Bill Gates praises Pakistan's commitment to ending polio as 'inspiring'

Microsoft co-founder visits Pakistan to discuss polio eradication, meets with president, prime minister.

Bill Gates praises Pakistan's commitment to ending polio as 'inspiring'

In his first visit to Pakistan on Thursday to discuss polio eradication, Bill Gates praised the South Asian country for its "inspiring" commitment to ending the crippling disease.

The Microsoft co-founder and American business magnate arrived in Islamabad at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, and also met other officials.

In his meeting with Khan, Gates said they are about to eradicate the poliovirus from the world and Pakistan has an opportunity to make history by ending the disease, according to a statement from the premier's office.

Gates praised the government's efforts for polio eradication, saying health workers and parents are working tirelessly to ensure that polio never paralyzes a child again.

"Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Pakistan has performed amazingly and has continued with polio vaccinations," the statement quoted Gates as saying.

Khan thanked him and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their continued support to Pakistan to eradicate polio.

"Afghanistan, being the primary source of polio incidence in our two bordering provinces, requires urgent international support to avert humanitarian crisis including health emergency," Khan said.

Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, is among the two last countries in the world, where the poliovirus still exists, and the country remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organization.

However, it has not reported even a single polio case in 2021.

According to Pakistani officials, around 100 people associated with the vaccination drive have been killed in terrorist attacks across the country since 2012.

Gates also participated in a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication, a body responsible for the eradication of polio from Pakistan, where he was briefed about the current situation.

He later visited the National Command and Operation Center, Pakistan's anti-virus task force, where Planning Minister Asad Umar briefed him regarding the COVID-19 situation in Pakistan.

He praised Pakistan's success against COVID-19 despite resource constraints and introducing excellent initiatives and measures for public health safety, it is stated in another statement issued by the anti-virus task force.

Gates also met with Pakistani President Arif Alvi, where he was conferred the country's highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Pakistan, in a special ceremony attended by Cabinet ministers and other high officials.