Bill Gates commits $7bn to support immunization against polio in Africa

Vice President Kashim Shettima, the co-Chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, and the Chairman of the Dangote Foundation, Aliko Dangote, have met with state governors with the American billionaire, committing $7 billion to support immunization against polio in Africa for the next four years.

The meeting at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Thursday was under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and was part of the Gates Foundation’s commitment to work closely with communities and leaders to support innovation that can help accelerate progress and improve lives across Africa.

Gates disclosed that the money being committed by his Foundation will support routine immunization in Nigeria and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Northern Nigeria.

The American entrepreneur had on Monday met with President Bola Tinubu as part of the programme to learn from partners helping to address polio, anemia, and other health threats; scientists applying research to develop agricultural innovations that will help with food security and climate adaptation; innovators using technology to improve access to financial services; and others working to improve lives in Niger and Nigeria and throughout the continent.

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Gates and his delegation had also been scheduled to meet with national and regional leaders to encourage them to make investments and advance policies that promote innovation and provide equitable opportunity, despite challenging economic conditions.

He was similarly expected to participate in a conversation with students and young leaders to gather insights and share
perspectives on how science and innovation can accelerate positive change and contribute to a brighter outlook for Africa.

Speaking at the occasion, Shettima assured that government would address the concerns that surround the financing of the primary healthcare system in the country.

While affirming that polio is one of the major primary healthcare challenges in the country, he disclosed that “the proposal is to provide timely domestic financing for the procurement of vaccines, which couldn’t have come sooner, to boosting our industrial capacity to produce vaccines.”

The vice president stated that Nigeria’s three dose pentavalent vaccine coverage has improved from 33% in 2016 to 57% in 2021.

He further said that “the variant polio virus has declined in Nigeria by 84% from 2021, falling to fewer than 200 cases in 2022.”

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Shettima therefore commended the states that have achieved high category immunization coverage, which is between 60% and 80% of the target demographic, and the number of states has expanded from 12 to 21 states in five years.

According to a statement issued by Olusola Abiola, Director of Information, Office of the Vice President, giving further assurance, he said: “The Federal Government and our respective state governments are going to set in place a transparent process and structure to undo the reality of the country as one with one of the highest proportions of non-immunized infants in the world over the last decade.”

Vice President Shettima stressed that the Federal Government is “committed to eradicating variant poliovirus by the end of the year, ensuring that every Nigerian child is covered in the routine immunization campaigns.”

On the issue of the production of vaccines for the immunization of children, he assured that “we are going to work together to ensure that these vaccines are made available even to zero-dose children, of which ours, at 2 million, are the highest in the world after India.”

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The Vice President then expressed the appreciation of the Federal Government to partners such as Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s Foundation and of Bill Gates Foundation, whose empathy shone through that uncertain period in our history.

Also, in his remarks, Alhaji Aliko Dangote stated that Bill Gates and himself have been partnering with both the Federal and State Governments for several years, supporting the efforts in eradicating polio and improving routine immunization, nutrition, and primary healthcare in the country.

“We genuinely believe that the National Economic Council and the decisions that you will make over the next four years will determine whether Nigeria has sound economic growth, keep its citizens happy, and achieve sustainable development goals,” he added.

In separate remarks, the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, and some Governors who spoke at the parley lauded the philanthropic interventions of the Dangote and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations in critical areas, including healthcare, education, agriculture, and human capital development.

The Governors expressed the readiness to further collaborate with the Dangote and Gates Foundation in the coming years.

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