Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, in a telephonic conversation on Wednesday, felicitated Prime Minister Imran Khan on assuming the top office and acknowledged his efforts to eradicate polio from the country.
In the phone call that lasted for 30 minutes, Gates — also the co-chairman of the Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation — assured the prime minister of his continued assistance in various sectors, Radio Pakistan reported.
The duo also exchanged ideas to boost the IT industry in Pakistan, according to Babar Bin Atta — the focal person to PM Khan on polio eradication — who was with the PM at the time of his conversation with Gates.
The prime minister, in reciprocation, thanked Gates for his work in the social sector.
This is not the first time that Gates has acknowledged Khan's anti-polio efforts. In a letter drafted in March 2015, he had commended the PTI chairperson's commitment to the eradication of the polio virus in Pakistan.
Later that month, Gates had called Khan to further appreciate his efforts in trying to eliminate polio virus from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
At the start of this year, days after the Trump administration announced it was suspending security assistance to the country, the philanthropist had committed that his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will increase financial aid for Pakistan.
In a letter to Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar, Gates had praised the then government’s commitment to the eradication of polio.
The Microsoft founder had also acknowledged the receipt of certain concept notes regarding innovations in the health sector, especially with regards to “strengthening mother and child care and reproductive health”.
Pakistan faces an uphill task in its battle to eradicate poliomyelitis despite a reduction in the instance of the disease this year, compared to last year.
According to Babar Bin Atta, focal person on polio to the prime minister, the number of cases is declining. “In 2014, we had 306 cases which came down to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017, but we are concerned about the circulation of the virus in Peshawar, which is the main obstacle in our way if we want to align ourselves with the World Health Organisation’s eradication initiative."
Countrywide, 236 million children have so far been vaccinated this year and several measures have been taken to strengthen routine immunisation, provide safe water and improve sanitary conditions.