Immunization leadership challenge for Nigeria’s governors

States eligible for US$ 500,000 grant to address pressing health issues

Children in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria wait to be immunized with OPV WHO/Thomas Moran
Children in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria wait to be immunized with OPV
WHO/Thomas Moran

SEATTLE — Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a new initiative today for Nigeria’s Executive Governors challenging them to deliver a dramatic improvement in polio and routine immunization by the end of 2012.

The program, initiated together with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, will recognize those Executive Governors whose states pass a pre-defined threshold to improve routine immunization coverage and end polio. The states that meet the threshold criteria will be awarded a US$ 500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support their top health priorities.

“Nigeria’s leaders are critical to making Nigeria polio free and their renewed confirmation last week of the Abuja Commitments will make an important difference,” said Gates. “As governors push hard over the next year to achieve the 2012 deadline to end polio, I want to ensure their efforts are acknowledged and that the governors are simultaneously supported to tackle other key health problems they face in their states,” said Mr. Gates.

“Nigeria’s governors want to stop polio and improve routine immunization to protect Nigeria’s children against preventable diseases,” said His Excellency Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. “This award recognizes that effort, and the fact that we need to work hard if we want to stop polio in this country by 2012.”

Gates in Nigeria

Gates was in Nigeria last week to discuss polio eradication and immunization with senior government leadership in Nigeria. He met with President Goodluck Jonathan who announced a special task force to spearhead the federal effort to support states in stopping polio. He also observed as their Excellencies Vice President Namadi Sambo and Governor Amaechi signed a communiqué adopting and re-confirming the 2009 Abuja Commitments. Those commitments lay out clear steps for Executive Governors and Local Government Area Chairmen to ensure that polio is stopped and immunization services are reaching more children.

And in Chad

With President Idriss Déby, Gates launched a new polio immunization campaign that aims to immunize the country’s 2.2 million children under the age of five against polio.

The President declared: “On behalf of the people of Chad, and especially mothers and children, we thank Bill Gates for coming to Chad and for his generosity in putting his fortune to the service of children and humanity. Mr. Gates, you are a leader in the fight to eradicate polio worldwide,” he added before concluding his message with a call to action to Chad’s citizens: “By coming to Chad to launch this vaccination campaign, Mr. Gates calls on all of us – the government, large institutions, media, parents, leaders of different religions, traditional leaders, territorial administrations and defense and security – we should mobilize ourselves to eradicate polio.”

Approximately 41 percent of polio cases in Africa were reported in Chad this year, increasing the likelihood of the country becoming a reservoir for the spread of the virus to neighbouring countries. This immunization campaign offers a new opportunity for the country to curb the spread of polio and offer thousands of children a chance to live a life free from life-long paralysis.

“I would like to congratulate His Excellency, President Idriss Déby ITNO and his government for their continued commitment to eliminating polio and giving children a healthy start to life through immunization,” said Gates. “Chad is on a path toward eliminating polio and we are committed to play a part in that journey.”

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