The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released their annual letter on Tuesday. The missive was released in the form of an open letter to the world's second richest man, Warren Buffet, who has pledged much of his fortune to the foundation in a series of annual donations that comprise nearly half the resources of the foundation.
"Our 2017 annual letter is addressed to our dear friend Warren Buffett, who in 2006 donated the bulk of his fortune to our foundation to fight disease and reduce inequity. A few months ago, Warren asked us to reflect on what impact his gift has had on the world."
— Bill and Melinda Gates.
The letter of course comes amid major political upheaval across the world, particularly the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, whose global gag rule could endanger millions of women and children, the couple warned as the letter was released.
Bill Gates said their foundation would not be able to bridge the potential funding gap in an interview with The Guardian in the UK.
"The US is the No 1 donor in the work that we do. Government aid can't be replaced by philanthropy. When government leaves an area like that, it can't be offset, there isn't a real alternative. This expansion of this policy, depending on how it's implemented, could create a void that even a foundation like ours can't fill."
— Bill Gates
The gag prevents U.S. funding from going towards any organisation across the world involved in providing abortion services, care or advice — even if its services extend to other badly needed services in impoverished countries.
This expansion is extraordinary. Republican presidents usually ban funding for abortion across the world under the Mexico City policy as it is known — but this doesn't affect other funding.
South African organisations, for instance, benefitted enormously from U.S. Aid under then U.S. President George W Bush in the provision of antiretrovirals during the denialism of then President Thabo Mbeki.
Bush did not target our country for its pro-abortion policies.
Trump's order however applies to any organisation that receives funding from U.S. Aid. That expansion, Melinda Gates told the Guardian, was a surprise.
"We're concerned that this shift could impact millions of women and girls around the world," she said. "It's likely to have a negative effect on a broad range of health programmes that provide lifesaving treatment and prevention options to those most in need.
"This includes programmes that prevent and treat HIV, TB and malaria, and provide healthcare to women and children around the world. Enabling women to time and space their pregnancies and providing access to treatment and prevention of infectious diseases is lifesaving work. It saves moms' lives and it saves babies' lives, and that has long had wide support in the United States."
It also emerged in the interview that Bill Gates had had a phone call with Trump in November and a meeting in December.
They talked about the eradication of polio, which Gates hopes could happen as early as this year, and the research his foundation is supporting towards an Aids vaccine and ways to protect people from pandemics such as Ebola in west Africa, the Guardian reported.
"So that was a good discussion — the fact that he was interested in having me talk about the Foundation's work — I was pleased," said Gates.
But he told The Guardian he did not anticipate the scope of the executive order affecting family planning, an issue at the centre of the foundation's work, that Trump was to sign.