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Archives for Disaster Relief

By Preparing for Disaster, Chile Remains Resilient

A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile in 2010 causing extensive damage and hundreds of deaths. Photo Credit: Larry Sacks/USAID

A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile in 2010 causing extensive damage and hundreds of deaths. Photo Credit: Larry Sacks/USAID

A powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck near the northern coast of Chile on April 1, prompting a tsunami and a series of strong aftershocks. Yet, nearly 1 million people were safely evacuated from harm’s way thanks to Chile’s disaster response preparations and early detection of the tsunami.

Chile is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and last week’s tremor was the most significant seismic activity since 2010, when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit central Chile. Chilean officials were able to detect the earthquake and track tsunami waves before landfall, allowing them to respond swiftly and evacuate people in potentially affected areas. The result was very few casualties in contrast to the 2010 earthquake, which tragically took more than 550 lives.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) has worked with the Government of Chile for more than two decades to strengthen its ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Since 2010, an emphasis has been placed on helping Chile establish a national monitoring system that allows local experts to study and track seismic activity in the region. Additionally, USAID and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration helped Chile develop a tsunami early warning system that has bolstered the country’s ability to detect tsunamis in advance and alert people when needed, including for evacuations.

USAID teams up with local disaster first responders in Chile to teach collapsed structure rescue methods. Photo Credit: Mariela Chavarriga/USAID

USAID teams up with local disaster first responders in Chile to teach collapsed structure rescue methods. Photo Credit: Mariela Chavarriga/USAID

USAID/OFDA also supports training workshops for local and emergency responders in Chile that focus on tsunami response exercises as an effective preparedness tool, as well as bolstering skills in medical aid, urban-search-and-rescue capabilities, and coordination during a disaster.

Underscoring the importance of disaster preparedness, geologists predict that Chile will experience more earthquakes in the future. However, the Chilean Government’s response to this most recent disaster demonstrates the lifesaving power of disaster risk reduction work.

 

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Peru

Community members living in high-altitude neighborhoods of Puno map hazards and emergency response actions.

Community members living in high-altitude neighborhoods of Puno map hazards and emergency response actions.

In this next installment in the Pounds of Prevention series, we travel to the southeastern regions of Puno and Cusco in Peru. Here USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has been working through its partners with the government and the private sector to help communities prepare for future disasters. Villages that never before received local weather information now benefit from daily forecasts as well as early warnings and alerts to severe weather. These same communities received disaster preparedness training and may even one day benefit from the work to design climate-appropriate transitional shelters should the need arise.

Benjamin Franklin is famous for the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Today, we are faced with great challenges brought about by increasing population and urbanization, a changing climate, and a demonstrated increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters. To continue to tackle these challenges, what has become clear is this: We need more than an ounce of prevention; we need pounds of prevention! Read more >>

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on South Africa

Members of Rescue South Africa prepare to deploy to the Philippines in response to Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. Photo courtesy of Rescue South Africa.

Members of Rescue South Africa prepare to deploy to the Philippines in response to Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. Photo courtesy of Rescue South Africa.

In this Pounds of Prevention series, we travel to South Africa where thirteen years ago, USAID took notice of a nascent first responder organization based in Johannesburg. Rescue South Africa is now an internationally recognized rescue team.  Read more >>

USAID Remains Focused on Typhoon Response in the Philippines

Excerpts from remarks made by Greg Beck on January 8, 2014, at a Center for Strategic and International Studies conference on the U.S. response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

I’m always worried that after the first month or two, on a large emergency such as Typhoon Haiyan, that the attention fades because there are so many other pressing issues and disasters around the world. It’s really important to remain focused on our efforts going forward.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck discussing continuous Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda relief operations with a DSWD representative. Photo credit: USAID.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck discussing continuous Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda relief operations with a Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development representative. Photo credit: USAID.


