LONDON, Dec 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Billionaire
philanthropist Bill Gates warned on Friday that the world was
vulnerable to a deadly epidemic of an illness like flu, with the
recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks underlining weaknesses in global
efforts to tackle health crises swiftly.
Gates, whose foundation invests in improving healthcare in
developing countries, said the global emergency response system
was not strong enough and the ability to create new drugs and
vaccines quickly was lacking.
He added that there needed to be more focus on developing
treatments for likely epidemics.
"I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a
big flu doesn't come along in the next 10 years," Microsoft Corp
founder Gates told Britain's BBC radio.
"I do think we will have much better medical tools, much
better response, but we are a bit vulnerable right now if
something spread very quickly, like a flu, that was quite
But Gates defended the World Health Organization (WHO) over
widespread criticism of its handling of the 2014 Ebola crisis
that killed thousands in west Africa, saying the agency was
neither funded, nor staffed, to meet all the expectations.
He also raised concerns over growing antimicrobial
resistance to drugs, saying the success of antibiotics had
The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is accelerating
antimicrobial resistance which is already complicating efforts
to treat tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.
Gates said richer countries must help developing nations
tackle disease, both for humanitarian reasons and for their own
He said international co-operation had almost succeeded in
wiping out polio which remains endemic only in Pakistan and
If there are no new cases in the next three years polio will
become the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox
"We're very close. Hopefully, the last case will be some
time next year," Gates said.
(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson
Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which
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