President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed plans by his administration to reconstitute an expanded task force on polio eradication.
The president made the announcement yesterday while receiving Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, Nigerian billionaire, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and officials of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the State House, Abuja.
He emphasised that the new task force would include all 36 governors.
“I would like to assure you that the federal government will continue to provide strong oversight and funding for polio programmes. To this effect, we will reconstitute an expanded Presidential Taskforce on Polio which will include the 36 governors to sustain the successes of our current polio eradication activities such as surveillance and routine immunisation programmes.
“I am pleased to inform you that the six states mostly impacted by polio have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on routine immunisation. This MoU is a commitment by the state governments, namely Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Sokoto and Yobe to strengthen primary health care system through community sensitisation and support programmes.
“Based on this, I will take this opportunity to call on all state governors, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Federal Ministry of Health to sustain this momentum to ensure that we maintain zero polio case status,” the president said.
Buhari recognised the heroics of Nigeria’s eradication team under the National Primary Health Care Development Agency of the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as the World Health Organisation, WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Centre for Disease Control, CDC, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, Rotary, faith based organisations, traditional rulers, vaccinators and caregivers.
Also speaking, Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum, NGF, and Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji AbdulAziz Yari, noted that though Nigeria, not too long ago, ranked highest in Africa and globally in the polio disease burden, today, the story is different.
He said the achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the support and commitment of international donors and partners.
He also acknowledged the commitment of all stakeholders who have embarked on the long journey to eradicate the disease in the country.
“While we celebrate the successes made so far “We are in no position to celebrate polio eradication in Nigeria because we cannot ascertain at this point if the virus is still in our environment or not. We cannot afford to take any chances now,” he said.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to kick out polio in the north, Bill and Melinda Gates, Dangote Foundation and six northern governors, yesterday, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to eradicate polio in their states.
Speaking at the occasion which had in attendance the six governors, American Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-kanemi, Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II, among others, Gates said his foundation was committed to polio eradication in Nigeria.
He said the foundation in partnership with Dangote Foundation, Kano and Bauchi State Governments has recorded concrete results in the states and Nigeria as a whole.
Similarly, the American Ambassador to Nigeria disclosed that the United States Government was joining Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dangote Foundation in the strong pursuit to end vaccine-preventable child deaths in Nigeria.
He stressed that, under the partnership, they would help Sokoto State increase and sustain high immunisation coverage.
The ambassador, however, commended the six state governments, saying, “this occasion demonstrates the willingness and commitment of your governments and organisations to tackle the challenges to achieving these goals.’’
Similarly, the Chairman of Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, called on the federal government to continue to work closely with the states to provide routine, new vaccines and other health commodities.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Malam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State lamented that though immunising a child should be simple and routine, but across Nigeria, the health system has not been invested with the capacity to consistently provide even routine services at a high standard. He, however, expressed optimism that the new partnership will reverse the trend.
“The business before us today is about achieving the highest calling of government: to create every opportunity for all families to live healthy and productive lives. There are many ways in which we, as governors, are trying to do this. And they are all inter-related. These include creating employment, improving educational opportunities for all, particularly our girls and building accountability and sustainability in the health system, getting life-saving vaccines to children to prevent killer diseases such as measles and pertussis.
“As state governors, it is evident from the contributions of my colleagues that our key strategy is to ensure that a reliable supply of vaccines is delivered in the right quantities at the right time, with sustained potency to our health facilities. And if we can do that for vaccines, we can deploy same for every other health commodity our people need.
“Secondly, we have to ensure that our health workers are well trained, managed, supervised and deployed in a rationale way. That is particularly important when it comes to fighting infectious diseases such as measles.
“Our goal in Kaduna State, for instance, is to achieve more than 80 percent coverage in every ward. So it won’t work if we provide immunisation here in Kaduna, but fail to reach all children in far way Sanga,” he said.
He expressed appreciation to Gates and Dangote for the partnership they have extended to the states.
The governors of Kano, Kaduna, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno and Sokoto States signed the MoU.


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