Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, gave the Kick Polio Out of Africa (KPOA) campaign a boost Monday 7th June by signing the football that traveled from Cape Town to Egypt ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
During the ball’s epic journey through 22 polio-affected and high-risk countries, Rotary clubs throughout Africa mobilized the public for massive immunizations and raising awareness for polio eradication. Gates lauded Rotary’s efforts to help kick polio out of the continent — and eventually out of the world.
He also commended Nigeria for making significant gains in the fight against polio and urged them to finish the job. He joined Nigerian officials in bringing attention to the current immunization rounds throughout Africa targeting more than 100 million children under the age of five.
Since Rotary and its partners began their fight against polio in 1988, the incidence of the disease has been reduced by 99 percent. In Africa, only Nigeria remains polio-endemic, but the disease still affects children in many other high-risk countries, emphasizing the importance of protecting all African children from polio. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) only three cases of polio were reported in Nigeria through 25 May this year, compared with 276 cases reported during the same time period in ‘09.
‘Nigeria’s recent progress against polio is an achievement that all Nigerians should be proud of,’ said Gates. ‘Thanks to political and traditional leaders, dedicated health workers, and loving parents who want to protect their children, Nigeria is on a path toward eliminating polio.’
After traveling for almost four months across the continent, the football is close to reaching its final destination in Alexandria, Egypt. The grand campaign finale will be held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, on Saturday12th June, under the auspices of First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. The African Cup of Nation champions will kick the ball — symbolically kicking polio out of the continent and into the Mediterranean Sea. Also attending the event will be film star and polio goodwill ambassador Hany Salama, polio-infected children, government officials, and dignitaries.
Polio eradication has been Rotary’s top priority for more than two decades. The international humanitarian service organisation has contributed more than US$900 million toward a polio-free world, and is a spearheading partner in the global polio eradication initiative, along with the WHO, the U.S. centers for disease control and prevention, and UNICEF.