Local residents look at a mountain of debris left by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake in Natori in Miyagi Prefecture on March 16, 2011. Japan’s Emperor Akihito delivered a rare address to a jittery nation in dread of nuclear catastrophe on March 16 as millions struggled in desperate conditions after quake and tsunami disasters. Photo credit: Toru Yamanaka / AFP
If you’ve been following the aftermath of last week’s massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan you’re probably wondering how you can help. Millions are affected, recovery will be protracted and difficult.
Besides the initial, tragic effects of the disaster, millions of people in Japan still have no running water or power. Lines spanning city blocks and lasting hours are forming, as thousands look to acquire basic essentials. All supplies are being rationed.
As overwhelming images of the devastation rush in Japan, many compassionate Americans feel the urge to help. The best way, however, to contribute to the massive relief effort is not always clear. The Center for International Disaster Information provides some very useful information on how you can help.
When disasters happen abroad, the best and most effective way for Americans to help is to give cash. Donating cash instead of goods ensures that victims can get the quickest possible access to basic items on the ground provided by our experienced humanitarian partners.
By learning how to give responsibly, and by making sure that others understand the importance of cash donations as well, you can have a real and lasting impact on the lives of international disaster victims.
Red Cross worker Daniel Jordan counts donations during a “drive-through” fundraiser benefiting the American Red Cross Japan Tsunami Fund at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 15, 2011. Photo Credit: AFP Photo/ Mark Ralston
“The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.”
-President Barack Obama
As part of the American effort to assist the Japanese Government’s response to the earthquake and subsequent Tsunami, USAID has deployed two urban search and rescue teams. The teams from Fairfax County and Los Angeles County Fire Departments include 144 personnel, 12 canines trained to detect live victims, and 45 tons of equipment. See below for some of the latest photos of the teams on the ground.
US rescue workers, including one with a fiber optic telescopic camera (R), check rubble for survivors in Ofunato while conducting operations in the devastated city on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devastating 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP
US rescue workers check rubble for survivors in Ofunato while conducting operations in the devastated city on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devasting earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP
US rescue workers treat a dog which slightly injured its paw while searching for survivors in the devastated city of Ofunato on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devasting earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP
Bangladesh is on track to meet the 2015 deadline for U.N. Millennium Development Goal 5 (50 percent reduction in maternal deaths). The Bangladesh Maternal Mortality and Health Service Survey [PDF] jointly funded by the Government of Bangladesh, USAID, Australian Aid (AusAID) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that maternal deaths in Bangladesh fell from 322 per 100,000 in 2001 to 194 in 2010, a 40 percent decline in 9 years.
The decline in direct obstetric deaths is most likely the consequence of better care seeking practices and improved access to and use of higher-level referral care. The decline in total fertility rate due to the successful family planning program has reduced exposure to high risk pregnancies and has thus prevented a large number of maternal deaths.
USAID’s program in Bangladesh has historically been very strong in family planning through the world’s largest social marketing program for non-clinical contraceptive methods and through the public sector for long-acting permanent methods. We can confidently say that our long and unwavering investments in family planning have had direct impact in lowering the total fertility rate, and thus the maternal mortality rate, in Bangladesh. Over the past five years, USAID has also invested in scaling up active management of the third stage of labor to prevent postpartum hemorrhage in the public and NGO sector.
The USAID program has also long invested in promoting and providing antenatal care through the NGO sector which linked women to the health system thus contributing to increased awareness and care-seeking for obstetric complications. USAID and CDC’s long term commitment to the in depth training of local scientists has resulted in the creation of Bangladesh’s premiere research institute, the International Center for Diarrheal Disease and Research, Bangladesh (ICCDDRB) which has the capacity to effectively guide valid and reliable research efforts such as the 2010 Bangladesh Maternal Mortality and Health Care Survey (BMMS).
USAID supported and provided technical leadership in implementation of the 2001 and 2010 BMMS to monitor the performance of the overall maternal health program. Without these two surveys it would not be possible for Bangladesh to monitor its progress towards achieving the MDG 5 goal.
Amanda Glassman, Director of Global Health Policy and a research fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote “the results are also a good reminder that investments in family planning and girls’ education drive much of maternal health outcomes, and that USAID investment in social marketing of family planning and health seems to be paying off in improved health (see blog post).”
The Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is scaling up emergency obstetric care and active management of the third stage of labor; the Ministry has also recently approved distribution of Misoprostol tablets to all pregnant women shortly after delivery to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. There is also increasing availability of Magnesium Sulphate for management of pre-eclampsia. The predominance of hemorrhage and eclampsia deaths and deaths after delivery indicate a need to strengthen access to treatment for these two conditions, improve referral systems, and improve referral level care.
Every year, USAID provides basic health care services to nearly 20 million Bangladeshis, including provision of low-cost, quality family planning services and maternal and child health care. With USAID and international support, under-five mortality rates have declined by more than 50 percent in Bangladesh since 1990. USAID has trained and mobilized community health workers to provide critical maternal and child health care to supplement broader health interventions and support country-level capacity. Bangladesh already received a country award from the United Nations for significant progress in reaching MDG 4 (reducing child mortality) during the MDG Summit in New York on September 19.
The Government of Bangladesh and the United States jointly rolled out President Obama’s Global Health Initiative in Bangladesh on November 23. GHI in Bangladesh will focus on providing quality services to reduce maternal and child mortality, resuscitate family planning programs, improve nutrition status among children under age five, and strengthen overall health systems over the next five years.
By Dr. John Wilson, Director of the Office of Technical Services for USAID’s Middle East and Asia Bureaus
Imagine a water- and food-secure Middle East and North Africa. A region with a reliable supply of water, where no child dies of a water-borne illness, where the hungry are fed, and where no wars are fought over water.
(Left to right) Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, Vice Chairman, QNFSP; Fahad Al-Attiyah, Chairman, QNFSP; HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan; and John Wilson, USAID Photo: USAID
A group of over 60 scientists, policy makers, and administrators did just that from February 28 to March 2 in Doha, Qatar. Seventeen water centers of excellence from 10 countries across the Middle East and North Africa came together to create the Middle East and North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence (MENA NWC). The meeting, co-sponsored by USAID and the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP), builds upon a year of intense regional consultation. The network aims to link technical institutions across the Middle East and North Africa with each other, with counterpart institutions in the United States and elsewhere, with governments, and with the private sector to solve the critical water problems confronting the region.
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Hady Amr welcomed the group at the opening dinner and introduced a series of inspiring speakers. U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Joseph LeBaron highlighted the words of Secretary Clinton: “The water that we use today has been circulating through the earth since time began. It must sustain humanity for as long as we live on this earth. We didn’t just inherit this resource from our parents; we are truly borrowing it from our children.”
After a one-hour prop plane ride from Kathmandu, followed by an 11-hour rocky drive through the stunning hills and valleys of Mid-Western Nepal’s upper hilly region, our team reached Salyan District’s remote and rural villages. We were there to video the successes of the USAID-supported, 50,000-strong Female Community Health Volunteer project. Working in every district of Nepal, these volunteers are often the only health care providers in such remote and isolated villages.
Female Community Health Volunteers of Marke District, Nepal, work to enhance health awareness, improve health standards, and save lives throughout their communities by utilizing the training they’ve received through the USAID-supported Nepal Family Health Program. Photo Credit: Gregg Rappaport/USAID
I’ve spent the last several days traveling with our group comprised of health specialists, program managers, and communicators (Gregg Rapaport, Senior Communications Manager, and Stuti Basnyet, USAID/Nepal) videoing, interviewing, listening and learning. The stories are nothing short of amazing, and the volunteers’ passion to fulfill what they consider a calling to serve their communities has been inspiring.
It’s been humbling to hear the stories of these dedicated volunteers giving care under arduous circumstances and to meet the many villagers seeking care – a health volunteer who recently saved a newborn baby’s life minutes after delivery; another who has committed more than 22 years to serving her community through this project; a group of women who, in the last six months, have counseled more than 85 couples on family planning; a man seeking care for severe knee problems who arrived in the village on a stretcher after traveling nearly two hours, carried high above the heads of his four nephews. These volunteers are changing the behavior of their villages, increasing awareness to improve health standards, and most importantly, saving lives. Of the 500 local children checked for pneumonia in the last six months, 73 were treated with antibiotics, 13 were referred to higher level health care at the district level, and all have made a full recovery.
