Bill Gates, visiting India, gives children polio drops

NEW DELHI, India - Bill Gates, on a 24-hour trip to India, gave polio vaccine to squealing children at a clinic Thursday and said he was using more of his wealth to fight disease in developing counties.

After arriving in a Mercedes at the polio clinic, which was ringed with dozens of security guards, the Microsoft chairman and world's richest man squeezed drops from a small bottle into the mouths of 30 children and held their heads as they shook and yanked at their mothers.

''They don't like the taste, I don't think. Does it taste funny?'' Gates said as he fed the medicine and an infant squirmed in his mother's arms. He sat on an old, wooden bench in a doctor's room, wearing blue trousers and a light blue shirt with small checks.

''Very cute,'' he said of some children. ''They really got dressed up for this. You all look very nice this morning.'' A volunteer translated the sentences to the women and children, all from poor families.

India has been home to almost half the polio cases in the world, but health officials say the disease is now set to be wiped out in the country.

Most of the mothers at the clinic had never heard of Gates, who is on a daylong visit to India to join celebrations marking 10 years of his company's operations in the country.

Later Thursday, Gates announced an alliance with India's emerging information technology giant, Infosys Technologies, for developing and delivering a portfolio of Infosys business solutions on the Microsoft .Net platform.

At the clinic, Gates joined his hands in a traditional Indian greeting and bowed. He inquired about the red mark that married Indian women apply on their foreheads, and asked whether most of the women present in the large room wore veils in their homes.

''No wedding ring,'' he said as he noticed their hands, and laughed. Many Indian women do not wear wedding rings.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $750 million gift to start a fund to fight diseases, Gates told The Associated Press in an interview.

''Of all the money that I am giving away toward health, a lot of it is focused on developing countries. ... India features in a lot of the things that we think about doing,'' Gates said.

''People probably expect me to focus mostly on giving away computers and stuff, and I do quite a bit of that, but I have decided that what is most important is people having healthy children,'' Gates said in the interview.

His foundation, which will award two grants totaling $30 million for children and students in India, is helping international agencies like UNICEF and the World Health Organization eradicate polio by the year 2005 - described as the biggest health campaign ever, involving 10 million workers worldwide.

More than 470 million children were immunized across the world last year, 147 million of them in India.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment