2008 Federal Employee of the Year

Richard Greene

Designed and launched the President’s Malaria Initiative, which has provided potentially life-saving services to more than 25 million vulnerable people.

Malaria claims the lives of 1 million people each year. Eighty percent of these deaths are children under five, and 80 percent are in Sub-Saharan Africa. What makes these losses even more tragic is the fact that malaria is both preventable and treatable. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Richard Greene is the day-to-day manager of an unprecedented government effort to fight this deadly disease. And it’s succeeding. Within its first two years, this effort provided services to 25 million children and pregnant women, and these services are having the ultimate impact: they are saving lives.

In June 2005, President Bush launched the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and pledged more than $1.2 billion over five years to reduce malaria deaths by 50 percent in 15 African countries. To achieve this goal, the initiative sought to reach 85 percent of children under five and pregnant women with the tools needed to prevent and treat malaria, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, anti-malarial drugs and indoor spraying programs.

The PMI is an interagency initiative led by USAID in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The effort is overseen by a coordinator appointed by the President. Greene, who was already running USAID’s central office to combat infectious diseases abroad, was chosen to develop the plan and launch the initiative.

When taking on a disease that kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds, it is not enough to simply purchase the insecticides, nets and medicines, and give them to countries that need them. To make the PMI most effective, Greene provided hands-on leadership to establish supply chains and other management systems that ensure these life-saving supplies reach the people that need them. The PMI trains residents in remote villages to become community health workers, who in turn educate the community and distribute the resources to prevent and treat malaria. The PMI also improves malaria diagnosis and treatment practices in public and private health facilities.

The results achieved during the first two years of this program have been remarkable. In its first year, the initiative reached more than 6 million people with insecticide-treated mosquito nets, spraying and therapeutic drugs. By the end of its second year, it had protected more than 17 million people through spraying, distributed more than 4.7 million insecticide-treated nets and distributed life-saving drugs to 6.2 million people. In year three, the program expanded from eight countries to 15.

Greene’s dedication and leadership were critical to the program’s early success. He led the day-to-day implementation of the plan, and is credited with mobilizing programs and helping to launch services in record time while tailoring different approaches to fit the needs of each individual country. He has led his own team from USAID, coordinating their efforts with staff at CDC as well as government officials in host countries and multinational institutions.

Greene’s work on the PMI is the pinnacle of a life spent in service to others around the globe. He began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Ivory Coast in 1978. After taking a job with USAID in 1984, he spent 15 consecutive years overseas in places ranging from Sudan to Cameroon to Bangladesh. He eventually settled in as the head of USAID’s Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition in the Bureau for Global Health, and he has put the agency on the cutting edge of addressing key global health issues.

The President’s Malaria Initiative and these other efforts represent America at its best, exemplifying the generosity of the American people and our commitment to helping those most in need. In that same vein, Richard Greene represents government at its best. He reminds us that when we come together in service of a common cause, we discover the best in ourselves and we can transform the lives of others across the globe.