Gates Letter Presses Case for Polio Drive, Sustaining Aid
In his third annual letter on Philanthropy, released this morning, Bill Gates placed the emphasis on his commitment to the fight to eradicate polio. In recent days, Gates has lined up major partners in this global effort, including the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the UK Government, which has committed to a doubling in polio spending. Noting the pressures on governments around the world to slash budgets, Gates urged them to follow the UK example, whether out of humanitarian concern or enlightened self-interest:
Under David Cameron’s leadership, the United Kingdom set a great example by keeping its promise to grow aid spending despite the cuts it had to make. It is inspiring to see a leader stand up for what he believes is right, even when it isn’t easy.
Gates released the letter with a speech at the home of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, calling attention to the March of Dimes campaign Roosevelt had helped to launch. Stricken with polio himself, Roosevelt inspired this grassroots campaign which helped fund the search for vaccines that eventually defeated polio in the US. Today, Gates encouraged supporters to engage in the online equivalent by visiting the site of Rotary International and clicking on the End Polio Now button. Rotary has been a leader in the global effort to vaccinate children against polio, and is collaborating in the current effort with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF.
Vaccines are well-known to be Bill Gates’ passion, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have invested heavily in this area. They are currently committed to spending $10 billion over 10 years in what they’ve dubbed the Decade of Vaccines. Today’s letter cites the GAVI Alliance as making major strides to increase the distribution of vaccines to poor nations. He is pointed in pressing governments to match current efforts to accomplish more in this area:
…generous aid is required to realize the true lifesaving potential of vaccines. The most direct way of saying this is that every $2,000 cut in the most effective aid spending causes a child to die.
Gates lists several other areas that have been the focus of his foundation, with Warren Buffett joining Bill and Melinda Gates in urging other individuals to commit a greater portion of their wealth to philanthropy through their Giving Pledge effort. In addition to the development and distribution of vaccines, he prioritizes reduction in neonatal deaths, supporting improvements in agriculture in the developing world, and strengthening education here in the US.
The Gates Foundation has inevitably drawn attention, occasionally tinged with criticism, by making massive commitments to the trial end error needed to advance humanitarian concerns. While debate about its philanthropy is healthy, it should not serve to deter other potential philanthropists from approaching giving with the same focus and fervor that keeps the Gates Foundation restlessly searching for the best ways to make powerful impact.
- Watch it NOW: Polio Eradication and the Power of Vaccines (one.org)
- Gates describes “magic of vaccines” to improve humanity (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Gates: Helping world’s poor is a good investment (sfgate.com)
- David Cameron pledges £40m for polio vaccines at Davos (guardian.co.uk)
- UK to double aid to polio fund (bbc.co.uk)