Annual Letter from Bill Gates
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Vaccinators being trained at the Kabuga Health Centre for the upcoming polio campaign (Kano, Nigeria, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
s I sit down to work on my third annual letter, governments in every corner of the world are facing tough
decisions about how to reduce spending. Although foreign aid accounts for less than 1 percent of governments’
total budgets, it is one place being considered for cuts. As a result, health and agricultural assistance that saves
A lives and puts poor countries on a track for self-suciency is at risk.
e world’s poorest will not be visiting government leaders to make their case, unlike other constituencies, so I want to
help make their case by describing the progress and the potential I see in key areas of health and development. erhaps
it is ironic for someone who has been so lucky to talk about the needs of those who have not.
I believe it is in the rich world’s enlightened self-interest to continue investing in foreign aid. 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.
Whether you believe it a moral imperative or in the rich world’s enlightened self-interest, securing the conditions that
will lead to a healthy, prosperous future for everyone is a goal I believe we all share.
Many people don’t have a clear image of the beneits aid actually provides. at’s not surprising, because aid covers
many diferent areas. Also, in the past some aid was sent to countries to buy friendship without real regard for its
impact. However, today a signiicant portion of foreign aid is spent on hugely beneicial programs that improve people’s
lives in both the near and long term.
Despite the threat to aid budgets, one thing that makes me optimistic about the future is the courage of leaders who are
inding ways to make the welfare of poor people a priority. Under David Cameron’s leadership, the United Kingdom
set a great example by keeping its promise to grow aid spending despite the cuts it had to make. It is inspiring to see a
leader stand up for what he believes is right, even when it isn’t easy.
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.
olio is a terrible disease that kills many and paralyzes others. Fity years ago it was widespread around the world.
When you talk to people who remember polio in the United States, they’ll tell you about the fear and panic during an
outbreak and describe grim hospital wards full of children in iron lungs that maintained their breathing. At its peak in
the United States in 1952, polio paralyzed or killed more than 24,000 people.
Reduction in countries with sustained transmission of polio, 1988-2010
1988 2010 Pakistan
Child suffering from polio reads a comic book attached
to the rim of an iron lung (ca. 1955).
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Estimated number of polio cases per year Estimated number of polio cases per year
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2000 2002 2002 2004 2004 2006 2006 2008 2008 2010 2010
Source: WHO/Polio database
Crowded polio ward at Hynes Memorial Hospital (Boston, 1955).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
As a result of mass mobilizations to administer the polio vaccine, polio was eliminated in the United States and most
developed nations decades ago. Most people who live in rich countries assume the disease is long gone and that it
doesn’t kill or paralyze children anymore. But it is still a frightening presence in a number of places around the world.
In 1988 the global community adopted the goal of ending polio altogether. At that time more than 350,000 children
a year worldwide were killed or paralyzed by the disease. Since then, vaccination coverage has increased signiicantly
and the number of cases has gone down by 99 percent, to fewer than 1,500 last year. ere are now just four countries
where polio transmission has never been stopped: India, Nigeria, akistan, and Afghanistan.
at’s incredible progress, but the last 1 percent remains a true danger. Eradication is not guaranteed. It requires
campaigns to give polio vaccine to all children under 5 in poor countries, at a cost of almost $1 billion per year. We
have to be aggressive about continuing these campaigns until we succeed in eradicating that last 1 percent.
erefore, funding is critical to success. Organizations such as otary International and the governments of India, the
United States, the United Kingdom, and apan are all major contributors to the polio campaign. Our foundation gives
about $200 million each year. But the campaign still faces a 2011-12 funding gap of $20 million. If eradication fails
because of a lack of generosity on the part of donor countries it would be tragic. We are so close, but we have to inish
the last leg of the journey. We need to bring the cases down to zero, maintain careful surveillance to ensure the virus is
truly gone, and keep defenses up with polio vaccines until we’ve conirmed success.
hy is it so important to end polio Eradication will have three huge beneits.
e irst is that getting rid of polio will mean that no child will die or be paralyzed by
the disease in the future. One thing most people don’t realize is that if we don’t inish
the job on eradication, we will lose a lot of the ground we’ve gained over the past two decades.
e disease will not stay at its current low level. If we don’t get rid of it, it will spread back into
countries where it’s been eliminated, and it will kill and paralyze children who used to be safe.
