USAID Commemorates Day of the African Child; Launches Two Decades Report on Child Survival and Maternal Health

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON D.C. -- In commemoration of the Day of the African Child, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today released a report titled Two Decades of Progress: USAID's Child Survival and Maternal Health Program.

Global child deaths have fallen from 15 million per year in the 1980s to 9.2 million in 2008. The Two Decades of Progress report documents this progress and showcases USAID's contribution to a global partnership that has resulted in saving six to seven million child lives each year with other donors, non-governmental, faith-based and community organizations, the private sector, the United Nations, and host countries themselves.

Twenty years ago, USAID and UNICEF launched the "child survival revolution." Since then, the American people, through USAID, have committed $6 billion in support of child survival programs in more than 80 countries. The President's Global Health Initiative reaffirms this commitment of resources and leadership to continue improving the survival and health of Africa's children.

"We celebrate this remarkable progress made by some very poor nations to advance child health, said Acting Assistant Administrator Gloria Steele. "Americans can be proud that tens of millions of children are alive and healthy because their tax dollars were wisely and compassionately used abroad. The challenge now is to build on these successes to save the remaining millions of children who are dying needlessly."

In maternal and child health, last year Congress provided USAID with a 25 percent increase in funding. In response, USAID began an agency-wide accelerated approach to increasing the survival of mothers, newborns, and young children, focusing on 30 countries with the greatest need. Seventeen of these 30 countries are in Africa, including three of the countries with the world's largest numbers of infant and child deaths - Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is an ambitious, yet reachable effort for achieving significant reductions in deaths by delivering low-cost, high-impact interventions to prevent or treat the leading killers of mothers, newborns and children under five.

Overall, the United States is the single largest provider of foreign assistance in the world. The U.S. Government is also UNICEF's largest financial supporter, contributing over $2 billion directly to UNICEF since 1985, and a key partner in child survival programs.

USAID's global approach to child survival has focused on development and delivery of low cost, high impact interventions that can reach children in poor countries to prevent or treat the most important causes of child death. Major USAID contributions include:

  • developing "oral rehydration therapy," that can save children from effects of diarrheal illnesses;
  • demonstrating that vitamin A supplements can reduce mortality among the millions of children in countries where diets are deficient in this micronutrient;
  • proving that children with pneumonia can be saved by antibiotics given by basic health workers;
  • demonstrating that insecticide-treated bed nets can reduce malaria illness and death;
  • proving the effectiveness of breastfeeding promotion in protecting infants and young children from illness and improving their nutrition.

The greatest impact of U.S. investment in child survival has come from support of programs that bring these and other life-saving interventions to hundreds of millions of children. USAID's work with developing country governments alongside UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, other donors, non-governmental organizations, and private sector partners has contributed to successes at an unprecedented global scale, including:

  • Almost a billion episodes of child diarrhea are treated with lifesaving oral fluid therapy (ORT) each year, reducing child deaths from diarrheal disease by more than 50 percent since 1990 and saving more than 2 million children each year.
  • More than 100 million children receive a set of basic immunizations each year, and tens of millions more receive supplemental immunizations against polio, measles, and other diseases.
  • More than 75 million cases of child pneumonia are taken for treatment by trained health workers.
  • Malnutrition among children under age 5 has been reduced from one in three to one in four.
  • The Polio Eradication initiative has saved an estimated five million children from death or paralysis, and accelerated measles control efforts have saved two million lives since 1999.
  • Half a million children are estimated to have been saved last year alone with vitamin A.
  • Millions of pregnant women and children protected from malaria by insecticide treated bed nets.

For more information about USAID and its child and maternal health programs, please visit