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Archives for Disaster Relief

USAID at UNGA: How we are Impacting Lives in Pakistan

This week I’m attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and I’m looking forward to joining a broad and historic international body to discuss the wide spectrum of global issues we face today.  My week at UNGA began with a meeting about a topic of immediate urgency – relief and recovery efforts for the more than 20 million Pakistanis affected by the devastating flooding.

On my recent visit to Pakistan, I witnessed the severe devastation and unimaginable loss experienced by the flood victims.  I’m proud to say that from the beginning, USAID has been at the forefront of the U.S. government response along with our colleagues at the Department of State and Department of Defense.  To date, the swift and immediate response has addressed the wide range of needs in Pakistan, from sending in emergency food supplies and water purification units to ensure safe drinking water, to facilitating waterborne disease warning detection systems and funding anti-malarial medications.

In mid-October, The World Bank and Asian Development Bank will present a Damage and Needs Assessment to give us a more comprehensive picture of the scale of the damage.  Undoubtedly, that picture will be grim and the upcoming months will be daunting, especially as winter descends on Pakistan. But as we face the extreme scale of the disaster, the most critical question we will be asking ourselves is:  How are we improving the lives of Pakistanis? USAID is committed to a long-term relief, recovery, and reconstruction.

USAID will continue responding to these situations on the ground, and work closely with the Government of Pakistan and our partners. We are committed to a long-term relief, recovery and reconstruction effort. This week, on the world stage of the United Nations General Assembly, we will continue to work with the international community and the Government of Pakistan as they rebuild their country.

To find out more about what USAID has done on the floods so far, see USAID’s work in Pakistan.

To contribute to humanitarian and relief operations: www.interaction.org

USAID Eases Hardships of Haiti’s Earthquake Survivors

After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 100,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau.

While the area was one of the country’s poorest regions even before the earthquake, it’s seen an influx of survivors who’ve come to live with family and friends, straining already limited resources.

To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, USAID partner Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.

With USAID/OFDA support, Mercy Corps is providing livelihood opportunities to 2,000 people per week in the Central Plateau. An additional 20,000 people are on track to benefit from the cash-for-work program.

These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation systems. Some have used their salary and tools from the programs to start more sustainable small businesses.

Under USAID’s Food Security Program in Haiti, Mercy Corps will also provide food vouchers to 100,000 in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite region. This new initiative provides grants, cash or vouchers to buy desperately needed food.

In the town of Mirebalais, Mercy Corps employs Haitians to clear debris from canals and other public spaces to mitigate flooding during hurricane season. Watch a video on this important program.

View photos of Mercy Corps’ work in Mirebalais on Facebook and Flickr.

Tragedy and Hope in Kalam

Submitted by Richard Zack Taylor

Bhan, Pakistan: As the eldest of five siblings with a father working overseas, 10-year-old Olfata had a lot of responsibility helping to look after her four younger brothers and sisters, while lending a hand on her extended family’s potato farm and apple orchard in mountainous north of the country.

Seema, Olfata holding Sidiqa, and Faisal have been affected by the floods in Pakistan, but are receiving help. Photo Credit: USAID/Pakistan

One day in late July, she heard shouting and yelling coming from neighbors up the river:  her village was directly in the path of a flash flood just minutes away. She tried to remain calm, and helped gather up her brothers and sisters and a basket full of apples, the first objects of value she could find.

Amid a great tumult in the village, Olfata was shepherding the little ones to higher ground when a panicked stray dog lunged toward her, toppling the apples and sending her siblings Seema, 9, Fozia, 7, and five-year-old Faisal in various directions while she clung to 16-month-old  Sadiqa with her free hand.

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USAID Provides New Schools to Earthquake Affected Communities in Haiti

School children at the Leogane School Opening.

School children at the Leogane School opening. Photo credit: Janice Laurente

In Léogâne, the town that was the epicenter of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, you see signs of recovery and life resuming.  People have returned to markets to sell their crops and wares, rubble is being removed from key thorough fares, and schools are being rebuilt.

On August 25, USAID and the Digicel Foundation inaugurated École Louis de Borno, the first school built under a new public-private partnership to construct new schools for people affected by the earthquake.  Approximately 50 schools are planned that benefit up to 30,000 children.

“Immediately after the earthquake, 4,800 schools were damaged or destroyed.  USAID is proud to play a role in helping children return to school through a number of our projects,” said USAID Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei.  “This new partnership with Digicel illustrates USAID’s commitment of exploring new and innovative approaches meet the educational, economic development and job-training needs of Haitian communities.”

