USAID official promises GHI receptivity to countries’ own goals

Officials from the ministries of health from the countries of Nepal, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Mali discuss their countries initiatives to address health concerns at a panel on June 16 2011.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Global Health Initiative will focus more heavily on countries’ own goals for development, explained Amie Batson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID at a panel at the Global Health Council Conference on Thursday.

Batson spoke after health leaders from Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, Senegal, and Sierra Leone discussed their countries’ respective initiatives to address mounting global health needs at a panel that evaluated the need for countries to define their own goals for development.

“We are in agreement on country ownership,” said Batson, who is the head of GHI at USAID, as she addressed the top-level officials in the countries’ ministries of health, and the panel’s audience. Country ownership is one of the Initiative’s seven core principles. 

The GHI was designed, Batson explained, to guarantee that information was communicated across U.S. government agencies. Batson agreed that there has been fragmentation between projects, including those funded by US agencies. The U.S. would be working to ensure that there will be one unified plan that is consistent with the country’s development plan.

“We will not always be able to deliver the exact intervention that the country wants in the time frame that the country wants,” Batson said. “But we’re certainly trying.”

The countries presenting at the panel are all members of the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health (MLI), a part of the Aspen Institute, which helps countries partners with donors who would fund their global health priorities.

During the panel, representatives from the MLI countries explained the ways in which they had taken on their growing health problems.

For example, in Nepal, where the maternal mortality rate is high and more than 80 percent of children are born without skilled attendants present, the Ministry of Health executed a system of cash incentives for women to deliver in government health facilities.

In Ethiopia, the government trained more than 30,000 health extension workers to implement a community-based health care system in the rural areas of the country.

In Sierra Leone, the government launched free health care for all pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children under the age of five.

“There is no need to blame the donors,” said Dr. Francis Omaswa, co-chair of the conference, and the Executive Director of the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation. “It is up to the countries to spark their leaders.”