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USAID Unveils New Efforts to Reduce Child and Maternal Deaths

  • Mariama Diallo

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, says that every day this year 18,000 more children will live and 700 more mothers will survive compared to the daily maternal and child mortality rate in 1990. Shah's agency will host a forum Wednesday in collaboration with governments of India, Ethiopia and other partners to mark the second anniversary of the Child and Maternal Survival Call to Action. USAID will spend up to $2.9 billion of the agency’s resources to continue the fight for maternal and child health in 24 countries.

While child deaths have dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012, 16,000 children and 800 mothers are dying every day, says the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"The goal of ending preventable child and maternal death is within reach. Two years ago, USAID partnered with organizations around the world to help achieve this goal." says administrator Rajiv Shah.

"After the Call to Action, 176 countries signed a pledge to make this a priority, report on the outcomes using report cards and quantitative measures of ‘Are we delivering success,’"

"And on Wednesday I will announce America’s commitment to that Call to Action in which we will be repositioning nearly $3 billion of investment to save an additional 500,000 child lives between now and the end of 2015," he added.

USAID also plans $650 million in partnership awards with nearly two dozen companies to help distribute life saving drugs like amoxicillin to 5,500 rural villages.

In 2015, the U.N. Millennium Development goals and its targets, including improving child and maternal health, will expire.

"We are working with a number of partners to identify what those issue areas are and then bringing in those strategic assets that each organization can help," explained Anita Sharma, with the U.N. program called Every Woman Every Child. "We will not be there in 2015, but we certainly know... the unfinished agenda of the MDG’s will continue far beyond 2015."

Despite the resurgence of conflicts in some areas, both Sharma and Shah say progress is being made.

"We are helping to train health community workers so that they know how to help women and children gain access to medicines when they need them," said Shah. "We are helping to distribute misoprostol, which helps to prevent post-partum or post-birth bleeding amongst women - that is still the number one cause of maternal death in South Sudan."

Sharma says money is one of the challenges, but the political will to prioritize health is also needed. USAID Director Shah points to India as a good example.

"They have focused their efforts on ending child death in 132 districts that have the highest rates of under-five child mortality," he said. "They have moved resources from middle-income communities to poor communities in order to protect and save more children."

These new efforts to save an unprecedented number of women and children by USAID and its partners take center stage this week in Washington.

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