USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for USAID

Former Afghan Aid Chief Reflects on Career in Foreign Assistance

After 14 months heading the largest USAID office in Agency history—in Afghanistan— Bill Frej stepped down from a long career in foreign assistance this summer. “We have completely transformed the aid program and made agriculture the number one priority,” said Frej in an interview in Washington.

Although Frej admitted to many challenges in delivering large amounts of foreign assistance in a war zone, the aid veteran is replete with success stories. Frej counts the mass enrollment of girls in schools as one of USAID’s major accomplishments in Afghanistan, explaining that U.S. assistance helped increase countrywide school enrollment from 400,000 children—only boys—in 2001 to 6.5 million today, 40 percent of them girls.

Frej said he recently travelled three hours by jeep to visit a USAID program in a village in Bamiyan at 10,000 feet. He was struck to see children, boys and girls, being taught to read, write and even speak English by a trained teacher in such an isolated place. “USAID and our development partner, Aga Khan Trust, were the first development organizations to visit this village,” he said.

Frej also points to major healthcare improvements as a result of U.S. government aid activity. “I’ve been to 28 of the 34 provinces and in almost every visit, seen midwives training. [Afghanistan] had the highest mortality rate of mothers and children in childbirth in the world and it has been completely turned around,” he said. Frej called Afghanistan one of the best success stories “anywhere in the developing world” in terms of gains in mother-child health. “USAID has a great deal to be proud of.”

Flying Over Swat Showed me the True Scope of the Disaster

Shortly after arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday, I met with retired General Nadeem Ahmed, the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.  As the general took me up in a military helicopter to inspect the once-beautiful but ravaged Swat valley, we spoke openly and candidly about the true extent of the damage wrought by the floodwaters.

As was clearly visible in areas where the waters had receded, the real work to bring Pakistan back to life has yet to start.  As far as the eye could see, foundations and buttresses supported nonexistent houses and bridges, power lines lay hopelessly tangled on the ground, and roads destroyed and washed away.  A layer of mud coated the landscape like brown paint and the normally sparkling, turquoise Swat river has become a river of mud.  As I look around me, it is obvious that Pakistan faces the biggest challenge in its 64-year history.

As I convene my senior staff tonight, we will fine-tune a plan that top USAID officials have been formulating since the scope of the disaster became apparent.  Throughout the flight, General Nadeem pointed out schools and medical centers that are still standing that were built with the help of USAID.  One thing is clear, though, which is that the United States intends to show itself as a friend and committed partner of Pakistan for many years to come.

Helping Shelter Haiti

The humanitarian community in Haiti has funds for the construction of more than 118,000 transitional shelters over the coming months for those who lost their homes in the country’s devastating earthquake earlier this year. Medair, an international NGO, is one of many partners receiving funding from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to build such shelters.

Last week, Medair unloaded construction materials for 800 transitional shelters — a fraction of the total they plan to build — in Jacmel, south of Port-au-Prince. Medair is planning to build 4,500 t-shelters in the Jacmel area, benefiting 27,000 people. Here’s a dispatch from Emma Le Beau, Field Communications Officer for Medair Haiti, about the excitement that this delivery brought to Jacmel and the direct impact of our work on the lives of Haitians affected by the earthquake:

“As our cargo ship approached Jacmel at dawn, local fishing boats rowed ahead of the boat to steer it clear of a treacherous sandbar. When the ship berthed, we began unloading the cargo with the aid of two 35-ton cranes, four forklifts, seven flatbed trucks, and the logistical support of shipping agent Kuehne and Nagel and Haitian partner Hogarth. The flatbed trucks made it over the mountains from Port-au-Prince with only one flat tire among them.

“The cranes operated throughout the night to unload 1,331 tons of cargo from the ship, including timber and galvanized iron sheeting. Because of widespread deforestation in Haiti, we chose to import the pre-treated timber to keep local trees in place.

“From the port, trucks loaded with the ship’s materials made nearly 200 runs to the Medair warehouse. When they arrived, Medair teams of technical officers, carpenters, logisticians, and community mobilizers, who have been in place since January, were there to greet them. Now that more materials are in place, they’ll be able to scale up the speed of their construction and build more shelters for Haitian families in need in hard-to-reach mountain villages near Jacmel.

