partners closely with institutions in the UAE such as the Ministry of International Cooperation & Development, Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation, Dubai Cares and others, on global health and development issues.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151207/293927

SOURCE Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

For further information: Mary Robbins, Global Health Strategies, mrobbins@ghstrat.com, +1 646-350-1516; or Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, media@gatesfoundation.org

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