The world’s richest man and the winner of America’s highest civilian honour – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – Bill Gates has been visiting India, every single year since 2002. He has initiated and maintained his relations with India through acts of philanthropy towards the development of one of the youngest nations of the world.
With the goal of working towards the betterment of the country which is very close to his heart, Gates through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been working towards various social problems that India faces.
Under its programmes of Maternal and Child Health, Tuberculosis and Sanitation, the foundation has been extensively working towards leading healthy and productive lives, especially those in the poorest of Indian areas.
Taking care of infants and their mothers
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believe in a healthy lifestyle for infants and their mothers irrespective of their status, and terms the discriminatory “status quo” as “unacceptable”.
With its association with the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the foundation has set up programmes like the Nurse Mentoring Programme for Auxiliary Nurse-Midwives (ANMs). The programme which falls within the public health system provides mentoring support for six months from specially trained hospital nurses to the women from households in these areas. The programme helps keep track of mothers and babies in the days that follow delivery. Workers from other community health groups like ASHA and Anganwadi also work with ANMs for regular planning, review and goal setting sessions at health sub-centres on how best to support mothers and children, both before and after birth. These groups take technology aid to teach women the importance of modern medical methods and help change the related myths and misconceptions.
The foundation has been able to reverse mortality trends also in other Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
India has long been plagued by the problem of Tuberculosis (TB). Every year about 2 million people suffer from TB and thousands die on a daily basis. While the developed nations of the world are now free of TB, India still has some way to go to eradicate the issue.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working towards the way private health systems have been dealing with the problem. Treatment for TB is provided free of cost in many public hospitals but it is not up-to the mark. Doctors in private hospitals have not been subscribing definitive solutions to patients who even after various treatments are not able to get rid of their ailment.
To take better care of the health of those suffering, the foundation has partnered with the government in Mehsana district of Gujarat where about 85 pc of privately-treated TB patients have become part of the new system. Studies have shown that if effective private engagement is further boosted, the number of deaths caused because of TB can be reduced.
Untreated human waste is a major factor contributing to the waste in the environment and polluting the soil and water. This waste is toxic, contains viruses and parasites and is a major reason for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children and young adults. In India, this waste is generated from the open defecations due to lack of sanitation systems and toilets in many rural homes. More people openly defecate in India, than in the rest of the world combined and this waste is treated manually using traditional solutions. To get rid of this paradigm and put in place a more effective and decentralised solution, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working with the Indian government to set up hygienic toilets and safe methods for disposing human waste. The foundation has already started its work in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
“Millions of new toilets are being built around the world to help end open defecation, including in India where a massive new toilet construction program is currently underway,” Gates was recently quoted saying.
Besides these initiatives, Gates has also introduced vaccines for diarrhoea and pneumonia in India. This help from the foundation had helped cover the diseases up to 75 pc in states like Bihar and improve child health in various parts of India.
“The thing we are probably most proud of is our role in vaccination. India, when we first came here, had not adopted the new vaccine (for diarrhoea and pneumonia). As we got the new vaccines the coverage rates went up,” he recently told an Indian daily.
The foundation is also trying to work in the field of education in India and also in the digital financial services, health and agriculture.