Kano — The Federal and Kano state governments, Dangote Group and the American-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation yesterday signed a three-year memorandum of understanding geared towards the eradication of polio in Kano State.
The public/private partnership, according to a statement by the Bill Gates foundation also seeks to "improve routine immunization and primary health care in Kano State with a goal of reaching 80 per cent coverage with basic vaccines by 2015."
The statement said Kano has one of the lowest routine immunization coverage rates in Nigeria, with less than 40 per cent of children immunised.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, who represented the Federal Government at the event observed that polio immunization had worked in reducing the disease in the past, saying that accountability was instrumental in achieving past success.
"There was honesty in the people that were operating in the system, there was accountability based on information. In the private sector, we are concerned about infrastructure, while the private sector thinks in terms of results. Therefore, information and accountability are the only way through which we can succeed in eradicating polio", he said.
Pate said currently, Nigeria is the only country on the African continent with existing cases of polio virus.
"Even in Nigeria, at least 25 states have spent almost two years without polio. So there is no reason or excuse that will be acceptable from all of us. If we don't fix polio, there is little chance that we can deal with other diseases like malaria", he added.
On his part, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said his administration will apply strict monitoring on those involved in the exercise to ensure its success at the local government levels.
"The best local governments will be rewarded while the least performing ones will be cautioned and sanctioned in order to do better next time", he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Jeff Raikes, on his part, said a report by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative showed that Kano State scored the worst in terms of children missing the polio vaccine.
"A section dedicated to Kano in the report says that the state scored the worst for missed children. It says the date must be used to help prioritize action. It says there is some innovation that is commendable and that the state polio task force is functioning well", he said.
Equally, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the head of Dangote group tasked officials responsible for the implementation of the polio vaccine program to be committed to the exercise.
"We will partner with the state government to see that there is enough funding, but unless you are committed it would not happen.
We must try to eradicate polio in the next three years because I cannot understand why assistance coming all the way from the United State would be rejected. Therefore you just have to be committed", he said.