New York: Billionaire software baron turned philanthropist Bill Gates warned on Tuesday that violence in Nigeria and Pakistan could set him back in his goal of eradicating polio by 2018.
In 2013, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charity that funds medical research and vaccination drives — made wiping out the crippling disease in the next six years its top priority.
But the Microsoft founder, who has poured a large part of his personal fortune into the drive and encouraged fellow billionaires to contribute.
India, once the country with the worst problem with polio, a mainly childhood disease that causes the wasting of the limbs, has just celebrated three years polio free.
But the disease remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. There are also reinfections in war-torn Somalia and Syria that threaten to break out into areas once free of the scourge.
“Nigeria and Pakistan are going to be tough. The Pakistan violence is evil,” according to Gates.
“The truth is the vaccine is to help kids. And spreading rumors and attacking the workers on this, those people don't have justice and truth on their side.
Last week the World Health Organization warned that Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar was the world's “largest reservoir” of the disease.
“Everyday we're talking about what's going well, what's not, how we track the teams, where new approaches can help out so we've intensified the effort, “he added.
Last November the Global Polio Eradication Initiative said Nigeria had 51 of the 328 cases of the disease worldwide in 2013, compared to 121 out of 223 in 2012.
But numbers are up in Pakistan. According to the WHO, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year compared with 58 in 2012.
The Gates Foundation spends more than $300 million a year on polio programs and US Congress has also allocated extra money.