USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Disaster Relief

Meeting with Somali-Americans About the Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Nancy Lindborg is USAID’s Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

The face of famine is painfully personal for members of the Somali American communities in Columbus, OH and Minneapolis, MN. Yesterday, I led a community roundtable in each city, home to the two largest Somali diaspora communities in the United States.  I was able to express deepest concern, on behalf of the US government, for the people of Somalia and update them on urgent relief efforts underway by the US government throughout the Horn of Africa, where a serious drought is affecting more than 11 million people.

The USG is currently reaching more than 4.6 million people in the region who need emergency help, including $80 million of life-saving assistance to help 1.5 million people in accessible areas of Somalia.  The UN has declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia where humanitarian access has been limited by Al Shabaab.  USG is urgently supporting partners to provide food, health, water and sanitation assistance wherever they can access communities desperate for help.

I was also able to listen and learn from this dynamic community.  Somali Americans are a vital lifeline of support for their communities and families throughout Somalia.  I heard from dozens of community leaders who have mobilized their friends and neighbors to raise money for the drought through car washes, bake sales and fund drives.   They are supporting feeding centers and health clinics.  They have established NGOs dedicated to helping the growing number of orphaned children.  A young woman in Minneapolis, choking back tears, described her Facebook page where she is raising money for drought relief and posting stories of families struggling to survive.  As I heard from Jibril Mohamed in Columbus, “In 1992 I was a boy who fled the conflict and drought of southern Somalia and did the same long walk to the border that families are doing now.” Jibril is now determined to reach back with the same kind of helping hand he received.

In Minneapolis, a number of Somali NGOs have joined forces with the American Refugee Committee (ARC) in an initiative called Neighbors for Nations which unites and mobilizes diaspora community efforts to provide relief and development services in Somalia.

We have a short window of opportunity to reach the 2.85 million Somalis living in famine and conflict. The Somali American community is a critical partner in identifying ways to help save lives.  We need urgently to ensure life-saving assistance reaches people now and are committed to doing so.  I look forward to working with this dedicated group of citizens to save lives.

Learn more about the U.S. Government response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

U.S. Response to Drought in Horn of Africa

Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator, USAID

Here at the port of Djibouti, thousands of metric tons of food assistance are ready to be shipped as part of the U.S. response to the massive drought currently ravaging the Horn of Africa. USAID is mobilizing nutritious split peas, along with  vitamin-fortified corn-soya blend and other commodities, from warehouses around the world to assist the more than 10 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia most affected by the drought.

The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) began warning of the possibility of this crisis as early as summer 2010. Today, it has developed into the region’s worst drought since the 1950s. Consecutive seasons of poor rainfall have resulted in failed crops, dying livestock, and sky-high market prices—the cost of staple cereals are 40 to 240 percent higher in some areas. Malnutrition has reached emergency levels: one out of every two Somali refugees arriving in Ethiopia and one out of every three arriving in Kenya is acutely malnourished.

This week, USAID activated a disaster assistance response team (DART) operating out of Ethiopia and Kenya to work with the World Food Program, UNICEF, and over a dozen other organizations to coordinate emergency efforts to relieve the crisis. So far this year, the United States has provided more than $366 million to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa, and continues to explore additional ways to assist those in need.

Learn more about USAID’s response to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

PSAid Competition

When an international disaster strikes, we soon begin to hear stories of the devastation and the suffering of those affected.  They have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes.  The pictures we see are gut-wrenching, and we can’t help but think about how we can help.  We have so much, and they have so little.  The least we can do is help, right?

Clothing donations abandoned in Banda Aceh in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Photo credit: USAID

The next thing you know, schools are collecting shoes for children, houses of worship are collecting clothes for families, and neighborhoods are collecting teddy bears for those who have nothing.   The local radio station is announcing locations to drop off donations of items that might be needed, and everyone pitches in to make a difference by bringing supplies from the pantry, the closet, the garage, and wherever else to help the cause.