One woman I spoke with, Laxmi Sharma, a volunteer in Salyan’s Ward 4, said that it’s not a matter of money, but rather a matter of helping her community. “We do this as volunteers,” she explained, “because we can improve the health of our communities.” The women play a crucial role in providing vitamin A supplementation, immunizations, family planning education, safe motherhood interventions, and community-based integrated management of childhood illnesses, particularly in the detection and treatment of pneumonia and diarrhea – Nepal’s top two childhood killers.
With support from USAID and other donors, Nepal is also one of only a handful of countries poised to meet more than one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in health by reducing the number of maternal and child deaths by nearly half in only 10 years! A remarkable achievement alone, that it was realized at the end of the nation’s prolonged 10-year internal conflict makes it even more profound.
Our return trip back through the town of Dang this afternoon was marked by a rather serendipitous event – hundreds of women, men, and children marched in solidarity to celebrate the global 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. One woman I spoke with explained, “Through this (march) forum … we can work to ensure women have equity, empowerment, and are at the center of mainstream politics. If all the women come together, this is something that is achievable, we just need to work at it.”
Around the world today, millions of people will flood the streets in their hometowns to voice their enduring support for the advancement of women and girls as key leaders in the creation of a better world. As new ideas and innovative ways are introduced, USAID/Nepal continues to incorporate these pioneering initiatives in its program design, placing women and girls at the forefront of building the country’s peace and prosperity.
But USAID/Nepal is not only working in the health sector – it is also leading the way in partnership with the Nepalese people to finding solutions to the toughest challenges to driving economic progress, promoting educational opportunities, promoting political stability, sustaining the environment, and feeding the population.
The Education for Income Generation Activity has trained more than 65,000 disadvantaged youth from the Midwestern region—the most conflict affected and one of the poorest regions of Nepal—in basic and business literacy, vocational training and agriculture productivity and enterprise development in the last three years. Of these, 7,900 youth received vocational training with 80% gainfully employed as a result of the training.
Through the Women’s Leadership Academy program, USAID has provided training on the fundamentals of democratic politics and constitution drafting to over 200 elected women parliamentarians and civil servants, providing them with the tools needed to draft the constitution and participate fully in party and parliamentary proceedings.
We know that supporting investment in women and girls can be compelling force multiplier for development and innovation. At the heart of Nepal’s advancement, women will continue to advocate on behalf of their communities, and promote advancements in education, economic growth, politics, climate change, and initiatives to improve access to food. USAID/Nepal will continue to move this agenda forward, and advance this priority by standing in solidarity with by the women and girls of Nepal.
Today I work at USAID/Indonesia as a development specialist in the Office of Democratic Governance. But during the popular uprising that led to the downfall of Suharto and the return of democratic government to Indonesia I was a student activist.
After the popular, student led uprising in Indonesia – similar to what recently occurred in Cairo, Egypt — the government agreed to early elections in 1999. I joined the Indonesian Rectors Forum (Forum Rektor), an NGO that was formed in support of democratic elections, and organized a group of individuals to develop manuals and forms for election monitoring. I was subsequently trained as a national trainer for voter education by the American Center for Labor Solidarity (funded by USAID) and as a national trainer for elections monitoring. I was also the head of division for election monitoring training in the Bandung office of Forum Rektor. This led to a position at the national office in which I managed about 300,000 volunteers for voter education, vote monitoring, and parallel vote tabulation, and eventually to a position in the Executive Office.
I knew USAID/Indonesia FSN Mimi Santika (who continues to work at the Mission today) as the Forum Rektor contact at USAID and met her several times in 1999. My first contact with the American Embassy was actually in 1998 with Ining Nurani. Today she is a colleague in the Democratic Governance Office at USAID, but then she was with the Political Section of the Embassy. I met with Ining because the Embassy wanted to know more about the student movement in Indonesia. We talked about the Forum Rektor Task Force strategy on fighting the New Order regime of President Sukharto. We, in turn, were curious about the US perspective.
I recently returned from a 10-day trip to the Philippines where I had the opportunity to visit a number of USAID-assisted projects in Mindanao. The second largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao is graced with stunning natural beauty—towering mountains and verdant plateaus—but is also the location of a protracted conflict that has held back the region’s development. As a result, Mindanao is a central focus of our peace, stability, and economic growth programs in the Philippines.
