Nigeria to eradicate polio within 2 years: president

ABUJA Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:02am EDT

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ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged on Thursday to set up a special government team to ensure the eradication of polio from Africa's most populous nation within two years.

"I can assure you that we will work very hard on polio with the objective of eradicating it in the next 24 months. It is now limited to about six states and eradicating it within our tenure is a goal we will pursue with full commitment," Jonathan said during a visit to the Nigerian capital by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Gates and his wife have a $34 billion foundation devoted largely to health projects in poor countries, including efforts to wipe out polio globally.

The disease spreads in areas with poor sanitation, attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection. Children under five are the most vulnerable.

Polio is endemic in just four countries -- India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan -- and there has been a 99 percent reduction in cases since 1988, when the World Health Organization and its partners formed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to fight it.

At that time, polio was endemic in 125 countries and caused paralysis in nearly 1,000 children every day.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)

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