USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Cross-Cutting Programs

Why support efforts to abandon Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting?

February 6th marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

I am often asked why the Office of Population and Reproductive Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is engaged in programming that will eliminate female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). “What is the connection with family planning?” I’m asked.

“Nothing… and a lot,” is my answer.

FGM/C is a striking example of women’s lack of agency—a graphic illustration of powerlessness to make their own choices about their lives. If a girl cannot make a decision not to be cut, she also likely will not have the right to make her own informed decisions about her health, her education, or decide when and whom she marries, when to start a family, and what size that family will be. The Office of Population and Reproductive Health is engaged in FGM/C because we care about providing girls and women with the ability to decide for themselves how they will live and thrive.

When USAID first began working on the issue in the 1990s, individuals and groups in both the developing and the developed world were starting to look at the issue through the prism of women’s human and reproductive rights, as well as health. International consensus statements and treaties such as the International Commission on Population and Development (1994), the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) and more recently, the United Nations General Assembly adoption of a resolution banning FGM/C worldwide in 2012, have made strong statements on the need to combat violence against women, including FGM/C, and have called on governments to adopt policies to prohibit the practice and to support community efforts to eliminate the practice.

While FGM/C is clearly a violation of a woman’s rights, it is a health issue as well. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed negative obstetric outcomes and a 2013 meta-analyses by the Norwegian Knowledge Center for the Health Services showed that prolonged labor, obstetric lacerations, instrumental delivery, obstetric hemorrhage, and difficult delivery are markedly associated with FGM/C. These results can make up the background documentation for health promotion and health care decisions that inform work to reduce the prevalence of FGM/C and improve the quality of services related to the consequences of FGM/C.

Since 1997, when WHO issued a joint statement with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) against the practice, international attention and effort has gone into counteracting FGM/C. Of the 28 African countries where FGM/C is practiced, 22 have passed laws or provisions banning it, as have 12 industrialized countries with migrant populations from FGM/C-practicing countries. While prevalence of FGM/C has decreased, for example, from 99 percent to 97 percent in Somalia and 89 percent to 84 percent in Mali, UNICEF reports that the percentage of girls and women who reportedly want FGM/C to continue has remained constant in countries including Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and the United Republic of Tanzania. An increasing number of women and men in practicing communities support ending the practice, yet every year millions of girls still undergo this painful and demeaning procedure.

The same elements that will transform a culture from performing FGM/C on its girl children – the values, and norms that inform the expected and accepted ways that people behave in a culture – will also bring increased acceptance for the use of contraception and information on family planning. Our work in FGM/C is as much about empowerment as it is abandonment of a practice. To quote former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke on Zero Tolerance Day in 2011, “All women and girls, no matter where they are born or what culture they are raised in, deserve the opportunity to realize their potential.”

Growing More Food With Less Water

When you sit down to your next meal, take a look at your plate.  How much water do you see? The obvious answer might be “little” or “none”.  But the surprising truth is you are likely consuming thousands of liters of water every time you sit down for a quick bite.

Estimates suggest the average American consumes an amazing 3,496 liters, or 924 gallons, of water every single day. That’s over 14,500 glasses of water per a person, per a day. And that represents the amount of water needed to produce the food we eat.

Experts tell us that current levels of water consumption are simply not sustainable as the global population continues to grow and climate and environmental changes impact available water resources.   Projections suggest that between 2000 and 2050 water demand will increase by 55 percent globally, meaning that the number of people impacted by water scarcity and stress will continue to rise. Already, approximately 2.8 billion people—more than 40 percent of the world’s population—live in river basins impacted by water scarcity.

What’s more, food and agricultural production—which accounts for 70 percent of all water use—is also on the decline and threatening the global food supply. As the global water resources become increasingly scarce, we must learn how to adapt to a new reality. In part, this means learning how to do more with less. Learning to use available water better, learning how to store water more efficiently, and learning how to grow more food using less water.

At USAID, we believe that we must mobilize the global community into action around this critical development challenge. We believe that we must learn how to do more with less so that all people have enough to eat and that science and technology are at the root of a sustainable, scalable solution to the global water challenge.

A farmer in Iraq grows healthy crops by using innovative irrigation techniques.

