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Gates Foundation and Agence Française de Développement partner to support last mile polio eradication in Pakistan and to build more climate resilient health systems
PARIS (5 December 2023) - Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Remy Rioux, CEO of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) announced today new commitments that implement the Paris Pact principles combining official development assistance and private investment and support the objective of global polio eradication by 2026.

The funding - a €55 million concessional loan, with a €20 million principal buy-down from the Gates Foundation will support Pakistan’s national health institutions and the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative to recover following impacts from the devastating floods in August 2022.

Supporting healthcare system resilience to climate change  

The floods in 2022 were Pakistan’s worst natural disaster in decades highlighting multiple climatic vulnerabilities faced by the country. The human toll was tragically high with one third of the country submerged underwater, approximately 15,000 killed or injured and 8 million displaced. Damage to infrastructure was also catastrophic: over 2 million homes, 13,000 kilometers of highways, 439 bridges and 888 health centers were damaged or destroyed leaving the populations affected by the floods without access to healthcare. Flooding also triggers an upsurge in water-borne diseases (severe diarrhea and cholera) and diseases carried by insects (dengue fever and malaria).

The new project is a contribution to the Pakistani efforts to chart progress towards a climate resilient health system capable of anticipating, recovering from, and adapting to climate-related shocks and stresses, so as to bring about sustained improvements in population health, despite an unstable climate. By supporting the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme (PEI), through the World Health Organization (WHO), in immunization activities, disease surveillance, polio campaign monitoring and other technical areas, the AFD investment will enhance systems able to target climate-sensitive diseases and their risk sources.  Importantly, this funding will also provide further support for female polio health care workers, whose efforts and experiences are central to Pakistan’s success against polio and other diseases.

Pakistan Polio Eradication Program
 

Pakistan has reported five cases of paralysis from polio so far this year. The virus has also been detected in sewage water in 20 districts in the four major provinces, reaffirming that polio continues to pose a threat to children living in poor sanitary conditions with low immunity and poor nutrition.   

  • Dr. Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, Secretary of State in charge of Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships for the French Government, said: “I would like to thank the Agence Française de Développement and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their commitment to Pakistan. This €55 million investment helps to address a dual challenge that is central to the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs' global health strategy and its international partnerships policy: strengthening our partners' health systems while taking into account the impact of climate change on public health. This programme is an excellent illustration of this.”
  • Dr. Nadeem Jan, Federal Minister of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination in Pakistan emphasized the significance of this funding and polio infrastructure in Pakistan: “We welcome the support of the French Government and the Gates Foundation as we near the finish line on polio eradication. The Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme is a vital part of our healthcare system and investing in polio builds the country’s overall health system.”
  • “Pakistan has made incredible progress toward eradication, and by addressing barriers to eradication—including gender-related barriers—will continue to do so” said Dr. Ahmad Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director. “Commitments like this will help keep the country on track to interrupt transmission of wild poliovirus for good and help deliver a more resilient, polio-free world.”

 Since 1994, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme has been fighting to end the crippling poliovirus from the country. The national initiative is driven by trained and dedicated polio workers, the largest surveillance network in the world, quality data collection and analysis, behavioral change communication, state of the art laboratories, and some of the best epidemiologists and public health experts in Pakistan and the world.  
 

  • “Thank you to the Government of France and the Government of Pakistan for their continued leadership in the fight to end polio.” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “From France’s commitment to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative last year to today’s new financing partnership between the French Development Agency and the Government of Pakistan, these additional resources are essential to ensuring no child suffers from this devastating disease again.”
  • “Six months after signing our strengthened strategic and financial partnership for gender equality and human development in Africa and South Asia, I am honored to announce our first joint investment with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We will both support Pakistan's polio eradication program and work towards a strengthened integrated national epidemiological surveillance system.  This partnership is one of the long-term responses to the August 2022 devastating floods, which severely affected national health institutions. From eradicating polio to strengthening health systems as a whole, we are committed to investing in global levers of change to promote sustainable health for all” said Rémy Rioux, CEO of the Agence Française de Développement.

For 15 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has worked with the French government to amplify the positive impact of development assistance and scientific expertise in low-income countries by supporting research and the translation of scientific discoveries into sustainable solutions, particularly as part of global alliances, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the World Health Organization. France and the Gates Foundation are also key partners in:

  1. the Ouagadougou Partnership, which works to expand access to family planning services across nine countries in French-speaking West Africa.  
  2. digital financial inclusion for women in low-income countries, to harness digital technologies and build more inclusive economies.  
  3. addressing the global food security crisis and advancing women and children’s access to better nutrition globally.

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