WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The head of the U.S. global development agency announced on Wednesday that he will step down from his post in February, saying he had “mixed emotions” about leaving but did not elaborate.
The youngest person ever named to head USAID, Shah, a 41-year-old medical doctor, served for nearly five years. He took over as USAID administrator just days before the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Shah initiated a number of new aid programs, such as Feed the Future, Child Survival, Power Africa and Development Lab but his agency took criticism for some of its lesser known Cuba-based efforts, according to a recent investigation by the Associated Press.
Shah’s announcement came shortly after the U.S. government said it planned to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and just hours before USAID contractor Alan Gross was freed after five years in a Cuban prison.
Gross was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced in 2011 to 15 years in prison for bringing banned telecommunications equipment into Cuba.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Shah “leaves USAID after making a dramatic mark - transforming this institution into one that’s more entrepreneurial, more modern, and more nimble, while promoting resilient democracies and bettling extreme poverty across the globe.”
Until a new appointment is made it is expected that Alfonso Lenhardt, deputy administrator of USAID, will serve as acting head of the agency.
Writing by Lisa Anderson, Editing by