USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Asia

Pic of the Week: U.S. Congratulates Winner of Charming Plus Pageant

winner hivU.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael W. Michalak congratulates Ms. Tran Thi Hue, winner of Charming Plus 2010 — the first pageant for HIV positive women in Vietnam. Tran Thi Hue, a 27-year-old HIV outreach worker from Ha Nam province, was crowned on November 14.  Photo is from Richard Nyberg/USAID.

From the Field

In Lebanon, in order to improve student achievement in Lebanese Public Schools, we will improve learning environments through physical repairs and provision of equipment, increase learning opportunities through in-service teacher training and extra-curricular activities, and raise stakeholder engagement in public schools.  This effort is expected to benefit thousands of students and teachers in over 1,300 public schools. Ambassador Maura Connelly, USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Christopher Crowley and USAID/Lebanon Mission Director Dr. Jim Barnhart will announce the program with the Lebanese Minister of Education & Higher Education; Dr. Hassan Mneimneh.

In Afghanistan, we will hold our second Water Conference. In this Forum, key water sector stakeholders can develop a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges of sustainable development and management of water resources in Afghanistan and set a road map for addressing the challenges.

In Cambodia, on December 10th in Phnom Penh, we will celebrate the 62nd Anniversary of International Human Rights Day.

Women Leaders Combating Violence Against Women in India

During President Obama’s visit to India earlier this month, Ms. Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to President Obama for Intergovernmental and Public Engagement, along with USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, led a roundtable discussion with leading women activists and experts in India’s development sector who focus on women’s empowerment issues.

India has a history of strong women leaders in this area and several of the notable participants, and their organizations, have been working on gender issues for over 30 years, some with USAID support. Great examples of women’s empowerment activities coming out of the discussion were SEWA’s program that is empowering women workers in 11 Indian states and countries across the region and the USAID-funded Garima Project which focuses on communities holistically, including men and boys, and specifically on Muslim women and gender-based violence from the human rights perspective.  As a sub-grant under the the Garima Project, the Indian NGO, Independent Commission for People’s Rights and Development (ICPRD), provides training, mentoring, mass campaigns, street theater, and other activities targeting gender-based violence.

Watch here as Dr. Nandini Azad, the President of ICPRD, explains how young men, some of whom used to commit acts of gender discrimination and violence themselves but have since been rehabilitated, perform their street theater.  The boys are from low-income communities who are spearheading a movement to end gender-based violence in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Karnataka. Here, they role play the life of women and girls in a typical rural household and engage the audience in a dicussion that focuses on female empowerment.  They perform these plays at public gathering places in rural areas and draw large crowds.

But many challenges do remain.  For example, in India a crime against a woman occurs every 3 minutes; a woman is raped every 29 minutes; a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes; and a case of cruelty by a husband or relative occurs every 9 minutes. USAID is responding to these grim statistics by empowering women through advocacy and policy efforts that focus on preventing violence against women, affronts to the dignity of the girl child, and child marriage.

Over the last seven years, USAID has been committed to advancing the rights of women by:

  • Providing training to over 1,100 doctors and prosecutors to handle cases of violence against women;
  • Facilitating a national coalition of 900 NGOs and individuals who lobby the government on women’s issues; and
  • Forming of over 120 Youth Forums Against Gender-Based Violence that create awareness in villages through debates, discussions, essay competitions, and street theater performances.

On November 29, Ms. Biswal and Dr. Azad continued the discussion on a panel session at the U.S. State Department entitled, “Changing Attitudes: What Men and Boys Can Do to Address and Prevent Violence against Women,” where a USAID-funded video of ICPRD’s work was also shown. The event was hosted by Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as an activity under the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

HIV Prevalence Triples in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Over Past Decade

I believe tough news has to be faced squarely and challenges need to be met head on. It is alarming that the recent UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic found that the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has nearly tripled since 2000 reaching an estimated total of 1.4 million people in 2009. This report should be a renewed call to action.

In contrast to the encouraging reports from other regions of the world, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have experienced the largest regional increase in HIV prevalence, with the Russian Federation and Ukraine accounting for nearly 90 percent of the newly reported infections in the region. The report also found a more than four-fold increase in the number of AIDS-related deaths from 2001 to 2009 in the region. In comparison, globally there has been a 20% decrease in new HIV infections over the past decade, and fewer AIDS-related deaths over the past few years due to anti-retroviral therapy.

