Bill Gates Progress in fight on poverty, but more work needed

The first Gates Foundation "Goalkeepers" report appears as the UN General Assembly prepares to meet in New York this month.

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The foundation set up by billionaire Bill Gates plans to issue annual reports monitoring progress towards reaching UN-established goals to end poverty and improve conditions around the world play

The foundation set up by billionaire Bill Gates plans to issue annual reports monitoring progress towards reaching UN-established goals to end poverty and improve conditions around the world

(AFP/File)
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Great progress has been made since 1990 in alleviating global poverty, but much remains to be done, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in a report out Wednesday.

The foundation set up by the billionaire Microsoft co-founder plans to issue annual reports monitoring progress toward reaching a series of global sustainable development goals established by the United Nations in 2015.

These goals, to be reached by 2030, include eliminating poverty and hunger, providing clean water and affordable energy, and fighting gender inequalities and climate change.

The first Gates Foundation "Goalkeepers" report appears as the UN General Assembly prepares to meet in New York this month.

The Gates report focused on 18 of the development indicators set by the United Nations.

"We're trying to document the incredible progress" made around the world "including on key things like poverty and different disease areas," Bill Gates said in a statement.

Childhood mortality under the age of five has dropped considerably, from 11.2 million in 1990 to just over million in 2016 thanks to vaccinations and improved living conditions, the report said.

The goal is to further cut this number to 2.5 million by 2030.

Not just money

The report highlights progress in Malawi, where one in four children died before reaching five years of age in 1990 -- but today that figure is down to one in 16.

Almost 20 million children worldwide, however, are lacking any immunization shots, the report said.

Senegal was singled out for praise concerning family planning: only three percent of Senegalese women used contraception in 1990, but that number rose to 15 percent in 2016 following education campaigns.

"Poverty is not just the lack of money," Gates said.

"It's also the lack of access to basic financial services that help the poor use what money they do have to improve their lives."

The report notes that, increasingly, poor people have access to financial services.

Peru's fight against stunting -- children too short for their age, an indication of malnutrition -- has made notable progress, dropping from 39 percent of Peruvian children affected in 1990 to 18 percent in 2016.

The goal is to reach eight percent or less by 2030.

The report also notes that the number of new HIV cases has dropped considerably.

"Poverty and disease in poor countries are the clearest examples we know of solvable human misery," Gates said.

"We have it within our power to decide how much of it actually gets solved.

"Let's be ambitious, let's lead," he said.

One clear sign of progress is that the world population living under the poverty line -- defined as a daily income of $1.90 or less -- was 35 percent in 1990, but dropped to nine percent in 2016.

"By 2030, getting to that six percent would be quite phenomenal," Gates said.

The Gates Foundation has spent billions of dollars in countries around the world on projects that include vaccinations against infectious diseases and improved access to health care, education and computer technology.

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