Weekly Briefing (7/9/2012 – 7/13/2012)

July 9: In advance of World Population Day on July 11 and the London Summit on Family Planning to begin the same day, the Financial Times reported on efforts to provide reproductive health services to women worldwide. According to the report, approximately 215 million women in developing nations who are seeking contraception cannot get it. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who is attending the summit, was quoted as saying, “Family planning has been a huge determinant of long-term development. We have an obligation and a real need to do a better job.”

July 11: New York Times Columnist, Nicholas Kristof, highlighted President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative and the work being performed by USAID to address global hunger and food security. Specifically, in Malawi, USAID is working with local farmers to promote new crops and methods to address the root causes of food insecurity. “President Obama has made agriculture a focus of his foreign aid programs,” reports Kristof. “These initiatives are smart, cost-effective and potentially transformative.”

July 11: At a Summit on Family Planning, convened by the Government of the United Kingdom and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States, through USAID, joined over 20 other developing countries to make commitments to boost spending on family planning and to strengthen women’s rights to ease their access to contraception. The Guardian reports that the commitments made at the summit “will result in 200,000 fewer women dying in pregnancy and childbirth, more than 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies, over 50 million fewer abortions and nearly 3 million fewer babies dying in their first year of life

July 11: Speaking on PBS Newshour, Assistant to the Administrator, J. Alex Thier discussed the future of development in Afghanistan. Thier stressed that it was important for U.S. officials working in Afghanistan to develop working relationships with their Afghan staffs and counterparts. USAID has developed a program to return willing officials to Afghanistan to build on their existing connections and their understanding of the culture. Thier’s comments came after the recent international donors’ conference in Tokyo, where major contributions were pledged to continue to assist Afghanistan.

July 12: In an interview with The Wall Street JournalUSAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discussed ways to improve food security in India.  Shah cited that in addition to increasing agricultural production and productivity, addressing food security at the household level is necessary to ensure families have access to nutritious foods.

July 12: Shortly after returning from the donors conference on Afghanistan that took place in Tokyo last weekend, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg discussed women’s rights on the Diane Rehm show.  Steinberg was joined by Ritu Sharma, president of Women Thrive Worldwide, and Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, director of the Women in Public Service Project at Wellesley College.  The discussion focused on the Taliban’s recent execution of an Afghan woman and the international community’s efforts to promote women in Afghanistan and around the world.

July 13: The Caribbean Journal and the Puget Sound Business Journal highlighted the success USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have had in introducing mobile money in Haiti. The Mobile Money Initiative allows Haitians to make payments, as well as send and receive funds by using their mobile phones. The technology has played a central role in the country’s recovery, after the January 2010 Earthquake.