Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday met co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates in New York to discuss the recent devastation caused by flooding in Pakistan, which has displaced 33 million people, as well as polio eradication and primary health services in the country, an official statement said.
The premier updated Gates on the impact the floods are having on people’s lives and livelihoods, and public health in Pakistan, and the work the government is urgently undertaking to alleviate suffering.
The statement said that Gates expressed his concern for the people of Pakistan following the floods and reiterated the foundation’s continuous support and partnership with Pakistan during this challenging time.
He affirmed that the Gates Foundation will continue its current support including the disaster relief efforts in flood-affected areas of Balochistan and Sindh.
The prime minister and Gates discussed the impact of the floods on immunisation and maternal health services and polio eradication in particular.
The prime minister acknowledged the need to prioritise maternal and newborn care in flood-affected areas and thanked Gates for the foundation’s support to Pakistan’s relief efforts thus far.
On polio eradication, the prime minister and Gates discussed that eradication efforts were facing a challenging situation because of the floods, especially after a recent rise in the number of wild polio cases.
The statement said that the premier reaffirmed the government’s resolve to pursue the campaign relentlessly. They agreed to continue their collaboration with polio partners to urgently reach vulnerable children with polio vaccines through the remainder of 2022 and prevent the disease from re-establishing itself in Pakistan’s major cities. Gates thanked the prime minister for his continued prioritisation of polio eradication.
The prime minister and Gates also spoke of how the polio programme is using its robust infrastructure to support the acute phase of the flood response, including deploying its surveillance system to monitor for malaria, dengue, and water-borne disease outbreaks as well as helping to deliver other life-saving vaccines to children.
The polio programme, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently conducting 1,200 health camps in the worst flood-affected districts across Pakistan.
They exchanged views on the need to continue their close partnership together to ensure Pakistan can continue to make progress on health and development including enhancing agricultural resilience and rebuilding sustainable infrastructure that can withstand future climate shocks.
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