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Nigerian Governors Sign Up to Immunization Leadership Challenge | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Commitment to end polio also set to benefit other health priorities across the country

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

SEATTLE -- Nigeria’s 36 Executive Governors and the Federal Capital Territory have signed up to the Nigeria Immunization Challenge launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year.

“Renewed political resolve and accountability are critical to stopping polio in Nigeria and we find it encouraging to witness both through the support expressed by every Executive Governor across the country for this initiative,” said Jeff Raikes, Chief Executive Officer of the Gates Foundation. “By collectively signing up to this challenge, they are sending a very clear message about their commitment to lead the fight to eliminate polio in Nigeria.”

Announced in October 2011, the Challenge was initiated together with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to recognize those Executive Governors whose states pass a pre-defined threshold to improve routine immunization coverage and end polio. The announcement followed a visit by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation and Jeff Raikes, during which President Goodluck Jonathan expressed his hope that Nigeria would have close to zero cases at the same time in 2012 and be finished with polio soon after.

“Nigeria made great progress in 2010, reducing polio by 95%”, said Mr. A.B. Okauru, Director General, Nigeria Governors’ Forum. “But that pressure was not sustained in 2011, and as a result the polio virus was able to make a comeback this year. In 2012, Nigeria will need to redouble its efforts to finally get rid of this devastating disease”.

The Nigeria Immunization Challenge sets specific objectives that need to be met during each quarter of 2012. If met, Nigeria will significantly improve its chances of stopping polio and protecting more children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

“The sooner we end polio, the sooner we can ensure that our children, and the children of the world, stop suffering from this debilitating disease,” said Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State and Chair, Nigeria Governors’ Forum. “Meeting this Challenge will enable us to focus on other health priorities and also help Nigeria to join other countries that have eliminated this disease.”

The states that meet all the necessary threshold criteria by the end of 2012 will be awarded a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support their top health priorities. This could include priority initiatives in public health, such as malaria and tuberculosis, improving immunization, HIV prevention and treatment, or safe drinking water and hygiene promotion.

As of December 30, 2011, 51 cases of wild poliovirus had been reported in eight Nigerian states, compared with 21 cases in 2010. Polio virus from Nigeria is also genetically linked to transmission in Chad, Niger and Mali, making it critical to stop the spread of the disease to neighboring countries.

The Challenge calls on the Executive Governor and Local Government Area (LGA) Chairmen to play a visible role in promoting polio eradication, to release funds in a timely manner for immunization, and to work closely with traditional leaders to make sure no children are being left out of immunization activities.

Performance will be assessed on a monthly and quarterly basis. Results will be transmitted to the Executive Governor by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, a key partner of the foundation and the secretariat for the Challenge.

Each state is also expected to achieve more than 90% coverage, verified through an independent monitoring system managed by the World Health Organization.

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The Governors’ Immunization Leadership Challenge
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum provides the secretariat for the challenge program, and is responsible for actively engaging the governors throughout the 12-month period to encourage them to stay on track in the fight against polio and achieve the qualifying threshold for the award.

The Immunization Leadership Challenge is open to all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Any interested governor was required to officially enter his state in the award program through the Nigeria Governors’ Forum by October 31, 2011. To receive the grant, the state will need to pass a rigorous set of criteria based on outcomes in their polio program and routine immunization services.

Data to assess performance will be collected and managed by a Monitoring and Evaluation team led by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and supported by polio eradication partners. A panel of independent national and international public health experts selected by the foundation will assess the data and declare the winners at the end of 12 months.

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