An article by Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
From The Lancet
The world is about to undergo an unprecedented transformation: the largest generation of young people in human history is coming of age. As a mother to teenagers, I have a good idea how this is an important stage of life. Every day, I see how my children’s worlds are expanding beyond our family, exposing them to new experiences and influences. While this inevitably leads to some anxieties, on the whole it is an exciting time as they begin new chapters in their lives. It is a similar story for many young people. But not all. I have also seen from my work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation the problems that come with adolescence for those in the poorest parts of the world.
The Lancet Commission on adolescent health and wellbeing illuminates for the first time the magnitude of challenges faced by young people aged 10–24 years. This is a dynamic period of cognitive and physical development that can bring opportunity, but also angst and upheaval. Mental disorders commonly emerge at this time, self-harm and suicide spike, and it’s the age when substance use typically starts. Instead of being a time filled with possibility, adolescence can be when the world begins to contract for some young people. It is when they stop going to school, are at risk from HIV infection, or start having babies before they are emotionally or physically ready. All this wasted human potential still happens despite the progress the world has made making my children’s generation the healthiest and most educated ever. So the Lancet Commission is a powerful reminder that there is more to do to meet the unique needs of adolescents. And the compelling findings of the Commission must serve as an important wake-up call to individuals, organisations, and governments to support a new approach.
The stakes are high, so we must respond urgently. Failure to address the distinctive challenges that come with adolescence could not only jeopardise all that has been accomplished so far, it could also severely dent our chances of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to health, nutrition, education, gender equality, and food security. But as the Commission makes clear, if we do act, then we will see a triple dividend of benefits: for adolescents now, for them later as adults, and later still for their children. The world is already moving in the right direction. The Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health and the SDGs, both explicitly call out the importance of adolescent health. The Lancet Commission gives us the blueprint we need to move this work forward and forces us to think differently.
Existing systems and structures focus almost exclusively on children or on adults, meaning few investments and interventions are directed specifically to young people. This is an issue that we have recognised at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation’s work on family planning, nutrition, HIV, and maternal health has helped improve adolescent wellbeing—but until recently, only indirectly. As the Commission underlines, investment is needed in an ambitious, comprehensive, and cross-sector agenda focused solely on adolescents, and in line with its key recommendations our foundation is currently exploring three areas where we believe we can help to make a difference.
It starts with filling the knowledge gap around adolescent health. This is especially important for women and girls, where the gaps are pervasive. Youth and adolescence is such a pivotal time of life and yet we know so little about this age group. The Commission rightly identifies indicators that should be collected and monitored. These include early marriage, fertility, nutrition, and non-communicable diseases. Importantly, the information gathered will need to be broken down by sex, age, economic status, and location, to help focus resources where they are most needed. Already, our foundation is learning more by accumulating evidence on the health and wellbeing of people aged 10–14 years. But this step is just the beginning. Gathering data makes the invisible visible, and analysing it helps us discover what works and what doesn’t.
For that, as the Commission points out, it is crucial to involve young people. Too often the global community creates solutions for them rather than with them. This is a generation brimming with energy, ingenuity, leadership potential, and a natural determination to challenge the status quo. By harnessing those qualities and freeing them from social norms that prevent their voices being heard, we can empower young people to drive change. Accordingly, we are beginning to co-invest in initiatives that not only draw on behavioural and cognitive science, use new technologies, and include partnerships with adults, but that also take inspiration and direction from adolescents themselves.
Adolescence and young adulthood is also typically the time that gender roles and stereotypes take hold. With that, come the inequalities that determine the entire trajectory of girls’ lives—for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV compared with young men. Addressing such disparities is our foundation’s third area of focus. We are already committed to putting women and girls at the centre of our global health and development agenda, with a specific emphasis on adolescents in family planning and nutrition. Now we are exploring new ways to ensure that women and girls remain a priority as the world gets to work on the SDGs. As part of this, we are looking for big ideas to promote women and girls’ empowerment, and examining policies and laws that make the greatest difference to women’s health and development.
