Bill Gates, now better known for his philanthropic activities in health sector across the globe, has turned his attention on Bihar and its people hit by various diseases like polio and kala-azar. Gates, who had a discussion with chief minister Nitish Kumar through video-conferencing from Delhi, promised to constitute a task force and dispatch it to Bihar within a few days which will work out areas of co-operation through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) apart from polio and kala-azar.
After a 35-minute talk, an elated Nitish commented, “I spoke to Bill Gates the philanthropist and not the Bill Gates, the Microsoft giant.” Gates accepted invitation to visit Bihar sometimes during his next India visit. Gates had expressed desire to see Nitish, but the CM could not make it to Delhi in view of the ongoing assembly session. Gates commended Nitish for progress in health programmes and was impressed with significant increase in childhood immunisation which recorded progress from 11 per cent to 51 per cent in one decade. But his stress was on complete elimination of polio in view of fresh cases reported from north Bihar and western UP.
Nitish pointed out that as many as 13 cases of polio, eight of which reported from Kosi region, and said with concern that majority of the cases came from the areas where 10 rounds of polio vaccination had been done and one case where 20 rounds were undertaken. “I have a new appreciation for how challenging it is to vaccinate every child in the Kosi region,” Gates responded. “However, we cannot let the polio eradication effort stall just because it is difficult. We are ready to work with your government and all partners in the polio effort to stop transmission in Bihar,” said Gates.