A farmer in Iraq grows healthy crops by using innovative irrigation techniques. Credit: USAID Water Office

That’s why on September 2, 2013, at the opening session of World Water Week, we announced Securing Water for Food:  A Grand Challenge for Development.  This $25 million Challenge will identify, source and bring to scale promising new low-cost innovations that use existing water resources more efficiently, improve water capture and storage technology, and reduce salinity of existing resources to ensure new sources of water for agricultural production in the communities USAID and Sida serve.

On November 27, USAID released the first call for proposals for the Challenge. During this first round of the Challenge, the Founding Partners aim to provide up to $15 million to fund entrepreneurs, businesses, innovators and scientists that are seeking to launch a new innovation or to expand an existing business in new markets.

Eligible applicants are invited to submit concept notes beginning November 27, 2013 through January 17, 2014. For full application details, go to: www.securingwaterforfood.org.

Securing Water for Food is the latest in USAID’s series of Grand Challenges for Development which seeks out innovative new technologies to critical development challenges. Learn more about USAID’s Grand Challenges for Development.

Follow @SecuringWater on Twitter to get the latest news and updates about the Challenge.

A Day to Celebrate Youth’s Contribution to Development

Today is International Youth Day, a day to celebrate youth and their numerous contributions to their communities, nations and the world.

The theme for 2013 is Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward. Many of you are familiar with the global statistics on youth–of the seven billion people on the planet, at least half are under the age of 30, and that youth and children comprise up to 70 percent of the population of many developing countries. But, are you aware of the statistics on migration?

Young people in the village of Bunyakiri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By helping young people to develop positive beliefs and attitudes, a USAID project can prevent future acts of violence, and can ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and equitable future for DRC. Photo credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Young people in the village of Bunyakiri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By helping young people to develop positive beliefs and attitudes, a USAID project can prevent future acts of violence, and can ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and equitable future for DRC. Photo credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Today, more people are on the move than at any time in history. As of 2010, 214 million people, or three percent of the world’s population, were living outside their countries of origin. Twenty-seven million of the international migrants are between the ages of ten and 24. The vast majority of these young migrants live in the developing world.

Many USAID programs support young migrants or potential migrants. This includes our anti-trafficking and human rights programs, which help mitigate the risks associated with migration. However, I would like to draw attention to our broader youth development programs, which aim to provide youth with the support structures, skills, knowledge and opportunities they need to navigate the challenges they face while growing up. These programs help youth develop the resilience and self-confidence they need to overcome obstacles and become agents of change. While this is important for all youth, it is critical for youth at risk, including young migrants, who have additional hurdles and stress factors.

Below are highlights of some of our successful programs in this area.

In Kenya, the Yes Youth Can! (YYC) program is owned, led, and managed by youth. It was created to engage young people impacted by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 in improving their own lives and the lives of people in their communities. Youth organize themselves in democratically elected bunges, or parliaments. These bunges, now active in 20,000 villages, provide a structure through which youth can engage. The program bore fruit during the 2013 elections. YYC youth organized a national campaign which resulted in 400,000 young people applying for their national ID card, which is required to vote. Youth also supported a peace caravan that culminated in messages in the national media that included peace pledges from the major presidential candidates.  The messages touched hundreds of thousands of youth immediately before the election and played a role at keeping violence to the lowest level in years.

USAID has planted the seeds of youth self-empowerment elsewhere. In Bosnia, Peacing the Future Together supports youth conflict resolution and leadership in ethnically mixed communities through “youth banks” that provide young people opportunities to develop skills while working together on youth-led initiatives, thereby boosting their confidence as agents of social change. A Ganar targets at-risk youth in fifteen countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, using soccer as a tool for teaching life and employability skills. Finally, in Jordan, Youth: Work Jordan strengthens the life, employability, and entrepreneurship skills of the most vulnerable youth in disadvantaged urban communities through training, job placement, mentorship, and civic engagement programs.

For more information on these and other USAID programs, visit our Youth Impact website. Also stay tuned for updates related to the implementation of our Youth in Development Policy. Finally, join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013.

Youth, Urbanization and Health

In celebration of International Youth Day, Global Health Youth Advisor discusses U.S. Government and USAID’s health programs impacting urban youth. 

