Big boost as Bill Gates signs ball in Abuja

Bill Gates gave the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign a big boost on June 7 when he signed the ball that is travellling through 22 – now 23,  polio-affected countries in Africa to raise awareness of polio eradication efforts. Delighted to watch Bill Gates sign is Busuyi Onabolu – the National PolioPlus Committee Chair for Nigeria.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has reportedly commended Nigeria for making significant gains in the fight against polio and called on the country’s leaders to finish the job. He pointed to Nigeria’s record-low number of polio cases in 2010 and noted that support from political, traditional and religious leaders have been a key factor.  

It is remarkable that Polio cases in Nigeria have dropped 99% from 2009 to 2010, according to Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). Only three cases of the disease were reported in the country through June 1 of this year, compared with 288 reported during the same period in 2009. NPHCDA also reports a steady increase in the number of children under age five who have received the oral polio vaccine.  However, there are still too many children who haven’t received the minimum number of doses to ensure they are protected against the virus.   

“All Nigerians should be proud of Nigeria’s recent progress against polio,” said Gates. “Thanks to committed political, traditional, and religious leaders, dedicated health workers, and loving parents who want to protect their children, Nigeria is on a path toward eliminating polio.” 

This is certainly something to smile about. Photographed below is Dr Mohammad Pate, Chief Executive Officer of the NPHCDA, together with Bill Gates and an obviously delighted DHL courier Remi, who managed to get the ball delivered just in time for the press briefing and signing. (Busuyi Onabolu is in the background.)

In Kano State on 6 June Bill Gates met with Executive Governor Malam Ibrahim Shekarau; His Royal Highness, Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano; traditional leaders; and Local Government Area chairmen to discuss progress and remaining obstacles to polio immunization in high-risk areas. He also visited Dala LGA in Kano to observe first-hand children being immunized during the current polio campaign.     

A copy of the press release of June 7 relating to the visit of Bill Gates has been posted on this blog under press, for information.

Next Stop: N’Diamena, Chad – the last polio-affected country to receive the ball.

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