Only eradication will guarantee that all children are safe.
e second beneit is that the money that will be saved by eradicating polio far exceeds what we are spending on
eradication eforts now. e long-term beneits of the last couple of billion dollars spent on eradication will be truly
phenomenal. A recent estimate added up the cost of treatment that won’t be necessary and the enhanced economic
contribution of adults who won’t get polio. Eradication could save the world up to $50 billion over the next 25 years.
e third beneit is that success will energize the ield of global health by showing that investments in health lead to
amazing victories. e eradication efort illustrates so well how a major advance in the human condition requires
resolve and courageous leadership. o win these big important ights, partnerships, money, science, politics, and
delivery in developing countries have to come together on a global scale.
he history of polio and polio eradication is fascinating. One of the best books I’ve read on the subject is David
Oshinsky’s Polio: An American Story . olio was the irst disease that raised signiicant money from the broad
public. e March of Dimes was created to combat the disease. Although resident oosevelt and lots of
Hollywood stars helped the campaign, its huge success came from neighborhood-based fundraising. I remember March
of Dimes volunteers ringing our doorbell when I was growing up and asking for a donation. By any measure, the public’s
generosity in supporting that charity made it one of the most successful health-related fundraising campaigns ever.
e March of Dimes funded research into the irst polio vaccine, which was invented by Dr. onas Salk and introduced
in 1955. It was such an important priority to get the polio vaccine out widely that the U.S. government sponsored the
campaign, which it had never done before. e campaigns of the late-1950s were wildly successful, and by 191 the
number of cases in the United States was down to just 11.
A second polio vaccinethis one in the form of liquid drops that children swallow instead of an injection in the arm
was invented by Dr. Albert Sabin and licensed in 193. By 199 there was no more poliovirus in circulation in the
United States. Dr. Salk’s and Dr. Sabin’s vaccines are still the key tools used for eradication today.
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3000 BC 1952 1963 1979 2007
Egyptian paintings and Worst polio outbreak Albert Sabin’s oral Last case of naturally The World Health
carvings depict people in United States polio vaccine licensed occurring polio in the Organization declares
with withered limbs history, with 658,000 United States polio eradicated in the
and walking with canes reported cases Americas, Europe, and
the Western Paciic
1928 1955 1970s 1988 2010
First iron Jonas Salk’s National immunization Polio still exists in Sustained transmission
lung used at injected polio programs launched, 125 countries and of polio in four countries,
Children’s vaccine introduced leading to control of paralyzes an estimated but outbreaks in 16
Hospital in the disease in many 350,000 children; countries are reminders
Boston developing countries Global Polio Eradication that polio anywhere is a
Initiative created threat everywhere
Clockwise, from top: Rotary vaccination teams pick up vaccines and other supplies at the Patna Junction railway station (Bihar, India, 2010). World Health Organization
workers unpack polio vaccine from boxes designed to keep it cold (Bihar, India, 2010). Billboard advertises the ongoing polio campaigns in Patna (Bihar, India, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
o this day, the smallpox campaign is the only successful human disease
eradication campaign in history. At its peak, smallpox killed over 2 million
people every year and also blinded and disabled large numbers. e
eradication campaign started in 19, the last naturally acquired case of
smallpox was in 19, and the world was certiied as being free of smallpox
in 199. wo excellent books on the smallpox eradication are Dr. D.A.
Henderson’s Smallpox: he Death of a Disease and the forthcoming House on
Fire by another key smallpox warrior, Dr. Bill Foege.
Smallpox had a number of characteristics that made it easier to eradicate
than polio. Almost everyone who got smallpox developed a distinct rash. In
contrast most polio infections are not noticed because less than one in 100
people infected are paralyzed, even though all those infected can transmit
the virus. is means by the time a paralytic case is found, the poliovirus has
Also, the vaccines against polio are not as efective as the smallpox vaccine,
which was so powerful that a single vaccination protected almost everyone.
In the case of the most common polio vaccine, at least three doses are
required to get 85 percent of children fully protected. In many countries of
Girl winces as she gets vaccinated against smallpox (Nigeria, 1969).
the developing world, even more doses are needed to reach the immunity
levels needed to stop transmission of the virus.
But the polio campaign also has some huge advantages that the smallpox campaign did not have. e advanced science
we have today lets us sequence the DNA of the polio virus and develop an understanding of the history of transmission,
which guides our work. We also have far better communications and modeling tools than were available in the 190s,
and those are being used in smart ways to respond rapidly to every outbreak.
n 2003 I would have said we were just a couple of years away from ending polio, and I would have been wrong. at
year there were false rumors in Nigeria that the polio vaccine caused women to become sterile. is allowed the
disease to have a resurgence and to spread to many other countries. e experience of 2003 serves as a reminder to
be humble as we move forward. But humility does not mean fatalism. I
Fortunately those false rumors have been almost completely eliminated through the leadership of key political and
religious igures. In 2009 when I visited Northern Nigeria to meet with the most important traditional leader, the
Sultan of Sokoto, he committed to the campaign. It was fantastic to see him publicly giving his support. He also gave
me a horse to thank me but I told him I couldn’t take it.
Last year both India and Nigeria had substantially fewer cases than ever before. In India the number of cases went
down from 41 in 2009 to just 41 in 2010. In Nigeria, thanks in large part to the renewed leadership in the northern
part of the country, the number went down from 388 to just 18. But alongside the phenomenal progress was another
reminder that gains can be lost without sustained action.
e majority of cases in 2010 were in countries that had been polio-free until the virus travelled back across borders
and caused outbreaks in areas where people had gotten lax about vaccination. ere was a large outbreak in ajikistan
in the irst half of 2010 and another in Congo in the second half. In both regions there were a number of immunization
campaigns organized as a response. oday the outbreaks appear to be under control.
