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The Stories Behind the Data, Gates Foundation’s first annual report on the SDGs

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The Stories Behind the Data is the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation’s first annual report dedicated to accelerating progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals #SDGs. Learn why #stunting is one of the most powerful, but most complex, measures in global health. This report tracks 18 data points included in the SDGs that we are fundamental to people’s health and well-being. To complement the data, the report tells the stories behind the numbers—about the leaders, innovations, and policies that have made the difference in countries where progress has been most significant.

The first Goalkeepers Report presents stories and numbers about Child Mortality; Maternal Mortality in Ethiopia; Family Planning in Senegal; HIV; Financial Services for the Poor in India; and Stunting in Peru.


“We are launching this report this year and will publish it every year until 2030 because we want to accelerate progress in the fight against poverty by helping to diagnose urgent problems, identify promising solutions, measure and interpret key results, and spread best practices”

Bill and Melinda Gates, Gates Foundation



Stunting in PeruBill and Melinda Gates state in the report that “stunting is one of the most powerful, but most complex, measures in global health”. They explain that “it´s complex because it’s caused by multiple factors that accumulate over a period of time—everything from a mother’s health to a child’s diet, disease history, and environment”. GoalKeepers17 study pays special attention to the progress made in reducing the rates of stunting in Peru, one of the 59 SUN Countries.


“We started by designing a causal model for reducing chronic child malnutrition based on the available scientific evidence, and we got all the stakeholders to agree to it”

Ariela Luna, Former Deputy Minister of Development and Social Assessment, Peru


Peru’s story is impressive because they cut through a lot of that complexity and focused on what we know works. Peru proved that stunting is a solvable problem when leaders are committed to following the evidence. Milo Stanojevich, national director for CARE Peru, and Ariela Luna, former deputy minister of development and social assessment, explain in this chapter how the country made so much progress in reducing stunting among the children in such a short time.


The report also presents some other stories behind the data:

  • Child Mortality: Based on global child mortality data, the world is on the right track. Six million fewer children died in 2016 than in 1990. That’s more than the total number of children in France.
  • Maternal Mortality in Ethiopia: The fact that the number of mothers who die has been cut in half in the past generation is one of the more important successes in global health. It’s all the more impressive because reducing maternal mortality is really hard.
  • Family Planning in Senegal: Poverty. Maternal mortality. Child mortality. Education. Gender equity. They all get better when women can plan their pregnancies so they are physically and economically ready when they have a child.
  • HIV: In 1990, there were 94 million people on Africa between the ages of 15 and 24, the age range when people are most at risk of contracting HIV. By 2030, there will be more than 280 million.
  • Financial Services for the Poor in India: Poverty is not just the lack of money. It’s also the lack of access to basic financial services that help the poor use what money they have to improve their lives.

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