I was in Tacloban a few weeks ago, and I was able to see the immediate impacts of a long-term partnership with the Government of the Philippines. I was able to see the impact of our initial investments over the last five years in building up their capacity to mitigate the effects of these large natural disasters. I also was able to see how we’ve been working very strongly with diaspora groups, NGOs, local groups and the private sector to build the long-term relationships that we were able to put into action on day one.

USAID had been tracking the typhoon and saw that it was becoming incredibly powerful about a week before it hit land. We prepositioned a number of disaster assistance staff in Manila from our regional office in Bangkok. Within the first day, they were in Tacloban and immediately working with our colleagues from the Department of Defense (DOD), who deserve recognition for contributing to strong interagency coordination. Without the “air bridge” support DOD provided, we would not have been able to effectively deliver all the supplies that we brought in from our bases in Dubai and Miami. Over 2,000 metric tons of critical relief supplies were brought out to the secondary and tertiary distribution sites because of the air bridge — because of the C-130s, the Ospreys, the choppers, and the operational support that the Defense Department gave to the Government of the Philippines. It was incredibly critical.

Having worked in Asia for over a decade and responded to a number of natural disasters that have happened, I have to say this really was a textbook response. We had been working for a number of years to build up the network and partnerships to have the capacity to immediately respond, no matter the size of the scope of the emergency.

We are now beginning our pivot to the early recovery stage and we will continue to focus on some critical areas. Transitional shelter, livelihoods, health, cash-for-work, microfinance, temporary schools, and the rebuilding of rural health units will be very important focus areas for us over the next three to 12 months. When Secretary of State John Kerry was in Tacloban on December 18th, he announced a terrific USAID partnership with Coca Cola and Proctor & Gamble to rebuild 2,000 sari-saris — small convenience stores that provide access to important basic supplies for people who are living on less than a dollar a day. Reestablishing sari-sari stores creates income and livelihoods for families, and it is our priority to get those up and running very quickly.

It is a heavy lift going forward. We have some critical areas to address, especially in shelter, as we saw in the Washington Post article over the weekend. We’ll be working with Leyte Province and developing a Green Plan so that we’re building back not only better, but building back safer, building back healthier. The Government of the Philippines has been building their capacity and their ability to respond quickly and effectively over the last decade. We’ll continue to work very closely with the government to further strengthen that capacity, recognizing that this is not the last of the emergencies that we’re going to be seeing.

Haiti’s Recovery Won’t Happen Overnight

This blog post originally appeared on Devex.

Each morning, the bulky, unwieldy vehicle navigates an uneven, rocky path that in some areas of Haiti is a common road. Only my seatbelt keeps me from hitting the roof as I make my way to the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince.

A row of damaged houses and buildings in the Cité Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Four years after the disaster, almost 75 percent of earthquake rubble has been removed and 89 percent of the 1.5 million displaced population have left camps for alternative housing options.

A row of damaged houses and buildings in the Cité Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Four years after the disaster, almost 75 percent of earthquake rubble has been removed and 89 percent of the 1.5 million displaced population have left camps for alternative housing options. Photo by: Andre Mellagi / CC BY-NC-ND

A newcomer to the country, I see each day during my journey a small remaining camp for Haitians displaced by the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. Living in temporary tent shelters, they, children among them, are still waiting for a new place to call home. Then, recently, I noticed that the camp was emptying.

Almost four years after the earthquake, 89 percent of Haiti’s 1.5 million internally displaced persons have left the tent camps for alternative housing options. Almost 75 percent of earthquake rubble has been removed. Security throughout the country has improved and, recognizing the importance of employment, the government is committed to attracting foreign investment, with agriculture, tourism and the apparel industry the most promising growth areas. Health indicators are up, with improvements in infant and child mortality rates and more public access to health services.

International donors — among them the U.S. Agency for International Development — have learned lessons along the way in Haiti in terms of how we can do better.

As the country leaves behind the era of post-earthquake relief and focuses now on longer-term development, USAID is striving to build the capacity of local organizations to lead and manage development initiatives.

