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Expand chart
Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios 

Global health funds play a key role in improving the world's health — with the deaths of children under 5 dropping by more than 50% over the past couple decades when investment strengthened, Melinda and Bill Gates told a press conference Wednesday.

Why it matters: Activities from 4 major global funds, which have received almost $10 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 1999, have proven to offer "enormous" benefits, they said.

Details: Bill said the returns from their investment into GAVI, the Global Fund, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and Global Financing Facility have been "really fantastic."

  • Deaths from infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and measles have halved from their 1990 levels, a key factor in lowering death rates in the poorest countries.
  • A child born today is half as likely to die before the age of five, compared to if she was born in 2000.
  • Melinda noted that part of the challenge is to help less developed countries improve their infrastructure to be able to access necessary health care — for example, helping Zambia with the logistics of getting bed nets from the port to people who need them. "That's been fixed now," she said.
  • There's been progress on the challenge of producing vaccines faster, particularly for the deadly Ebola and MERS viruses, via public-private coalitions like CEPI, Bill said. He added that they are learning more about vaccines through pharma's interest in immunotherapy for cancer patients.

To be sure: Melinda and Bill didn't only discuss the rosy news.

  • Conquering polio has been a much more drawn-out and expensive battle than they originally anticipated — and it's one that continues to be problematic, they say.
  • The world is nowhere near ready to address a pandemic. "There's still a lot of work needed to be done," Bill said, especially in deciding what the rules would be and how cooperation would work in terms of a global emergency.
  • "Over the next 18 months, all 4 of these are kind of at a critical point where the level of distraction by domestic issues or issues that are confined to the rich world do make us somewhat concerned that the great success story here and the need to renew these resources may not get the attention it deserves," Bill said.

The bottom line: There is a clear delineation in improved results after 2000, when "the world started investing more in global health, and in particular global health institutions," Melinda said. Both said it will be key that governments and private institutions continue investing in these funds for the next couple decades.Go deeper:

Go deeper

Parkland shooting victims' families settle suit with school district

A makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Families and survivors of a 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., reached a $25 million settlement in their lawsuit against the Broward County school district Monday, per the South Florida SunSentinel.

Why it matters: The deal was reached in the suit over the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the school district won a Florida Supreme Court ruling that could have capped damages at $300,000 in total without approval from the state legislature, AP notes.

Texas Republicans pass new congressional maps in their favor

Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas House voted 84-59 late Monday to approve new congressional district maps that reduce the number of districts with Black and Hispanic majorities, per the Texas Tribune.

Why it matters: The legislation comes after recent census figures found Texas' growing diverse population doesn't bode well for Republicans, who then worked to protect incumbents with the redrawn maps.

4 hours ago - World

North Korea's military fires another ballistic missile into sea

A woman in Seoul, South Korea, walks past a television image if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.