By VICTORIA OJEME
ABUJA—The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Wednesday announced a reward of $500,000 for states that can eradicate polio in Nigeria in 2012.
A statement released by the Foundation said the award was announced during a meeting last week between Bill and Melinda Gates and the Governors’ Forum, represented by Rivers State governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.
According to the statement by the Foundation’s Senior Communication Officer (External Communication), Michal Fishman, the initiative, titled “ Governors immunization leadership challenge”, initiated together with Nigeria Governors’ Forum, will recognize governors whose states passed 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.
He said: “ 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. “As Nigeria ’s partner, the Gates Foundation is committed to doing what we can 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.
“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.
“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.
The statement further affirmed the commitment of the Governors’ Forum to eradicate polio in Nigeria , quoting Governor Ameachi as having assured the Foundation that Nigeria ’s governors wanted to stop polio and improve routine immunization to protect Nigeria ’s children against preventable diseases.