We helped found the Lives and Livelihoods Fund in 2016 because we believed organizations committed to development in the Muslim world could achieve more if they worked together. Five years on, that belief has been vindicated.
The LLF has brought lasting change to some of the world’s least-developed regions. However, the fund’s good work is under threat from rising isolationism. In an era of pandemic, trade wars, and growing global inequality, we must strengthen our commitment to multilateralism, which has given a lifeline to millions.
Of the billion who live in extreme poverty worldwide, nearly a third live in the Muslim world. Many countries are caught in a cycle of armed conflicts and disputes, political instability, and spiraling development challenges. Existing problems were magnified by COVID-19. Between 2020-2021, an additional 51 million people from Islamic Development Bank member countries were pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic.
The Muslim world faces big challenges, but few partnerships are better placed to meet them than the LLF. The largest development initiative of its kind in the Middle East, the LLF includes the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development; the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development; the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center; the Qatar Fund for Development; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Islamic Development Bank serves as its trustee.
By combining resources and skills, LLF members have brought economic growth and better living standards to some of the least-developed parts of the world in Africa, the Arab region, and beyond. The LLF focuses on three areas vital for sustainable development: Health, agricultural productivity, and basic infrastructure. And we prioritize projects traditionally underserved by conventional development assistance, whether due to scale, a lack of affordable financing, or the need for highly specific project design. To date, 37 projects have been funded in 22 countries across IsDB’s membership. A total of $1.44 billion has been loaned at concessional rates for interventions designed to benefit the most vulnerable.
These funds are already making a lasting difference. LLF projects have controlled infectious disease, strengthened primary healthcare, and increased productivity in smallholder farms. We have also brought electricity, sanitation and financial inclusion to millions living in rural areas. Projects like these spring from the shared vision of LLF members. Our collective effort has given populations across multiple continents the tools to succeed — now, and in the future.
By combining resources and skills, LLF members have brought economic growth and better living standards to some of the least-developed parts of the world.
A recent highlight is our work in Senegal, where the LLF gave $32 million in affordable financing to the government’s Malaria Control and Elimination Project. The disease remains a major challenge in the country, with huge disparities in health provision between regions. The aim of the project is to reduce malaria and interrupt local transmission in selected districts. Already, 2.5 million mosquito nets have been provided, 80,000 households have been sprayed with insecticide, a million rapid diagnostics tests have been carried out, and over 1,300 healthcare workers have been trained. Areas where the project has been active have witnessed significant improvements. Compared to 2018, incidences of malaria per 1,000 people are down by 32 percent, and deaths due to malaria per 100,000 people have dropped 48 percent. The case fatality rate has fallen by 41 percent. Preventative coverage in pregnant women is up 39 percent.
We have also had success in Guinea, where the Conakry Sanitation Project is bringing clean water to many of the country’s poorest citizens. Earlier this year, in the capital, 56 sanitation trucks hit the road as part of a $54 million project financed by LLF. The project will bring flood protection and regular waste collection to 1.7 million people. In 2017 sludge treatment was zero. Thanks to the LLF, it will increase to 500 cubic meters per day. Experts predict this will reduce cases of malaria, schistosomiasis, and typhoid among children under five by half.
Such projects would not have been possible without the LLF’s multilateral philosophy and financing structure. The model combines grants from regional and international donors and stakeholders with the lending capital of IsDB to give loans at affordable rates. As the Conakry and Senegal projects show, these loans do not just offer a short-term fix; instead, they give entire generations a foundation for prosperity.
The great challenges of the age are too great for any nation to solve alone. It is only by collaborating together, by pooling resources and perspectives, that we can eradicate fatal diseases and lift millions out of the net of poverty. When cooperation and multilateralism falters, the whole world suffers, but the poorest pay the heaviest price. We saw that during the pandemic, and we will continue to see it as development challenges are made worse by conflict and climate change. Five years since the founding of the LLF, cooperation has never been more important. It is humanity’s greatest hope. We cannot give up on it now.
• Joe Cerrell is the managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and chairman of the LLF Impact Committee. Twitter @CerrJ