Statement from USAID Administrator Shah

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
USAID Press Office
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov | Twitter: @USAIDPress

I want to thank President Obama for the honor of serving our country these past five years as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Thanks to his leadership and the extraordinary commitment of our nation’s development experts, America is the unquestioned leader in eliminating the scourges of extreme poverty, hunger, and child death worldwide. Recently, I informed President Obama and Secretary Kerry that I will step down as Administrator in mid-February 2015.

President Obama’s call to end extreme poverty—made in two State of the Union addresses — reenergized our Agency and elevated our work in the national security agenda. In the years since, we have seized upon this challenge, advancing a new model of development that harnesses the power of business and innovation to achieve this goal. With this new model, we have delivered meaningful results — from fighting hunger, to educating girls, to tackling climate change, to fighting for civil society and democratic values.

This transformation has unlocked human potential from Afghanistan to Haiti and accelerated progress:

  • Fighting Hunger: Instead of only giving away food in emergencies, we launched President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative to modernize our nation’s defining legacy of fighting hunger. We have improved nutrition for 12.5 million children, raised incomes for nearly 7 million farm families, and leveraged more than $10 billion from 200 global and local companies for African agriculture. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Feed the Future legislation — a powerful statement of bipartisan support for this new model. We have also achieved the most significant reforms in food aid in 60 years thanks to bipartisan leadership, giving us the flexibility to reach 800,000 more hungry children this year at times of crisis.

  • Ensuring Children Survive and Thrive: Over the last half-century, the global community has made remarkable progress in child survival, as the number of children who die before reaching their 5th birthday has fallen from 12 million children in 1990 to 6.6 million last year. To accelerate this rate of reduction, we narrowed our focus to 24 countries, increased our maternal and child survival budgets, invested in more than 80 new health innovations, and announced a realignment of $2.9 billion to save the lives of up to half-a-million additional children. Inspired by our shared mission, more than a dozen countries have launched their own data-driven strategies and increased their investment to ensure every child survives and thrives.

  • Expanding Access to Energy: Leveraging America’s own energy renaissance, we launched Power Africa to bring sustainable energy access and economic growth to sub-Saharan Africa. Our unique approach has already mobilized more than $20 billion in private sector commitments and helped countries make critical energy sector reforms. In a little over one year, Power Africa has financially closed over 3,000 megawatts of power projects and moved 15,000 megawatts of transactions into the planning stages.

  • Responding to Disasters: In response to an unprecedented level of humanitarian need, we have set a new standard for agility, speed, and innovation in times of crisis. In response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we launched the largest food distribution in history and the most effective urban search and rescue the world had ever seen. At the height of the 2011 famine in Somalia, we enabled more than 90,000 families to buy readily available food in their communities with electronic payments and helped turn a corner on the crisis — averting tens of thousands of child deaths.For more than two years, we have provided millions of Syrian families with emergency food and winter protection and supported over 300 field hospitals and clinics, where doctors work through the night to attend to the injured and sick. Through the No Lost Generation initiative, we are ensuring Syrian refugees, along with children from neighboring countries, have the opportunity to go to school. In response to the recent West African Ebola epidemic, we have coordinated the full capabilities of the American government behind a science-base approach to enhance our national security and tackle the virus at its source. Ten weeks ago, there were more than 100 new cases of Ebola every day in Liberia, and today there are fewer than 15. From the Fukushima earthquake in Japan to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to the 2010 floods in Pakistan, our team’s tireless focus and willingness to innovate have helped change how the world responds to crisis, saved countless lives, and continue to build resilience to future catastrophes.

  • Advancing National Security Priorities: From northern Nigeria to the Northern Triangle, we are tackling the root causes of insecurity and violence and serving in the forward defense of our nation. In Afghanistan, child and maternal death has been cut by more than half and eight million children go to school, including three million girls, compared to just 900,000 boys under the Taliban. Energy access has tripled, agricultural production is up significantly, and our support helps enable an effective transition for American troops. In Central America, a recent impact evaluation showed that our crime prevention efforts are making a difference in some of the world’s most dangerous communities.

We also created the U.S. Global Development Lab to engage a new generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and students in coming up with new ways to address the challenges we face. The Lab has invested in more than 100 ideas across 35 countries through the Development Innovation Ventures Fund, built a constellation of development innovation labs across America’s universities,and enabled us to host 65 fellows each year from the American Association for the Academy of Science — the largest cohort of any federal agency. The Lab has launched six Grand Challenges for Development, investing in high-impact innovations from a low-cost infant resuscitation device to new protective suits for Ebola healthcare workers.

Today, we are better positioned than at any other time in our 53-year history to solve the greatest challenges facing humanity. I am especially grateful for friends on both sides of the aisle who have embraced this new way of working—enabling us to recapture our budget, diversify our community of partners, bolster our emphasis on science and technology, and hire more than 1,100 new staff, from investment bankers to Silicon Valley innovators to world-class scientists. Together, we have embraced management reforms that do not garner much public attention but will help ensure our gains persist and our mission endures.

I have been privileged to work with a talented team of extraordinary colleagues over the last five years. Every day on the front lines of poverty and conflict, they demonstrate through their actions and sacrifices that we are an exceptional nation. I am grateful to each and every one of them. As we ensure a smooth transition in leadership, I am more confident than ever in the lasting effect of our work to enrich lives and change our world for the better.

Thank you. 

Last updated: February 12, 2015

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