March 28, 2023

Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Gates Foundation, says Africa and the rest of the world are not done yet with the battle to rid the world of wild poliovirus.

On Tuesday, the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for polio eradication officially declared Nigeria and the rest of Africa free of indigenous wild poliovirus.

Speaking at the certification ceremony on Tuesday, Gates said the virus could still return as long as it still exists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Thirty years ago, more than 40 people worldwide contracted polio every hour. Even in 1996, wild polio paralyzed more than 75,000 children across Africa. Today wild polio in Africa is gone,” he said.

“This is a historic milestone in the public health triumph for Africa, one that has, and would continue to give dividends in the fight against diseases like  Ebola and COVID-19.

“We are not done yet, of course, now more than ever it is important to protect the progress we’ve made. We still have to beat wild polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan because until polio is gone everywhere, it can still return.

“In the global polio program has to contend with another less common type of polio (cVDPV). These viruses continue to spread in a number of countries, mostly in Africa, and require coordinated efforts and financial support to end them too.

“Let’s be clear today is an amazing achievement that is going to mean a world of good for the children of Africa. The kids I met in Lagos with routine immunization now T-shirts, in clinics in Sokoto and in Abuja, they are that much closer to a world without polio”.

Gates thanked his friend Aliko Dangote for his role in the “success of this huge public health effort”.

“Aliko and I became friends as soon as we met, since then we’ve had a chance to travel together across Nigeria several times to support our great work on polio eradication.

“We’ve had meetings with ministers, traditional leaders, we’ve visited health clinics and (surveillance cites) and put in some long days, and I know he is as delighted as I am that we reached this critical milestone”.

He also called on governments of African countries to provide “political and financial support to ensure that eradication polio remains a top priority”.

“Africa is now free of wild polio because so many leaders and partners came together to defeat it.

“Country Government must continue to invest in public health, support the frontline workers, stay vigilant against outbreaks, and most importantly, work together.”

Gates Foundation is the biggest funder of the World Health Organisation Africa region (WHO AFRO), investing billions of dollars in the eradication of the virus in the region.

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