Two of the world’s wealthiest men, Bill Gates and Carlos Slim, along with the Spanish government, have pledged a total of $150 million to improving health care in Mesoamerica. Microsoft’ co-founder Bill Gates, Mexico’s telecom businessman Carlos Slim, and Spain’s Princess Cristina have each pledged $50 million toward the initiative which was revealed June 14, 2010 in Mexico City. The initiative, titled “Salud Mesoamérica 2015”, aims to reduce health inequities affecting the poorest 20 percent of the population in Central America and Southern Mexico over the next five years. This initiative aims to improve nutrition and maternal health, fight dengue fever and malaria, reduce infant mortality and boost vaccination rates.
Salud Mesoamérica 2015 focuses on poor households taking advantage of health services and the adoption of healthier lifestyles. It creates incentives among participating Central American governments to invest in more equitable allocation of domestic funding and support public policies that improve the health of the poorest and most vulnerable populations. It also aims to support Mesoamerican governments in achieving the health Millennium Development Goals.
Salud Mesoamérica 2015 will be overseen by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), who will work with the region’s governments to prepare, implement and monitor projects funded by the initiative, as well as commissioning independent evaluations. IDB will also coordinate with the health ministries of the Central American countries and the Mesoamerican Public Health System.
Focus on vaccinations and disease will be particularly valuable as a recent study by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights reported declining rates of mortality in Central American countries due to preventable and infectious disease. The study also revealed that while mortality rates of infants and children under 5 have decreased in Latin America, Guatemala and Nicaragua retain higher rates due in part to high percentages of people living in underserved rural areas and maternal mortality rates remain moderately high.