Bill and Melinda Gates are arguably the most generous couple in the world. Since 1999, the duo's eponymous foundation has invested more than $ 45 billion in poverty and education initiatives around the world.
Above all other causes, they may be better known for their investments in global health. To date, its foundation has invested $ 10 billion to help people lead healthier, longer lives with money spent on low-tech medicines such as vaccines, bed nets, door-to-door anti-polio campaigns and treatments against HIV.
Most of the time, the money helped.
Since 2000, the chances of someone over 5 years old have skyrocketed. While the US is hitting behind other developed countries in this respect, the truth is that the chances of a child born today to die before their fifth birthday are half what they were in 2000, no matter where in the world they open their eyes and light his first breath.
"The world has become dramatically healthier in the last 20 years," Melinda Gates told reporters at a global health news conference on Wednesday. "The story of the last two decades is a story of incredible improvement in the human condition, and it's one of the reasons why Bill and I call ourselves optimists."
Much of the reason for this success, as the Gates say, has to do with how their money was spent. Contributions to global health have been channeled to four global health funds that Gates' credit is critical to the world's health: Gavi (for vaccines), the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and The Global Funding Mechanism (for maternal and child health).
As more babies are vaccinated, fewer children die, which causes women to have fewer babies, knowing that the ones they have will stay healthier for longer.
"If parents know their children will grow to thrive and survive, they will naturally reduce the number of children they have," Melinda told the Business Insider after the press conference.
Why the gates invested in plans and health
The Copenhagen Consensus Center has analyzed in detail how each dollar spent by the Gates Foundation in the four health programs conducted since 2000. They also tracked what might have happened if instead of using the money to fund things like shots, mosquito nets and family planning , the Gates Foundation used the stock market to one day pull more people out of poverty and join middle-income lifestyles. .
"Suppose our foundation did not invest in Gavi, the Global Fund and GPEI and put those $ 10 billion into the S & P 500, promising to balance developing countries 18 years later," Bill Gates wrote in the Wall Street Journal. on Wednesday. "As of last week, these countries would have received about $ 12 billion, adjusted for inflation, or $ 17 billion if we take into account reinvested dividends."
Even investments in energy projects (an estimated return of $ 150 billion) and infrastructure (estimated at $ 170 billion) did not go as well as the $ 10 billion spent on global health funds.
"The $ 10 billion we have given to help provide vaccines, drugs, mosquito nets and other supplies in developing countries have created US $ 200 billion on social and economic benefits, "Gates wrote.
That's better than anything the S & P 500 can promise.
The Gates Foundation can not fund global health alone
Education programs, vaccination campaigns and mosquito nets funded by the Gates Foundation would not be as successful without the support of rich countries as the US, which can contribute less effort than the Foundation.
"Although it's $ 10 billion, you know, we're still only about 5% of those funds," Melinda said in the teleconference. "It is government funds."
(The Gates Foundation's contributions to each fund vary from 5% to 33%.)
These life-saving vaccine initiatives have a low cost for taxpayers. The US, for example, spends just over 1% of its annual budget on foreign aid, while the British spend 0.7%. Before the annual meeting of some of the world's richest people in Davos, Switzerland, next week, Gates urged the wealthy countries of the world not to overlook the importance of their commitments to global health.
"Over the next 18 months, all four [programs] are at a critical point where the level of distraction from domestic issues or issues that are confined to the rich world leaves us a little worried, "Bill Gates said in the call, noting that each of the programs will be due for new funding rounds soon.
The Gates are concerned about a group of African countries that are expected to be born more babies in the coming years, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
"You have this cohort that can end up with a lot of death and disability, which is not something anyone wants," Melinda said. That's why she believes, like her husband, that a health investment is more valuable than any other person can do.
"Because health is what allows people to continue and receive a great education, participate fully and reach their full potential," she said.