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USAID in the News

submitted by Jessica Scott

In an interview with The Washington Post, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah discussed the Feed the Future Initiative, an Obama Administration program that USAID is leading to ensure food security and end hunger worldwide. Just after taking part in a food security conference in Dhaka that will play a key role in implementing the program in Bangladesh, Dr. Shah noted that US officials have been working at a high level with the Bangladeshi government, civil society and private sector. Feed the Future will focus on improving the agricultural systems of at least 20 countries and is expected to benefit 40 million people over a decade.

This week Dr. Shah officially announced the formation of USAID’s policy planning staff. Lawrence (Larry) Garber has been chosen to head up the effort as the acting assistant to the administrator for the brand-new Bureau of Policy Planning and Learning. Garber will be one of two deputy assistant administrators in the bureau.

During a visit at the White House with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, President Barack Obama announced that $400 million of aid will be sent to Gaza and the West Bank. The majority of the funds will be distributed through USAID for housing, education and infrastructure.

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Inside USAID: Getting to Know Our Newest Bureau

submitted by Julie Kunen

An interview with Larry Garber, Assistant to the Administrator of the newly created Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) Bureau.

Q: Why has PPL been created?
Garber: Administrator Shah created PPL to serve a range of internal and external stakeholders with policy analysis, meaningful evaluations, strategic planning coordination, and a dedicated focus on using science and technology to solve development problems. Working with the Agency’s talented professionals, the Bureau will provide an informed and unified voice in inter-agency and external fora. Of equal importance, PPL will support USAID’s evolution as a learning organization that is results-oriented, and fosters interchange among policy, planning, evaluation, research, innovation, and knowledge- management activities. PPL will also promote active engagement with and learning from our national and global development partners.

Q: What will PPL be working on?
Garber: PPL staff from the Bureau’s five offices (Policy, Strategic and Program Planning, Donor Engagement, Science and Technology, and Learning, Evaluation, and Research) will support the Administrator’s priority goals and initiatives, which include a renewed focus on the MDGs; inclusive, country-led growth; science, technology, and innovation; and development in crisis situations. More generally, PPL will play a leadership and coordination role on matters of policy and strategic planning for the Agency, providing guidance and content for policy- and strategy-related dialogues that occur in interagency and other external fora.

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Dr. Scott Radloff Talks Family Planning with Actress Rachael Leigh Cook

USAID speaks with actress Rachel Leigh Cook

Dr. Scott Radloff Talks Family Planning with Actress Rachael Leigh Cook

Dr. Radloff, Director of USAID’s Population and Reproductive Health Office, took some time to discuss the importance of family planning with actress Rachael Leigh Cook at the Women Deliver 2010 Conference in Washington, D.C. this week.  Shortly before Dr. Radloff spoke on a panel titled, “Paving the Road to Maternal Health with Family Planning” he answered the many questions Rachael had about the current need for family planning in the developing world.

Earlier in the day Rachael tweeted from the conference, “Maternal mortality rates in developing countries are shocking.”

It was evident from her conversation with Dr. Radloff that she is interested in learning more about how meeting the family planning needs of more than 215 million women can play a roll in reducing global maternal mortality rates. Her interest in maternal health and family planning was echoed by the many Hollywood actresses that showed up in support of the Women Deliver 2010 conference this week.  Aside from Rachel, actresses Ali Larter, Ashley Judd, Christy Turlington, and Annie Lennox attended the conference to bring much needed visibility to women’s issues.

Football Brings Hope To South Africa

submitted by Saba Hale

Nike created a “monolithic temple for football” in South Africa to give “inspiration and aspiration to the local community.”

This week Nike celebrated the grand opening of their soccer center in Soweto, South Africa. The training facility was a gift to the communities of Soweto and Johannesburg. Andy Walker, the designer, said he wanted to create a “monolithic temple for football” to give “inspiration and aspiration to the local community.”

Nike hopes that this facility will provide the youth of Soweto a safe place to come together through soccer and inspire them to reach their full potential, not only as athletes but in their lives.  The center houses two USAID-associated project groups – Grassroots Soccer, an NGO that coaches children in football, and Right to Care.  Additionally, it has integrated both HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment on site.

We hope this state-of-the-art facility creates a legacy for future generations. The center promotes the best quality of soccer – a unifier of people and communities. The facility’s lights shine though Soweto brightening once darkened corners.

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Dr. Jill Biden visits a USAID sponsored school for girls in Kenya

A great video over at Whitehouse.gov highlights the travels of Dr. Jill Biden in Kenya and her visit to a girls school helping to give young women a brighter future.

BRINGING MOBILE BANKING TO HAITI

One of the lesser-known victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake last January was the country’s financial system. Banks were closed for more than a week. Remittances through Fonkoze, a leading transfer agent, ground to a halt and were only restored when a U.S. inter-agency effort flew in more than $2 million. But even as the US, the international community, and the Government of Haiti help these traditional institutions get back on the feet, a critical roadblock to progress remains: less than 10% of Haitians have ever used a commercial bank.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce today an innovative partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to incentivize the development of financial services by mobile phone in Haiti. In short, these services are quicker, safer, and cheaper than traditional banking and could play a major role in helping to lift Haitians out of poverty and facilitating the country’s rebuilding process.

As part of the program, our friends at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $10 million for a fund to provide cash awards to companies that initiate mobile financial services in Haiti. USAID will offer technical and management assistance and other funding totaling approximately $5 million through one of our projects, the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE), already underway to improve access to financial services for the underserved. We’re working with Haitian companies in this effort in order to maximize our impact and address a critical need that had not been met through traditional approaches to development.

