USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for USAID

Working to Beat Ebola Along the Border

Border crossings like this one at Bo Waterside in Liberia were closed for six months due to the Ebola outbreak. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Border crossings like this one at Bo Waterside in Liberia were closed for six months due to the Ebola outbreak. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Liberia’s main border crossings officially opened February 22, bringing to an end six months of prohibited international foot and vehicle traffic put in place by the Ebola crisis. But the actual opening of the borders did not happen as one would have expected.

At Bo Waterside—a small town on the Liberia side of the Mano River which divides Liberia and Sierra Leone—people didn’t see or hear trucks and taxis sputtering legally across the border for the first time since August. Instead, sounds of hammering rang through the air.

Migrant workers, farmers, and fruit sellers like this little boy use the borders every day to make a living. When the borders closed, business suffered. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Migrant workers, farmers and fruit sellers like this boy use the borders every day to make a living. When the borders closed, businesses suffered. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

It turned out that Sierra Leone had yet to declare its side of the border open. While immigration officials waited for the official word, an NGO called Global Communities—with support from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance—was hard at work building Ebola screening and triage stations to ensure travelers from both sides of the border would be effectively monitored for Ebola symptoms. Local officials approved of the new measures.

“We expect an influx of people,” said Charles Brooks, a security commander at Bo Waterside. “It’s safer [this] way. We need to take preventative health measures and have a more secure border.”

The USAID-supported NGO Global Communities is beefing up Ebola preparedness at the border by building screening and triage stations. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

USAID supported Global Communities to beef up Ebola preparedness at the border by building screening and triage stations. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Because merchants, farmers and migrant workers routinely cross borders to make their living, the prevention of cross-border Ebola transmission has become a priority for affected governments and communities, as well as for response organizations.

At the Bo Waterside border crossing, Global Communities is beefing up preparedness at border checkpoints with hand washing stations, a temperature screening booth, and holding rooms for suspected cases. The screening and triage stations also have a disinfection team on hand and an ambulance on call to transport potential Ebola patients. The triage and screening stations are being run by another USAID partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

MEET THE TEAM: USAID also partnered with IOM to run the screening and triage stations along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

MEET THE TEAM: USAID also partnered with IOM to run the screening and triage stations along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

“Once we get to zero cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, borders will be the key to maintaining zero in the region,” said Doug Mercado, leader of USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team. “That’s why the work we are doing here is so critical.”

Global Communities is also working closely with traditional leaders and local health officials to track the movement of people using informal border crossings, especially in far-flung communities. In addition, the organization is trying to foster coordination and information sharing on multiple levels.

TEST RUN: Hygienist Mustapha Wiles with IOM tests out a disinfectant sprayer on Global Communities Contact Tracing Coordinator Abbiseh Pitte in preparation for the border opening. / Alice Urban, Global Communities

TEST RUN: Hygienist Mustapha Wiles with IOM tests out a disinfectant sprayer on Global Communities Contact Tracing Coordinator Abbiseh Pitte in preparation for the border opening. / Alice Urban, Global Communities

“We are not only partnering with Liberia’s immigration service to support official border crossing points, but we are also working at the community level to support surveillance and coordination where people cross informally,” said Global Communities Program Manager Michael Fogbawa.

A Liberian man waits with a shipment of water sacks on the Mano River Bridge. With the borders closed back in February, he was unable to take his truck across to Sierra Leone. / Alice Urban, Global Communities

A Liberian man waits with a shipment of water sacks on the Mano River Bridge. With the borders closed back in February, he was unable to take his truck across to Sierra Leone. / Alice Urban, Global Communities

When the borders finally opened at Bo Waterside, Musa Kamera was pleased to see activity once again in the tiny town. With a shop a few hundred yards from the Mano River Bridge, she sells popcorn balls, pasta, rice and other snacks. The sound of the cars and trucks now crossing the bridge means more income for her and her family.

“Business has been bad with the border closed,” she said. “I am happy the border [is] open.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Urban is a communications and reporting officer with Global Communities.

Young Storytellers and the Power of Literacy

A Rwandan child reads with his teacher. / Jackie Lewis, EDC

A Rwandan child reads with his teacher. / Jackie Lewis, EDC

Editor’s Note: Parts of this blog post originally appeared as a longer feature story from Education Development Center (EDC).

The tale “Old Woman and a Hyena” tells the story of a Rwandan mother and her four sons who live in terror of a marauding hyena. Each day, while the sons are away hunting, the hyena comes to the family’s hut and steals their food. The boys are hungry but too scared to confront the creature. One day, the sons finally muster up the courage to fight the beast—and it is the youngest who finally kills it. He is then richly rewarded by his mother, for though he had been the most scared, he was the one to show the most bravery.