Along with USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele, Asia Bureau economist Dany Khy, and the outstanding technical staff of USAID/Philippines, I visited Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao to gain a better understanding of our programs’ history, successes, and challenges—and to explore new opportunities for accelerating broad-based economic growth. We viewed a variety of projects that are supported by USAID, including the Misamis Oriental State College of Agriculture and Technology, the Northern Mindanao Vegetable Producers Association, the Opol Emergency Clinic and Birthing Home, and a branch of the First Valley Bank that participates in USAID’s Microenterprise Access to Banking Services Program.
During my time on the island I also had the unique opportunity to meet with a number of local government representatives, civil society groups, and private sector officials at an event that was organized by the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce. We engaged in a dynamic and fruitful debate about the key constraints to economic growth in Mindanao and brainstormed on strategies to unlock the primary choke points. I was deeply impressed by the visionary leadership of the local government and the strong working relationship they had established with so many different components of the community. I was fortunate to have Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, the Chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority, accompany me throughout the visit, and gained the benefit of her insights and plans to accelerate economic growth in close coordination with USAID.
I left the island with a clearer vision of the many opportunities ahead for USAID and the people of Philippines to build peace, promote good governance, increase economic opportunities, protect the environment, strengthen health services, and improve basic education. I also look forward to returning soon to work with the incredibly skilled and committed staff of USAID/Philippines and our partners.
During the USAID delegation to Afghanistan, Administrator Rajiv Shah, Mission Director Earl Gast, and Alex Their, head of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan, visited the Hesa Awal Community Development Council (CDC)—an initiative made possible through Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Programme (NSP)—located in Dakoy Payan Village, Kabul. Also present was Deputy Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak for Programmes, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development, visited a Community Development Council Health Clinic in Mirbacha Kot, north of Kabul, Afghanistan. Dr. Shah was accompanied by USAID Mission Director Earl Gast and Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Jarullah Mansoori. Photo Credit: Lars Anderson/USAID
Created in 2003, the solidarity program develops the ability of Afghan communities to identify, plan, manage and monitor their own development projects. NSP empowers communities to manage resources transparently during all stages of the project-cycle and make decisions affecting their own lives and livelihoods. In Hesa Awal, the CDC serves 482 families totaling 2,802 people. Sometimes the men and women of this village come together, at the same time, to discuss what matters to them most and on this day the villagers agreed that their clinic was a top-priority. The clinic serves an average of 70 patients a day, most of them children and soon-to-be mothers. For parents, the biggest impact has been the enhanced quality of maternal health care, as well as the improved health of their children as a result of vaccinations.
Administrator Shah was enthusiastic with the development council’s capacity to come together on a weekly basis and connect with the people to address local issues. Shah noted how much of a huge difference and positive impact this program has had on the community, most notably the CDC’s work in establishing a well-stocked and run clinic and completion of a local road project, which combined, cost less than sixty thousand dollars.
Click here to see video from the Administrator's trip to Afghanistan.
Minister Barmak reinforced the NSP’s goal of fostering a sense of local ownership and leadership and was grateful for USAID‘s support.
Both Earl Gast and Alex Thier recognized the programs proven results in connecting the local government to the provincial level.
The CDC, supported by USAID, is the largest component of Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program.
By Amie Batson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Global Health Bureau
I’ve just returned from my first ever week in Pakistan and what a week it was. Working with my colleagues in the US embassy and USAID offices, and with their Pakistani counterparts, I came to appreciate that development work in Pakistan is exceptionally hard but also very rewarding.
On Monday, I visited to Peshawar, a 2 ½ hour drive from Islamabad, to meet with the health authorities and to visit a public health school for Lady Health Visitors, Community Midwives and other paramedical staff. You might know Peshawar from the news as one of the areas close to the Afghan border where lots of refugees have settled in camps to escape the violence in Afghanistan.
Although I’ve worked in global health for 20 years, this is the first time I’ve ever needed an armored vehicle to visit a field site. Once we arrived in Peshawar we changed cars, picked up both US and armed Pakistani security escorts –– and continued driving ahead through the confused traffic of cars, bicycles, donkey carts and people. After a hair-raising journey through downtown Peshawar, we finally arrived at our destination – the school of public health that trains women to be deliver babies and health care in the most remote areas of Pakistan – and I was given the all clear to open the car door.
