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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

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

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