Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will meet with national, state and local government officials and traditional leaders this week to discuss the ongoing campaign to end polio in Nigeria. Mr. Gates will be accompanied by the foundation’s chief executive officer Jeff Raikes.
The agenda for the visit is focused on efforts to end polio and strengthen immunization against other vaccine-preventable diseases, and to follow up on the Abuja Commitments to Polio Eradication. In February 2009, Nigeria’s executive governors, federal government and local government area chairmen publicly committed themselves to reach at least 90 percent of children with polio vaccine, with the goal of wiping out polio from the country.“Nigeria has achieved important success with polio over recent years and we are confident it can finish the job,” said Mr. Gates. “However, success will depend on leaders at every level redoubling their efforts to meet the Abuja Commitments and to ensure that every Nigerian child is protected from polio now and always.”
From 2009 to 2010, Nigeria’s commitment to polio eradication and immunization was at an all-time high. During this time, polio cases fell by 95 percent and fewer children than ever were paralyzed by polio. In 2011, attention to polio waned, contributing to an increasing gap in immunity. Polio has now re-emerged as a serious threat to children’s health, with 30 polio cases reported in six states – Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto and Yobe. During this visit, Mr. Gates will hold a number of meetings in Abuja, including a meeting with WHO, UNICEF and UN officials to express his sincere condolences to those families and friends who lost loved ones in last month’s bombing of the UN building. Mr. Gates also will observe the current Immunization Plus Days campaign and will meet with state and traditional leaders to better understand the challenges they are facing in prioritizing polio efforts and strengthening routine immunization. In addition, Mr. Gates will use his visit to discuss ways to help Nigeria tackle broader health priorities as well as meet with people working to improve agriculture in the country.
The Gates Foundation is deeply engaged in Africa, and its central goal is to ensure Africans benefit from life-saving and life-enhancing discoveries that have the potential to improve and save millions of lives. The foundation is involved in a wide range of projects, including work on HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria; mother and child health; farming and financial services; and nutrition and sanitation.