I recently glanced back at the ‘year in review’ we shared at the end of 2020. At the time, we had no idea the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic would continue to permeate almost all aspects of our lives in 2021. Yet as another tumultuous year comes to a close, Evidence Action is looking ahead. Having adapted the implementation of our programs to the ‘new normal’, we’re now diving headlong into our ambitious organizational strategy, and our goal to double our impact by 2024.
Despite global challenges, we’ve made great strides this year and I am incredibly proud of how every member of the Evidence Action team has continued to embody our organizational values, which keep us anchored to our mission and focused on our impact.
Your support has been vital to our accomplishments, highlighted below, and will continue to be crucial as we work to reduce the burden of poverty through evidence-based and cost-effective interventions. Thank you for supporting our vision for a world where hundreds of millions of people in the poorest places have better opportunities and their lives are measurably improved.
Wishing you and yours a safe and healthy 2022.
Chief Executive Officer
Around 525,000 children under five die from diarrhea each year, often due to unsafe water. For less than US$1.50 per person per year, Dispensers for Safe Water provides over 4 million people in rural Africa with free access to safe water. We estimate the program has averted over 3 million cases of diarrhea and nearly 2,500 deaths among children under five from 2016-2020. This year, new evidence has emerged suggesting our impact is even greater than we thought. A working paper by Johannes Haushofer, Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer, and colleagues shows water treatment in Kenya reduced child mortality by 63%. A forthcoming meta-analysis looks at this study along with many others, and finds an average reduction of ~30%. The researchers estimate Dispensers for Safe Water is 20x more cost-effective than WHO’s “highly cost-effective” threshold.
Every year, mother-to-child transmission of syphilis results in 200,000 neonatal deaths and stillbirths and 100,000 children born with lifelong disabilities. Much of this suffering can be prevented through a US$0.50 penicillin shot – but, often, women don’t know they’re infected. Most pregnant women are tested for HIV and, for just US$0.35 more, an HIV-only test can be replaced with a new dual test that yields results for HIV and syphilis within minutes. In partnership with the Government of Liberia, we’re acting urgently to scale up dual testing and syphilis treatment. We’ve revised the national testing guidelines, completed a successful pilot, and started work to ensure prenatal care facilities have the drugs, diagnostics, and training needed. We’re aiming to reach all prenatal care facilities in the country by early 2023, and to increase syphilis screening from 6% to 80% of pregnant women within five years.
Deworm the World has continued to adapt to COVID-related school closures. In India, we helped the government shift from school-based treatment to a model where children are treated at home, which entailed rapidly training over 1 million frontline health workers. In Kenya, we mobilized rapidly when schools reopened to help the government deliver a deworming round targeting 2.8 million kids in just three weeks. We’re now back to business in all geographies, aiming to have reached over 229 million children by the end of the year. We’re also excited to see Pakistan leading the way in mobilizing domestic resources for deworming, and delighted that Deworm the World has been named a GiveWell top charity for the ninth year in a row.
The leading cause of disability among children in low- and middle-income countries might surprise you – it’s iron deficiency, which is the most common cause of anemia. Rigorous evidence shows iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation works, so the challenge isn’t finding a treatment – it’s getting an effective treatment to children who need it. In India, we’re leveraging our existing deworming platform to help state governments scale up IFA supplementation, delivering the two interventions at a combined cost of just US$0.60 per child and aiming to see 24.8 million children receiving weekly IFA supplementation by 2023.
The global development sector has a heavy focus on access to water through ‘improved’ sources such as taps, boreholes, and protected springs. However, as highlighted by the New York Times earlier this month, untreated groundwater (even from an improved source) is often still contaminated with diarrhea-causing pathogens. For Evidence Action, ‘safe water’ means safe to drink – drinking water must be treated for everybody, regardless of where they live. Our chlorine dispensers ensure poor rural communities without piped infrastructure have access to safe water. Now, our Accelerator is piloting in-line chlorination – a new intervention that chlorinates water as it passes through piped systems – to make sure poor urban and peri-urban communities do, too.
David Matabwa in our Malawi office captured this value when he said, “When you are passionate about your work, you give it all your heart”. In this special video, Evidence Action team members from around the world share what our vision, mission, and values mean to them.