Senator Collins Questions USAID Administrator about Preventing Maternal and Child Deaths
Washington, D.C. - At a hearing to review the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, questioned the Administrator of USAID, Samantha Power, on the effectiveness of the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, bipartisan legislation she introduced last Congress, that would strengthen the United States’ efforts to end preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and young children in the developing world by 2030. Specifically, Senator Collins emphasized the critical reforms needed to increase the success and impact of USAID's maternal and child survival programs.
At the hearing, Senator Collins:
I want to return to the issue I mentioned in my opening statement about the fact that millions of lives are unnecessarily lost each year, globally, due to preventable maternal and child deaths. While progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality rates, recent data suggests that these improvements are slowing.
In response, the chairman and I, in the last Congress, introduced the REACH Act, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act. We're going to be shortly reintroducing that bipartisan bill. It proposes critical reforms to increase the effectiveness and impact of USAID's maternal and child survival programs. It would require a clear, coordinated government-wide strategy for ending these preventable deaths, and ensuring that USAID focus quickly on scaling up the highest impact, evidence-based interventions. I mentioned three of those, clean birthing practices, vaccines, and nutritional supplements. The bill would also require the appointment of a maternal and child health coordinator. My question is, do you support those goals? Do you think legislation, along the lines of the REACH Act, would be helpful?
African countries are going to spend $70 billion in debt service payments this year; which is more than the total that they will receive in development assistance. Why do I mention that in the context of your question? That is not a non sequitur. It means that, again, these health systems that have been decimated by COVID, it is precisely on areas like maternal and child health that we see that their inability now, to have the budget space to restore those systems, or to make more substantial investments. It is precisely on areas like maternal and child health where we see the effect on lives lost.
The FY'24 request, there is $910 million included, specifically, for cost-effective and proven lifesaving interventions, to strengthen delivery systems, to accelerate the reduction of maternal newborn and child health. This, unlike some areas in development, is a very gratifying one to work in, because you really see the impact. We know what works. Your bill, I think speaks to much of this. It's a question of resourcing those investments, scaling them, getting to the last mile and to more remote areas. I think the bill- we're very grateful to you for your leadership in this domain. Thankful not only for your introducing this legislation, but your whole career of really being emphasizing maternal and child survival. Our Bureau for Global Health is looking at the bill. We think it is broadly aligned with our efforts.
As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins is pressing forward with Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget request. These hearings provide an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and will help guide Senators Collins and Murray’s efforts to write the annual government funding bills.
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