World News

Gates and Gulf prince pay for Afghan and Pakistan jabs

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Bill Gates and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi pledged $100 million Wednesday to deliver vaccines to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan will each give $50 million to provide vaccinations for five common but deadly childhood diseases, as well as pneumonia, to 5 million children in Afghanistan.

A third of the funds will be used to get the polio vaccine to as many as 35 million children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It’s a milestone,” Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Corp, said in an interview. “We haven’t had a joint thing like this in the region.”

Gates said the initiative would take advantage of the United Arab Emirates’ familiarity with delivering aid to two countries hit by violence and natural disasters. One in four Afghan children dies before their fifth birthday.

“There is no reason why the challenges facing the people of Afghanistan should be compounded by the devastating impact of preventable diseases, and particularly those affecting children,” Sheikh Mohammed said in an emailed statement.

Gates’s $34 billion foundation focuses on health in developing countries, usually targeting common diseases with high mortality rates, such as malaria, as well as agriculture.

One of its goals is to help eradicate polio in the four countries where it is still endemic -- India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Children under five are the most vulnerable.

Gates said he hoped to see more pledges to tackle health and disease from the Middle East, similar in spirit to the Giving Pledge philanthropic campaign he launched last year with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, which asks billionaires to give away at least half their wealth during their lifetimes.

Reporting by Reed Stevenson; Editing by Kevin Liffey