Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Royal Government of Bhutan Receives Grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Summit Foundation to Improve Health Services

Washington and Seattle (ots-PRNewswire) - The Summit Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have each awarded the Royal Government of Bhutan a $1 million grant for its Bhutan Health Trust Fund. The Bhutan Health Trust Fund was set up by the government to provide basic preventative and curative health services to its people. Currently, government health services reaches over 90 percent of the country's population of 658,000, providing all services, including immunizations and medicines, free of cost. The primary objective of the Health Trust Fund is to ensure the continued supply of vaccines and essential medicines and to eliminate funding uncertainties for these crucial components. To date, the Health Trust Fund is nearly halfway to reaching its $24 million goal. The Health Trust Fund offers a tremendous leveraged opportunity for potential donors as the Bhutanese government has agreed to match any contribution one-to-one. Once the $24 million goal is reached, the interest from the Health Trust Fund will be able to sustain some core areas of Primary Health Care including immunization and health programs. "The idea of a health trust fund is a novel and dependable alternative for financing the priority needs of obtaining vaccines and essential medicines," said Dr. Gordon Perkin, Director of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We are pleased to be part of this new approach, which hopefully could serve as a model for other smaller countries or regions." The size of Switzerland, the kingdom of Bhutan is situated in the eastern Himalayas between India and China. It is a developing country with 85 percent of the population engaged in subsistence farming in rural areas. Since introducing modern health services in the early 1960s, Bhutan has increased its immunization coverage steadily. In 1994, it attained an 86 percent vaccination rate. Infant and maternal mortality rates have declined to all- time lows. "During a recent trip to Bhutan, we visited the country's excellent primary hospital in Thimpu, as well as the impressive remote health centers. For Bhutan to sustainably provide universal primary health care to all citizens is truly visionary and applaudable," said Vicki Sant, president of The Summit Foundation. "We are pleased to participate in making this possible for a country we so admire." For more information about the Bhutan Health Trust Fund, please call the Permanent Mission of Bhutan in New York, USA at 212-826-1919 or the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi, India at 91-11-688-9230. Established in 1991, The Summit Foundation is an international, private grantmaking foundation based in Washington, D.C. The foundation's mission is to promote the health and well being of the planet -- its people and its natural environment. The foundation fulfills its mission through work in three program areas. First, the foundation addresses global population issues by expanding educational and economic opportunities for women and youth and promoting universal access to high-quality, voluntary family planning services and reproductive health care. Second, the foundation protects biodiversity in Latin America and the Caribbean by conserving the region's biological wealth, maintaining the integrity of its threatened ecosystems and providing market incentives for the sustainable use of natural resources. Third, the foundation promotes linkages and connections among population and environmental programs and policies, particularly in biodiversity-rich countries and eco-regions. The foundation has a current staff of ten. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based Foundation has an asset base of approximately $21 billion. Preventing deadly diseases among poor children by expanding access to vaccines, and developing vaccines against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, are central priorities. Other major efforts include extending unprecedented opportunities for learning by bringing computers with Internet access to every eligible public library in the U.S. and Canada, and providing scholarships to academically talented minority students in the U.S. with severe financial need through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (www.gmsp.org). For complete information and grant guidelines, visit www.gatesfoundation.org. ots Original Text Service: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Internet: http://recherche.newsaktuell.de Contact: Annemarie Hou of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 206-709-3265 or media@gatesfoundation.org; or Leki Dorji of the Bhutan Health Trust Fund, Royal Bhutanese Embassy, 66-2-630-1192, fax, 66-2-630-1193, or lekibhtf@druknet.net.bt Original-Content von: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, übermittelt durch news aktuell

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