In a land with an oral history as rich and beautiful as the hills that roll across it, this tale is special—it was written by an 11-year-old boy named Francois Hakizimana.

Andika Rwanda, a national writing competition, was popular because it presented a nationwide opportunity to improve reading and writing in a way that was culturally relevant and important. / Jackie Lewis, EDC

Andika Rwanda, a national writing competition, was popular because it presented a nationwide opportunity to improve reading and writing in a way that was culturally relevant and important. / Jackie Lewis, EDC

Hakizimana was one of the winners of Andika Rwanda (Rwanda Writes), a national writing competition that captured the minds (and pens) of young and old storytellers alike. Three thousand entries of original children’s stories and poems poured in;12 winners were honored at an awards ceremony last fall. Their entries have been professionally illustrated and published in a book that will be distributed to every primary school in the country.

The competition was organized by Education Development Center’s USAID-funded Literacy, Language and Learning project in partnership with the Rwanda Educational Board and the Rwanda-based book distributor Drakkar Limited. Since 2011, the project has worked to improve literacy education in Rwanda through development of instructional materials, teacher training, policy development, and delivery of education materials directly to Rwandan communities.

According to Jackie Lewis at Education Development Center, Andika Rwanda was so popular because it presented a nationwide opportunity to improve reading and writing in a way that was culturally relevant and important.

“Rwanda prides itself on homegrown solutions,” she says. “Many schools have a shortage of storybooks, especially for younger children, and especially ones written by Rwandans in the local language of Kinyarwanda. The competition was meant to generate locally authored stories for primary school children, as well as contribute to a culture of reading and writing.”

Rwanda Literacy Week celebrated reading and writing across the country. / Jonathan Padway, USAID

Rwanda Literacy Week celebrated reading and writing across the country. / Jonathan Padway, USAID

A Global Effort

Rwanda is a success story and representative of the education work being done in dozens of other countries around the world. In addition to the Andika Rwanda competition, USAID supports many other innovative teaching and learning tools that target basic literacy and numeracy skills at the primary level. These efforts are focused on improving school quality now that Rwanda has increased access to education – in 2012, 96.5 percent of children were enrolled in primary school, and girls were enrolled at a slightly higher rate than boys.

Literacy isn’t just about kids, either–it’s about the economy, too. The Government of Rwanda has laid out ambitious plans to create a knowledge-based economy built on a skilled workforce that will allow Rwanda to compete both regionally and internationally. A literate population is the foundation of these efforts.

Improving literacy can also play a critical  role in addressing other issues faced by developing countries, including gender equality, economic growth, environmental sustainability, health and food security. Unfortunately, illiteracy is still widespread, with disadvantaged groups – including girls, minorities and people living with disabilities – suffering the most.

This is why, for decades, USAID has been a global leader in improving reading for developing countries. The Agency’s strong focus on reading is in itself an innovative practice. Driving and supporting a strong focus on reading puts us in the forefront of educational development.

On this Leaders for Literacy Day, we must remember the importance of policies that advocate for quality and equality in learning for all children and youth, so that stories like Hakizimana’s turn from extraordinary to commonplace.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christie Vilsack is the Senior Advisor for International Education at USAID working to ensure ALL children have access to a quality education. Follow her @ChristieVilsack.

Filling the Void: Thinking About Limited Data in the Developing World

Ryan Zimmerman, third baseman for the Washington Nationals, on his way to homeplate to be mobbed by his ecstatic teammates after hitting a game-winning home run against the Atlanta Braves on opening night at the inaugural game played at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. / Kevin Harber, CC

Ryan Zimmerman, third baseman for the Washington Nationals, on his way to homeplate to be mobbed by his ecstatic teammates after hitting a game-winning home run against the Atlanta Braves on opening night at the inaugural game played at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. / Kevin Harber, CC

Watching baseball’s Opening Day this week reminded me of how the sport sparked my passion for numbers and statistics at an early age. One of my science fair projects way back when was on a (very limited) statistical analysis of whether or not expansion teams to Major League Baseball benefited pitchers more than batters.

While the use of sabermetrics is relatively new to the game (I’d highly recommend reading Moneyball if you haven’t already), statistics have been a part of baseball since the 19th century and are as much a part of the game as hot dogs and athletic cups.

The greats of baseball were defined by their stats, from their tally of home runs or stolen bases to the number of World Series they led their teams to. Listening to or watching baseball games, you’ll hear the commentator pull some of the most ridiculous statistics, which makes you think about how each part of the game is tracked in incredible detail — down to which team’s players sport the most facial hair.

