Welcome to my debut in the brave new world of blogging at USAID.
We’ve made the most of our time during Dr. Shah’s first Africa trip as the head of this amazing agency; only in the home stretch have I found a few minutes to share an observation or two.
With impressions still intense from a day and a night in Darfur – most notably, visiting under a scorching sun a vast and desert-dusty camp for internally displaced people that thousands of victims of violence, mostly women and children, now know as home – we rose at dawn to head to Juba in the far south of Sudan. Here the climate is different in every sense.
Right off the bat we met with our civil society partners in the effort to improve governance and confidence in democracy. The Sudanese Group for Democratic Elections and the Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections provide voter education and poll-watching in the country’s north and south, respectively. They face very different political situations but similar challenges in trying to protect the integrity of the electoral process. USAID facilitates this grassroots work with technical guidance and
This afternoon we visited two sites where USAID, together with community groups, is helping improve health in Juba.
Sudan is a top U.S. government foreign policy priority; we need this country to be on a stable, peaceful path, which in turn is crucial to regional security. Ultimately this means transitioning from humanitarian assistance to long-term development.
At more than $1 billion per year, USAID’s program in Sudan is our largest in sub-Saharan Africa. One important project is the Lolongo Clinic in an outlying area of Juba, which helps meet the community’s basic health needs while also educating parents in preventative care. About 35,000 people in the region rely on the treatment and care that Lolongo offers; that works out to about $6 per person per year.
Non-governmental organizations such as this clinic account for a full 86 percent of all health care services in Sudan. And it’s by far not enough. Southern Sudan has the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, and a girl stands a higher chance of dying in childbirth than completing secondary school.
An early a.m. flight brought us to Juba in south Sudan. We swapped planes at the airport and headed straight for Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.
USAID works in partnership with 11 other organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the thousands living in the Otash IDP camp at near Nyala in Darfur.
After arriving, we met up with the World Food Programme (WFP) and visited an IDP camp called Otash.
USAID, through the WFP and its NGO partners like World Vision, provides emergency relief supplies to the 71,000 Dafuris living in Otash. The camp was established in 2004 and was originally home to 15,000 IDPs. It grew to its current size after large scale displacements in 2004 following fighting between the Government of Sudan and Darfuri rebels, and more recently, in 2008 after the outbreak of tribal conflict.
Since 2003, USAID has helped to meet the immediate needs of millions of people affected by the conflict in Darfur. Today, in the three states of Darfur there are some two million people living in IDP camps.
Just came from a series of meetings with our international partners in South Darfur.
We discussed a number of Darfur’s complex challenges with leaders from the World Food Programme, United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Population Fund and other UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs.
Security continues to be a serious challenge for humanitarian agencies trying to access vulnerable populations. And now there’s a disturbing trend of attacks and abductions of humanitarian staff. Two UNAMID peacekeepers were recently killed when their vehicle was ambushed outside of Nyala.
Insecurity is also preventing the millions of displaced Dafuris from returning home.
But in addition to the security concerns, many Darfuris are wondering what they have to go back to, especially the young people, who have largely grown up in these camps.
Kenya is using cutting-edge technology to help increase confidence in democracy -- facial recognition software and thumbprint scanners are used to issue voter IDs that help guarantee each citizen a voice in the electoral process. USAID coordinates support for this pilot project with 11 other donors.
Today we visited an innovative, biometric voter registration site designed to strengthen the electoral system ahead of the August constitutional referendum.
With support from USAID, Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) is using the latest technology — webcams, thumbprint scanners and light-weight printers, all solar-powered so they’re not reliant on the grid — to protect the integrity of the registration process.
Of Kenya’s 210 constituencies, 18 are piloting this electronic registration system. So far, 1.5 million Kenyans have electronically registered and received their voter ID cards at pilot sites throughout the country.
I spoke with HIV-positive patients, adults and children, at the Mgabathi Hospital clinic that offers prevention education, counseling, and medical care -- including distributing life-saving HIV-AIDS treatment.
We’re concentrating intensely on health issues in Kenya.
President Obama’s ground-breaking Global Health Initiative (GHI), which is soon to be rolled out in 10 countries, is getting under way here. Yesterday, we met with interagency colleagues and USAID mission staff from across Africa and dug into the details on important implementing issues. It was a great opportunity to build on the collective experience and knowledge across agencies and missions, and to apply lessons learned to GHI.
This morning I visited Mbagathi Hospital, a Kenyan health facility that USAID has supported for the past two years.
Administrator Rajiv Shah is on his first official trip to Africa since taking the helm of USAID. Shah is visiting Kenya and Sudan and his trip is focusing on the Global Health and Food Security Initiatives.
USAID, Yemeni Government officials met to discuss a new stabilization strategy. The first in a series of quarterly meetings to coordinate shared objectives identified in the assistance agreement signed by USAID and Yemen’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.
Leaders in the Caribbean expect to receive a $100 million grant to help fight AIDS over the next five years from the US government’s President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief fund. USAID contributes both funding and staff toward the PEPFAR initiative.
I just came from an energizing all-hands town hall meeting with Kenya’s USAID and State Department staff.
I also had the chance to visit a small group of our dedicated Foreign Service Nationals, Kenyans employed by the Mission. These professionals comprise roughly half of our workforce. They are the core of this Agency and the key to what we do. I’m committed to investing more resources in their success: more growth pathways, skill-building workshops and exchange programs that put them in touch with colleagues in other countries.
This is I something emphasized to everyone here: You all are professionals. You are the experts. You are development entrepreneurs.
We need to enable our people to do their best work, with the resources they need, and the freedom to take risks.
We had a great start to our day in Nairobi — we met an inspiring group of Kenyan media and technology entrepreneurs who are the driving force behind Kenya’s blossoming technology community.
Silicon Valley, watch out. This group of entrepreneurs is forging the next frontier in digital media and mobile based technology. From mobile banking and SMS crowd sourcing technology, to mapping slums and watch-dogging government, I’m convinced these are the kinds of transformational actors that are driving Kenya’s future – and Africa’s future.
They’re the likes of Ory Okolloh, founder of Ushahidi and Mzalendo; Joseph Macheru from Google Kenya, Karanja Macharia, founder of Mobile Planet, Kwame Nyongo, founder of Animations; Mike Rabar, founder of Home Boyz Entertainment and Salim Amin from A24. They’re just a sample of a much broader community of entrepreneurs whose influence and impact is building across the continent.