USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Asia

Celebrating USAID’s Role in South Korea’s “Graduation”

In March, I accepted an award, on behalf of USAID, from South Korea’s Health Minister to honor the legacy of a remarkable partnership between USAID (and its predecessor, the International Cooperation Administration) and South Korea that facilitated the reconstruction of Korea’s medical education, research, and infrastructure in the wake of the Korean War.  At the award ceremony, I heard the inspiring personal stories of Korean medical practitioners who benefitted from U.S. assistance and went on to transform the medical field in their home country.  One that sticks in my mind in particular is Bo-Sung Sim, who received training in the United States from 1955 to 1957 through the U.S.-supported Minnesota Project and went on to pioneer modern neurosurgery in Korea.

But assistance in the medical field is just a piece of a much larger story – one of a productive U.S. and Korean partnership to transform a nation wracked by war into an economic powerhouse and donor partner that itself now provides aid to the world’s most vulnerable people.

Beginning in 1952, USAID supported South Korea’s aggressive growth strategy, helping the country build agriculture and industrial sectors that could fuel development.  Fast forward to today.   USAID no longer provides assistance to South Korea, which “graduated” from U.S. assistance in 1980.  Instead, South Korea has now become a vibrant source of trade for the United States.  It is currently the eighth largest market for American goods and services.  The development that has taken other nations centuries has been accomplished in just two generations.

And South Korea itself has become a net donor of foreign assistance and the newest member of the “advanced nations’ assistance club” known as the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).  Later this month, Korea will host the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, a major forum that will bring together 2,000 delegates to review progress enhancing the effectiveness of aid, and make commitments will transform the way bilateral aid for development is delivered.

A lot can happen in 50 years, and U.S. assistance to Korea is a prime example of the power of development aid to transform lives, create trading partners, and build a future of friendship and prosperity.

For more on USAID’s support for Korea’s extraordinary development, please see our case study “From Aid Recipient to Donor.”

New Teaching Methods and Resources Transform Indonesian School

The facilities were impeccable, the students were learning from enthusiastic teachers, and the school had the strong support of parents and its surrounding community.  This is not a school in the United States, but rather the school I’m describing is the Sedati Gede 2 primary school, located in Sidoarjo district in the Indonesian province of East Java, where the Indonesian government has partnered with USAID.  The school has 30 teachers and serves 746 students between the ages of 6 and 12.

Children interact with Assistant Administrator Biswal in a classroom at Sedati Gede 2 primary school. (Photo: USAID)

As part of its Decentralized Basic Education Program, USAID has partnered with the Indonesian government to help improve the school facilities, strengthen school management and accountability (for example, by bolstering parent committees), and enhance the teaching/learning process—all of which contribute to improved student learning.

Education has become a priority in the partnership between the U.S. and Indonesia governments.  USAID’s Decentralized Basic Education Program began in 2005, and since that time has benefitted approximately 1,500 schools, 57,400 educators, and 480,000 students.  Tools and approaches have been replicated by local government and donor agencies, greatly expanding the impact we have had with this program.  By the end of 2011, there will be 26,170 schools replicating best practices from the program.

My first stop on this visit was the kindergarten facility.  Principal Nur Abda’u and local education officials greeted me and led me to a cheerfully decorated classroom, where a USAID-supported Interactive Audio Instruction lesson was in progress. As part of their lesson, the children were excitedly playing an interactive game with a ball.  I remarked to the principal that this is just the kind of nurturing, stimulating school that I would love to send my own children to.

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Building Bridges to the Oecusse Exclave

Just weeks into my new assignment in Timor-Leste, I was thrilled to be traveling with a group of colleagues to the country’s remote exclave of Oecusse.  By catching a ride on a UN helicopter, our team was able to cut out nearly a day of travel, including clearing the four border checkpoints required to make the trip overland.  Located geographically within the borders of Indonesia, the district is separated from the rest of Timor-Leste not only spatially, but culturally and linguistically as well.  Throughout our visit we would often need two translators, one between the local language (Baikeno) and the national language (Tetum), and a second translator between Tetum and English.

After arriving in the district capital of Pante Makassar, our team immediately jumped into vehicles and set out on our mission to see several of USAID’s projects.  As we drove through the district, bouncing along dirt roads, winding through hills, and scuttling across dry river beds, it was plain to see how many of the already difficult-to-reach villages become completely inaccessible during the rainy season.  Contributing to the district’s isolation is its poor infrastructure, with few all-weather roads, underdeveloped networks for water and sewage, and an insufficient electrical grid.  Even the district capital receives only 12 hours of electricity per day, punctuated by frequent power outages.  As the Economic Growth Team Leader at USAID Timor-Leste seeing the district for the first time, my thoughts immediately turn to the enormous challenge of trying to link the people of these remote areas with the rest of their country, let alone the world economy. Yet USAID is helping to do just that.

