World Bank approves N15.2 billion for fight against polio in Nigeria

The World Bank’s Board has approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit of N15.2 billion (US$95 million) for the Nigeria Polio Eradication Support Project, which will help the country to achieve and sustain at least 80% polio immunization across all states, supporting the eventual eradication of the disease from Nigeria.

Child receiving the polio vaccine
Nigeria is one of four countries in the world - along with Pakistan, India and Afghanistan - where polio is still a major health risk.

According to the Bank in its website, “the project will finance roughly 655 million doses of oral polio vaccine for children under age five across Nigeria, with a special focus on the northern states where polio is more prevalent.”

The World Bank has worked with Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Agency since 2003 to ensure timely vaccine supply.

As part of a worldwide drive to eradicate polio, this effort builds on Nigeria’s strong performance in recent years, with the number of polio cases falling from 1,100 in 2006 to 62 in 2011.

Nigeria is one of the last three countries in the world where polio is endemic, the others being Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“What we do over the next four years is going to determine whether we will succeed in this historic undertaking to eradicate polio in Nigeria,” Mohamed Pate, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health and Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication said.

“We have beaten back the disease to a large extent already, and with the support of our partners, we are gearing up to make the last big push,” he added.

The World Bank polio project continues a “buy-down” arrangement by which the Gates Foundation, the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, and Rotary International (via the UN Foundation), will repay the loan’s present value when pre-agreed results are met.

Of the World Bank’s lending commitments to Nigeria for polio from 2003 to 2012—a total of $195 million—Nigeria has already qualified for a 70 percent buy-down.

“Eradication of polio is now within reach in Nigeria, so we must keep up the momentum to defeat this dreaded disease once and for all,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria.

“Also, we must take in the main lesson from Nigeria’s success against polio, which is that improving outreach and closely involving communities will help build a stronger national health system.”

The new project is aligned with the Federal Government 2012 Polio Eradication Emergency Plan, and with the World Bank’s strategy in Africa, which aims to reduce vulnerability to illness and disability among poor people.