The Dangote Foundation, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is set to invest $42m in primary health care programmes to ensure a polio-free Nigeria by 2018.
Although the World Health Organisation delisted Nigeria on the list of polio-endemic countries, the country is not very free of the virus.
Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kaduna State Government, the President, Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the donor foundations would provide technical and financial support to strengthen routine immunisation programmes in Sokoto, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Kano and Kaduna states.
According to Dangote, the MoU is to ensure that all primary health centres in the states have the necessary infrastructure to store and give vaccines to children.
He said, “Bill Gates’ commitment to eradicating polio in Nigeria is clear. He has told me that immunisation is life-saving, cost-effective and a cornerstone of every primary health care system.
“What we need is the leadership of the Federal Government and the commitment of the state governors. It is critical to the success of this MoU. For me, bringing health care to the community is something I care about deeply, so it is important that communities trust that health services are there for them.”
Gates, in his remarks, said that apart from eradicating polio, his foundation was committed to reducing infant mortality in the country.
Commending the states for providing their counterpart funding of the programmes, he noted that the two foundations would always offer assistance to them.
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, explained that the MoU demonstrated the commitment of the Nigerian Government to solving its health challenges.
The envoy said, “This agreement, more importantly, serves as a model on which to build future partnerships between developing partners and the government of Nigeria.”
On behalf of the benefitting states, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir-el-Rufai, promised the implementation of all agreements reached.
El-Rufai said, “It is evident from the contributions of my colleagues that our key strategy is to ensure a reliable supply of vaccines in the right quantities at the right time. If we can do that for vaccines, we can deploy the same for every other health commodity our people need.
“It is essential that we earn the trust of our communities by delivering predictable, reliable health services if we want our citizens to come to the health facilities. By getting immunisation right, we can ensure that families access other critical treatment against malaria, diarrhoea, among other ailments.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that governors would be members of task force on polio in the country.
The president also promised that his administration would sustain the funding of vaccination programmes in the country.