Qatar pledges $50 million to help Bill Gates fight poverty

Bill Gates

Bill Gates speaking at today\’s event.

Qatar has joined forces with the world’s richest man and an international development bank to tackle the root causes of poverty in some of the world’s poorest Muslim countries.

Earlier today, representatives from the Qatar Development Fund pledged US$50 million to the Lives and Livelihoods Fund.

The fund was established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to provide affordable financing for the IDB’s least-wealthy 30 members.

The IDB and BMGF have each pledged $100 million to the effort and are hoping to raise a total of $500 million in donations to shape the fund, which was officially launched last year.

That initial sum will then be used to “unlock” an additional $2 billion in financing from the IDB, a Jeddah-based organization founded in 1975 to advance economic development and social progress in Muslim communities.

Gates and Qatar

Bill Gates – the co-founder Microsoft and the richest man on the planet, according to Forbes – was in Qatar today for the signing ceremony and said his charitable work with the Gulf state stretches back nearly a decade:

“This country has been very generous with foreign aid for a long time,” he told Doha News, adding that he first met Qatar Foundation (QF) chairperson Sheikha Moza bint Nasser to talk about development aid more than eight years ago.

Gates said his foundation and QF have worked together on several initiatives over the years, calling the organizations “two very committed donors (with) a strong relationship.”

Today’s commitment to the Lives and Livelihood Fund, however, “is the biggest single thing we’ve ever done together.”

Polio vaccine

Polio vaccine

In 2013, Qatar Charity and the BMGF pledged matching funds in support of a six-year plan to eradicate polio globally.

Gates added that he met with QF officials this morning and discussed education funding as well as aid for refugees.

Lives and Livelihood Fund

The development initiative aims to lift some of the world’s poorest people out of extreme poverty through grants and Sharia-compliant loans at below-market rates.

“We aim at launching several projects in the health sector, which will improve the quality of life for millions of people across the Muslim world,” said Khalifa bin Jassim Al Kuwari, director-general of the Qatar Development Fund.

The public organization coordinates and implements foreign development assistance on behalf of the Qatar government.

While specific recipient countries were not named, a map on the fund’s website suggests many will be in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Yemen, Bangladesh and others.

In addition to funding programs that combat infectious diseases such as malaria and polio, the fund aims to ensure routine immunization and strengthen primary health-care systems.

Other focus areas include building basic electrical, water and sanitation infrastructure as well as investments in agricultural projects.

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