Dangote Foundation partners with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to kick polio out of Nigeria by 2018
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Dec. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
NIGERIA has a lot of challenges. Aside from the collapse of infrastructure, a derelict educational sector and acute poverty in various parts of the country, Nigerians still have to battle with the scourge of various deadly diseases. One of such deadly diseases is polio. Fifty-three years after independence, Nigeria remains one of the few countries in the world still battling to eradicate polio. Alongside war-torn nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria is listed as one of the three countries with endemic polio rate in the world.
It is this embarrassing revelation that has forced government and prominent Nigerians to collaborate with people from other countries to help curtail the spread of polio in the country. On the front row of this battle is Aliko Dangote, chairman of Dangote group of companies and Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Incorporated, an American company.
Through their various foundations both billionaires are waging a deadly war against polio. The Dangote foundation in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation based in the United States, have developed various strategies to fight polio and achieve total eradication by 2014.
Since November 2012 when both organisations decided to come into partnership, they have been able to provide funding, equipment and technical support to strengthen polio immunisation across the country. To ensure that the partnership’s goal of ensuring that polio becomes history by 2014 is attained, Bill Gates visited Nigeria from November 11 to 13 2013. Aside from assessing the progress of the polio eradication battle, the visit afforded Gates and Dangote an opportunity to brief various stakeholders of their commitment to remove Nigeria’s name from the list of countries still struggling with polio.
The duo held meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan, traditional leaders and stakeholders in the private sectors in Lagos and Abuja. While addressing journalists in Lagos to unveil their strategies in the long-drawn war against polio, Dangote disclosed that everyone involved in the partnership was committed to boosting immunisation against polio. While thanking the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for supporting the initiative, Dangote said all hands must be on deck in the fight against polio. “We Nigerians are grateful for what Bill and Melinda Gates have been doing as they invest in various sectors. We decided to partner with him because he can’t do it all alone. It is also about giving him support. The foundation has an excellent team on ground and we also have ours too and all these are to ensure things are done properly.”
Dangote also disclosed that the partners had just launched the private sector health alliance of Nigeria, a scheme which would enable them to work together to better the lives of more Nigerians. “Even though our joint programme to improve routine immunisation and strengthen primary health care in Kano State is only a year old, it has already covered considerable ground. Foundations like Bill Gates’ and mine hope to play a key part in this ecosystem and we will continue to support governments’ efforts in this important area going forward.”
On his part, Gates said his visit to some parts of the country was very successful. He added that Jonathan’s administration had shown full commitment to ending polio as well as improving the nation’s health sector and wellbeing of Nigerians. “We have received tremendous support from the federal government and some stakeholders on eradicating polio by 2014. We are concerned about the health system in Nigeria. We are particularly concerned about the progress made on polio and we have given awards to governors and traditional rulers who had played a very key role in ensuring that polio vaccination is increased. I am very optimistic about polio, though we have challenges reaching out to the kids, but we have put in place logistics to help them know that the vaccination is good for them.
Gates said even though the long term goal is to ensure that Nigeria is totally polio free by 2018, it can be achieved by 2014 if the commitment shown so far is sustained. “In 2012, there was a big gathering where everyone committed himself, including the Nigerian government, to eradicate polio by 2018 and to do that, it means you have to do a lot of work. But if we get things right, 2014 could be the end for polio virus. We are concentrating on routine immunisation; we are monitoring how the vaccines are kept cold and the supplies managed even from the primary health centre and we have seen a lot of improvement.”
On his collaboration with the Dangote foundation, Gates said: “In Kano State, we are partnering with Aliko Dangote’s foundation to unblock some of the logistical barriers to reaching every child-from improving cold chain capacity, to better stock-management systems and motivating front-line health workers who are key to delivering successful health services.”
According to reports, the rate of polio prevalence in Nigeria presently stands at 51 percent. But Dangote and Gates believe that the figure can be reduced to zero by the end of 2014 as a result of the efforts invested by both foundations. Dangote said they had intensified campaign to make sure that all children in the states where polio is prevalent were vaccinated. He confirmed that they have been receiving support from northern leaders and that many families had agreed to get the vaccine.
The two foundations also disclosed that they are facilitating a $50 million loan from the Japan international cooperation agency, JICA, to Nigeria for polio eradication and other child-killer diseases. When the delegation visited him in Abuja, Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, assured that if granted, the legislators would ensure that the loan was properly utilised. “I listened to your address particularly on JICA loan and I assure you that the House of Representatives will do all that is required of us to ensure that when that proposal is forwarded to the National Assembly, we will pass it so that Nigeria can assess the loan that will support obtaining the vaccines that will advance the drive for the eradication of polio. We will try also in our committees in the national assembly to oversee the proper implementation of the funds and the resources that are mainly meant for those projects.”
For his efforts, Gates was honoured with a national award of commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, by President Goodluck Jonathan.