Last night, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the highly anticipated 2015 Annual Letter outlining their hopes and dreams for the future. As a social good advocate and blogger, I greatly admire Bill and Melinda’s amazing work at making the world a better place for the people who suffer the deepest in the world due to poverty, hunger, lack of health care and education. The Gates are amazing advocates for the millions of voiceless people around the world and their work has already made an enormous impact in saving lives. Their annual letter is a key report that highlights where they are heading and I always am eager to read it.
This year’s annual letter is extremely hopeful. Inside the letter, Gates is making a big bet for the next 15 years predicting that the lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history thanks to amazing breakthroughs in health, farming, banking, and education. Gates is envisioning huge advancements in the following key areas that will improve the lives of millions:
- Half as many kids will die, far fewer women will die in childbirth, and people will live healthier lives because we’ll beat many of the diseases that sicken the poor.
- Africa will be able to feed itself.
- Mobile banking will help the poor radically transform their lives.
- Better software will help all kids, no matter where they live, receive a world class education.
What is so remarkable about Gates big bet for the future is that it was fifteen years ago that he started the Gates Foundation on the belief that he could incorporate innovative solutions in health and education to dramatically reduce inequality and change the world. So far, the progress made has been remarkable. Yet we can do more.
Here is a closer look at the four main breakthroughs that Gates is predicting for the next four years:
1. HEALTH: Child deaths will go down and more diseases will be wiped out.
When Gates began the foundation in 1990, Gates saw a huge imbalance in child under age five deaths due to diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia that can be prevented with a vaccine. In rich countries, child under five deaths were a mere 1 % and in poor countries 10% of children under age five died from vaccine-preventable causes. This provided a huge opportunity. With increased funding for vaccine research, development and distribution, millions of lives have been saved. Today, the number of children who die before age five has been cut in half. That is enormous progress and Gates is predicting even more progress especially in the case of newborn deaths which has not had as much improvement.
I learned this past summer in Ethiopia as a fellow on newborn and maternal health with the International Reporting Project that newborn health has a long ways to go but it is not unachievable. Gates identifies four key interventions under $5 that will save newborn lives: Breastfeeding, injectable antibiotics, resuscitation, “skin to skin” contact, and umbilical cord care.
The two big bets of success in global health for the next fifteen years include:
- Cutting the number of children who die before age 5 in half again. In 1990, one in ten children in the world died before age 5. Today, it’s one in 20. By 2030, that number will be one in 40.
- Reducing the number of women who die in childbirth by two thirds. As more mothers give birth in a health care facility instead of at home, and more women get access to contraceptives and information on spacing out their children, less women will die.
2. FARMING: Africa will be able to feed itself
Over the next 15 years, advancements in technology and new drought and pest-resistent seeds will make the difference between hunger and prosperity for millions of farmers throughout Africa. Although 7 out of 10 people in Sub-Saharan Africa are farmers, they still are not able to feed themselves. Africa spends about $50 billion a year buying food from rich countries because their crops do not yield as much as they should. Furthermore, farmers and their families do not get enough variation in their diet leading to malnutrition and other related health and cognitive issues.
Despite these challenges, Gates predicts there will be huge achievements in the next 15 years in farming many due to developments in better fertilizers, access to new farming technologies and education on proper planting techniques. High population growth and climate change pose threats, however, Gates is highly optimistic that Africa will be able to feed itself by 2030.
Gates big bet on farming:
In the next 15 years, innovations in farming could enable African farmers to increase their yields by half. By growing more varied and nutritious food and getting it to the people who need it at the right time, Africa can achieve food security by 2030.
3. Banking: Mobile Banking will help the poor transform their lives
A big problem for the world’s poor is not only lack of money but lack of access to banking services to help them manage their money effectively. Today, 2.5 billion adults do not have access to a bank account. A lot of their money is tied up in livestock or crops and they have no efficient way to save their money. Access to mobile banking will change their lives immensely and this will be available through mobile phones. Mobile Banking will allow people to save money and make purchases directly from their phones.
Gates big bet:
By 2030, 2 billion people who don’t have a bank account today will be storing money and making payment with their phones. And by then, mobile money providers will be offering the full range of financial services, from interest-bearing savings accounts to credit to insurance.
4. Education: Better software will revolutionize learning
“As access grows, online education will flourish. In developing countries, it will be a revolution.” – Bill and Melinda Gates
Education is the greatest way to lift oneself out of poverty and we are at an amazing moment in time in which it is possible that all children around the world can have access to a better education thanks to the internet. Gates states that “as high-speed cell networks grow and smartphones become as cheap as today’s voice-only phones, online education will flourish”. This will have a tremendous impact on education and will greatly lift millions of people out of poverty and into a better life.
In poor countries, girls will significantly benefit from better access to education as girls are much more likely than boys to be excluded from education. Educating more girls will mean a much better life for all. It is proven that educating a girl has a ripple effect within her family and an entire community, transforming the lives for all.
The 2015 Annual Letter closes with a simple request. All call for global citizens.
SO WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO MAKE SURE THAT THE LIVES OF THE POOR IMPROVE FASTER IN THE NEXT 15 YEARS THAN EVER BEFORE?
As we said earlier, it will take innovation in technology and in ways to deliver it to the people who need it most, which is what our foundation works on.
There’s another crucial factor: informed, passionate individuals working together to form effective movements for change. People who care about helping those in the world’s poorest places improve their lives. We call them global citizens. And with this letter, we’re helping to kick-start an effort to recruit tens of millions more of them.
I think this is my favorite part of the entire letter because it is a big reason why I do the things I do. Why I write my blog about social good issues. Why I advocate and volunteer my time. Why I travel the world and try to share with my readers what I see. Because I can.
We all have a voice. Most of us are fortunate to have been born in a place where we have food, money, health care and an education. I like to sometimes call it an accident of birth. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It is our world and we can change it. Use your voice. Get involved and help others. Together, we can make the world a better place and achieve a more equitable life for all.
This post was written as a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good and the Global Team of 200. All information above is derived from the 2015 Gates Annual Letter (to read in full, click here) and was used with permission for this post.