WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Chris Coons (D-Del.), , Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and, all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced legislation on Thursday to create innovative financing mechanisms, such as new development impact bonds, aimed at increasing private-sector investment in maternal and child health programs in developing countries. The Accelerating Action in Maternal and Child Health Act is an innovative concept centered on the notion that even a small early investment in the care of a mother or child will reduce healthcare costs over the long term.
According to the World Health Organization, 6.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year from preventable or treatable causes, and more than 800 women die every day from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The overwhelming majority of these deaths occur in the developing world, and countries in Africa have the highest burden.
“Substantial U.S. investment in maternal and child health — both in the U.S. and around the globe — has saved millions of lives and delivered extraordinary results,” Senator Cardin said. “In the 24 countries where USAID focuses on maternal and child health, we have reduced the number of preventable child and maternal deaths by half. But we cannot stop now. This bill ensures that our cost-effective and life-saving interventions can continue into the future.” Senator Cardin chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
“Even after impressive progress in the quality of health care being offered to pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in some of the poorest parts of the world, it’s clear that more help is needed,” Senator Coons said. “We need to be investing more in USAID’s remarkable public health work. America’s foreign assistance needs to evolve and innovate to meet today’s challenges and respect our nation’s fiscal limitations. Innovative financing mechanisms like development bonds are a creative way to get the private sector more involved in global health and reduce the cost to taxpayers. This bill will help us help more young families survive and stay healthy.” Senator Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
“Over the past two decades, child mortality has been reduced by nearly 50 percent and maternal mortality has been reduced by 40 percent, thanks in large part to United States Government action and intervention,” Senator Graham said. “In the last three years, 24 priority countries — 10 of which are in Africa — have achieved an 8 percent reduction in under-5 mortality, saving 500,000 lives. This legislation is an innovative way to accelerate this trend.”
The Accelerating Action in Maternal and Child Health Act calls on USAID to establish a strategy to prevent maternal and child deaths in 24 priority countries in the developing world, and authorizes the design and establishment of innovative financing mechanisms. For example, USAID and private donors around the world would purchase the bonds with funds provided either to the host country or to the NGO administering the health program. Host governments or donors would pay the interest back on the bonds. As private-sector investment grows, the need for U.S. government investment would decline.
“There is tremendous momentum on improving maternal, newborn, and child health worldwide, and we want to keep moving forward,” said Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network. “Too many children die on the day of their birth and too many women’s lives continue to be cut short every day from causes that are entirely preventable. It is clear we need to do more.”
According to the World Health Organization, the leading causes of maternal mortality in low-income countries are post-partum bleeding, infection, and hypertension. Amongst newborns, the leading causes are infections, premature birth, and asphyxia, and amongst children under age 5, the leading causes are respiratory infections (commonly from pneumonia), diarrhea, and malaria. Malnutrition is the underlying contributing factor in about 45 percent of all child deaths, making children more vulnerable to severe diseases.