Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: what is the organisation - and will it continue after the couple divorce?

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced their divorce in a Twitter post

Bill and Melinda Gates have announced their divorce on Twitter, after 27 years of marriage.

The billionaire couple run charitable organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, through which they have spent vast sums on enhancing healthcare and helping reduce extreme poverty across the globe.

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So now that they are going their separate ways as husband and wife, will the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continue? Here’s what you need to know.

Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce on a Twitter post (Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce on a Twitter post (Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce on a Twitter post (Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Why are Bill and Melinda Gates getting a divorce?

The founder of Microsoft and his wife announced their divorce in a Twitter post, stating: “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” explaining that “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple".

Having first met in the 1980s when Melinda joined Bill's Microsoft firm, they now have three children.

According to Forbes, Bill Gates is the fourth wealthiest person in the world, and is worth $124bn (£89bn).

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What is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

Founded in 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is private, non-profit organisation based in Seattle, which fights poverty, disease and inequity around the world.

A statement on the foundation’s website explains that Bill and Melinda started the foundation to “give back and to be optimistic about the future” – two values the couple claim to share.

“From early childhood, we each saw how our parents helped out in our local communities, and we were taught that anything is possible,” the statement reads.

"Unfortunately, factors outside of anyone’s control make it hard for some people to reach their potential: things like when they were born, who their parents are, where they grew up, whether they are a boy or a girl.

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“We wake up every day determined to use our resources to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life. Most importantly, we believe this: All lives have equal value. That’s why we made the decision to donate our wealth from Microsoft to help others.”

As their commitment to their work grew, they transferred $20 billion of Microsoft stock to the foundation, which made it “the largest of its kind in the world”.

Their friend, Warren Buffett, then donated much of his fortune to the foundation, allowing them to take on “the toughest, most important problems”.

The foundation has now spent $53.8 billion since it was founded in 2000.

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The foundation said that it gave around $1.75 billion to fight the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, with most of this going towards the production and procurement of medical supplies, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), vaccines, testing kits and treatments. It also helped fund COVAX, which is a project backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) aiming to provide poorer countries with enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to cover 20 per cent of their population.

In 2014, the Bill & Melinda Foundation also donated more than $50 million to help fight the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, and in 2016 it partnered with the Nigeria-based Dangote Foundation to help eliminate malnutrition in Nigeria.

Will the foundation continue to operate?

On the same Twitter post announcing their divorce, the couple said that they will continue to work on the foundation together.

The pair said: “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.

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"We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives.

"We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life."

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