USAID head to speak at Sanford School
Rajiv Shah has served as USAID’s administrator for nearly five years, helping to solve hunger, high child mortality rates and childbirth complications around the world.
This week, Shah is visiting a USAID innovation hub right here in Durham. He will discuss “The Development Innovation Economy” at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Duke University is one of seven universities across the globe that are part of the Higher Education Solutions Network, a USAID program launched in 2012 to apply science, technology and engineering innovation toward solving worldwide problems. More than 400 academic institutions applied for the 7 slots.
“Duke was right at the top because of its incredible commitment to science, technology and innovation,” Shah said.
He oversees nearly 10,000 employees in 80 countries working in global health, agricultural productivity, disaster relief, economic growth, the promotion of democracy and combating extreme poverty.
Over the past decade, he said, USAID has transitioned much of its focus out of Southeast Asia and Latin America and into regions where many challenges remain, such as countries in Africa.
He said Duke inventions have helped USAID further its mission. The Pratt Pouch, which was created by a Duke engineering team and helps reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, will help deliver large-scale change on the ground, Shah added. The foil pouch holds infant antiretroviral medications and is currently being tested in Zambia.
The project is a seed grant nominee in this year’s “Saving Lives at Birth” USAID challenge, which showcases new ideas that will save the lives of mothers and newborns in developing countries.
Duke’s Pratt Pouch is one of 22 “Saving Lives at Birth” award nominees that were selected from 53 finalists. Awards will be announced in the next few weeks, according to USAID.
Shah also mentioned a project that was created out of the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke, a USAID development lab located in the Fuqua School of Business.
Changamka, Swahili for “Cheer Up,” uses prepaid electronic smart cards and allows the cardbearer to save money for pregnancy care, delivery and outpatient treatment. The smart card idea was created in response to the 7,000 women in Kenya who die every year from pregnancy-related complications.
“I suspect there are hundreds of students on the Duke campus that are even more motivated to be great at science and math and engineering if they see the skills they’re developing can help save a baby’s life or bring water to those who don’t have water,” Shah said.
“If they apply themselves through those types of challenges, they can really make a huge difference and make our world a more just place.”
The event is free and open to the public and will be held in the Sanford School of Public Policy's Fleishman Commons on West Campus. It will include an audience Q&A, followed by a reception. Parking is available in the Science Drive visitor lot.
The talk will be streamed live from the Sanford School webpage, http://news2.sanford.duke.edu/events/sanford/, or follow the talk on Twitter with @DukeSanford and @DIVatUSAID using the hashtag #USAIDatDuke.