Re-arranging the head scarf and long coat that I wore to show respect for local customs, I cautiously went to meet the school’s director. She was already waiting on the front step with a big smile and bouquet of roses in her hand. After introductions to her all-female teaching staff of doctors and midwives, she gave me a tour of the school.
First we visited two classrooms with 60 young women, each of whom had been selected from over 600 applicants from around the country. These women were in their 2nd year of the two-year Lady Health Visitors program, and would soon be accredited as midwives and medical personnel. After they complete their training, these women will return and work in health clinics that provide the only medical care that many in their community will ever receive. Most clinics serve up to 10,000 people – and the Lady Health Visitors provide services ranging from vaccinating infants and children to protecting them from diseases like measles, whooping cough, polio and hepatitis, to providing care for pregnant women to delivering babies and educating families about the importance of nutrition and spacing of pregnancies.
The women were excited to meet someone from the US and to thank our country for supporting their school. For only about $24 each month, our US government supports a range of small upgrades to the school to help improve the learning environment and the quality of education provided. These items included training materials, models for anatomy class, and structural upgrades to the classrooms and students hostels. For the Community Midwives that were trained there, basic equipment was provided for the girls to take to their health post once they graduated – equipment like a birthing table, safe delivery equipment, sheets, a sterilizer, a stethoscope and small stipends for the women to live on. The Director showed us the “anatomy room” with plastic models of the human body, the delivery room and labor room – a room with 5 beds, the immunization and consultation rooms and the dormitories. The tour finished in the kitchen – where the delicious smells of lunch (which couldn’t be eaten until we left) came from an enormous pot sitting on a fire. As we said our goodbyes in the courtyard we spotted an old Dodge school bus, a gift from decades ago that was carefully cajoled into starting every now and then.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the work our government is doing to improve health around the world and for the opportunity to witness first-hand the impact U.S. assistance has in Pakistan. I’m confident that the lives and impact of the Pakistani health workers I met have been forever changed by our assistance. In 20 years of development work – I’ve never had the armed escort – but I’ve also never been greeted with a bouquet of roses.
For many Indian cities and towns facing the challenges of growing populations and urban expansion, providing direct access to clean, affordable, and reliable drinking water is a significant challenge. Currently, only a fraction of the urban population has direct access to clean piped water, often because of inadequate and inefficient supply systems. The delivery of water and sanitation services in cities is particularly important because of the direct impact on human health and productivity. To help address the urgent need for investment in water and sanitation infrastructure across the country, the USAID Financial Institutions Reform and Expansion (FIRE-D) project tested two sustainable models for providing affordable and equitable access to safe drinking water and sanitation in the Indian states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
Children collect water from a hand pump in an urban slum in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Most slums in India lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services. Photo Credit: Sukhminder Dosanj
In the state of Orissa, FIRE-D provided technical assistance, training, and capacity building to the state government’s water utility to help restructure operations, institute operating and financing reforms, and move toward full cost recovery to allow it to expand services to all urban residents, including the poor. The Japan International Cooperation Agency offered to continue the institutional strengthening process after the FIRE-D project ends in January 2011.
In addition, FIRE-D brokered apublic-private partnership agreement between a Bhubaneswar, Orissa NGO; a microfinance institution; the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation; and the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the provision of water and sanitary toilets in seven slums of Bhubaneswar which benefited approximately 3,500 residents. As part of the project, FIRE-D also provided technical assistance to the BMC to formulate a comprehensive strategy for all of Bhubaneswar’s 377 low-income settlements, with a focus on how water and sanitation are linked to improved health and hygiene.
FIRE-D helped the Madhya Pradesh Urban Infrastructure Fund plan and prepare bankable water and sanitation projects, which will be financed through municipal bonds and other sources of private sector capital. FIRE-D also partnered with the UK Department for International Development to design and construct improved water and sanitation infrastructure in 12 slums in Dewas, an ancient town in Madhya Pradesh. The slums will be connected to a new city-wide water project that is currently under construction. The lessons from this initiative were used to develop a citywide sanitation plan, which provides a comprehensive roadmap for a cleaner and healthier city.