Much of Bill Gates’s third annual letter, which was published on Monday, is devoted to polio, a disease which it was claimed in 2003 would be eradicated within the next few years. He admitted this had been too optimistic. The disease still exists in more than a dozen countries and has in fact started to spread again since 2003.
Gates now believes eradication will require aggressive campaigns to give polio vaccines to all children under 5 in poor countries, at a cost of nearly $1 billion a year. His remarks follow the foundation’s announcement last week of a new financial commitment of $102 million towards worldwide eradication.
Gates also expressed concern about budget cuts to overseas aid programmes, saying he felt a responsibility to speak up for the world’s poorest people. He regards cuts in aid as short-sighted, since aid is an investment: it reduces the cost of treating the sick, helps prevent sickness in the first place, and increases children’s potential to contribute to the prosperity and development of their society through provision of education. He also professed his frustration with the slow progress in the fight against AIDS and his readiness to make waves. ‘I am willing to be viewed as a troublemaker by people who are happy with the status quo,’ he wrote.
Wall Street Journal online, 31 January 2011
To read the letter