What most people never see is what happens to that goodwill on the other end in the disaster-affected area.  I work for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, and it is our job on behalf of all Americans to manage the U.S. Government’s response to an international crisis.  I am usually deployed to major international disasters, and I do get to see what happens to the spontaneous donations.

First, you should know that most spontaneous in-kind donations never even make it to the disaster zone.  This is usually because of the sky high cost of moving the goods from the states coupled with the lack of a group to accept and distribute the donations to those in need.  And if the supplies do make it to the disaster-affected country, the supplies are often an inappropriate match for what is needed. I cannot forget the winter coats and prom dresses we saw piled on the airport tarmac after the 2004 Pacific tsunami.  I can’t help but think how generous the donors were, but their passion was uninformed.  As we saw in Indonesia and every international disaster before and since, these spontaneous donations often clog the pipelines that are providing life-saving medical supplies, food, shelter and hygiene materials, and other assistance to the very people everyone is trying to help.

Everything we have learned over the years has taught us that if you really want to help those in need, you should make a cash donation to a reputable humanitarian organization working in the disaster-affected area. Nothing will get there faster or help more.  And the cash donations will allow experts to buy — often in the struggling local markets — exactly what is needed.

To better inform those who want to help, USAID works with the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI).  CIDI holds an annual competition for college students to create public service announcements (PSA) that help spread the message that cash donations are best.

To enter the competition, students submitted  print and radio PSAs that explained the importance of appropriate international disaster response and build support for international disaster relief work done by well-established, U.S.-based organizations.  Now in its 6th year, PSAid is highly regarded among the nation’s leading university communications programs. Approximately 60 entries were received from students this year.  The 2011 winners were announced on April 21 at www.psaid.org.

Please take a moment to visit the PSAid site and help spread the message that cash is the best way to help.  On behalf of all of us who see so many donations with the best of intentions languish in ports, on runways, and in warehouses in countries affected by disaster, thank you for helping us better inform your family, friends and communities.

How You Can Help Japan: Give Cash not Goods

Local residents look at a mountain of debris left by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake in Natori in Miyagi Prefecture on March 16, 2011. Japan’s Emperor Akihito delivered a rare address to a jittery nation in dread of nuclear catastrophe on March 16 as millions struggled in desperate conditions after quake and tsunami disasters. Photo credit: Toru Yamanaka / AFP

If you’ve been following the aftermath of last week’s  massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan you’re probably wondering how you can help. Millions are affected, recovery will be protracted and difficult.

Besides the initial, tragic effects of the disaster, millions of people in Japan still have no running water or power.  Lines spanning city blocks and lasting hours are forming, as thousands look to acquire basic essentials. All supplies are being rationed.

As overwhelming images of the devastation rush in Japan, many compassionate Americans feel the urge to help.  The best way, however,  to contribute to the massive relief effort is not always clear.  The Center for International Disaster Information provides some very useful information on how you can help.

When disasters happen abroad, the best and most effective way for Americans to help is to give cash. Donating cash instead of goods ensures that victims can get the quickest possible access to basic items on the ground provided by our experienced humanitarian partners.

By learning how to give responsibly, and by making sure that others understand the importance of cash donations as well, you can have a real and lasting impact on the lives of international disaster victims.

Red Cross worker Daniel Jordan counts donations during a “drive-through” fundraiser benefiting the American Red Cross Japan Tsunami Fund at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 15, 2011. Photo Credit: AFP Photo/ Mark Ralston

On the Ground in Japan

 

“The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.”
-President Barack Obama

 

As part of the American effort to assist the Japanese Government’s response to the earthquake and subsequent Tsunami, USAID has deployed two urban search and rescue teams. The teams from Fairfax County and Los Angeles County Fire Departments include 144 personnel, 12 canines trained to detect live victims, and 45 tons of equipment. See below for some of the latest photos of the teams on the ground.

For the latest information on United States Government’s response to the disasters, visit http://www.usaid.gov/japanquake.

