Thursday, December 6, 2012
Two of the World’s Richest Men Join Forces to Fight Against Polio in Nigeria
Story by Edna Owusu-Ansah
Two of the world’s wealthiest men, one rated the richest man in Africa by Forbes and the other, the wealthiest man in the United States joined forces last week in the battle against polio, a disease that has surged in Nigeria despite eradication efforts.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Aliko Dangote’s Foundation announced an alliance during a ceremony in the Nigerian city of Kano. Nigeria is one of only three countries still considered to have endemic polio, alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why this is so is an enigma.
The two foundations have signed a four year alliance to provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano state government to strengthen polio immunization.
Eradicating polio “will be Kano’s gift to Nigeria and Nigeria’s gift to the world,” Jeff Raikes, the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said at the ceremony.
Dangote, whose company specializes in cement, flour, and real estate said “myself and Bill Gates met in New York and agreed to partner and intervene in polio eradication. There is no reason for any one of us not to assist in keeping our people healthy,” said Dangote, who is from Kano.
Recently, Forbes labeled Dangote Africa’s richest man, while the magazine says Gates is the richest man from the United States — as well as “the planet’s most generous person.”
The amounts the two foundations intend to commit in the partnership were not disclosed. But sources say it is a fairly huge amount.
Since 2003, Kano has been especially hard hit by the transmission of the polio virus in Nigeria following the state government’s suspension of immunizations for 13 months. The suspension followed allegations by some Muslim clerics that the vaccine was laced with substances that could render girls infertile as part of US-led Western plot to depopulate Africa.
Despite the recommencement of polio immunizations, Kano has continued to record polio cases as many parents still reject the vaccine. According to the most recent World Health Organization weekly report on polio, Nigeria accounts for 104 of the 193 cases so far recorded worldwide this year, with Kano having 22 cases.
In 2011, Nigeria recorded 62 polio cases, including 17 in Kano. The WHO said earlier this year that an Islamist insurgency in the country’s northeast was harming efforts to eradicate polio due to insecurity.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, has pledged to stop polio virus transmission by the end of 2013, although it has failed to meet previous deadlines to stamp out the crippling disease. Lets keep our hopes high. We hope to see a major progress and impact with this collaboration.