What those outbreaks in formerly polio-free countries prove is that eradication is a global project requiring every
country to do its part. ery few projects demand global participation. In most areas each country can pursue its own
approach, and countries can compare outcomes to see which approach is the most successful.
hilosopher and historian Will Durant once observed that the only thing that could get countries to join forces would
be an alien invasion. o my mind, terrible diseases are surrogates for an alien invasion. If we are to succeed, the world
needs leadership from a global institution and signiicant, coordinated resources from rich countries to fund activities
in the poorest countries.
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Clockwise, from top left: Health worker vaccinates a woman against tetanus (Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2009). Child receives oral polio vaccine from
house-to-house vaccination team (Kano, Nigeria, 2010). Mother has her baby vaccinated against rotavirus (Corozal, Nicaragua, 2009).
Rise in measles vaccine coverage and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine coverage, 1980-1995 Rise in measles vaccine coverage and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) vaccine coverage, 1980-1995
1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
For polio, the World Health Organization WHO has played the central role with otary International, the Centers
for Disease Control, and UNICEF as key partners. olio eradication has beneited immensely from having otary’s
support. otary had the vision to get involved in 1985 and has kept polio eradication as its top priority. Everywhere I
go to learn about polio, I see otary members helping out with the hard work.
I feel sure that with continued support we will be able to show signiicant progress building on this year’s work. e site
www.polioeradication.org tracks the key parts of the campaign including fundraising and the latest cases. I will make
a number of trips focused on polio this year, including additional trips to India and Nigeria, and will write a report for
the foundation website. For anyone who wants to support the polio campaign, which would be fantastic, visit www.
rotary.org and click on the EndolioNow logo.
he Miracle of Vaccines
In the same way that during my Microsot career I talked about the magic of sotware, I now
spend my time talking about the magic of vaccines. accines have taken us to the threshold of
eradicating polio. ey are the most efective and cost-efective health tool ever invented. I like
to say vaccines are a miracle. ust a few doses of vaccine can protect a child from debilitating
and deadly diseases for a lifetime. And most vaccines are extremely inexpensive. For example,
the polio vaccine costs 13 cents a dose.
is year 1.4 million children will die from diseases for which there are already vaccinesdiseases like measles,
pneumonia, and tetanus. ose lives can be saved if we can reduce the costs of vaccines and raise enough money to
buy and distribute them. If we simply scale up existing vaccines in the ive countries with the highest number of child
deaths, we could save 3 million lives and more than $2.9 billion in treatment costs alone over the next decade. In
addition, researchers are inventing new vaccines for malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis, and these would save millions
more lives. But generous aid is required to realize the true lifesaving potential of vaccines. e most direct way of saying
this is that every $2,000 cut in the most efective aid spending causes a child to die.
few years ago I was looking into the history of vaccination
coverage. In 1980 less than 20 percent of children worldwide
received the vaccinations for diseases including measles,
A diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough pertussis that children in rich
countries were receiving. Less than 15 years later, in 1995, vaccination
rates had been raised to over 0 percent. ust this year I inally got around
to learning why there was such a huge increase. e head of UNICEF
at the time, im Grant, led the way. e book Jim Grant—UNICEF
Visionary tells his amazing story. Since there are only a few used copies
of this in circulation UNICEF recently made a free version available at
I’m surprised by how little attention his story gets and how long it took
me to ind out about it. I was inspired by reading how he drove global
Jim Grant reads with a child at a community center © UNICEF
progress even during the tough economic decade of the 1980s. We can (Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, 1994).
draw lessons from his leadership now, in our own tough economic times.
As is oten the case with courageous eforts, many people resisted im Grant’s push, viewing it as too top-down.
However, he managed to enlist a number of countries to lead the way, and as the number of deaths in those countries
dropped dramatically he was able to persuade almost every country to run strong vaccination campaigns. It is especially
amazing that he did this in an age when there was no Internet and no email. im Grant’s achievement is the greatest
miracle of saving children’s lives ever.
