February 3rd, 2009 16:31 EST
Bill and Melinda Gates fight polio in Nigeria
By Gilbert da Costa
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says his foundation is committing more than $50 million for the fight against polio in Nigeria. The American businessman was in Nigeria to promote his campaign against the crippling disease.
The Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, created by the wealthy U.S. businessman and his wife, says it has concluded a $25 million agreement with the World Bank to support the purchase of more than 100 million doses of oral polio vaccines in Nigeria.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, Mr. Gates said there is a renewed commitment and energy around the world to stop polio, a disease that inflicts severe disability.
"The foundation is committed to this fight. We are spending quite a bit worldwide. We have some of that particularly targeted for Nigeria, over $50 million," said Gates. "Just in the last day, there was an announcement the arrangement where we provided $25 million to the World Bank has gone through. So that additional money will buy over 100 million vaccines over the next three years. So a lot of good news in terms of commitment and energy."
While in Nigeria, Mr. Gates toured some of the most polio-endemic regions and observed efforts of vaccination teams. He also met with government officials, mothers, traditional birth attendants and Muslim women`s groups. He expressed satisfaction with Nigeria`s efforts to eradicate the debilitating disease.
"The focus of my visit here was the polio eradication," he said. "And, I came to learn and I came to express how important this work is. And, I can says with strong conviction that this has been a very successful trip - in fact, far more successful than I would have expected."
The Gates Foundation has committed more than $700 million to polio eradication efforts, worldwide.
An international effort has cut polio cases in Nigeriaby 99 percent in 10 years - a drop of more than 350,000 cases in 1998 to about 1,600 in 2008.
Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death. It mainly infects children.
The virus responsible for polio has been eliminated, around the world, except for Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and Pakistan.