What USAID's $2.9B maternal and child health 'realignment' means for you

Astan Traore receives a blood pressure checkup at the maternity ward of a health clinic in Mali. Photo by: Dominic Chavez / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

The U.S. Agency for International Development is reporting back from a two-year “blue ribbon” review of the agency’s maternal and child health programs on Wednesday.

As a result of the review, led by Ray Chambers, the U.N. special envoy for financing the health Millennium Development Goals and malaria, and which involved such other health luminaries as Paul Farmer and Helene Gayle, USAID will “realign” its $2.9 billion maternal and child health portfolio over the next three years in an effort to prioritize certain interventions over others, depending on a given country context — and, the agency hopes, save up to 500,000 lives.

But what does it mean the U.S. aid agency to “realign” almost $3 billion for maternal and child health?

“In terms of what we’re actually doing, this has been a process that has been underway for more than a year,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in response to a question from Devex during a media call ahead of the launch event. “What we’ve done, is we’ve taken specialized teams and sent them to many of the 24 high-priority countries in order to … find areas where we can improve the level of effectiveness for every American taxpayer dollar that’s expended and make those programmatic and partnership adjustments.”

The report includes outlines of those country-by-country findings and the priority areas they suggest.

Devex spoke with Katie Taylor, the agency’s deputy assistant administrator for global health, to learn more about what USAID’s $2.9 billion “realignment” entails. Taylor said that leaders of maternal and child health organizations should be pleased to see the priority areas the report clearly identifies in each country, since this should make the likely funding opportunities coming from USAID more transparent and “predictable” for implementing partners.

“The dollar number is really saying … we’re focused on 24 countries. Within those 24 countries we know we do significant work with the top 15 or 20 implementing partners. We have multilaterals and other donors with whom we need to align. Let’s be transparent, crystal clear about what we are aligning around,” she explained. “That’s where this report will be helpful, because the report … is really a framework for action on how we want to move forward and align.”

The $2.9 billion amount corresponds to USAID’s appropriated budget for maternal and child health-related programs in the 24 priority countries for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Future appropriated funding will also reflect the priorities outlined in the report, Taylor said. The agency is also emphasizing the “graduation” of 26 maternal and child health programs since the current administration took office in 2009, as many of those countries have transitioned from developing to middle-income status.

Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.