This type of program represents the approach I’m deeply committed to promoting here at USAID: cutting-edge technologies and programs deployed in new and unique ways to deliver optimal improvement. I’m very optimistic about what this program can do for Haiti and the short and long-term benefits it can deliver.

Because so few Haitians use commercial banks, savings are limited and insecure, employers must rely on sometimes-risky cash distributions, and remittance transfers (which account for about half of the country’s total income) are slowed. This problem is particularly problematic in rural areas and contributes to the over-concentration of Haitians in Port-au-Prince.

With the development of a mobile banking system, Haitians across the country could send, receive, and store money using their cell phones, better connecting them with relatives abroad who send money, employers who want to quickly and easily pay them, and goods and services they want to purchase. Here at USAID, we hope to be able to use mobile banking to pay workers through our cash-for-work programs, which currently employ about 24,000 people every day to do rubble removal and mitigation activities.

As we near the six month commemoration of the January 12th earthquake that devastated Haiti, we’re more focused than ever on helping the people of Haiti tackle the indescribably immense challenges that the earthquake posed. We’re working tirelessly with the international community and the Government of Haiti to address in new and innovative ways—such as through this mobile banking initiative–the problems that existed before the quake and that the disaster has only exacerbated. In this way, I am hopeful that we’ll finally be able to turn a corner on Haiti’s development challenges and put it on a path to a better future.

Click here to read our press release on the announcement.

Forging New Careers: USAID program seeks to train 100,000 Pakistani youth for in-demand jobs

Najeeb focuses during welding training. He is among 100,000 underemployed Pakistani youth USAID is training and helping with job placement under its Economic Growth program.

Holding an electric arc in his right hand, and a steel and glass helmet in front of his face with his left, Najeeb Ahmed bears down on a sheet of metal, focusing intensely as he heats a straight line across a forge under the watchful eye of an experienced ironworker.

Like millions of young Pakistanis, the 30-year-old Najeeb is ambitious and eager to work yet is nonetheless unemployed.  Becoming a welder may be his last chance to provide a good life for his family of six.

USAID is facilitating the placement of 100,000 Pakistanis – at least half women – in skill-matched jobs through training and placement
centers that establish linkages with the businesses, complementing other USAID programs such as education, health, and economic growth initiatives.

USAID is helping people find new economic options that offer hope for themselves and their children.  Growing job opportunities in key emerging sectors, such as food processing, construction, educational and health services, and marble, gems and jewelry will offer a way out of the cycle of poverty and violence currently afflicting much of Pakistan, particularly in the rural parts of the country.

Inside the World Food Programme’s Board Meeting in Rome

This post was submitted by USAID EGAT Bureau‘s Tjada McKenna, Senior Advisor to Feed the Future.

Raj Shah addressing the WFP - 7 June

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah addressing the WFP board on 7 June 2010.

I have just returned from Rome where USAID Administrator Raj Shah gave a speech at the opening session of the UN World Food Programme’s Executive Board Meeting.  In addition to the World Food Programme, we met with other Rome-based agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and representatives from civil society.

Working closely with multilateral partners and other key stakeholders including civil society and the private sector are core principles that will guide our implementation of Feed the Future, the US government’s global health and food security initiative.

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Increasing the Involvement of Men in Women’s Health

In male dominated cultures, USAID programs are helping to decrease maternal deaths by encouraging men to become involved in pregnancy and childbirth matters. Pictured: a man and child in Pakistan.

Reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent throughout the world by 2015 will take the involvement of men in countries where it matters most. Many of the countries where USAID works are male dominated cultures. To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries, men must be equal partners since they are the decision makers about health care in the family. These decisions include determining family size, timings of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care for themselves and their children. USAID-supported programs make special efforts to emphasize men’s shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive health. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups – entreaties that could be rejected because of traditional cultural values and perceptions that maternal health is the responsibility of women only.

In Pakistan, USAID is building on the efforts undertaken by the Government to create a cadre of religious leader master trainers to conduct roll out trainings in family planning and reproductive health, and maternal and child health, and gender issues consistent with and supported by the teachings of Islam.

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USAID Hosts Indian-Diaspora Workshop

Indian-American Diaspora Event

USAID Mission Director to India, Erin Soto, meeting with some of the Indian diaspora.  (photo by Jan Cartwright)

Mission Director Erin Soto, who heads USAID’s Mission in India, met yesterday afternoon in the Ronald Reagan Building with 33 members of the Indian American community. The dialogue was part of a day-long session to explore ways to enhance engagement and partnership between USAID and the Indian diaspora in our development efforts in India.

Soto noted that the Indian American community has much to bring, in terms of expertise, understanding, and resources, to development projects in India. She encouraged participants to network and to familiarize themselves with USAID’s budget cycle.

The participants, who came from a wide variety of organizations throughout the United States, appreciated the opportunity to come together as a group, to get questions answers, and to hear about the programs and priorities of USAID’s work in India.

Anju Bhargava, a member of the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2009 to 2010 and one of the participants of the event said, said, “The in-depth discussions through the various speakers, as well as with the USAID Mission head, gave us, the Indian American community, an insight into the process. Now we have to develop our capacity and partner with USAID to leverage the talent of our Diaspora to strengthen America’s strategic interest.”

Learn more about USAID’s activities in India.

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