Polio Eradication: President Jonathan Joins Bill Gates

President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, November 11, attended a forum organised by the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication in company of American Inventor and Philanthropist, Bill Gates.

While speaking at the event which also had Nigerian Businessman, Aliko Dangote in attendance, President Jonathan restated the Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring that Polio is eradicated in Nigeria.

“We don’t want to hand over Polio to another government in 2015. With the support of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote and the Aliko Dangote Foundation and others, with the support of the State Governors I’m seeing here and the Local Government chairmen, I believe we will succeed.”

He also called on politicians across the country to ensure that political activities towards the 2015 General Elections do not affect the Government’s agenda to eradicate the wide polio virus in the country by 2014.

Mr. Bill Gates in his speech commended President Jonathan’s efforts at eradicating Polio in Nigeria, as his presence at the event to support the Presidential Task Force is an indication of his commitment to the cause. He also offered suggestions on how to make the initiative succeed.

The high point of the forum was the conferment of a National Honour of the Commander of the Federal Republic on the Co-Chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates, for his contribution to polio eradication in Nigeria.

Officials want polio vaccination made compulsory by law

Officials and traditional rulers in some states are pushing for a law that would make it criminal for any parent to prevent their child from receiving the vaccine against polio, the Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

A local health worker carries vaccination kits into a vehicle at a distribution centre ahead of the start of a nationwide polio immunization campaign on Wednesday, in Lagos February 21, 2011. Photo: REUTERS

The states of Bauchi, Benue, Rivers and Jigawa are leading efforts to have a binding legal framework to help fight against polio in Nigeria, which is the only country in Africa where the disease is endemic.

The governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, has sent a bill to the State House of Assembly seeking lawmakers’ consent to make immunisation free and compulsory.

“The proposed law should make it mandatory for parents to immunise their children against polio and for its rejection to attract punishment,” the paper said.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. It can lead to total paralysis in a matter of hours and can be fatal.

Experts say the best way to fight the disease is by immunising as many children as possible.

The virus continued to spread in Nigeria because vaccines were rejected due to perceptions in a part of the country that the vaccine was an attempt by foreign powers to check population growth in the country, the paper said.

Health officials and traditional rulers say the situation has improved over the years but some authorities believe that a law passed by the National Assembly making immunisation compulsory and its rejection an offence would produce even better results, the paper said.

Nigerian authorities want to immunise 57.7 million children in a nationwide campaign launched last week.

The country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, on March 1 inaugurated a Presidential Task Force to deal with the polio emergency and pledged $30 million per year for the next two years for polio eradication activities, according to the World Health Organization.

The anti-polio vaccination campaign in Nigeria is part of a region-wide effort targeting 111 million children under the age of five in 20 countries.

FG launches task force to eradicate polio in Borno

The federal government has assured residents of Borno state that it is committed to maintaining peace and well-being of the entire society.

At the launch of the national polio free torch campaign in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the Minister of state for health, Dr. Muhammad Pate said the inauguration of the presidential taskforce on polio eradication is a sign that President Goodluck Jonathan is committed to reducing the disease before the end of his mandate in 2015 as pledged.

According to the minister who doubles as the chairman of the taskforce, the team is mandated by the president to place the eradication of polio in the country on fast track as well as ensure an upshot of the nation’s health indices particularly on the primary health care system.

The state governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima expressed optimism that polio would be completely wiped out of the country in the nearest future.

The governor donated a Toyota Hiace bus to the association of polio victims in the state and a sum of N1 million to a local government immunization officer, Hajiya Ramatu Sani for her personal resources to keep the campaign going.