Greetings from Abu Dhabi! I just arrived for the Global Vaccine Summit, hosted by Bill Gates, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and – aside from the heat – I’m ecstatic to be here.
Over the next two days, we’ll be discussing the progress that’s already been made on immunizing children against polio and other deadly diseases and what still needs to be done to end preventable childhood deaths.
As we celebrate World Immunization Week, it’s important to recognize that it’s going to take everyone pitching in to eradicate diseases like polio for good: from the global health leaders who are gathering in Abu Dhabi today to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) workers on the ground in countries like Cameroon.
And that’s exactly where I’m heading right after the summit wraps up. I’ll be leading an observation trip to see the work that UNICEF and partners like the CDC and other U.S. agencies are doing in a country that – thanks to strong immunization programs – hasn’t had a case of polio since 2009. We’ll be in Cameroon to learn more about its success in improving childhood health and its continued, necessary efforts to keep polio at bay.
While countries like Cameroon have come a long way, we can’t forget that polio would continue to threaten the lives of children worldwide without comprehensive and persistent efforts to provide vaccinations. Especially considering that immunization programs have prevented an estimated 20 million deaths globally over the past two decades – and helped to drop the number of polio cases by a staggering 99 percent – we can’t afford to take down our guard.
That’s why I’m here in Abu Dhabi right now, and it’s why I’m going to Cameroon next. I can’t imagine a better opportunity to showcase the impact of vaccines on children’s health worldwide – and the UN’s role in getting us there – than by hearing from global experts about where we’re at and what’s coming next. And as a father of two boys, I can’t think of a better cause.
So stay tuned – I’m looking forward to reporting back on everything I see and learn.
Follow Peter on Twitter for updates from Abu Dhabi and Cameroon: @yoyoyeo2