Gates joins Africa’s richest man to fight polio in Nigeria


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Vikawe P

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Vikawe P

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The richest man in Africa and the wealthiest man fromthe United States joined forces Monday in the battle against polio, which hasseen a resurgence in Nigeria despite efforts to eradicate it.Microsoft founderBill Gates’ foundation and that of Aliko Dangote, the Nigerian businessmanlabeled Africa’s richest by Forbes, announced an alliance during a ceremony inKano, Nigeria’s second city.Nigeria is one of only three countries still consideredto have endemic polio, alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan.Under the four-yearalliance, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Dangote foundations would providefunding, equipment and technical support to the Kano state government tostrengthen polio immunisation.Eradicating polio “will be Kano’s gift to Nigeriaand Nigeria’s gift to the world,” Jeff Raikes, the head of the Bill and MelindaGates Foundation, said at the ceremony.Dangote, whose Dangote Group includesinterests ranging from cement to flour and real estate, said “myself and BillGates met in New York and agreed to partner and intervene in polioeradication.”"There is no reason for any one of us not to assist inkeeping our people healthy,” said Dangote, who is from Kano.Forbes has labeledDangote Africa’s richest man, while the magazine says Gates is the richest manfrom the United States — as well as “the planet’s most generous person.”Theamounts the two foundations intend to commit in the partnership were notdisclosed.Since 2003, Kano has been especially hard hit by the transmission ofthe polio virus in Nigeria following the state government’s suspension ofimmunisations for 13 months.The suspension followed allegations by some Muslimclerics that the vaccine was laced with substances that could render girlsinfertile as part of US-led Western plot to depopulate Africa.Despite theresumption of polio immunisations, Kano has continued to record polio cases asmany parents still reject the vaccine.According to the most recent World HealthOrganisation weekly report on polio, Nigeria accounts for 104 of the 193 casesso far recorded worldwide this year, with Kano having 22 cases.In 2011, Nigeriarecorded 62 polio cases, including 17 in Kano.The WHO said earlier this yearthat an Islamist insurgency in the country’s northeast was harming efforts toeradicate polio due to insecurity.Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation andits largest oil producer, has pledged to stop polio virus transmission by theend of 2013 although it has failed to meet previous deadlines to stamp out thecrippling disease.
 

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