Bill Gates calls for sustained foreign aid to boost global health

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) — Bill Gates, co-chair of the world ‘s largest philanthropy, on Monday called on governments to invest in foreign aid, even in the face of a tough economic climate, to help boost global health.

"If societies can’t provide for people’s basic health, if they can’t feed and educate people, then their populations and problems will grow and the world will be a less stable place," said Gates, co-chair of the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in his third annual letter.

He emphasized the need to continue improving U.S. schools, and urges more leadership, innovation and investment for issues like maternal and child health, malaria, HIV/AIDS and agriculture.

Gates focused on polio eradication as a key example of the value of vaccines. Because of a global childhood immunization campaign, polio has been reduced 99 percent, and is on the threshold of becoming only the second disease ever eradicated.

"Aid for the poorest has already achieved a lot. For example, because of donors’ generosity, we are on the threshold of ending polio once and for all," Gates said.

Polio once threatened children worldwide, but there are now just four countries where polio has never stopped circulating: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Last year saw remarkable progress in Nigeria and India, where polio cases dropped by about 95 percent compared to 2009. But even a few isolated cases can cross borders and spark an outbreak.

Gates reiterated that achieving polio eradication would energize the global health field by showing the real impact of health investment, particularly investments in vaccines.

Last year, he called for the next 10 years to be the Decade of Vaccines, a vision of a world ten years from now where the global health community has come together to deliver life-saving vaccines to every child who needs them, and to invest in vaccines that don’ t yet exist.

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