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U.S. Investments in Foreign Aid Provide a Healthy Return

Ariel Pablos-Mendez (left), Assistant Administrator for Global Health and Pape Gaye, President and CEO, IntraHealth International. Photo credit: USAID and IntraHealth.

What if you could take a fraction of a penny and use it to help build a health system?  Believe it.  It takes only a fraction of a single penny per American taxpayer dollar to train a global health workforce—a workforce that will reach millions through treatment, prevention and counseling services.

Just ask midwife Teddy Tiberimbwaku, who had the opportunity to meet Uganda’s vice president Thursday.

Last year, Uganda’s Ministry of Health, operating with only one doctor and 13 nurses to serve every 10,000 people, was told by the Ministry of Public Service that not only could it not create any new positions, but also any unfilled positions—some 42 percent of them—would be lost.

Yet Thursday, Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi, on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, celebrated and honored the work of Teddy and other health workers at the “Celebrating Health Workers in Uganda” event. Other awardees honored for their inspiring work included Prof. Francis Omaswa, Dr. Yasur Mubarak and Dennis Tabula.

Dennis Tabula, Senior Clinical Officer, Frontline Health Worker Award. Photo credit: USAID

In addition to highlighting the contributions of individual health workers who have worked tirelessly to save the lives of their country’s most vulnerable and strengthen the overall health system, the event marked a new $19.8 million investment by the Ugandan government to fill critical health workforce positions throughout the country—a true show of in-country leadership and ownership. Just how the Ugandan Parliament approved such a significant amount of money from its limited budget exemplifies why the United States invests in global health.

Furthering the bipartisan legacy of American leadership in global health has helped slash child mortality around the world by 70 percent over the last 50 years, end smallpox, and put polio on the brink of eradication, President Obama and members of Congress from both parties have laid out a bold, yet achievable, vision to put an end to preventable child and maternal deaths, and create an AIDS-free generation.

Teddy Tiberimbwaku, Enrolled Midwife, Frontline Health Worker Award. Photo credit: USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its non-profit partners, like IntraHealth International, recognize that a major barrier to realizing this vision is a severe lack of trained and supported health workers, especially those on the frontlines of care. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 billion people have little or no access to essential health services, and that at least 1 million more frontline health workers are needed to deliver these services in developing countries. Global supply of antiretroviral drugs or vaccines cannot suffice without the health workers to deliver them to those in need – they are the backbone of any health system.

Such a crisis cannot be solved by the United States alone. We must work closely with our developing country partners to help them develop sustainable solutions that work in their own local context. This is why we are truly heartened by the commitment of the Government of Uganda to solving its health workforce crisis.

Dr. Nasur Mabarak, Yumbe District Hospital Team, Health Innovator Award. Photo credit: USAID

IntraHealth’s Uganda Capacity Program, supported by USAID, works with the Ugandan Ministry of Health on health worker staff audits for three years. The program keeps tabs on how many health workers are employed throughout the country, where they are, how many positions are vacant, and other key data that many developing country governments lack.

So when the Uganda’s planning ministry proposed the hiring freeze for the health sector, Uganda’s Ministry of Health and supporters of health workers across the country literally had the data at their fingertips to illustrate just how disastrous the freeze would be to the country, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates globally, and the tenth highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world, according to UNAIDS.

Ugandans pushed their agenda forward using the power of evidence, which led to a budget passed in September 2012 that set aside almost $20 million to increase financial incentives for doctors who serve rural areas and created more than 6,000 jobs for new health workers who will improve the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans.

Professor Francis Omaswa, Pauline Muhuhu Award. Photo credit: USAID

The Ministry of Health and the Uganda Capacity Program are now working on a sustainable, data-driven allocation plan for these in-country investments in health workers. Meanwhile, USAID and IntraHealth are working together through mechanisms such as the Frontline Health Workers Coalition to amplify our collective belief that trained and supported health workers are crucial to giving millions access to health care, and in turn, creating a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world.

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez is Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Pape A. Gaye is President and CEO of IntraHealth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USAID In the News

The Press Trust of India reports on USAID’s announcement that Administrator Rajiv Shah, the “highest ranking Indian-American in the Obama Administration,” will travel to India and Myanmar in March. Shah is expected to “announce a major program to reduce preventable child deaths” in Mumbai.

USAID Administrator visits a small medical practice that delivers affordable health care to poor Burmese in Rangoon. March 7, 2013. Photo: Richard Nyberg/USAID

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the U.S. policy of not branding aid parcels aims to ensure they reach Syrians. USAID’s Nancy Lindborg said, “We are not putting flags on the aid so that it’s perhaps not as visible as it is in other situations. Our priority is to ensure that it reaches people and that it doesn’t create additional insecurity.”

