The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Nairobi-based East Africa Regional Mission celebrated 50 years of improved global health today during a ceremony in Kampala, Uganda. USAID turns 50 in November, a milestone recognized by USAID staff and partners around the world as they reflect on achievements and next steps. The USAID/East African Regional Mission Director, Larry Meserve, spoke before officials representing Makerere University, the Regional Center for Quality of Health Care (RCQHC), the East, Central, Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA) , USAID’s implementing partners, USAID staff, and the media. USAID/EA’s regional partners also presented a selection of best regional health achievements.
USAID’s 50th was celebrated in conjunction with an Africa consultative workshop sponsored by the U.S. Government at the request of ECSA Ministers to develop regional harmonized Quality Improvement for Health standards. More than 130 doctors and nurses, deans of medical schools, nursing instructors, and representatives of national Ministries of Health from 12 African countries are meeting in Uganda this week to work together on this critical health issue. This event followed one held at U.S. Mission Uganda on September 15 that celebrated the anniversaries of both USAID and U.S. Peace Corps hosted by Ambassador Jerry P. Lanier.
Highlighting selected global health achievements over the last 50 years, Meserve said that USAID supported much of the research behind high-impact interventions such as oral rehydration therapy and zinc treatment for child diarrheal illness. Through sustained investments in 30 countries and ongoing technical leadership, USAID has made substantial contributions to the overall global reduction of child mortality, from an estimated 10.8 million child deaths in 2000, to 7.6 million in 2010, a decrease of nearly 30 percent. Moreover, thousands of women survive childbirth today, thanks to increased numbers of skilled birth attendants, and Maternal deaths have been averted through USAID-supported family planning programs that have decreased the average number of pregnancies per woman. Underscoring that diseases do not respect borders, Meserve said that USAID-supported immunization programs alone save more than three million lives every year.
“Achievements of this magnitude are helping to transform our world,” said Meserve.
Regarding progress in the East Africa Region, Meserve referred to the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative, which focuses on health outcomes especially for women, newborns and children. The focus of the initiative is on patients, not diseases. He praised two model policies passed by ECSA Health Ministers in 2010 with USAID/East Africa’s support, on gender based violence and fistula, scheduled to be adopted by the 10 ECSA member states. USAID/EA has increased family planning and reproductive health services to vulnerable women and girls in conflict and post-conflict areas in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. USAID/EA’s technical assistance to the Uganda National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory in Kampala has resulted in a nomination to join the TB Supranational Reference Lab Network of the World Health Organization as a candidate Supranational Reference Lab. When the lab gains full status, it will become one of only two supranational reference labs in Africa for diagnosing drug resistant tuberculosis.
Meserve spoke of USAID’s ambitious reform effort, ‘USAID FORWARD,’ that emphasizes new partnerships with local organizations, science, technology and innovation, with a relentless focus on results.
Related to these reforms, this week’s Quality Improvement for Health meeting was cited as an example of USAID’s ‘whole of government’ approach. USAID has convened multiple U.S. Government agencies to support this African led consultation, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Calling for greater access to quality health care for all in the East Africa region, Meserve said, “Everyone knows when they do or don’t receive quality health care, from the minute one walks into a small health clinic or an imposing hospital. Let’s strive to make quality health care for all, the norm, not the exception.”
Finally, he thanked his colleagues and USAID’s partners for helping to bring about positive change throughout the East Africa Region, and urged those assembled to capitalize on the health innovations that are developed and put in place every day by African-led and managed organizations.
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