In 2010 I took a bike tour of Dar es Salaam’s slums. Over tea and chapattis my young guide told me he had lost both parents to AIDS. As the eldest, he had to ensure the education of his younger siblings. He dropped out of high school and migrated to Dar to work. Now at 24 with a good job, his siblings had finished school, and he was ready to return to school himself.

This glimpse of the vibrant yet chaotic life in Dar’s slums is one that we rarely see. I was struck by the large numbers of school-age youth in the streets working as petty traders: selling bananas, phone cards, sunglasses and pirated DVDs.

The HealthyActions program in Liberia, under the Advancing Youth Project and in partnership with EDC delivers an HIV and family planning curriculum in alternative high schools for youth that have left the formal education system. Photo credit: USAID

The HealthyActions program in Liberia, under the Advancing Youth Project and in partnership with EDC delivers an HIV and family planning curriculum in alternative high schools for youth that have left the formal education system. Photo credit: USAID

Dar is not unique. Rural to urban migration is accelerating, yet governments are ill-prepared to deal with it. In Timor L’este, I heard that that the capital’s population was growing by 10,000 people every year. Poorly serviced squatter settlements, slums, and camps are the norm in many cities, which are increasingly populated by youth seeking opportunities.

In Latin America and Asia, young female urban migrants outnumber young males. Many migrate to escape forced marriage or abusive relationships. UNICEF data from 12 countries show one in five migrant children aged 12–14 and half of those aged 15–17 move without a parent. Young urban migrants often find themselves in violent, stressful and unhealthy environments.

Migration displaces and separate youth from their homes and the protective structure and guidance of families and communities. Separation from sources of learning, recreation, and support; alteration of community routine, normalcy; and lack of positive alternatives contribute to the exploitation and abuse of young people. Young people also engage in risky behaviors, including sexual ones with dire consequences.

Developmentally appropriate reproductive health and family planning information and youth friendly services can prevent poor health outcomes, and can ensure young people receive adequate care and  support for pregnancy, unsafe abortion, STIs/HIV, and violence.

Youth face many challenges to obtaining reproductive health services. Youth migrants are doubly challenged, since slums have limited health services. Urban programs must address and involve youth. Collaboration across sectors is essential to improving the health and opportunities of urban youth migrants.

U.S. Government and USAID’s health programs impacting urban youth:

  • Young Tanzanian women who migrate to the city are susceptible to the lure of a “sugar daddy.” The Fataki radio campaign (PDF) uses humor and familiar stories to foster dialogue around the dangers of intergenerational sex, empowering community members to intervene.

  • Fourteen years of civil war in Liberia displaced much of the population. Population Services International provides HIV and FP education in alternative high schools for youth now returning to Monrovia, with increased uptake of HIV testing and contraceptives.

  • One third of the 6 billion mobile subscribers are under the age of 30. Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) is an on-demand SMS system with information about contraception and nearby clinics. Young Kenyans liked the simple language and confidentiality of the service. Tanzanian and Kenyan users reported increased contraceptive knowledge and use. FHI 360 and the Rwandan Ministry of Health are adapting m4RH with additional information for young people.

Globally, young people under 18 are considered children, and younger migrants are at especially high risk. The U.S. Government’s Action Plan for Children in Adversity recommends that U.S. Government assistance support and enable families to care for their children; prevent unnecessary family-child separation; and promote appropriate, protective, and permanent family care.

Learn more about youth programming at USAID. Join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013. 

Keeping our Promise on Aid Transparency

I am proud to announce a significant step forward in our efforts to deliver development results more transparently and effectively than ever before. For the first time ever, you can visit the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and check out how our partners have spent our dollars.

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

Today’s unprecedented release of new financial data  includes over 30 database fields and nearly 53,000 records—all from the first three quarters of fiscal year 2013. Never before has our Agency published spending data so comprehensively and so soon after the close of the quarter.

This release is just the latest in a series of important changes we have made to advance President Obama’s unparalleled commitment to transparency and our own USAID Forward reform agenda. Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has created foreignassistance.gov, signed onto the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which showcases our data in an open, timely, and internationally compatible format. The data that we are adding today will be converted to this format and reported to the IATI registry, helping the U.S. government meet the commitments that we made at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in November 2011.

