Like every year, 2013 was filled with both disaster (Typhoon Haiyan) and heartwarming events (Batkid). Just in case you’re feeling like the bad outweighed the good, Bill Gates has popped in to remind us that humanity made great strides in 2013.
In his blog, the Gates Notes, Gates posted his thoughts on the most important news from the past year in the global health and development world. So what should we be excited about?
The global poverty rate continued to drop, for one. As Gates points out, the poverty rate has actually been reduced by half since 1990. He writes: “We’ll need to maintain this growth in the coming decades to keep the poverty numbers coming down. That’s one reason I argue for stepping up our investments on health: Health may not cause growth directly, but it does help lay the foundation for it.” Not every country is experiencing dramatic drops in poverty, however; in the U.S., the poverty rate has held steady at 15% for the past two years.
More big-picture good news: The child mortality rate around the world is also continuing its decline. The global mortality rate for kids under age five dropped from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 in 2012. Again, there’s still plenty of work to do–Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are dealing with the brunt of childhood deaths, even as mortality rates decline elsewhere.
Gates also notes that the world has gotten better at fighting polio–recent outbreaks in Syria, Kenya, and Somalia were tamped down in under four months. That’s less than half the time it took to control a similar outbreak in 2005. It hasn’t hurt that rich countries are doubling down life-saving funding commitments. Gates writes: “Just this month, donors met in Washington, D.C., to renew their funding commitments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. I was there and I got to meet Connie Mudenda, a Zambian woman living with HIV who started getting treatment in 2004 thanks to the Global Fund. The medicine she takes costs just 40 cents a day, and it helped her get healthy, go back to work, and support her family.”
The Microsoft founder is also looking forward to future innovations in 2014 as well–in particular, he’s excited about the continued distribution of pentavalent (a vaccine that prevents five different diseases) and advances in vaccines for rotavirus and pneumonia.
The full Gates Notes post is available here.