This necessarily involves building public and private institutions so Haitians can lead and manage their own development. On our part, we are enhancing the capacity of the Ministry of Health to manage a national healthcare system using its own human and financial resources, so it will no longer be dependent on donors. Similarly, efforts are underway to build the financial and programmatic capacity of local NGOs to provide services and advocacy that are too often provided by international organizations. The country must also advance the rule of law, a prerequisite to the creation of durable institutions and economic growth.

Every USAID mission director’s goal is to help the host country one day reach a point when it no longer needs foreign economic assistance. Indeed, all donors and development organizations should be devoted to that goal. In Haiti, this will not happen overnight. But four years after the earthquake, Haiti remains a U.S. government priority to continue and improve our efforts to help Haitians building the opportunity and prosperity they are capable of and that they are so deserving.

John Groarke is USAID Mission Director in Haiti since August 2013. An expert in international law and counter-insurgency, he previously served in hotspots like Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco, as well as senior legal advisor for West Africa and South Asia.

Giving Thanks for Progress in the Fight Against Global Hunger

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

This Thursday, many of us will gather around tables piled high with turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. More importantly, we will pause to reflect on what we are thankful for and what we can do to help those who are less fortunate. From stocking the shelves of food pantries to wrapping gifts for children in need, the holiday season is a time of year when the spirit of compassion and generosity of American families is particularly apparent.

This has been especially true in the last few weeks, as the United States has rallied a swift and life-saving response in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 4,000 people. Our disaster response teams – civilian and military – have already reached tens of thousands of survivors. Less than ten days after the storm made landfall, we had the water system up and running in hardest-hit Tacloban, supplying 200,000 people with clean water. “Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world,” President Obama shared in a video message. I couldn’t agree more. In these moments of crisis, we’re proud to represent our nation’s tradition of generosity, especially as we celebrate a holiday with its roots in the spirit of gratitude.

A young boy in Tajikistan eats a healthy lunch. Photo credit: USAID

A young boy in Tajikistan eats a healthy lunch. Photo credit: USAID

At the end of the day, we remain committed to ensuring our assistance not only saves lives today, but reduces the risk of disaster tomorrow. From Syria (PDF) to Somalia, we’re working to bring long-term food security to the 840 million people around the world who go to bed hungry every night. We’re also working to reduce the high rates of poor nutrition that contribute to nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of five each year.

In the last year, we have directly helped more than 9 million households transform their farms and fields with our investments in agriculture and food security through Feed the Future. We’ve also reached 12 million children with nutrition programs that can prevent and treat undernutrition and improve child survival. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we’re helping transform the face of poverty and hunger around the world – advancing progress toward the Millennium Development Goal to halve the prevalence of hunger by 2015, a target that’s within reach if the global community continues to strengthen our focus and energy.

We know that hunger is not hopeless. It is solvable. If we continue to invest in smallholder farmers – especially women – and support good nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, we can meet the global challenge of sustainably increasing agricultural production for a growing population. By scaling up promising innovations from farm to market to table, we can tackle extreme poverty by the roots and shape a future of prosperity and progress.

This week, we’re thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this collective global effort and wish you and your families a happy Thanksgiving.

Want to be part of the solution to hunger and poverty? Find out how you can help contribute to typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines or learn more about how to get involved with Feed the Future. Led by USAID, Feed the Future draws on the agricultural, trade, investment, development and policy resources and expertise of 10 federal agencies. Learn more about USAID’s long history of leadership in agricultural development.

Preparing Syrians for a Harsh Winter

An Arabic translation is available.

The crisis in Syria continues to escalate and 9.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance—more than 40 percent of the country’s total population. With winter fast approaching, these staggering numbers speak to the urgency of preparing Syrians for the upcoming cold weather.

