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Your Money Saved That Kid’s Life

Five thousand miles from Washington, DC, in the African country of Niger, something very good is happening.

Niger is still one of the world’s poorest countries. It ranks second to last in the 2011 Human Development Index. But now a child born in Niger has a 43% greater chance of survival than he or she did a decade ago. And this is no ordinary feat.

A September article in The Lancet tells the story of how Niger reduced its child mortality by 43% from 1998 to 2009. The average annual rate of decline was 5.1%, which is even better than the 4.3% decline it would have needed to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4, and far greater than Niger’s neighbors to the east (Chad, 0.9%), west (Mali, 1.8%), and south (Nigeria, 2.0%; Benin, 2.2%; and Burkina Faso, 0.8%).

So in Niger, a child we’ll call Moussa is now able to live, grow, and maybe even thrive. His mother received free prenatal care and gave birth close to home in a rural health post staffed by a trained provider. He received good health care, went to school, and helped his community by becoming a teacher or maybe even a health worker. He’s a force for good in his country.

And Moussa is alive because of you.

Niger’s government deserves great credit for making child survival a priority. In the mid-1990s, Niger adopted a national policy for integrated management of childhood illness and in 2006 made health care free to all pregnant women and children. Beginning in 2008, paid community health workers were authorized to provide integrated community case management for children with fever, malaria, suspected pneumonia, and diarrhea. Nearly 2,000 community health posts were constructed between 2000 and 2007, staffed by paid health workers. These are just a few of the high-impact changes Niger has made.

But if you’re a US taxpayer, you deserve credit, too. Official development assistance from the international community to Niger rose a hefty 77% in 1998–2010, and the growth in funding for child health came from large increases by the GAVI Alliance and the Global Fund, as well as from small increases by a number of other donors. This aid helped Niger spend more on health—from $5.30 per person in 1998 to $9.10 in 2009, according to the Lancet article.

The US government played a key role in this, providing 30% of the Global Fund’s total contributions from 2001 to 2010. Two years ago, the US made a three-year pledge to the Global Fund that represented the largest increase of any donor nation. And the US provided 11% of the GAVI Alliance’s total direct contributions for the 2011-2015 period.

A decade ago Niger made child health a priority, and donors were there to lend a hand. You, the US taxpayer, have helped save Moussa’s life.