Nigeria may be free of polio in 2018 – Bill Gates
Nigeria could cut the number of polio cases to zero next year and be declared free of the disease in 2018 even though a national eradication campaign has had to contend with an insurgency in the north, Bill Gates told Reuters.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the global initiative to wipe out polio, which includes a campaign in Nigeria, one of three nations where the crippling virus is still endemic. The other two are Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“We have got all the challenges up in northern Nigeria, the violence from Boko Haram, and the distraction of an upcoming election,” Gates said in a telephone interview, referring to an Islamist rebel group that has in the past targeted vaccination workers, and to Nigeria’s national vote next year.
“Despite all that, we’ve got by far the lowest numbers of cases ever,” he said. “We hope by the end of next year we’d be at zero.” He added that if there were no more cases for three years after that, Nigeria could be certified clear in 2018.
The technology billionaire-turned-global philanthropist was speaking last week before a speech on Thursday at Addis Ababa University on development in Africa, mainly in health and agriculture.
“We’ve got a pretty optimistic view of what can happen in Africa in those two areas,” he said before his trip to Ethiopia, a nation stricken by famine 30 years ago but which has doubled farm output in the last eight years.
In health work, one of his most high-profile programmes is the fight against malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 200 million people a year and kills more than 600,000 people. Nine out of 10 deaths are in Africa.
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