Bill Gates visits Pakistan to discuss polio eradication with PM Khan

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Islamabad (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates visited Pakistan on Thursday, meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss polio eradication in one of the last two countries of the world where the virus is endemic.

“This is the final, and hardest, phase of the eradication effort, but by keeping up the momentum and staying vigilant, Pakistan has an opportunity to make history by ending polio for good,” Gates said in a statement. “Pakistan’s commitment to ending polio is inspiring.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of which Gates is co-chair, is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a major project between governments and international organisations.

Pakistan, along with neighbouring Afghanistan, is one of two countries in the world where polio continues to circulate.

Health and humanitarian officials say Pakistan’s attempts to eradicate the disease are at a hopeful but sensitive stage. No children have been paralysed by wild polio in Pakistan in more than a year, according to the Gates Foundation, but the virus was detected in December in sewerage samples in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

During Gates’s first official visit to Pakistan he also met with the country’s COVID-19 National Command and Operation Centre, which leads the country’s response to the pandemic.

Pakistan President Arif Alvi conferred the award of Hilal-e-Pakistan, the country’s second-highest civilian award, to Gates at an investiture ceremony.