The Country Representatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mairo Mandara, has said the organisation will help Nigeria eradicate polio.
Ms. Mario, who made this known during an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Sunday said eradicating polio in the country will be the foundation’s greatest achievement. While saying Nigeria is one of the three countries left to completely tackle Poliomyelitis scourge, she listed the other countries as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“We are going to kick polio out, and we are actively vaccinating and doing surveillance, so eradicating polio in Nigeria will be our biggest achievement,” she said.
“Not only will we not have active polio and children either dying or becoming crippled from polio, all the money for polio campaign will be available to invest in vaccination, maternal healthcare and Primary Healthcare.
“So, with the ending of polio, all other programmes will suddenly be boosted.”
Ms. Mario said Nigeria never recorded any polio case for almost two years before the cases in Maiduguri were discovered.
She said the virus reappeared because, for about four years, Borno children and their families were taken hostage by Boko Haram and could not be reached by the vaccinators.
According to her, the virus has not been recorded in any other parts of the country recently.
To address the problem, she said the foundation was developing Nigeria’s Country Strategy, a plan she noted is in line with what the federal government was doing.
Moreover, she said a working methodology that supports the agenda of the government and Nigerians to improve the health of women and children and its revitalisation of one Primary Healthcare Centre, PHC, per ward initiative, is being developed.
Through the strategy, she said the foundation would support Nigeria to make smallholder farmers become central to its agricultural agenda.
She said. “We want to support the Nigerian Government to develop a workforce of village health workers that will go to villages and ensure that there are good health and nutrition education.
“The government leading and we, with others supporting so that it will have a sustained strategy for improving the lives of people in Nigeria.
“In Nigeria, we are used to having heavy budgets for tertiary health institutions like teaching hospitals, but because of the recession, and with many people at the lower ebb of the pyramid, we need to invest in PHCs.
“We used to wait until we are sick to treat diseases, but now, we have to invest in the prevention of illnesses.”
Ms. Mario said the present economic recession was an opportunity for the country to reflect on how it does business, adjust its priorities and invest differently.
But she maintained that the government has not done enough to end the scourge of diseases, and encouraged the authorities to aim at recording zero tolerance for any disease.
“I am not sure there is any government in the world that is doing enough until we reach the stage of the wonderful number zero.
“At this stage, no one is dying of any disease and no child is dying of preventable diseases, zero number of children are not immunised.
“Also, every woman who wants to space her children has the option of doing so, so until we get to zero, we cannot say that any government is doing the best.”
Ms. Mario lauded the government’s political will toward revitalising 10,000 PHCs saying it is key to Nigeria’s health intervention.
She also called for the creation of human resources for health by properly distributing health workers to fill up the vacancies in the rural areas.