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Bill & Melinda Gates’ bet: Child deaths will fall by half by 2030

January 23rd, 2015
07:24 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Fifteen years ago, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his wife Melinda started a foundation aimed at reducing poverty and improving healthcare.

Since then, they have given away more than $30 billion in grants, investing heavily in the fight against diseases such as Malaria, polio and pneumonia.

This year the Gates decided to raise the bar and, in their 2015 Annual Letter, they announced their next bet: child deaths will go down by half by 2030 as a result of vaccines, better sanitation and other improvements.

“We've brought down child mortality. We've cut it in half and you'll have 25 years. That's incredible,” Melinda Gates told CNN’s Amanpour in an interview that aired Thursday.

“If we focus on it, yet again, you can cut that childhood death down again in the next 15 years by half if you give kids an education. Getting a child into school, boys and girls, changes the whole pattern,” she added.

Amanpour asked for Bill Gates’ reaction to this week’s warning by Doctors Without Borders that the price of vaccinations in some countries are so high they’ve become unaffordable.

“In fact,” the world’s richest man said, “the vaccines are now getting out to children far, far better than ever before because a group called the Global Alliance for Vaccines, GAVI, has raised money to buy these vaccines on behalf of the poor kids. Now we work with GAVI to negotiate very low prices.”

Bill Gates added that they’re working on “bringing new manufacturers in” and are “doing volume guarantees.”

“But to get a very state-of-the-art vaccine,” he said, “like this pneumonia vaccine, out to the poor world's children required GSK and Pfizer to give us very, very low prices. And so instead of waiting 30 years for when rich kids get it to when poor kids get it, we've now made that just a few years. And that's a big reason why childhood death rates are going down.”

Melinda restated that they “brought vaccine prices down actually 37 percent since this alliance for vaccines was created.”

“And instead of having five vaccine manufacturers, we now have 12. That means there's price competition. So bringing those vaccines down means that we can vaccinate hundreds of millions of more children.”

“In fact, this alliance, we think that 4-6 million more children's lives will be saved literally just in the next five years. So we're on it because that is one of the most key things that helps us bring down this tragic death rate.”

The couple’s foundation recently donated $50 million to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed over 8,500 lives according to the WHO.

As far as the response to the crisis is concerned, Bill Gates said that “there was a lot of good work done once it was recognized this was a big emergency,” but pointed out “that if this disease had been more infectious, we would not have been moving fast enough.”

“There are lessons of how, for the next epidemic, we're going to have to move a lot faster,” he added.

“We certainly got lucky in Nigeria,” Melinda told Amanpour, adding that “when the disease came to Lagos, a city of 22 million people, luckily it was detected right away.”

“A doctor saw what it was and they took one of the polio clinics and turned it into an emergency response clinic,” she said.

At a time when governments are calling for more powers to tackle the so-called dark corners of the Internet, where radicals are known to plan acts of terrorism, Bill Gates said “the choices will be made politically.”

The Microsoft founder explained that “people have to decide, do they want their government in terms of finding terrorists to have access to that information? Or do they not trust the government so they want it to be hidden and encrypted?”

“And by and large, the companies are just going to implement whatever they're asked to do. This was true of phone issues and how the government could get access there. Now we're seeing it again with the Internet.”

“Do people want the government to find terrorists? And if so, what are the approaches that make them feel comfortable that's being used appropriately?”

 


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