Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently in Nigeria to discuss polio eradication and strengthening of immunization against other vaccine-preventable diseases amid a resurgence of polio cases in the West African nation.
The foundation’s CEO, Jeff Raikes, is with Gates to talk to Nigeria’s government officials and traditional leaders to follow up on the Abuja Commitments to Polio Eradication, in which Nigerian federal and local government officials committed in 2009 to have at least 90 percent of children immunized against polio toward its eradication.
Immediately following the Abuja commitment, polio cases in Nigeria fell by 95 percent. Fewer children were paralyzed by polio as well. But attention to polio waned in 2011, with 30 cases of the paralyzing disease reported so far in six states.
Nigeria is one of only four countries where polio transmission has never been stopped, the other three being India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Gates Foundation has been implementing various initiatives to wipe out polio worldwide. These include vaccination campaigns, development of better vaccines and antiviral drugs.
Beyond the issue of polio, Gates will also discuss ways to help Nigeria tackle broader health issues and improve agriculture in the country.
He will also be meeting with U.N. officials to express his condolences on last month’s bombing of the U.N. building in Abuja.
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