Nitish Kumar
Bihar to be a dry state with immediate effect Picture: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish KumarIANS

Microsoft co-founder and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chairperson and trustee Bill Gates met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday.

The meeting is said to have led to some agreements that will help Bihar deliver more comprehensive healthcare to even the remotest locations in the state.

A statement released by the Bihar government said the meeting focused on "ways to build on the state's achievements in health and nutrition, and to reinforce the foundation's commitment to the state's development priorities".

One of the agreements at the meeting could allow Bihar Administrative Services and Department of Health officials to be deputed in Foundation-supported technical support units (TSUs) to help them gain knowledge and experience about global best practices, which can then be replicated in Bihar.

It was also decided that a model similar to the state TSUs be set up at the district level to provide support to the district and block-level officials.

Services of top global subject experts would also be made available to the departments through Bill Gates' foundation, so appropriate policy inputs and Bihar specific programme designs could be conceptualised and implemented, said the statement.

Commenting on the meeting, Nitish Kumar said: "We need to strengthen our health system so marginalised communities can receive universal healthcare. We will continue working closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accomplish our health, nutrition and development goals."

He also said his government was "open to the suggestion of involvement of high-quality private sector operators, under requisite public private partnerships (PPP), to deliver high-quality neonatal care", according to the official statement.

Nitish also asked Gates if he could provide technological solutions for payment systems so health workers and the general public at large could benefit from direct cash transfers.

Gates, on his part, lauded the Bihar government, saying: "It is heartening to see the significant progress Bihar has made in improving its health and nutrition outcomes especially for women, mothers, newborns and children under five years (of age)."

The official statement also quoted him as saying: "We stand committed to work collaboratively with the government for the next five years on issues of maternal, neonatal and child health, nutrition, family planning, immunisation, infectious diseases management (diarrhoea, pneumonia and tuberculosis) and elimination of Kala-azar and enhance support through technical assistance in sanitation, digital financial inclusion and agriculture to achieve their public health and development goals."

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