Melinda Gates

14 September 2012 | Catholic Herald

(The lead letter which hoped that Melinda Gates would support teaching in Africa had the heading. This letter followed.)

SIR – Obianuju Ekeocha makes a persuasive and heartfelt plea for Melinda Gates to use a £3 billion fund on six social help schemes such as a good health care system and a food programme for young children, rather than on providing family planning for poor women who wish to control their fertility. (Features, August 24) Unfortunately, there is a difficulty in providing even the first of these six schemes: the cost. Ten times £3 billion would not solve the problem. If I may illustrate the difficulty by looking at Ms Ekeocha’s homeland of Nigeria.

Nigeria’s population – 37 million in 1950 – is now158 million, which is greater than that of Russia. In 18 years time, the population is expected to be 257 million, twice that of Russia; and by 2050 the population is expected to be 389 million – rapidly approaching the population of the United States of America. Mrs Gates’ £3 billion is a trivial sum when compared to the sum needed to implement just the first of Ms Ekeocha’s hopes – a good health care system. Even now, when Nigeria has a vibrant economy, and its oil revenues bring in more than ten times £3 billion, its health care system is grossly inadequate. It will be far worse when Nigeria’s population has doubled once again.

On population, Mrs Gates’ views are close to those of Pope Paul VI, who gave the Church’s most authoritative teaching on population in Populorum Progressio, paragraph 37. Pope Paul and Mrs Gates differ only in choice of method, a subject on which Catholics are divided.

Gerald Danaher