USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

Shared Values, Shared History: Administrator Shah Visits West Point

Today, Dr. Shah travels to West Point for the first time a sitting USAID Administrator has visited the Academy.  His visit comes just over a year since President Obama elevated development on par with defense and diplomacy and one week before Veterans Day, offering an opportunity to highlight the importance of development to national security but also the importance of civilian-military cooperation.

There was perhaps no greater champion for these principles than George Marshall.  Although he was one of the great generals who did not come from West Point’s hallowed grounds, it was his plan that sought “the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”  He offered a blueprint against hunger, poverty, and despair.

Just over a decade later, President Kennedy institutionalized this capability within the U.S. government by establishing USAID.

The military shares a particular bond with President Kennedy as it was at his initiative that USAID evolved but also that the U.S. Army Special Forces were institutionalized—another niche capability of skilled public servants trained to work alongside other cultures. These groups have championed our values and perpetuate the mindset of “nothing about them without them.”

USAID is able to work not just alongside the military but also in places where conflict is ongoing without US military presence, preventing further discord in a way that is integral to national security.  Development is critical for enduring stability and the realization of peaceful human potential, and as former Secretary of Defense Gates stated, “Economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”  USAID is and will continue to be in many places so the military does not have to be.

There is perhaps less of a divide between service members and development practitioners than many care to admit.  All are dedicated individuals who serve the public good and share a strong sense of mission, service, sacrifice and expeditionary nature.  It is these shared values that make for better cooperation. Moving forward in pursuit of our national security objectives will require building upon our shared history but also a continued embrace for the portfolio of development.

Open for Questions: Crisis in the Horn of Africa

This post originally appeared on the White House Blog.

Over the past several months, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world has placed more than 13.3 million people across the Horn of Africa at risk – a greater number than the populations of New York and Los Angeles combined.  Quickly becoming incomprehensible, the emergency has its roots in a devastating combination of famine, war and drought.

Last month, I announced the FWD campaign to raise awareness across America about this worsening situation.

Please join us this Wednesday, October 26th, at 12:30 p.m. EDT to learn about the steps we have taken to build this campaign by informing and engaging our friends and family in order to harness the compassion and generosity of the American people.

In a special “Open for Questions” event, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council, and I will take your questions during a live streamed event moderated by Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement. Whether you are wondering about the famine, the global response to the crisis, or what you can do to help, we will be there to answer your questions.

We will also be releasing special public service announcements on the crisis from some familiar faces. You can submit your questions now through Facebook and Twitter, and during the live event:

Right now, submit your questions:

Wednesday, October 26th at 12:30 p.m. EDT, we hope you’ll watch and participate:

We know that these types of crises are preventable. Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government is working with partner governments, smallholder farmers, and the private sector to help nations invest in agricultural development to avoid repeating this situation.

The engagement and generosity of the American people have always been a critical part of efforts to combat these kinds of tragedies. However, this crisis – slow in coming – has taken place under the radar of many Americans.  Despite the magnitude of the crisis in the Horn of Africa, over half of the general public say that they have not seen, heard, or read anything about the drought and famine occurring in the Horn of Africa.

It is up to us to change that.

MDG countdown: Celebrating Successes and Innovation

Today, Secretary of State Mitchell of UK development agency DFID and I will co-host an event along the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to celebrate successes and innovations in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Indeed, the world has much to celebrate. Through partnerships between communities and governments and the integration of new, non-traditional players we are witnessing significant progress:

  • In Brazil, 12.2 million people have been lifted out of poverty. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program has used cash transfers to empower mothers, resulting in a reduction in malnutrition and an increase in school enrollment and medical care.
  • Zambia has educated 20,000 teachers, providing roughly one million children with access to school. Community schools are also flourishing, creating an opportunity for local groups to initiate and manage schools for their children.
  • In Nepal, the risk of death during childbirth has been halved. Childbirth is no longer the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age.
  • Ethiopia has provided nine million households (63 percent) with healthcare, pioneering rural access through the Health Extension Program. This program has contributed to reducing the incidence of malaria by half and doubling family planning coverage.
  • The GAVI Alliance has helped immunize 288 million children, saving five million lives. This public-private partnership has set an additional target of immunizing another quarter of a billion children in the next five years, saving another 4 million children’s lives.

These are a few of the examples we will hear more about today, powerful stories of lives saved and lives improved—stories that development investments are paying off and delivering results.

Read the rest of this entry »

FWD the Facts about Famine, War, and Drought in the Horn of Africa

As many of you know, the worst drought in 60 years has devastated communities throughout the Horn of Africa, leaving more than 13 million people in a state of crisis—greater than the population of Los Angeles and New York combined.

In Somalia—where twenty years of war and violence has limited humanitarian access and destroyed the country’s ability to respond—the drought has led to an outbreak of famine. According to UNICEF, as a result of this crisis, a child is dying in Somalia every six minutes.

