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Gates Foundation expands commitment to global COVID-19 response

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The additional funding brings foundation commitment to more than $250 million to support development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines; help strengthen African and South Asian health systems; and help mitigate the social and economic impacts of the virus

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced an expansion of its funding for the global response to COVID-19. The increase includes an additional $150 million of grant funding plus a commitment to leverage the resources of the foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund, which could be deployed to catalyze the rapid procurement of essential medical supplies and help life sciences companies secure financing to produce COVID-19 products. In announcing the funding, the foundation called on world leaders to unite in a global response to COVID-19 to ensure equitable access to diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.

“It is increasingly clear that the world’s response to this pandemic will not be effective unless it is also equitable,” said Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates. “We have a responsibility to meet this global crisis with global solidarity. In addition to contributing to the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, these funds will support efforts against COVID-19 in low-and-middle-income countries, where local leaders and healthcare workers are doing heroic work to protect vulnerable communities and slow the spread of the disease.”

The foundation’s new $150 million commitment will fund the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, as well as new efforts to provide partners in Africa and South Asia with resources to scale their COVID-19 detection, treatment, and isolation efforts.

The foundation will also leverage a portion of its $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund, which uses a suite of financial tools to address market failures and incentivize private enterprise to develop affordable and accessible health products. These funds, which can include equity investments, loans, and volume guarantees, will be used to help health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) facilitate the rapid procurement of personal protective equipment for health care workers, COVID-19 diagnostics, oxygen therapeutics, and other essential medical supplies. Any financial returns generated by the Strategic Investment Fund are re-invested in Gates Foundation philanthropic programs.

The funding announced builds on the $100 million the foundation has committed to date to support the global response, as well as $5 million in resources to support public health agencies and frontline response organizations in the greater Seattle region. Initial foundation funding has helped to kick-start the search for COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines; enhanced virus detection capacity in Africa; and contributed to the response in China. The foundation has also directed its programmatic technical expertise to support multilateral, national, and sub-national responses to the pandemic.

In announcing its new $150 million commitment, the foundation identified four priority areas for investment:

Accelerating Virus Detection
The foundation will provide partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with funding to scale their COVID-19 detection, treatment, and isolation efforts. In some countries, this will include leveraging emergency operations centers normally deployed to support polio eradication and malaria elimination efforts toward COVID-19 detection.

Protecting the Most Vulnerable
Foundation funding will help partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia pilot different approaches to physical distancing and infection suppression in settings where stay-at-home policies and other physical distancing strategies may not be practical. The goal will be to identify infection suppression strategies that can be effectively sustained over time with minimal social and economic disruption. A key focus will be building on lessons learned from two decades of experience in implementing infectious disease prevention programs, specifically the importance of community-designed and community-led engagement efforts.

Minimizing Social and Economic Impact
The foundation will provide non-medical funding to help LMICs strengthen social and economic support for people who are living in extreme poverty or who are at risk of falling back into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia together account for 85 percent of the 629 million people around the world who live on less than $1.90 per day, and past pandemics have had a disproportionate impact on people who cannot afford adequate nutrition, safe sanitation, and quality housing. People living in extreme poverty are also less likely to be able to practice physical distancing because they cannot afford to stop working.

 

 

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