In 1961, noting that the myriad existing U.S. foreign aid programs were so "Bureaucratically fragmented, awkward and slow" that "no objective supporter of foreign aid can be satisfied with the existing . . . . multiplicity of programs," then-President John Fitzgerald Kennedy rolled all existing U.S. foreign aid entities into a new agency dedicated to long-term development. And so, 50 years ago this month, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, was born. Its mission was to "assist the economic and social development of the less-developed areas of the world."
For half a century, USAID has been a quiet force for progress around the world, working relentlessly to improve and save millions of lives across the globe, demonstrating how investments in international development and its global health efforts are changing the world for the better.
Over the years, USAID sponsored programs to vaccinate children against preventable diseases, coordinated efforts to address malaria, and played a significant role in the eradication of smallpox. The Agency helped develop a life-saving oral rehydration therapy program for children sick with life-threatening diarrhea that saved thousands of lives.
In collaborating with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, USAID helped to provide antiretroviral therapy to 3.2 million people, and to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission to 114,000 newborns.
USAID has also helped improve crop yields, helped farmers bring their produce to market and artisans to sell their goods abroad. It has partnered with local governments to build essential health and education systems, to improve governance, and fostered sustainable and broad-based economic growth.
"We have proven that nations can escape the grip of poverty," Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech honoring USAID's Golden Anniversary. "We no longer ask what the U.S. can do for you; rather, when I meet with these leaders, I ask, what can we do with you?"
"The vision for the modern development enterprise is to create conditions where our assistance is no longer needed, replaced over time by efficient local governments, thriving civil societies and vibrant private sectors," said USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah. "We’re using science, innovation, entrepreneurship and ingenuity to create game-changing solutions that will build better lives for millions of people around the world."