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

US rescue workers, including one with a fiber optic telescopic camera (R), check rubble for survivors in Ofunato while conducting operations in the devastated city on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devastating 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

US rescue workers check rubble for survivors in Ofunato while conducting operations in the devastated city on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devasting earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

US rescue workers treat a dog which slightly injured its paw while searching for survivors in the devastated city of Ofunato on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devasting earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP

A Dispatch from the Tunisian and Libyan Border

Nancy Lindborg is the Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID on the ground. Photo Credit: USAID

Ras Jdir, Tunisia: I heard boisterous singing as I walked through the transit camp on the border between Tunes and Libya. There, forming a human chain to pass boxes of supplies into a tent, was a group of Tunisian youth, volunteering to assist the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing the conflict in Libya. They provided a welcome counterpoint to the blowing sand and steady flow of Bangladesh, Somalia, Malian and other migrants struggling across the border and into the transit camp.

Only weeks after the Tunisians sparked a regional revolution on January 14th, toppling the corrupt regime of Ben Ali and inspiring the world with their aspirations for freedom and democracy, Tunisians have once again mobilized. The newly installed government of Tunisia quickly provided security and support for transit camps. Citizens across the country have spontaneously provided food, water and blankets, and driven to the border to volunteer. The energetic singers I encountered were part of a group of 40 Boy Scouts who came eager to help. There was a palpable sense of pride in their ability to organize and act in this new era of freedom.

Some 80,000 Tunisians worked inside Libya, alongside the more than a million guest workers from around the world — 200,000 have fled thus far. Already 30,000 Tunisians have returned, often to the poorer communities in the south, which means an influx of unemployed workers and loss of remittances. At the same time, the economy is reeling from loss of tourism in the wake of recent events and loss of important commerce with Libya. And yet, Tunisians, including those in these hardest hit communities, have generously reached out, determined to help.

I traveled with Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee and Migration at the U.S. Department of State to understand better the needs arising from the conflict now engulfing Libya. While there, we announced $17 million of urgent assistance, bringing the total U.S. Government aid to $47 million. Our assistance to-date has gone to UN organizations on the frontlines of managing the camps and transport, to international NGOs able to provide critical help to those still inside Libya, as well as to the Tunisian Red Crescent Society, now an important conduit for volunteers.

Our new funding will target urgent assistance to the Libyans who are still trapped inside a bloody conflict as well as enabling support for those communities in southern Tunisian hardest hit by this crisis. We are inspired by them and as Americans, we are proud to mobilize alongside them in this time of crisis.

I also stopped to talk with two migrants from Bangladesh. They had worked in Libya for a year, but had not received wages for several months. Their employer abruptly shut down the construction project where they had worked. Fearful of the rising violence they headed to the border and along the way were robbed of their remaining money and cellphones. When we met, they had joined the 40 Boy Scouts, inspired as well.

Nancy Lindborg is the Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (2/22/2011–2/25/2011)

February 23 CNN reports that USAID is sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to New Zealand in the wake of the 6.3-magnittude earthquake in Christchurch.

February 23 AFP reports that in a written statement, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah offered his condolences to the people of New Zealand. “On behalf of the American people, I wish to convey our sympathy, thoughts and prayers to the people of New Zealand who have been affected by this devastating earthquake.”

Christchurch Earthquake Deployment

I started getting calls about the terrible earthquake in Christchurch almost immediately after it happened. It was clear that the devastation was great.  My heart went out to those who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods, and I couldn’t help but wonder if USAID would send a team to help those searching for survivors.

The office I work for at USAID is one most Americans have not heard of.  With a staff of 250 people based around the world, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is smaller than many of the bands of the U.S. Military, but with an important mandate, to save lives and alleviate suffering.  We are charged with leading the U.S. government’s response to international disasters, maybe 70 or so natural disasters and complex emergencies each year, on behalf of the American people.

So when information on the quake in Christchurch began to filter in, we immediately started discussing possible international assistance and what we could provide if needed. USAID has agreements with two of the most skilled Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams in the world — Fairfax County Virginia Fire and Rescue Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department — who are always ready to deploy in the aftermath of an earthquake or other catastrophic disaster.  We reviewed the options through the night and stood ready to respond should it be needed.

