The Common Good

When Actions Speak Louder than Words: Bill and Melinda Gates

"‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.'"
~ Matthew 5:21 (NRSV)

Bill and Melinda Gates via http://bit.ly/xO2DkP
Bill and Melinda Gates. Image via http://bit.ly/xO2DkP

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Because it's never too late to say thank you, I didn't want to let the best news I heard out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week go unnoticed or unacknowleged.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced during the forum that they would inject an additional $750 million into the United Nation's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private organization founded a decade ago to combat three of the world's most devastating diseases that have claimed millions of lives, particularly among the poorest of the poor in the developing world.

The Gates' new gift joins more than $650 million the couple already has given to the Global Fund since its inception. And their latest gesture of epic generosity couldn't come at a more opportune time, especially after news (a few days before the Gates' announcement at Davos) that the fund's executive director, Michel Kazatchkine, was stepping down from his post early, amidst allegations of misuse of funds and cutbacks in funding.

According to Reuters:

The public-private organization, which has the backing of celebrities like rock star Bono, accounts for around a quarter of international financing to fight HIV and AIDS, as well as the majority of funds to fight TB and malaria.

But it has been forced to cut back and said last year it would make no new grants or funding until 2014....While [the $750 million from the Gateses] will give an immediate boost, more is needed from governments, which have provided the bulk of the $22.6 billion that has been raised by the Geneva-based organization to date for its work in 150 countries. The commitment of governments was shaken last year when the fund reported "grave misuse of funds" in four recipient nations, prompting some donors such as Germany and Sweden to freeze their donations.

Bill Gates is unfazed by reports of misused Global Fund resources. "If you are going to do health programs in Africa you are going to have some percentage that is misused," he said."We've looked at where they've found money that wasn't applied properly and how they tracked that ... the fact is the internal checks and balances have worked."

Since its creation nearly a decade ago, the Global Fund has produced remarkable results. Through its funding, 230 million insecticide-treated bed nets have been provided to families around the world, helping to protect them from the transmission of malaria and other insect-borne diseases. More than 8.6 million cases of turberculosis have been disgnosed and treated. And 3.3 million people have received antiretroviral drugs which are so effective in reversing the progression of HIV/AIDS symptoms their results are often called the "Lazarus effect."

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the mother of a son born into extreme poverty in the sub-Saharan African nation of Malawi, whose birth parents died of AIDS-related complications, who is a carrier for tuberculosis and whose own life nearly was taken by grave bouts of malaria, words cannot express properly my gratitude to the Global Fund for its work and the Gateses for their generosity.

While Bill and Melinda Gates don't wear their religiosity or spiritual predilections on their sleeves, they most certainly are doing God's work, intervening to care for and advocate on behalf of the poorest of the poor — the "least of these" among us about whom Jesus spoke.

When it comes to living an authentic life of faith, being Jesus' hands and voice in a troubled world, actions speak louder than words.

Thank you, Bill and Melinda, for mightily walking the walk with audacious grace.

Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. Follow Cathleen on Twitter @GodGrrl.

 

 

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