Students participate in a local mapping project in Haiti in 2013. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

Students participate in a local mapping project in Haiti in 2013. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

With all the data that’s collected and pored over for baseball and other sports in the United States, you would think data would be as easily accessible across all areas. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, especially for our work in developing countries. When working with statistics about the developing world, you find a lot of holes due to a whole host of problems. And for the data we do have access to, much of it is outdated or unreliable, as mentioned in a report released by the Center for Global Development last summer:

“But nowhere in the world is the need for better data more urgent than in sub-Saharan Africa — the region with perhaps the most potential for progress under a new development agenda. Despite a decade of rapid economic growth in most countries, the accuracy of the most basic data indicators such as GDP, number of kids attending school, and vaccination rates remains low, and improvements have been sluggish.

This is a problem especially apparent as the United Nations cultivates the Sustainable Development Goals, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. In order to determine progress toward the 17 goals, the United Nations needs to collect good data to track a wide range of indicators. In the search for good data, it must accept imperfection as is done with plenty of statistics and data in the developed world.

As USAID, other agencies and donors conduct evaluations and analyses to identify critical areas or assess projects effectiveness, the work can often be hindered by the lack of (usable) data.

George Washington University geography students help USAID and the World Bank map Kathmandu by tracing satellite imagery using online tools for the Open Cities project / Jessica McConnell Burt, GWU
George Washington University geography students help USAID and the World Bank map Kathmandu by tracing satellite imagery using online tools for the Open Cities project / Jessica McConnell Burt, GWU

To address the data void, USAID is finding new and innovative ways for collection and measurement. For instance, the USAID GeoCenter has been engaging with university students in the United States and host countries through mapathons to chart unmapped areas of the world, such as Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines. The mapping data, openly shared, provide USAID and partners with better baseline information for monitoring projects. When combined with household surveys, the data can improve analyses and understanding of specific areas of vulnerability within a country.

The development community is far from reaching the level and reliability of statistics collected on Major League Baseball, which has been allowing general managers, coaches and fantasy baseball fanatics to make more informed decisions to improve their teams for decades.

By concentrating efforts to alleviate some of the systematic problems that lead to a lack of data in the first place, the development community would not just be improving access to reliable data, but would be solving some of the underlying problems of developing countries in the first place.

With more abundant, reliable and geocoded data about the developing world, USAID and other organizations can make more informed decisions about how to better target poverty, helping us reach the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Chafetz is a Program Analyst in USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment. Follow him @achafetz.

How Guinea’s Journalists are Fighting to Win the War Against Ebola

Before coming to USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, I worked as a TV news correspondent for more than 12 years. I covered everything from school shootings to presidential inaugurations and worked alongside some pretty incredible journalists.

But, while serving on the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in Guinea, I met a group of local reporters who, with help from USAID, is taking dedication to news reporting to a whole new level. Here are three reasons why they are so amazing.

Meet the Ebola Chrono news team! Their radio show is breaking new ground as they were the first Guinean journalists to report from inside an Ebola treatment center. / Internews

Meet the Ebola Chrono news team! Their radio show gained more listeners and respect after they reported from inside a busy Ebola treatment center. / Internews

1. They are Breaking New Ground

Since January 2015, USAID has been partnering with a non-governmental organization called Internews to work with journalists in Guinea to produce a news magazine show called Ebola Chrono. Televisions are scarce, so radio is the best source of news here. Ebola Chrono is broadcast in French by 56 radio stations across the country.

In Guinea, where Ebola rumors abound and suspicions about the response are the talk of the street, the eight-member Ebola Chrono news team wants to set the record straight. The team’s mission aligns with one of USAID’s main priorities in the Ebola response: strengthening the communication of information about the outbreak.

According to Pierre Mignault, a veteran journalist now working with the team, Ebola Chrono is filling a gap he feels existed on the Guinean airwaves.

“What was missing here was solid, factual information about the response,” Mignault explained.

Five days a week, the news team produces in-depth stories about the Ebola response, covering topics such as vaccine trials, community resistance and Ebola containment efforts along the border. Reporters routinely hit the road to pursue leads and get interviews from people affected by the disease. The goal of the show is to bridge the information gap and present Guineans with reliable stories in a way that speaks to them.

“I don’t see what I do as just a job,” News Director Afiwa Mata Ahouadjogbe told me. “Everyone is concerned about Ebola. If I can contribute to help people, to empower people to get rid of Ebola, then it’s my duty to do it.”

2. They are Venturing into Unchartered Territory

In Guinea—and in the rest of the world, for that matter—fear of Ebola runs rampant. Many Guineans believe the disease is part of a wider conspiracy to kill unsuspecting citizens and harvest their organs. Ebola treatment units, or ETUs, are rumored to be the place where such alleged atrocities take place.

