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Melinda Gates Talks UN Development Goals At TedXChange

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Philanthropist Melinda French Gates on Monday convened a group of speakers to reflect on progress made toward the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) set out by the United Nations a decade ago.

The Millennium Development Goals include wiping out poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, empowering women and reducing child mortality.

Speaking at the TedXChange seminar in New York, Gates said that governments are tapping into local entrepreneurs to combat preventable child illnesses.

For example, Ethiopia's new health extension program trained 35,000 health workers to deliver care to those unable to travel to cities.

"The program is having real impact," said Gates. "There are hundreds of thousands of children living because of the health care program."

Gates also said that the world is on the verge of conquering polio, but further funding is needed before the disease is completely eradicated.

"Change is possible. We are making progress," Gates assured. "If you put the tools in women's hands, we can lift society up."

Researcher Hans Rosling spoke on the goal of reducing child mortality by 2/3 by 2015, using data to show that the world is changing for the better.

Rosling pointed out a direct connection between decreasing family size and a significant drop in child mortality. Smaller families have helped improve child health care in the developing world relatively quickly, he noted.

Mechai Viravaidya, the Founder and Chairman of the Population and Community Development Association, singled out Thailand as a family planning success story, crediting the nation's business community.

In 1974, the average Thai family had seven children. However, village shopkeepers began to supply birth control pills and condoms, religious leaders and teachers urged contraception, and the birth rate fell considerably.

The private sector was more responsive than the Thai government is addressing sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, according to Viravaidya.

Meanwhile, the banking sector helped alleviate poverty by offering credit to small businesses. Access to credit must be a human right, Viravaidya said.

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