Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates discussed the resumption of Pakistan's polio drive with Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the support needed to ensure proper reach and coverage of the campaign against the crippling disease amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19. Pakistan's military on Saturday said the Microsoft co-founder and the Army chief discussed the safe start and efforts needed to effectively conduct a polio campaign under the COVID-19 environment.
He conveyed "appreciation" for the Pakistan Army for supporting national polio drive, ensuring proper reach and coverage, the Army said in a statement. Pakistan is one of only two countries, along with Afghanistan, where polio remains endemic. Islamist militants have repeatedly targeted vaccination programmes. The militants oppose vaccination, saying it is a Western conspiracy to sterilise Pakistani children.
The health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the disease. Gates reiterated the Gates Foundation's ongoing commitment to fight pandemics around the world, and to support Pakistan in its goals of ending polio and improving health for every child, according to the statement.