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Bill Gates pledges $10 bln for vaccines for poor

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – Bill Gates, the world's richest man, on Friday promised 10 billion dollars to develop vaccines for the world's poorest nations.

The Microsoft tycoon announced at the World Economic Forum that the money will come over the next decade from the foundation he runs with his wife Melinda, and that vaccines will become the top priority for the foundation.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has now committed more than 25 billion dollars to various health projects, especially targeting AIDS and polio and other diseases that hit poor countries.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," Bill Gates said in Davos. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. "Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."

Increased vaccination could save more than eight million children by 2020, he added, but called on governments and the private sector to do more. "Increased investment
in vaccines by governments and the private sector could help developing countries dramatically reduce child mortality by the end of the decade," Gates said in a statement.

Melinda Gates added: "Vaccines are a miracle -- with just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime. "We?ve made vaccines our number-one priority at the Gates Foundation because we?ve seen first hand their incredible impact on children?s lives," she added.

Gates began working full time at the Foundation after leaving Microsoft in July, 2008. He is in Davos as the world's leading philanthropist and his activities again overshadowed those of the political and business elite at the Swiss ski resort. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou held new meetings seeking to shore up international support for his country's austerity programme as its borrowing costs shoot up and debt problems in Greece and other countries put pressure on the euro.

Reaffirming his determination to cut the 12.7 percent budget deficit, the prime minister acknowledged the country's troubles over the past year including serious riots in Athens before his socialist PASOK party won an election. "The riots that we had last year were at the height of the scandals in our political life," he said. "Banks were being bailed out then, there was corruption and there was no legitimacy in the political system.

"We have re-established legitimacy and there is great support for us even from the younger generation." Papandreou said: "It is important that whatever we do it is seen as just. It may be painful but it must be seen that we are all paying for the burden." And he insisted that the government would protect the unemployed.

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