Our commitment to transparencyhas not only helped strengthen accountability and improve communication; it has also had a direct impact on the way we work every day. A few months ago, we opened up some of the data behind our Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which monitors factors like rainfall, market prices, and incomes around the world. Within weeks of making that information public, small businesses in Kenya were using the data in a new way—empowering farmers in remote villages with the information they need to negotiate better prices for their crops.

With today’s unprecedented release of new financial data on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, you can see timely information about what, where, how and with whom we spend our development dollars.

Most importantly, we want our data to be easy to understand, use, and share.  In May, President Obama signed an Executive Order making government information

open and machine readable as the new default. In support of this vision, we have created apps for the iPhone and iPad so you can explore our high-quality project evaluations, Demographic Health Surveys results for more than 80 countries, and a USAID map of our programs around the world.  In fact, I recently had the opportunity to show these apps to President Obama while we were traveling in Africa, and he was excited about the even greater potential we have to open our wealth of data to millions of entrepreneurs, innovators, and students around the world.

I encourage you to explore the data, download our apps, and think creatively about ways you can help us harness the power of information to end extreme poverty around the world.

Demographic and Health Survey Show Positive Results in Haiti

A newly released nationwide health survey of Haiti shows continuing positive trends on key health-care indicators in particular those of Haitian women and children. The latest survey, undertaken by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, was conducted in 2012 and compares with the prior survey done in 2006. It shows steady improvements among key indicators despite significant health challenges in Haiti due to the 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak. Of note were improved indicators for child vaccination and malnutrition, infant and child mortality, women’s health and contraception use. The report indicated no increase in HIV prevalence, which remained steady.

Patients get laboratory work done at a USAID-supported health clinic in Ouanaminthe, Haiti on May 15, 2013. Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The Morbidity, Mortality, and Service Utilization Survey measures progress and setbacks in health outcomes over the years. The results were announced July 9 by Dr. Florence Guillaume Duperval, Haiti’s Minister of Public Health and Population. The survey has been administered in Haiti five times since 1994.

The previous survey was administered in Haiti between 2005 and 2006; this latest survey was conducted from January 2012 to June 2012. Over 13,000 households participated in the current survey, representing rural and urban areas in all of Haiti’s 10 departments, including camps for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. The results were eagerly anticipated by health experts concerned of possible setbacks brought on by the devastating quake, which killed more than 230,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million.

However, the survey results show that many health outcomes have improved in Haiti. The data collected in the survey show improvements in women’s health, improved nutritional status among the population, and an increase in use of contraceptive methods. Currently, more than two-thirds of pregnant Haitians have made the recommended number of antenatal visits, an increase from 50 percent in 2006; the prevalence of anemia among women has declined from 55 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2012; and the use of modern contraceptive methods among married women has increased from 22 percent to 31 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Health data for children also showed positive results. Childhood vaccinations increased from 53 percent in 2006 to 62.5 percent in 2012. With regard to nutrition, the survey showed that 22 percent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, a decrease from 29 percent in 2006. The survey also revealed a decrease in acute malnutrition from 10 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2012 and a decrease in percent of children underweight from 18 percent to 11 percent.

Childhood mortality has decreased in Haiti over the last 15 years. Survey results show that infant mortality has decreased from 79 to 59 deaths for 1,000 live births. In addition, mortality for children under 5 has also decreased from 112 deaths to 88 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Among other results, the survey revealed that the HIV prevalence among those ages 15-59 have remained the same:  2.7 percent among women and 1.7 percent among men.

USAID is working closely with the Government of Haiti to continue to improve health outcomes for all Haitians. “The information in this survey forces us to continue to work together, to strengthen our interventions and our methods so that progress in the health sector in Haiti is sustained,” said Marc Desjardins, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, during the July 9 event.

USAID’s goal is to improve access to health care services and build the Government of Haiti’s capacity to manage and oversee its health programs. Currently, about 50 percent of the population has access to a vast network of USAID-sponsored health facilities throughout the country that provide core health services such as maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition. In addition, diagnostic and treatment services for tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS services can be accessed at these health facilities. HIV and AIDS services include access to antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, palliative care, and voluntary testing and counseling. USAID programs aim to reduce risky behaviors and maintaining people living with HIV and AIDS on treatment.