Knowing there is significant search and rescue capacity in the region that is best placed to assist in Christchurch, I went to work Tuesday morning thinking it would be another busy day in the office.  It is a good thing I am always packed and ready to deploy because I, along with five of my OFDA colleagues, was headed to Christchurch just after noon.

We are meeting up with the Los Angeles County Urban Search and Rescue team and then heading directly into Christchurch.  Once on the ground, we will immediately go into rescue mode. Our USAR team will join forces with the USAR personnel from New Zealand and other international teams they train with all year to assure that every place a survivor might be found is thoroughly searched.

Our USAR team will have more than 70 highly trained technical experts and a cargo aircraft full of equipment to aid in making rescues in collapsed buildings and structures.  Most of the team members were part of the international effort that rescued more than 130 people from the rubble in Haiti, and we hope to save some lives in Christchurch.

So when you see the awful pictures coming out of New Zealand, and you wish you could do something to help — know that you already are. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is fully funded by the American taxpayer, and we are going to do our best to make a difference in Christchurch and wherever else our help is needed.

If you want to further assist those in Christchurch, please make a cash donation to a reputable organization working in the disaster zone.

To get up to the minute updates on the US search and rescue efforts in Christchurch, follow me on Twitter @DARTgirl and @USAID

** UPDATE Feb. 24, 2011 1:50 p.m.**

U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner welcomes the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) on their arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand, to engage in search and rescue activities following the recent earthquake.

Afghanistan and Pakistan – The Year in Photos

January

USAID sponsors Afghan participation in Domotex—the premier international carpet trade show, featuring some of the best internationally produced hand-made carpets and kilims. For three years, USAID’s role in promoting Afghan carpet dealers has generated millions of dollars in exports. Photo: USAID/ASMED

February

More than 32 million Pakistani children under the age of 5 are immunized against polio during February’s National Immunization Days. Since 2003, USAID has contributed $1 million per year to both the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to fund their participation in National Immunization Days. Photo: USAID

February

The U.S. and Afghan governments sign a memorandum of understanding to train Afghan civil servants to improve the delivery of government services. The one-year, $84 million program will train up to 4,000 civil servants in Kabul and 12,000 more over the next two years in all 34 provinces. Training focuses on five core public administration functions: financial and project management, human resources, strategic planning, and procurement. Photo USAID/Afghanistan

March

Administrator Rajiv Shah meets with Pakistan government officials on the best role for USAID and development during a Pakistan development roundtable. At the event, Shah and Shahid Rafi, secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power, sign implementation letters confirming joint efforts to upgrade three Pakistani thermal power stations in Guddu, Jamshoro, and Muzaffargarh. Refurbishing the power stations will increase power to Pakistan by 315 megawatts, enough to power nearly 400,000 homes. Photo: USAID

Salam Watandar, a USAID-funded Internews media service, launches a new Pashtu-language television channel targeting audiences in south and east Afghanistan. The service offers news, current affairs, and cultural programming in two 90-minute peak-hour blocks. In addition, the first 22 Kabul Education University students receive master’s degrees in education.

April

During his first official visit to Pakistan from April 11 to 15, Shah emphasizes “a commitment that USAID, and on behalf of our entire portfolio of foreign assistance here, that we would do things differently going forward in order to be better partners, deeper partners, and more respectful partners of the government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan and Pakistani institutions.” Among the trip’s highlights are a meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and a press conference that draws more than 80 Pakistani and international media outlets. Photo: USAID

April

USAID hands over the National Women’s Dormitory at Kabul University to the Ministry of Higher Education. The dormitory will provide safe and secure living space for 1,100 women and girls. Around the same time, another 40 midwives graduate from the Hirat Institute of Health Sciences. USAID trained midwives to help the country address what is estimated to be the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Photo: U.S. Mission, Kabul

May

After their shops and inventory were destroyed by insurgents earlier in the year, 81 shopkeepers at the Foroshgah-e-Borzorg Shopping Center in Kabul receive USAID grants ranging from $2,000 to $4,000.

