Press Release

The President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari today attended and addressed a High level event on “Our Commitment to the Next Generation: The Legacy of a Polio Free World” at the United Nations in New York.

Pakistan’s Goodwill Ambassador on Polio Eradication Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari also attended and addressed the event.

The event was organized by the Secretary General UN Ban-Ki moon with the help of Gates Foundation and other international partners working to eradicate Polio globally. It brought together all stakeholders involved in the fight against polio at the United Nations to express their joint resolve and commitment to work for a world free of Polio.

The high profile event took place on the sidelines of the 67th session of UNGA and was widely attended. The Secretary General delivered the keynote address. President of Afghanistan Mr. Hamid Karzai, President of Nigeria Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, and President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari in their statements expressed the commitment of the three countries to eradicate polio where it still exists.

President Zardari in his statement highlighted the political commitment and resolve that exist at all levels in Pakistan to fight Polio. He said that Eradicating polio is a national priority for Pakistan and is also “ a personal mission for my family.” Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was the first child that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto immunized when Polio immunization campaign was started in Pakistan by her in 1994.

Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari mentioned her personal commitment to Polio eradication. Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said that for her the meeting was “both an emotional moment and a matter of pride as I represent my people in their fight against disease and disability”. Highlighting how polio affected hope and aspirations of an individual and a family she added “Polio cripples not only an individual-it cripples households and families-it cripples dreams of those who could have done so much for their communities and society.”

Mr. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the leading donors to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) said that “The evidence is clear: if we all do our part, we can and will end this disease. But we must act quickly and give ourselves the very best chance to succeed,” he further added “When we defeat polio, it will motivate us to aim for other great health and development milestones.”

Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani, President, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) announced a new commitment to Pakistan with the help of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. IDB will provide loan worth US$227 million for 3 years to cover the cost of Polio eradication in Pakistan and the Gates Foundation will absorb extra cost related to the principal amount.

Prime Minister of Australia Ms. Julia Gillard and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Ms. Kathleen Sebelius reiterated their commitment to continue to support global polio eradication campaign. Mr. Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said making the world free of polio remains the one of his key priorities.

Among others who spoke included Mr. Koichiro Gemba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Wilfrid J. Wilkinson, Chair, Rotary Foundation Trustees, Mr. Julian Fantino, Minister for International Cooperation of Canada, Mr. Sandro Rosell, President of Barcelona Football Club, Tony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF and Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization.

The President and Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari thanked the IDB and the Gates Foundation for new financial support. They also appreciated the support that has been extended by the all relevant actors to Pakistan’s National Emergency Polio Campaign.