I’ve spent the past two days in Abu Dhabi for the Global Vaccine Summit, a gathering of leaders to highlight the importance of life-saving vaccines to the health of children. Hosted by His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the summit brought together people from across sectors and around the world.
The summit was more than a chance to meet; it was a chance to mobilize on behalf of children everywhere. And world leaders stepped up to the plate, pledging approximately $4 billion toward polio eradication. The commitments made at the Global Vaccine Summit will provide critical resources to help make the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s eradication and endgame strategy a reality.
Thanks to the shared work of the United Nations, governments, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN Foundation, and many others, the number of polio cases has dropped by more than 99 percent over the past 25 years. This is evidence of the progress that is possible when the international community joins together.
Now, we can and must build on this momentum to finish the fight against polio. This will require governments, civil society, and other donors to follow through on their commitments. It will also require continued leadership from governments and communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria – the remaining polio-endemic countries. Leaders in these countries have committed to eradicating polio, and we must continue to support their efforts.
Working together, we can create a polio-free world. This achievement will save children from a crippling disease and can help pave a path for future public health successes, including strengthening routine immunization and expanding access to other life-saving vaccines.
Every child, regardless of where she or he lives, deserves protection against dangerous but preventable diseases. Yet millions of children don’t have access to vaccines, threatening their chances to lead healthy lives.
By expanding access to vaccines, which are one of the most cost-effective investments we can make in the health of children, we can save lives, help achieve the Millennium Development Goal on reducing child mortality, and advance the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement to strengthen women’s and children’s health.
The UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign – which celebrates its first birthday this week – is mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Americans to help get vaccines to children around the world who need them. Together with the UN and partners worldwide, we are making progress, but we can’t stop until every child gets a shot at a healthy life.