Despite the sober tone of the times — tensions with Russia, the growing threat of terrorism — one altruistic husband and wife duo spies a gradual improvement in the state of the world.
“We see heartbreaking things, but we also hear from people who tell us roads are improving and they can get their goods to market,” says Melinda Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released its annual letter Wednesday.
“The world is changing for the better for many of the poor, and that’s what fuels us,” she said in a phone interview with USA TODAY.
Such optimism stands in contrast to the heavy issues under discussion this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where global leaders are meeting under an economic backdrop that shows 1% of the world’s population will control half its assets by 2016, according to a new Oxfam study.
The letter, which marks the 15th anniversary of the $42 billion Seattle-based foundation, outlines how the organization wants to see further improvements by 2030 in the areas of:
Health. The foundation’s goal is to help cut the number of children dying before age 5 to one in 40, from one in 20 today; reduce the number of women dying in childbirth; and ratchet up efforts to eradicate polio, malaria and HIV. “Health is why Bill and I started the foundation,” says Gates. “If you are dealing with malaria, your main battle is just to stay alive.”
Farming. When you have “7 in 10 African adults who are farmers, it’s critical we not only push harder to improve their crop yields through science and technology but also make sure infrastructure is there, from roads to banking, that help people turn their crops into income,” says Gates, noting that time is of the essence as Africa will be feeding 200 million more people by 2030.
Gender inequality. “We know that when women can participate equally in a country’s economy, the GDP goes up 12%,” says Gates. She adds that the empowerment of Third World women is linked to education, “which has a trickle-down effect in that they then marry later and have healthier children later.”
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SOURCE: USA Today
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