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To Help Nigeria Stop Polio, Bill Gates Launches “Governors’ Immunization Leadership Challenge”

States eligible for $500,000 grant to address pressing health issues

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

SEATTLE -- Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a new initiative today for Nigeria’s Executive Governors challenging them to deliver a dramatic improvement in polio and routine immunization by the end of 2012.

The program, initiated together with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, will recognize those Executive Governors whose states pass a pre-defined threshold to improve routine immunization coverage and end polio. The states that meet the threshold criteria will be awarded a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support their top health priorities.

“Nigeria's leaders are critical to making Nigeria polio free and their renewed confirmation last week of the Abuja Commitments will make an important difference," said Gates. “As Nigeria’s partner, the Gates Foundation is committed to doing what we can to support their efforts to end this terrible, but preventable, disease.”

The award will support winning governors’ priority initiatives in public health, such as malaria and tuberculosis, improving immunization, HIV prevention and treatment, or safe drinking water and hygiene promotion. In addition to the grant, those governors who achieve the goals will receive special recognition from Mr. Gates for their contribution to the elimination of polio. Winning governors will be highlighted in foundation communications, such as Mr. Gates’ annual letter or the foundation’s annual report, social media materials and Mr. Gates’ public engagements globally.

“As governors push hard over the next year to achieve the 2012 deadline to end polio, I want to ensure their efforts are acknowledged and that the governors are simultaneously supported to tackle other key health problems they face in their states,” said Mr. Gates.

If Governors choose, they also may contribute $250,000 to their chosen health project and the foundation will match that contribution, meaning a potential total $1 million towards improving health in their state.

“Nigeria’s governors want to stop polio and improve routine immunization to protect Nigeria’s children against preventable diseases,” said His Excellency Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. “This award recognizes that effort, and the fact that we need to work hard if we want to stop polio in this country by 2012.”

The Governors’ Immunization Leadership Challenge

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum will provide the secretariat for the challenge program, and will actively engage 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 will be open to all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory. Any interested governor will need 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.

Gates’ Visit to Nigeria

Gates was in Nigeria last week to discuss polio eradication and immunization with senior government leadership in Nigeria. He met with President Goodluck Jonathan who announced a special task force to spearhead the federal effort to support states in stopping polio. He also observed as their Excellencies Vice President Namadi Sambo and Governor Amaechi signed a communiqué adopting and re-confirming the 2009 Abuja Commitments. Those commitments lay out clear steps for Executive Governors and Local Government Area Chairmen to ensure that polio is stopped and immunization services are reaching more children.

After reducing polio cases by 95 percent in 2010, polio is re-emerging in Nigeria with 32 cases reported across six northern states since the beginning of the year. During his visit, Gates urged the country’s northern governors in particular to redouble their effort to ensure no children were missed for immunization with oral polio and routine vaccines.

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