WASHINGTON — After five years in the position, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Rajiv Shah stepped down in mid-February. Shah entered the role shortly after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, where he oversaw the largest food distribution operation in history in response to the natural disaster. Before this, he was the director of the agriculture development program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“It was President Obama’s call to end extreme poverty — made in two State of the Union addresses — that reenergized our Agency and elevated our work in the national security agenda,” said Shah in a statement regarding his departure.
“In the years since, we have seized upon this challenge, advancing a new model of development that harnesses the power of business and innovation to achieve this goal. With this new model, we have delivered meaningful results — from fighting hunger, to educating girls, to tackling climate change, to fighting for civil society and democratic values.”
Under his leadership, USAID has made great progress around the world, including:
- Introducing the “Feed the Future” initiative to improve nourishment for 12.5 million children
- Introducing the “Power Africa” initiative to aid in providing maintainable energy for sub-Saharan Africa
- Introducing the “No Lost Generation” initiative to help Syrian refugees receive adequate education
- Forming the U.S. Global Development Lab, where life-saving innovations from around the world are developed
- Reducing crime in some of the most unsafe countries
- Reducing child and maternal death
- Providing aid for victims in emergencies such as the famine in Somalia and the Ebola breakout in West Africa
Shah’s work was recognized at 2014’s U.S. Global Leadership Coalition dinner, where he was an honoree. Having already announced his departure at this point, the dinner became somewhat of a send-off for Shah as Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina spoke at the dinner about how USAID’s progress needed to be maintained in Shah’s absence.
Although Shah has yet to cite a reason for leaving his position, he says he feels that USAID is at the best place in its 53-year history “to solve the greatest challenges facing humanity.” While a replacement for Shah has not been determined yet, they will certainly have big shoes to fill.
– Melissa Binns
Sources: Devex, USAID