This post was written by Mark Shriver and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.
Children shouldn’t die from conditions like diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. But tragically every day, 16,000 kids all over the world die from these kinds of treatable illnesses.
That is simply unacceptable. However, thanks largely to U.S. leadership abroad, we have reduced the number of deaths of mothers and children under age five annually worldwide by more than half since 1990. Even in our currently divided political landscape, we can all agree that is something Americans can be proud of.
This progress has mainly been achieved with simple solutions and proven, inexpensive interventions to address leading causes of death, including diarrhea, malnutrition and complications during pregnancy and birth. Investments in cost-effective solutions, such as clean medical tools, breastfeeding and trained health workers, can give all kids and mothers a fair shot at a healthy life.
Nevertheless, 5.9 million children continue to die from preventable causes each year. Conditions like dehydration and pneumonia are fatal when their victims do not have the means to treat these illnesses. Mothers are also extremely vulnerable, with 800 dying each day from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Strong U.S. leadership is needed to reach vulnerable populations and lower these numbers further.
That’s why we’re thrilled that this week, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would help save even more lives – the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.
Known as the Reach Act, it is a bold policy initiative supported by more than 50 diverse non-profit and faith-based organizations including Save the Children Action Network and World Vision. It would dramatically accelerate the reduction of preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths worldwide – helping to achieve the global commitment of ending these deaths within a generation.
This bill does not authorize new programs funded by the American taxpayer. It simply ensures our government and partners are being as effective as possible in saving the lives of mothers and children around the world.
Taking lessons learned from other successful global health initiatives such as PEPFAR and the President’s Malaria Initiative, the Reach Act would enact key reforms that increase the effectiveness and impact of USAID maternal and child survival programs.
It would require a coordinated U.S. government strategy for contributing to ending preventable child and maternal deaths, establish rigorous reporting requirements to improve transparency, accountability, efficiency and oversight of maternal and child health programs. Further, the bill would ensure USAID focuses on increasing access to the highest impact, evidence-based interventions to maximize our return on investment.
Additionally, the bill would provide USAID with the authority to explore and implement new and innovative financing tools, such as pay-for-success contracting, to complement existing assistance and to help countries along the path to self-sustainability.
In this highly-charged and often partisan political atmosphere this bill is an opportunity for Congress to demonstrate America’s moral leadership abroad – creating a more stable society and, most importantly, saving the lives of mothers and kids.
Mark K. Shriver is president of Save the Children Action Network and Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S.