HIV testing at Ukrainian clinic Photo Credit: USAID/Ukraine

The epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is concentrated among marginalized groups such as people who inject drugs, sex workers, their sexual partners, and men who have sex with men (MSM). There are many reasons that HIV infections continue to grow in Europe and Eurasia, from drug addiction to social or cultural stigma about sexual orientation. None of these should be insurmountable obstacles to working to prevent HIV infections.

USAID and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) directly support HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. In Russia, activities focus on providing technical assistance to local counterparts to design and implement effective prevention and care programs for those most at risk of HIV infection. In Ukraine, through the Sunrise Project, USAID funds a pilot program of methadone-based Medication Assisted Treatment to provide 300 HIV-infected male and female injecting drug users with access to a package of services that includes MAT and related medical, legal, social and psychological care. The SHIP Project in Georgia supported HIV prevention among high risk groups; through this intervention, the use of shared injecting drug equipment was reported to decrease from 79% in 2002 to below 43% in 2005.

Regionally, USAID and PEPFAR work to address the concentrated epidemic through a variety of activities, including the development of the Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) Policy Toolkit. The toolkit will help to prevent HIV by providing information for advocates and policy makers working to support MAT implementation for injection drug users. Another regional activity supported a situational assessment of MSM and HIV in the region that reviewed data, information, and programs for MSM and identified gaps and potential activities to address some of these gaps.

As we celebrate the success of global efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, we cannot forget about the most-at-risk populations in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. While USAID, PEPFAR, and the governments and NGOs in the region have HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in place, we all still have much work to do in order to control the epidemic. We need to face the tough news and work together even harder to save more lives.

Pic of the Week: Afghan Boy Sits in Sunshine

A Hazara Afghan boyA Hazara Afghan boy sits in the sunshine in Bamiyan. Bamiyan, some 124 miles northwest of Kabul, stands in a deep green and lush valley stretching 100 kilometers through central Afghanistan, on the former Silk Road which once linked China with Central Asia and beyond. The town was home to nearly 2,000-year-old Buddha statues before they were destroyed by the Taliban, months before their regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001. Photo is from AFP Photo/Shah Marai.

U.S.-India Collaboration: Unlocking Opportunities in Agribusiness and Improving Lives

After nearly 60 years of U.S. assistance to India, the two nations are taking development cooperation to new levels. This was one of the core messages President Barack Obama took to his first official state visit to India earlier this month, where he was accompanied by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

On November 7, a demonstration of this strategic partnership convened in a momentous occasion for USAID — an Agriculture and Food Security Exposition in Mumbai. Administrator Shah had the honor of escorting President Obama, along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, through an array of innovative agricultural exhibits on display at St. Xavier’s College.  The event, co-hosted by USAID, USDA, and the Confederation of Indian Industry, provided an exciting opportunity for the notable trio to visit with Indian farmers who shared how new, pioneering tools and technologies are increasing their productivity.

One farmer demonstrated how he receives crop information on his cell phone, while another showed how he obtains information on market rates at village Internet kiosks, enabling him to better negotiate the sale of his produce.

A woman farmer using a small metal tube to strip corn cobs showcased the work of India’s Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering. The Institute has been working to create more compact, lighter versions of common farming tools to increase the productivity of female farmers. A memorable moment was when the President picked up the tool, turned to the reporters, and said in jest, “Look at this. It’s like an infomercial.  I want one of those!” After a brief chuckle, he commented on the importance of the tool in reducing women’s labor time up to 30 percent.

Alongside the expo, Secretary Vilsack and Dr. Shah hosted a roundtable discussion with Indian agriculture experts, where they heard about the most promising agricultural innovations to address the gaps that remain in India’s agriculture sector.  The take-away: strengthened collaboration will unlock new opportunities for U.S. and Indian agribusiness.

The United States and India plan to extend these innovations to other countries to promote global food security. Their partnership is emblematic of one where peer nations work side by side to develop the kinds of innovations and solutions that can help improve the lives of more and more people, not only in India and the United States, but also around the world. USAID will play a key role.

