Gates Foundation: Boon or bane?

Propelled by the wealth of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren E. Buffet, the Gates Foundation has poured at least USD650 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, helping millions of sub-Saharan Africans battle the fatal diseases. But in Queen Elizabeth II, a decrepit and poorly-maintained hospital in Lesotho, babies die on a daily rate, their needs overruled by the apparently larger concern of treating AIDS.

While the Gates Foundation has funneled vast amounts of money to programs dedicated to combating AIDS and other pandemics, such philanthropy has given rise to mixed results. Because of the focus on high-profile diseases such as AIDS, TB and malaria, the demand for specially-trained and high-paying staff has veered manpower away from the provision of basic health care services, and has given free rein to more common killers such as diarrhea and sepsis.

While the Gates Foundation’s generosity has been universally acknowledged, its concentration on more well-known diseases has relegated other basic health needs to the sidelines, a troubling development that health authorities are beginning to notice. Former Global Fund board member and pediatrician Dr. Peter Poore says that although donors provide critical help, they also exaggerate about the impact of their programs. “They can also do dangerous things,” he said. “They can be very disruptive to health systems – the very things they claim they are trying to improve.” (Source: Unintended victims of Gates Foundation generosity/L.A. Times)

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