Infant Mortality Down by Nearly Half Over 20-Year Period

The number of child deaths in countries where the U.S. Agency for International Development is active has fallen to 9.2 million per year from 15.2 million in the last two decades, the agency says in a new report.

This decrease corresponds with the launch of USAID and UNICEF's "child survival revolution." During this time, the Untied States has contributed $6 billion in 80 countries to programs addressing child health.

"Americans can be proud that tens of millions of children are alive and healthy because their tax dollars were wisely and compassionately used abroad," Acting Assistant Administrator Gloria Steele said in a speech commemorating the Day of the African Child yesterday in Washington. "The challenge now is to build on these successes to save the remaining millions of children who are dying needlessly."

Indeed, most of USAID's money has gone to helping African countries. Deaths have been prevented through the Presidential Malaria Initiative, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and other child health programs across the continent, including nutritional and vaccination programs.

The report also found significant improvements in neo-natal programs and programs dealing with the first few months of life. However, the report also found less significant advances in programs addressing infant health in the critical first month.

"Most of the significant gains of the first two decades of the child survival revolution were realized among infants and children between the ages of 1 month and 5 years. Much less progress occurred in the survival of infants in the first month of life, who are more vulnerable to threats to their health and survival even in developed countries. In the developing world, where more than half of all babies are born at home - often without medically trained attendants - newborns are even more vulnerable," the report found.

A focus on improving child's health, as well as overall health, in Africa is continuing in the Obama administration. The president recently announced a $63 billion global health initiative, aimed at improving health care around the world. Obama's 2010 budget proposal also heavily favors health programs.

About the author

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    David Francis

    David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, SportsIllustrated.com, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.