A young Syrian boy receives a box of clothing at a USAID-supported distribution site. Photo credit: USAID Partner

A young Syrian boy receives a box of clothing at a USAID-supported distribution site. Photo credit: USAID Partner

Majd and his family are one of many receiving winter relief assistance from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. Intense fighting forced him to flee Homs with his wife, three-year-old son and elderly mother. When they reached safety in Tartous, they had nothing but each other and the clothing on their backs.

The family managed to find shelter in a small room of a shared compound housing several displaced Syrians, but this new ‘home’ was in no condition to protect them from a cold winter. It had no furniture, bed, or floor coverings, leaving them with nowhere to sleep but the hard, cold floor.

Due to the conflict, Majd had been out of work for close to a year. Left without any source of income, he was unable to buy even one blanket for his family. It was USAID partners that provided Majd with mattresses and extra blankets to help keep his family warm.

With many more people now in need since last year, the United States began preparing winter relief kits and coordinating distribution plans over the summer. Efforts to distribute thermal blankets, warm clothing and additional plastic sheeting for shelter will ramp up as the cold weather sets in.

USAID partners are also working to improve infrastructure in both camp and urban areas to provide people with adequate protection from winter weather elements.

The United States has accelerated its humanitarian response at every step to meet the increasing needs, having contributed more than $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid to date.

USAID in the News

US News and World Report reported on USAID’s contributions to the relief effort in the Philippines following the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. The article focuses on USAID’s decision to purchase food directly from local Filipino distributors—a choice which will not only ease the logistical complications of getting supplies to the areas where they are needed, but also inject cash into the Philippine economy at a time when it is greatly needed. Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance program at USAID, said, “We’re getting to a point where we can start thinking about recovery aspects, but we don’t want to declare victory prematurely. The destruction in those coastal areas was near total.”

This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, where USAID, working with UNICEF, has helped repair the municipal water system. Photo credit:  IOM/J. Lowry

This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, where USAID, working with UNICEF, has helped repair the municipal water system. Photo credit: IOM/J. Lowry

Thomas Reuters Foundation featured a story that examined the USAID relief efforts in the Philippines in the light of lessons learned from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The piece quotes USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah saying that the Philippines’ “strong, capable central government” will help avoid problems in the reconstruction process. “To get reconstruction investment back into the (Philippines) economy and rebuild these communities will take a longer amount of time and will have to be very strategic and focused. But it will require very strong leadership from the government of Philippines and we expect we will see that,” said Shah.

GMA News reported on the scale of USAID’s relief operations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, quoting Al Dwyer, the head of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) at USAID, who said that the current effort in the Philippines “is much greater than what we have ever done in the past.” The U.S. is working with other countries to coordinate the response, and has donated at least $47 million in humanitarian assistance and sent 2.6 million food parcels thus far.

Another piece from GMA News focused on the $10 million that was pledged earlier in the week by the U.S. government to help restore clean water in Tacloban City and provide support to the logistical operations. USAID Assistant Administrator of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy E. Lindborg said that the funding “will allow much-needed relief supplies to reach to hard-hit areas and ensure that 200,000 people in and around Tacloban have clean running water.”

Devex reported on a speech given by Administrator Shah at Brookings Institution, which outlined the agency’s new three-part commitment to helping end extreme poverty. The approach will focus on public-private partnerships, country programs that demand mutual accountability and disaster-prone, fragile areas and communities. In the speech, Shah expressed that a focus on fragile areas must be better informed by an understanding of what results investment in these areas can be expected to produce.

Spy Ghana covered USAID scholarship awards to prospective students through the USAID West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program at the University for Development Studies in Tamale. The scholarships will support 30 students at six universities in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger who wish to pursue master’s degrees in the fields of soil and water conservation, innovation communications, development studies, and science.

Dhaka Tribune featured a piece on the USAID Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity partnership with WildTeam focused on conserving the rich biodiversity of Bangladesh, particularly the Royal Bengal Tiger. The effort, named the Bagh Project, will devote approximately $13 million to wildlife conservation efforts through reducing illegal trafficking, minimizing human-wildlife conflict, enhancing outreach and engagement, and improving livelihoods for conservation.

