24 May 2011
By M. Scott Bortot
Staff Writer, Department of State
Washington — A review by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) of its work to assist health sector programs in Egypt shows that long-term efforts yield positive results.
On May 23, development officials familiar with Egypt’s health sector participated in a panel to discuss USAID’s “Egypt Health Legacy Review” at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
M. Peter McPherson, a former USAID administrator, said that enduring and effective development involves detailed planning.
“Economic support funds, the political foreign policy funds of the foreign aid programs, can have very dramatic developmental impact,” McPherson said. “When you tie together a country’s commitments with a project and a portfolio, you can really make a difference.”
The “Egypt Health Legacy Review” presented data that looked at a 32-year period of USAID assistance to Egypt’s health sector. Compiled by interviewing USAID employees and Egyptian government officials and reviewing program documents, the review looked at 10 health areas that demonstrated sustained, positive outcomes.
Partnerships play a major role in enhancing the effectiveness of USAID health programs. Nahed Matta, a senior maternal and newborn health adviser for USAID in Egypt, said teamwork helped to eliminate polio in Egypt.
“I witnessed a great collaboration effort between USAID, WHO, UNICEF and Rotary International, led by the [Egyptian] Ministry of Health,” Matta said.
Through this collaboration with the Ministry of Health, infant deaths were reduced from 124 per 1,000 births in 1976 to 24 by 2008, and Upper Egypt saw a 72-percent decrease in the maternal mortality ratio between 1993 and 2008, according to the review.
Leslie Curtin, a former USAID Foreign Service officer and review co-author, said efforts to develop Egypt’s health sector produced wide-ranging results.
“What I find so remarkable about these achievements is the breadth and the depth of these demographic and health outcomes,” Curtin said. “Each segment of the health sector has produced such enormous progress and this, in turn, has had an incredible synergistic effect on improving the health of all Egyptians.”
USAID also worked to achieve enhancements in health systems development, including primary health care services and disease surveillance. Sameh El-Saharty, a senior health policy specialist at the World Bank, said health sector successes stem from quality management.
“It is important to understand that these results were not achieved in a vacuum,” El-Saharty said. “There were systems that were great, effective management and institutional capacity that were put in place in order to achieve those results.”
Motaz Zahran, a political counselor at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, said as Egypt undergoes change, further cooperation with USAID is likely.
“At this particular juncture in Egypt’s history, we probably need, as much as we did in the past, efforts of both sides to continue towards development in times of fiscal, financial, economic crisis,” Zahran said. “This partnership is probably going to see much more fruition in the future.”