Melinda Gates urges donors to keep aiding fight against child mortality
Ending epidemics of infectious diseases is proving tough, Melinda and Bill Gates say, but dramatic progress made by global aid mechanisms in recent decades are bearing fruit
London — Donating billions of dollars to global funds that fight poverty and disease is one of the best investments governments can make to boost security and economic growth, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates said on Thursday.
Ending epidemics of infectious diseases such as malaria, polio, HIV/AIDS and malaria is proving tough, they said, but dramatic progress made by global aid mechanisms in recent decades means the world's people are now healthier and more productive.
“The data has been really striking,” Melinda Gates told reporters on a teleconference.
She cited figures from the World Health Organisation and others showing that since 1990, mortality rates of children under five years old had fallen more than 50%, and deaths due to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles had also halved.
“A child born today is half as likely to die before the age of five, compared to if she were born in 2000,” Melinda Gates said. "The human and economic benefits of this are enormous."
The multibillion-dollar philanthropic Gates Foundation she co-chairs with her husband, Bill, the co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the largest funders of global health programmes aimed at helping poor people escape disease, poverty and premature death.
The Foundation is seeking to encourage international donor governments such as the US, Japan, Australia, Germany, Britain and many others to replenish four key global funds in the next 18 months so they can continue their work.
The funds include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the Gavi vaccines alliance and the Global Financing Facility for child and maternal health.
Bill Gates said he was optimistic that wealthy donor governments remained committed to funding international aid for poor countries, but added: “We never want to take it for granted, because ... just one [donor] country dropping back could cost hundreds of thousands of lives.”
He also said he was concerned that "distraction by domestic issues” may mean the still urgent need for global aid funding may not get the attention it deserves.
“People shouldn't become complacent,” he said. “We still have a little less than six-million children who die under the age of five.”