Sometimes we're so focused on tough issues and difficult challenges that we don't take time out to notice the progress that we’re making, or to appreciate the people and organizations that are making a real difference in the world today.
Of course we all know that there’s still so much work to do to save more lives and improve the health of millions of poor people around the world. But some astonishing things have happened in recent years. One of the most amazing is the change from 1960 when more than 20 million children died before their fifth birthday to last year when that number had fallen to less than 9 million, even though the number of children born every year increased by 25 percent.
I believe this is one of the most important accomplishments of the past 100 years.
One of the key things that made this achievement possible is that governments in many countries – including the U.S. – have increased the amount of money they dedicate to improving global health. So in October, Melinda and I went to Washington D.C. to give a speech to express our thanks to the U.S. government and U.S. taxpayers for the important investments they are making to improve poor people's lives around the world.
The speech was part of the "Living Proof Project: U.S. Investments in Global Health Are Working," a larger effort designed to highlight the important benefits that so many U.S. programs are delivering. For example, we spoke about a program called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. Through this generous program, the number of people in Africa who are receiving antiretroviral drugs has increased from 155,000 to more than 2.4 million in the last five years.
At the speech in Washington, we told the story of Avelile, a seven year old girl who contracted AIDS from her mother during childbirth. At first, nurses didn't think she had much chance of survival. But her life has been transformed by drugs provided through PEPFAR and its partners. Today, she is truly thriving.
PEPFAR is just one example of how U.S. aid is having a huge impact on people's lives. There are many other such programs, including PMI, which is fighting malaria in 15 countries; the GAVI Alliance, which is providing increased access to immunizations in poor nations; and GAIN, which is working to reduce malnutrition in more than 25 countries.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website includes a special section on the Living Proof Project. There you’ll find a lot of great stories about how U.S. foreign aid is transforming the lives of many individuals in poor nations across the globe. You can also link to the speech Melinda and I gave in Washington called Why We are Impatient Optimists that I mentioned earlier.