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World Bank to Help Nigeria Consolidate 95% Decline in Polio

March 17, 2011

New $60 million credit will support major immunization effort during a critical year

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011 – The World Bank’s Board approved today an additional credit of $60 million for Nigeria’s Partnership for Polio Eradication project. These funds will help finance polio vaccines during the coming year as well as continue to support other aspects of primary health care in the country.

A comprehensive effort against polio supported by the World Bank and other partners has contributed to a dramatic 95% reduction in polio cases from the year 2009 to 2010. However, detection of even a few new cases in 2010 means that immunization must continue to consolidate these gains.

“The few remaining cases of polio in Nigeria still represent a threat to global fight against polio, as the virus knows no borders and could still spread into more countries,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria. “Building on recent gains, the time is ripe to try to wipe out the disease from Nigeria for good through continued immunization, and move a step closer to regional and global eradication.”

In 2011, with the support of the World Bank financing, over 400 million doses of oral polio vaccines will be procured for the supplemental immunization activities at national and sub-national levels and mop-up rounds. Partners’ and government financing will also cover the operational costs for these campaigns and support activities like social mobilization and capacity building. 

The new World Bank credit for Nigeria’s polio eradication efforts is the third since 2003. It continues a “buy-down” provision by which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Rotary International (through the UN Foundation) will pay off the present value of the credit on behalf of Nigeria if an independent assessment determines that performance indicators have been achieved. If targets are met, funds for the buy-down are released and the debt is paid off.   

"We are happy to support Nigeria in what we hope is the country’s final push against polio,” said Walt Orenstein, Deputy Director of Immunization Programs from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “Success involves significant resources, but eventually, eradicating polio from Africa means that health funds can be used to meet other urgent health priorities.”

The recent progress in polio cases is so significant because Nigeria had 4000 cases in 2003 at the start of World Bank support to the effort, falling to 388 cases in 2009; and just 21 cases in 2010. While polio cases were seen in 27 states in Nigeria in 2009, this number fell to just eight states in 2010.

“While there are no guarantees, there is a real possibility that Nigeria may see its last case of polio in 2011,” said Dinesh Nair, Senior Health Specialist with the World Bank in Abuja. “Lessons from Nigeria’s battle against polio include the continued engagement of traditional leaders in community campaigns.”

Support from traditional leaders and local government officials has been a key factor in Nigeria’s recent success against polio, as this has helped to build confidence in communities about the polio vaccine. Elements from this approach are being introduced into Nigeria’s other routine immunization efforts as well.

Partners in the Polio Eradication Project include the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development, the UK’s Department for International Development, Rotary International, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others.


  • Polio is an acute viral infectious disease which spreads from person to person, and which can infect and debilitate the central nervous system of the child it infects. There is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented through immunization. The polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life.
  • According to the WHO, no other country has ever experienced the rapid decrease in polio cases that Nigeria has seen this year. While the country had 4000 cases in 2003 and 612 in 2008, the very intensive effort during the past two years has led to a 95% reduction of polio cases between 2009 and 2010. Nigeria only had 21 cases in 2010.
  • As part of the WHO-led global polio eradication effort, the Government of Nigeria has been striving to eradicate polio from the country since 1998 and has received World Bank support since 2003. In 2009-2010, strong efforts have been made to immunize every child in Nigeria against polio.
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