In their latest move to combat the world’s most devastating illnesses, Bill and Melinda Gates pledged $31.5 million yesterday to eradicate malaria in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced the commitment during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual gathering of international leaders, powerbrokers, and major philanthropists. The Gates’ contribution will supplement a $37 million investment by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Carlos Slim Foundation, demonstrating the collaborative spirit of the event.

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The commitment serves as the Gates’ latest contribution to ending poverty-related epidemics around the world. It comes two weeks after they pledged to pay back Nigeria’s polio eradication loan to Japan and a few months after they announced a $100,000,000 fund to research dementia.

Mosquito-borne malaria remains a persistent problem for people in warmer climates around the world, posing a particular threat to pregnant women, newborns, and children under five, who account for the the majority of malaria-related deaths.

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Though worldwide malaria cases have decreased by 60% since 2000, the illness continues to devastate communities in the world’s poorest countries. Malaria cases have dropped by 90% in Central America since 2000, but progress toward ending the illness has stalled. This lack of progress motivated the Gates Foundation and other donors to dedicate more money and energy to the mission.

"We’re at a crossroads," the foundation said in a statement. "Progress is still possible, but it’s not inevitable, and the decisions the world makes today will determine whether we eliminate malaria or see a resurgence of this deadly disease.

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According to the World Health Organization, at least 1 million people die from malaria each year and Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti reported a combined 40,270 cases of malaria in 2016.

Global Citizen campaigns on eradicating malaria and other preventable illnesses that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people. You can take action here.

In a statement, the Gates Foundation said the money will fund new analytic tools, prevention methods, and stronger medications that counter drug-resistant malaria strains and eliminate the diseases from victims’ bodies.

Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.


Defeat Poverty

Bill Gates Just Pledged $31 Million to Fight Malaria in Latin America

By David Brand