MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Microsoft founder Bill Gates agreed on Tuesday to study the possibility that Spain together with Mexico lead a project to eradicate malaria and dengue fever in Central America.
The software mogul is visiting Madrid in his capacity as president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which he and his wife created to undertake cooperation and development projects.
One project in which Spain is working with the Gates Foundation is a health research center in Mozambique, where a team of scientists led by Spaniard Pedro Alonso is taking the first steps towards developing a malaria vaccine.
Gates is betting on extending such “success stories” and increasing collaboration, a goal with which Zapatero says he agrees.
Among specific projects of future collaboration, the Spanish government said that the Gates Foundation expressed interest in Spain participating actively in programs to eradicate dengue and malaria in Mexico and Central America.
It is estimated that 8 percent of the region’s population – 14 million people – risk getting malaria.
At the same time studies show that this area offers the best conditions for cooperative projects because incidence of the disease is not as high as in Sub-Saharan Africa and it has reasonably developed health systems that guarantee the programs’ continuity.
In fact they have already been successful in eradicating other diseases like polio and smallpox.
Consequently the Spanish government considers leading, together with Mexico, a project to eradicate malaria and dengue in the region, for which the Mozambique experience will be fundamental.
Zapatero repeated his intention to dedicate 0.7 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product to development aid and said that one of the goals during Madrid’s upcoming term in the European Union presidency will be getting Europe to take the lead in fighting poverty.
Gates said that, despite the global recession, countries such as Spain, Britain and the United States – under the Obama administration – are keeping up and even increasing their generosity. EFE