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AFP
May 5, 2021

How will Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce impact their charity?

World

AFP
May 5, 2021

NEW YORK CITY: The shock announcement that billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates are to divorce after 27 years of marriage has raised questions about the future of their hugely influential charity.

Here, AFP takes a look at the Gates Foundation, from how it works and what projects it finances, to its impact on the pandemic and how the non-profit may be impacted by the split.

The couple say the idea for the foundation came to them as young parents when they read a newspaper article about millions of children in developing countries dying from easily treatable illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.

In 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was launched to fight disease and poverty around the world. In the United States, an initial focus on providing access to computers and the internet was expanded to improving education in general.

With 1,600 staff members in offices around the world, the Gates Foundation gives away roughly $5 billion each year in areas like global public health and development. The foundation says it has spent $54.8 billion since its inception.

More than $2 billion has gone towards fighting malaria alone with the aim of eradicating the mosquito-borne disease "within a generation." The charity has also contributed several billion dollars towards a global campaign to end polio through the widespread immunization of children. It donated more than $50 million during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Dozens of other programs it funds include nutrition, sanitation, maternal and newborn child health and agricultural development. Last year, the foundation pledged about $250 million to help fight the pandemic, with some of the funds channeled to the distribution of life-saving doses of Covid-19 vaccines to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The money also went to testing, personal protective equipment and support of overwhelmed health services, particularly in developing countries. It was also key in forming Covax, a global program to help supply vaccines to the poorest countries. In total, the foundation says it has spent some $1.75 billion fighting Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.