Foreign Assistance

Contributions to Child Survival Are Significant, but Challenges Remain Gao ID: NSIAD-97-9 November 8, 1996

Funding provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has helped reduce child mortality in the developing world, primarily through health initiatives centering on diarrheal rehydration, immunization, and nutrition. However, USAID defines child survival activities so broadly that infrastructure projects with only a slight connection to child survival, such as railroad construction, are included in the $2.3 billion that USAID has spent since 1985 on child survival. In addition, some countries with significant child mortality rates, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, have not received assistance for child survival.

GAO found that: (1) since 1985, AID has classified obligations totalling over $2.3 billion for activities in at least 83 countries as child survival; however, due to the way Congress directs funding to child survival, particularly since 1992, and AID's approach to tracking and accounting for such funds, it is not possible to determine precisely how much is actually being spent on child survival activities; (2) between 1985 and 1995, AID reported that it spent about $1.6 billion, or 67 percent of the child survival funds, for four types of activities: immunizations, diarrheal disease control, nutrition, and health systems development; (3) AID also reported that about 41 percent of the total amount identified as child survival has been used to address the three major threats to children under age 5 in the developing countries: diarrheal dehydration, acute respiratory infections, and vaccine-preventable diseases; (4) during GAO's field visits, it also noted that part of the cost of rehabilitating a railroad bridge and constructing a water tower in Mozambique and carrying out urban sewerage projects in Egypt were identified as child survival expenditures; (5) AID said the projects in Mozambique were critical for reducing child mortality because they supported access to water, food, and health services; (6) AID and other donors have made important contributions toward improving child mortality rates in many countries; (7) in 9 of the 10 countries receiving the most AID mission-level child survival assistance since 1985, mortality rates for children age 5 and under have dropped; (8) in addition, 5 of these 10 countries achieved mortality rates by 1994 of 70 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, a goal set for the year 2000 at the World Summit for Children; (9) both AID and independent evaluations have pointed out successes, such as collaboration with other donors to immunize children and promote oral rehydration therapy in the treatment of diarrheal disease; (10) in fiscal year 1995, AID's child survival funding was used in 17 countries that had an under-5 mortality rate of 70 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births; (11) AID mission-level funding for child survival in these countries was $89.5 million, or 31 percent of the total child survival funding obligated in that year; (12) on the other hand, many countries that were far from achieving the goal, did not receive assistance for child survival; and (13) according to AID, most of these countries did not receive assistance because AID did not have a program in the country, had closed out assistance, or was in the process of closing out assistance due to budgetary or legal reasons or because sustainable development programs were not considered feasible.

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