Much remains to be done in Haiti. For example, despite high levels of knowledge of family planning, only 35 percent of married women are using any method and 31 percent are using a modern method. However, the positive health trends revealed by this data shows that Haiti continues to move forward despite the earthquake, the ongoing cholera epidemic, and many other challenges that threaten health outcomes. These results are a testament to the hard work and strong commitment of all of those who work to build a better Haiti.

This survey was funded by USAID, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Global Fund the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria through the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The fifth Morbidity, Mortality, and Service Utilization Survey combined with the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MICS) was conducted by the Haitian Childhood Institute [l’Institut Haïtien de l’Enfance (IHE)] in collaboration with the Haitian Statistical and Information Technology Institute [l’Institut Haïtien de Statistiques et d’Informatique (IHSI)]. This survey was supported by the Ministry of Public Health and Population [Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (MSPP)], benefited from the technical assistance of the Demographic and Health Surveys program (MEASURE DHS), which is implemented by ICF International.

Resources:

  • Read the full DHS report.
  • See photos of USAID’s health-related programs in Haiti.

U.S. AID Supports Disaster Risk Reduction, Resiliency and Climate Adapation Engagement in Asia Pacific

Originally featured on The Center for A New American Security‘s blog

The Center for A New American Security is currently hosting a working group series ‘Climate and Security in Asia’ the purpose of which is to explore opportunities to advance U.S. security and foreign policy in the Asia Pacific through climate engagement, particularly projects that seek to reduce risks of natural disasters, improve disaster planning and response, and enhance infrastructure resiliency.

USAID is funding the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center’s Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS) through the Pacific Disaster Center to develop a multi-hazard early warning and decision support system. Photo Credit: CNAS

Last month, we were honored to have Greg Beck, deputy assistant administrator for Asia at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), visit the group to share details about USAID ‘s on-going  disaster risk reduction  (DRR), resilience, and climate adaptation related-engagement in the Asia Pacific and the related State-USAI Joint Regional Strategy for East Asia and the Pacific.

As Beck shared, USAID recognizes that environmental degradation and resource scarcity can undermine a country’s efforts to achieve economic security and political stability. Like those in the security community, decision makers at USAID acknowledge that climate change is a ‘threat multiplier.’ Beck noted that these emerging conditions and threats are recognized within the State-USAID Joint Regional Strategy for East Asia and the Pacific, which is a part of the U.S. Government’s efforts to rebalance our foreign policy focus to reflect the growing prominence of Asia in the world. The State Department and USAID recognize that addressing climate change is critical to mitigating non-military threats to the U.S. and to reducing regional instability which can undermine democracy and economic stability.

Interestingly, just a week prior to Beck’s visit to CNAS, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and the Australian Department of Defence (A DoD) gathered 85 delegates representing 18 countries at the 2013 Pacific Environmental Security Forum, the goal of which was to build military readiness in response to impacts of extreme weather events on regional peace, security and prosperity. The takeaways from the conference were the need to improve information sharing across countries and to build partner capacity (BPC).

Based on Beck’s summary of what USAID is doing in the region, it is clear that USAID is making great strides in the Asia Pacific Region doing just that –building local capacity to reduce risk to natural disasters and improve disaster planning and response, and promoting collaboration and information sharing among partner nations. In FY2012, USAID provided $481 million for Global Climate Change of which of which $96 million was for the Asia Pacific region.  Below, we highlight some of USAID’s ongoing efforts in the region.

Building Capacity around Disaster Risk Reduction and Resiliency (DRR)

Currently, USAID is funding the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center’s Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS) through the Pacific Disaster Center to develop a multi-hazard early warning and decision support system. The DMRS will compile and transform information from national and international hazard monitoring and disaster warning agencies on events such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and other natural disasters into a regional, event-tracking and decision-support tool that utilizes maps and modeling applications. The Centre is critical because it seeks to coordinate activities with the national disaster management offices of all ASEAN Member States.

