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Business Standard
30 July 2009
By Yoshita Singh

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a grant of $41 million to an international humanitarian organisation to work toward improving maternal, newborn and child health in six countries, including India.

The grant would be provided to ‘Concern Worldwide’ over a period of five years and support development and testing of delivery of maternal, newborn and child health projects in six countries.

The initiative would start in India, Malawi and Sierra Leone, while the other three countries would be decided later.

Ireland-headquartered Concern would work with a broad spectrum of people, including mid-level and junior health workers, academia, civil society, private sector and community members in the three countries and evaluate how to reach out and provide help to those in need.

“Even the most effective health interventions can only save lives if they reach the people who need them. Concern Worldwide’s commitment to seeking innovation from diverse, non-traditional sources will be a key ingredient in the success of this programme,” Director of the Integrated Health Solutions Development programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Jaime Sepzlveda said in a statement.

Referring to the need to provide quality healthcare to mothers and infants, Concern said two-thirds of mothers and children in India and Malawi lack essential health services such as vaccinations, skilled care at birth and good nutrition.

In Sierra Leone, more than 25 per cent of children die before reaching their fifth birthday, while in Malawi, one in every 18 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth.

Overburdened health systems or harmful practices such as discontinuing breastfeeding too early are critical obstacles in delivering essential maternal and child care.

“This project is all about discovering and testing new ideas. It requires prudent risk taking and a relentless commitment to improving the state of our world,” Concern Worldwide CEO Tom Arnold said.

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation received the Indira Gandhi prize for peace disarmament and development for its philanthropic activities.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates received the award in India last week from President Pratibha Patil. Gates has said that India, which faces some of the toughest health problems in the world, needs to increase its healthcare spending to eliminate diseases in the country.

The Foundation has been working in India in the field of health and development, especially HIV/AIDS.

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