While Nigeria has been going through a long battle in attempts to become a polio free country, Bill & Melinda Gates have agreed to lend an helping hand to Africa’s largest economy.
The Bill & Melinda Foundation will pay off the $76 million debt owed to Japan by Nigeria for resources used to eradicate polio. This will be their second investment in the fight against the antiquated disease. In 2017 it was reported that the Gates Foundation had spent a total of $3 billion on anti- polio efforts so far. “You might be wondering why we’re spending so much money when there’s only 12 cases. We want to be sure we finish it off,” said Jay Wagner, a medical doctor who leads the Gates Foundation’s polio eradication effort, to CNBC. No new cases were recorded in 2017, which is a huge success from 2012 when Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide. In the foundation’s 2017 annual letter, Bill Gates was very optimistic that the end of polio was near, saying
“Ending polio will save lives through the magic of zero. When polio is eradicated, the world can dedicate polio funds to improving child health, and the lessons from polio will lead to better immunization systems for other diseases.”
While there is still no cure for polio, it can be eradicated. Unlike many other diseases, the polio virus cannot live within an animal host and can only survive for two months outside of the human body. With that being said, consistent and widespread immunization is the key to ending the disease. Despite the progress made, there were still several parts of the region that still could not be accessed by health and immunization workers.
The Gates Foundation stepped in at the right time. Nigeria’s economy is just beginning to recover from it’s first recession in over two decades.