USAID provides assistance to 12 Pacific Island nations (Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu), which are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts including more frequent and extreme weather events and sea level rise. To build capacity around disaster risk reduction and resiliency, the USAID is collaborating with two of the South Pacific’s regional organizations: the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). USAID works with the SPC to strengthen food security among farming communities in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Specifically, USAID support enabled Fiji, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Tonga to develop GIS data and land-use/vegetation cover maps for to identify food security hot spots, inform stakeholder engagement, and assist in identifying adaptation measures. USAID also supports the SPREP to improve the resilience of water resources in Kiribati’s outer island communities and promote healthy ecosystems in the Solomon Islands.

More generally, USAID supports the Coastal Community Adaptation Project which aims to build the resiliency of vulnerable coastal communities in the region to adapt to climate change impacts. The program supports rehabilitating or constructing new, small-scale community infrastructure; building capacity for community engagement for disaster prevention and preparedness; and integrating climate resilient policies and practices into long-term land use plans and building standards.

USAID has played an instrumental role helping the six Coral Triangle (CT) countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) develop a powerful new platform and model of partnership to address the CT’s transboundary environmental resource management and economic security concerns. In 2009, the six nations formed the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) and launched a ten year regional plan of action.  Viewed as one of the most innovative ocean governance initiatives, these nations are working collaboratively to prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.
More recently, in the wake of Burma’s political opening, USAID’S Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is working closely with the country’s coastal communities on issues of disaster risk reduction. In FY2012, USAID/OFDA initiated a program that is supporting the creation of village disaster and contingency plans, establishment of village disaster preparedness committees and associated training, and rehabilitation of mangroves, which can serve to mitigate natural disasters by greatly reducing the strength of tsunamis or cyclone waves.

Finally, as part of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), which was created in response to the July 23, 2009 meeting between then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foreign Ministers of the Lower Mekong Countries (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam), USAID supports several disaster risk reduction and infrastructure resiliency projects. In particular, USAID’s is collaborating with LMI partner countries to advance innovations and international standards in infrastructure development to mitigate environmental and social impacts of major investments in hydropower, oil and gas sectors, and transportation systems.  Central to all of these projects is the emphasis on facilitating knowledge sharing among countries and improving the management of national and transboundary natural resources.

USAID’s focus on disaster risk reduction and preparedness programs makes good business sense. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) released its Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction report last week, which reported that “direct losses from disasters are in the range of $2.5 trillion” in this century alone. The total average loss from earthquakes and wind damage from tropical cyclones is estimated to be more than $180 billion per year. Clearly, investing up front to help countries prevent and prepare for disasters
and inject more resiliency into their infrastructure systems is a good business decision.  However, as a recent Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report notes, historically, only a small percentage of total foreign assistance has been directed to disaster prevention and preparedness. According to ODI, over the past two decades, the international community has pledged more than $3 trillion in aid; of that, $93.2 billion was spent on disaster relief and reconstruction while $13.5
billion was devoted to prevention and preparedness.

Climate related projects can advance U.S. security interests, particularly when the investments and technical assistance help countries reduce risks of natural disasters, improve disaster planning and response, and enhance infrastructure resiliency. The projects that Greg Beck and others at USAID are shepherding serve those ends and will be instrumental in helping U.S. successfully meet the ambitious goals of its Joint Regional Strategy for East Asia and the Pacific.

Qualcomm and USAID Working to Expand Access to Mobile Technology for the Public Good

This post originally appeared on Qualcomm.

Nathan Fletcher is a senior director of Corporate Development for Qualcomm.

This past week I had the pleasure of signing an MOU with USAID on behalf of Qualcomm. I was joined by Don Steinberg Deputy Administrator for USAID, and I am thrilled with the prospect of this collaboration.

Moving forward, Qualcomm and USAID will focus on programs that address:

  • mWomen and closing the mobile phone gender gap
  • Access to broadband
  • mEducation
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Public safety and crime prevention
  • mHealth
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Food security

It is our hope that the work we do together will result in successful and scalable projects that benefit people in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Through Fishing with 3G Nets, wireless connectivity provides access to training, environmental education and sustainable fishing techniques in Brazil. Photo Credit: Qualcomm

USAID works in more than 100 countries to carry out U.S. foreign policy through the promotion of broad-scale initiatives that promote economic prosperity; strengthen democracy and good governance; protect human rights; improve global health, advance food security and agriculture; improve environmental sustainability and further education.

