At the ongoing 64th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Mr. William Gates, Microsoft Founder and Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, praised Nigeria’s Dr. Muhammad Pate for his efforts to help eradicate polio in the country. Pate was an ANPA Member before he returned home to head the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA).
Describing Nigeria’s stride in eradicating polio, Mr Gates said:
The eradication of polio will be a great victory for this Assembly. You started the courageous fight against this disease. You will finish it. And then you will be able to move on to the next ambitious goal.
One of the polio leaders I respect most is Dr. Muhammad Pate, who directs Nigeria’s national eradication effort. Just a few years ago, Nigeria was the most troublesome spot on the polio map. It had hundreds of cases. Much worse, it lacked the commitment to bringing that number down.
But Dr. Pate, along with the global polio partners, President Goodluck Jonathan, and members of the ministry of health, helped rally government and traditional leaders around the cause. Dr. Pate told me that his agency makes a point of identifying poor-performing states publicly. That’s the kind of accountability that leads to results. Last year, thanks to a nationwide effort, polio was down 95 percent in Nigeria. Nigeria’s leaders still have a lot of work ahead of them, but they have turned the polio programme around.
During my last visit to Nigeria, Dr. Pate asked me a small favor. He hoped I’d be willing to sign his daughter’s school yearbook. I was more than willing, of course, and I want Dr. Pate’s daughter to know this: I admire her father very much, I want to someday introduce my children to him one day soon, and I hope more than anything that when that day comes we shall be celebrating the fact that there is no more polio in Nigeria.