I can't help but feel that a lot of the Gates Foundation's efforts are misguided feel good fixes.
"Save the children" rather than fixing some of the underlying problems. For example, Iodine deficiency is perhaps the most cost effective human capital fix there is. Yet the Gates foundation has only given a few million to that cause as far as I can tell. Vaccines are sexy, saving children is sexy, makes your altruism feel good. Iodine in salt - not so sexy, no discernible results for 20+ years, no great feel good effect.
Oh awesome - Nikolas Kristof wrote about it :
Unfortunately, the most cost-effective aid interventions tend to be the kind that are incremental and save only a small proportion of lives—and are thus least satisfying to the giver. For instance, my wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and I have recently published a new book, Half the Sky, arguing that educating and empowering women is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. In the book we call on the U.S. government to adopt a program to help poor countries iodize their salt. Right now, about one-third of families in poor countries don't get enough iodine, and the result is not so much goiters as diminished intellectual capacity. Iodine is essential to brain formation for a fetus in the first trimester, and if a mother lacks iodine her child may end up mentally retarded. More commonly, children in such areas lose 10 to 15 IQ points, with girls particularly affected for reasons that aren't fully understood. This is a lifelong intelligence deficit and a significant burden on poor countries, and it can be resolved very cheaply; iodizing salt costs a couple of pennies per person per year.
Studies have suggested that iodizing salt brings real economic returns of nine times the cost—and yet we don't do it. The reason is, I think, that the results are statistical, not visible. You can never look at a child afterwards and say, "This girl would have been retarded if it weren't for iodized salt." All you can do is note that retardation rates fall and that, a decade later, school performance improves significantly.