The Wall Street Journal quoted Administrator Shah, saying “India is the most important country in the world when it comes to saving children’s lives and if they can achieve success and we can support it, the world will be well on its way to achieving an extraordinary and historic result of ensuring that every single child around the world lives to see their fifth birthday.”

The Times Of Central Asia reports that USAID has joined the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in Kyrgyzstan. USAID representative Carey Gordon stated, “Over the past decades, tuberculosis remains one of the relevant issues for Kyrgyzstan’s healthcare for many reasons, including socio-economic issues, and because of poorly established TB detection and treatment in the country.” In Jordan, the Women and Children’s Hospital in Mafraq is now double its size a year ago after a USAID renovation. It serves both Jordanians and Syrian refugees, and the hospital is one of 14 USAID renovated in the past three years throughout the country according to Zawya.

From the Ground in Syria: Delivering More than Flour to Aleppo

An Arabic translation is available.

Despite nearly two years of ongoing conflict in Syria, grain is being ground into flour, tested for moisture and protein content, and baked into sample loaves of bread. Flour that meets approval is bagged and loaded onto trucks bound for a distribution warehouse in Aleppo Governorate.

At the warehouse, each bag is accounted for as it is offloaded by workers. A community member, who helps oversee the warehouse, looks on, notepad in hand. He talks about how the flour can help ease the financial burden of the displaced Syrians who crowd almost all available living space in the neighborhood.

Workers load newly-milled flour onto a truck in Syria. Photo credit: USAID Partner

He notes that even subsidized flour costs more than most families can afford even in the best of times. The flour being offloaded today is donated by USAID and will allow bakeries—identified in coordination with the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit—to sell bread at reduced cost, while still making enough profit to pay workers and purchase additional supplies in local markets.

The warehouse manager also speaks of the overall economic benefit of the donated flour to businesses in the area.  “It’s not our objective to just give relief,” he says, “We want to help the people work and make their own money.”

The unloading of the flour concludes in the late afternoon.  The delivery truck buttons up and heads away, while the workers hurry off to receive their day’s wages.  The gate to the distribution warehouse closes, but it will open again soon enough.

Another truck filled with USAID-donated flour will arrive tomorrow, and the whole process will be played out again. USAID is providing enough flour to 50 bakeries in Aleppo Governorate to bake daily bread for approximately 210,000 people for the next five months.

The United States is providing nearly $385 million in humanitarian aid to help those affected by the crisis in Syria.

Visit our website for more information about USAID efforts in Syria

Celebrating Peace Corps Week: Those Extraordinary Ordinary Volunteers!

This post originally appeared on Feed the Future.

This week, we’re celebrating our partner agency the Peace Corps during its annual Peace Corps Week. Today marks the anniversary of when John F. Kennedy signed the executive order to establish the Peace Corps. The following is a guest blog post by Jean Harman of the Peace Corps, highlighting Peace Corps volunteers’ contributions to Feed the Future’s goal to reduce global hunger, poverty and undernutrition.

Ever since John F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver created the Peace Corps in 1962, it had been my dream to be a volunteer. But by the 1980s, having finally completed my undergraduate degree at 29, I thought I was too old. Turns out, I wasn’t too old for two years of volunteer service and I began my Peace Corps experience as an agriculture volunteer, helping villagers in Zaire (what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), raise sheep, goats, rabbits, and other small animals.

Peace Corps launched my career in food security. When I returned to the States, I went to graduate school and began a 25-year career as a resource and agricultural economist. Over the course of these years, I learned how many different facets there are to sustainable food security; a variety of issues help create or foster food security in households and communities. I’ve worked in trade, agriculture, natural resource management, and development, to name a few.

A Peace Corps volunteer trains his local community in Malawi on the nutritional benefits of growing soy. Photo credit: Peace Corps

Volunteers are never called ex-volunteers, but rather returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). And we’re a diverse lot, with more than 200,000 RPCVs today. We often hear about RPCVs of note—a former Cabinet member, the president of a university, members of Congress—but there are a lot of extraordinary ordinary volunteers as well.

Take for instance, Elaine Bellezza, who served as a Peace Corps teacher in Cameroon. She ended up helping her community develop an artisanal cooperative, which made bowls, bags, tools and other items out of leather, gourds and other local agricultural products. Through this cooperative, women in the community went from earning about $2 a month to between $60 and $100. Yes, this is food security! Increased income means more money to spend on quality foods. And women’s income is more likely to be spent on food and children’s goods, so increased women’s income can significantly impact food security and improve nutrition.