Under the USAID partnership, some of the schools will be constructed with U.S. military shipping containers which are being converted into school campuses.  USAID procured about 100 shipping containers that had been used as part of the Joint Task Force-Haiti’s humanitarian mission in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The project is also employing youth for the construction of the schools through the USAID-funded IDEJEN livelihood initiative.  IDEJEN provides out-of-school youth ages 15-24 with basic, non-formal education and vocational training.  This effort, which will employ up to 100 people at a pre-fabrication plan in addition to those on site assembly will serve to get money to Haitian families in need, stimulate the economy and help develop a workforce able to participate in upcoming reconstruction efforts.

‘The First Step to Rebuilding Our Lives’ USAID supports shelter for displaced Swat families

Submitted by Zack Taylor

Nadeem looks forward to rebuilding his life. Photo Credit: USAID

Girlagan, Pakistan:   Nadeem is a fairly typical Pakistani boy.  His family is among about 200 that live in the village of Girlagan on the banks of the Swat River, not far from the once-famous tourist destination of Bahrain in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Nadeem and his four brothers and three younger sisters all attend public government schools in Girlagan.  A student in Class Six, Nadeem enjoys his studies and loves to play cricket.

Nadeem’s father is unemployed, but his eldest brother supports the family with income from a small shop in faraway Quetta city. Unable to afford a brick and steel structure, they lived in a small two roomed mud house reinforced with wooden beams.

On July 28, Nadeem’s life became no longer typical.  Torrential monsoon rains of unprecedented volume caused a tremendous flash flood that spread death and destruction as it ripped its way down the picturesque valley, putting a direct hit on the hapless residents of Girlagan.

“Water started entering my home in the afternoon,” Nadeem recalled. “People were saying that we should leave since the river would destroy everything in its path.”

In the next few hours, Nadeem’s family gathered what valuables they could and ran up a hill to a neighbor’s house. At midnight, the swollen river roared into Girlagan and destroyed the entire street where Nadeem lived.

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Pic of the Week

Pakistani boy waiting in line for rations

A Pakistani boy and villagers affected by the floods waits for their daily ration of food at an army flood relief camp in Sultan Colony in Muzaffargarh district in Punjab on August 25, 2010. AFP PHOTO/Pedro UGARTE

USAID continues to deliver aid to those impacted by the floods. To date, USAID/FFP has provided $51.5 million in direct support of World Food Programme’s monthly food ration distributions and to an NGO to support food voucher distribution.

People in the United States who wish to contribute to the effort are asked to text the word “FLOOD” to 27722. Each text will donate $10 to the Pakistan Relief Fund established by the State Department, helping to provide emergency aid to displaced families.

For more information about USAID disaster assistance in Pakistan please visit our

Our Commitment to the People of Pakistan

As I stood on the tarmac in Islamabad yesterday, waiting for the U.S. Air Force Reserve aircraft that would take me to the flood-ravaged southern part of Pakistan, I saw a large group of Pakistani men loading up boxes marked with the USAID brand mark into a local “jingle” truck.

I walked over to the group and met with Major Murdeza who had just joined an international organization. He told me that these trucks were bound for Multan, carrying 1,600 rolls of plastic sheeting that will help provide shelter for flood-affected families.

The plane I was on was also carrying much-needed US aid materials to the city of Sukkur. I visited two camps there run by USAID partner organizations. There I listened to the stories of immeasurable loss. I met women who had lost every last possession. They were unsure of how they would take care of their children. And I met a man still jolted by the tragedy of losing a child due to the historic floods.

As I stared at the swollen Indus River, it only reaffirmed the need to renew our commitment to the people of Pakistan. With each passing day, as disease and hunger threaten and supply and aid routes remain cut off, the breadth of the destruction affecting millions of people only grows.

Yesterday, I announced a commitment by the U.S. Government to redirect $50 million for early recovery efforts from funds provided by Congress last month. The additional funding will support early recovery programs, such as rehabilitation of community infrastructure and livelihood recovery activities, and was authorized under the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act. This funding will go a long way in helping Pakistan start to rebuild and heal in the wake of so much loss.

