Rotary International has presented President Muhammadu Buhari with its Polio Eradication Champion Award.
The humanitarian organization said the award was in recognition of the Buhari government’s efforts to keep Nigeria polio-free.
The award came on the heels of the removal of Nigeria by the World Health Organization (WHO) from its list of polio-endemic countries after the country went one year without reporting a case of the disease.
The last reported case of polio in Nigeria was July 24, 2014, in Kano state. Nigeria was the last country on the African continent to report active transmission of the wild poliovirus.
Shortly after assuming office, President Buhari in July 2015, demonstrated his personal commitment to ending polio by publicly immunizing his young granddaughter.
Again in September, the president launched polio immunization campaigns in his hometown of Daura, Katsina State, by vaccinating local children.
Most recently, he convened a Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication, through which 36 Nigerian State Governors reaffirmed their commitment to keeping Nigeria polio-free.
“Progress against polio in Nigeria, while a tremendous achievement, remains fragile. The country must ensure high-quality polio campaigns and surveillance activity for at least another two years, or risk the return of this disease”, said Rotary International President Ravi Ravindran.
“President Buhari and the Nigerian government have shown they are equal to this challenge, maintaining strong commitment and public support for polio immunization in the face of zero cases”.
Rotary established the Polio Eradication Champion Award in 1995 to recognize leaders and others who have made significant contributions to the global eradication of polio.
Past recipients include Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan; Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain; Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland; and Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General.
To date, Rotary has contributed more than US$1.5 billion to ending polio, including more than $225 million in grants to support polio eradication activities in Nigeria and countless volunteer hours by members of Nigeria’s 311 Rotary clubs.
Along with on-the-ground support, including programme oversight at all levels, the Nigerian government has invested more than $112 million in its own polio eradication activities.