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DAVOS, Switzerland -- The co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today called on world leaders, corporations, NGOs, and individuals to maintain their commitments to foreign assistance and investment despite the difficult economic times, citing strong evidence showing that investments in development and health work. Bill and Melinda Gates also announced a $34 million grant to the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to help control and greatly reduce the burden of the most prevalent neglected diseases that affect the world’s poorest populations by 2020.
“Our work together to help the world’s poor is more important in the face of this global financial crisis,” said Bill Gates at a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “If we lose sight of our long-term priority to expand opportunity for the world’s poor and abandon our commitments and partnerships to reduce inequity, we run the risk of emerging from the current economic downturn in a world with even greater disparities in health and education and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives.”
While global initiatives are dramatically saving and improving lives around the world, the ongoing financial crisis and recent food crisis threaten progress made in improving health and reducing poverty, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 2.5 million people in the developing world live on less than $2 a day. Two-thirds of deaths in children under age 5 in developing countries stem from health problems that are preventable or treatable with existing tools. Advances in health too often fail to reach those who need them most—people in the poorest countries.
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is working to end global suffering and death from neglected tropical diseases by expanding access to low-cost and proven treatments. While most of these diseases have little name recognition in industrialized countries, together they cause severe disability in the world's poorest countries and result in billions of dollars of lost productivity. The new grant announced today aims to end the suffering of more than 1.4 billion people worldwide who live on less than $1.25 per day.
Bill and Melinda Gates challenged the business community, individuals and world leaders to review the neglected tropical disease “investment book,” a resource developed by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. The Global Network has mapped out the health and monetary benefits gained when an individual or corporation makes a specific NTD investment. In Liberia, for example, a $3.6 million investment over five years will result in comprehensive treatment to 2.4 million people, or nearly 75 percent of that country’s population.
The seven most common neglected tropical diseases are: trachoma (eye infections), soil-transmitted helminths (hookworm, Ascaris, Trichuris), onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (snail fever) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).
“For governments, corporations, NGOs and individuals, there is little else during this global economic crisis that provides such a significant return on investment while also reducing suffering and saving lives,” said Melinda Gates. “For approximately 50 cents per person per year, we can treat seven of the most common neglected tropical diseases or just one generous donation could help control neglected tropical diseases across an entire country. And while investments in neglected tropical disease control are reaping significant dividends, much work remains.”
The Global Network announced today that several major corporations, private donors, and international organizations have already made major new commitments to their campaign to end neglected tropical diseases by 2020. These partners include Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck, Pfizer, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Hoffman Fund, a partner of the Alliance for Global Good.