NEW DELHI, India -- Bill Gates, Co-Founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today visited an NDMC Maternal & Child Health Chanakyapuri clinic, which serves Indira Nagar Camp in New Delhi, to administer oral polio vaccines to children and to learn about the great strides India is making toward the eradication of polio. He also announced that the Foundation was awarding two grants totaling $30 million to benefit children and students in India.
"A world without polio is in sight and India deserves much of the credit," said Mr. Gates. "The coming months are critical. I urge parents in India and elsewhere to make sure that their children are immunized."
Under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO), the international community has been working to rid the world of polio by the end of the year 2000. Some 115 countries have been polio-free for over a year. In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, however, pockets of polio remain and many countries are mounting National Immunization Days (NIDs) to broaden their vaccination coverage.
Once home to almost half of the remaining polio cases, India has made spectacular progress. Between October 1999 and March 2000, over one billion doses of oral polio vaccine were distributed during four national and two regional immunization campaigns. More than 130 million children under the age of 5 have been vaccinated. Because polio remains endemic in parts of Northern India, the national and sub-national campaigns will continue into 2001. Regional campaigns or "sub-NIDs" will take place in the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal beginning September 24th. In addition, a "mop-up" campaign targeting more than 4 million children will take place in Maharashtra starting September 18th. The next round of national immunizations will be in December and January.
Two major grants to benefit India were announced during Mr. Gates' visit. The Gates Children's Vaccine Program at PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) will manage a $25 million grant to work in India with the government of Andhra Pradesh on a comprehensive immunization program with the potential for replication across India. The Gates Children's Vaccine Program will work with the state ministry of health to introduce locally manufactured hepatitis B vaccines into the routine immunization program, create a name-based, computerized immunization registry, investigate the effectiveness of a new vaccine against some forms of infant diarrhea, and increase efforts to control outbreaks of Japanese Encephalitis. For more information about The Gates Children's Vaccine Program at PATH, visit the website.
The Gandhi Institute of Computer Education will receive $5 million to expand its national program of free computer training to underprivileged populations from the current level of eight centers serving 8,000 students each year to a target of 50 centers serving close to 50,000 students annually.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made vaccine-preventable diseases a priority for its Global Health Program. The Foundation has committed more than $1 billion dollars in vaccine-related grants. In November, the Foundation committed $750 million to the Global Fund for Children's Vaccines, which will work closely with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), an international partnership, to strengthen routine immunization. In December, the Foundation contributed $50 million specifically for polio eradication efforts in the Indian sub-continent and sub-Saharan Africa.
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