CAIRO: Egypt currently has one of the most successful and renowned health and family planning programs in the world, according to Holly Fluty Dempsey, director of the Office of Health and Population at USAID Egypt.
Dempsey was speaking at the launch of Egypt’s Health and Population Legacy Report, which documents the results of USAID health sector assistance in Egypt over the past 30 years.
“Three decades ago Egypt’s health problems may have seemed challenging and insurmountable,” said US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey.
The ambassador explained that Egypt currently has a legacy of achievements, among which is the infant child mortality rate which went from 124 every 1,000 in 1976 to 24 every 1,000 in 2008. She also cited the Safe Motherhood program, which was able to reduce the maternal mortality ratio in Upper Egypt by 72 percent between 1993 and 2008.
Scobey mentioned among the key legacies was the Infectious and Endemic Disease Control which was able to reduce the prevalence of Schistosomiasis, “a disease which has existed since the Pharaohs,” to less than one percent.
Furthermore, Scobey explained that they are placing systems which include planning protocols, surveys and research and “the key ingredient which is development of human capacity.”
“The success in Egypt during the past 50 years has been dramatic more than any other country in the world,” said Scobey, “I believe Egypt’s new institutions will be able to achieve a greater degree of transformation.”
“The emergence of a new political order in Egypt sets the stage for even greater improvements in the lives of Egyptians,” she said.
“The accomplishments, the institutional strengthening, the data and policy analysis and most importantly, the many new Egyptian health professionals and leaders, are a solid platform from which to launch new initiatives and innovations of many kinds. In the Egyptian health sector, the past can inform the future,” Scobey explained.
The Health and Population Legacy Report outlines and describes the work done throughout the past three decades by USAID and its Egyptian counterparts towards creating healthier families.
The report describes 10 important achievements in a variety of health-related areas, these are: fertility reduction and improvement sin reproductive health; safe motherhood; infant and child health improvements; infectious and endemic disease control and behavior change communications.
The achievements related to the health system development are quality improvement systems; health information systems and surveillance; strengthening survey and research capacity; human capacity development and health system reform.
It also includes lessons learned from Egypt’s successes that benefit other donors and countries.
“[The report] shows the unbelievable progress Egypt has made [which is] more than any other developing country…it is better, deeper, faster in development, towards MDGs, infant mortality rate and other advancements which we are privileged to be part of,” James Bever, USAID mission director in Egypt.
The report covers the history of USAID funding, consistent strategic objectives, high level political support and solid partnerships with Egyptians that have resulted in significant health improvements in Egypt. As documented by Egypt’s regularly released Demographic and Health Surveys spanning more than three decades, there have been declines in maternal mortality by more than 50 percent and in infant mortality by more than 70 percent.
Minister of Health Ashraf Hatem was present at the event and was presented a plaque of recognition and appreciation from Scobey.
“Gaps and challenges still exist and we will continue working on them through collaboration between governmental and non-governmental organizations,” said Hatem.
He explained that the USAID assistance to the health sector in Egypt has been the most successful of any form of foreign aid as it involves all stakeholders on the local level in order to develop sufficient policies that have national priorities.
“[We will continue working on] important health services and population policies that cope with the post January 25 era,” said Hatem.