In the town of Pune, our team met with several farmers who participate in USAID’s cattle fattening project.  Through a cooperative association, these small farmers are able to receive veterinary medicine from the Timorese government and husbandry advice for the cattle they raise.  Without the project these farmers would be unable to import their own medicines and would be vulnerable to price fluctuations in distant markets. Through the cooperative, these farmers are given a pre-negotiated price for their cattle so that they know in advance that they will be able to reap the benefits of their hard work.

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USAID Helps Timor-Leste Usher In a New Era in Land Rights

You can’t go too fast on the narrow and winding road to Manatutu, about two and a half hours east of Dili.  It is a magnificent road, at times taking you up the side of a hill, at times right by the beach.  The views all along the way are astounding:  the clear, azure waters of the Pacific, the miles of mangrove forest, and the small towns, one with a newly rebuilt school thanks to the U.S. Navy’s contingent of Seabees here.

Teams from USAID’s Ita Nia Rai (Our Land) project work with a local resident on his land claim in Ermera District. Across Timor-Leste, the teams have documented more than 50,000 claims covering almost all of the urban areas. Photo Credit: Charles S. Rice/USAID Timor-Leste

The town of Manatutu is nestled on the shore of the Pacific.  In a large administration building by the main church, we attended a ceremony celebrating Ita Nai Rai (“Our Land”).  This USAID-funded project has touched the lives of more than 50,000 families in the urban areas of all the country’s districts—and more 1,400 in Manatutu District. With an average family size of 5.8, that means that USAID funds have enabled nearly all of Timor-Leste’s 316,000 urban residents to stake a claim on their land.

Land issues in Timor-Leste are complex, as they are everywhere, and the government has yet to pass a comprehensive land law.  But with USAID’s help, Timor-Leste is now taking this first step—to validate a landowner’s uncontested claim with an official certificate.

As we pulled into the parking lot, people, as they are wont to do before big ceremonies in Timor-Leste, were milling about, sitting on chairs arranged in front of a dais, listening to music. (Bob Marley was on, “No Woman, No Cry.”)  The formal agenda said that the ceremony was to start at 9:30, and I was anxious that we shouldn’t be late.  But the relaxed atmosphere showed that it was more flexible than I anticipated.  (Gradually, I am learning that in Timor-Leste I have to be able to “feel” whether or not I am going to be late.  In this case, I should have known that the festivities would not begin exactly on time.)

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From the Field

In Batticaloa, Sri Lanka we held a friendly cricket tournament between youth from the East and South  to mark International Peace Day.

In Jaffna, Sri Lanka we opened a collection center and distributed “freezer trucks” to farmers as part of USAID’s public-private alliances program.  This hand over of equipment, tools and grants will improve productivity and profitability of fruit and vegetable cultivation in the conflict-affected Northern Province. These partnerships will not only provide employment to young men and women in the conflict-affected districts but also offer training and social integration among members of diverse ethnic groups.

In Vavuniya, Sri Lanka under our Office of Transition Initiatives program, we will hand over a large truck  to recently resettled farmers in the North in a bid to enhance their marketing potential and to foster relations between the North and the South. Farmers will also receive water pumps and sprinklers on a credit basis.

In Iraq, as part of an ongoing effort to improve local governance and build local capacity, we held a competition for the best District Council website.  The websites will evaluated based on their content quality and quantity, layout/ organization, update frequency, and objectivity/reliability.

In Jordan, as part of our water resources management program, we began work at a new wastewater treatment plant.  Jordan is one of the ten most water-deprived countries in the world. The treatment plant will help improve the health and environmental conditions of the surrounding areas.

In the Ukraine, we will hold a 10th Anniversary celebration of Telekritika, a key media watchdog in Ukraine and a long-standing USAID partner. The celebration includes award ceremony to honor TV producers and TV journalists whose activities represent the highest ethical reporting standards to strengthening independent media in Ukraine.

New Partnership with Islamic Bank Marks Step Forward for Indonesian Women and USAID

Eid Saeed! This week Muslims around the world have been celebrating Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. And low-income women in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, have another reason to celebrate.

U.S. Ambassador for Indonesia Scot Marciel (left) and Bank Mulamalat President Director Arviyan Arifin shake hands at the signing ceremony. Photo Credit: USAID/Indonesia

As a result of a new USAID loan guarantee signed on August 23, they can now apply for microfinance loans through Bank Muamalat, the country’s oldest Islamic bank.  This $1.15 million agreement is USAID’s first-ever finance guarantee program with a Islamic financial institution worldwide.