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Infant being immunized at a district hospital (Dowa, Malawi, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
he beneits of widespread vaccination are mostly explained in terms of the lives vaccines save, and based on that
measure alone, vaccines are the best investment to improve the human condition. However, there are two other
equally important beneits that are not as widely known partly because they are harder to quantify.
e irst is the reduction in sickness. I don’t mean just the acute sickness where a child is clearly sufering from the
disease, but also the permanent disabilities caused by the disease. is is most noticeable when the disability presents
with a clear symptom such as being paralyzed by polio or going deaf because of a pneumococcal infection. However,
the largest disability is the efect on mental development. For example, severe cerebral malaria damages your brain
even if you survive. When children have lots of diarrheal episodes or parasites in their intestines, they don’t get enough
nutrition for their brains to develop fully.
e huge infectious disease burden in poor countries means that a substantial part of their human potential is lost by
the time children are 5 years old. A group of researchers at the University of New Mexico conducted a study, covered in
he Economist , showing the correlation between lower I and a high level of disease in a country. Although an I test
is not a perfect measure, the dramatic efect you see is a huge injustice. It helps explain why countries with high disease
burdens have a hard time developing their economies as easily as countries with less disease.
e second great beneit of vaccination is that as the childhood death rate is reduced, within 10 to 20 years this reduction
is strongly associated with families choosing to have fewer children. While it might seem logical that saving children’s
lives will cause overpopulation, the opposite is true.
I mention this amazing connection oten, since I remember how I had to hear it multiple times before the full
implications of it became clear. It is the reason why childhood health issues are key to so many other issues, including
having resources for education, providing enough jobs, and not destroying the environment. Only when Melinda and
I understood this connection did we make the full commitment to health issues, especially vaccination.
e connection of health to education, jobs, and the environment points back to the tremendous value of high-quality
international aidand why it’s essential that donor nations not cut their spending on it. Melinda and I have committed
$10 billion from the foundation over the next 10 years to help make this the Decade of accines. However, this will fall
well short of what is needed.
e group which helps poor countries purchase vaccines and increase vaccine coverage is the GAI Alliance and like
the polio campaign its success will depend on donor generosity.
Correlation between IQ and disease burden in 184 selected countries
2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0
Source: Christopher Eppig,
*he logarithm of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost to 28 representative and important human infectious diseases.
University of New Mexico
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Bed nets to protect against malaria being manufactured at the A to Z Textile Mills (Arusha, Tanzania, 2009).
Shanti Devi holds her newborn daughter (Koelikhera Village, India, 2004). Melinda observes newborn babies at Bwaila Hospital (Lilongwe, Malawi, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
he foundation’s website does a great job of outlining all of our strategies, but in the remainder of my letter I want
to highlight a few speciic areas. e world has made some crucial breakthroughs, and with bold leadership I
think we can do even more.
Malaria: Progress on Multiple Fronts
e ight against malaria is making very good progress. e death toll, overwhelmingly of young
children in Africa, went down from 985,000 in 2000 to 81,000 in 2009. Of the 99 countries
with malaria, 43 have decreased cases of the disease by more than 50 percent. urkmenistan and
Morocco were recently declared malaria-free. For these communities the reduction in both death
and sickness makes a huge diference. And it is possible only because of increased donor spending,
which reached $1.5 billion in 2009.
e oll Back Malaria group, with strong support from the WHO and our foundation, has set an aggressive goal
to provide bed nets to almost every household that needs them in the next few years. As coverage goes up from its
current level of 42 percent, it will have a dramatic impact. In Senegal, where 80 percent of households own a bed net,
the number of malaria cases went down 41 percent in a single year. Many amazing grassroots groups are helping with
the delivery of bed nets. e Nothing But Nets campaign, for example, has gotten hundreds of thousands of individual
citizens and organizations like the United Methodist Church and the National Basketball Association involved in the
ight against malaria.
We are also working on lowering the cost of the anti-malaria drugs containing artemisinin, which are expensive enough
that people are still using less efective drugs instead. e approaches range from breeding the plant that provides
artemisinin to have a higher yield, to using very advanced synthetic chemistry that can make artemisinin starting with
As is the case with all infectious diseases, the ultimate tool against malaria would be a low cost, highly efective vaccine.
e S,S vaccine, developed in partnership with the pharmaceutical manufacturer GSK, is in its inal phase-3 trial
stage. Interim data will be available later this year, and we should have inal results by 2015. A number of other vaccine
candidates that might be even more efective or might be combined with S,S are also making progress, and several
will start human trials this year.
Saving the Youngest Children
Of the 8.1 million deaths per year of children under the age of 5, over 40 percent happen in the irst
28 days of life, or the neonatal period. e good news is that we are headed in the right direction.
In 1995 there were an estimated 5. million neonatal deaths. e most recent estimates show the
number down to around 3. million.
Unlike the deaths that take place ater a child is 28 days old, almost all of which can be prevented
by inventing and delivering vaccines, reducing these early deaths requires a range of approaches. Some require new
tools such as an ointment for the baby’s skin that prevents infection and an antibiotic solution for cleaning the cut
umbilical cord. However, many of the key interventions involve social and behavioral change. ou can have a huge
impact on both newborn and maternal health by increasing the number of births done by a skilled provider in a
clinic. It’s also important to teach mothers to wash their hands before handling a baby, to have frequent skin-to-skin
contact with their babies, and to breastfeed exclusively for the baby’s irst six months. Mother’s milk contains not only
key nutrition but also antibodies that block infection until the baby’s immune system is ready to operate on its own.
