Bills aim to end preventable child and maternal deaths



The country in which a baby is born should not determine how long she lives. Now Congress has an unprecedented opportunity to make sure it doesn’t.

A new bipartisan bill has been introduced into both houses of Congress entitled the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015.

In the Senate, S-1911 was led by senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware). In the House, HR- 3706 currently has 25 Republican co-sponsors and 29 Democratic co-sponsors.

Both bills aim to end preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035.

Unlike many of the world’s problems, this is one we have the power to solve and we have made some incredible progress.

With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), global partners and advocacy groups like RESULTS, the number of children worldwide under the age of 5 dying annually has fallen at an astonishing rate, from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013.

But with 17,000 children worldwide still dying each day — mostly from treatable causes like diarrhea and pneumonia – much work remains.

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 and the companion version which was introduced in the House in October will set important reforms into law.

The legislation supports doing more of what we know works, including quality prenatal care, management of labor and delivery, and basic treatments necessary for child health.

For the first time in history, experts and scientists agree it is possible to stop these avoidable deaths once and for all. Lawmakers should seize this incredible opportunity and pass this common sense, cost-effective and, most importantly, lifesaving legislation.

Working with its partners in developing countries, USAID has long been at the forefront of helping stop child and maternal deaths.

However, a 2014 report from a blue ribbon panel, a group of high-level business and development experts, identified a series of specific budget and management challenges impeding faster progress. These include a highly decentralized planning and decision-making process, a lack of flexibility, and fragmented data collection that makes it difficult to measure progress.

USAID has already made changes including creating clear benchmarks for success, appointing a coordinator to manage the entire strategy, and realigning $2.9 billion in funds to support a bold target of saving the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women by 2035. This is major progress. The Reach Act will hold USAID accountable to its promises into the future and ensure that ending preventable maternal and child deaths remains a United States priority after the Obama Administration is gone. This legislation will maximize our investments, with returns measured in lives saved and healthy prosperous communities. If they work quickly to pass these bills, members of Congress can make sure that every single child in the world has a chance not to only survive, but thrive.

It is hard to imagine a more powerful legacy for this Congress and the people of New Jersey. Let’s call on representative Chris Smith to co-sponsor the Reach Act so New Jersey can take its place in history by giving all children a chance to survive and thrive.

Phyllis AlRoy is a group leader for RESULTS in New Jersey and the recipient of the Bob Dickerson National Grassroots Leadership Award for her nearly 30 years of child survival advocacy work.