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Bill Gates Retires, Embraces Humanity
Some of us know Bill Gates as a compassionate and humane person
Njei Moses Timah (njemotim)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-16 18:00 (KST)   
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates -- the world's richest man -- is moving away from day-to-day corporate work to devote more time to philanthropy.

For some years now, the Gates family has poured billions of dollars through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support health and educational projects around the world. Gates says that by July 2008 he will be working full time for the foundation.

The Seattle based foundation was created to "help reduce inequities in the United States and around the world." The foundation is currently led by co-chairs Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, William H. Gates Sr. (his father) and CEO Patty Stonesifer. It is guided by the belief that "every life has equal value."

Detractors of Gates have often portrayed him as an avaricious monopolist bent on annihilating his competitors. However, the Gates that some of us know is a compassionate and humane person that has done much to change life for the better in the third world. Since 1994, the Gates family has committed more than US$5.8 billion to global health, $2.6 billion to education and about $700 million for special projects. In all, the foundation's grants total more than $10 billion to date.

In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries.

As of 2006, the foundation has already committed the following amounts for health in developing countries: $1.5 billion for the immunization of children, $258 million in a malaria vaccine initiative, $110 million for newborn health, $200 million for HIV/AIDS in India, $50 million for HIV/AIDS in Botswana, and $47 million in the fight against visceral leishmaniasis.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the biggest private sector contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund has saved millions of lives and improved the quality of life for millions of others in developing countries. Those of us working in the health sector in Africa can readily testify.

The Gates family seems to be genuinely interested in the conditions of the world's poor. In a 2002 interview with Newsweek, Melinda Gates said, "Africa changed me forever."

"Seeing the women walking, walking, walking really struck me. We would go for miles and miles and see these women walking, and we'd always look to see if any had shoes. They didn't," she added.

In that interview, she made a similar allusion to the plight of the downtrodden she encountered in India. When such a rich person takes note of minute details of the conditions of the very poor, you know that the compassion comes from the heart.

It is characteristic of human nature to give aid and expect instant recognition and gratitude. That will not necessarily be the case with the Gates' aid packages to developing countries. Not that aid recipients are ungrateful. Many are illiterate and uninformed, and never heard of Bill Gates. It takes more than commitment and devotion to humanity to pump billions of dollars into a constituency like this.

The world's poor are elated to know that one of the most ingenious and viable persons in the world is not only committing his money to their cause, but also using his proven talents to employ those funds efficiently. We wish him all the success.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Njei Moses Timah

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