Where our goal was once to improve a water system, we now must help reconstruct it. Power stations that, just a month ago, needed fine tuning to operate more efficiently must be fixed to become operational again. But in spite of the obstacles, we are making progress. We are feeding 1.8 million people per day and we have curtailed the potentially devastating threat of a large outbreak of waterborne illness because of our previous efforts to implement a disease early warning system (or DEWS). Focused efforts of this kind speak to our long and productive history in Pakistan.

With the help of the international community, we must now double those efforts to help minimize further hardship and pain in what has already proved the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. I know this crisis is far from over. I’ve seen the suffering of the Pakistani people. But I am convinced that the work we have done, and the work we continue to do in Pakistan, will be some of our most important efforts for years to come.

Helping Shelter Haiti

The humanitarian community in Haiti has funds for the construction of more than 118,000 transitional shelters over the coming months for those who lost their homes in the country’s devastating earthquake earlier this year. Medair, an international NGO, is one of many partners receiving funding from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to build such shelters.

Last week, Medair unloaded construction materials for 800 transitional shelters — a fraction of the total they plan to build — in Jacmel, south of Port-au-Prince. Medair is planning to build 4,500 t-shelters in the Jacmel area, benefiting 27,000 people. Here’s a dispatch from Emma Le Beau, Field Communications Officer for Medair Haiti, about the excitement that this delivery brought to Jacmel and the direct impact of our work on the lives of Haitians affected by the earthquake:

“As our cargo ship approached Jacmel at dawn, local fishing boats rowed ahead of the boat to steer it clear of a treacherous sandbar. When the ship berthed, we began unloading the cargo with the aid of two 35-ton cranes, four forklifts, seven flatbed trucks, and the logistical support of shipping agent Kuehne and Nagel and Haitian partner Hogarth. The flatbed trucks made it over the mountains from Port-au-Prince with only one flat tire among them.

“The cranes operated throughout the night to unload 1,331 tons of cargo from the ship, including timber and galvanized iron sheeting. Because of widespread deforestation in Haiti, we chose to import the pre-treated timber to keep local trees in place.

“From the port, trucks loaded with the ship’s materials made nearly 200 runs to the Medair warehouse. When they arrived, Medair teams of technical officers, carpenters, logisticians, and community mobilizers, who have been in place since January, were there to greet them. Now that more materials are in place, they’ll be able to scale up the speed of their construction and build more shelters for Haitian families in need in hard-to-reach mountain villages near Jacmel.

“The shelters, designed to resist hurricane force winds, seismic risks and heavy rainfall, are solid structures with foundations of reinforced concrete. They take about three days to build and are finished with a wrapping of plastic sheeting and solid windows and doors. Many families will likely choose to upgrade this type of shelter into a permanent home by replacing the plastic sheeting with stone walls.

The Rossamund family, whose home was made dangerously unsafe by the earthquake, has already received a new shelter and is enjoying living in safer and dry housing. Monsieur Rossamund told Medair staff: “If I had not received this help, I would need to sell all my animals to pay for the materials to rebuild my home.” By keeping his animals, his family can continue to have a livelihood, food, and insurance for the future.”

World Humanitarian Day: Response Coordinator Reflects on Progress Made in Haiti

Yesterday was World Humanitarian Day, a day when we remember the millions of people experiencing conflict, natural disasters, sickness and extreme poverty and the people committed to saving their lives, relieving suffering and empowering those who are struggling make a better life.

At USAID, we have a long history of extending a helping hand to people overseas recovering from disaster and are continuing to respond to humanitarian needs. We support Pakistanis affected by the epic flooding in the country’s south and west. And since January 12, our aid workers and partners have worked hard to help the people of Haiti build back better after the earthquake.

Watch a video featuring Response Coordinator Skip Waskin and learn about humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti.

Video: USAID Pakistan Flood Assistance

As USAID marks World Humanitarian Day, we continue around-the-clock efforts to support Pakistanis affected by the epic flooding in the country’s south and west. The scale of the disaster remains astounding, with millions already displaced. USAID-supplied plastic sheeting, enough to provide shelter for 7,800 families, has just arrived. Each of these families will also receive an emergency shelter package containing a 20-liter water container, blankets, rope, and a kitchen set.

We are also keeping a close eye out on minimizing waterborne diseases, through educational campaigns as well as expanded water monitoring. Since late July, USAID has provided immediate assistance from the American people to the flood-affected people of Pakistan.

Watch and share this new video for a glimpse into just some of what USAID has provided on behalf of the American people at www.usaid.gov/pakistanflooding

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