Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah at World Vision Headquarters in Federal Way, Washington

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Subject 
Faith-Based Partnerships and Global Development

I came here to share a very brief message, and it's just, "thank you". The work that you do around the world really does represent the very best of American values. You know that -- and of course, so many people here in the community where you reside appreciate that -- but I just wanted to let you know that this Administration appreciates that. Certainly USAID as a partner agency is deeply proud of the longstanding and ever expanding partnership that we have with World Vision. I think that the American people value what you do on a day-in-and-day-out basis.

I'll talk a little bit about what's happening now in the Horn of Africa as just one expression of the importance of America's need to project our values around the world and introduce ourselves to the most vulnerable people based on what we represent deep down inside.

I'm thrilled that World Vision is also now a partner with us on some interesting new programs like Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, and the new Grand Challenge in Global Education, where we will together be launching challenge grants to promote science, technology and innovation in development. Many of the innovations come out of learnings from your 40,000 strong workforce all around the world--it's hard to even imagine that number, but it is such an impressive representation of what you do.

A few decades ago, when we were talking about the global development community, it was a smaller community. There was World Vision, of course, and other partners of faith. There were traditional humanitarian and NGO organizations. And there were major international agencies: USAID, our counterparts like the Bretton Woods institutions. But today that has evolved. Just my short trip to Seattle is an expression of that evolution. Private, philanthropic organizations play an increasingly important role.

I came here from Starbucks where we were talking with [CEO], Howard Schultz, about the incredible reach of their supply chains around the world and what it would take to really turn that reach into a dramatic force for good -- to achieve the kind of sustainable development that many of you fight for and implement in programs and projects wherever you go.

And we've just recently expanded our partnerships with a range of other faith-based organizations, like the Saddleback Church, where I spent a whole afternoon with Kay Warren and her leadership team talking about the range of activities they pursue, as they've sent 14,000 congregants every year on missions trips to serve around the world. In order to really capture the opportunity that represents, USAID has had to do some things very, very differently.

We know that our work is central and critical to our national security. We know that our work is central and critical to our economic future. President Obama hosted the President of South Korea just a few days ago for a State dinner at the White House. It's now the eleventh largest country in the world, where we've just concluded a free trade agreement that will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States.

South Korea used to be the largest recipient of USAID resources. We helped build the road infrastructure. We helped create university partnerships. We invested in a health system and development programs. Each of those are now areas where they are exporting their own development assistance to their partner countries around the world.

It doesn't take much to identify the opposite of that success story. On that same peninsula, at night if you look at the peninsula from satellite images, you see all this vibrant light in South Korea that represents human progress, and you see the darkness in North Korea.

It's easy for our military establishment to look at that darkness and see one of the few, but critical, threats in terms of nuclear proliferation. It's easy for our intelligence community to look into that darkness and wonder about the next generation of leadership and what kind of threats and extremist ideologies are emerging from that darkness.

And of course, those of you in this room know that when you look at that darkness with our lens on, you see a tremendous amount of suffering -- 50-plus percent childhood malnutrition rates and stunting rates, 30-plus percent severe acute malnutrition rates, which means: children starving.

We know that the work we do contributes to our economic prospects and our national security, but in order to do this work to that level of excellence, we have had to make some changes in how we work.

First-and-foremost, we have to change the way we partner. I've launched a set of reforms we call USAID Forward. This is a little game I like to play: Who here has heard of USAID Forward? You can be honest. Good. [laughter] Thank you. [laughter] [USAID Forward] is a set of serious reforms in how we do procurement, how we measure results, how we do country development cooperation strategies, how we budget our resources against the biggest opportunities for results and for impact.

At the core of that program is an effort to take billions of dollars and transition from a system that has grown, over time, a little bit out-of-control, where we didn't have the staff capacity to implement programs of excellence with partners that understood how to build local trust and local capacity, and what it meant to create the conditions where our aid and assistance were no longer needed -- and transition resources from, in many cases, private contract firms to organizations like World Vision that represent those 40,000 people around the world, and that know that ultimately trust-based relationships in the communities where you work makes all the difference between sustainability and something that disappears when American taxpayer dollars go away. We are committed to that transition.

When we make that transition, as we are aggressively doing in all parts of the world, we will be using American taxpayer dollars to generate better results, more efficiently and more effectively.

Those areas of results are critical, because right now in the Horn of Africa there's a famine -- we're going to show you a few slides in a moment, sharing my experience visiting there. We also know that future wars are going to be fought over lack of access to food and water. We know that we have a lot to offer in terms of creating sustainable food systems, and effective water management systems. We know that through Feed the Future we can help 18 million people move out of a condition of poverty and hunger, including 7.1 million children who would otherwise be stunted.

And I'll just say, I come from an immigrant family. My grandmother was four-and-a-half feet tall. It had never occurred to me that stunting was such a serious medical and physical disability. So when I went into communities and saw that 72-percent of the kids in western Guatemala are stunted, 43-percent of the kids in Ethiopia are stunted, that made me wonder, "What does that actually mean?".

We've now seen MRI brain-scans that show you what that means. That means that kids who are malnourished don't have the same amount of brain-matter as kids who are not -- their ventricles are larger, they have fluid where they should have neurons. As a result, they will never achieve the level of growth and vibrancy that they ought to as a child, and as an adult. The countries they live in will suffer a long-term hit to their economic prospects -- some estimate as much as 3-percent per year -- because of high rates of stunting inside their country.

So these results matter now more than ever, and we know now more than ever because of the work that you've done, and the work that we've done with a range of partners, about how to move beyond these conditions of poverty and suffering.

