More investments in global health will yield incredible returns – Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates at the press conference on goalkeepers event in New York
FILE: Bill and Melinda Gates at the press conference on goalkeepers event in New York

After years of putting billions of dollars of their own money into the support of the sector and other humanitarian causes across the world, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates say more investments in global health will yield incredible returns for mankind.

The couple spoke on Wednesday in a teleconference with journalists across the world on the importance of continued robust investment in global health.

Mrs Gates noted there has been considerable improvement in human conditions in the last two decades due to improved investment in the sector.

She said the result of the huge global investments in the sector is that the poorest parts of the world have not only become less poor, they have also become much healthier.

Mrs Gates said investment in vaccines has helped reduce under-five mortality rate by more than 50 percent since 1990. She said this is a dramatic improvement in the lives of the world’s poorest and youngest.

“When Bill and I are out traveling, we see this when we talk with families. Deaths due to infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, measles have halved from their 1990 levels, and they’ve contributed to nearly 100 percent in the overall decline in mortality in poor countries.

Bill and Melinda Gates are co-founders of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is the largest private foundation in the United States, holding $50.7 billion in asset.

The primary aims of the foundation are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty globally, and in the US to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.

The couple is talking about the gains in the renewal and continuous investment in global health ahead of the October meeting in France where donors will be gathering to replenish the Global Funds.

The couple agreed that there has been a huge improvement in the health of people global due to the investment made on live-saving commodities.

Mrs Gates said the Global Fund just announced the $14-billion investment case for its sixth replenishment last week.

She said the actual replenishment will take place in October in France under President Macron’s leadership, and they are excited to see the ambitious plan they have and hope the Gates Foundation can get either close to or get to that number.

“So all of these funds over this 18-month period will be turning to the donors, which are primarily the governments and asking for continued support. The incredible returns on investments are why we are committed to funding these mechanisms in the future” She said.

Mrs Gates said the story behind the declining numbers can only be attributed to the various investments in the health through the global health funds.

“We’re excited to talk to you today about a good news story, and that is, that the world has actually become dramatically healthier in the last 20 years. The story of the past two decades is a story of incredible improvement in the human condition. And it’s one of the reasons Bill and I call ourselves Optimists,” she said.

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The investments in vaccine production and distribution to low and middle-income countries have been funded majorly by global health funds.

Around 2000, the world started investing more in global health, and in particular in global health institutions that pooled the world’s resources to buy health commodities such as vaccines, contraceptives among others that would make the people healthier.

Fortunately, Nigeria is also a beneficiary of the investment and the progress has been evident in the recent upward review of immunisation progress recorded in the country among under-five children.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $75 million to immunisation intervention in Nigeria for the next five years.

Some of the global health institutions like GAVI focus on childhood vaccines but there is also the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is working to eradicate polio. There is also the Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB and Malaria, and more recently, the Global Financing Facility, which is focused on maternal and child health.

Mrs Gates said looking back to 1999 when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested almost $10 billion in these global health funds, which represents $1 in every five investments they made, they would not have made those investments and continued to make them if they did not see the incredible return that “we’re getting in the payoff for the world.

“The data has been really striking to us about these investments. A child born today is half as likely to die before the age of five, compared to if she was born in 2000.” The human and economic benefits of this are just enormous.”

Mr Gates in his remark on the impact of the investment in global health, said GAVI and the Global Fund were created due to the urgency in improving healthcare, particularly about HIV epidemic and the very high level of childhood deaths in poor countries.

He said though vaccines were available in the last 20 years, they were going to the countries where the impact was pretty modest because health conditions were good; and not getting out to the places where they would make a dramatic impact and literally save millions of lives.

Mr Gates said GAVI and Global Funds “faced lots of problems trying to get the prices down, try to get the supply to be reliable, trying to get out, deliver to some of the toughest places in the world, including extremely rural areas with no infrastructure, including places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, where you’ve got areas where you’ve got war taking place.

“Each of these organisations has been through changes in terms of how they build partnerships, how they make sure none of the money goes astray by some corruption somewhere in that delivery chain,”he said.

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