My children’s generation is better equipped to expand the limits of human possibility than any that has gone before. But while responsibility for their health and wellbeing lies with everyone, accountability currently rests with no one. Our foundation strongly supports the Lancet Commission’s call for a global accountability mechanism that can offer independent oversight of a comprehensive adolescent health agenda, with young people at the forefront. For too long adolescents have been the forgotten community of the health and development agenda. We cannot afford to neglect them any longer.
This conference will bring global health leaders together to further mobilize efforts to end the epidemics of three of the world’s most devastating diseases – AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – by 2030.
The Prime Minister also announced that Canada is pledging CAD785 million to the Global Fund for the next three years, a 20 per cent increase from its previous pledge three years ago. This investment will make a significant contribution to the ultimate goal of saving an additional 8 million lives and averting an additional 300 million new infections by 2019.
“This is an historic opportunity for Canada and the world,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “By fast-tracking investments and building global solidarity, we can bring an end to three devastating epidemics – AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – that have tragic and far-reaching impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people.”
The Global Fund expressed gratitude to Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau, who made the announcement at a town hall event in Ottawa, attended by students from local schools and universities, as well as numerous partners in global health.
“Canada is demonstrating outstanding leadership in global health and development,” said Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Prime Minister Trudeau’s insight and the commitment of his government to global partnership and cooperation can translate into saving millions of lives and creating opportunity and prosperity for countless more.”
The Prime Minister also voiced his support for the Global Fund’s new youth-driven social media campaign “End It. For Good” aimed at action to increase support for the global effort to end AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Those who get involved in the campaign will have the opportunity to join others who are dedicated to making the world a better place at a concert in Montréal in September. The Prime Minister encouraged supporters to get involved by taking a first action and sharing a short film.
During the town hall event, Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted the need to invest effectively to address the inequality and discrimination that puts adolescent girls and young women at increased risk for infectious diseases, and provide them with more opportunities in life. Adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected by HIV. Currently, more than 7,000 young women and girls are getting infected with HIV every week.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie; Alexander Percival Segbefia, the Minister of Health of Ghana; Moustafa Mijiyawa, Minister of Health and Social Protection of Togo; Christine St-Pierre, Minister of International Relations and Francophonie for the Government of Québec; Deb Dugan, CEO of (RED); Loyce Maturu, a community activist from Zimbabwe who is a Global Fund Advocate; and several other supporters, also spoke.
“As part of Canada’s renewed commitment to focusing international development on the poorest and most vulnerable, Canada is honored to host the Global Fund’s Fifth Replenishment Conference,” said Minister Bibeau.
Canada has committed more than CAD2.1 billion to the Global Fund since the Fund’s inception in 2002, including CAD650 million for 2014-2016.
The Global Fund partnership has saved more than 17 million lives, supporting more than 1,000 programs in more than 100 countries where the burden of disease is greatest.
The Global Fund set a target for raising US$13 billion for its next three-year cycle of funding. In addition to saving millions of lives and averting hundreds of millions of new infections, it will lay the groundwork for potential economic gains of up to US$290 billion in the years ahead. Strong investment in global health can significantly bolster international stability and security, while creating greater opportunity, prosperity, and well-being.
The Global Fund’s Replenishment Conference is held once every three years. President Barack Obama of the United States hosted the previous Replenishment Conference in Washington, D.C., in December 2013.
For more information, please contact:
SETH FAISON (in Ottawa)
Mobile: +41 79 788 1163
IBON VILLELABEITIA (in Geneva)
Mobile: +41 79 292 5426
LUXEMBOURG – Luxembourg is increasing its financial commitment to the Global Fund for the next three-year replenishment cycle starting in 2017, to €8.1 million, an 8 percent increase from the last replenishment period.
Romain Schneider, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, announced the increase today at a meeting in Luxembourg with Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund.
