By Sharon Atieno

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced commitments worth $1.27 billion to address overlapping global crises that have reversed the progress already made towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to the foundation’s sixth annual Goalkeepers Report, nearly every indicator of the SDGs  is off track at the halfway point for achieving them by 2030. Despite these challenges, the report highlights opportunities to accelerate progress by investing in long-term solutions and innovative approaches to entrenched issues, including poverty, inequality, and climate change.

“This week [United Nation’s general Assembly week] has underscored the urgency of the challenges we face, and the promise of sustainable solutions that save and improve lives,” said Mark Suzman, Gates Foundation CEO.

“We can get back on track toward the SDGs, but it’s going to take a new level of collaboration and investment from every sector. That’s why our foundation is significantly stepping up our commitment to help confront crises now and ensure long-term impact across critical determinants of health and development.”

Of the $1.27 billion, $912 million has been committed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This funding will help accelerate efforts to end HIV, TB, and malaria by 2030 and build resilient health systems needed to protect against future pandemics. It also will be instrumental in reducing the disproportionate impact of these diseases on women and girls.

To alleviate the food crisis which is disproportionately impacting communities in Africa and South Asia and address its underlying causes, they have committed $100 million. This funding will go to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) to support national governments in rebuilding resilient, sustainable local food systems and the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) to make fertilizers affordable and accessible for smallholder farmers.

It will also be distributed to the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR)’s Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) research center to accelerate work that is already supplying farmers with improved and new varieties of crops, such as beans high in iron; sweet potatoes naturally rich in vitamin A; and naturally hardy cassava, millet, and sorghum.

Additionally, the funding will also go to working with partners to supply sustainable feed and fodder to African families that depend on livestock as a critical source of income and nutrient-dense food as well as to strengthen local food systems by empowering women farmers with the tools and resources they need to succeed and support their communities.

In addition, the foundation will double its previous commitment to the Child Nutrition Fund—from $10 million to $20 million. The investment will support the fund’s expansion beyond ready-to-use therapeutic food to include preventative nutrition products for both women and children.

It has also pledged $200 million to expand global Digital Public Infrastructure. This will help expand infrastructure that low- and middle-income countries can use to become more resilient to crises such as food shortages, public health threats, and climate change, as well as to aid in pandemic and economic recovery. This infrastructure encompasses tools such as interoperable payment systems, digital ID, data-sharing systems, and civil registry databases.

Another $50 million has been committed to Partners in Health Scholarship Fund to attend the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) in Rwanda. This commitment will help catalyze efforts to raise $200 million. The scholarship fund will support students, 75% of whom are women, to attend UGHE and help accelerate efforts to increase the number of health care workers in Rwanda and around the world.