submitted by Amanda Parsons
For USAID Afghanistan civilian aid worker Laura Mendelson, tough negotiations with tribal leaders, anger from villagers and constant enemy fire are all in a days work. A Sunday Washington Post Magazine article outlines her efforts, the progress made and struggles faced by all aid providers on the ground in the war torn country.
After spending decades in exile, Saad Mohseni returned to become one of the most powerful influencers in Afghanistan. Today, he owns radio and television networks, an advertising agency, and a movie production company, among other businesses. Realizing that media messaging would be one of the most effective ways to responsibly rebuild the nation, USAID issued grants to help fund Mohseni’s work to build free press. The New Yorker and NPR profile the burgeoning media mogul and his recent successes thanks to United States support.
“Father of the Green Revolution,” Norman Borlaug established the World Food Prize in 1968. The international award recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. As 2010’s winners were announced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, together with US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, announced the creation of the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative—a cooperative venture of USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that, as Voice of America reports, will combine the two agencies’ resources, knowledge, commitment and expertise to work together for the realization of Borlaug’s dream of feeding the world.
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Ifikhtar Ahmed is the marketing manager of I.A. Khan Enterprises, a home-based business that produces local delicacies like tangy pickles and sohan halwa, a popular dessert, in this central Punjabi city of four million.
And while Ifikhtar’s position as a manager would be considered normal by even the most traditional in Pakistan, what makes his role unusual is that the company’s managing director is his wife, Amna.
In this socially conservative country, few women venture into the mainstream workforce and contribute to the country’s economic growth. Most Pakistani husbands will not entertain the idea of ceding authority to make decisions, business or otherwise, to their wives. (Read more here.)
Denied an education herself, one local woman works tirelessly for her local school with USAID support.
Gul Laila can’t read or write, but she still arrives at the local school early every morning. Before heading off to her regular day job as a domestic worker, she stops by the school to ensure all the teachers have shown up for work. Once a real problem, faculty absenteeism has no longer been an issue since the School Management Committee elected Gul as its chairwoman.
Denied an education herself, Gul now works tirelessly to make sure that her daughters and all the other girls of this remote village in Pakistan’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) region have access to school.
“When I was growing up, we girls were often discriminated against.” Gul said. “Our parents sent our brothers to school, while asking us to cook for them and
clean their uniforms. … I don’t want our daughters to have the kind of lives we had. I want them to be educated and make their own decisions.” (Read more here.)
submitted by Abby Sugrue
In Kazakhstan: An event to raise awareness about the risks of drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and TB among at-risk youth – the event will include an awards ceremony for a drawing competition, a football match, and educational sessions on prevention of drug-use, HIV/AIDS and TB. Local NGOs, youth groups and local media are invited.
In Armenia: An Amerenian Eye Care Project, and an international conference on the Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disorder that primarily affects premature infants. A group of very well known ROP and retina specialists from the US and Australia will be traveling to Yerevan to train and teach the Armenian specialists to launch the program. Attendees will include neonatologists, pediatric & regional ophthalmologists, clinical residents and neonatal nurses.
In Serbia: “Agribusiness & Renewable Energy Sources,” a conference to inform investors and agricultural producers on possibilities of production and the need for the use of sustainable sources of energy, in order to lower the emission of pollutants and dependency on import of fossil fuels. Attendees will include Senior representatives of Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Mining and energy, Special Advisor to the Ministry of Environment, and Agbiz project companies and clients.
In Egypt: The inauguration of El Akarmeya clinic. Outreach is focused on Egyptian beneficiaries in disadvantaged areas, especially women and children. An integral part of the process involves The Integrated Reproductive Health Services Project (Takamol), which provides technical assistance to the Egyptian Government to include Maternal-Child Health, Family Planning, and Reproductive (MCH/FP/RH ) services.
submitted by Jessica Scott
Administrator Rajiv Shah shared insight on his ideas for agency reform at the National Press Club June 18 luncheon. His inspiration for the changes stemmed from the extraordinary actions of his staff in response to the earthquake disaster in Haiti. The emergency teams demonstrated their versatility by purchasing food from local reserves as opposed to depending on food sent by the US. Working closely with the World Food Programme, they managed to feed approximately three and a half million people. The reform will not only focus on disbursing aid, but determining the impact it has as well as providing solid evidence to the American taxpayer’s as to the significance of their contributions.
The Helping Babies Breathe Campaign, a program implemented to prevent birth asphyxia, was announced last week in Washington. The purpose of this campaign is to educate midwives and traditional birth attendants in underprivileged countries on how to resuscitate a newborn. USAID has teamed up with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Save the Children to power this initiative. Currently, the curriculum is being offered in ten countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America through USAID maternal and newborn health programs.