Elaine returned to the United States in the mid-1990s but was soon overseas again, this time working in Mali. She eventually opened a high-end boutique of household articles and furniture. As a part of the private sector, Elaine worked with a range of women’s cooperatives in Mali. She developed a staff capable of taking over the business for her and running it as a cooperative-owned, woman-led business in Mali—even to this day!

Elaine never left Africa or economic development for long. She now works as a consultant in a variety of countries. An extraordinary ordinary volunteer.

There’s also Gordon Hentze, who served as a “fish” volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was my mentor when I started my Peace Corps assignment, even as his own service was drawing to an end. We quickly discovered when I arrived at my village that we had both attended the same college and lived close to each other in Oregon. Gordon worked with farmers to build fish ponds for raising fish to eat at home and sell for income. Another facet of food security: sufficient food to eat at home and income to purchase additional foods, pay school fees, or buy medicine when it’s needed.

Gordon returned to Oregon after the Peace Corps. He owns a family farm in Junction City where he grows fruit, vegetables and nuts. He also caters to people who want to process their own fresh food: He developed small-scale processing equipment so a family can process its own fruits, vegetables and nuts in household-sized quantities. Innovation—a skill Gordon developed as a volunteer and now uses to foster food security through his business as a farmer in the private sector. Another extraordinary ordinary volunteer.

While many Peace Corps volunteers are extraordinary ordinary people, the same could be said of their service. Helping start a local cooperative. Training business owners. Teaching people to fish. These tasks are ordinary when taken at face value. But when you see each as a contributor to global food security, they take on an extraordinary quality. A local cooperative in a developing country that raises incomes of women so they can invest more in their children and families, sending both their sons and daughters to school. A business owner whose business sells nutritious foods and supplements in a community that sorely needed jobs and access to these items. A family that improves its diet with fish and is able to sell extra fish on the local market, sharing the nutritious value of the fish with the community and making extra money to invest in the family business, children’s education, and healthcare for all family members.

All this is happening thanks to the extraordinary ordinary work of Peace Corps volunteers at the grassroots level of agriculture and economic development. Seemingly ordinary tasks, carried out by individuals in partnership with developing communities, that are helping lift communities out of chronic hunger and poverty and into sustainable food security.

Peace Corps volunteers have been working on food security issues in their host countries for decades. Recently, Peace Corps teamed up with the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on food security issues under Feed the Future. In name, this designates the volunteers as Feed the Future Peace Corps Volunteers. In action, it provides better coordination between USAID and Peace Corps’ agriculture and economic development efforts and enables Feed the Future to benefit from one of Peace Corps’ major competitive advantages: grassroots development activities that support global food security.  

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Guatemala

In this next installment of the USAID Pounds of Prevention series (PDF), we travel to Guatemala. Many people in Guatemala live in areas prone to natural hazards. Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, floods, and landslides have all challenged the population and spurred the country to take action to prepare for and lessen the effects of disasters. Photo by USAID.

Lessons of Financial Independence and Self-Sufficiency in Georgia

Working in 85 communities in 10 target municipalities across Georgia, the USAID/New Economic Opportunities (NEO) initiative enables highly vulnerable individuals to be self-sufficient through vocational training.

“Amazing, but I have to put some of my villagers on the waiting list,” smiles Shalva Grigalashvili, plumber and tile-setter from Kvishkheti community in Khashuri municipality. “More and more people in Kvishkheti feel a need to put appropriate tourism infrastructure in place and start to upgrade their houses to attract more visitors,’” explains Shalva. As a popular tourist destination in Georgia, the income of the Kvishkheti population significantly depends on the tourism revenues accrued each summer.

The twenty-two year old Shalva Grigalashvili was one of 20 students who graduated from the USAID-sponsored plumbing/tile-setting vocational training program at the Khidistavi Orienti Vocational College in Gori in September 2012. Along with other top students in his program, the USAID/New Economic Opportunities Initiative (NEO) awarded plumbing and tile-setting toolkits to encourage graduates like Shalva to start their own businesses and support income generation opportunities.

