Over the years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made a significant impact in dealing with infectious diseases including malaria, polio, and HIV. Now it is turning its attention and $40 billion endowment toward coronavirus. According to the Financial Times, Bill Gates expects his foundation will focus "almost entirely" on the pandemic for the foreseeable future.
In a statement provided to Mic, a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation confirmed that it is "increasingly focusing the expertise of our staff and leveraging our partnerships toward the urgent efforts needed to end this pandemic." That includes a prior $250 million commitment to support the global response to COVID-19, which followed previous pledges of $100 million globally and $5 million to address the outbreak in Seattle-King County, Washington, where the foundation is headquartered. The foundation also launched the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator in March, with the goal of researching and developing potential treatments for the virus and bringing said treatments to market quickly.
According to Gates, the focus of his foundation’s coronavirus work won't solely be on issues like developing a vaccine or delivering tests to underserved communities, but also on other changes to our daily lives that have been brought on by the response to the pandemic. “Even our non-health related work, like higher education and K-12 [schools], is completely switched around to look at how you facilitate online learning,” he told the Financial Times. He also warned that the virus could disrupt efforts to combat other diseases, leading to a resurgence of conditions thought to be under control. “Fewer people able to show up for routine immunization or supply chains for immunization not working well, that’s hundreds of thousands of deaths right there," he said. "If we can’t keep getting malaria treatments out effectively, that’s a huge rebound in malaria.”
The Gates Foundation confirmed Gates's assertion that the organization will be addressing coronavirus beyond just the medical effects. "These are unprecedented times, but our belief that all lives have equal value and our commitment to addressing inequities across all of our work remains more critical than ever," a spokesperson for the foundation told Mic.
There is certainly no shortage of areas of interest for the Gates Foundation to look into, as coronavirus has upended the normal way of life for just about everyone. In addition to the health concerns and risk of death that the virus presents, it has also led to a growing mental health crisis, with people experiencing increased anxiety, depression, and other conditions. The pandemic has also highlighted shortcomings in many systems that we rely on, including massive amounts of food waste caused by inefficient supply chains and lack of phone and internet connectivity for many low-income and rural households. It might be too late to solve these issues for the current situation, but there is almost always another crisis right around the corner.