New Delhi: Identifying health as the pre-eminent challenge facing India, Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said: “If there was one wish I had for India, it would be to get rid of malnutrition because that reduces the potential of those kids so dramatically and their ability to provide and learn are reduced. It’s like 15 IQ points go away."
Speaking at the inaugural “Mint Visionaries" event in New Delhi where he was in conversation with Rishad Premji, chairman of Wipro Ltd, Gates said his favourite Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) was health. No prizes for guessing that since the former tech czar’s philanthropic venture—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)—has global health as one of its key focus areas.
SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, the SDGs are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. Health is one of the important goals that aim to tackle major problems such as maternal and child mortality, and malnutrition.
Gates also spoke of the impact of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria. “Malaria has been a major problem. To tackle this, we need more investment. Earlier, the poor countries were suffering because rich countries had the money and poor didn’t have the money to develop new tools to handle it" he said. Drawing a linkage between health and climate change, Gates said: “With climate change, as you heat the world up, mosquitoes can live in higher altitude. They will start thriving at the places where they never used to live."
The world malaria report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2018 also stated that India reported 3 million fewer cases in 2017, a 24% decrease compared with 2016. The report also said that India is on track to achieve a 20-40% reduction.
Talking about BMGF’s work on healthcare, Gates said: “The biggest thing our foundation has done is getting vaccines for children around the world. Vaccine misinformation is worst today as it was ever." He also said that with the help of technology, diseases such as cancer can be tackled via apps.
During the event, Gates also spoke of the impact of climate change and emphasized the need for efforts to minimize emissions in the world.
“Work on mitigation requires immense innovation. Electric cars in the next 10-15 years will outcompete gasoline cars without subsidy. We have to accelerate innovation which won’t come if we don’t step in. Middle-income countries cannot be left out."
“The work on mitigation requires immense innovation. We have a lot of inventions that need to be made. For example, steel and cement use a lot of energy. Climate change is a problem young people are waking up to. Climate change makes poor farmers suffer. Crops will fail every three years as against 7-8 (years earlier)."
He added that all countries —whether low income or middle income—will have to participate in mitigating climate change because 60% of the world’s population lives in developing countries.
“About 80% of those suffering from climate change are going to be poor farmers," Gates warned.
On the impact of social media and the responsibility of tech companies on tackling fake news, Gates said: “In the past, we all read the same newspaper. There may be a need to ban micro-targeting because it drives people apart. Society has to decide what these rules are."
Pretika Khanna, Neetu Chandra Sharma & Shreya Nandi contributed to this story