Acting as a response to a letter received from Buffett in December, it outlines the progress made by the foundation in the intervening period. In Buffett’s letter, he explains that the Gates Foundation will always be in the spotlight and for that reason, it is important that they are understood and that they think about how they want the ‘final scorecard to read’.
Noting that success in philanthropy is measured in different ways than success in other sectors, the Gates started crunching some important numbers in order to demonstrate their contribution to global health.
The most notable number that they highlight is 122 million – the number of children’s lives saved since 1990.
While they aren’t claiming that they alone, and directly, saved 122 million children’s lives, they make it clear that the efforts made possible through Buffett’s donation substantially contributed to this decrease in infant and childhood mortality, such as the implementation of basic vaccine packages worldwide.
Along the same vein of children’s health is a focus on ending malnutrition. 45 per cent of child and infant mortality is a result of malnutrition, though only 1 per cent of foreign aid is focused on nutrition. Bill Gates insists in the letter that ‘nutrition is the biggest missed opportunity in global health’.
Melinda Gates offers two figures regarding women’s health: the 300 million women in the developing world who use modern contraceptives, and that 75 million women participate in self-help groups in India. By giving them the tools and confidence to communicate with one another and health professionals these women will no longer be stigmatized or marginalized.
The concluding figure that they draw upon is zero. Put simply, this ‘magical number’ represents the reduction of harmful diseases, infant and childhood mortality rates, and poverty rates that they strive for as a foundation. While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a foundation funded and operated by billionaires from the United States, they emphasize that the focus is on the global.
The end of the letter is imbued with optimism as the Gates look back on the past ten years and look forward to reaching the goals that they have set, despite the fact that the measurement of progress in the philanthropy sector can often be challenging; ‘We can’t put a date on these events, and we don’t know the sequence, but we’re confident of one thing: The future will surprise the pessimists’.
For more on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, visit their website.