BY: Raj Shah, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator
Ensuring the safety of a mother and her newborn is not only one of the greatest development challenges we face, it is also one of the most heartbreaking.
Earlier this year, I visited South Sudan, where I met school children studying in a classroom—some of them for the very first time. Although I was optimistic about their future, I was also concerned, because I knew that for every girl I met, she was statistically more likely to die in childbirth than complete a secondary education.
This reality is simply unacceptable.
There is an incredible need to ensure the safety of mothers and infants in the critical period of 48 hours surrounding birth. To help spur progress in maternal and child health, we launched our first Grand Challenge for Development – Saving Lives at Birth – in partnership with the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and The World Bank.
Saving Lives at Birth calls for groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in rural settings during this perilous time around childbirth. We received more than 600 proposals to our Grand Challenge, more than a quarter of which arrived from the developing world. Last week we announced our three transition-to-scale grant nominees. These nominees have proven that their ideas can deliver real results in local communities and are ready to test them on a much larger scale. While we expect our first round of grants to yield exciting innovations with the potential for significant change, we will encourage our community of innovators to push boundaries and find new ways to shape collective action.
Similarly, the Million Moms Challenge is inspiring American families to help mothers and children around the world. I am proud to accept this Challenge and will continue my commitment to this important cause.
I hope you will too.