Pope, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Make Joint Commitment to Improving Health of the Poor

Pope Francis is welcomed to the United Arab Emirates by Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the presidential palace, Feb. 4, 2019. Credit: Vatican Media.

In a joint statement signed Monday, Pope Francis and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, committed to helping improve the health of those who live in impoverished communities.

The statement was signed in Abu Dhabi on their behalf Nov. 18 by Archbishop Francisco Padilla, apostolic nuncio to the United Arab Emirates, and Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, the crown prince's undersecretary.

“We reaffirm our mutual cooperation towards the improvement of the health and wellbeing of communities in need,” they said. “This cooperation stems from a belief that every person, no matter their background, has the right to live a dignified and healthy life.”

The statement was made on the occasion of the Reaching the Last Mile forum held in Abu Dhabi, an initiative of Al Nahyan's that works to eradicate preventable diseases like polio, malaria, and guinea worm disease from poor communities.

Such preventable diseases often spread as a result of “the poverty and social vulnerability of the most marginalized members of society,” the statement noted.


The pope and the crown prince called for renewed efforts on the parts of states to improve the health and medical resources available to all of their citizens, including the most marginalized. They also called on the international community to commit to improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations throughout the world.

“One such area of focus is the fight to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which affect more than 1.5 billion of the world’s population,” they said.

According to the World Health Organization, NTDs are “a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.”

“Faced with diseases that today can be monitored, prevented and eliminated, there is a need for greater efforts on the parts of all to coordinate available resources in order to achieve adequate solutions,” Pope Francis and Al Nahyan said.

“This will also demand an interdisciplinary, socio-medical and environmental approach. Guaranteeing the right to treatment for all people is paramount. We therefore fully support the Reaching the Last Mile Fund and its work in treating and monitoring of NTDs, and in the future will continue to collaborate on other global health initiatives,” they said.

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“Finally, we trust in the solidarity of all people who understand the sufferings of those in situations of great need in neglected and disadvantaged parts of the world, so that this needless scourge afflicting humanity may be eradicated once and for all.”

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Pope Francis visited the city in February, to promote interreligious dialogue and give support to the UAE's Christian minority. He was invited by Al Nahyan, and while there he signed a peace declaration on human fraternity with Ahmed el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, which stated that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”