“Luxembourg Development Cooperation has adopted a strong new global health strategy with clear and concise goals and targets,” said Minister Schneider. “I am very happy to confirm that the Global Fund is an essential and privileged partner in making this strategy a reality.”
Luxembourg is one of the most generous donors to the Global Fund, per capita. With a population of just over half a million people, Luxembourg commits 0.95 percent of its Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance.
“We are encouraged by early pledges of countries like Luxembourg who continue to show exceptional commitment and generosity in supporting the Global Fund’s mission,” said Dr. Dybul. “Thanks to partners like Luxembourg we expect a strong replenishment this year, enabling the Global Fund to help achieve the global goal of ending the epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030.”
Luxembourg’s cumulative contributions to the Global Fund amount to €38 million. In addition, Luxembourg is also supporting efforts to finance technical assistance to support programs in El Salvador, Kosovo and Laos.
BRISBANE – On Friday 15 April, The Honorable Dame Quentin Bryce AD, CVO, Australia’s 25th Governor-General, officially launched the International Congress for Tropical Medicine and Malaria 2016.
The launch took place at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. Hosted by Professor Cheryl Jones, President of the Australian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) and Professor David Emery, President of the Australian Society for Parasitology along with Associate Professor Helen Evans, from the Advisory Council of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Ms Michelle Aldridge recounted her personal experience with malaria, which she contracted while volunteering in the Solomon Islands in 2012.
Expert panel moderated by Dr Norman Swan, Host, ABC RN Health Report consisted of Professor Maxine Whittaker (James Cook University), Professor James McCarthy (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute), Associate Professor (Hon) Helen Evans (Pacific Friends of the Global Fund), Rev Tim Costello (World Vision Australia), Dr Ben Rolfe (Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, APLMA) and Professor Sharon Lewin (the Doherty Institute) discussed the importance and significance of the congress, the breakthroughs in malaria, health security within Australia and the need to continue funding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The number of deaths caused by malaria declined 48 percent between 2000 and 2014. The number of lives saved by malaria treatment and prevention has grown steadily each year. Children under the age of five are the most vulnerable to malaria, because their immune systems are still developing effective resistance to the disease. Pregnant women are also vulnerable, because their immune systems are weakened during pregnancy. Protecting young children and pregnant women is paramount to any disease strategy.
The innovation of a long-lasting insecticidal mosquito net, at a relatively low cost, has greatly expanded protection for children and families. With more than 548 million mosquito nets distributed, people at risk for malaria who gained access to mosquito nets grew from 7 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2010 and 56 percent in 2014 in countries where the Global Fund invests.
GENEVA – New Zealand has announced that it will make an early contribution to the Global Fund, one of the first countries to pledge in support of the Global Fund’s replenishment for the three-year period beginning in 2017.
Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis announced the contribution during a meeting at the Global Fund offices in Geneva. “Lifting the burden of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria helps build prosperity and security, both in the Pacific and around the world. New Zealand is pleased to play its part in the Global Fund partnership,” Dr. Vitalis said.
Marijke Wijnroks, Chief of Staff of the Global Fund, signed the agreement with Dr. Vitalis on 8 April. “We are very pleased that New Zealand is in the Global Fund partnership in this important year.”
New Zealand’s contribution is worth NZ$1 million. The announcement followed news in March 2016 that the European Union pledged a significant increase in its contribution to the Global Fund for the next three years.
The Global Fund is partnering with governments, medical experts, advocates, civil society and people living with HIV, TB and malaria to fight the three diseases in the Indo-Pacific region.
Through programs supported by the Global Fund, 17 million lives have been saved and we are on track to reach 22 million by the end of 2016. In the Indo-Pacific region alone, Global Fund supported programs have saved 8.3 million lives to date.
This year, a strong Replenishment for the Global Fund is aiming for a US$13 billion investment for the 2017-2019 funding cycle. That would save up to eight million lives, avert up to 300 million infections and new cases of HIV, TB and malaria, and lay the groundwork for potential economic gains of up to US$290 billion in the years ahead.