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Administrator Rajiv Shah connects with religious leaders at White House briefing

Zeenat Rahman highlights a recent briefing where Dr. Shah addressed top religious leaders on the work USAID is doing in the Horn of Africa and the response to global health problems.

A girl born today in Southern Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than complete a secondary education. Religious leaders from around the country wrestled with that statement and other thought-provoking sentiments as they participated in a White House briefing earlier this week.  Brought together by World Vision, the leaders spent time hearing from top government officials about what we’re doing to partner together to reach the most vulnerable.  Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, welcomed the delegation and outlined his office’s programs and policy initiatives.  Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes followed with a synopsis of the President’s foreign policy agenda, including development efforts aimed at strengthening other countries’ ability to provide for their own people in the long term.  To hone in on development, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah reflected that,as long as statistics like the Southern Sudan example are true, we will continue to live in a volatile world and it is in America’s national security interest as well as part of our moral calling, to respond and do something about it. Here’s what USAID is doing:

  • 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the Horn of Africa in the next three months.  You can learn more about  USAID’s response and what you can do to help.
  • Investing in sustainable agriculture through Feed the Future.  This initiative focuses on long-term agricultural development to help mitigate and prevent crises like the famine from happening in the future.
  • Improving maternal and child health, combating HIV/AIDs and fighting to eradicate diseases such as polio through the Global Health Initiative.

In the words of Paul Tshihamba from Christ Presbyterian Church who attended the briefing, “It's become increasingly clear to me that if the challenges facing vulnerable children in resource-challenged communities around the world are going to be met, it's going to require concerted, focused, and sustained commitment of both the public sector and the faith-based community. I was extremely impressed by the commitment of the administration to work creatively to find effective solutions to tackling the big challenges of global poverty.”

For more information on this briefing or any of the initiatives addressed please email the USAID Center for Faith-based and Community Initiative at

Zeenat Rahman is Acting Director of Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Agency for International Development.