June

Responsibility for the 105-megawatt Tarakhil Power Plant is officially transferred to the Afghan government. Completed on May 31 by USAID, Tarakhil has the capacity to provide electricity for up to 600,000 residents in Kabul whose houses are connected to the North East Power System. Photo USAID/AIRP

Late July

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson issues a disaster declaration in response to extraordinarily heavy rainfall and flooding that begins in northern Pakistan in late July. The flooding drifts south to Sindh province, affecting an estimated 18 million people in every province. More than 75 percent of affected families are located in Sindh and Punjab provinces, and 1.7 million homes are destroyed. Widespread flooding is reported in 82 of Pakistan’s 122 districts.

In coordination with the Pakistan government and other relief agencies, USAID responds quickly to the devastation wrought by the floods. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) immediately sends water treatment units and Zodiac boats to help rescue stranded people. A Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) soon arrives to assess conditions, transport relief supplies, and help meet the immediate needs of millions of people affected by the floods in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

July

The Agricultural Development Fund is established through a $100 million USAID grant to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock to lend to financial and non-financial intermediaries, who in turn will lend the funds to farmers for agricultural inputs to expand production. Kabul University officially opens a herbarium, providing Afghanistan a new research tool for studying the country’s vulnerable botanical heritage. Photo: Texas A&M University PEACE Project

August

Shah visits flood-ravaged Pakistan to assess the situation on the ground and determine the next steps for USAID. The first high-level U.S. government official to visit Pakistan, he travels on a C-130 airplane packed with plastic sheeting and other humanitarian commodities from OFDA, observes the USAID-supported World Food Program distributing meals, meets with donors, and consoles flood victims, including women and children who tell Shah that they have “lost everything.” Photo: Farooq Naeem/AFP

August

The Kabul Women’s Farm Service Center opens as one of seven centers in Afghanistan, the only one tailored for women farmers. More than 10,000 Afghan women will benefit, and the center will offer high-quality seed, fertilizer, animal feed, tools, machinery, greenhouse supplies, and other products. Photo: USAID

September

The U.S. government signs an agreement with the government of Pakistan to begin using the first tranche of funds under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, which pledged a $7.5 billion, five-year assistance package for Pakistan. The agreement also launches USAID’s new business model to increase the role of local organizations in carrying out U.S. assistance programs. Over the lifespan of the Act, USAID expects to increase the share of programs implemented by local organizations to approximately 70 percent. Photo: USAID/Pakistan

September

On Sept. 18, Afghanistan holds the first Wolesi Jirga (parliamentary) polls since 2005. At stake are 249 seats in parliament in the country’s first Afghan-led parliamentary polls since the fall of the Taliban. Over 6,000 Afghan observers are mobilized to monitor all provinces. Photo: USAID

October

October marks the 5th anniversary of a devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir region in 2005. USAID’s Earthquake Reconstruction Program has been critical in helping the region recover. USAID rebuilt 21 schools and 15 health-care facilities that provide basic health care to approximately 200,000 people in Bagh District. Photo: USAID

October

The 2010 national wheat seed distribution begins for the first of 260,000 farmers in 31 provinces, funded through USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture project. Local farmers receive vouchers entitling them to significant discounts on and access to certified wheat seed and fertilizer in an effort to improve the quality and production of Afghanistan’s wheat. Photo: USAID/ASAP

November

USAID and the U.S. government have delivered more than $579 million in emergency relief to the flood-affected communities. Assistance includes materials for shelter, food, medical care, potable water, rescue operations, and basic commodities. As the flood waters begin to recede and communities start returning to their areas, USAID focuses on restoring livelihoods. Flood-affected people receive seeds and fertilizer for the planting season, cattle, cash for work, and a variety of other assistance to restore jobs, businesses, key services, and homes. Photo: USAID/Pakistan