Where all of these elements come together, neonatal deaths can be reduced by 50 percent or more, so it’s critical that
we learn more about how to teach and motivate mothers efectively, especially at a large scale.
Melinda has been a strong leader on maternal and child health issues. She gave an especially powerful speech last year
to the Women Deliver conference www.gatesfoundation.org/womendeliver . e plight of mothers and their babies
is something she feels deeply, and it’s something we talk about a lot.
When she came home from a trip to Malawi she shared the experience of seeing two babies in a hospital in the town of
Lilongwe, lying side-by-side in the same incubator. ey were born within hours of each other. Each had sufered the
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Clockwise, from top left: Pregnant mother gets tested for HIV at the NDA Health Center (Dimbokro, Cote d’Ivoire, 2010). Transgender sex workers at a drop-in center
(Chennai, India, 2008). Female sex workers are trained how to use condoms at a mobile clinic (Mumbai, 2009). Sign advertises the use of condoms to prevent HIV
infection (Andhra Pradesh, India, 2009). Physician examines a six-year-old girl (Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
same conditionthey were unable to breath at birth. Sadly, it was clear that only one would survive. at baby’s mother
had made it to the donor-funded hospital in time for her delivery and was able to get the care she needed. Her baby was
immediately resuscitated, which saved his life. e other was not so fortunate. He was born on the way to the clinic, on
the side of road, and was not resuscitated soon enough. I wish everyone had a chance to experience what Melinda did,
so they could see how things are improving but also understand the urgent need to do more.
HIV/AIDS and the Need for Leadership
rogress continues in ighting the AIDS epidemic, but the pace is slow. e rate of HI infection
has been reduced by almost 20 percent over the last 10 years, to fewer than 2. million infections
per year. e number of people dying from AIDS has gone down by more than 20 percent in
the last ive years, to fewer than 2 million annually. Given all the lives that are at stake, I am
impatient enough about this that I am willing to be viewed as a troublemaker by people who are
happy with the status quo.
e war against AIDS is being waged on two frontstreating those who are already infected and preventing new infections.
reatment continues to be scaled up, with more than 5 million people receiving HI drugs. is is a great success story.
ich country generosity has been crucial and the execution in poor countries has been strong. However, there will not be
enough money to treat everyone who will become infected if we don’t halt the progress of HI. Because we don’t have a
cure for AIDS, treatment has to continue for a patient’s entire life. at means costs continue to increase as you put more
and more people on treatment.
Even without including people who will become infected in the future, the cost of treating the 33 million people
living with AIDS today would be over $40 billion per year at current costsover four times as much as is provided
in aid today. o minimize the funding gap we need to reduce per patient costs of treatment. Drug costs have already
been reduced to less than 20 percent of treatment costs. Most of the future savings will have to come from treatment
models that reduce personnel, laboratory, and overhead costs. e diculty of funding treatment makes it clear how
important it is to prevent new cases. e sooner we make progress the better. ere needs to be a sense of urgency
that doesn’t exist yet.
revention breaks down into several diferent areas. e easiest should be preventing mother-to-child transmission
since it simply involves giving a mother drugs to prevent transmission to her child. ere is a lot of focus on getting
from the current number of over 300,000 infections per year to zero. Another prevention approach is counseling
people to change their behavior, including avoiding risky acts and using condoms.
en we have prevention approaches that rely on new tools. We now have three tools that have shown signiicant
impact. e irst is male circumcision, which I discussed last year. Amazingly, teenagers in communities with high
HI incidence show a high willingness to be circumcised. Kenya is leading the way with over 200,000 circumcisions
performed. However, there are over 10 million men in high-risk settings in Africa who would beneit from male
circumcision, and we should be scaling up 10 times faster than we are.
Another new tool is a vaginal microbicide gel that a woman can use
to protect herself. A recent trial showed a gel containing tenofovir
protected women against infection. Now the question is how long it
will take before the gel is rolled out on a large scale. As someone outside
the ield, I am surprised at the number of steps it takes. First the product
has to be licensed, which requires approvals from regulatory groups in
both the country where the product will be used and donor countries.
Many of these approval steps happen serially rather than in parallel, and
it is only when the entire approval process is complete that the product
can be rolled out. Even then the process isn’t complete because a whole
system for delivering the product needs to be put together, and again a
lot of these steps proceed in a slow serial fashion.
Another new prevention tool, rE re-Exposure rophylaxis,
Talking to reporters at the XVII International AIDS Conference © IAS
involves someone without HI taking an anti-HI drug on a regular (Vienna, Austria, 2010).
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Lab technicians at the Diamond AIDS Research Center (New York City, 2008).
Farmer prepares dried maize (corn) for sale (Monopo, Mozambique, 2010). Farmer separates maize from stalks (Malawi, 2010). © Charlie Barnwell, World Food Programme
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
basis to block infection. A rE trial showed a strong prevention beneit for the participants who consistently used the
drugs and a weaker impact when all the participants were included. With both microbicides and rE I think countries
with large epidemics should igure out how to do large community trials as soon as possible. is would shorten the
time before all patients have these lifesaving tools by many years.
