Save the Children: State of the World's Mothers 2011 Report

Why investments in maternal and child health care in developing countries are good for America

The United States spends only one half of 1 percent of the federal budget fighting global poverty yet reaps big rewards, according to the leading voices from academia, politics, religion, business and the arts featured in Save the Children’s 2011 “State of the World’s Mothers” report.

US Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and former US senator and governor from New Jersey, Democrat John Corzine point out that largely thanks to the United States’ bipartisan global leadership, the total number of under-5 deaths worldwide have already dropped by more than one-third in less than two decades. Of the 15 countries who receive the most US development assistance, 14 have achieved reductions in child mortality ranging from 20 to 77 percent since 1990.

Among the report’s “Champions for Children” are Professors Robert Black and Henry Perry from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — a PMNCH partner institution — who argue that the most basic, cost-effective improvements to health care systems can save millions of lives: a cadre of community health workers, with only six weeks training and a few basic tools, for instance, can reduce child mortality by 24 percent or more.

“We now know that community health workers have the capacity to be the difference between life and death for millions of children. What is needed now is the leadership and political will,” they say.

Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, President of Malawi, holds up his nation as proof that even the poorest countries, facing the most daunting health challenges, can become child survival success stories when governments make strategic choices and work effectively with committed international partners.

Retired Army Col. John Agoglia argues that it’s in America’s national security interests to continue making investments that improve women’s chances to survive and progress. “Better health for a woman means more productivity and optimism, which make it more likely her children will go to school. The family income rises, and radical solutions seem less appealing,” he says.

Professor Peter Singer, who teaches bioethics at Princeton University, refutes the common myth that saving children is somehow at odds with protecting the environment.

Former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy argues US development investments are critical to the future of the US economy. She states: “Most new-income growth will come from developing countries and US corporations are increasingly dependent on that fact.” Today, 10 of the world’s 15 biggest importers of US goods and services are countries that formerly received aid from US assistance programs.

Best-selling authors Rick and Kay Warren (The Purpose-Driven Life), urge people of faith to join the effort to save mothers’ and children’s lives.

US Representative Donald Payne notes in sub-Saharan Africa, two decades of improvements in health, education and incomes have saved the lives of an estimated 7 million children since 2005. And a Texas mom shares the inspiring story of her own daughter’s survival, using the proven “Kangaroo Mother” technique that is saving thousands of premature babies in the developing world.

Although the United States puts more total dollars toward overseas development assistance than any nation, it gives only 0.2 percent of its gross national income. That’s a smaller share than 18 other wealthy donor nations.

Millions of children are alive today because of past investments in lifesaving programs. But each day, 22,000 children still perish, mostly from preventable or treatable causes. While many countries are making progress, many still need help. Save the Children’s 12th “State of the World’s Mothers” report identifies countries that are lagging behind in the race to save lives, shows that effective solutions to this challenge are affordable — even in the world’s poorest countries — and urges Americans to continue investing in women and children, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it makes good sense.