Yesterday at an event on the campus of New York University, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Melinda French Gates, joined by moderator Chelsea Clinton, announced a new global data project on women and girls
For some reason, people do not know how much the world continues to improve. Bill and Melinda Gates took to the Wall Street Journal to bust a few myths and show that a lot of assumptions held by Americans are just plain wrong.
The two leaders of the Gates Foundation are set to publish their annual letter, timed to coincide with world leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, tomorrow. The WSJ OpEd looks to be a preview of what is to come. Here are the highlights from each of the myths:
Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
They’re really not. Incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere—including Africa…
In our lifetimes, the global picture of poverty has been completely redrawn. Per-person incomes in Turkey and Chile are where the U.S. was in 1960. Malaysia is nearly there. So is Gabon. Since 1960, China’s real income per person has gone up eightfold. India’s has quadrupled, Brazil’s has almost quintupled, and tiny Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a 30-fold increase. A new class of middle-income nations that barely existed 50 years ago now includes more than half the world’s population.
And yes, this holds true even in Africa. Income per person in Africa has climbed by two-thirds since 1998—from just over $1,300 then to nearly $2,200 today. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.
By Christopher Elias, President, Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - This originally appeared in the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog
One of the things I’ve learned working in global health and development for the past 25 years is that innovation comes in many forms. Scientific breakthroughs tend to get the most attention. A new vaccine that saves children’s lives. A drug that tackles a killer disease.
Innovation also happens incrementally, often building on previous advances. In the fight to eradicate polio, the first effective vaccine was introduced more than 50 years ago. Since then, scientists have developed many new vaccines, typically more effective than their predecessors.
The oral contraceptive introduced in 1960 was truly a transformative technology, but did not meet the needs of many women, and is used by relatively few women in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. So, researchers are improving contraceptive technologies to give women in all countries more options so they can plan their families.
Gabrielle Fitzgerald if the Director of Program Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She travelled to Myanmar last week with Population Services International, an NGO that has worked in Myanmar for nearly 20 years. Dr. Aye Aye Mu is a health provider in the SUN Quality Health Network, a health franchise run by PSI. This originally appeared in the Impatient Optimists blog.
Dr. Aye Aye Mu runs a thriving medical practice in the North Okkalapa Township in Myanmar’s capital of Yangon. Her office can be found after winding through labyrinthine, rutted roads, filled with puddles from the morning’s torrential rain. She gave up her middle-class existence to move with her family to this neighborhood, so she could be closer to the people that needed her most.
One of those people is Ma Ni, who is dying of cervical cancer on the floor of her two-room home near Dr. Aye Aye Mu’s office. Dying of any kind of cancer anywhere in the world is sad, but this case is particularly heart-rending because cervical cancer is so easily preventable.
This special edition of Impact, the global health magazine of PSI, was produced in partnership with Women Deliver and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. This issue, launched in conjunction with the Women Deliver 2013 Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, brings insightful dialogue on the value of investing in girls and women’s health. Our hope is that this issue will call attention to the urgent need for increased investment in girls and women in the developing world.
Melinda Gates is co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Along with Bill Gates, she shapes and approves the foundation’s strategies, reviews results, and sets the overall direction of the organization. Together they meet with grantees and partners to further the foundation’s goal of improving equity in the U.S. and around the world. They use many public appearances to advocate for the foundation’s issues. In July of 2012, Gates made headlines by spearheading the London Summit on Family Planning, with the goal of delivering contraceptives to an additional 120 million women in developing countries by 2020. While involved in all of the organization’s endeavors, Gates believes that empowering women in developing countries to decide whether and when to have a child is a critical driver of her work at the foundation, since this decision can be the source of transformational improvements in the health and prosperity of whole societies. Bill and Melinda Gates live in Medina, Washington, near Seattle. They have three children.
IMPACT: In your travels, you’ve met many women who have shared their personal stories with you. Is there one story that stands out?
