Bill Gates we’ll erradicate Polio in 6 years

Bill Gates we’ll erradicate Polio in 6 years

Bill Gates

The Microsoft boss and his wife have given away almost £20billion for global health projects.

AT Microsoft, I always believed in the power of innovation to solve problems and make the world a better place.

What excited me about being involved in software is that we were part of an industry where we were constantly inventing new things and improving them.

When I was a teenager, computers were the size of a car — and much more expensive. Today, you can hold tremendous computing power in the palm of your hand.

That same kind of innovation is under way today in our efforts to improve the human condition.

Just consider the progress we’ve made in our fight against polio.

It was first recognised at least 4,000 years ago, but it was just 200 years ago that we figured out it is contagious and just 100 years ago that we learned it is a virus.

Fifty years ago, we developed the vaccine to prevent it. Twenty-five years ago, we resolved to eradicate it.

Thanks to the efforts of organisations such as Rotary and the generosity of donors including the UK, the number of polio cases has fallen by more than 99 percent.

In 1988, there were more than 350,000 polio cases. Last year, there were fewer than 250. Getting rid of the last few cases is the hardest part. But we can eradicate this disease once and for all.

In January, after years of battling the disease, India celebrated two full years without a single case of polio.

There are now just three countries that have not eliminated polio — Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I visited northern Nigeria four years ago to understand why eradication is so difficult there.

One huge problem the polio programme found was that many villages were missing from vaccinators’ hand-drawn maps. As a result, children were not getting vaccinated. But this has since been fixed, by polio workers walking through all the areas at the highest risk of the disease and by using high-resolution satellite images so that every child gets vaccinated.

For me, this progress offers more evidence of how the power of knowledge can help us solve seeming intractable problems such as hunger, poverty and disease.

The global polio community is now finalising a detailed plan that I believe should allow us to finish the job of eradicating polio within the next six years.

Achieving these important goals is possible if we continue to innovate and, most importantly, continue to have the leadership and generosity of donors like the UK.

The proof of great leadership is the ability to be long-sighted and keep the big picture in mind.

The UK Government’s decision to prioritise international development, even in the face of great financial challenges, is exactly the kind of long-sighted commitment I am speaking of.

In fact, as I travel across Europe making the case for development to donors that are considering cuts to their aid budgets, I have never been more proud than I am right now of the knighthood I was awarded in 2005.

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