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Clinton pitch for diarrhoea fight

Lucknow, July 17: Former US President Bill Clinton today spent over three hours in an Uttar Pradesh village playing health educator and telling mothers how to handle an outbreak of diarrhoea, one of the biggest killers of children in rural India.

This was Clinton’s second visit to the heartland in nine years since former Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh brought him here in 2005. The Samajwadi lost and regained power in the interim but the expelled Amar wasn’t there this time to show Clinton around.

Clinton, who wore a light-brown T-shirt, looked relaxed as he sat on a plastic chair in the compound of the primary school in Jabrauli, some 30km off Lucknow, minutes after being greeted with a marigold garland by village housewives.

The former Democratic President, who arrived from Jaipur where he had interacted with students yesterday, reached Jabrauli around 1pm with a team of 60 doctors and health workers.

“He smiled all through and interacted with a group of school students telling them, with the help of translators, how to administer oral dehydration salts as a part of treating diarrhoea,” Yogendra Kumar, the child development officer in India for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), told reporters in Jabrauli.

Jabrauli, surrounded by patches of forests in Mohanlalganj block, had made it to the map of the health access drive in 2011 as part of an ongoing programme that now covers many villages in India and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

Clinton also interacted with mothers. “He is happy to be here and is impressed by the interest mothers are showing for the health training programme,” Kumar added.

Earlier, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had received Clinton at Lucknow’s Chaudhary Charan Singh airport but the Samajwadi leader did not accompany the still-charismatic 67-year-old visitor to the village as the programme had been organised by voluntary groups.

While human health was the focus, the school too got a tone-up with a new coat of paint, fresh electrical wiring and new furniture. Even the open drains were given a cover while roads to the village were done up, sources said, to present a picture of a rural idyll, far away from his own country where a book battle on Clinton’s life rages.

Blood Feud by American author Edward Klein, about the Clintons and the Obamas, claims the former first family and the present first family loathe each other. The book has sold thousands of copies so far.