Shalva Grigalashvili, one of USAID/NEO beneficiaries, tiling a guesthouse bathroom in Kvishkheti village of Khashuri municipality. Photo credit: USAID/NEO

Unlike many of his friends and neighbors who travel to work in Tbilisi, Shalva decided to stay in his own village and help other residents improve their living conditions. After completing his training, Shalva started to renovate his neighbors’ houses in Bulbulistsikhe village in Kvishkheti community. Shalva also decided to help a less successful classmate who because of poor performance did not receive a plumber’s toolkit. Through their joint efforts, Shalva gave his friend the opportunity to build upon his training and better master their profession, gain employment and increase his income.  “Hard work,” Shalva admits, “but well worth the effort. It is so rewarding to have such a highly demanded profession that brings you money and respect.”

Shalva is just one of the 254 vulnerable individuals from NEO target communities in the Shida Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Racha-Lechkhumi, and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions of Georgia that benefited from USAID-funded vocational training programs. Within three month of graduation, 168 graduates (66 percent) had already obtained new jobs or improved their employment status. Additional sessions of vocational training for NEO vulnerable beneficiaries in trades such as apparel-making, hair dressing, cooking and construction works are scheduled for early 2013.

Learn more about the USAID/New Economic Opportunities (NEO) initiative in Georgia.

Follow USAID Georgia on Facebook and Twitter.

Video of the Week: Women Mobile Phone Users in Indonesia

Todaythe United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with partners Qtel Group and AusAID, announced the winners of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge, which aims to redefine the smartphone user experience for resource-poor women in emerging markets.

The GSMA mWomen Design Challenge was created to simplify the smartphone user interface to help overcome reading and technical literacy barriers for women. Twenty-two per cent of women surveyed in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda who do not use mobile phones say it is because they do not know how to use them. Watch this video with women mobile phone users in Indonesia review the winning submissions to the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge.

Generate. Capture. Share. Apply Knowledge at the KM Expo

Effective knowledge management is crucial to achieving USAID’s mission of ending world poverty. Groups internal and external to the agency have been working on individual Knowledge Management (KM) initiatives to improve their processes and capture the impact their work is having on international development. The Knowledge Management Expo, hosted by USAID’s Knowledge Services Center KM Team, in conjunction with the KM Reference Group, will bring these groups together to share their innovative knowledge management practices, tools and solutions, and exchange best practices, lessons learned and the challenges.

Keynote Speaker Erin Elizabeth McKee is the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL). Ms. McKee has played an integral role in PPL’s push to incorporate learning into all USAID programming by spearheading USAID’s Open Data Initiative. The Open Data Initiative was launched in response to the President’s call for a more transparent, collaborative, and participative federal government, and seeks to strengthen USAID as a platform where the world’s biggest development problems find the best development problem solvers.

The KM Center allows an exchange of ideas to provide solutions for people around the world, such as Ojok's family who was displaced from their land during a former war in Uganda. Photo credit:USAID

The KM Expo features presenters from both inside and outside the agency, reflecting the strength of knowledge management throughout the development community. Presentations topics include how to integrate knowledge management into daily work and project management, how to use social media as a learning tool, and USAID’s premiere KM initiative, the Program Cycle. Each presentation topic is specifically related to knowledge management for development and how to better use it in daily work and strategic planning. The broad range of topics within this framework reflects the importance of knowledge management in all aspects of development and ensures a rich and beneficial dialogue among attendees.

In addition to presenters, various exhibitors will be showcasing their KM initiatives during the Expo. Exhibitors including the M/CIO’s Knowledge Services Center, the State Department’s Office of eDiplomacy, USAID’s GeoCenter, Economic Analysis and Data Services, and USAID’s Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) project, among others, will have the opportunity to share what they have been working on as well as contribute to others’ projects.

The KM Expo will bring knowledge management and the development community together to share projects, ideas, challenges and inspiration, enabling USAID and its partners to become stronger, more agile and better able to achieve the ultimate goal of ending world poverty.

Can’t attend the Expo? No problem. Follow along on Twitter at #KMExpo.

Empowering Women with Mobile Money: The Tanzania Report

This originally appeared on Mobile Payments Today

Tanzania’s first mobile money service, M-PESA, was launched less than a year after it started in neighbouring Kenya, but adoption has been much slower in Tanzania. Consumers, especially women, face a myriad of barriers to mobile money uptake and regular usage.  During my fieldwork in Tanzania, I met with a number of women, both mobile money non-users and users, to learn more about these barriers. I also explored opportunities for the mobile money industry to overcome these challenges and develop a compelling case for women to use mobile financial services.

A message confirms the deposit of a new customer who is signing up for mobile banking. Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The women users I spoke with were using mobile money mainly for remittances of under TSH 20,000 (approximately US$13). Some used the service for business, but most transactions were personal.  Many of the women who reported receiving remittances had married men from other towns or villages and had thus moved, and were receiving money from family at home. The frequency of mobile money usage varied from every two months to as many as seven times a month.