If the United States had an epidemic where almost half the girls in large neighborhoods contracted a terrible disease, we
would ind a way to cut through all the complexity. With HI it is more dicult since there are many countries involved.
But we need to work creatively to shorten these delays.
e best tool would be a vaccine for HI. e scientiic progress on this has gone well. e positive results of the trial
in ailand were a turning point for the ield, and blood samples from the volunteers are being studied in depth for
lessons about why that vaccine worked but only to a limited degree.
ere has also been an explosion in the discovery of antibodies that block HI infection. Scientists don’t yet know how
to make a vaccine that will cause patients to generate lots of these antibodies, but there are several approaches that look
promising and will be ready to go to trials in the next few years.
In order to get a fully efective HI vaccine we will almost certainly need several rounds of trials where we learn and
improve the candidate vaccines. So to get a vaccine as soon as possible we need to minimize the length of the trials and
the time between trials. So far each cycle has taken over ive years. e ield needs to look into how to shorten this so
that progress matches the urgency of the problem.
Agriculture’s Great Promise
Outside of health the area where we invest the most to help poor people is agriculture. ere is so
much potential in agricultural development because most poor people in the world feed their families
and earn their income from farming. When farmers increase their productivity, nutrition is improved
and hunger and poverty are reduced. In countries like wanda, Ethiopia, and anzania, investments
in seeds, training, access to markets, and innovative agricultural policy are making a real diference.
Ghana made agriculture a priority and cut hunger by 5 percent between 1990 and 2004. e increase in food production
has led to economic development in other areas.
But the growth in other countries has been slower. ese are complex issues, and it’s going to take strong leadership
to make sure farmers have the opportunity to seize their potential. Koi Annan, who chairs the Alliance for a Green
evolution in Africa, is leading the way by helping to drive a new agriculture agenda for the continent.
One program I’m especially enthusiastic about is a partnership launched in 2008 with the World Food rogramme
WF, the world’s largest humanitarian agency for ighting hunger. What I like about it is that it takes a new approach
to something the world has been doing for a long time, food aid.
In the past most small farmers were not able to sell their produce to WF to be used as food aid. ey had trouble
meeting WF’s complicated requirements and delivering food in bulk quantities that met WF’s quality standards. Our
partnership works with farmers and others to resolve these issues, making it possible for them to sell to lots of additional
buyers including WF. When the West African country of Niger experienced a famine last summer, WF bought 1,000
metric tons of rice from a farmers’ organization in Mali. When small farmers in Mali are earning extra income by feeding
hungry families in Niger, it’s a clear win-win.
e near-term rise in food prices and the long-term increased demand for food will create opportunities for small
farmers even in the poorest countries. In fact, increasing production in Africa will be critical for the world to have
enough food. It’s encouraging that foreign aid for agriculture has now increased from its historic low of just $2.8 billion
in 2003 to $5.9 billion in 2009, and it’s critical that nations don’t cut back again.
One of the most important new developments came in April when I joined the inance ministers of the United States,
Spain, Canada, and South Korea to launch the Global Agriculture and Food Security rogram with initial commitments
of nearly $1 billion over three years. is program provides support to developing countries with strong domestic
agricultural development plans that they are already investing in themselves but cannot fully fund. It has generated
amazing demand, demonstrating how committed poor nations are to their own agricultural development.
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Selected countries’ performance in mathematics, reading, and science, 2009
Mathematics Reading Science
Shanghai-China 600 Shanghai-China 556 Shanghai-China 556 Significantly above
the OECD average
Singapore 562 Korea 539 Finland 539
Hong Kong-China 555 Finland 536 Hong Kong-China 536
Korea 546 Hong Kong-China 533 Singapore 533
Chinese Taipei 543 Singapore 526 Japan 526 Significantly below
Finland 541 Canada 524 Korea 524 the OECD average
Liechtenstein 536 New Zealand 521 New Zealand 521
Switzerland 534 Japan 520 Canada 520
Japan 529 Australia 515 Estonia 515
Canada 527 Netherlands 508 Australia 508
Netherlands 526 Belgium 506 Netherlands 506
Macao-China 525 Norway 503 Chinese Taipei 503
New Zealand 519 Estonia 501 Germany 501
Belgium 515 Switzerland 501 Liechtenstein 501
Australia 514 Poland 500 Switzerland 500
Germany 513 Iceland 500 United Kingdom 500
Estonia 512 Slovenia 500
United States 500
Iceland 507 Macao-China 499
Denmark 503 Poland 497
Slovenia 501 Ireland 497
Germany 497 PISA focuses on young
Norway 498 Ireland 496 people’s ability to use their
France 497 France 496 Hungary 496 knowledge and skills to meet
Slovak Republic 497 Chinese Taipei 495 United States 495 real-life challenges. This
Austria 496 Denmark 495 Czech Republic 495
orientation reflects a change
Poland 495 United Kingdom 494 Norway 494
in the goals and objectives of
Sweden 494 Hungary 494 Denmark 494
curricula themselves, which
Czech Republic 493 Portugal 489 France 489
are increasingly concerned
United Kingdom 492
Macao-China 487 Iceland 487 with what students can do
Italy 486 Sweden 486 with what they learn at school
Luxembourg 489 Latvia 484 Austria 484
and not merely with whether
United States 487 Slovenia 483 Latvia 483
they have mastered specific
Ireland 487 Greece 483 Portugal 483
Portugal 487 Spain 481 Lithuania 481
Source: OECD PISA 2009 database
Geoffrey Canada talks with students at Harlem Children’s Zone, in a scene from Waiting for “Superman” (New York City, 2009).
