Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: July 30, 2015
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, today I am very pleased to be joined by my colleague from Delaware, Senator Chris Coons, in introducing the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015. The purpose of our bill is to improve the health and well-being of women and children in developing countries. Every day approximately 800 women will die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

In addition, more than 17,000 children under the age of 5 will die each day of treatable conditions such as prematurity, pneumonia, and diarrhea, with malnutrition being the underlying cause in nearly half those deaths. While progress has been made in improving the health of mothers and their children, it is a tragedy that so many preventable deaths still occur, especially given that there are many effective and established lifesaving maternal and child health protocols and policies.

These lifesaving interventions include clean birthing practices, vaccines, nutritional supplements, hand washing with soap, and other basic needs that remain elusive for far too many women and children in developing countries.

Our legislation would strengthen the American government's commitment to ending preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and young children in the developing world. There are simple, proven, cost-effective interventions which we know will work if we can reach the mothers and children who need them to survive. Our bill will also allow us to leverage greater investments from other parties, especially the private sector, partner governments, private foundations, and multinational organizations.

According to USAID, a concentrated effort could end preventable maternal and child deaths worldwide by the year 2035. However, U.S. leadership and support of the international community are critical to meeting this goal.

The U.S. Agency for International Development--USAID--has set an ambitious interim goal of preventing the deaths of 15 million children and 600,000 women in the next 5 years to ensure steadfast progress toward the ultimate goal. Due in part to American leadership and generosity, many lives have already been saved. Since 1990 the annual number of deaths of children under the age of 5 has been cut in half. Nevertheless, far too many mothers, newborns, and young children under the age of 5 still succumb to disease and malnutrition that could easily be prevented. The deployment of interventions that have proved to be successful must be accelerated.

Our bill would require the administration to develop a 10-year strategy to achieve the goal of preventing these deaths by the year 2035. Our bill would charge USAID with meeting that goal.

One provision of our bill would establish a maternal and child survival coordinator at USAID who would focus on implementing the 10-year strategy and verifying that the most effective interventions are scaled up in target countries. Our bill would also establish an interagency working group to assist the coordinator in promoting greater collaboration among all the Federal agencies involved in this effort.

To promote transparency and greater accountability, our bill requires that detailed reporting be published on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, where it can be assessed by the public, Congress, and nongovernmental organizations to track the implementation of the strategy and the progress being made.

Finally, the United States cannot and should not take on the goal of eradicating these preventable deaths alone. Our bill recognizes this reality and requires the administration to develop a financing framework which would allow the use of U.S. Government dollars to leverage additional commitments from the private sector, nonprofit organizations, partner countries, and multinational organizations. As other investments grow, the need for U.S. Government assistance would decline. At a time when we must make very difficult decisions regarding Federal priorities in our budget, this is an important and responsible provision that ultimately will reduce the reliance on U.S. Government contributions.

Improving the health and well-being of mothers and children around the world has far-reaching social and economic benefits as well. An independent group of economists and global health experts from around the world, known as the Lancet Commission, indicated that the return on investment in global health initiatives is very high. In fact, for every $1 invested, there is a return of $9 to $20 in growing the gross domestic product of the country receiving the investment.

Other global health initiatives, such as the successful President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which was started by President George Bush, demonstrate that results-risen interventions can turn the tide for global health challenges such as maternal and child survival. Taking lessons learned from past initiatives, our bill would provide the focus and the tools necessary to accelerate progress toward ending preventable maternal and child deaths.

I urge my colleagues to take a close look at the bill we are introducing today and to join Senator Coons and me in supporting this bill to save the lives of mothers and children around the world.

I yield the floor.


Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I wish to thank the Senator from Delaware for his very eloquent statement. I know how passionate he is about helping people, particularly in Africa. He has extraordinary expertise about that region of the world, about that continent, and has been there many times. I look forward to working with him to make this bill a law. It is bipartisan, and it should bring people together across party lines. I hope we will be able to get it signed into law this year.