What is Islamic banking?  It means that the bank uses Islamic guidelines for approving financing for applicants with a goal to achieve social and economic justice.  For example, the charging of interest is prohibited by the Koran. So rather than charging profit-motivated interest as a typical bank would, Bank Muamalat’s microloans will be a funding type known as mudaraba, in which the microentrepreneurs and the bank share both the profit and risk.

The loans are available to applicants of any religious affiliation, but the fact that they are compatible with Islamic principles will help reach the low-income women who have been hardest to reach with traditional microfinance programs. Microloans will allow these women to start or expand businesses, helping to increase their incomes and improve living conditions for themselves and their families.

The finance guarantee agreement builds on President Obama’s speech in Cairo , which called for deeper engagement with the Muslim world. It is also a prime example of the type of how USAID partners with established in-country institutions to leverage existing resources and knowledge.

A Personal Thanks to Filipino Americans from USAID/Philippines

To the more than 80 Filipino Americans from the metro Washington, D.C., area and beyond who came to speak with me on Friday, August 19, thank you for doing so much to help our kababayan (our fellow Filipinos).  It was a pleasure to hear about your efforts as dedicated Filipino American leaders and activists from prominent charitable, social, and cultural organizations.

USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele met with Filipino American leaders and activists to discuss how USAID could complement their development projects in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Hope Bryer/USAID

Our projects span several areas, such as education, economic growth, and health. But one of our biggest efforts is working together with the Government of the Philippines to tackle the overarching challenges to improving social and economic conditions here, including corruption and governance.  We are also focusing on a new initiative, the Partnership for Growth , a joint effort with the Government of the Philippines and the U.S. Government to promote broad-based economic growth in emerging markets such as the Philippines.

What was especially heartwarming was seeing community members connect directly with each other, and with USAID, on finding solutions.  One participant, a pediatrician working locally, apologized to us that she had to rush back to the hospital for her evening rounds.  But in the short time she was there, she told me about her efforts to stop tuberculosis in the Philippines, which sadly remains a critical health issue here, and exchanged contact information with me and several other participants also working on TB.

Let’s see how our efforts can complement each other to improve the lives of the people of the Philippines.

Saving Lives Across Nepal: Female Community Health Volunteers

Taking a health sector initiative “to scale” and making it sustainable is a challenging development goal. Ambitious, but achievable. In Nepal, the Ministry of Health and Population has succeeded in bringing maternal and child health information and health services to every community in the country. This, in spite of the fact that the majority of Nepal’s 29 million people live in rural and often remote areas, far from any health service facility.

The Female Community Health Volunteer program, with the support of USAID and other partners, has built upon existing country resources to organize, train and supply a powerful “workforce” of approximately 50,000 women—each elected by her community, who contributes her time and effort to care for those in her village.

Doctors at the central/federal level drive a cascading series of trainings which pass vital knowledge to ever larger groups of health services workers at the various organizational and geographical levels of the Department of Health Services. At the final tiers, Health Post and Sub-Health Post staff train the volunteers from the surrounding areas. It is sort of like what would happen if a snowball was rolled off the summit of Nepal’s Mt. Everest… it would grow in size as it rolled downward, resulting in something extraordinarily large by the time it reached the base.

At “Ama Samuha” mothers’ group meetings which volunteers hold each month, they act as health promoters covering topics such as the benefits of proper diet during pregnancy and how certain traditional beliefs can result in life-threatening situations during and after delivery. They also serve as health providers who, at their home or during house-calls, treat among other things the primary causes of childhood mortality (diarrhea and pneumonia) and administer vitamin A, which by itself saves the lives of an average of 15,000 children annually.

During the filming of the video embedded in this post, Director of International Communications Margy Bailey, Chief of Party of the Nepal Family Health Program Ashoke Shrestha, Health Program Officer Deepak Paudel, USAID Nepal Development Outreach and Communications Specialist Stuti Basnyet and I met truly selfless heroes like Laxmi Sharma from Damachaur village and Amrica KC from Marke ward in Salyan district. In no small part due to their commitment and that of the rest of the cadre of Female Community Health Volunteers, Nepal’s maternal and child mortality rates have dropped significantly. Under President Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI)—the next chapter in the way the U.S. Government conducts global health activities—Nepal, which is one of eight GHI focus countries, is expected to achieve its national 2015 health indicator targets.