18 © Paramount Pictures/Participant Media
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
Excellence in Teaching
In the United States, the foundation’s biggest investments are in education. Only a third of students
are graduating from high school prepared to succeed at college-level work, and even fewer are
going on to get a degree that will help them compete for a good job. No one should feel comfortable
with those results.
Davis Guggenheim’s amazing and popular movie Waiting for “Superman” made a powerful
argument against the status quo. It showed a broad audience that schools with the right approach can succeed, even
with inner city students that typical schools do not educate well. As more people understand the gap between what is
possible and what is actually happening in most schools, I believe the momentum for reform will grow.
Since 1980 U.S. government spending per K-12 student increased by 3 percent, which is 20 percent faster than the rest
of the economy. Over that time our achievement levels were basically at, while other countries caught up. A recent
analysis by the rogramme for International Student Assessment ISA showed the United States is about average
compared to 35 developed countries in science and reading and below average in math. Many Americans have a hard
time believing this data, since we are so used to being the global leader in educational achievement and since we spend
a lot more money on education than many other countries.
ISA measured educational achievement in the Shanghai area of China, and even allowing for the fact that Shanghai is
one of the most advanced parts of China, the scores relative to the United States and other countries were quite stunning.
China did better in math, science, and reading than any of the 5 countries it was compared to, and it achieved these
results with an average class size of more than 35 students. One of the impressive things about the Chinese system is
how teachers are measured according to their ability. ere are four levels of proiciency in the Chinese system, and to
move up a level, teachers have to demonstrate their excellence in front of a panel of reviewers.
According to the ISA analysis available at www.pisa.oecd.org , two key things diferentiate the U.S. education system
from most other countries’ systems. e irst is that non-U.S. students are in school for more hours, and the second is
that U.S. school systems do very little to measure, invest in, and reward teacher excellence.
Most people who become teachers do so because they’re passionate about kids. It’s astonishing what great teachers can
do for their students. But the remarkable thing about great teachers today is that in most cases nobody taught them
how to be great. ey igured it out on their own. at’s why our foundation is investing to help devise measurement
and support systems to help good teachers become great teachers.
Our project to learn what the best teachers doand how to share this information with other teachersis making
signiicant progress. With the help of local union aliates, we have learned a lot already. We’re learning that listening to
students can be an important element in the feedback system. In classes where students agree that Our class stays busy
and doesn’t waste time or that In this class, we learn a lot almost every day, there tend to be bigger achievement gains.
Another great tool is taking a video showing both the teacher and
the students and asking evaluators to provide feedback. Melinda
and I spent several days visiting schools in ennessee this fall
and sat with teachers who were watching videos of themselves
teaching. We heard from a number of them how they had already
improved by seeing when students were losing interest and
analyzing the reasons.
Ultimately, the goal is to gather high-quality feedback from
multiple sourcestest scores, student surveys, videos, principals,
and fellow teachersso that teachers know how to improve. I
think it is clear that a system can be designed that teachers agree
is fair, has modest overhead, and rewards the teachers who are
doing the most for their students.
State budgets, the biggest part of K-12 funding, will be challenged
in the years ahead because of the economic downturn, the liabilities
from early retirement and pension commitments, and increasing Visiting the Ridgeway Middle School with Melinda to learn about the
Measures of Effective Teaching project (Memphis, Tennessee, 2010).
medical costs. I recently gave a speech to the chief state school ocers
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Welding student Jaurie Vaughn at the Tennessee Technology Center (Nashville, Tennessee, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
www.gatesfoundation.org/ccsso about how they might need to ind money to reward excellent teaching by shiting
some away from things like payment for seniority or advanced degrees that do not correlate with improved teaching.