Enter Asmaou Diallo who is among that special breed of reporters who go the extra mile to get the story, even if it means possibly putting herself in harm’s way. When Asmaou and her team reported from inside Donka—one of Conakry’s busiest ETUs—people tuned in.

Reporter Asmaou Diallo goes the extra mile to get the story. After she filed in-depth reports from inside an Ebola treatment unit, other reporters followed her lead. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Reporter Asmaou Diallo goes the extra mile to get the story. After she filed in-depth reports from inside an Ebola treatment unit, other reporters followed her lead. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

“That was revolutionary because nobody had ever been in the center. No one would go into a place like that,” said Diallo. “But we wanted people to have confidence in the system.”

Diallo and her team produced a three-day series that gave a step-by-step, first-hand account of everything that goes on inside an Ebola treatment center, from triage to treatment and beyond. The team also covered what happens to those who die, explained the process of safe and dignified burials, and interviewed Ebola survivors and family members of the sick.

Ebola Chrono reporter Asmaou Diallo interviews a health care worker from inside the Donka Ebola treatment center in Conakry. / Internews

Ebola Chrono reporter Asmaou Diallo interviews a health care worker from inside the Donka Ebola treatment center in Conakry. / Internews

But just as compelling as her reports was the fact that Diallo entered an Ebola clinic and came out alive. This not only raised eyebrows, it also raised the bar for reporting as other reporters soon followed her lead.

“A lot of things have changed,” Diallo explained to me. “We went to Donka, and we deconstructed the rumors around the centers. Other reporters are now doing the same thing. The impact is that more people know what is happening inside, and now more people go to the centers to get treated.”

3. They are Making an Impact

Many members of the Ebola Chrono news team were local radio reporters prior to being selected to take part in the USAID-funded program. But they tell me their mentor Mignault is helping them to become stronger journalists.

During the morning editorial meeting, reporter Mohamed Komah talks about the story he’s working on.  Pierre Mignault with Internews (left) says this is the best team he’s worked with. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

During the morning editorial meeting, reporter Mohamed Komah talks about the story he’s working on. Pierre Mignault with Internews (left) says this is the best team he’s worked with. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

“I learned ways to strengthen my reporting, like how to use interviews and ambient sound to make stories come alive,” said Diallo. “I also learned the importance of going out to gather content and verifying the information I receive.”

When I asked Mignault whether all this hard work is paying off, he told me there’s a growing appetite in Guinea for solid news reporting. Case in point: some radio stations are airing Ebola Chrono more than once a day. Others are broadcasting the program during primetime slots. And more listeners have been texting or calling in questions about the stories they hear.

Announcer Amadou Korkabah (right) and chief technician Kone Mamadou do a sound check inside a homemade studio built by Mamadou. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Announcer Amadou Korkabah (right) and chief technician Kone Mamadou do a sound check inside a homemade studio built by Mamadou. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

“As far as I’m concerned, this is the best team I’ve worked with,” said Mignault. “They’re very strong, dedicated. They believe they have a rendezvous with history. They know they can make a difference.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Han is the Strategic Communications Team Leader with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Moving Beyond Ebola: Rebuilding Liberia’s Health Care System

A Liberian nurse prepares to go inside an Ebola patient ward to draw blood from confirmed patients for testing in Bong County last October. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

A Liberian nurse prepares to go inside an Ebola patient ward to draw blood from confirmed patients for testing in Bong County last October. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

In early March, global health leaders cheered as Liberia announced it had zero cases of Ebola. After weeks with no new cases, however, the Liberian government confirmed on March 20 that a patient had tested positive for the disease.

With the ongoing possibility of future Ebola cases, now is the time to build momentum toward a stronger Liberian health system that can stop the disease in its tracks before it turns into another large-scale outbreak. That’s where frontline Liberian health care workers Dorbor Dennis and Richard Mulbah come into the picture.

Over five days in February, Richard and Dorbor were trained to become experts in the critical skills in infection prevention and control (IPC) that all Ebola-fighting health care workers need to stay safe while preventing future epidemics. The curriculum included instruction on how to correctly use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as suits, masks and gloves.

USAID is teaming up with Jhpiego, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, to teach critical infection prevention and control procedures to Liberian health care workers. / Kelly Dale, Jhpiego

USAID is teaming up with Jhpiego, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, to teach critical infection prevention and control procedures to Liberian health care workers. / Kelly Dale, Jhpiego

They, along with 19 colleagues, will take what they learned in Monrovia back to eight counties in Liberia to conduct their own trainings for county and district health teams. In turn, those trained will work together to conduct refresher trainings at county facilities and provide guidance and mentorship—all to make sure lessons learned are being practiced on a day-to-day basis.