In health, we know that we have perhaps the greatest opportunity to save child lives over the next five to seven years, than we have ever had in human history. The combination of new vaccines, effective malaria control programs, the prevention of the transmission of HIV/AIDs from mother to children, and some basic work on sanitation and access to clean water, can reduce by almost 50-percent the 8 million children who die every year, under the age of five, needlessly.

I would just argue that you cannot have a safe and vibrant society in which to live -- a safe and vibrant global community -- if a girl born in Southern Sudan today is more likely to die in childbirth than to complete a secondary education.

And so it's with a great deal of respect that I come here to say thank you for what you do.

I'd like to take just a few minutes today to discuss my recent few trips to the Horn of Africa, because they have been moving and inspiring, but also they outline the scope and the scale of the challenge we face. Could we have some of the slides up here?

World Vision knows this map better than perhaps any other organization in the state, and I'm not going to go into it, other than to say that this has been the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in more than six decades. That's not an opinion, that's a fact. We've known that because we had the famine early-warning system established earlier that was producing this data back in October of last year, and we started to take significant actions.

Those actions, like vaccinating 330,000 livestock, trucking water into pastoral communities, introducing livestock purchase and meat-distribution programs, have helped nearly 4.5 million people in Kenya and Ethiopia suffer through drought, but avoid famine -- which of course, as you know, is not a weather condition, or a condition of food access, it's a rate-of-death for children; it means that more than two kids die out of 10,000 people every single day, every day. [next slide]

Then there's Somalia, precisely those areas that are under Al Shabab control, or where there are affiliated militias, we have an acute famine. That acute famine has meant that nearly 30,000 -- the UN estimates 29,000-35,000 children -- have died in the last three months. Now we know that 750,000 are at risk of death over the next six months. Because again -- and World Vision showed us through some of the studies that were done on your work in 1991 and 1992 -- when rains come, water-borne illnesses ravage deeply malnourished communities more than actual acute malnutrition. So when the world thinks the problem is solved, it's going to get worse. [next slide]

This is an intake center at the Dadaab refugee camp in Southern Kenya. There are now 490,000 people at this camp, with 1,500 joining every day; the camp was designed decades ago to hold about 80,000 people. These women and children, many of whom I had a chance to speak with, have walked 70, 80, even 100 kilometers, often with children in their arms to come for safety, for food, for medicine.

I met a woman in this line who actually had to choose which of her children to carry, because she couldn't take both. These are the kinds of things that we need more Americans to see, because we know that when Americans see this they react quite strongly. [next slide]

This is a medical center right next to that intake center, and you see a child who is too weak to be fed by mouth so they are getting food to a nasogastric tube and getting oral rehydration. We know these medical interventions save a lot of lives, so right now we're pushing significant health and medical interventions, vaccinations, oral rehydration, nursing care, medical care, as aggressively as we possibly can. We think we have vaccinated more than 1.5 million children, which will save more lives than perhaps any other action we've collectively taken.

But it wasn't until after I had talked to this woman that I observed that earlier that day she had lost her other child who was on the bed wrapped up. But there is hope even in this tragedy and it gets back to doing things differently. [next slide]

We're now working with PepsiCo, the Pepsi company, in Ethiopia to reach, at least initially, 30,000 chickpea farmers. They're going to produce chickpeas, and they're going to move themselves out of poverty, because they're going to sell those chickpeas to Pepsi. The World Food Program is going to buy about half of the product, to create a Plumpynut-like paste that will nourish these children. Pepsi will sell the rest of the product in their newly emerging Africa business.

Those are the kind of development models that bring policy reform, corporate logistics, smart product design, humanitarian actors, all together to have inclusive solutions that can scale and sustain and reach not just a few hundred kids in a camp, but tens-of-thousands of kids in a region.

You know better than anybody the power of scale. It's why your numbers [shared during World Vision's opening presentation] were so important. These are the types of interventions that will have access and impact at scale. It's the direction that we're moving in our food-aid, in our Feed the Future programs, and across everything we do at USAID. [next slide]

We're proud to partner with World Vision on the FWD Campaign, that stands for 'famine', 'war', and 'drought'. You can go to the website and learn more; FWD the facts to your friends and colleagues and family. You can make a contribution to a collection of organizations, which will include World Vision.

I'll conclude with this.

I started a few weeks before the Haiti earthquake. During that earthquake more than half of American families gave to the relief effort. I was with one of the senior marketing guys from the NFL, and I said, "that's more people than watch the Super Bowl together." [laughter]

You know what happened next. You know that when Americans see that we can do something about this kind of tragedy, we are the types of people who act. That's why you've raised $44 million for the Horn of Africa relief; it's why InterAction has raised a total of $60 million over and above that amount. It's why, ultimately, I'm here to seek your help in helping USAID, the Obama Administration, and our country's development enterprise do a better job connecting with communities of faith around this country.

We want to enable Kay Warren's 14,000 foot soldiers to go into communities like the Nairobi slums and provide healthcare services. We want to support your activities to build local capacity in local institutions with counterpart organizations from Uganda, to India to Latin America. And we want to make sure that if there's a church group, a faith-based organization somewhere in this country that wants to learn about development, that wants to engage on this tremendous mission, that we offer a platform that is inviting their engagement and supporting their efforts to learn.

That is a slightly different take on what Federal bureaucracy is "supposed" to do. [laughter] We're supposed to be inviting. We're supposed to connect Americans to counterparts around the world. As opposed to, presenting the big bureaucratic facade that can make it hard for people to understand how to link their energies and their aspirations to solutions for the kids we've seen in these photos.

Once again, thank you. I hope I have the chance to learn from you and take a few questions. And I'm just deeply, deeply appreciative of efforts you make every day. Thank you.

World Vision Headquarters, Federal Way, WA

Last updated: July 28, 2014

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