Qualcomm and USAID have a long history of working together through Qualcomm Wireless Reach. We are looking forward to continuing our initiatives to bring access to mobile technology to underserved communities around the world.

Through Wireless Reach, Qualcomm works with local and global partners like USAID. We have partnered with USAID on a number of projects such asFishing with 3G Nets in Brazil. This program works to promote economic development and increase public safety for isolated fishermen who live in Santa Cruz, Bahia. Here, fishing is a primary source of income for many families, and poverty and overfishing lead to a reduction in resources that posed a threat to their way of life.

To address the problem, participating fishermen have been given wireless devices equipped with software that provides safety information, weather, data-tracking and access to an online market.  This program empowers users to take charge of their income and expenses, more easily connect with their key markets, and better understand their own environment so they are able to make the most of available resources.

Other examples of collaboration with USAID and Wireless Reach include our project in El Salvador, Seguridad Inalambrica, which uses 3G technology to enable law enforcement and municipal government personnel to increase public safety through mapping and sharing information about crimes as they occur. This project is currently being used successfully in several municipalities and has the potential to be implemented in other cities in El Salvador and countries in the region.

Additionally, in the Philippines we have established an mHealth project with USAID called Wireless Access for Health, which successfully streamlines the reporting process at clinics and hospitals using 3G technologies by improving access to accurate and timely patient information. This project has expanded in just three years from four clinics to 37 in and outside of the Tarlac Province and will be expanding even further this year.

Clean Hands Inc. – 5 Questions with Bear Valley Ventures

Bear Valley Ventures, a grantee of USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, is investigating how to radically improve hand hygiene habits in India, through product innovation. Bear Valley and partners created Clean Hands Inc (CHI) to develop new products for the urban poor that can be used by households with substandard or no sanitation and constrained access to water. With support from DIV, they have launched their pilot. 

Where did the inspiration for your approach come from?

The evidence that improved hand hygiene can have a positive impact on health is clear and there’s increasing interest globally in promoting handwashing with soap. But in the settings we are interested in – urban slums – there are many practical reasons why soap may not always be the best solution. Reasons like water being a valued resource people don’t want to waste and soaps lack of portability when people go to the toilet outside the home.

Youth in India. Photo Credit: Walter Gibson

What makes your approach different?

Like many with an eye on public health around the globe we want to improve hand hygiene at scale in a way that’s sustainable. However, our approach is different in three ways. First, our products are exclusively designed to get hands germ free post-defecation. Not because other moments like before food don’t matter but because we think defecation is a missed opportunity – what soap manufacturer wants their brand associated first and foremost with defecation! Products for post-defecation need a different functionality and positioning, and we think it’s  easier to target than eating in low-income settings as it can be made more routine. Second, we aim to get to scale through a social business model, which no one else is trying to do in this area. And third, not only are our product formats novel but we have a product ingredient that sets us apart, Byotrol®.

What are the first steps you you’ve taken to get your pilot of the ground so far?

As the funding kicked in, our first step was to fly straight to India to meet with research design agency Quicksand, our partner. Together we checked out one of our products – a foam that doesn’t need rinsing – with households in slums in Bangalore; met experts with whom we’ll work over the coming year on issues like distribution, positioning, and packaging; and re-worked our plan for the year. In parallel we’re working with Byotrol Consumer Products Ltd, our technology partner, on product formulations, which will incorporate their unique anti-microbial technology Byotrol®.

What have your biggest challenges been so far? What will be your biggest challenges in the future?

There are so many challenges it’s hard to know where to start! On the hygiene side we’re trying to innovate practices people do habitually and unconsciously. They are not driven by a belief that if I don’t clean my hands properly someone could get sick or die. So we’re not tapping into a desire that exists and will have to create one. On the product side affordability and distribution are huge challenges. And as a team we have to make sure that we use everything that happens over the coming year – including the set backs, to learn and move forward to achieve our vision of improving health through hand hygiene where it matters most.

 

 

 

 

USAID Launches its First Global Water Strategy

This week, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Chris Coons, Representative Earl Blumenauer and Representative Ted Poe, launched the first USAID global water strategy in the Agency’s history. Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats represented the State Department.  Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network and Gemma Bulos, Founder, A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW) and the contemporary Christian band Jars of  Clay also participated.

