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

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