A Trafficker Behind Bars: A Counter Trafficking Success Story

By: Niyama Rai, CTIP Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for The Asia Foundation

Eighteen year-old Sita[1] met Prakash in Banke, a district in the far west of Nepal, where she lived with her parents. Prakash came to her village during a festival celebration, and Sita’s uncle introduced them. The two quickly fell in love and decided to elope. Prakash told Sita that he had a job waiting for him in Delhi, and the two of them traveled to the border to cross into India.

Upon Prakash’s suggestion, they took different rickshaws to cross the border. They traveled to Delhi by bus, and Prakash set Sita up in a private house. He told her that he had to travel to another city for work, but that he would return in two weeks. He never returned, and instead, Sita was sold into a brothel a few weeks later by the landlady of the house where she was staying. In the brothel, Sita was beaten, tortured, and coerced into serving 20 to 25 male clients a day.

Women gather at a CTIP-supported community orientation meeting in Kanchanpur, a remote district in the far west of Nepal. Photo Credit: The Asia Foundation

After a year in the brothel, Sita fell ill and was taken to receive treatment at a nearby medical center. She managed to escape from the hospital, and with the assistance of a Nepali whom she met during her escape, returned to Nepal and was reunited with her family. A month later, Sita was approached by the Center for Legal Research and Resource Development (CeLRRd), a paralegal committee organized by a local NGO, which encouraged her to go to the local police and file a report against Prakash. Unfortunately, Sita was too traumatized to tell her story and couldn’t garner enough evidence to file a case.

Sita was then referred to CeLRRd’s Victim Legal Aid Lawyer in Nepalgunj. Under The Asia Foundation’s USAID-funded Counter Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) program, a lawyer worked closely with Sita to ensure she understood her legal rights and the victim protection provisions of the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act 2007 of Nepal. Equipped with an increased understanding of her rights and of victim protection strategies, Sita filed a First-Incident-Report with the Nepal Police. On the basis of this report, the police carried out an investigation and eventually arrested Prakash.

Sita’s case was filed in the district court and CeLRRd’s CTIP-funded Victim Legal Aid Lawyer represented her. She bravely testified against Prakash, which strengthened the case. During the court hearing, Prakash admitted to having trafficked three other women on the pretense of marriage. With Sita’s testimony and the persistence of the legal counsel, Prakash was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

USAID is currently supporting a five-year project with The Asia Foundation to combat human trafficking in Nepal. Trafficking is a serious problem in Nepal, with as many as 15,000 Nepali women and girls trafficked annually to India and over 30,000 trafficked domestically for involuntary labor and sexual exploitation. To combat these trends, The Asia Foundation and its partners are increasing awareness of the risks of trafficking in six key districts, while working to improve the ability of the judicial system and law enforcement to prosecute traffickers. The program also provides legal aid to trafficking victims like Sita, one of the many beneficiaries of the project’s counseling and court representation for survivors.

Check out USAID’s IMPACT blog this week for more stories about USAID TIP programs around in the world in support of the Department of State’s eleventh annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report release.

Click here for further information on USAID’s work on Trafficking in Persons.


[1] Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

The Korean Peninsula at Night

If you look at a map of the Korean Peninsula at night, you can immediately understand the impact of global development. Darkness covers nearly the entire North, masking a child malnutrition rate of nearly 50 percent and untold stories of individual suffering and poverty.  But over South Korea, you see a country shining with lights, energy and economic activity. Behind that brightness, there is a story of remarkable progress and partnership.

Satellite picture displaying the Korean peninsula at night. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago, South Korea was poorer than two-thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and its people had an average life expectancy of 54 years. But South Korea also had effective development partnerships with nations around the world.  In the decades of engagement since, we supported South Korea’s agriculture and industrial sectors, helping the country focus intently on an aggressive growth strategy.

Once a major recipient of aid, South Korea today provides assistance to the world’s developing countries.  Now a vibrant trade partner with the United States, South Korea is currently the eighth largest market for American goods and services, ahead of France and Australia.

Here at home, we are having an ongoing debate about whether America can still afford to be a superpower. Simply put, we can’t afford not to be.  We know that we are safer, more secure and far better off with more South Koreas than North Koreas in the world.

For that reason, I was pleased to join Secretary Clinton today in deepening the valuable partnership between the U.S. and South Korea with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation.  We have committed to working together through policy coordination to increase the impact, efficiency, and focus of our development programs.  Secretary Clinton and I also had an opportunity to thank South Korea for hosting the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness that will take place in Busan later this year.

South Korea’s emergence demonstrates the ability of effective, meaningful development to help improve lives, expand opportunities and, ultimately, transform nations.

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