State Department to Host India Diaspora Conference

When people hear that I am a medical doctor and that I work for USAID, they often say that my heart is in the right place.  I correct them:  actually, my heart is in three places—America first, as I am now an American, but also India and Pakistan, where I grew up.

I was born in Pakistan, but as a young child I contracted polio at the age of ten months and was sent to India for treatment.  I spent much of my childhood and teen years in India. I did recover, but the disabling effects of polio had already set in. I had also discovered my calling in life to help others in need and my focus has been on women and children to improve their health status and survival.  I became a medical doctor and specialized in public health.

I have been fortunate to achieve that dream here in the States and, like so many others in the diaspora, knew I wanted to “give back”—both to my adopted country and to my “home” countries, India and Pakistan.  So I am especially excited that the State Department is hosting a gathering of the Indian American diaspora this afternoon, and I am honored to have been asked to participate in a panel on health.

The theme of today’s U.S.-India People-to-People Conference is “Building the Foundation for a Strong Partnership,” and it is an especially appropriate time given the new relationship that is forming between the U.S. and India.

Diaspora groups are natural partners for USAID.  They have unparalleled insight into their home country, as well as their adopted one.  And they have a passion for seeing good development in their home country, as well as seeing that their U.S. tax dollars are spent effectively and accountably.

It is no secret that, for too long, it has been difficult for small organizations, like many diaspora groups, to navigate the process of applying for USAID grants and contracts.  This is changing, as a result of the reforms currently being instituted at USAID.  As just one example, USAID’s Administrator Rajiv Shah recently launched Development Innovation Ventures, which will enable the Agency to work with a diverse set of partners to identify and scale up innovative solutions to development challenges.

I hope that this conference is the first of many to bring diaspora groups, the private sector, and the government together to address the issues that we all care so much about.

U.S.-India People to People Conference: Building the Foundation for a Strong Partnership

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

Tomorrow, the Department of State will host the U.S.-India People to People (P2P) Conference. Ahead of President Obama’s visit to India, this event will highlight the crucial role of Indian-Americans in the U.S.-India relationship. Secretary Clinton has been clear that connecting with all citizens, not just government officials, is essential to cultivating long-term relationships. While government cooperation remains essential, it is the myriad people-to-people connections that continue to define and further deepen the U.S.-India partnership.

The P2P conference will provide a grassroots discussion forum on four areas important to both countries: renewable energy, global health, education, and economic empowerment. By bringing together innovators and thinkers in these fields, this conference seeks to strengthen the personal networks that spark innovation. We aim to continue working with Indian Americans and others to strengthen and leverage such networks for the mutual benefit of both our countries. Tomorrow’s conference is only the start of our conversation, and we look forward to following up with all the conference attendees and participants.

You can stay connected to the conference by following the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on Facebook and Twitter.

The People-To-People Conference will be hosted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with the Indian American Leadership Council (IALC) and the American India Foundation (AIF) in the Loy Henderson Auditorium from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on October 28, 2010. The program will consist of panel discussions related to the five pillars of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, specifically Renewable Energy, Global Health, Education and Economic Empowerment. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats will provide opening remarks. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah will give the keynote address and Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar has been invited to give closing remarks. Other senior U.S. government officials will also be in attendance and participating in the various conference sessions. Click here for more information.

Focus on Nutrition: Creating Inclusive Partnerships and Deepening our Knowledge

This originally appeared on DipNote.

Recently, I visited Bangladesh to find out how you feed a country that has half the population of the United States squeezed into an area the size of the state of Iowa. One thing is for certain: no one can do it alone. During my trip, I witnessed how partnerships among a broad range of stakeholders — the Rome-based UN agencies, the Government of Bangladesh, donor countries, civil society and the private sector — are coming together to change the way we address chronic hunger. The U.S. government is supporting partnerships that deliver food, including fortified vegetable oil, in conjunction with health and other interventions that help ensure our programs translate into better nutrition outcomes.

Good nutrition is crucial during the first 1,000 days — from the mother’s pregnancy through the child’s second birthday — because it affects lifelong mental and physical development, IQ, school achievement, and, ultimately, work capacity and income generation. Thus, nourishing children not only enables individuals to achieve their full potential, but creates the conditions for nations to grow and prosper. This is one of the reasons why nutrition is the critical link between Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, the game-changing Presidential initiatives that address global hunger and maternal and child health as part of a broader strategy to drive sustainable and broad-based growth.