Photos of the Week: USAID Response to Typhoon Haiyan

Nancy Lindbog greets a woman at the Tacloban Airport

Click on the photo above to view other photos of our assistance in the Philippines (note will direct to USAID Flickr).

Since Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, hit the Philippines‘ coasts on November 8, USAID has been working hard with the U.S. Government to provide relief to Filipinos in affected areas. Above is pictured Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg at the Tacloban Airport with a Filipino woman. Photo is from Carol Han, USAID/OFDA.

Yesterday (November 18), Nancy Lindborg announced the provision of an additional $10 million in U.S. Government (USG) humanitarian assistance for those affected byTyphoon Yolanda/Haiyan. The additional funding brings the total USG assistance for the crisis to more than $37 million. The additional $10 million will support the transportation and distribution of relief commodities to typhoon-affected populations, among other life-saving activities.

Learn more about USAID’s relief efforts and response to Typhoon Haiyan

Strengthening the Philippines through USAID Relief

The sheer destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally in the Philippines as Yolanda) is mind-boggling. Thousands have been killed, countless homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos left homeless. Americans, and indeed people all over the world, have been shocked by arresting images of a destroyed landscape and desperate people whose lives have been ruptured. While nothing can undo the damage wrought by the storm, the U.S. Government has mounted a swift, large, and coordinated relief effort using all of the tools at our disposal, with USAID leading that humanitarian response.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Chiarito, from Hyde Park, N.Y., left, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Thornton, from Lake Havasu, Ariz., load supplies to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Chiarito, from Hyde Park, N.Y., left, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Thornton, from Lake Havasu, Ariz., load supplies to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

While this is the fifth time since 2009 that USAID has been called to respond to a significant typhoon in the Philippines, this is by far the most devastating. It is also the first major disaster in my short tenure as Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and I have been encouraged to see how the present effort is beginning to make a tangible difference in the lives of ordinary Filipinos. As aid begins to reach tens of thousands of survivors, we are proud of our assistance to the Filipino people even as we are humbled by the breadth of the devastation. A few observations from the past week:

  • Preparedness and rapid response was critical. USAID/OFDA’s hydro-meteorological expert had sounded the alarm about the storm well in advance, and so we were able to pre-position a disaster response advance team in Manila ahead of the typhoon. That team reached Leyte Island, the epicenter of the crisis, within 24 hours of the typhoon’s passage. That team was on the first commercial vessel to reach the affected area and rapidly began to assess the areas hit by the storm and pinpoint the major priority needs. We found the immediate needs to be emergency shelter, water, and food and we have been working closely with our military colleagues to deliver much-needed assistance.

  • The damage is heartwrenching. Roughly 90 percent of structures are visibly damaged, including office buildings, hospitals, and homes. We saw severe damage to infrastructure systems, making access to water systems, communications systems, and transportation systems difficult. 
Weaker structures were totally destroyed but even hardened concrete structure suffered major damage in the ferocious storm surge.

  • Much more help will be needed. Immediately after Haiyan hit, the United States offered $20 million in humanitarian assistance, which allowed us to distribute emergency shelter kits and family hygiene kits to the region. This is enabling us to reach 20,000 families with plastic sheeting for their homes, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and sanitary supplies. Additionally, with the help of World Food Program, USAID has sent 55 metric tons of food, including highly nutritious bars and paste–containing a day’s worth of calories–to nourish approximately 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for roughly four to five days.

This is a first step, and we will do more in the coming weeks to help families meet their basic needs, regroup, and begin to recover. It has been incredible to witness the unity of communities to offer help where they can. We are already beginning to see a major uptick in the volume of international aid to the Philippines as the global aid response reaches full capacity. As more and more aid from the U.S. and many others – from countries to charities to individual donors – begins to reach the Philippines, we are optimistic that the response effort is turning a corner.

Get the latest news and updates on Typhoon Haiyan.

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