Nigeria making impressive progress against polio
A child receives oral polio vaccine in Kano, Nigeria. Prashant Panjiar/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill Gates says he is impressed with the progress Nigeria has made against polio and urges partners in the fight to eradicate the disease not to let up.
Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, shared personal observations from his June trip to Nigeria on his blog, Gates Notes. The post, along with others about polio, are appearing this week on the Gates Foundation blog, Foundation Notes.
In addition, the Gates Foundation website is highlighting two videos produced in June for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
"I was very excited to visit northern Nigeria in June, because the progress there since my last visit in February 2009 has been especially impressive," Gates writes. As of 20 July, only six cases of the wild poliovirus have been reported in Nigeria this year, compared with 346 during the same period in 2009.
The Gates Foundation has given Rotary US$355 million in grants for its work to eradicate polio. In response, Rotary has committed to raising $200 million. As of 30 June, Rotary has raised $141.2 million.
On his blog, Gates says he spent most of his first day in the northern state of Kano, which has been vulnerable to polio, meeting with community leaders, visiting a local health center, and stopping at a school where students were studying the Quran in Arabic.
"On the streets and most everywhere else we went, I noticed so many young children around," he writes. "Nigeria has more people by far than any other African country, and more than 40 percent of them are under the age of 15. That makes polio immunization a big challenge."
Gates adds that during his trip, he learned about creative approaches to inform Nigerians about polio immunization. Pro-immunization messages are being woven into the plotlines of popular TV shows, and one of Nigeria's major mobile phone service providers has agreed to send about 25 million free text messages about polio and health.
He also mentions the importance of engaging local leaders and says the 'commitment from Nigeria's leaders has been crucial' to the fight against polio in the country. While in the capital city of Abuja, he had dinner with the minister of health, and the next day met with the nation's new president, Goodluck Jonathan.
One of the videos on the Gates Foundation website praises efforts that have reduced the threat of polio by 99 percent but stresses the need to finish the job. "If you were an athlete, you would never only run 99 percent of the race," a voiceover on the video announces. "An astronaut wouldn't fly only 99 percent of the way to the moon, and a firefighter would never just put out 99 percent of a fire."
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