Gates: We can end polio

Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said on Friday that other countries should follow the lead of the United Kingdom by contributing to the attempt to eradicate polio.

Gates said that vaccines are bringing the world very close to eradicating polio. There were 350,000 children paralyzed by the disease annually in 1988. In 2012, there were fewer than 250 cases of polio worldwide, the Independent reports.

Daunting challenges remain in the quest against polio, including the polio endemic countries of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Challenges in the three countries include militants in some areas that won't allow vaccinators access to children and parents refusing to let children be vaccinated due to decades-old rumors.

Gates praised the United Kingdom for its help in making progress in the polio eradication effort.

"Through its judicious use of foreign aid, the United Kingdom has helped drive this recent history of progress," Gates said, according to the Independent. "Getting rid of the final cases of polio is the hardest part. It is exactly the kind of courage the U.K. is showing in its ongoing commitment to tackling global poverty that allows us to plan for eradication."

Gates said that using a detailed eradication plan by the global health community will allow the world to be able to eradicate polio by 2018 if leaders can provide the needed funds and political commitment. He said that success in this global campaign will generate lessons to benefit world healthcare.

"We are on the verge of doing something we've never been able to do before - reach the vast majority of children in the most remote and dangerous places in the world," Gates said, according to the Independent. "We are building systems, developing technology, and training workers. Ending polio is already helping us reach mothers and children with life-saving vaccines and other health services."

Gates said that thanks to generous donors like the U.K., the world may be able to add the end of polio to the list of humanity's great practical and moral achievements.

In April, Gates will join U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in co-hosting the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, the Independent reports.