Polio Eradication in Two Years Promised by Nigerian Leader

by Kathy Jones on  October 1, 2011 at 12:03 AM Child Health News
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After the crippling disease re-emerged earlier this year, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates that he was determined to eradicate polio within two years.
 Polio Eradication in Two Years Promised by Nigerian Leader
Polio Eradication in Two Years Promised by Nigerian Leader

Cases of polio, which has been largely controlled only after years of effort and vaccination programmes, increased this year as officials apparently let down their guard and turned their attention to other problems.

"I can assure you that we will work very hard on polio with the objective of eradicating it in the next 24 months," Jonathan told Gates.

He said he would set up a special government taskforce to work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to achieve that goal.

The foundation said Nigeria's efforts to eradicate the crippling but preventable disease peaked in 2009 and 2010 but this year, "attention to polio waned."

Polio has now re-emerged with over 30 cases reported in six northern states.

Some 36 powerful Nigerian state governors Thursday signed a statement re-confirming their February 2009 commitment to the eradication of polio.

They stated their commitment to providing "active leadership" in the activities, including routine immunisation, aimed at eradicating the disease.

They confirmed their pledge to reach at least 90 percent of children with polio vaccine with the goal of wiping out polio from the country and improve routine immunization.

In the statement signed by vice president Namadi Sambo and the chairman of the governors' forum, Rotimi Amaechi, they pledged to allocate additional financial and human resources to the anti-polio campaigns.

Gates on Thursday later expressed confidence that polio can be stopped in Nigeria and commended the country's leaders for redoubling their resolve to help finish polio once and for all, the Foundation said in a statement

"I am encouraged that President Jonathan and leaders throughout the country have reaffirmed their commitment to make Nigeria polio free, and to contribute to making the world free of this crippling disease once and for all," he said.

"Their renewed leadership can stop the resurgence in polio cases we have seen this year," the Foundation quoted him as saying.

"Nigeria should be proud of its tremendous success in the fight against polio, but we are at a crossroads and the stakes are high," said Gates. "If there is polio anywhere, there is a risk of polio everywhere."

Gates also said that his foundation is a committed partner in the fight against polio eradication.

This is Gates's third visit to Nigeria in three years. During the trips he met political, traditional leaders and representatives of non-governmental agencies.

Nigeria is one of four countries along with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan where polio was never totally eradicated in a global health campaign.

The UN has blamed the resurgence of polio in Nigeria to a fall-off in vaccination rates, with some people suspicious of the programme.

The disease once crippled and killed children worldwide until a concerted eradication campaign was started in 1988.

Source: AFP

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