Bill Gates was honoured by the federal government.
The incidence of polio worsened in Nigeria after the 2011 elections because politicians and public office holders focused on the general elections of that year and abandoned the campaign to eradicate the disease, President Goodluck Jonathan has said.
The President stated this on Monday at a forum for the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication put together by the Federal Ministry of Health. The forum held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential
Mr. Jonathan, therefore, urged politicians to ensure that the 2015 elections do not affect the fight against polio in the country.
“I charge you all to be so committed especially as the elections are coming. In fact, from the analysis I was just briefed now I’m really surprised that in 2011 there was lapse and it was attributed to the elections; that during campaigns for elections we the politicians think more about winning the elections and forget about other things.
“I think and I charge you all that we must work together to make sure that the 2014/2015 will not create any kind of gap in our commitment to eradicate polio.
“In our local government and states that have suffered polio, it should be part of our campaign. Our elections should enhance our commitment. We should all feel ashamed that we are being excused of
exporting polio to neighbouring countries,” Mr. Jonathan said.
Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world with reported cases
of the wild polio virus. Jonathan honours Bill Gates also at the occasion, Mr. Jonathan conferred the national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), on Bill Gates, the Co-Chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
He said the American billionaire will be decorated during the award ceremony in December. Mr. Gates was honoured because of his foundation’s support to Nigeria in the fight to eradicate polio.
The Nigeria Governors Forum, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Dangote Foundation, had instituted an award meant to encourage state governors to give more support to the eradication of polio in
The best performing states by zones in 2012 are Ondo State for the South West, Cross River State for South South, Kogi State for North Central, Anambra State for South East, Borno State for North East and
Zamfara State for North West. While the most improved state nationally is Niger State.
Mr. Jonathan commended traditional rulers led by the Sultan of Sokoto, for their contributions which led to a reduction in the polio infection rates. He also thanked Bill Gates for his commitment to help
Africa solve its health problems.
“Apart from supporting us in the fight against Polio and provision of life saving commodities he (Gates) is also assisting us in agriculture,” Mr. Jonathan said.
“For those states that have won this award, the challenge is that we will not want to see polio in your states again otherwise we will wipe out the award. You now have very strong partners, partner with FG to
The President also commended Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, for showing high degree of support to the government and all sectors.
“Like Dangote mentioned earlier, there is no reason we should not eradicate polio by 2014. Let me assure you that the Federal Government is totally committed to eradicating polio.
We promise that we will work hard because we don’t want to handover polio to another government in 2015. With the support of all stakeholders present here I believe we will succeed in our commitment to eradicate polio,” he said.
Borno, Kano, Yobe worst affected Earlier, the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said three states-
Kano, Borno and Yobe- were of the greatest concerns in terms of polio.
He disclosed that since November last year, Nigeria had not noted the transmission of the Type A polio virus. “We have reduced infection by 50 per cent though we have recently had 51 cases. Borno, Kano, Yobe and Bauchi are on the top ranks” he said.
Mr. Chukwu noted that the current challenges facing the success of the fight against polio is the non-accessibility to children due to insecurity in some areas, and non accountability; hence the reason the
local government chairmen were invited to be part of the meeting.
He recalled that in March 2013, some of the vaccinators were murderedin Borno State “which led to the exercise being halted; but by September, 70 per cent of the children have been reached”.
He also noted that low political commitment, poor team performance, poor oversight and financial accountability have hampered the efforts against polio. He further urged the president to direct rapid
information sharing between security agencies and the polio eradication officials on accessibility/security insecurity-compromised areas.
He said Nigeria has achieved 50 per cent reduction in Wild Polio Virus cases compared to same period in 2012, adding that about 73 per centof cases are from three states: Borno, Yobe and Kano
Sultan, Mimiko react
The Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad III, in his remarks said the traditional rulers were concerned about the welfare of their people and “No father will sit down and watch his child crippled permanently
and refuse to do nothing.”When we started in 2009, Bill Gates had encouraged us both
financially and morally. We thank him for his support in helping humanity not only in Nigeria but in the world.”
“What we did attracted the UN but they never believed the level of success we achieved in one year and they have recognised our efforts. We are committed to eradicating polio and by 2014 we will invite Bill
Gates to return to celebrate the total eradication of polio in
The Sultan advised that “polio should not be politicised.” “In 2010 we witnessed it and many governments refused to be involved and this should not repeat itself as 2015 election approaches.
“Bill Gates donated $1.5 billion to the fight against polio. What I want us to go back with today is that Vaccines are free to those who cannot afford it. But in reality Vaccines are not free but have been
paid by Bill Gates and Aliko Dangote Foundation for our children to have it free,” Mr. Abubakar said.
Mr. Gates was later decorated by the Sultan with traditional northern attire.
The Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, whose state emerged the best overall, thanked Mr. Gates for his commitment to eradicate polio and assured that the award will encourage them to do better.
“I can see important partnership to drive primary health care in Nigeria with the traditional institutions,” he said.
In his speech, Mr. Dangote noted that it was encouraging that Nigeria has progressed in the fight to eradicate polio. He added that “by February 2014, our efforts will ensure we totally eradicate polio by
that same year.
“We cannot rely on Bill Gates alone that is why we have commended the traditional rulers whose roles have ensured reduction from 102 to 51cases.
“We will continue to be partners to ensure that Nigeria becomes a safe place to be”.
Bill Gates speaks
In his speech, Mr. Gates said he was aware of Nigeria’s improvement in its efforts to combat polio.
“Every year I come to Nigeria, I see us getting closer to the goal of polio eradication. At Abu Dhabi meeting we re-dedicated ourselves tothe fight against polio and I have re-dedicated myself to this cause,”
The American commended the Sultan and other traditional leaderssaying, “Polio is in our sight, we have states that don’t release money, run the campaign, so the taskforce need to track these gaps and
the need to do better so the country will move in an exciting way by eradicating polio. It’s a legacy we all have and I will be excited when we reach the milestone of no more polio”.
The Executive Secretary of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Mohammed Ardo, noted that there were still two major challenges faced in the field. He stated that about 72 per cent of the cases reported were in areas faced by security challenges in Borno and Yobe and insecurity in Kano.
“We also have operational issues in terms of ownership by the local government because the key to solving transmission in this country lies in the hand of local government chairmen; and we would continue
to work with them. We have now brought accountability into the process,” he said.
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