I began at USAID almost four decades ago working on international disaster assistance efforts, meeting water, health and food needs in the Sahel. While our planet’s needs for sustainable supplies of water and food have increased, so has our capacity to meet these needs. It’s a privilege to be part of the team that developed – and will now help implement –a water strategy that will do much to meet water, health and food needs for decades to come.

The goal of the USAID Water and Development Strategy is to save lives and improve development in a world where practically 800 million people are without adequate water and 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation. The strategy sets out two overarching objectives: improve global health and strengthen global food security through USAID-supported water programs.  Here are four projects which represent the kinds of activities we expect to be supported by the strategy:Hygiene Improvement Project (HIP) – Ethiopia;Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development (WaterSHED)Lower Mekong;Water and Development Alliance (WADA) – Senegal; Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH)

The strategy sets targets for a minimum number of people to be reached over five years: 10 million with sustainable water services and 6 million with sustainable sanitation services. The strategy emphasizes the need for increased investments and expanded attention to sanitation to translate into broader health and economic benefits. In Ethiopia, the USAID- supported Hygiene Improvement programfacilitated the implementation of the Government’s National Hygiene and Sanitation strategy. More than 5.8 million people in the Amhara region have been reached by hygiene and sanitation promotion activities, and an estimated 2.8 million people have stopped the practice of open defecation and now use a basic pit latrine.

Access to safe & clean water saves lives & is vital to a productive future for every man, woman, & child. Photo Credit: USAID

The strategy seeks to manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security. This will be achieved through increased emphasis on more efficient use of rainfall and improved efficiency and management of existing irrigation systems. The Haiti Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources  supports a vertical drip irrigation system, an innovative farming method that will benefit farmers with very small land plots. By planting certain crops vertically using this irrigation system, farmers can produce better yields using less land and water, particularly helpful in this heavily deforested country. In Mali, USAID has worked with farmers on ridge tillage to help increase the efficiency of rainwater capture for improved agricultural production. This has boosted cereal crop yields.

The strategy advances activities consistent with Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 including establishing criteria to designate high-priority countries for increased investments to support access to safe water and sanitation. We have designed criteria that designate which countries will receive water and sanitation services. The criteria are based on a combination of factors, such as high childhood mortality rates due to diarrhea, and the capacity of governments to manage and sustain effective programs. Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria. It has the requisite infrastructure, governance and institutional experience for USAID water programs that have a transformative impact.

In order to meet our objectives, the strategy relies on partnerships, innovation, and sustainable approaches to development.

Leveraging partnerships is a key theme. In 2012, USAID joined Sanitation and Water for All, a global partnership of governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners working together to use scarce resources more effectively. USAID is partnering with the Coca-Cola Co. to address community water needs in developing countries around the world, with a combined commitment of over $31.5 million. We have partnered with a range of public and private sector organizations, including joining with Rotary International in nearly 250 communities in the Dominican Republic, Ghana and the Philippines to develop water and sanitation projects.

One example of USAID’s focus on innovation in the WASH sector is the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through WASH for Life, a partnership with the Gates Foundation, DIV is testing and scaling promising, cost-effective solutions in water, sanitation, and hygiene. DIV recently announced its biggest award yet to the Dispensers for Safe Water program. This grant will scale safe drinking water to more than 5 million, including 1.6 million children, over the next three years. DIV is one of the ways the Agency is integrating innovative approaches into how we do business.   In another example, USAID has been working with  its Global Development Alliance partner Rotary International to develop and test a tool kit to predict the likely sustainability of WASH interventions.

Ensuring long-term sustainability of water and sanitation infrastructure interventions is a central component of the strategy. The Ghana WASH Project seeks to improve rural and peri-urban communities in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene by linking up with communities, local NGOs, government agencies, as well as international organizations working in the sector. Through a multi-level approach, the project works to build the capacity of local communities and organizations, and not only improve water, sanitation and hygiene, but also empowers the host country to promote sustainability and development well after the project has reached completion.

Looking ahead, we are fortunate to have a great team at USAID , along with highly skilled and valued  partners, who will implement a strategy which will benefit the lives of millions of people throughout the developing world.

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