Opinion: The world is going backwards in the fight against poverty and disease. Here’s what we need to do

Editor’s note: Mark Suzman is the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Guided by the belief that all life is of equal value, the foundation works to help all people live healthy lives and reach their full potential. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own.

The first two decades of the 21st century brought more progress to more people than any other period in human history. Deaths from malaria, HIV and tuberculosis were halved. Child deaths dropped dramatically. Polio was almost eradicated. And the world poverty rate dropped by almost three quarters.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these trends have changed for the worse. Every year, our foundation publishes the Goalkeepers report, which measures the world’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by UN member states in 2015. And according to this year’s report, to meet most of the goals by 2030, we” The pace must pick up significantly.

Why? If you ask six experts to name the biggest crisis facing the world today, you might get six different answers: Geopolitical conflict. Food insecurity. Climate change. Gender difference Loss of learning Infectious disease And they would all be correct.

At the Gates Foundation, we believe it is possible and essential to invest in long-term, sustainable action, especially after two years of conflict, pandemic and polarization. At the United Nations General Assembly meeting, governments and donors should prioritize solutions that will help the most vulnerable today and have a lasting impact for years to come.

This is a very fragile moment for the world. Some of the poorest countries have external debt difficulties. Rising inflation has affected almost all nations, reducing countries’ spending power and forcing them to make tough financial commitments. An alarming number of people, especially women, are hungry around the world. Many countries are backing away from development aid that helps strengthen long-term health and nutrition systems in low- and middle-income countries. Some have redirected funds from these priorities to address crises at home.

Humanitarian aid is essential. However, if short-term financing means neglecting long-term investments, health emergencies and food shortages will become even more frequent and intense.

The success of organizations such as the International Funding and Cooperation Organization, which invests billions a year in fighting infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, shows the value of long-term investment. Over the past two decades, health programs supported by the fund have helped save 50 million lives through prevention and treatment. And because of generous commitments from countries like Japan, Germany and the United States, the Global Fund will continue to strengthen health systems and save millions more lives. Next week, our foundation will announce new financial commitments to help accelerate progress toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — from a commitment to the Global Fund to new investments in food and nutrition security.

While the Goalkeepers report details real setbacks in areas such as gender equality and food security, it also highlights some of the most impactful investments that can be made right now. For example, Melinda French Gates writes about effective ways to unleash women’s power and economic resilience, including expanding access to digital financial tools like mobile accounts that put money in women’s hands, giving them more control over their money than cash payments. We can also build and strengthen childcare infrastructure so that women can earn income outside the home and entrepreneurs can run their own childcare businesses.

When it comes to food security, Bill Gates focuses on agricultural innovations, from crops that are more resistant to droughts and floods to the “Agriculture Adaptation Atlas,” data that predicts the increasing impact of climate change on agriculture and can help determine which crops to grow. a new visualization tool. to plant, and where.

If we work together, we can make sure these kinds of solutions reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Hunger, disease and inequality are problems without borders, and every sector has a role to play in solving them. Solutions can come from anywhere: from the most advanced laboratories to the most remote communities.

Progress will take a new level of collaboration, investment and innovation. But together, we can build a world where everyone can realize their full potential, no matter who they are or where they live.