Decades of "stunning progress" in the fight against global poverty and disease is in danger of stalling, a new report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation warns.
The second edition of the annual Goalkeepers Report focuses on the growth of the youth population globally — especially the implications of faster population growth in the poorest parts of the world, where traditionally it has been hardest to lead a healthy and productive life. Indeed, if "current trends continue," the Gateses note in their letter, "the number of poor people in the world will stop falling — and could even start to rise."
According to the report, the percentage of the global population living on less than $1.90 a day dropped from 36 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2017. At the same time, extreme poverty is becoming heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries, where 22 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day and where 86 percent of the poorest people in the world are projected to live by 2050.
"The conclusion is clear: to continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa's fastest-growing, poorest countries," the couple write. To that end, the report calls for more investment in the health and education of youth in Africa, where people under the age of 25 make up nearly 60 percent of the population. "Investing in young people's health and education is the best way for a country to unlock productivity and innovation, cut poverty, create opportunities, and generate prosperity."
The report includes "stories behind the data" in the areas of family planning, HIV/AIDS, education, and agriculture, as well as global trends data on progress around vaccines, gender equality, infant and maternal health and mortality, malaria, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, sanitation, and financial services for the poor.
The foundation has invested more than $15 billion in support of projects in Africa, the report notes, because "[f]irst, we believe Africa is the world's most important priority for the foreseeable future. What happens to the large number of young people there will be the single biggest determinant of whether the world makes progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals," and "[s]econd, we will continue to invest because it yields results."
(Photo credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)