Yesterday, we had the opportunity to sit in on a small group interview with USAID Administrator Raj Shah. He highlighted a number of priorities and topics, from the new FWD campaign to the Agency’s priority actions for reducing child mortality.
USAID is in a unique position, where “the confluence of new partnerships have come together to do the most we can to save mothers’ and children’s lives." In total, 8.3 million child deaths occur every year, a number that could increase due to famine deaths in the Horn of Africa without concerted efforts to intervene. Through strategic program investments, there is the potential to save upwards of 4 million child lives a year, reducing child mortality by nearly 50% through interventions implemented by programs like MCHIP.
The Agency intends to engage on three key action items to make this reduction a reality:
1. Increase access throughout the developing world to both basic vaccinations and newer vaccines – like rotavirus and hepatitis B – which are routine here in the US.
2. Expand the rapid reduction in malaria child deaths, easily preventable through the distribution of low cost insecticide treated nets.
3. Eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, effectively eliminating pediatric AIDS.
All three are ambitious, but also align with the Administrator’s commitment to maximizing the number of lives saved per dollar spent. While noncommunicable diseases are also on the Agency’s agenda, and will be addressed in consultation with country governments and USAID missions, communicable diseases continue to be a lower hanging fruit. We have known prevention and treatment plans for HIV, malaria, and a number of childhood illnesses, which are inexpensive, cost effective, and have been proven effective over time.
As Shah noted in his remarks, reducing child mortality is both “the right thing to do and about keeping us safe and secure.” In an era when USAID’s programmatic responsibilities have increased by over 300% while Agency staff has decreased by nearly 40%, it is essential that we allocate resources efficiently and effectively, through action items around areas like child mortality.
Monitoring & Evaluation Associate, JSI