The women I spoke with suggested that using mobile money has improved their lives because of its ease and convenience. However, they also shared stories about agents charging more than the commission rates set by the operators, forcing users to pay more than they should to withdraw and deposit their money.  For some, this extra cost was acceptable because it was still lower than the costs of travelling to obtain the money by other means; for others, they did not have agents nearby so they incurred this fee on top of the time and cost to reach the closest agent.

In rural areas, respondents suggested that families live so close together that there is less need for remittances. However, learning more about women’s lifestyles and money management practices still highlights the potential role of mobile money in this context. For example, nearly three quarters of the population relies on agriculture-related activities for income; people keep crops such as maize as savings, liquidating only when there is an immediate financial need. One group of women acknowledged that they may not get the best price when they sell their crops like this, but they also feared the money would be misspent if they sold sooner.

Key questions we are continuing to probe include: How could mobile savings impact the families in these areas? What would be the best way to structure such services and how could mobile operators best communicate about the service to potential users? The answers to these questions – and more – will be reflected in the final report to be released later this month.

Kristy Bohling, an associate with Bankable Frontier Associates, conducted qualitative fieldwork in Tanzania. A video of Ms. Bohling discussing her research is also available.

Empowering Women One Mobile Phone At a Time

This originally appeared on Mobile Payments Today

Today, half the world’s adult population — 2.5 billion people — lacks access to basic financial services and the majority of them are women. Being financially excluded means relying on cash, where a simple task like paying a bill or receiving money from a family member can be risky, costly and time consuming. This exclusion from financial services also reinforces the cycle of poverty and slows economic growth.

From Kenya to Haiti to Indonesia, mobile phones already have begun playing an important role in expanding access to financial services, including ways to send, receive and save money. At the end of 2012, an estimated 1.7 billion people in the world will have a mobile phone but not a bank account, but thanks to advances in mobile banking technology, these are no longer mutually exclusive.

Mobile banking saves women time and money. With mobile services, women no longer have to make all-day treks to and from the bank. Photo credit: USAID

Mobile technology in the hands of women can help enable entry into the financial mainstream and provide access to life-enhancing services such as savings, payments, healthcare, education, and entrepreneurship. But as research has shown, there’s a gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage, in part because of the lack of products designed for the wants and needs of women. In order to achieve the full potential of the role mobile technology can play in women’s empowerment globally, it is critical that service providers understand what women need and design products that effectively reach this audience.

Toward that goal, the GSMA mWomen Programme and Visa Inc. have partnered with Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) to conduct groundbreaking research in five key countries: Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania. Building on the results of GSMA mWomen’s Striving and Surviving, which was prepared as part of Visa and GSMA’s partnership with USAID and AusAID, the BFA research will provide a deeper dive into how best to reach these women and what services and products will directly meet their needs – offering important lessons for mobile operators, financial institutions, governments, and other partners.

Consider Pakistan, where field work already is underway. In Pakistan, only 12 percent of the total population has a bank account — and those who do are primarily men. However, mobile phone penetration hovers around 70 percent, offering a unique opportunity to provide access to more formalized financial services via mobile phone. Our early field work indicates that while Pakistani women are remarkably sophisticated and adept at managing their household finances, they don’t have access to formal financial tools. Instead, they save in money boxes in their homes or via savings groups, both of which can carry significant risk. Given the increasing presence of mobile phones in the country, mobile financial services – if designed properly – can provide an accessible and convenient avenue for women to enter the financial mainstream.

To hear more about the work underway in Pakistan, please click here to view a video from one of the field researchers, the first in a series that will highlight the work being done in all five countries.

“Through this research, we aim to uncover the challenges women face in their daily and longer term financial management and to suggest ways of easing those burdens with mobile money,” says Daryl Collins, co-author of the seminal work, Portfolios of the Poor, and a director at BFA. “Poor people of both genders manage their money with a complex portfolio of financial instruments. However, the evidence suggests that women are doubly burdened, given that they are often responsible for making ends meet, yet are less empowered to make full use of the options available.”

Our hope in this effort is to help women realize the promise of mobile financial services. In order to do that, we need to learn more about women’s attitudes towards mobile services, including barriers to frequent use and whether mobile financial services offer an entry for women who previously did not value or know how to use mobile technologies.

As our research continues over the next few months, we look forward to sharing with you the voices of these women from around the world.

Aletha Ling is chief operating officer for Fundamo, a Visa company. Chris Locke is managing director of GSMA Mobile for Development Department.

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