Why The Gates Foundation Just Paid Off Nigeria’s $76 Million Debt

Why The Gates Foundation Just Paid Off Nigeria’s $76 Million Debt

After decades of struggling with the disease, Nigeria is nearly polio-free. Reaching that goal came with a hefty price tag that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t want the country to have to shoulder.

In 2012, Nigeria accounted for half of all polio cases globally. For two years beginning in 2014, Nigeria believed itself to be polio-free, only to see two cases pop up in 2016. Only Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan are currently struggling with the disease.

One of the biggest innovations in the anti-polio movement is how Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates helped pay for it.

From Fast Company. Story by Ben Paynter

Thirty years ago, polio infected about 350,000 people per year. But last year, just 21 contracted the disease. That reduction stems from a worldwide increase in vaccination efforts, which has a compounding effect: The lower the number of known carriers, the less chance the disease will spread.

Bill Gates, whose Gates Foundation has heavily funded this work, did some math on the avoided fallout, which he posted to his personal blog in January. Over the last several decades, about 2.5 million kids have been vaccinated, resulting in at least 16 million people without paralysis. One of the biggest innovations in the anti-polio movement, though, is how Gates helped pay for it.

In 2014, the Gates Foundation announced a partnership with the Japanese government, which agreed to add to its already-strong track record of working to end polio by providing a loan of $76 million to Nigeria to further its progress. With the help of international aid investment, Nigeria has steadily reduced the prevalence of polio since 2012, when the country accounted for half of all cases globally. Rather than keep the developing country on the hook for the multimillion-dollar tab for that progress, the Gates Foundation offered to repay it, if Nigeria achieved certain benchmarks: Over 80% of the country’s highest-risk areas needed to have more than 80% of their residents covered by vaccines, according to a Gates Foundation spokesperson. As of this year, those conditions have been met.

“Gates’s commitment to end polio is certainly a bold, ambitious goal, and this move is one towards a ‘winnable milestone,’” adds William Foster, a partner at Bridgespan, a nonprofit consultancy, in an email to Fast Company. That’s one of the key factors that Bridgespan has identified as crucial for audacious philanthropic change.

Read more at Fast Company.

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(AP Photo/Michel Euler)