The millions suffering from the effects of this crisis are facing incomprehensible suffering. Left with nothing, many are walking more than 100 miles toward refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Because the crisis in the Horn is so complex and because the scale is so difficult to comprehend, we have not seen people come together to respond in the same way they did after the earthquake in Haiti. Many who do hear about the crisis are left with the impression that we can’t successfully do anything about it.

But I know for a fact that we can fight this famine.  We were fighting it before it started. Through safety net programs, we have helped 7.5 million Ethiopians withstand the worst effects of this drought without the need for humanitarian assistance.

And as a result of Feed the Future investments, we have seen more than a 300 percent increase in grain yields in Western Kenya in just one year, securing the nation’s agricultural backbone and helping lower the price of critical staples throughout the region.

But despite being the single largest donor of assistance in the region, we recognize we cannot fight the famine alone.

That’s why today, I’m announcing the launch of the FWD Campaign—in partnership with the Ad Council—to highlight the uniquely devastating nature of this crisis and to ask people to help spread awareness.

FWD—stands for Famine, War, Drought: the three major crises that have led to this perfect storm of devastation in the Horn of Africa. But it also stands for our call to action—that people get informed, get engaged and forward this information on to their friends and families.

The FWD campaign is our attempt to make our world smaller—to connect people with the clear knowledge and understanding of exactly what is happening in the Horn—and giving them a powerful way to respond.

The campaign has three components. One is an effort that’s centered on using a strong online presence and social media to raise awareness.  If you go to FWD, you’ll see a number of new ways we’re using to inform and engage with people. We’re providing infographics, interactive maps and tool kits that people can use to learn about the crisis in simple, clear ways—and more importantly share that information others.  And we’re partnering with Google, Facebook and Twitter to make sharing this information as easy as searching, updating your status or sending out a tweet.

There’s also a series of Public Service Announcements we’re filming with some key celebrities that will air in major media markets throughout the country. These PSA’s will go up on our Web site, as well as You Tube.

Finally, we’re also launching a text campaign with NGOs that are delivering critical assistance in the Horn.  If you text “GIVE” to 777444, you can donate $10 to famine relief.   To help get the campaign started, General Mills has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations that come through the FWD campaign, up to $20,000.

But beyond donations, the most powerful contribution people will make will be to share what they learn. I ask that you encourage your friends and families to do more than donate. Have them visit FWD and follow @USAID on Twitter so they can forward the facts.

Photo Gallery of USAID Administrator’s Trip to Haiti

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah traveled to Haiti on Sept. 15, 2011, to discuss USAID’s long-term strategy for helping the nation recover from its devastating January 2010 earthquake.  Check out the photo gallery.

This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (8/8/2011 – 8/12/2011)

August 9: The Associated Press reported that on Monday, Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah visited Somalis at a refugee camp in Kenya. During the visit, Administrator Shah stated the world has a unique opportunity to save tens of thousands of children’s lives by expanding humanitarian activities inside Somalia. The AP also highlighted the White House announcement of $105 million in humanitarian aid that will provide food, shelter, water, and sanitation and health services to those in need.

August 10: A feature story published in The Sheboygan Press highlighted the work of a local USAID Foreign Service Officer. Michael Eddy, a Sheboygan, Wisconsin native, recently completed working in South Sudan, helping the new country achieve independence. The story also includes a special online photo gallery.

August 10: NPR and Reuters reported that aid groups are warning Congress not to cut the foreign aid budget as the response to the drought in the Horn of Africa continues. “If we do see the kinds of cuts in food assistance that are identified in the emerging legislation in Congress, it will have a significant impact,” said Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of USAID

On the Ground in the Horn of Africa

Eighty kilometers from Kenya’s border with Somalia, the Dadaab Refugee Complex—already the world’s largest refugee camp—has seen on average 1,500 exhausted and starving men, women and children arrive each day.  Fleeing from famine that is now gripping a large portion of southern Somalia largely inaccessible to aid workers, thousands of refugees have walked days—or even weeks—to reach help.  The United Nations estimates that over 12.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, including food, water and medical care, across the drought-stricken eastern Horn of Africa.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Dr. Jill Biden talking to a UNHCR worker in Dadaab. Photo Credit: USAID/East Africa

Yesterday, I arrived in Dadaab with representatives from across the United States Government, including Dr. Jill Biden, Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith, Senator Bill Frist and Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz.  The trip underscored the commitment of the U.S. Government—the single largest donor in the region—to respond to the immediate crisis with life-saving assistance and investments in long-term solutions to hunger. Ultimately, we know that it is smarter and cheaper to invest in food security than face the consequences of famine and food riots.

