Exclusive: Bill and Melinda Gates Set Record Straight About Third World Countries, Development Aid

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates (L) and his wife Melinda attend a news conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 29, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann (SWITZERLAND)

Giving aid to developing countries has long been a contentious issue in the fight against global poverty.  But now Bill and Melinda Gates are setting the record straight. 

At a reception in London’s Science Museum Monday evening, the Microsoft founder and his wife, alongside rock star Bono, launched Living Proof, a campaign to squash the idea that donating aid to developing countries is pointless.  “There has been a lively but misleading debate in recent years, about whether aid is all bad or all good, which has left some with a false impression of failure” Jamie Drummond, executive director of co-founder ONE, told TIME.  (Learn more about Bill and Melinda on The 2010 TIME 100 POLL.)

As one of the richest couples in the world, they have already given over $28 billion to charity and plan to give away 95 per cent of their fortune.

“Development aid, when spent wisely, is the most effective investment that governments can make for saving lives, improving livelihoods, and building prosperous societies,” says Bill Gates.

Melinda Gates acknowledged the complexity of addressing development in third world countries, but also told TIME, “As a world, we are getting a lot smarter about aid and we are more focused on results.”  To help prove that smartly targeted aid is having a meaningful and lasting impact in developing countries,  she emphasized that in the last 50 years, child deaths in the developing world have been cut by more than 50 percent, polio cases have been reduced by 99 percent, measles deaths  in Africa  dropped by 92 percent and malaria cases have been reduced by 50 percent in 38 countries.

Deputy director for the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Debrework Zewdie says, “This approach is making it possible to save 4,000 lives daily in communities across Africa and the developing world.”

Watch the video of Bill and Melinda Gates presentation here.

(See the TIME cover story: Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Bono: The Good Samaritans)