The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend a record-breaking $8.6 billion in 2024, representing the largest-ever annual budget for the private foundation.
Founded by Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates and philanthropist Melinda French Gates more than two decades ago, the foundation largely focuses on issues related to poverty, disease and inequity. The organization will fund efforts to reduce child mortality, eradicate polio and develop tuberculosis drugs.
The foundation’s 2024 budget is a 4 percent increase from its funding in 2023 and a $2 billion increase over its 2021 budget. The record allocation comes amid a decline in global health budgets—sub-Saharan African countries, for example, experienced an aid decline of nearly 8 percent in 2022.
“Every day, newborn babies and young children die simply because of where they were born. Mothers die giving birth, leaving families devastated,” said Gates in a statement. “That keeps me up at night. It’s unacceptable, particularly because we have already developed many of the solutions that could help save their lives,” added the billionaire.
One of the world’s largest private foundations with an endowment of $67.3 billion, the Gates Foundation has given out more than $71.4 billion since its inception. But despite significant advancements in the world of global health, such as the decrease in child deaths from 9.3 million per year in 2000 to 4.6 million annually as of 2022 and the halving of deaths from malaria and HIV in the past two years, progress is still slow in several key areas.
Millions of children in impoverished nations die from preventable or treatable diseases before the age of five, while nearly 300,000 women die in childbirth despite the existence of prevention tools, according to the Gates Foundation. It predicts that if health innovations already in development were properly funded, maternal deaths in the lowest-income countries would decrease by 40 percent by the end of the decade. The organization plans to ramp up its future funding accordingly, with a commitment to increase its annual spending to $9 billion by 2026.
Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum
Gates and other representatives from the Seattle-based foundation are attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. To emphasize the importance of medical solution accessibility, they will be carrying backpacks filled with life-saving products, including one-dose HPV vaccines, vaccine microneedle array patches, diagnostic test strips, micronutrient supplements and an artificial intelligence (A.I.)—enabled ultrasound.
The Gates Foundation has previously focused on the potential of A.I. when it comes to global health, having committed $30 million in October to support an A.I.-powered platform in Africa that empowers health and development research and solutions. The technology can also be harnessed to address doctor and teacher shortages in the region, said Gates while speaking with Bloomberg in Davos. “Not only will we invent new tools using A.I., like the ultrasound, we will provide health advice directly in their local African languages and fully tailored to the conditions in those countries—we will provide an A.I. doctor, we will provide an A.I. tutor,” he said. “It’s a race, but it’s a race for good.”