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Gates Foundation CEO urges billionaires to increase philanthropic contributions in annual letter

LONDON: In his annual letter published on Thursday, Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, urged philanthropists to increase their donations and take immediate action to address the unparalleled struggles countries face in combatting poverty, diseases, and inequality.

The Gates Foundation, one of the largest contributors to global health worldwide, revealed its plans to allocate $8.6 billion in 2024 — its largest budget so far.

The increase in budget corresponds with the decline in progress made by nonprofits in their efforts to eliminate poverty, combat treatable illnesses, and eradicate hunger.

Reasons for this regression are primarily attributed to factors such as the pandemic, ongoing wars, and the substantial debt burdens in numerous nations.

“We think the most impactful area for philanthropy is in addressing human equity, inequity, and investing in human capital writ large, which is essentially health and education, the next generation of the planet, because that’s the way we provide opportunities for the poorest and most vulnerable,” Suzman told Arab News.

Amid the devastating ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Yemen, the foundation has provided financial aid to UNICEF with the aim of assisting in the provision of essential medications and medical care.

Guzman highlighted the importance of forming partnerships, particularly in the Gulf, due to the substantial governmental and philanthropic resources that have the potential to make an impact not only within the region but also on a global scale.

Suzman gave Arab News insight on the contributions and ongoing partnerships of the Gates Foundation in the Middle East and North Africa region, stating: “In the UAE, we have helped form the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, which aids to end neglected tropical diseases. In Qatar, we have a joint fund called Nanmo, which works on agricultural innovations.

“We’re working with the International Livestock Research Institute, which is based in Ethiopia, to then expand that across many African countries.

“We also invest in people. We have a partnership with the ICBA (International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture), which provides fellowships for Arab women.

“We have a very big partnership with multiple countries and the Islamic Development Bank — the Lives and Livelihoods Fund, which has funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar and the Gates Foundation.”

In the past, Lebanon received assistance from The Gates Foundation and benefited from its development of a waterless toilet technology that was used in some refugee camps.

The foundation’s appeal builds on the Giving Pledge, launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010 as a commitment for billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth while they are alive or at the time of their death to any cause.

The foundation and Suzman have been committed to making an impact, which has been evident through their emphasis on research and the development of multiple projects.

These projects include the development of a worldwide agricultural information system that would benefit impoverished farmers worldwide, as well as cost-effective measures for reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.

“We helped co-found and launch the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, which helps provide and purchase vaccines for low-income countries, and there also have been significant advances in the development of new vaccines in areas like rotavirus and meningitis,” Suzman explained.

“The aggregate impact of that has been that preventable child deaths have dropped from over 10 million a year in 2000, to the low 5 million a year. Currently, we think that can be accelerated. You will see many of those drops reflected across the MENA region, which (has seen) significant progress,” he continued.

Suzman described the foundation as “a long-term development organization rather than a humanitarian organization,” striving to make permanent changes.

The Gates Foundation intends to raise its annual budget to $9 billion in the upcoming year and maintain it at that level.

Although the foundation board has endorsed this year’s budget, they have also urged the foundation to explore sustainable funding options for their work once the budget growth ceases.

Since its inception, the Gates Foundation has given out more than $71.4 billion.

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