More:Calling All Probem Solvers -- Help Make Birth SafeSaving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development was launched today to seek innovative prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in rural, low-resource settings. This partnership leverages the collective resources of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and The World Bank.
Partners expect to provide nearly $14 million for this grant program's first round of funding. Over 5 years, the partners aim to invest at least $50 million in groundbreaking and sustainable projects with the potential to have a transformative effect on the lives of pregnant women and their babies in the hardest to reach corners of the world.
During today's event, Secretary Clinton said, "...I'm delighted to be here during International Women's Week to help launch Saving Lives At Birth, the first Grand Challenge for Development. I believe this partnership will spark revolutionary advances that can dramatically reduce maternal and newborn deaths around the world.
"Now, you may have noticed there's a lot going on in the world right now, and you don't exactly see global health leading the nightly news. But it should be, because improving the health of people around the world isn't separate or distinct from our foreign policy goals. Many of you have heard me say this over and over again, I've come here to AID and said it, I've said it on the Hill, I certainly say it all the time at the State Department and in the White House, but I can't say it often enough, because I see it so clearly, it to me is absolutely the case that we must make. It is essential to our foreign policy goals and to advancing our national security. We invest in global health to strengthen fragile or failing states. We have seen the devastating impact that AIDS has on countries stripped of their farmers, their teachers, their soldiers, their health workers, their professionals, as well as leaving behind millions of orphaned and vulnerable children.
"We see the impact that investing in global health has as it promotes social and economic progress and helps the rise of partners who can then turn around and work with us to solve regional and global problems, from climate change to violent extremism. And none of us needs to be reminded, I hope, of how quickly disease can spread in a world where every day, thousands of people step on an airplane in one continent and get off on another.
"Now of course, there's another reason why we do invest in global health. It is a powerful expression of who we are as Americans. It is simply unacceptable that millions and millions of people, women and children, die from conditions that we know how to prevent in a cost-effective way. So the Obama Administration has made a priority of improving health.
"We are building on the work started by President Bush with the bipartisan support of Congress on HIV and malaria. We are increasing investments through our Global Health Initiative which sets ambitious new targets for progress and focuses our funding on the areas where we believe we can have the most impact. We're intensely focused, as Raj has eloquently advocated, on reforms that deliver better results for less money, because we know in the 21st century our old approaches, as Melinda said, are not adequate. And it is somewhat ironic that in a time when 2 billion people have cell phones, we're still kind of going along in the horse and buggy. We cannot permit that to continue."
Secretary Clinton continued, "...In the developing world, birth can be terrifying because the onset of labor begins a very risky period for both the mother and her baby. Every year, some 358,000 women die during childbirth -- 1.2 million stillbirths and nearly a million more newborn deaths in just the first 48 hours after birth. So we've seen some progress, but those numbers are still shockingly high. I don't want to live in a world where nearly 1,000 women die in childbirth every day. Every woman, whoever she is, wherever she lives, should be able to give birth without the fear she's going to lose her baby or that her baby will lose her mother.
"Now, to reach the kind of scale quickly that we're talking about, we cannot solely rely on the traditional path of development -- building roads, infrastructure, hospitals; training highly skilled doctors and nurses -- because many of these deaths happen in the hardest to reach places, where there's no reliable electricity or even clean water. We need new ideas that chart a different course, and here are some of those ideas of breakthroughs that we are focused on.
"One breakthrough could help more women give birth with a skilled attendant. The evidence is clear that having a skilled attendant present during delivery greatly increases the chances of survival. Unfortunately, many women go without because they can't afford to pay the attendant. But in Kenya and Uganda, government health agencies already offer women low-cost paper vouchers that subsidize this critical care. But we could reach far more women if we could distribute those vouchers via text messages. By harnessing the powerful ubiquitous development platform that Raj talked about, we could dramatically expand the reach of care, giving any woman with a cell phone the chance to deliver her child safely.
"Another breakthrough could dramatically reduce birth asphyxia, problems with breathing that account for more than a quarter of the newborns who die at birth. Resuscitating a newborn can be a very delicate procedure, requiring significant training. So USAID and the National Institutes of Health partnered with Laerdal Medical to design and deliver a cheap resuscitation device that can be used with minimal training to help a newborn take her first breaths. This resuscitation device and the cell phone vouchers are the kind of simple, low-cost solutions that can become ubiquitous and make childbirth so much healthier.
"We want to generate dozens of these out-of-the-box ideas. We've identified some of the biggest barriers. Through the Savings Lives At Birth Grand Challenge, we're calling on the inventors and innovators, creative thinkers, whoever they are and whatever their expertise, to help us get beyond the barriers. Now, we're not interested in technology for its own sake. We will target our funding toward advances that can work in the developing world. They have to be affordable, sustainable, and scalable in even the most remote villages. It might be a way to use cell phones to keep mothers up to date on the best ways to care for their babies and themselves, or a new method for recruiting, training, and paying community health workers, or a new system for identifying pregnant women with severe complications and creating a transportation network to take them to a clinic or hospital. We're looking for dramatic impact that could increase access to healthcare for women and newborns by at least 50 percent. That is an ambitious goal, but that's what makes it a Grand Challenge.
"And this is just the beginning. There are so many other ways that we can benefit development through breakthroughs in science and technology. Imagine our collective wisdom working to provide lighting for the millions of people who live in darkness off the electric grid, or to educate children who will never, at this point in their lives, step foot inside a schoolhouse. So over the next two years, we'll be announcing a series of other Grand Challenges. And if you're a scientist or a technology expert or a dreamer or a creator or a garage inventor, keep your ears and eyes open."