SAN FRANCISCO - The world is making enormous strides in areas such as child mortality, HIV and extreme poverty, but if the U.S. and other countries pull back funding, that progress could slow, said Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.
When it comes to HIV, for example, “if we had a 10 percent cut in the funding, we'd have 5 million more deaths by 2030,” said Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “What happens matters here.”
On Wednesday, the Gates Foundation issued its first annual report card on 18 indicators of global health and well being. The report looks out to 2030 and projects what will happen on these key markers depending on factors such as global funding.
The report, “Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data,” which the Gates Foundation produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, shows great progress being made in key areas:
· Six million fewer children under five die annually than did in 1990, thanks mostly to increased use of vaccines and better newborn care.
· AIDS- related deaths have fallen by almost half since the peak in 2005.
· Nine percent of the population is at the international poverty line compared to 35 percent in 1990, a trend mostly credited to gains made by people in China and India.
During a telephone press conference, Gates attributed some of the success to world governments coming together to address problems, as well as medical innovations.
Country success stories
Gates called out several countries for their great strides on health issues:
· Ethiopia - Maternal deaths have been cut more than half since 1990, due to efforts to encourage women to give birth in health facilities rather than at home.
· Senegal - 15 percent of women use modern contraceptives compared to three percent in 1990.
· Peru - Stunting (or low height) in children dropped to 18 percent, down from 39 percent in 1990.
The 0.7 percent commitment
In 1970, the U.N. created a target — governments would spend 0.7 percent of their annual gross domestic income in international aid. While the U.S. is the largest international aid contributor, it hasn’t reached the 0.7 mark. Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates are among countries that have met or exceeded the 0.7 target.
Gates said he is concerned that some wealthy nations appear to be reconsidering their commitment to global humanitarian funding.
“Are people looking out internationally?” he said. “And willing to continue to back these improvements?”
Retrenchment on global aid?
Gates specifically addressed the Trump administration’s proposed budget, which has “fairly substantial cuts, including to things like polio, HIV and malaria.”
Congress doesn’t appear to be willing to accept those cuts, he noted, and would likely “maintain pretty close to the same level in most areas."
The world's commitment to tackling health and poverty issues is as important as ever, Gates said, because there’s a shift in more children being born in poor countries. A child born in Angola has a 75 percent higher chance of dying before age five than one born in Finland, he said.
“We’re saying that progress is not inevitable,” he said. “The counter trends are that if countries do not think about these global problems, and you get cuts, or if you have setbacks, in terms of pandemics and things like that, you can have reversals.”