— -- The nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is celebrating its 15th anniversary by making big bets on key breakthroughs by 2030, such as forecasting the eradication of diseases including polio, improving innovation in farming in Africa to reduce malnutrition, the creation of better software to revolutionize learning and the growth of digital banking to give the poor more control over their financial lives.
In their latest Gates Annual Letter – the letter they publish at the start of each year to outline the goals of their organization – the Gateses detailed their goals for the next 15 years and spelled out advances they believed would likely take place by then.
In the letter published today and titled “Our Big Bet for the Future,” the two write: “Our big bet: The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.”
They predict breakthroughs in health, including a reduction in childhood death and the death of women in childbirth, the total eradication of polio, guinea worm, elephantiasis, river blindness and blinding trachoma as well arriving at the “tipping point” in HIV.
“As we make progress toward a vaccine or a cure, the number of people beginning treatment in sub-Saharan Africa will finally outstrip the number of people newly infected. When we reach that point in the region with the most dense HIV transmission in the world, cases will start going down everywhere around the globe for the first time since the disease was discovered more than 30 years ago,” they wrote.
They also foresee agriculture in Africa becoming so innovative that the continent will be able to “achieve food security by 2030.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest private nonprofits in the world. It works to help people improve their health, lift themselves out of poverty and get the best possible education.
“The big bet that we made in the annual letter is saying that the lives of the poor can be improved more in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And it's because of great innovations that we see that are coming in health and in agriculture. And those are actually being delivered on the ground now. And they're transformative for families,” Gates said.
Among the foundation’s issues for consideration, health is key, Gates said. She explained that, in some areas outside of the United States, such as in Africa and Southeast Asia, health is a “precursor” to having the life people want, she said.
“So solving things like malaria, making sure vaccines get out, make sure that mothers don't die during childbirth, that starts a family on the right path in life,” she said.
Gates has described herself and her husband as being “impatient optimists.” Roberts asked her what she was most impatient and optimistic about.
“I'm most optimistic that the fact that several diseases that we have on the planet can be eradicated,” she said. “I'm optimistic that we can bring childhood deaths down by half. That is absolutely doable in the next 15 years … What I'm most impatient about is getting more girls into secondary schools.”
If a girl is educated, “it transforms everything she does in the next generation,” Gates said.
Asked what fuels her passion for her work, Gates said she is inspired by talking to the people she meets when she travels the world.
“I always go and spend some time talking to mothers and fathers on the ground. And when you do and they tell you what their lives are like, you see where change is possible and you see these amazing means they're going to lift their families up. And you say, ‘I want to keep doing that,’” she said. “And I want to do it, not just for them but hundreds of millions of people because it's possible."
Gates, 50, said she looks forward to the foundation’s annual letter because it serves as “a marker for us to look back and to look forward. And this year for the first time in the annual letter, we're sending people to TheGatesLetter.com. and saying …’you can go up to our website, sign up to be a global citizen, learn from others.' Not only share stories but we're highlighting organizations that are doing incredible work that we work with on the ground. And that is a way to make sure that we take action, individual action on behalf of so many others around the globe.”
In the letter, the couple issued a call for “global citizens” who would recruit other like-minded individuals, all of whom would work to ensure the improvement of the lives of people in poor countries.
“There is overwhelming evidence that people care about others who are suffering — when they can see the suffering ... With the effort we’re helping launch, we want to raise the visibility of these problems," they write. "We want to give global citizens a way to lend their voice, urging governments, companies, and nonprofits to make these issues a priority."
People who are interested in learning more may visit GlobalCitizen.org.