With Nigeria accounting for 77 per cent of cases of poliomyelitis, foremost entrepreneur, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has vowed that he would deployed all in his power to partner governments at all levels to stem the scourge.
Speaking against the background of the collaboration of his charity organisation, Dangote Foundation with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle the menace, Dangote expressed worry at the disgraceful image of Nigeria in the comity of nation on account of the rising profile of polio cases especially with Kano State, as the epicentre of the world fastest growing outbreak of the disease.
World Health Organisation (WHO) had branded Nigeria as the largest contributor of global polio burden and the only country in the world to have all three types of polio virus - Type 1, Type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived Type 2 viruses and explained that the transmission of the disease in Nigeria posed a real threat to the global polio eradication effort.
It was to redress this situation that both foundations had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kano State government during the week, seeking to put efforts together to eradicate the disease.
The MoU is a three-year collaboration to improve routine immunisation and primary health care in Kano State, with a goal of reaching 80 per cent coverage with basic vaccines by 2015.
Kano has one of the lowest routine immunisation coverage rates in Nigeria, with less than 40 per cent of children reached with life-saving vaccines.
The parties are to work together to provide operations and management support to the newly established Kano State Primary Health Care Board to revitalise routine immunisation.
The President of Dangote Group, who is from Kano State, 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."
He described as unacceptable the prevalence of polio in the country and the inability to stem the spread at a time all efforts have been geared towards its eradication in many countries of the world, saying he would ensure all is deployed to curb the disease.
Dangote stated that one of the potent means of fighting the scourge was the collaboration with Bill Gates Foundation and assured that the new efforts would yield positive results as all hand would be on deck to see that pitfalls of the past are avoided.
According to him, the two foundations are to provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano State Government to strengthen polio immunisation, pointing out that eradicating polio in Nigeria will be a good thing not only for the country by the entire Africa.
Dangote said: "Now is the time for Nigerians to come together to strengthen the quality of our health systems. Routine immunisation is the fundamental cornerstone of every primary health care system. All children should have access to vaccinations which have been shown to be one of the most effective investments for a healthy and productive life."
Quoting the WHO, Dangote lamented that "Africa is on the brink of the biggest polio epidemic in years, with the crippling disease hitting Nigeria hard and re-emerging in Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region."
He stated that all parties are committed to the success of the new collaboration and that there would be periodic meeting to assess the level of success achieved so as to strengthen it for greater results.
Dangote also expressed optimism that the collaboration between the two Foundations and the Kano State government work out well pointing out that the state government had shown commitment towards the workability of the new measures, noting that the new strategy to kick out polio from Nigeria is irreversible.
According to the MoU, the under-five child mortality in Nigeria still accounts for 11 per cent of child mortality globally, while an estimated 759,000 Nigerian children died in 2011 before age five - or 2,079 children each day.
"The under-five child mortality in the Northwest Zone of Nigeria, including Kano State, is 217 deaths per 1,000 children, above the national average of 143 deaths per 1,000 children."
Justifying the need for the partnership, the partners regretted in the MoU that the routine immunisation coverage (DTP3) in Kano State is far below the globally and nationally recommended 80 per cent in all local government areas.
As of 2010 DTP3 coverage was estimated to be 26 per cent (NICS 2010). Routine immunization reporting as of May 2012 showed an improvement to 32 per cent DTP3 coverage but remains well below recommended levels.
"This low routine immunisation coverage increases the risks of childhood illness and death from vaccine preventable diseases, and the continued circulation of viruses such as measles and polio. Nigeria is one of only three polio endemic countries remaining in the world. Kano State continues to be an important poliovirus reservoir with 25 cases of polio (18 WPV1, 4 WPV3, 3 cVDPV2) as of 16 November 2012, representing 23 per cent of polio cases in Nigeria to date in 2012.
"The polio eradication experience, human resources and infrastructure can be used to help strengthen routine immunisation. Kano State has expressed commitment to strengthen its immunisation programme and reap the full return on investment in lives improved and saved", the MoU noted.