Bill Gates on three "myths" blocking help to world's poorest

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates released his annual Gates Foundation letter Tuesday, and in it, he lays out three myths that he says are blocking progress -- that poor countries are doomed to stay poor, foreign aid is a big waste, and saving lives leads to over population. The letter, co-written by his wife, Melinda Gates, also looks at how the world is conquering its challenges.

Speaking on "CBS This Morning," Gates noted the importance improving health of the world's poorest people. "We want to lift those people up," he said. "We want to get the childhood death rate down from the 5 percent that it is now, down to what it was in the United States in 1980, 1.6 percent, and it's going to take some of (the world's wealth), and a lot of ingenuity to get it there."

Addressing one of the myths he discusses in his letter -- that "Poor countries are doomed to stay poor," Gates added, "To get rid of a disease like malaria, it will take new medicines, new vaccines to get their farming productivity -- which is a third of the U.S. farming productivity -- up close to that level so they can feed themselves, send their kids to school."

In terms of diseases, such as polio, Gates said we need to get to "zero cases" in the world to stop outbreaks. However, that effort is met with some resistance in areas where violence and misunderstanding prevail.

"There's violence, there's a misunderstanding about the vaccine, thinking that it's an evil plot of the West," he said. "We have to get the truth out. We have to work with religious leaders, anybody who's trusted, and change the attitude. Because at the end of the day, this is about kids who die or get paralyzed. And with the little bit of great work and a little bit of luck over the next couple of years, we'll get down to zero cases."

Gates said the negative headlines in the news do not tell the story of the "mind-blowing progress" seen even during his lifetime. He said, "Back in 1955, there were a few rich countries, but overwhelmingly, countries were poor. Today, more countries are middle-income. They've moved up, countries like Mexico, Brazil, China. And so we have remaining poorer countries. In the next 20 years if we're focused on it, we'll have that down to a very small number -- less than 10.

"And only by knowing the progress we've made, though, will we dedicate ourselves to this effort," Gates said. "You look at the headlines, you might get the impression we're not making progress. When are we supposed to report the gradual improvement that's taking place? Instead, you hear about the setbacks, the tornado, not the wonderful results of lifting these countries up."

  • Amanda Cochran

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