AIF’s New York gala raises $1.47 million for its poverty alleviation work in India

Some 500 guests, among them business executives, investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders, attend the event.

From left to right – Emerging Leader awardee Krishna Veeraraghavan, Corporate Leadership awardee Rohit Kapoor, AIF community health worker Mamta Mahato, and MasterCard President & CEO Ajay Banga.

The annual New York gala of the American India Foundation raised $1.47 million for the organization’s poverty alleviation work in India. About 500 guests, including some of the most influential Indian business leaders, executives and investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders, attended the event held at Pier Sixty on June 21.

The gala highlighted AIF’s Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI), a public private partnership that is designed to reduce maternal and child mortality in rural, impoverished areas by ensuring that new mothers and infants have the care they need to prepare for, survive, and thrive during and after pregnancy.

“Thank you for your overwhelming support in backing critical programs, like MANSI. This initiative is pragmatic, high impact and just good public health without gimmicks or short cuts,” said Alex Counts, the President and CEO of AIF. “It is AIF at its best.” He noted that MANSI involves local governments, Tata Steel Rural Development Society and the Indian non-governmental organization Society for Education, Action, and Research in Community Health (SEARCH).

AIF honored all of the sahiyas (health workers) of MANSI for their community-level work to promote maternal and child health. AIF Co-Chair Ajay Banga, President & CEO of MasterCard, thanked supporters for their generosity and encouraged those in attendance to continue contributing to AIF. “Some of you are frontline workers for us. For others, this is an act of engagement; it is your support. We have events throughout the year and across the country,” said Banga. “We can do much more to deepen ties between the United States and India. Moments of civility are what binds us.”

Ethan Allen CEO M. Farookh Kathwari (left) with AIF Board Members Ajay Banga (center) and Raj Sharma.
Ethan Allen CEO M. Farookh Kathwari (left) with AIF Board Members Ajay Banga (center) and Raj Sharma.

The evening also featured remarks from other prominent leaders who lauded AIF on its long-term success in fighting poverty for the most marginalized people in India. These leaders included Rohit Kapoor, Vice Chairman and CEO of EXL Service Holdings, who received AIF’s Corporate Leadership Award, and Krishna Veeraraghavan, Partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP who received AIF’s Emerging Leader Award. MSNBC Anchor & NBC Business Correspondent Ali Velshi engaged the audience throughout the evening as the Master of Ceremonies.

In order to educate the 500 attendees about the accomplishments of MANSI in advancing public health, Mamta Mahato spoke of her experience as a sahiya in her village in the Indian state of Jharkhand. “When I was 11 years old, my aunt had a very beautiful little daughter, Sapna. One day, when Sapna was only 3 months old, she got a cough and cold. Nobody in our village knew what was wrong and nobody could help, and soon she died,” said Mamta. “Now, because of my training through MANSI, I know that Sapna had pneumonia. And if someone in the village had some training, Sapna could have been saved. I can proudly say that I have learnt a lot, and my knowledge and skills have saved so many lives. I wish other sahiyas not only across Jharkhand but also across India can get this MANSI training.”

According to UNICEF, nearly a quarter of all maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. Newborns whose mothers have passed away are far more likely to die in the first two years of life than newborns whose mothers survive. MANSI’s focus region is the landlocked state of Jharkhand, where dense forests and hillsides insulate agricultural villages from access to healthcare facilities and contribute to India’s second highest maternal and infant mortality rates. In villages covered by MANSI, there has been a 46% decrease in the neonatal mortality rate, a 39% decrease in the infant mortality rate, and a 44% decrease in the child mortality rate.

MANSI utilizes a public-private partnership to provide the resources and support required to empower local communities to care for their mothers and children while improving the local health system. MANSI provides preventative and curative care for both mothers and newborns from individual households to government health facilities. This initiative equips villages with a trained community health worker to provide home-based care for identification and management of neonatal and childhood illnesses, and strengthens individual and family knowledge to promote positive health behaviors.

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi and Alex Counts, President & CEO of AIF discuss the impact of AIF’s Maternal and Newborn Survival Initiative.

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