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Just had a great evening of meeting and speaking with young doctors at the annual conference of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI). They’re an impressive group of professionals who are doing so much on behalf of their communities and people in need overseas.
Back in my college days in Michigan I volunteered to assist physicians in an extremely poor community in South India. This group of doctors not only treated people’s medical needs, they also created an enduring development program that improved livelihoods and strengthened the community. I was there for only a few months, but it was enough to convince me that when we put our minds together to solve some of the most difficult problems, we can be successful.
And in that context, I really appreciate what groups like AAPI are doing to create that sense of possibility.
Later, I created with my wife, Shivam, who was then my girlfriend, a Philadelphia-based youth leadership and mentoring program with chapters in several major U.S. cities that brought young people to Washington, DC to inspire them about the potential to serve. And one of our first grants was from the very organization that I just spoke with last night.
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USAID held a lively discussion this week on the connection between education and militancy in Pakistan, focused on the Brookings Institution’s newly released report, Beyond Madrassas: Assessing the Links between Education and Militancy in Pakistan.
The Brookings Institution funded and wrote the report, but we thought its release would be a great opportunity for staff from USAID and US government agencies, think tanks, academics, diaspora groups and other development partners to discuss the findings more in-depth.
USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, told the 125 attendees that the event was “part of our reform agenda here at USAID … to be as evidence-based as possible in making program decisions that get more educational results for U.S. tax dollars”.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey – USAID – Brookings Institution
Guest speaker Congresswoman Nita Lowey thanked the report co-authors, Dr. Rebecca Winthrop and Dr. Corinne Graff, saying “we know that education, especially a quality basic education, is instrumental in fostering a more peaceful society, preventing conflict, and ensuring equality between men and women.”
Afghanistan/Pakistan Task Force director Jim Bever moderated the discussion, which featured the report co-authors Dr. Winthrop and Dr. Graff, Steve Inskeep (National Public Radio), Bruce Riedel (Brookings Institution) and Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies).
Read more about the event, see the full transcript.
USAID is supporting rural Pakistani women farmers to increase crop and livestock productivity.
The Rural Livelihood Development Program in Balochistan built the capacity of 50 female community organizations to increase crop and livestock productivity, improve on-farm water management, and foster improved market linkages for agricultural inputs and outputs.
The program also provides institutional capacity building to 200 community organizations which train women in entrepreneurial skills, improved marketing, and agricultural-related technical training. The program will enable 40,000 women and girls to increase their income by 20 percent.
Rural Pakistani women do the majority of livestock and agriculture management, frequently in the form of unpaid “family” work. The USAID agriculture programs will develop skills and techniques of female farmers while strengthening women’s control over the financial resources generated by their work.
Balochistan faces debilitating drought and severe water scarcity which negatively affects production and value addition in crop and livestock development. To address this issue, efficient water use and management is integral to USG livelihood activities in horticulture and livestock development. Forty percent of sheep in Pakistan come from Balochistan. Through the introduction of wool grading and a site visit to the Ghazi Wool Industry in Southern Punjab, USAID helped farmers gain from an increased sale price of $11 for 40kg of raw wool to $20 for graded white wool. Read more about the economic growth program.
Secretary Clinton and Administrator Shah will deliver opening remarks on “LGBT Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy” at an event co-hosted by State’s Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.
At an event in the Ronald Reagan Building, USAID will join the Brookings Institution to launch a new report on education in Pakistan. The event will discuss efforts to create concrete programs in Pakistan’s education sector that can more effectively advance U.S. security objectives in the region and contribute to longer-term stability in Pakistan. Administrator Shah, Congresswoman Lowey and Mr. Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, are among the key speakers.
Administrator Shah will give remarks at a dinner during the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) conference in Washington, DC. AAPI is a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American Physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs.
The 2010 World Food Prize ceremony was held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 16th celebrating the winners of the prestigious $250,000 award honoring accomplishments that have improved the global food supply. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Dr. Rajiv Shah, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were the keynote speakers helping celebrate the fight to end global hunger.
Dr. Shah travelled to Dakar, Senegal to speak at the opening ceremony of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Food Security Investment Forum.
A meeting was held in Washington, D.C. hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where the topic of discussion was finding business solutions for nutrition problems. Dr. Rajiv Shah explained that USAID will be making some changes regarding investments focusing more on aligning investments in grain storage, market information systems, and feeder roads. Dr. Shah also mentioned that President Obama has committed to spending at least $3.5 billion over three years for agricultural development and food access.
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