I am very enthusiastic about the potential of innovation to help solve many of the problems with our education
system. Melinda and I were impressed when we visited the ennessee echnology Center in Nashville, an institution
that provides young adults with technical training and certiicates. It gets signiicantly better results than its peer
institutionsgraduating 1 percent of its studentsbecause it focuses on teaching job skills that are in high demand
and is oriented around meeting the needs of students who are juggling school with work and family. Sometimes
something as simple as rethinking the times when classes are scheduled makes a huge diference for students.
e foundation is funding the development of online tools to help both K-12 and college students learn. ioneers like
Sal Khan are already showing how efective online tools can be. His website www.khanacademy.org continues to grow
its library of 2,000 short instructional videos on topics from basic arithmetic to complicated subjects like biology and
physics. e videos are a tremendous resource for students of any age.
Sal’s vision for how technology can improve learning is broader than just videos. With support from the foundation, he’s
been able to expand his site to include online exercises that diagnose weak spots, pointing you to additional material
to ill the gaps in your knowledge. Also, Khan Academy is creating an online dashboard to help teachers use the site
as part of their curriculum. e dashboard tells the teacher how each student is doing, pinpoints where they’re having
trouble, and suggests explanations and exercises to help.
Although it is clear that online learning works for strongly motivated students, we need to learn how to blend classroom
learning and online learning, particularly for younger and less-prepared students. As these projects develop and we
start to answer many of these questions, I believe technology will let us dramatically improve education despite the
he Giving Pledge
Warren Bufett is a remarkable friend and mentor to both Melinda and me, and we have learned so
much from spending time with him and working with him on foundation projects. A few years ago
Warren suggested that he, Melinda, and I should get together with some of the most generous givers
in the country and see what we could learn from them. We started out by having dinners where
everyone talked about why they give, what they are passionate about, and what they wish they could
do better. e dinners evolved into discussions of the challenges of giving efectively. It became clear that there was a lot of
collective knowledge and that we could inspire each other and in some cases work together. ere was a strong sense we
should broaden the discussion to a larger group including people who were earlier in their giving career.
is led to the idea of the Giving ledge. It is simply a commitment to give the majority of your wealth away during
your lifetime or through your will. We hope that over the long term it will encourage people to start earlier, collaborate
more, and make their giving even more impactful.
We are excited that 58 people have already joined the Giving ledge. ou can see the letters describing their thinking
about giving at www.givingpledge.org. e United States is the most generous country in the world. More than 15
percent of the large estates go to charity. at is signiicant, but there is room for that to increase. Warren has said, We
want the general level of giving to step up. We want the ledge to help society become even more generous. We hope
the norm will change towards even greater and smarter philanthropy.
Although this efort is focused on those people in the United States with the greatest wealth, we are encouraged by and
support similar eforts that focus on other groups. For example, some of the top business people in China and India
asked if we would meet with them to stimulate discussion about giving in their country. Warren and I had the meeting
in China in November and we were very happy with how many people came and how the conversation turned out. All
three of us will be attending a similar meeting in India in the irst half of the year.
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Clockwise, from top left: Geetanjali in her bakery with her son and daughter (New Delhi, 2010). Woman carries maize to market (Kunsu, Ghana, 2010). Kamla Devi at her
roadside lower shop (New Delhi, 2010). Child receives oral polio vaccine (Kano, Nigeria, 2010). Students learn about biotech in Dr. Kinchington’s 10th grade class at the Science
and Technology Academy (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2010).
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2011 Annual Letter from Bill Gates
Continuing the Conversation
Last year I launched www.gatesnotes.com and started a witter feed @BillGates to share my
thoughts on the work we’re doing and what I’m learning from leaders and innovators. One great
beneit of these tools is that they allow me to hear back from people. Over the next year I’ll be
trying some new ways of adding interactivity to the site so I can get even more feedback.
Melinda is also very interested in spurring a broader conversation about the issues she’s focused on
at the foundation. Last year she started posting regularly to the foundation’s blog. She also hosted a terriic EDx event
www.tedxchange.org in New ork that brought together interesting speakers on global health and development.
Next year, building on her relationship with ED, she’ll be hosting a series of EDxChange events in communities
around the worldin places like Kenya and India. e goal of these EDxChange events is to give people a chance to
hear about health and development from people who live in the places where the work is happening.
Despite government budget diculties and the complexity of solving the key problems the foundation’s work addresses,
Melinda and I remain optimistic. We meet so many remarkable leaders whose work is making the world a better place.
My father, our co-chair, set the foundation’s direction from the start and he always helps us keep in mind what is
important. ef aikes, our CEO, continues to add great people and improve the way we do our work. Not everyone
can go to the ield, or even donate. But every one of us can be an advocate for people whose voices are oten not heard.
I encourage everyone to get involved in working for solutions to the challenges those people face. It will draw you in
Co-Chair, Bill Melinda Gates Foundation
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Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead
healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift
themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those
with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle,
Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and
Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org .
PO Box 23350, Seattle, WA 98102 | +1.206.709.3100 | info gatesfoundation.org | www.gatesfoundation.org @
facebook.com/billmelindagatesfoundation | twitter.com/gatesfoundation
2011 Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. All ights eserved. Bill Melinda Gates Foundation is a registered trademark in the United States and other countries.
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