USAID/Egypt Health and Population: Legacy Review and the Way Forward
A panel of speakers discussed the long-term effects of USAID initiatives in Egypt, as reported in a new "Legacy Review," which details the past 30 years of USAID health sector assistance in Egypt.
McPherson and Laudato presented on the historical context behind USAID in Egypt and its legacies. McPherson pointed to three lessons that can be drawn from the recent report: "big payoffs" require long-term efforts, economic support for a country can have a dramatic impact, and together a country's commitments and investments can make a difference. He also stressed that programs targeted to address specific issues are more effective than cash grants. Laudato spoke on the achievements of USAID in Egypt, aided not just by American funding but also by the Egyptian government making health development a priority and the gradual increase of domestic monetary investment.
Zahran noted that the USAID efforts in Egypt were "just one sector of a fruitful partnership" between the United States and Egypt that he hoped would continue to address Egypt's needs. He stated that the success story outlined by the report was reflective of improvements in coordination and addressing specific goals.
Other panelists outlined the successes of USAID in Egypt as they related to their own areas of expertise. Curtin, an expert in demographics and health outcomes, noted the dramatic improvements in a range of health sectors, citing in particular the rise in the contraceptive prevalence rate, the decrease in both maternal and infant mortality rates, and increased immunization rates. Matta focused on improvements to the quality of maternal health, which she stated relied upon better technology and increased fact-gathering to identify the key factors regarding maternal health. El-Saharty outlined three strategies that fostered improvement across Egypt's health sectors: increasing the number of health professionals in Egypt, gathering information on health systems, and restructuring models of health insurance.
Concluding the session, Batson discussed the lessons that other development initiatives can draw from the legacy of USAID efforts in Egypt. She highlighted the importance of country ownership, in which the developing country engages with other institutions and religious and political leaders at both national and local levels, and of policies that fund routine monitoring and evaluation. She also outlined the possibilities of innovation and South-South sharing on a local and international scale, referencing inroads made by two recent initiatives: the "MAMA" mobile device program launched by Secretary Clinton in May 2011 to assist with maternal health; and the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development initiative launched by USAID in partnership with several other organizations in March 2011.
By Laura Rostad, Middle East Program
Member, Senior Foreign Service and USAID/Egypt Health Legacy Review Team
Nahed Mattta //Senior Maternal and Newborn Health Advisor, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Senior Health Policy Specialist, The World Bank and Management Committee Member, USAID Egypt Health Legacy Review
Professor and Director of Environmental Studies, Ohio University; Former ECSP Director