Instead of indulging in chocolates and flowers this year, Bill and Melinda Gates released their 2017 Annual Letter to celebrate Valentine’s Day. You can almost feel the romance in the air. The correspondence went out to Warren Buffet, who donated most of his wealth to the Gates Foundation in 2006. And the letter not only updated Buffet (and everyone else) on how many lives his money has saved, but also on their 3-part strategy for rescuing many more.
In the above video, Melinda Gates expands on these 3 key solutions: vaccines, breastfeeding, and family planning. As a parent, you’re likely fluent in all of the above. According to the letter, vaccines aren’t just effective, they’re a bargain. “For every dollar spent on childhood immunizations, you get $44 in economic benefits,” she notes, including the money families lose when a kid is sick and parents cannot work. It costs less than $1 for a vaccine that protects against 5 deadly infections, and yet 1.5 million children will die this year from not having them.
Breastfeeding and contraceptives are also vital to the lives of millions of children. Less than half of the world’s babies are breastfed as recommended and correcting this could save an additional 800,000 lives. For women who do not want to become pregnant, access to contraceptives would decrease infant mortality rates by 1/5. The letter calls contraceptives one of the world’s greatest life-saving innovations, as well as “one of the greatest antipoverty innovations in history.” Currently, there are 225 million women without access to contraceptives, and it’s not as simple as pointing them to the family planning aisle. But it is doable.
In fact, the good news is that 300 million women in the developing world are now using contraceptives. Not only that, but Rwanda decreased its infant mortality by 30 percent by supporting mothers breastfeeding, and 86 percent of kids worldwide are receiving basic vaccines. “The number of children the world saves is an indicator of our overall progress,” Gates says, noting that it goes up every year. And you don’t have to be Warren Buffet to keep it moving.