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The world's second richest person will give most of his fortune to efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries through a massive donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Warren Buffett's US$31 billion donation, announced last week (25 June), will double the foundation's overall wealth. It will also double the amount the foundation can give away in grants to about US$3 billion a year.

Only six countries spent more than this amount on overseas development aid in 2005 (see table below).

Buffet, a personal friend of Bill Gates, is known as one of the world's most astute investors. He made much of his fortune through his investment company Berkshire Hathaway.

"The impact of Warren's generosity will not be fully understood for decades," said Bill and Melinda Gates in a statement on the foundation's website. "We have a tremendous opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives."

The foundation is committed to reducing inequalities around the world. In developing countries it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty and increasing access to technology.

Buffet will donate the funds in the form of shares in Berkshire Hathaway, which he will give to the Gates Foundation in annual instalments starting next month (July 2006).

Countries spending most on
overseas development aid in 2005
United States US$27.5 billion
Japan US$13.1 billion
United Kingdom US$10.8 billion
France US$10.1 billion
Germany US$9.9 billion
The Netherlands US$4.2 billion
Sweden US$2.7 billion
(Source: OECD)