The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the launch of an initiative designed to reward states in Nigeria that make significant improvements in polio and routine immunization coverage by the end of 2012.
The number of new cases of polio in Nigeria has been rising of late. Launched in partnership with the Nigeria Governors' Forum, the Immunization Leadership Challenge will award $500,000 to states that meet a pre-defined threshold to improve routine immunization coverage. The grant can be used to support governors' top health priorities, including malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV prevention and treatment, as well as safe drinking water and hygiene programs. The Gates Foundation also will match contributions by states to their chosen health project of up to $250,000.
The immunization challenge will be open to all thirty-six Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory. States must apply by October 31, and their applications will be reviewed by a panel of independent national and international public health experts selected by the foundation. The winners of the challenge will be announced at the end of the twelve-month period.
"Nigeria's governors want to stop polio and improve routine immunization to protect Nigeria's children against preventable diseases," said Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers State and chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum. "This award recognizes that effort and the fact that we need to work hard if we want to stop polio in this country by 2012."