“The shelters, designed to resist hurricane force winds, seismic risks and heavy rainfall, are solid structures with foundations of reinforced concrete. They take about three days to build and are finished with a wrapping of plastic sheeting and solid windows and doors. Many families will likely choose to upgrade this type of shelter into a permanent home by replacing the plastic sheeting with stone walls.

The Rossamund family, whose home was made dangerously unsafe by the earthquake, has already received a new shelter and is enjoying living in safer and dry housing. Monsieur Rossamund told Medair staff: “If I had not received this help, I would need to sell all my animals to pay for the materials to rebuild my home.” By keeping his animals, his family can continue to have a livelihood, food, and insurance for the future.”

From Ideas to Projects: Kicking off Morocco’s Ramadan Youth Event

Submitted by Matthew Johnson, Outreach Coordinator, Asia & Middle East Bureaus

Yesterday afternoon more than 160 youth (18 to 35) from across Morocco descended on the Capital city of Rabat. These young men and women have traveled long distances to participate in USAID’s 3rd annual Ramadan Youth Outreach event.

I’ve traveled to Morocco from Washington, DC to participate in this weeks activities.

This week long event gathers the brightest youth of Morocco.  I’ve met entrepreneurs, law students, social activists, and engineers.

This years theme, “from ideas to projects,” will help the participants find ways to turn their ideas into real projects.

Karima Rhanem, of USAID/Morocco, is the lead in organizing the event.  She told me, “the purpose of this event is to give these talented young Moroccans the tools they need to make an impact in the future of Morocco.”

Each day the conference will have a different theme with multiple of break out sessions. At night there will be an Iftar and cultural celebrations.

Day 1 will focus on Employment, Entrepreneurship, and Investments
Day 2 will focus on ways to improve Education.
Day 3 will focus on Civil Society
Day 4 will focus on getting involved in local governance.
Day 5 will be a closing ceremony that will give awards to youth who have made an impact in Morocco.

Stay tuned for more updates as the week progresses!

USAID In the News – August 14-19

USAID continues to work around the clock to provide assistance to flood-ravaged Pakistan.  Administrator Shah described the latest efforts to NPR while Mark Ward, acting director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, laid out the challenges in an interview with CNN.  Dr. Shah accompanied Secretary Clinton and Special Representative Holbrooke and to New York to urge the international community to do more to support the relief effort and to announce an additional $60 million commitment by the United States;  IPS covered a forum at The Asia Society before the United Nations meeting on Pakistan assistance.

USAID and the Coca Cola Company announced an initial contribution of $1 million to the Haiti Hope Project, a public-private initiative that aims to develop a sustainable mango industry in Haiti.

In other news, the AP provided further coverage of Administrator Shah’s discussion of foreign aid funding in Seattle and The Himalayan highlighted a new health program for Nepal.

World Humanitarian Day: Response Coordinator Reflects on Progress Made in Haiti

Yesterday was World Humanitarian Day, a day when we remember the millions of people experiencing conflict, natural disasters, sickness and extreme poverty and the people committed to saving their lives, relieving suffering and empowering those who are struggling make a better life.

At USAID, we have a long history of extending a helping hand to people overseas recovering from disaster and are continuing to respond to humanitarian needs. We support Pakistanis affected by the epic flooding in the country’s south and west. And since January 12, our aid workers and partners have worked hard to help the people of Haiti build back better after the earthquake.

Watch a video featuring Response Coordinator Skip Waskin and learn about humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti.

This Week at USAID – August 16, 2010

Administrator Shah will officially swear-in Alex Dickie to be the Mission Director-designate to Iraq and Mike Harvey to be the Mission Director-designate to West Bank Gaza.

Secretary Clinton gives a speech on the Global Health Initiative (GHI) at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.  The GHI is building on the Bush Administration’s successful record in global health, and taking these remarkable achievements to the next level by further accelerating progress and investing in sustainable health delivery systems.

