LONDON – Donating billions of dollars to global funds that fight poverty and disease is one of the best investments governments can make to increase security and economic growth, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates said on Thursday.
Ending epidemics of infectious diseases such as malaria, polio, HIV and malaria are proving difficult, they said, but the dramatic progress made by global aid mechanisms in recent decades means that the world's people are healthier and more productive .
"The data was really impressive," Melinda Gates told teleconference reporters.
She cited data from the World Health Organization and others showing that since 1990, under-five mortality rates have fallen by more than 50 percent, and deaths from infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and measles have also dropped by half.
"A child born today is half as likely to die before the age of five compared to whether she was born in 2000," said Melinda Gates. "The human and economic benefits of this are enormous."
The multi-billionaire Gates Philanthropic Foundation that she co-chairs with her husband Bill, co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the largest sponsors of the global health program to help the poor escape illness, poverty and premature death.
The Foundation is seeking to encourage international donor governments like the United States, Japan, Australia, Germany, Britain and many other countries to replenish four major global funds in the next 18 months to continue their work.
Funds include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the GAVI vaccine alliance and the Global Funding Mechanism for child and maternal health.
Bill Gates said he was optimistic that rich donor governments would remain committed to financing international aid for poor countries but added, "We never want to take it for granted because … only one (donor) country falling can cost hundreds of thousands of lives. "
He also said he was concerned that the "distraction for domestic issues" might mean that the still urgent need for global aid funding may not receive the attention it deserves.
"People should not become complacent," he said. "We still have just under six million children dying under the age of five."
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