21 January 2016

Nigeria: Bill Gates, Dangote, Govs Move to End Child, Maternal Deaths in the North

The president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates, and the president of Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, yesterday entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with six northern governors to ensure rapid reduction in cases of child and maternal mortality in their states.

The world's richest man, Bill Gates, and Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, met behind closed doors with the governors of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Sokoto, Kano and Bauchi states to sign the multi-billion naira agreement.

Gates, who spoke briefly, said his foundation is determined to eradicate polio and other related diseases in Nigeria, Africa and the world in general through partnership with various states and countries.

In his remarks, Aliko Dangote urged the governors to take ownership of this immunization programme.

Dangote, who urged governors to visit a health centre every month for supportive supervision, called on the federal government to continue to work closely with the states to provide routine and new vaccines and other health commodities.

According to Dangote, Bill Gate's commitment to polio eradication was clear, "but he also talked to me about how immunization is lifesaving, cost effective and is a cornerstone of every primary health care system.

"Leadership and guidance of federal government and the commitment of the governors are critical of success. For me, bringing health care to the community is something I care about deeply so it is very important that communities trust that health services are there for them."

United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, in a speech said the signing of the MoU demonstrates the willingness and commitment of Nigeria's government and organizations to tackle the challenges.

Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, who spoke at the event, said immunizing a child, which should be simple and routine, has not been so across Nigeria, as the health system has not been invested with the capacity to consistently provide even routine services at a high standard.

He said it was for that reason that the partnership was established to change that.

"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 needs."

According to Governor el-Rufai, the state governments have to ensure "our health workers are well trained, managed, supervised and deployed in a rational way.

"It is essential that, as state governments, we earn the trust of the community by delivering predictable, reliable health services if we want our citizens to come to the health facilities. By getting immunization right, we can ensure that families access other critical treatments against malaria, diarrhoea and other common ailments," said el-Rufai.

"That's 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% coverage in every ward. So it won't work if we provide immunization here in Kaduna, but fail to reach all children in faraway Sanga."

The governor expressed gratitude to Mr Gates and Alhaji Dangote for the "partnership you have extended to us today. We have come a long way together in the fight against polio - and we know we have to keep the pressure on the polio virus for at least two more years. I am truly optimistic that we will remain polio-free."

"And because of our success on polio, the door is open for us to focus on other key health services, starting with immunization. We have a lot of work to do, and I'm delighted that we are doing it together.

"We are grateful for all you have done to support our states and our country, but we need more. We therefore appeal to you, Mr Gates and Alhaji Dangote, to assist our state governments to revamp agriculture in the north, particularly livestock and rice production."

Govs, Dangote, Gates Foundation, USAID sign MoU on children vaccines

In a bid to strengthen primary health care, four northern Nigerian governors, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Bill Gates, and U.S. Ambassador James Entwistle have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve routine immunization and further strengthen primary health care.

In a ceremony at the Kaduna State Government House yesterday, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, chair of the Dangote Foundation; Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, joined governors from Kaduna, Sokoto, Yobe, and Borno states to launch an ambitious new partnership committing political and financial resources to strengthen and sustain routine immunization programmes that will save more lives and keep Nigeria polio-free.

The witnessing of new MOUs served as an opportunity to review successes and lessons learned from existing programmes in Kano and Bauchi states. To extend these efforts, the governor of Kano State signed a fourth-year extension to the state's existing MOU.

Nigeria's health minister, Professor I.F. Adewole, congratulated the states and partners for making a significant investment in immunization.

"These are tough financial times in Nigeria, but the health of children cannot wait. The country has an ambitious plan to introduce new life-saving vaccines over the next several years, and today's commitments will ensure we can get those vaccines to the children who need them most," he said.

Through the MOUs, the governors commit to effective governance, leadership, and financial accountability to reduce child illness and death from diseases such as measles, pertussis, and hepatitis through increased routine immunization in their respective states.

The other partners will bring the financial and technical support needed to operationalize the program. All signatories pledged to improve routine immunization coverage in northern Nigeria systematically and sustainably, where vaccine coverage rates are low.

According to Aliko Dangote, the agreements will strengthen the partnerships with Nigerian states working to provide health services to all their citizens.

"Building on their recent success in eliminating polio from the region, Nigerian governors have and will continue to play a vital role in establishing a legacy of sustained commitment to routine immunization," he said.

"These commitments will improve immunization coverage and help provide reliable health services in Nigeria. The states will be able to reap the full return on their investment through the number of lives improved and saved, and communities will remain protected from vaccine-preventable diseases for years to come," said Gates. "Nigeria's governors have the opportunity to build health systems strong enough to stop future outbreaks."

Ambassador Entwistle in his remarks said: "These MOUs offer the model platform to capitalize on the prospects of evidence-based approaches. Results will include stronger systems for immunizations, equal access to routine immunization services, and building capacity for Nigerian states to lead in developing solutions for its people."

PMB urges states, LGs to sustain momentum in polio eradication

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday urged state governors to sustain the momentum in eradicating polio completely from the country.

The president, alongside the chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), Abdul'aziz Yari, signed an updated version of commitment to polio eradication.

The signing was witnessed by president, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates, and Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

Speaking at the State House in Abuja at the signing of the updated Abuja commitment to polio eradication, Buhari said the successful de-listing of Nigeria as a polio endemic country was an enormous achievement for the nation that should not be understated.

President Buhari promised that the federal government will continue to provide strong oversight and funding for polio programme.

On this premise, Buhari said the federal government will reconstitute an expanded Presidential Taskforce on Polio which will include the 36 states' governors to sustain the successes of the current polio eradication activities such as surveillance and routine immunization programmes.

He said," The issue of polio eradication in Nigeria has been a matter I, and my predecessors, have given the highest priority. It is this continuous prioritization that has gotten us, as a nation, to where we are today.

"The successful de-listing of Nigeria as a polio endemic country is an enormous achievement for our country that should not be understated. It clearly shows that through sheer commitment, hard work and having the right partnerships, we can succeed."

The president expressed gratitude to Mr Gates for his continued commitment and support to various health care causes in Nigeria, especially through maternal and child healthcare programmes, just as he expressed his government's support "as we continue to work together for the betterment of all Nigerians in particular, the vulnerable ones.

"I am very encouraged by the progress we are making on the immunization front. This gives me comfort that we are on the right track to ensure our children and grandchildren will never know of polio and its adverse impacts on lives and livelihood."

Buhari also recognised the heroic efforts of the polio eradication teams under the National Primary Health Care Development Agency of the Federal Ministry of Health as well as the WHO, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CDC, USAID, Rotary, Faith based organizations, traditional rulers, vaccinators and caregivers.

He added: "I would like to assure you that the federal government will continue to provide strong oversight and funding for polio programme. To this effect, we will reconstitute an expanded Presidential Taskforce on Polio which will include the 36 states' governors to sustain the successes of our current polio eradication activities such as surveillance and routine immunization 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 we maintain the zero polio case status.

"Finally, I am calling on all our friends and partners, locally and abroad, to continue supporting us on this very worthy task. Together, we will succeed. On the matter of preventable diseases, failure is not an option."

On his part, governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, said the state governments cannot afford to renege on the commitment to eradicating polio.

"We have stayed committed. In the last one year plus, we have not had a single case of polio. I believe that all the governors are committed, as our chairman did say, and we are definitely going to go back home and continue with the good work that has been done in the past. Obviously, the commitment is full and total," he said.

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