Apparel Training Center in Haiti Educates Textile Factory Workforce

Forming a Better-Trained Workforce in Haiti
Written By Joanna Stavropoulos, CHF Haiti communications manager

Graduate of USAID-funded garment training center in Haiti

Steve Jean, a graduate of the new USAID-funded Haiti Apparel Center, trains sewing machine operators in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Joanna Stavropoulos/CHF

Steve Jean, 37, grew up in a family of tailors – his mother, father, even his grandfather and before him. When he was a child, more than 100,000 textile workers had jobs in Haiti. Now there are fewer than 20,000.

But USAID is working to change this statistic and bring vitally needed economic development, jobs and investment to Haiti.  On Wednesday, USAID led the inauguration with CHF International for the Haiti Apparel Center (HAC), which will train 2,000 Haitians a year on a wide variety of jobs needed for Haiti to develop its textile manufacturing sector.

Even before HAC’s official opening, Steve graduated from the Center as a trainer for sewing machine operators and has been overseeing workers in apparel factories next door.

Steve’s face shone with pride as he walked me through the 30,000-square-foot freshly refurbished HAC building with its many rows of shiny new sewing machines where he will soon train other Haitians eager to join the textile industry.

“I believe in this, I know it will be a success,” he says with emotion. “There is a future here because Haitians like to work; young people want to work. So if they have the opportunity they will learn and they will prove what they can do.”

Steve explains that it’s difficult to find a family in Haiti without a tailor among its members. “Even if we have 10 or 20 centers like this,” he said, “you will have a lot of people waiting for this opportunity.”

Steve also points out that the sewing machine operators from HAC will learn all the varieties of stitching (single-needle, cover-stitch, lock-stitch and over-lock), which will increase their appeal to a wide variety of potential employers.

The Center will teach virtually the entire spectrum of skills needed by textile manufacturing workers. There will be instruction for sewing machine mechanics, quality control specialists, industrial engineers, supervisors and plant managers. There will even be seminars for top executives and factory owners who wish to further educate themselves about the latest innovations and techniques in the field.

Steve is excited about his job as a trainer. “The main thing that I learned is how to teach,” he says about the three-month long instruction at HAC. “How to explain and when you explain and they don’t understand – how to figure out what you did wrong and become better in the explanation.”

“I very much enjoy teaching,” says Steve, smiling as we stop outside the building. “When you try to figure out what to do to help someone learn and understand, I like that.”

You can see more photos from the HAC inauguration on the USAID Flickr feed.

USAID In the News – August 8-13

USAID’s assistance to the victims of massive flooding in Pakistan received continuing coverage with stories by NPR’s All Things Considered and Christian Science Monitor.  USAID Administrator Shah’s remarks appeared in a Reuters story on the larger effects of the disaster on August 8th and acting OFDA Director Mark Ward provided additional information at the State Department’s daily press briefing on August 10th.

USAID’s commitment to assist the people of Haiti was highlighted with the Associated Press coverage of the inauguration of the Haiti Apparel Center in Port-au-Prince while the Los Angeles Times explored programs to ease unemployment.

USAID Administrator Shah spoke in Seattle, Washington about the impact of technology on development.

USAID In the News – August 2-6

On Tuesday, Administrator Shah joined President Obama at the White House for the President’s Town Hall with young African leaders to discuss their vision for Africa for the next 50 years.  USAID programs highlight America’s commitment to supporting the next generation of African leaders.

On Wednesday, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to brief the press on the latest developments in assistance to the victims of flooding in Pakistan. On Thursday, an additional $25 million in assistance was announced – bringing the overall contribution to $35 million.  USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Acting Director Mark Ward and Daniel Feldman in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan spoke with journalists at the start of the State Department’s daily briefing to detail the additional aid.

USAID continued the discussion of the importance of science, technology and innovation in global development in a joint op-ed in the Huffington Post by USAID Administrator Shah and Dr. John P. Holdren, the president’s science and technology advisor.

Ambassador Garvelink spoke at two sessions during the International Food Aid and Development Conference in Kansas City.  His keynote address underscored the U.S. commitment to addressing global hunger and food security, highlighting the whole-of-government approach and goals of Feed the Future.

Page 82 of 95:« First« 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 »Last »