This marks my first trip to Russia since I took on the role of Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Europe and Eurasia Bureau. I’m very pleased to be back here, at a time when there is a lot of optimism about the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations.

Today I met with Russian experts and NGOs that are partnering with USAID to reduce maternal and infant mortality, improve reproductive health, and reduce the number of children living in orphanages and on the streets. These are priorities for both Russia and the U.S., and an important area of collaboration under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last July.

I was impressed by the leading role that Russian organizations such as
the Institute for Family Health, the Healthy Russia Foundation (HRF) and the National Foundation to Prevent Cruelty to Children (NFPCC) are playing in these projects. With USAID support, these NGOs are making a significant contribution to Russian government efforts to improve maternal health and promote family-based care for vulnerable children. They also have long-standing partnerships with American health organizations that have helped nurture and strengthen their capacity and sustainability. These peer-to-peer relationships are so important for helping us learn from each other and improve the health and lives of women and children.

It’s also exciting to see how USAID health partners are using technology to reach remote regions of Russia. The University Research Corporation (URC) showed me their new web platform, which helps specialists track and monitor neonatal health. And NFPCC’s website will soon include an online blog where Russian policy makers and social workers can discuss how to develop better services to prevent child abandonment and move children from orphanages to family homes. Other health groups are expanding their reach, including in the regions where Internet access is still limited, through text messaging. HRF is building a partnership with private sector, government and NGO partners to launch text4baby here in Russia, which uses mobile phones to provide pregnant women and new mothers with information about prenatal and newborn care. Russia is a big country and it’s great to see how technology can bring people closer and solve problems with such great impact.

There are so many possibilities for partnership here in Russia! I’m looking forward to listening, learning, and exploring new opportunities with our Russian partners during the rest of my visit.