Marie, a training participant, learns how to put on personal protective equipment during a practice session. / Kelly Dale, Jhpiego

Marie, a training participant, learns how to put on personal protective equipment during a practice session. / Kelly Dale, Jhpiego

Think of it as a multiplier effect to make sure as many health care workers as possible get and maintain the skills needed to keep patients, and themselves, alive. The program aims to boost the IPC skills of more than 3,200 health care workers from hundreds of Liberian health care facilities.

Dorbor knows firsthand how such skills can save a life. He cared for a dozen fellow health care workers who had been infected with Ebola — and then he looked after their patients, too.

“I only had informal training in wearing and removing PPE, and no buddy to assist me, no one to disinfect me,”  Dorbor recalled. But he knew the importance of his work and the value of keeping himself safe.

“Today I ask myself, ‘why was I not infected?’” he said. “Because I carefully followed all of the IPC procedures I knew. I only wish these procedures were institutionalized in the health care delivery system of Liberia and her neighbors.”

Richard watched four nurses, including his own brother, die from Ebola. Then, the unthinkable happened—his wife became sick, too.

Health care worker Richard Mulbah gets his graduation certificate after completing the USAID-funded training. / Chandrakant Ruparelia, Jhpiego

Health care worker Richard Mulbah gets his graduation certificate after completing the USAID-funded training. / Chandrakant Ruparelia, Jhpiego

“Fortunately, my wife recovered,” Richard said. “But it is because of these experiences that I have taken an interest in advocating for proper IPC practices in health facilities in Liberia.”

The IPC training is part of a program funded by USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and led by Jhpiego—an international health nonprofit organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. Besides teaching correct use of PPE, the curriculum includes instruction on proper hand washing, disease screening, triage and isolation techniques and safe and dignified burial practices.

Trainees break into small groups to learn about proper infection prevention and control. / Kelly Dale, Jhpiego

Trainees break into small groups to learn about proper infection prevention and control. / Kelly Dale, Jhpiego

A health system is only as strong as its workers. Richard and Dorbor, alongside the county and district health teams supported by Jhpiego and USAID, represent substantial momentum toward a stronger and better-prepared health system in Liberia.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Dale is a Senior Program Coordinator with Jhpiego, a nonprofit organization associated with Johns Hopkins University that USAID is partnering with for the West Africa Ebola response.

FrontLines: Foreign Aid Impact in U.S. and Abroad

A worker at the Banko Gotiti Cooperative in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region of Ethiopia holds a handful of ripe red Yirgacheffe coffee berries. Credit: Marcelo Pereira / USAID Agribus Market Develop

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn some of the ways entrepreneurs, corporations, universities, diaspora groups and others work hand-in-hand with USAID to help the Agency fulfill its mission in countries around the world—and how those efforts boomerang back to the United States. Some highlights:

  • More than 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year on this planet and Ethiopian growers are hard at work to get more of their brews in the hands of U.S. coffee drinkers
  • From farmers to disease detectives, USAID supports a wide swath of people in several Asian countries as they go about their critically important work of identifying viruses before they can become pandemics.
  • Playing matchmaker between Jamaican youth and successful Jamaicans in the U.S. is leading to a marriage of the ‘entrepreneurial’ minds.
  • She attended primary school in a refugee camp. Now this South Sudan native is earning a master’s degree in the U.S. so she can go back home for a mission close to her heart—boosting girls’ education.

If you want an email reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Rucker is a writer at USAID.

Why You Should Still Care About Syria

Amina is an 8-year-old girl living in Syria. Like many kids, she helps her family with chores. One day, Amina was picking olives with her grandmother in the family garden when a bomb hit, killing her grandmother and sending shrapnel flying into Amina’s body. She survived, but is now paralyzed.

Amina now bears the scars of a war that has marred her childhood. But she is just one of the estimated 5.6 million children in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. While the conflict has gotten increasingly worse, the American people’s interest has begun to wane. Here’s why you should still care about Syria.

In Syria, an estimated 5.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. / Louai Beshara, AFP

In Syria, an estimated 5.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. / Louai Beshara, AFP

The Worst Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time

This month, the Syrian conflict entered its fifth year. The relentless fighting has taken a catastrophic toll, making Syria the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. More than 220,000 people have lost their lives and more than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria–3 million more than a year ago. More than half of the entire Syrian population has fled their homes due to the violence, and an entire generation of Syrians–like Amina–are losing their childhood.

Torn apart by the loss of his wife, two sons and two daughters, Yousef Abo stands on the very spot where his home once stood. / Pablo Tosco, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Torn apart by the loss of his wife, two sons and two daughters, Yousef Abo stands on the very spot where his home once stood. / Pablo Tosco, AFP

Faces Behind the Numbers

The overall numbers are important and show us the scale of humanitarian needs, but behind each number is a person, and we should never forget that. With disasters and crises, it’s easy to get caught up in statistics. This is especially true for Syria where the numbers are astronomical and continue to grow. But when you really take the time to learn the stories behind the numbers — like of Yousef Abo losing his wife, two sons and two daughters when a missile hit his home — you realize just how much people have lost. It’s this that drives humanitarians to keep striving to save lives.

No One is Immune

The violence, death, loss and everyday hardship have seeped through all parts of Syrian society and affect everyone. Mothers struggle to care for their young ones; fathers grieve the loss of children; sisters and brothers help each other learn to play again after losing limbs; and the elderly watch an entire life’s worth of memories get lost under piles of rubble. Children are out of school, adults struggle to find work, and people wonder where they will get their next meal.

More than 2 million people have received medical treatment in U.S.-supported hospitals and health centers. / Edouard Elias, AFP

More than 2 million people have received medical treatment in U.S.-supported hospitals and health centers. / Edouard Elias, AFP

Beyond Borders

A crisis of this magnitude is not contained by borders. Nearly 4 million people have fled to other countries to escape the violence in Syria. This influx of people has had massive regional impacts. In Lebanon, one in four people is a Syrian refugee. In Jordan-already one of the world’s driest countries-the addition of more than 600,000 refugees has further strained the water supply. Now some areas have less than 8 gallons of water per person per day – a tenth of what the average American uses. In Turkey, which currently hosts over 1.7 million Syrians, some communities in the southeast have seen their population double in size – creating a need for more schools and hospitals, along with upgrades to sewage systems and electric grids.

Standing with the Syrian People

These are some of the reasons why we should still care about Syria, whose people have endured unspeakable tragedy during the last four years of a brutal war that has torn their country apart. Today, in Kuwait at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, the United States announced nearly $508 million in additional humanitarian assistance – bringing our total aid to almost $3.7 billion since the crisis began.

While humanitarian aid won’t solve this conflict, it is saving lives. From the beginning of the crisis, we’ve provided water, shelter, critical relief supplies, food, and absolutely vital medical and psychosocial care to people like Amina, and we will continue to do so.

During her recovery, Amina told the people helping her, “I refuse to surround myself with sadness.” If Amina can remain so determined and resilient, the least we can do is refuse to let her stand alone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Myer is the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) Leader for the Syria humanitarian crisis response.

Burgers and Business Give At-Risk Honduran Youth Hope

Editor’s note:This blog originally appeared as a longer feature story from Creative Associates International.


Chuy sells between 16 and 25 burgers each day to help support his family. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Chuy sells between 16 and 25 burgers each day to help support his family. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Tegucigalpa, Honduras — In his family’s small kitchen in one of the capital’s most at-risk neighborhoods, 23-year-old Jesus Lanza, wearing an apron and gloves, flips hamburger patties and fries potatoes. Today, he will sell from 16 to 25 burgers, enough to help support his parents and 8-year-old sister.

Jesus, known by his nickname “Chuy,” has a steady burger business. Neighbors regularly pop in for a bite in the tiny kitchen restaurant. He even rides in his father’s taxi for deliveries farther away.

But “Chuy’s Burgers” is about to go through a growth spurt thanks to a prize of $5,000 he won on Dec. 19 in the “Honduras Emprende” entrepreneurship contest, held annually by the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Honduras: Burgers & business give at-risk Honduran youth hope from Creative on Vimeo.

Chuy hasn’t always been this successful. Just a couple of years ago, he said, he was off course, involved in drugs, drinking and destructive habits. A community pastor told him this path would likely end in “either death or jail.”

“I watched my friends, one by one,” Chuy said. “The drugs were going to destroy them….I did not want this for my life and for the future of my family, so I asked God to open a door for me, a better way for my future, better welfare for my life.”

Tegucigalpa is one of the most violent cities in Honduras, considered the most dangerous country in the world outside of a war zone. Gangs and drug activity plague many of the city’s poorest barrios, like the one where Chuy and his family live.

Reintegration Through Entrepreneurship

With help from the Alianza Joven Honduras (Youth Alliance Honduras) violence prevention program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Creative Associates International, Chuy enrolled in a social reintegration through entrepreneurship and employment training program for youth at high-risk run by the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The program, “Second Opportunities for Our Youth,” has trained more than 150 18- to 29-year-olds in entrepreneurship, as well as conflict resolution, life planning and resilience skills. Participants learn how to start and sustain a business, and they are provided with small grants to get their ventures off the ground.

“The specific objective of the project is to reintegrate back into society people who in the past have been linked to criminal acts or have been imprisoned with a background in rehabilitation centers,” said Fabricio Sierra, project coordinator for the youth-at-risk reintegration program at the Chamber of Commerce.

“What we are looking for is that these young people believe in themselves and seek alternatives to their economic problems rather than the violence, drug dealing, or belonging to criminal gangs. They have the potential to find ways to generate an income that would really be favorable—to pay their studies, pay for their houses, lights, their daily meals. We have such talented people with very entrepreneurial ideas,” he said.

For many former gang members or youth like Chuy living in violent neighborhoods, the stigma associated with their communities can prevent them from getting jobs in established businesses. Self-employment can be a viable economic alternative and a means of reintegration into society.

Chuy with his mother and sister in their kitchen, where his burger business is based. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Chuy with his mother and sister in their kitchen, where his burger business is based. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Collaborating on Shared Problems

Since 2011, Alianza Joven Honduras, USAID, the Honduran government and the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce have collaborated to support former gang members and at-risk youth with job skills training and key tools for adapting to post-gang or post-crime life.

Karla Ruiz, general manager of the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce, said that when the Chamber saw the possibility to “teach what we know”—how to start a business—the program was born.

The Second Opportunities for Our Youth program received $30,000 in funding from Alianza Joven Honduras and another $30,000 from the government’s Security Tax Trust Committee for its 2014 and 2015 activities.

Ruiz said that by teaming up with initiatives like Alianza Joven Honduras and partners from the public and private sector, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups can work on common objectives like reducing violence and reintegrating highly at-risk youth into society.

The program has certainly had a positive effect on Chuy, who plans to use his contest award to expand Chuy’s Burgers, which will ultimately generate additional income for his family.

“If you had seen me in the past, and now what I am, there has been a totally radical change,” he said. “If my friends had this opportunity, I think they would become better human beings for Honduras.”

With reporting by Emmanuel Rodriguez

Reach, Cure, Prevent to End TB

Multidrug-resistant TB education exercise on treatment support in Nigeria. / FHI 360

Multidrug-resistant TB education exercise on treatment support in Nigeria. / FHI 360

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a curable disease, and for the first time in history, we have the opportunity to defeat this age-old killer. We have effective diagnostic tools and medicines for most forms of TB, and several new and improved medicines are likely to be rolled out in the next few years.

In May 2014, the U.S. Government and global community joined together around the vision of a world free of TB. We pledged to reduce TB deaths by 95 percent and new TB infections by 90 percent by 2035.

This is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable.

Change Through U.S. Leadership & Partnerships

The U.S. Government is a leader in the global TB care effort, having invested almost $3 billion to combat TB between 2009–14, and USAID leads this U.S. Government effort.

At USAID, we are focusing our investments on strengthening national TB strategies and programs in 26 countries with high rates of TB, multidrug-resistant TB and HIV-associated TB.

X-ray technicians in Cambodia are trained to identify characteristics that define TB. / Seak Kunrath

X-ray technicians in Cambodia are trained to identify characteristics that define TB. / Seak Kunrath

In order to achieve our goal of eliminating TB as a global health threat by 2035, we will work with partners to reach every person with TB, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections, as laid out in the U.S. Government’s 2015-2019 Global TB Strategy [pdf].

Here’s how:

Expanding our Reach

Of the estimated 9 million people who develop TB each year, 3 million never seek or receive formal diagnosis or treatment. These individuals suffer – and often die – needlessly, compounding this tragedy by transmitting TB to others.

In order to end the TB epidemic, we must do more to reach these “missing” 3 million. USAID is working with partner governments to increase TB case-finding by improving diagnostic networks and improving screening for those who are at risk of getting TB.

As part of this effort, we are supporting the global scale-up and use of new diagnostic tools such as GeneXpert, a revolutionary tool that provides faster and more accurate diagnoses and is particularly effective at diagnosing TB among children, people living with HIV, and people suffering from multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

Curing and Preventing TB

USAID supports national programs to diagnose and treat TB in the countries hardest hit by TB, MDR-TB and HIV-associated TB. In 2013, we helped support TB treatment for 2.7 million people.

We are continuing to tackle the growing threat posed by drug-resistant TB. MDR-TB has been detected in almost every country in the world and poses a serious threat to both the global community and American citizens. Left unchecked, the spread of drug-resistant TB will reverse the great progress made thus far. USAID is working with partners to scale-up MDR-TB treatment programs and to make medicines more available and affordable.

We are also expanding our efforts to detect, cure, and prevent HIV-associated TB—an urgent priority as TB kills one out of every four people living with HIV/AIDS. Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy and isoniazid preventive therapy can greatly reduce the risk of TB among people living with HIV/AIDS. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Government is working to improve TB case detection for those with HIV/AIDS and increase coverage of these therapies.

Currently, the most effective way to prevent the spread of TB is by providing life-saving treatment to those who fall ill. TB patients who are cured through appropriate treatment will no longer transmit the disease to those around them. Accordingly, we are focusing on TB treatment as a primary method of preventing new infections. We are also working to improve infection control measures in health care settings and communities to further reduce the spread of TB.

Looking to the Future with Optimism

From 2000-13, more than 37 million people were cured of TB. We’ve reduced TB deaths by almost half since 1990, and the world has achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the spread of the disease.

We stand with our partners, united in our efforts to save lives and develop healthier societies in vulnerable countries. We have the ability to rid the world of TB. And – with continued global action, investment and innovation – we will do so.

I hope that on this World TB Day, you will join us in the pledge to reach every person with TB, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ariel Pablos-Mendez is Assistant Administrator for Global Health and Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator at USAID. Follow him @ampablos

Truth, Justice and Development

Youth from the municipality of Caucasia (Bajo Cauca Antioqueño), Colombia, participating in the first intercollegiate human rights competition “Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate.” This initiative, carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with USAID’s Human Rights Program support, sought to promote a human rights culture at schools through a human rights competition that evaluates knowledge acquired during the project duration. / Jairo Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca, partner with USAID’s Human Rights Program

Youth from Caucasia, Colombia participate in the first intercollegiate human rights competition, Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate. The initiative was carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with the USAID Human Rights Program’s support. / Jairo Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca

On this day 35 years ago, a brave archbishop in El Salvador lost his life after speaking out on behalf of the poor when he witnessed human rights abuses at the hands of a repressive government.

Today also marks the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. It’s a time to recognize the commitment and sacrifices of those who fight injustice around the world in the face of great danger, like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who came to be known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.”

Protecting human rights is a core development objective that goes hand in hand with USAID’s mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies. After a period of authoritarian rule or conflict, prosecuting those who commit human rights abuses can help restore the public’s trust in government institutions. For survivors and victims’ families, it can be cathartic to see justice served by domestic courts and international tribunals.

Guatemalan citizens demand justice and truth. / USAID/Guatemala

Guatemalan citizens demand justice and truth. / USAID/Guatemala

However, the grievances of survivors go beyond their right to justice. For many, it is about asserting their right to truth. This can include learning the identities of their abusers and those who planned and helped commit violence. Others want to know how the violence was allowed to happen in the first place and the fate and whereabouts of other victims

USAID’s Strategy on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance makes clear that efforts to promote national dialogue on human rights violations, encourage truth-seeking, follow through with criminal prosecution, and make reparations to victims can enable development and bring about more peaceful, prosperous, and just societies.

A rural Mayan community held a funeral ceremony for loved ones whose exhumed remains were placed in small pine caskets before being given a dignified burial. / USAID

A rural Mayan community held a funeral ceremony for loved ones whose exhumed remains were placed in small pine caskets before being given a dignified burial. / USAID

We support truth-seeking in a variety of ways, including documenting rights violations in an attempt to heal the wounds of the past. Here are some of our many efforts in countries around the world:

  • Cambodia: The Documentation Center of Cambodia has gathered and analyzed evidence of genocide and other human rights violations of the Khmer Rouge. Besides helping bring closure to the survivors and families of the disappeared, the results of this USAID-supported effort were provided to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for purposes of prosecution.
  • Colombia: USAID has supported the National Center for Historical Memory to document the tragedies of the past and conduct outreach to strengthen society’s commitment to ensuring Colombia does not return to a state of systematic violence and rights violations. With the slogan “Technology Serving the Victims,” USAID is also helping the Ministry of Justice and Rights in developing the Inter-Institutional Justice and Peace Information System, a database that serves as the clearinghouse of information for eight government agencies working on the justice and peace process.
  • Cote d’Ivoire: USAID’s support for transitional justice included sponsoring a photo exhibition by the Union of Photojournalists of Cote d’Ivoire with images capturing the rights violations that occurred during the 2011 post-election electoral violence. More than 15,000 visitors, including representatives of the Commission for Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation, viewed photos with slogans like “Never again in Cote d’Ivoire” and “The past should teach us to share our future.”
  • Guatemala: Exhuming mass graves to recover the remains of conflict victims and the disappeared is one step in a program funded by USAID to bring closure to scarred communities. This effort is contributing to the historical record and the memorialization of past violence. With our support, organizations such as the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation are also providing counseling to survivors and victims’ families.

Archbishop Romero’s voice was silenced at the hand of assassins, but his story has inspired countless human rights defenders whom USAID supports. Through documentation programs and by providing technical leadership tools, we are helping strengthen people’s right to truth around the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Solomon is a Transitional Justice Fellow in the Human Rights Division of USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.
Page 3 of 105:« 1 2 3 4 5 6 »Last »