As the federal government searches for better funding options for the health sector, global businessman, Mr Bill Gates, has said his foundation will commit $7 billion to Africa in the next four years to support routine immunisation in Nigeria and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Northern Nigeria.
Also, business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has said Bill Gates and himself had been partnering with both the federal and state governments for several years, supporting the efforts at eradicating polio and improving routine immunisation, nutrition and primary healthcare in Nigeria.
They spoke yesterday at a parley with some governors under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Bill Gates said, “We genuinely believe that the National Economic Council (NEC) and the decisions that you will make over the next four years will determine whether Nigeria has sound economic growth, keeps its citizens happy and achieves the sustainable development goals.”
In his remarks, the chairman of NGF, Alhaji Abdulraman Abdulrasaq and other governors who spoke at the parley lauded the philanthropic interventions of Dangote and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations in critical areas including healthcare, education, agriculture and human capital development. The governors expressed readiness to further collaborate with the Dangote and Gates Foundations in the coming years.
At the event, Vice President Kashim Shettima said, “We are going to address the concerns that surround the financing of our primary healthcare system in the country.”
He said polio is one of the major primary healthcare challenges in the country and disclosed that “the proposal is to provide timely domestic financing for the procurement of vaccines, which couldn’t have come sooner, to boosting our industrial capacity to produce vaccines.”
While acknowledging the threats facing Nigeria in the area of polio, he averred that Nigeria’s three dose pentavalent vaccine coverage has improved from 33 percent in 2016 to 57 percent in 2021.
He stated further that “the variant polio virus has declined in Nigeria by 84 percent from 2021, falling to fewer than 200 cases in 2022. He therefore commended the states that have achieved high category immunization coverage, which is between 60% and 80% of the target demographic and the number of states has expanded from 12 to 21 states in five years.”
Giving further assurance, he said, “The federal government and our respective state governments are going to put in place a transparent process and structure to undo the reality of the country as one with one of the highest proportions of non-immunized infants in the world over the last decade.”
Shettima stressed that the federal government is “committed to eradicating variant poliovirus by the end of the year ensuring that every Nigerian child is covered in the routine immunization campaigns.”
On the issue of production of vaccines for immunisation of children, he assured that “we are going to work together to ensure that these vaccines are made available even to zero-dose children, of which ours, at 2 million, are the highest in the world after India.”
The vice president expressed the appreciation of the federal government to partners such as Dangote Foundation and Bill Gates Foundation, whose empathy shone through that uncertain period in our history.