Bill Gates Helping Nigerian Health Care, Agriculture

Bill Gates Helping Nigerian Health Care, Agriculture

From All Africa.

Bill Gates spoke about how agriculture can help children’s health in Africa in an interview with Daily Trust following a recent nutrition summit in London.

The Gates Foundation has committed $100 million in added funding between now and 2020 for nutrition and $300 million more on agriculture beyond what was already committed, Gates said.

The summit focused on children’s nutrition and the huge negative effect poor nutrition has on kids, including avoidable deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia. Even if malnourished children survive, Gates said, in some cases their brains don’t fully develop, and that’s a tragedy for them and their country, according to a report in All Africa.

“We had a lot of experts (at the summit),” Gates said in the interview. “The Gates Foundation committed new resources, the United Kingdom committed a lot more resources, Earth Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation committed new resources.”

Asked his reaction to the criticism that this alliance on nutrition is simply a new wave of colonialism that will stifle smallholder farmers, Gates said, “Well, giving nutrition to young children so they don’t die seems like a universal value to us…this is about saving lives.”

The Gates Foundation is a strong backer of Alliance for a Green Revolution, Gates said in the report. AGRA was founded in 2006 through a partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. AGRA Vice President Akinwunmi Adesina, a Nigerian, attended the summit.

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The Gates Foundation is involved in making sure that new seeds become available, for example, with cassava. “We are involved in helping Nigeria step up the regulatory safety reviews,” he said, according to All Africa.

Asked if he was concerned that corruption could affect some of the investments the foundation is making in Nigeria, Gates said, “We invest in helping get the primary healthcare system fixed so that the kids in Nigeria get their routine immunization. We invest in the polio campaign because we are very close to eradication and Nigeria is one of the three last (remaining countries in the world with endemic polio transmission) and we are making some progress; we just committed a huge amount of money to the final campaign. One thing we do is to bring the vaccines into the country, so they’ve already been purchased through UNICEF, and then we track where they go.

“Mostly we operate at the technical level. So while we are concerned about corruption, we haven’t in our programs run into it directly.”

Gates credited World Health Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Childrens Fund, for helping reduced polio in Nigeria. Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan  are the only three countries where endemic transmission occur, according to UNICEF.

The quality of the polio eradication campaign in Nigeria has improved, Gates said in All Africa. “There have been new people brought in so that we monitor the campaign in different ways; we use satellite maps to make sure were are not missing any villagers or migratory people. The big part of a concern right now is that up in the Northeast where you have a state of emergency, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the question is will they be able to do the campaigns up there? So there has been some interruption and that will be a problem because polio could get loose there. But we do feel like there is progress and we hope the insecurity doesn’t reverse that progress.”