In Dadaab, we visited the Dagahaley camp’s reception center, where newly arriving refugees receive a medical screening and three weeks’ worth of food to tide them over until they complete a formal registration process. The USAID-funded rations include high energy biscuits, corn meal, vegetable oil, yellow split peas, salt and sugar.  Medical staff weigh the children and measure the circumference of their small arms to determine their nutrition status.  Today, the worst-affected regions in Somalia have the highest malnutrition level in the world, with nearly half the population malnourished.

Because the high rates of acute malnutrition make children extremely susceptible to deadly diseases, we are also aggressively pursuing public health interventions, including therapeutic feeding and immunizations.

New arrival family getting initial 3 week distribution (before formal registration). Photo Credit: USAID/East Africa

The Government of Kenya is working closely with the GAVI Alliance to administer pneumococcal vaccines to protect every child from pneumonia at the point of registration.

I met one Somali woman who traveled by donkey cart with her two children for 12 days looking for food. It is hard to believe that she counted among the lucky, as many families have lost children along the way.

It does not have to be this way.  With Feed the Future, President Obama’s initiative on food security, we are working with the Kenyan government and smallholder farmers to achieve sustainable, long-term and life-saving agriculture development.

Tomorrow, I will share with you some exciting innovations in agriculture that we saw on our visit to the Kenya Institute for Agriculture—innovations that could help ensure we never face another famine again.

Our Response to the Horn of Africa Drought

This morning, the United Nations declared what has become plain to anyone who has witnessed the devastation caused by this epic drought: thousands of people in southern Somalia are currently in a state of famine.

After the announcement, I visited the Wajir and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. I saw child after child weary from their long journey to the camps, eager for their first meal in days if not weeks. Seeing a child in such a fragile state—witnessing just one child face such difficult circumstances—is heartbreaking. Knowing that millions of children face a similar fate in the coming months unleashes a sense of profound sorrow.

Dadaab is now the fourth largest city in Kenya, home to more than 370,000 people who were in such a state of need that they fled their homes, many on foot, many from hundreds of miles away, just to find food, water, and healthcare for themselves and their children.

But the other thing I witnessed in those children was a strong sense of resilience. They weren’t beaten down by their circumstances or overcome with despair. They were courageous, strong, unwilling to succumb to the tragedy that surrounded them.

Throughout the region, more than 11.5 million people are in need of emergency assistance, and there is no quick fix to that need. The United States, in cooperation with all of its international partners, is doing everything it can to help relieve that suffering with food, water, healthcare, and other critical services. Our priority is to save lives, and our experts are working day and night to find every channel possible to provide that desperately needed assistance.

For years, we’ve been working with the Ethiopian government on a safety net program that has step by step improved food security for many living in areas vulnerable to drought.

Even in this record drought, due to that long-term effort, 8.3 million people that have benefited from this program today do not need emergency assistance.
Since October 2010, the U.S. Government has provided $459 million in life-saving aid to over 4.4 million people in the eastern Horn.

But that is no comfort today to those who have no food or water for their children, or for themselves. We must implement long-term strategies that can help prevent this kind of suffering once and for all.
The President’s Feed the Future initiative is designed to partner with countries like Ethiopia and Kenya to develop their own agricultural industries, helping them break free of the need for humanitarian food aid. Only through a long-term sustained investment in their own food security can these countries escape the vicious cycle of famine of food aid we’ve once again witnessed.

Dr. Rajiv Shah is the Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Learn more about USAID’s response to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

Talking with America’s Youth

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with American youth from the White House about the importance of getting involved in international development. Kalpen Modi, the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, invited me to answer questions from a room full of young innovators and the Twitter and Facebook online communities.

I found this experience especially meaningful because I believe that young people today have a deeper and more thoughtful understanding of global development and its ties to our nation’s prosperity, security and values than at any time in our history. Through the power of social media and political advocacy, as well their ground efforts, they have gained a profound appreciation of the difficulties developing countries face and the interests our nation has in alleviating them.

A few weeks ago in Southern Sudan, I met a group of kids who are learning English and math in a USAID-supported primary education program.  The students ranged in ages from four to fourteen years old. Many of the older students have lived through a period of violence and suffering and have not yet had the opportunity for even a basic education. When you see American taxpayer money being effectively used to provide education in a way that improves the lives of these children and contributes to the peaceful founding of a new nation—the 196th country in the world—you get a genuine sense for the significance of this work.

More than ever before, young people recognize the importance of sustainable, long-term development and are getting directly involved in issues like education, hunger, climate change, and global health. They understand that a world in which hunger is beaten, diseases are eradicated, the planet is protected, markets are free and people are equal is a world that makes us safer, enhances our prosperity and reflects our values as Americans.

Today, the opportunities exist for young people to steer their talents towards serving those in greatest need, no matter what professions or degrees they choose. Whether you’re a teacher, investment banker, or engineer, you have valuable skills that can help drive meaningful change around the world. Visit our website to learn more, stay connected and tell us about the global development issues that concern you.

Stay tuned for more blog posts with additional answers to your specific development questions.

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