Bill Gates Bags Nigerian Honour as Private sector coalition launches major health intervention scheme


President-Jonathan-Bill-Gates-Akinwumi-and-others-2-620x350President Goodluck Jonathan has conferred the national honours of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR)  on Microsoft founder and co-Chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gate.

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Jonathan said the conferment, which was done yesterday, was in recognition of Gates’ support  towards the eradication of poliomyelitis in Nigeria.

The president, who warned that the politics of the 2015 general election should not be allowed to erode the gains Nigeria had made in the eradication of polio, said Gates’ investiture would be done in December alongside that of other awardees.

He noted with dismay the negative effects  the 2011 elections had on the war against polio  and advised against a recurrence in 2015 when the nation would be due for another general election.
The president spoke at a forum of  the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication, organised by the Federal Ministry of Health, which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Nigeria Governors, Forum (NGF), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dangote Foundation, instituted an award meant to encourage governors to do more towards complete eradication of polio in the states.

The best performing state by zone in 2012 are Ondo State for the South-west, Cross River State for South-south,  Kogi State for North-central, Anambra State for South-east, Borno State for North-east  and Zamfara State for North-west.
Niger State was honoured for being the most improved state nationally in the anti-polio campaign.

Speaking further, Jonathan said it was shameful  that Nigeria was still being accused of exporting polio to neighbouring countries and particularly commended  traditional rulers for their immense contribution which has led to a sharp reduction in the infection rate.

He gave kudos to  Gates for his commitment to help Africa solve its health problems.
“Apart from supporting us in the fight against polio and provision of life saving commodities, he (Gates) is also assisting us in agriculture,”  he said.
Jonathan also commended Chairman, Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote,  for supporting government in all sectors.

“For those states that have won this award, the challenge is that we will not want to see polio in your states again otherwise we will wipe out the award. You now have very strong partners, partner  the federal government to eradicate polio.

“Like Dangote mentioned earlier, there is no reason we should not eradicate polio by 2014. Let me assure you that the federal government is totally committed to eradicating polio. We promise that we will work hard because we don’t want to hand over polio to another government in 2015. With the support of all stakeholders present here, I believe we will succeed in our commitment to eradicate polio.

“I charge you all to be so committed, especially as the elections are coming. In fact, from the analysis I was just briefed about now, I’m really surprised that in 2011 there was a lapse and it was attributed to the elections; that during campaigns for elections, we the politicians think more about winning the elections and forget about other things. I think and I charge you all that we must work together to make sure that the 2015 elections will not create any kind of gap in our commitment to eradicate polio,” he said.

Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, in his remarks, expressed concerns about the incidence of polio in Kano, Borno and Yobe States.

He said: “Since November last year, we have not had the transmission of the Type A polio virus. We have reduced infection by 50 per cent though we have recently had 51 cases. Borno, Kano, Yobe and Bauchi States are on the top ranks.

“The current challenges facing the success of the fight against polio is the non-accessibility to children due to insecurity in the area, and non-accountability hence the reason the local government chairmen were invited to be part of the meeting.”

He recalled that in March, some of  vaccinators were murdered in Borno State, “which led to the exercise being halted but by September, 70 percent of the children have been reached.”
Also, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III, said traditional rulers would continue to support the fight against polio because of their concern about the welfare of their people.
“No father will sit down and watch his child crippled permanently and refuse to do nothing. The traditional rulers were the foot soldiers who did the work,” he said.

On his part, Dangote said it was encouraging that Nigeria had progressed greatly in the fight against polio, adding that “by February 2014, our efforts will ensure we totally eradicate polio by that same year.”

“We cannot rely on Bill Gates alone that is why we have commended the traditional rulers whose roles have ensured reduction from 102 to 51 cases.

“We will continue to be partners to ensure that Nigeria becomes a safe place to be,” he said.
In his speech, Gates reiterated his commitment to support Nigeria to eradicate polio.
He said: “Every year, I come to Nigeria, I see us getting closer to the goal of polio eradication. At Abu Dhabi meeting in United Arab Emirates (UAE), we re-dedicated ourselves to the fight against polio and I have re-dedicated myself to this cause.”

As part of his itinerary during his visit to the country, Gates also inaugurated the National Routine Immunisation Strategic Plan (NRISP), during which he explained that the essence of immunisation is to reduce the burden of not just diseases but also the economic implication of combating them.

While inaugurating the plan, Gates said: “Nothing is more important in health in Nigeria  than giving immunisation to children and persons in order to prevent diseases.”
He also bemoaned the manner at which immunisation programmes have been implemented, stating that  “vaccination has not operated the way it should be.”

The new plan is expected to provide guidelines and a workable policy that would resolve problems associated with logistics and lack of adequate vaccination.

At another occasion yesterday,  Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, assured stakeholders that the $50 million Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan secured by the country to combat  polio would be judiciously spent.

The loan, which Tambuwal indicated would be supplemented by a counterpart funding as provided in the 2014 budget, is targeted at making sure that the polio project did not suffer any setback.

Tambuwal, who received Gates and Dangote during their courtesy visit to the House,  said the legislature would do all it could to support the eradication of polio in the country.
Earlier, Gates had told the speaker that one of the challenges facing the project was the security threat to the vaccination team.

Meanwhile, a private sector-led coalition, the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), is inaugurating a major health intervention policy tomorrow, which is aimed at accelerating Nigeria’s progress in achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and beyond.

The body, led by Dangote, former Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede, Muhammad Ali Pate, Sola David-Borha and others,  would target establishing a vibrant and fast-growing private sector initiative in the nation’s health sector.

PHN’s establishment was sparked by  Gates in 2010 during a high-level private sector roundtable for health with business leaders, and it is expected to be tailored after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The body is expected to ride on the wide reach of the Nigerian private health sector, which serves all income levels, including the poor and vulnerable segments, and accounts for about 60 per cent of healthcare service provision in Nigeria.

It seeks to achieve its objectives by leveraging innovation and technology to leapfrog progress and increase access to healthcare. Primarily, it will forge synergies within the private sector as well as building strategic partnership  with the public sector to support interventions in the Saving One Million Lives Initiative, while focusing on nutrition and malaria.

Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq, who has just been appointed the CEO of PHN by the board, in a statement yesterday, said the body had evolved from a private sector roundtable focused on eradicating polio and malaria to a broader private sector-led multi-sectoral coalition committed to improving health outcomes.

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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