November

On Nov. 24, the IEC announces parliamentary election results for 34 out of 35 constituencies (33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces plus the Kuchi constituency). Certification for one constituency (Ghazni) is deferred by the IEC. USAID continues its support to both the IEC and the ECC throughout the process. Photo: USAID/Afghanistan

December

USAID completes its six-year maternal and child health program that reduced neonatal mortality in Pakistan by 23 percent. The $93 million Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Children (PAIMAN) improved the health of more than 5.7 million Pakistani women and children from 2004 to 2010. The program trained more than 18,000 health specialists and upgraded 103 health facilities as well as 57 training facilities. Photo: USAID/Pakistan

December

The Obama administration publishes an annual review of its military strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the administration references an “urgent need for political and economic progress” to match what is described as significant military success in offensives to clear Taliban strongholds in the southern part of the country. Photo: White House

Learn more about our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan in this month’s issue of Frontlines.

Response to Natural Disasters in Brazil

When today’s adults were in school, 20, 30 or 40 years ago, we used to learn that Brazil was a blessed country, because we didn’t have wars, we didn’t have volcanoes or hurricanes, and we didn’t have floods. We are now over 190 million people, and our cities are growing each day. The careless occupation of our territory led to a drastic change in the water cycle, and now every summer we face floods that bring destruction, economic losses and death to our cities.

Volunteers organize donations in the district of Conquista, municipality of Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro. Credit: ABr/Valter Campanato

Whenever a disaster like this hits Brazil, the U.S. government, through USAID, provides support to the Brazilian government in assisting the victims. In 2011 it was no different. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states are struggling to recover from floods and mudslides that left over 15,000 people displaced. The mountainous areas of Rio de Janeiro were hit by the heaviest downpours in 44 years. Businesses were destroyed, plantations were devastated and over 700 people died. The U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, announced the donation of a total of US$ 100,000 – US$50,000 each to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, through USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

This assistance is complementing existing federal, state, and municipal efforts to address the destruction caused by the floods. The money was donated to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), to buy items that are not usually donated, such as personal hygiene and cleaning products. ADRA is an international organization with experience in disaster assistance. USAID and OFDA are coordinating the actions, and are working close to the Brazilian government and the civil defense offices of both states.

The rain caused rivers of mud to rush down the mountains and tear through towns, leveling houses and throwing cars over buildings. The rain didn’t stop until five days after the tragedy, which made the rescue efforts really difficult. Rescuers had to walk to the worst-hit areas, because vehicles could not cross blocked roads. Many people are still missing, and this is already considered the worst natural disaster of Brazilian history.

We know that in the face of such tragedy, all help we can get is essential. Besides the official assistance, USAID is coordinating assistance actions of American companies established in Brazilian territory, through the Mais Unidos Group. This group is a partnership between the U.S. Mission in Brazil and over 100 companies that aim to strengthen alliances between the private and public sectors to improve corporate social responsibility investments.

Over 25 companies are involved in the assistance efforts. They are donating money, food, water and hygiene and cleaning products. They are collecting and supporting the distribution of donations made by their employees, clients and business partners. They are campaigning to raise money for non-governmental organizations that are already working in the assistance of the victims of the floods. They are encouraging their employees to volunteer in the assistance efforts.

In previous years, these companies have already demonstrated their ability to mobilize. The first time they united to provide support to the victims of a natural disaster in Brazil was in 2008, when the heavy rains flooded over 60 cities in Santa Catarina State, in the South Region. In 2009, Maranhão and Piauí states, in the Northeast Region, were hit by floods that affected over 60,000 people. Once again, the Mais Unidos companies provided assistance. In 2010, when Alagoas, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro were hit by floods and mudslides, the Mais Unidos companies quickly organized to deliver money, food and water to the families affected.

Each year, the American people are united with the Brazilian people through USAID to provide assistance to victims of natural disasters that bring sorrow and pain, but also arouse sympathy and solidarity. Even though I would hope we could do a better job in preventing these tragedies that repeat year after year, I’m still glad we can find ways of helping those who suffer the most.

Page 10 of 15:« First« 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 »Last »