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The Gates look back at 20 years of philanthropy 

The Gates look back at 20 years of philanthropy 

Applaud Ethiopia’s progress, pledge for more funds

Billionaire philanthropists, Bill and Melinda Gates in their 2020 Annual Letter, a review of the foundation’s activities every year, which they have released this week, has celebrated the progress made over the past two decades in alleviating poverty and tackling health issues across the world, where Ethiopia was cited as most progressive, The Reporter has learnt.  

The annual report which the Gates prefer to call Annual Letter was entitled: “Why We Swing for the Fences: Reflecting on the First Two Decades of Our Foundation,” this year, and discussed at a great length some of the risks they’ve taken in health and education sectors over the past 20 years.

Noting their global investment reaching close to USD 54 billion, Bill and Melinda cited their role in Ethiopia as an opportunity to contribute to achieving decline in the rate of poverty. Accordingly, Ethiopia has been named as a remarkably progressive nation, “achieving some of the fastest progresses in the world in terms of lifting people out of extreme poverty”. Citing reports of the World Bank and other international institutions, Bill and Melinda Gates wrote that Ethiopia’s poverty rate has lessened by 46 percent since 2000.

The drastic reduction in child mortality and efforts underway to reduce maternal mortality rate were among those lauded by the philanthropic couple. Since 1990, the under-five mortality rate in Ethiopia has decreased from 191 per 1,000 births to 57 per 1,000 births, according to various sources. At the same tune, material mortality rates have been reduced by two-thirds to 191 per 100,000. Yet, maternal mortality is one of the lesser achievements of Ethiopia that was reported in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

“At the core of our foundation’s work is the idea that every person deserves the chance to live a healthy and productive life,” Bill and Melinda wrote. “Twenty years later, despite how much things have changed, that is still our most important driving principle.”

Child stunting rates from malnutrition have decreased by 25 percent since 1990, which is a step in the right direction, the Letter details. However, approximately four in ten Ethiopian children remain at risk of never fulfilling their potential as a result of malnutrition. The under-five mortality rate has decreased by two-thirds since 1990 and estimates of maternal mortality are 191 per 100,000.

In the letter, Melinda says, on her part: “We will fund new advances in family planning and maternal and newborn health; and we will also explore new ways of preventing the scourge of malnutrition. That is because improvement in health is the key to lifting people out of poverty.”

It is to be recalled that back in 2017, Haddis D. Tadesse, director for Ethiopia and the African Union, with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), said that the Foundation had devoted USD 500 million to assist the country’s efforts in the areas of health, nutrition, education, agriculture, livestock, financial inclusion and the like. However, the financial commitment for the upcoming years is something that is yet to be determined.

The annual letter also indicated that much of Ethiopia’s success in reducing poverty is attributable to government’s commitment towards the development of the agricultural sector. Although agriculture is behind 65 percent of all rural jobs in Ethiopia and generally account for 31 percent of the country’s GDP, in recent times, climate change seems to have taken a toll on the sector, worsening the level of productivity.

These factors are pushing farmers to drier and non-conducive areas for farming. “As a result, crops are becoming harder to grow, leaving food supplies at risk and the country’s progress in jeopardy,” Bill and Melina Gates said. 

In the letter, Gates commented on works being done to mitigate the impact of climate change. He said: “I’m also hopeful that our foundation’s work on agriculture will play a key role in helping farmers withstand climate change. A decade ago, we began funding research into drought-and flood-tolerant varieties of staple crops like maize and rice. These new varieties are already helping farmers grow more food in some parts of Africa and India.”

The funds both Bill and Melinda Gates disbursed on these global causes came from the wealth they have created from the Microsoft. Both decided to give away much of their wealth to philanthropy and admittedly they recalled how it was challenging at first to commit resources as the need continued to mount on the global level.