We know that we have to look at child malnutrition in new ways to accelerate progress toward the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015. We know that better targeting and implementation of nutrition programs can greatly increase the effectiveness of our assistance and, most importantly, the ability of all children to thrive. We also know, as Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton stated at the “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” event in New York last month, that prevention is better, and less expensive, than treatment.

The U.S. government is leading programs that focus on preventing malnutrition before it occurs. Core components of this new approach aim at improving the quality and use of health services, caretaker behaviors and dietary intake. Pregnant women and lactating mothers attend monthly pre- and post-natal services and nutrition education sessions while children up to 24 months are weighed and provided with basic care. Sick or malnourished mothers and children are treated or referred for additional care. Mothers and babies receive supplementary food in addition to a household food ration. As the international community recognizes, we need comprehensive approaches that draw from a broad toolbox in order to prevent and treat malnutrition effectively.

In addition to working to improve our programs on the ground, we are increasing the quality and scope of our food assistance commodities. We recently established a pilot effort to introduce and field-test new or improved micronutrient-fortified food aid products. We are also pursuing innovation around the nutritional content, product composition, and packaging of food products delivered through humanitarian assistance programs. Congress made $14 million available to support these two efforts in fiscal year 2010.

The American people will continue to provide emergency food aid assistance to vulnerable populations. And we are working with top researchers to help ensure that the food aid provided has a high nutritional value. With Tufts University’s School of Nutrition, we are examining nutritional needs and how we can best meet those needs — be they in Bangladesh or the Great Lakes of Central Africa — where I’ve seen incredible work being done. The study includes a scientific review of current enrichment and fortification technologies, a review of methods for delivery of micronutrients and an active consultative process that involves industry, academic and operational experts. Ultimately, it will provide recommendations on how to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations with food aid assistance in a cost-effective manner.

While we expect that some time will be necessary to implement the recommendations, make the necessary changes in formulations, and test new products, our purpose is clear: We are committed to delivering high-quality, nutritious food assistance to people in need. As reaffirmed in the Committee on World Food Security nutrition side event last week, nutrition science has pointed the way to interventions that are basic, low-cost and effective. There is political will to scale up nutrition, align our efforts and measure our results. As Secretary Clinton has emphasized, we must use this remarkable opportunity to make a measurable impact on child hunger and malnutrition.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Expanding Our Toolkit in the Fight Against Global Hunger

This orginally appeared on DipNote.

I am halfway around the world from Washington, and on October 6, I participated in the Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum. I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia this week to discuss trade, investment, entrepreneurship, energy, and of course, agriculture. I am proud to be part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s renewed commitment to political, economic, and educational engagement with dynamic emerging economies like Indonesia. I am especially pleased to be back in Indonesia after my successful visit this past spring, during which we discussed the issues of post-harvest loss and agricultural biotechnology.

The Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum builds on that work by including many distinguished participants to chart a course for the future. Dr. Bayu Krishnamurti, Indonesian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eric Bost of the Borlaug Institute, and many other luminaries in the field have come together to discuss new agricultural technologies, investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and expanded cooperation at research universities.

Ultimately, we are all here to reaffirm our commitment to fight global hunger. While there are no magic bullets in this battle, we must look to new technologies, including biotechnology, for the role that they can play in the “new green revolution.’ I believe that biotechnology, and the improved crops it can develop, will prove to be an important new element in our traditional package of tools to increase productivity and address head-on the challenges of hunger and climate change.

To that end, we are renewing several key partnerships in the area of biotechnology. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with the Indonesian government and the Program for Biosafety Systems to develop a new and fully functional biosafety framework in Indonesia.

We are also building on long-standing partnerships with international agriculture research centers. USAID will be supporting collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and other partners to roll-out Golden Rice, an important food-based approach to alleviating Vitamin A deficiency and associated serious health issues in Indonesia.

In the face of one child dying of malnutrition every six seconds, our greatest tool is increased cooperation and collaboration to develop and share the best solutions possible.

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