As Nigeria celebrates its 50th anniversary, United Nations Foundation Founder and Chairman Ted Turner was in Nigeria from October 24-25, 2010 to deliver a message to local leaders that Nigeria must keep up the fight against disease by continuing to leverage the power of modern vaccines.

“Working together, I know we can finish the job on polio,” said Turner. The UN Foundation is pointing to recent progress in Nigeria as proof that vaccines are key to eradicating polio and reducing measles worldwide.

Ted Turner, UN Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth, and UN Foundation Board Member Andrew Young are visiting Nigeria to meet with government and community leaders to learn firsthand about the power of public-private partnerships aimed at improving children’s health. Their visit comes at the end of a week-long Board meeting in Africa where the Foundation’s Board members called for increased participation by the private sector and civil society to maximize what the UN and governments can achieve together in tackling global challenges.

“Nigeria has made tremendous progress toward eradicating polio through partnerships with community and government leaders that encourage parents to have their children immunized,” said Ted Turner. “With support from leaders like the Sultan of Sokoto, we are on the verge of achieving the first great humanitarian victory of the 21st century – the complete elimination of a disease that once afflicted millions. By building on the success of partnerships like these, we can eliminate measles and protect children from other vaccine-preventable diseases to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

As a UN MDG advocate, Turner stressed that the country’s recent progress in stopping polio is a testament to Nigeria’s power to accelerate progress in achieving the MDGs. Set in 2000 by the United Nations, the MDGs tackle the biggest problems facing the world today – these include global poverty, women’s and children’s health, hunger, and education.

Last year Nigeria reduced cases of polio by 98 percent with only eight cases confirmed in 2010, as compared to nearly 400 in the fall of 2009. This success is a result of the critical work of the Council of Amirs formed by the Sultan of Sokoto and the commitment of government leaders to assure that everyone eligible for a polio vaccination receives one.

While in Nigeria, Turner, Wirth, and Young visited with the Sultan of Sokoto on Sunday, October 24. The meeting included other religious, traditional, and civil society leaders who have played an active role in promoting immunization efforts.

Nigeria will hold a national measles immunization campaign in early 2011. The campaign will also include polio vaccinations and will build on the successful work of the polio eradication efforts to prevent measles deaths. Nigeria’s government leads most African countries by financing over two-thirds of costs for measles campaigns.

Turner and Wirth also held meetings in Abuja on Monday, October 25 with Hajiya Amina Az-Zubair, who serves as Senior Special Assistant/Advisor on the MDGs to President Goodluck Jonathan. The UN Foundation leaders also met with the Nigerian Council of Governors, which represents the governors of the 36 states that make up the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Created in 1998 with Ted Turner’s U.S. $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities, the UN Foundation connects people, ideas and resources to help the UN solve global problems. Since 2005, the UN Foundation, Nigerian Government and partners in the Measles Initiative have supported measles campaigns costing more than $100 million and developed public-private partnerships to support UN projects in Nigeria. These efforts are carried out by the Nigerian government, UN Agencies, and leading Nigerian business and nongovernmental organizations.

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