By Michael Gerson
Sept. 28, 2015 | Washington Post
Bill Gates is now focused on the eradication of malaria, and parasites everywhere have reason to fear.
There are, he tells me, two possible places to draw a line across Africa marking the next northward advance of malaria elimination. “If you want to get all of Zambia,” he explained, “you also have to get Katanga” (a portion of Congo where health services are weak). Clearing islands such as Papua New Guinea and Madagascar, he says, should be relatively easy. A new Gates Foundation report argues against malaria containment in favor of malaria elimination — a goal that has provoked skepticism even among some malaria experts. Gates wants to see the plasmodium at Appomattox.
The billionaire’s main contribution to global health is the manner in which he combines technology, aspiration, resources and rigor. It is the same approach that has chased the polio virus across the world to its redoubts in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Gates both drives and reflects a remarkable trend. Over the past 25 years, efforts to help the global poor have been massively ambitious and massively successful. More than a billion people have risen out of poverty. Tens of millions more are in school, or have been saved from infectious diseases. Child mortality was halved, then halved again. More than 9 million people are on AIDS treatment in Africa. It is now possible to set goals in a number of areas — malaria elimination, an AIDS-free generation, the end of extreme poverty — and not be dismissed as a crank.