Bill Gates in Nigeria to Push to End Polio Now
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation great partners of Rotary in the effort to end Polio. Please enjoy this recent story about the effort:
Bill Gates Praises Nigeria’s Recent Progress against Polio; Encourages Country to Seize Historic Opportunity
Polio cases declined 99% over the past year but country-wide effort required to kick polio out of Nigeria for good
ABUJA, Nigeria – Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today commended Nigeria for making significant gains in the fight against polio and called on the country’s leaders to finish the job. Gates is in Nigeria to learn more about the country’s dramatic improvements since his last visit in February 2009. He pointed to Nigeria’s record-low number of polio cases in 2010 and noted that support from political, traditional and religious leaders have been a key factor.
Polio cases in Nigeria have dropped 99% from 2009 to 2010, according to Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). Only three cases of the disease were reported in the country through June 1 of this year, compared with 288 reported during the same period in 2009. NPHCDA also reports a steady increase in the number of children under age five who have received the oral polio vaccine. However, there are still too many children who haven’t received the minimum number of doses to ensure they are protected against the virus.
“All Nigerians should be proud of Nigeria’s recent progress against polio,” said Gates. “Thanks to committed political, traditional, and religious leaders, dedicated health workers, and loving parents who want to protect their children, Nigeria is on a path toward eliminating polio.”
While in Abuja, Gates met with President Goodluck Jonathan, Minister of Health
Prof. C. O. Onyebuchi Chukwu, and the Nigeria Executive Governors Forum to discuss Nigeria’s continued efforts to eradicate polio and ensure the health of mothers and children in the country. Gates also signed the “Kick Polio Out of Africa” football, which is traveling through 23 polio-affected countries to raise awareness of polio eradication efforts.
In Kano State on 6 June, he met with Executive Governor Malam Ibrahim Shekarau; His Royal Highness, Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano; traditional leaders; and Local Government Area chairmen to discuss progress and remaining obstacles to polio immunization in high-risk areas. He also visited Dala LGA in Kano to observe first-hand children being immunized during the current polio campaign.
Gates urged Nigerian leaders to continue to adhere to the “Abuja Commitments,” a February 2009 pledge by Nigeria’s state governors to accelerate and strengthen polio immunization and other primary health care efforts. In particular, stronger commitment and more oversight is needed to ensure children in the 85 highest-risk Local Government Areas* are being immunized.
“We have made tremendous progress since Mr. Gates’ last visit to Nigeria, but it is not time to rest on our laurels,” said Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Executive Director of the NPHCDA, who spent time with Mr. Gates during both visits. “Until we succeed, Nigeria remains the only country in Africa where polio is still endemic.”
Noting that an important global polio meeting will take place in Geneva on 18 June 2010, Gates also stressed the need for continued financial support of polio efforts. The Gates Foundation has invested more than $815 million in polio eradication, including $120 million in Nigeria. However, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative estimates $1.3 billion in additional funding is needed to support eradication activities from 2010-2012.
“Polio eradication remains an urgent priority for our foundation, but like many of our programs, this is a global effort that requires a global investment,” Gates said. As polio-affected countries like Nigeria and India step up and do their part, donor governments must stand with them and support the final push toward polio eradication.”
Gates also noted the need for Nigeria to continue to strengthen routine immunization so that the gains made in polio can be sustained. He strongly encouraged leaders to make the health of women and children a priority and ensure that these lives can be saved through the use of vaccines and other inexpensive solutions.
In January, Bill and Melinda Gates urged the world to make the next 10 years the “Decade of Vaccines” and save 8.7 million children through immunization against diseases ranging from pneumonia to malaria. They pledged to spend US$10 billion on a range of vaccine-related activities over the next 10 years, and called on other donors, governments, and the private sector to help ensure that vaccines reach all children who need them.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people, especially those with the fewest resources, have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
*The 85 highest-risk LGAs are in the following states: Abia, Bauchi, Borno, FCT (Abuja), Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Plateau, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara