Bill Gates visits Nigeria to boost global effort to end polio
Bill Gates meets with national and global health officials, including Nigeria PolioPlus Committee Chair Olubusuyi Onabolu (second from left), in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo courtesy of Nigeria PolioPlus Committee
During a recent visit to Nigeria, Bill Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said he was confident that the country can eradicate polio if it capitalizes on commitments from its state and federal governments.
Gates was in Nigeria to learn more about the country's immunization efforts and its strategy to end polio.
"I see a stronger commitment, but what is needed is the financial support, teams going out to find the children, and the attitude of parents to bring out children," he said at a news conference after meeting with state governors in Abuja.
Gates helped launch Nigeria's 31 January-3 February Immunization Plus Days by administering oral polio vaccine to a child at a health center in Sokoto State. He also observed vaccination teams in action.
On 2 February, he met with technical partners and donors supporting the country's polio eradication effort, including representatives of Rotary International, the World Health Organization , UNICEF , the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , USAID , the World Bank , and national health officials.
"He extolled the virtue of Rotary and gave a strong voice to our cause," said Olubusuyi Onabolu, chair of the Nigeria PolioPlus Committee. "It was a great honor for me to present him with a yellow Rotary cap, which he immediately put on, and to say, 'Thank you, Mr. Gates.'"
At the 2009 International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA, Gates wore and autographed a similar Rotary cap, which is being auctioned on eBay through 12 February . Proceeds will support Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge for polio eradication.
In northern Nigeria, the global epicenter of the type 1 poliovirus, Gates met with traditional and religious leaders, mothers, birth attendants, and representatives of a Muslim women's association to discuss their experiences with immunization and ideas for eradicating polio.
Gates said that there is a renewed commitment around the world to end the disease, and that the success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will energize other public health efforts.
"We need this type of success to work on malaria, respiratory and diarrheal diseases, and meningitis," he said. "The delivery structure, the message, and the quality that comes from polio will be the foundation for other work."
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