Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Maternal and Child Deaths

President Obama convened this Africa Leaders’ Summit to commit to new and innovative ways of investing in Africa’s future.  Africa’s long term stability and prosperity rests on the foundation of its mothers and children, and yet too many still die of preventable and treatable causes. Therefore, the United States will join with our African allies to bring in new partners, resources, and financing towards saving the lives of 8 million children and 350,000 mothers by 2020, and this process will begin during the U.N. General Assembly in September. Together, we can end this needless loss and create a brighter future for all of our nations.

More specifically, the U.S. government commits to the following to accelerate action in Africa:

  1. Building on the Acting on the Call Report  and working together to save 8 million children’s lives and 350,000 women’s lives in Africa including by  defining specific action plans , developing interim milestones and realigning up to $2.9 billion toward this goal.  In addition, USAID will be naming a new Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator in the Fall of 2014. 
  2. Developing a financing framework and policy principles to turn this ambition into reality. The financing framework will establish ways to mobilize capital for health (such as taxes, levies, fees, funds, loans, loan guarantees, volume guarantees, development impact bonds and other innovative financing, etc.).  USAID will host a meeting in the Fall of 2015 to convene public and private sector partners to define an agenda around impact investing and other financial tools to support the child survival and maternal health goals. 
  3. Convening high level global experts at the UN General Assembly to provide recommendations on a new global financing framework by Mothers’ Day 2015 to drive sustainable results.

This new effort builds on the groundbreaking meeting in June 2014, when the global community came together once again for a high-level forum in Washington D.C. – Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths – to drive momentum around concrete action. The Acting on the Call Report outlined U.S. commitments and needed action in 16 countries in Africa and the U.S. government committed to align up to $2.9 billion to save up to half a million children in the next three years. In addition, USAID announced more than $600 million in new partnerships and awards with more than 26 partners, including with Jhpiego, Coca-Cola, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Laerdal Global Health and Johnson & Johnson. 

Background: US and African Leadership to Improve Global Health & Maternal and Child Health

The world has made remarkable strides toward saving the lives of women and children, yet maternal and child mortality remains a critical problem in African countries.  Approximately half of global maternal and child deaths occur in Africa.  Today, a woman’s risk of dying from childbirth in Sub-Saharan Africa is more than 47 times greater than in the United States. 

The U.S. government continues to lead the charge in renewing the global effort to end preventable child and maternal deaths.  Together with country partners, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the United States is working to reduce preventable child deaths to fewer than 20 per 1,000 live births and maternal deaths to fewer than 50 per 100,000 live births by 2035.  Decreasing mortality is the result of efforts to link health programs – in Maternal and Child Health, malaria, family planning, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, and sanitation and hygiene.  Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the U.S. government has invested $28 billion in health in Africa.

In April 2014, African Ministers of Health committed to ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths in Africa at the first Joint African Union (AU)/WHO Conference of Ministers of Health. The engagement of the AU is critical as it is able to track progress on domestic spending for health and ensure mutual accountability around the Common Position for the post-2015 Development Agenda.


In June 2012, the world came together for the Child Survival Call to Action: A Promise Renewed, to craft a global goal to end preventable child deaths by 2035 and pioneer new approaches to accelerate progress towards child and maternal survival.  To date, 13 African countries have launched sharpened national strategies, set national targets, and developed scorecards to track progress. In the last two years alone, 24 priority countries – of which 16 are in Africa – have achieved an eight percent reduction in under-five mortality, saving 500,000 lives.

USAID’s action plans are built on efforts already underway by African countries and through other global partnerships.  To date, 13 African countries have launched sharpened national strategies, set national targets, and developed scorecards to track progress in reducing preventable maternal and child deaths. In the last two years alone, in USAID’s 24 priority countries – of which 16 are in Africa – they have achieved an eight percent reduction in under-five mortality, saving 500,000 lives.  A renewed focus voluntary family planning priority has resulted in significant (range of 6 percent to 35 percent) increases in the number of women using modern contraceptives.  Finally, U.S. government  investments through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, combined with host country government investments and those of other development partners, have resulted in 3.3 million lives saved through scale-up of malaria control interventions over the last decade.  During this time, malaria mortality rates in African children were reduced by an estimated 54 percent

The U.S. government continues to commit to combat infectious diseases, and invest in vaccine-preventable diseases.  Estimated measles deaths decreased by 88 percent between 2000 and 2012.  The U.S. government contributed to the development of the MenAfriVac vaccine for meningitis – and more than 100 million people have been vaccinated in 10 African countries. In line with our longstanding and effective partnership with the GAVI Alliance, the U.S. government has provided GAVI with $1.2 billion to date. From 2001-2013, the GAVI Alliance committed $5.3 billion to deliver life-saving vaccines in Africa.  In order to accelerate progress towards ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035, the Obama Administration has requested an increase in its annual contribution to $200 million per year.

Finally, USAID has committed to address the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which  are a contributing factor to cycles of poverty by impairing intellectual development in children, reducing school enrollment and hindering productivity.  The USG will be supporting the delivery of 1 billion treatments for NTDs in Africa by the end of 2015. The NTD Program mobilizes drug donations from the pharmaceutical sector: over $6.7 billion worth of drugs for NTD control have been donated by the pharmaceutical industry to the countries where the U.S. supports NTD campaigns. Since 2006, nearly 36 million people are no longer at risk for blinding trachoma and 52.4 million people for lymphatic filariasis, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa.