USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

USAID In the News

This week Administrator Raj Shah visited India and Burma. The Press Trust of India reported on USAID’s announcement to extend “two of its flagship projects for child survival in India”. The renewed commitment of the two nations through the USAID, “aims to end all preventable child deaths and to strengthen India’s Call to Action on Child Survival and Development.” The agency “resumed work in Burma ” in November, after Washington suspended most sanctions against the country,” according to the AP. “Since then, USAID has committed $171 million to health, food security, democracy, human rights and rule of law programs.”

Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, spoke of USAID's commitment to engaging with civil society groups in Burma to support reforms. March 7, 2013. Photo credit: Richard Nyberg/USAID

In an interview with Reuters, Administrator Shah exclaimed the international community is slowly rethinking its policies toward Burma in light of the government’s decision to implement a number of reforms. He noted, “Everything we do is geared toward making these reforms sustainable and more durable, and if there’s backtracking, we will not continue to expand our efforts.”

The Yemen Times reports, “During the revolution, armed militias and government forces used hundreds of children’s schools as barracks and firing points” and they left many Yemeni schools “in complete disrepair, some destroyed entirely. Now, nearly two years later, 380 of those schools have been repaired, ” thanks to a number of organizations including USAID.

A Time for Action and Working Together to Improve Women’s Lives

This past week I traveled to India and Burma to meet with leaders of the private sector, civil society, and government who are charting their nations’ bright and prosperous futures. In Mumbai, I had the opportunity to sit down with a group of courageous women advocates to discuss gender-based violence. It was especially meaningful to have this conversation leading up to International Women’s Day, particularly because this year’s theme is A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence against Women. It was only recently that thousands of young men and women took to the streets in India to protest the tragic death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern who was the victim of a brutal gang rape in Delhi.

At our meeting, we discussed the opportunity to shift ingrained social and cultural practices that perpetuate sexual violence among women, girls, and boys and the importance of educating India’s future generations. We also talked about the need for better data, stronger laws, and expanded services to both prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

I was honored to inform them that the young woman known worldwide as “Nirbhaya” (Fearless) would be honored posthumously by First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry at the Department of State’s Women of Courage Awards event this year.

In 2012 alone, Dr. Aye Aye Mu, who is part of USAID’s SUN Quality Health clinics in Burma, conducted over 5,000 reproductive health consultations, diagnosed and treated 107 pneumonia cases, diagnosed and treated 243 tuberculosis cases with a treatment success rate of over 80 percent. Photo credit: Richard Nyberg, USAID

A few days later, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Aye Aye Mu, who has been practicing medicine in Burma since 1977. It quickly became clear that the Doctor and I share the same vision for development—beginning with the community level and drawing on the strengths of both private sector and civil society. Dr. Aye Aye Mu is part of a network of active health providers that is supported by our Agency and covers 217 of Burma’s 324 townships.

Through an innovative approach called “social franchising,” Dr. Aye Aye Mu helps encourage doctors running their own private clinics to improve the scope, quality, and accessibility of their services by joining the franchise called the SUN Quality Health Clinics. Started by our long-standing partner Population Services International in Myanmar, this network provides affordable, quality health care services nationwide.

Today, this network is contributing in remarkable ways to USAID’s ambitious yet achievable goal of ending preventable child death and improving the lives of women and children. In 2012 alone, Dr. Aye Aye Mu conducted over 5,000 reproductive health consultations, diagnosed and treated 107 pneumonia cases, and diagnosed and treated 243 tuberculosis cases with a treatment success rate of over 80 percent. By leveraging the local private sector to deliver health commodities and better quality, affordable health care services, she receives quality birth spacing products and anti-malarial drugs at subsidized prices and passes the savings to those who need it them most.

Our Agency is working hard to save lives, especially among children. Building upon the Child Survival Call to Action, USAID is introducing a global public private partnership, Survive and Thrive, which will be linked to local partnerships to increase coverage of high impact and high quality interventions delivered by midwives to women and newborns wherever births occur.  Working closely with our partners, these efforts will help improve the quality of maternal and newborn health by linking Burmese health care providers at the community level to their peers from American professional associations.

From India to Burma, these efforts advance the aspirations of the first-ever United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, which was released this past year. The strategy pledges to improve coordination across U.S. government agencies to improve the quality of our programming and strengthen our impact.  In a world where rates of gender-based violence show no signs of abating, it is increasingly important that we work together to improve women’s lives.

This past week has been an incredible experience. Even as we advance gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide, it is important to remember on this International Women’s Day that women and girls are not just victims. They are leaders, change-agents, and innovators, courageously improving lives and expanding opportunities around the world for individuals, families, and communities.  As our policies and initiatives gain traction and implementation gains speed, we will work beside them to ensure our aspirations translate into concrete results around the world.

USAID In the News

This week Secretary Kerry defended foreign aid spending amid budget cuts in a Reuters report, saying “Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It’s not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and in a free world.”

In Africa, The New York Times reports USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah met with Somali leaders in Mogadishu on Thursday, and announced $20 million in new American food aid for the country. Dr. Shah said that “after two decades of conflict, famine and terrorism, it was necessary not only to address Somalia‘s ‘critical emergency needs’ but also to promote stability and recovery.”

Administrator Shah announces partnership in Somalia on February 21, 2013. Photo credit: USAID

The Washington Post notes that Shah is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Somalia in years. Meanwhile Somali diaspora came together in Hargeisa to launch infrastructure investment strategies for the country, which Suleiman Mohamed from USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth attended according to The Somaliland Sun.

And Maura O’Neill gave NextGov a “sneak peak at the jobs available for the next round of Presidential Innovation Fellows at USAID during a Social Media Week event on Tuesday.” If you are a private sector innovator with experience in big data, venture capital or crowd-sourcing technology, check it out!

Video of the Week: USAID Participates in Social Media Week

In this week’s Video of the Week, Administrator Raj Shah talks about the importance of social media to further international development goals. For the first time, USAID will participate in Social Media Week, held this week. Social Media Week is a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. This annual conference connects people and organizations through collaboration, learning, and the sharing of ideas and information.

USAID will host events during Social Media Week in Washington to amplify the role of international development in social media. Events include a panel discussion “Why is Social Media Necessary for International Development?” and a video showcase “#Popcorn + International Development” that features videos from USAID partners and missions, and others who are making a footprint in development. Lastly, USAID will host a networking event, with Global Health Alliance, to toast a week of collaboration and the power of social media to change people’s lives.

Can’t attend one of our events, but would like to join the conversation? Join us on Twitter (@usaid) and use hashtag #smwUSAID.

 

USAID Gives Back to Servicemembers at Home and Abroad

On Saturday, I joined USAID staff and their families to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by volunteering on the National Day of Service. With ten thousand other volunteers, we worked together to make 100,000 care packages for men and women serving our country overseas, wounded warriors here at home, and first responders who risk their lives to save and protect American families.

Administrator Rajiv Shah and daughter on the MLK National Day of Service. Photo credit: Anna Gohmann/USAID

Because we work for an agency whose mission advances human progress and dignity around the world, it was meaningful to join so many people–particularly so many from our USAID family–in giving back to our community here at home. I especially wanted to share this experience with my four-year-old daughter Amna, so that she grows up with an appreciation for the importance of giving back and an understanding of the impact community service can have on the lives of others. But Amna was not the only child there on Saturday.

It was particularly inspiring to see so many young people give up their Saturday to answer President Obama’s call to participate in the National Day of Service. As I have seen on university campuses across the country, this spirit of generosity and sense of responsibility evident in young people today reflects a desire to help advance the shared values that underpin our own agency’s mission.

Our event was organized through a great partnership between the Corporation for Community and National Service, Points of Light Foundation, and Target, among others. By bringing together AmeriCorps volunteers, university students, school groups, and service men and women, it demonstrated what we can accomplish when we come together to reach a common goal.

Please join me and check out opportunities to get involved in your community by visiting serve.gov.

Video of the Week: Administrator Shah’s Address to African Leadership on Child Survival Meeting

In an effort to catalyze global action for child survival, the Governments of Ethiopia, India, and the United States together with UNICEF convened the ‘Child Survival Call to Action’ in Washington, D.C. in June 2012. . Under the banner of ‘Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed‘, more than 160 governments signed a pledge to renew their commitment to child survival, to eliminate all preventable child mortality in two decades.

At Datajam, Innovators and Entrepreneurs Unleash Open Data for Global Development

Rajiv Shah (left) serves as administrator of USAID. Todd Park is U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Photo Credit: USAID, White House.

A remarkable new tool is becoming increasingly available to help end extreme poverty and ensure dignity and opportunity for people around the world—a tool that few people think about when they consider how to bolster international development efforts. That tool is data, and in particular “open data“—data freely available in formats that are easy to use in new and innovative ways, while rigorously protecting privacy.

The possibilities are truly endless—it could be regional epidemiological statistics being made available to community health workers; or real-time weather information being made available to small-holder farmers; or loan information being made accessible to first-time borrowers. In these and countless other arenas, open data has the potential to not only improve transparency and coordination, but also dramatically accelerate progress in development.

In order to explore new ways of leveragingopen data for development and to help strengthen our commitment to open data with others inside and outside of government, we joined with colleagues from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on December 10 for a DataJam at the White House.

Administrator Shah and CTO Park discuss open data's impact in development. Photo Credit: USAID.

This unprecedented event brought world-class innovators and entrepreneurs together with U.S. government leaders and decision-makers to discuss the impact that open development data has already had on strengthening entrepreneurship in the United States and in developing countries—and the additional impact that can be had going forward. We also brainstormed about new partnerships we could form to facilitate the opening of new pockets of data that many of us deal with in our work every day and that have potential added value across the development domain. For USAID, this effort reflects our increasing focus on throwing open the doors of development to problem-solvers everywhere.

The Datajam showcased some of the groundbreaking work that innovators and entrepreneurs have accomplished with open data in the development sphere—from tracking election transparency in Kenya with the non-profit Ushahidi; to the State Department’s Tech@State and TechCamp conference and workshop platforms that bring in-country technologists and entrepreneurs together to solve local—and global—problems; to the exciting announcement that FEWSnet, USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network, is launching a competition to analyze USAID data to better inform and improve our own decision-making. As Presidential Innovation Fellow Dmitry Kachaev, explained, “Technology is not the hard part.  The hard part is getting the information.”

That’s where we all come in, and that’s why we are issuing a call to action for open data. There are data sets and information resources across the government that could serve a greater good and be effective tools for change if they were made more accessible and usable, while ensuring that privacy and confidentiality are always rigorously protected. We want to collect these data—these potential change agents—and present them in their most creative and effective forms. We want to engage students and volunteers to help us clean and organize the data to make this information accessible and useful, just as USAID’s Development Credit Authority did with its crowdsourcing project to clean up and map loan data records. We want these same data to be available to entrepreneurs and innovators who are building new organizations and creating local and lasting change.

Although we often talk about our business-like focus on data and the importance of delivering concrete results, the reality is that the open data movement has been inspired not only by analytical logic but also in large part by a shared passion to help change the world. When you apply your vision and expertise to this task—when you add to the growing stores of data for use in new and creative ways—you are helping an infant take its first easy breath and live to celebrate her fifth birthday. You are helping farmers grow more nutritious foods, fostering healthy families and prosperous communities. You are helping end the enduring outrage of human trafficking. This is the power of open data.

We’re excited and think you should be too.

Watch a video of the Datajam event.

Visit our website for more information about open data and learn more about the Presidential Innovation Fellows.

Rajiv Shah is the Administrator of USAID.

Todd Park is Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

How I Was Inspired to Solve Global Problems

As a senior studying public relations, I never thought about working abroad. I had the epiphany one day and decided to include international development in my career plans. I was attracted to the idea after Dr. Shah’s visit at Howard University on October 15. I was excited to learn and understand my role in international development, if there was one. Dr. Shah gave me hope that international development has a place for anyone who is willing to serve.

Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks to students at Howard University on October 15, 2012. Photo Credit: Patricia Adams, USAID.

The event opened with an inspiring and appropriate video by the university’s Communications Department, highlighting the efforts of School of Dentistry students who helped Haitians develop dental hygiene products during the annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program. The opening presentation conveyed the commitment and passion Howard students have for international development and set the tone for the event.

While being a student at Howard, I participated in two domestic ASB programs: New Orleans and D.C. These two, week-long service projects changed my life. The people who were affected by me and other Howard students mentoring their children or cleaning their environment were extremely grateful. When I watched the video of the students in Haiti, it inspired me further to do international development because of the strong interest I already have in helping people.

However, the opening video was just the beginning of my inspiration to be involved in development.

Howard’s Provost Dr. Wayne Frederick spoke on the legacy of Howard’s commitment to international development. He stated that “opportunity remains promise”, which was the perfect transition into honoring the late Congressman Donald Payne, a pioneer in international development policy and his family.

“Howard University’s mantra is social justice,” said William Payne, Donald Payne’s brother. He continued, “And, I believe my brother’s work embodied social justice.”

Dr. Shah commended Howard for its work in international involvement, and excitingly introduced the new Donald Payne Fellowship at Howard University, giving more students the opportunity to go abroad and contribute to America’s positive contribution to humanity’s global needs. The fellowship provides up to $90,000 in benefits, and funds a two-year Masters degree for fellows and provides them with internship opportunities on Capitol Hill and overseas.

This was my favorite part of the event because it gave me insight on a great opportunity to catapult my interests in international development! Now, as a graduating senior, this fellowship is definitely something I will look into as I plan the next stages of my life! Overall, the fellowship is a great opportunity for all Howard students, and I am proud that my school was a part of it.

At the event, a USAID video which quoted President Kennedy, who created USAID over 50 years ago, stated, “Our problems are man-made, therefore, they can be solved by man.” The Donald Payne Fellowship will give students like those at Howard, a resource to help solve global problems.

For more information about the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship, visit paynefellows.org.

 

Storify Features This Week at USAID

This week has been a busy one at USAID Headquarters in Washington, D.C.! We began the week by launching the Agency’s first-ever policy and program guidance  on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis. The widespread suffering seen across the Horn of Africa and Sahel this past year revealed that in far too many places, too many communities, families and individuals consistently rely on humanitarian assistance to survive. The policy is in response to this clear need, and together with our international development partners, USAID has committed, through its Resilience policy and program guidance, to better coordinate its development and humanitarian approaches to effectively build resilience in targeted areas of recurrent crisis.

At our launch event here at the Ronald Reagan building,  Administrator Shah was joined by a distinguished panel of guests, including His Excellency Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States; The Honorable Jim McGovern (D-MA); Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council; David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World; Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps; and Carolyn Woo, President & CEO of Catholic Relief Services. In case you weren’t able to make the event, check out this Storify feed which recaps the event!

On Wednesday, we launched our fourth Grand Challenge for development:  Making All Voices Count. This challenge is a unique multi-donor partnership to support innovative, next-generation solutions that use web and mobile technology to grow the global movement for open government, transparency and accountability. At the launch, Administrator Shah was joined by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House’s Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights.

This $45 million partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Sweden, and Omidyar Network will support innovation, scaling-up and research that will enable better citizen engagement with governments and help governments deliver to their citizens.  Check out this Storify feed re-capping the event!

Photo of the Week: Administrator Shah Travels to Turkey to Visit Syrian Refugees

USAID Raj Shah greets young Syrian children in Turkey. Photo Credit: Adem Altan / AFP

This week, USAID Administrator Shah traveled to Turkey where he met with senior officials to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria and assistance for those affected by the crisis. While in Turkey, Administrator Shah met with senior Turkish Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) along with representatives of the Turkish Red Crescent and the World Food Program. Administrator Shah also visited areas along the Turkish border and spoke with individuals who have fled the violence in Syria.

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