Jan. 17 (UPI) — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to pay off Nigeria’s $76 million debt to Japan to aid in the fight against polio.
Nigeria took the loan from Japan in 2014 to help pay for polio eradication efforts. They were expected to start payments this year to be repaid over the next 20 years.
The loan was part of the Japanese government’s Overseas Development Assistance program to help combat polio.
The Gates Foundation said they agreed to pay off the loan after Nigeria met the condition of achieving more than 80 percent vaccination coverage in at least one round each year in very high risk areas.
No new cases of polio were recorded in Nigeria in all of 2017 — an enormous change from 2012, when the country accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.
The donation by the Gates Foundation is timely for Nigeria as the country recovers from its first recession in more than two decades.
Paulin Basinga, the Country Director for Nigeria from the Gates Foundation, told The Independent that the organization is “pleased to repay the loan to the Government of Japan thanks to the strong leadership of the Nigerian government in polio eradication.”
Basinga said, though, the virus has not been completely eradicated in Nigeria and that there is an “ongoing risk.”
Polio eradication is one the organization’s most important priorities. The Gates Foundation helped India eradicate polio in 2011.