MELINDA GATES: I am inspired by the women I meet everywhere I go. They have to work so hard just to make sure their families survive, but somehow they stay optimistic and do everything in their power to make the future better than the past. I try to talk and write about all of them when I come back from trips, because I believe their stories will inspire others as they’ve inspired me. On my most husband’s family and insist on spacing her pregnancies. I’ve been telling her story a lot lately.
In terms of one woman who stands out, I always come back to Marianne, who I met in a slum outside Nairobi, Kenya. I was talking with a group of mothers at a community center about why they use contraceptives, and Marianne said, “I want to bring every good thing to one child before I have another.” That is now a mantra for me. It expresses why I am motivated to do the work of the foundation.
We all want to bring every good thing to our children. I have three kids, and I can relate to that. Sharmila risked everything to give her children every good thing. The work we do with our partners is all about helping brave women like Marianne and Sharmila achieve that goal.
By Amy Lieberman
Zambian public health clinics performing adult male circumcisions.
It was a bold move, says Doug Call, Senior Regional Director of Southern Africa at PSI, despite support from local government and evidence from recent randomized controlled trials that showed a 60 percent reduced chance of HIV transmission for HIV-negative circumcised men.
“It was risky on a number of fronts,” Call remembers. “The randomized controlled trials were published but there was and continues to be a backlash against male circumcision. We didn’t know whether or not the donor environment in the U.S. would really get behind the idea to fund this.”
PSI also did not want to make an investment and have it fall apart, Call says, over a project that was culturally loaded.
By the end of 2008, PSI, through its partnership with the Zambian government, performed nearly 2,500 circumcisions. The next year, the program expanded to Zimbabwe – with more than $1 million in private funding for the start-up initiative – and by 2011, the project received its first funding award from the U.S. Agency for International Development and then by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010.
Now, PSI’s voluntary medical male circumcision program has performed the surgical operation on more than 400,000 teenage boys and adult men in Southern Africa. The United Nations Children’s Fund, the Gates Foundation, USAID and the U.K. Department for International Development are backing is Zimbabwe project with an approximate collective $57 million, and the Zambia initiative is receiving roughly $39 million from USAID, the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.
This Gates Foundation video shows how mobile technology deployed by the Grameen Foundation in Ghana is improving maternal and child health. The MOTECH mobile midwife program lets pregnant women register to receive voice message reminders during their pregnancy.
MOTECH Ghana is a mHealth service for pregnant women and their families in rural Ghana built on the MOTECH Platform. It delivers weekly automated voice or SMS messages to the women which contain time-specific information encouraging them to make health-seeking choices such as receiving recommended vaccinations or maintaining proper nutrition. Via the MOTECH Ghana mobile application, Community Health Nurses in Ghana use their mobiles to record the care given to patients and the caregivers receive alerts of patients who are due or overdue for care so they can follow up with them. A detailed overview is available in our Early Lessons Learned in Ghana report.
VillageReach has been employing mobile health technologies for over a decade in Mozambique. The initiative seeks to “ensure prompt and universal access to vaccines and related medical supplies in Mozambique.” The model used by VillageReach is currently used in 251 health centers across the country that reaches an estimated 5.2 million people. This short video from the Gates Foundation shows how VillageReach is transforming lives through its services and innovations.
By Kate Roberts, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Communications and Advocacy, PSI
There are some global challenges that we do not yet know how to solve. Improving the health of girls and women worldwide is not one of them.
On the contrary, we already have the necessary tools in our possession. Reliable health data allows us to pinpoint and develop solutions for the greatest threats to their health. We have modern diagnostic technologies capable of identifying disease. We have vaccines and health products that offer safe and effective disease prevention barriers. We also have medicines to treat the majority of the leading causes of death among girls and women.
But these advances are worth little unless we are able to deliver them to women living in the furthest regions of the developing world that need them most. When people ask me what is needed, I explain that we need to find new ways to deliver and create demand for health solutions that already exist so they reach the developing world. When someone asks me how they can help, I let them know that donations and private investments are often the only sources of funding that allow us to test and develop promising health solutions that governments and businesses can’t afford to advance on their own.