Reflecting on the Gates Annual Letter
The following is a guest post by Mano a Mano intern Jesse Flanagan:
“By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives.” – Bill Gates
The Gates Foundation released their annual letter in January that looks back at the development progress made over the last 40 years in the world’s poorest countries. Governments, foundations, and aid organizations have invested incredible effort in low income countries, and that investment is paying off.
Thanks to the work done by Mano and Mano, Bolivia is no exception. Mano a Mano has helped hundreds of thousands of Bolivians gain access to basic health care, improve education, and build vital infrastructure necessary for economic development. Rural Bolivians, particularly in the communities that have partnered with Mano a Mano, have made significant strides towards a better life.
As the 20th year anniversary approaches, Mano a Mano will be celebrating the fact that more than 1 million Bolivians have been impacted by the projects that Mano a Mano has built. More than 700,000 Bolivians have access to health care for the first time through Mano a Mano’s clinic program; infant and maternal mortality rates are drastically reduced when skilled health care providers are available. Mano a Mano has built or improved more than 870 miles of roads – the same distance as St. Paul, MN to Memphis, TN – connecting many rural communities for the first time and reducing travel time from days to hours. Rural communities that have built water reservoirs with Mano a Mano increase their crop yields and can grow fruits and vegetables for the first time, improving nutrition and income for their families. Thousands of lives have been saved through the aviation program.
“These improvements are not the end of the story; they’re the foundation for more progress.”
This statement could not be truer for Mano a Mano. Though years of successful partnerships with Bolivian communities have positioned Mano a Mano to make an even greater impact in the future, current statistics continue to show that the situation for many rural Bolivians is still quite grim. 66% of rural Bolivians live below the national poverty line and 1 in 10 rural Bolivian children die before the age of 5, a child mortality rate similar to that of Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistics reflect rural Bolivia as a whole; poverty and mortality rates are even higher in the smallest and most isolated communities in which Mano a Mano focuses its efforts.
As Mano a Mano looks ahead at future progress, like the Gates Foundation, it knows that future progress is rooted in past success and that there is still an incredible amount of work to be done. For those of us that believe in the value of the work being done in Bolivia, nothing could be more exciting.