Melinda French Gates on Saving Lives

The co-chair of the world’s largest philanthropy talks about what can be done to improve global health and poverty

Melinda Gates, with caregivers in Rampur Bhuligadha, India, says infant deaths can be halved by 2025. (Barbara Kinney / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
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In your travels, what experience has moved you most?
I was in Malawi earlier this year, and at a hospital in Dowa, I saw two newborn babies lying in an incubator, side by side. The first baby, who had just been born at the hospital, wasn’t breathing because of birth asphyxia. The baby turned purple, and I watched as the doctors worked to clear the lungs. They administered oxygen and were able to get the baby breathing again. The second baby was also born with birth asphyxia. Only that baby wasn’t born in the hospital; it was born a few hours before and brought to the clinic. For that baby, it was too late. That tragedy made it very clear what’s at stake with the newborn health work we’re investing in. The work our partners are doing to help mothers deliver their babies in a healthy environment saves lives.

It’s heartbreaking and inspiring to be in these rural villages and see what the mothers and fathers are up against—and how much they overcome. When I see that a baby in Malawi can be saved because she’s born in a hospital, I am filled with hope that a similar approach will work for mothers and babies in other countries. To know that real change is possible is what gives me optimism.


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