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Gates Foundation persists in fight vs. ills of the world

By Wang Linyan in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-09-14 10:59

The world has cut extreme poverty and child deaths in half and reduced HIV and maternal deaths by nearly half, but more needs to be done.

That is the message from Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data, the inaugural annual report released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday.

The Goalkeepers report will be issued every year through 2030, to coincide with the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The report, co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates, was produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

It tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion and sanitation.

The report highlights past progress against these most devastating issues affecting poor countries.

For example, more than 100 million children under age 5 have been saved since 1990, due in large part to better newborn care practices and vaccines, according to the report. The rate of death has fallen from 85 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to just 38 in 2016.

It also shows a steady decline in poverty since 1990, driven by China and India, from 35 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2016. The World Bank defines international poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day.

"We're trying to document the incredible progress, including on key things like poverty and different disease areas," Bill Gates said in a telephone media briefing.

"And we're trying to look forward and see what the possibilities are, the possibilities to continue that progress, or, if the right things aren't done in some of these cases, not only to have the progress stop, but also in some cases go backwards."

The report highlights projections in charts and explores three potential 2030 scenarios for each indicator.

The first is what could happen if the current path is taken without significant changes to approaches or spending levels.

The other two scenarios look at a better and worse future: what could happen with strong leadership, innovation and investment and what could happen if attention and funding waned.

One example given is in HIV (human immunodeficiency virus): a 10 percent cut in global donor funding for HIV treatment could result in more than 5 million more deaths by 2030.

Bill and Melinda Gates expressed their concern in the report that shifting priorities, instability and potential budget cuts could lead the world to turn away from its commitments, jeopardizing the positive trajectory needed to end extreme poverty and wipe out diseases by 2030.

The report pinpoints the leaders, approaches and innovations that made a difference.

"Whether it's HIV or malaria or maternal health, the generosity is very important," Bill said.

"In areas like HIV and malaria, drug resistance can come along, and that would mean that even the tools available today would become less effective," he explained. "And so one area that we always highlight is that we have to keep investing in the innovation."

Gates uses vaccine coverage and AIDS as key examples. Because the world has stepped up with an incredible level of generosity to reduce the cost of the drugs and distribute them widely, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by almost half since their peak in 2005.

Part of the Goalkeepers' goal is to have a yearly checkpoint for progress and setbacks.

Gates said he is optimistic about the future "because I get to live with this data, and you know, go out and see these examples".

"It would be valuable if we could share that outlook. And get that to be better understood," he said.


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