Bill Gates and Carlos Slim Join their Fortunes to Eradicate Polio in 6 Years

Video from Ismael Monzon

This is an exclusive interview with Efe, That Carlos Slim and Bill Gates conceded from Abu Dhabi.

Enrique Rubio (Efe) | Abu Dhabi
Published by EFE:  Thursday 25/04/2013 13:40 hours

Bill Gates admits with a smile that “is not too common” to receive a letter inviting you to end forever one of the most harmful diseases of the twentieth century. Even less common when the sender of the letter is the richest man in the world and the recipient, the second richest man in the world.

In an exclusive interview with Efe –The first they have given together to the media- the two who head each year the list of millionaires, the Mexican Carlos Slim Helu and the American Bill Gates, unveiled the contribution that Mr. Slim will make to one of the Microsoft founder’s philanthropic initiatives.

Slim will contribute with 100 million dollars to a program that aims to eliminate polio from the face of the earth in six years.

Why is necessary so much money and effort to fight against a disease that last year only affected 223 children and is endemic only in 3 countries?

“With polio, there are only two options: either we redouble work and really finish it, in which case we will save all vaccination costs; or we stop this great effort and the polio may extend again, infecting again hundreds of thousands of children,” says Gates.

The last 25 years have been fundamental to the fight against polio through vaccination undertaken worldwide. Polio has gone from paralyzing 350,000 children annually in 125 countries to 223 children, being endemic only in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Paradoxically, reaching zero cases will be the most difficult task.

As Slim recalls, the main problem for its complete extermination is not that much about resources or money; but to reach the populations at most risk, often located in remote areas and in a complex security situation.

Since last December, for example, nearly two dozen people have died in a wave of killings of humanitarian workers involved in the immunization campaign against polio in Pakistan.

Both Slim and Gates are businessmen, and none is interested in hiding it.

They maintain practically a corporate approach to philanthropy and often their speeches leak terms like “efficiency” or “savings”, allusions to the advantages of applying an entrepreneurial mentality to altruism, and figures on the economic desirability of supporting a cause or another.

Gates and Slim, aware that many people wonder what might happen, if the people with greatest fortunes agree to resolve the problems afflicting the world; understand polio extermination as something personal, a challenge that will measure such type of associations’ potential.

Gates said: “”If we don’t succeed with polio would be a tremendous setback not only for global health but also for the optimism about what men can do when they join. If we succeed, it will strengthen us and will remind us that together we can do amazing things.”

The “credibility”, they expect to gain in their fight against polio, will allow them to extend this partnership to fight against other diseases; but it is still early to open up new battlefronts.

Slim explains -relaxed and comfortable next to the person that, despite being with whom he disputes the symbolic throne of opulence, enjoys a good relationship with- the key is sharing the vision of the problem and the decision of solving it, beyond personal chemistry.

At the voice of “why don’t you join”; Gates has recruit government and magnates like the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, into the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which needs a global budget of 5,500 million dollars to achieve its goal in 6 years.

The founder of Microsoft, a company he left to devote himself exclusively to philanthropy, is confident that his passion for this activity can be spread among other businessmen, so they implement their business skills so that “every dollar is spent in a best way”.

The Mexican and the American agree that philanthropy and the business world are “strikingly similar” and have difficulty choosing one over the other.

“Perhaps the only difference is in the objectives. In business, your goals are an increased market share, profitability … But in both places you look for efficiency, organize well what you do, and your human capital is the best”, says the engineer Slim.

In turn, Gates do no doubt on recognizing that thanks to his success in business now he has the opportunity to implement his philanthropic work. After all, as he says “the software magic was my fanatical focus for so many decades of my life”.

The sparkling eyes of Slim keep scrutinizing Gates during the interview, while Gates nods to continually emphasize the words of the Mexican. They do not deceive themselves; they know their dizzying fortunes speak for themselves and that millions of people rely on their good understanding to create a better world.



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