Bill Gates Says Boko Haram Slowing Anti-Polio Efforts in Nigeria

The insurgency by Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria is affecting a donor-backed target to record no cases of polio in the West African nation by next year, said billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.

Authorities suspect gunmen from the Islamist group abducted three health workers giving vaccinations in Bauchi state in March and killed nine others in attacks on polio immunization centers in the northern city of Kano last year.

“This Boko Haram disruption is the one real cloud on the horizon where it means there are groups of children we’re not able to get to,” Gates told reporters today in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “So we’re hopeful that won’t get even more intense.”

Boko Haram, which means “western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language, has waged a five-year campaign to impose Islamic law on Africa’s most populous nation. It has focused its insurgency in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and carried out attacks in Abuja, the capital.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in three polio-endemic nations - Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan - as well as other African countries where there’s a risk the disease could spread.

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