Foundation capital

The Gates Foundation wants to help fight poliomyelitis

the herald

Mukudzei Chingwere in LOME, Togo

US health and development philanthropists, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, want to partner with Zimbabwe in its fight against an emerging polio epidemic that has also afflicted some countries in the Middle East and SADC region.

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is in the Togolese capital to attend the 72nd session of the World Health Organization’s regional committee for Africa, met with leaders of major donors to global health financing in margin of the WHO programme. The interest from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation comes at a time when President Mnangagwa is leading the campaign for engagement and re-engagement to mend relations with once hostile nations and cement relations with countries that have long supported Harare.

Speaking after his meeting with the Chairman of the Polio Oversight Board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Chris Elias, Vice Chairman Chiwenga welcomed the offer of partnership.

“I had a meeting with members of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who are also attending the meeting here in Lome,” the vice president said.

“They were offering assistance for the polio and measles programs and we made it very clear to them that we on the polio side would prefer that we receive the OPV (oral polio vaccine) rather than the novel. As you know very well that we have said that we are open to all, and that His Excellency the President has said very clearly that we are open to all, we have no enemy. It was quite interesting that they came to propose this on their own”.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a non-profit organization created by billionaire businessman Bill Gates to promote vaccination against deadly diseases, both in research and distribution.

He has been at the forefront of tackling global public health challenges and is believed to have spent over US$2 billion on the global response to Covid-19.

Earlier, Vice President Chiwenga told reporters that the world should strive to ensure he avoids the devastating experience that happened to him as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said it was good that global health authorities were physically coming together again after a two-year Covid-19-induced hiatus and that they were coming together, leaders should make sure they came up with strategies that will put the world able to deal with health emergencies.

This challenge, said Vice President Chiwenga, begins with how the world will deal with the emerging threat of poliomyelitis as well as the persistent challenge of non-communicable diseases.

“What happened with Covid-19 was a nasty surprise that we wouldn’t want a repeat of,” Vice President Chiwenga said.

“When Covid-19 arrived people least expected it and no one was prepared for it and so it took everyone by surprise and that is what we are now trying to avoid and try to prevent. to strategize and see how we, together as Africa, can fight these diseases when they arise.

“We have so many diseases, for example people have forgotten that we still have HIV because we only think about Covid-19 anymore, we don’t think about other diseases anymore. Now we have monkeypox coming “.

Meanwhile, Member States attending the meeting endorsed a strategy to strengthen access to diagnosis, treatment and care for serious non-communicable diseases.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said Africa is grappling with an increasing burden of chronic diseases whose severe forms are costing precious lives that could be saved through to early diagnosis and treatment.

She said the adopted strategy “is key to bringing effective care within reach of patients and marks a major step in improving the health and well-being of millions of people in the region”.

Dr Moeti said this was all the more evident as the Covid-19 pandemic had laid bare the fragility of the continent’s health infrastructure, hence the need to urgently strengthen all health systems.