USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Disaster Relief

Haiti “A Country Undeniably on the Move”

Originally posted in The Miami Herald

It’s been two years since one of the most deadly natural disasters of the modern era devastated one of the poorest countries in the world. Even with an unprecedented international response in partnership with the Haitian government, the sheer scale of the 7.0 earthquake—which killed 230,000 people and displaced over 1.5 million—meant the country’s recovery would be a massive undertaking.

As President Obama directed, the US Government joined with the Haitian government to conduct search and rescue operations, clear streets of rubble and provide emergency supplies to survivors of the earthquake. Individual Americans have been a vital part of the effort — in 2010, more Americans donated money to Haiti relief efforts than watched the Super Bowl.

Despite daunting challenges over the last two years, today we can point to several specific results on the ground. Over half of the 10 million tons of rubble has been cleared from Port-au-Prince’s streets, more people have access to clean water today than before the earthquake, and collective efforts have mitigated the outbreak of cholera that killed thousands in the country.

In former President Bill Clinton’s words, our focus must now be on working with the Haitian government to “build back better.”

With the leadership of Secretary Clinton, we are trying to harness the transformative power of science, technology and innovation to accelerate economic progress and improve lives throughout Haiti.

For instance, instead of investing in rebuilding banks that fell during the earthquake, we worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch a mobile banking revolution in the country. Nearly two-thirds of Haiti’s population has access to mobile phones but only 10 percent have bank accounts. By introducing technology that allows Haitians to save money and make transactions on their phones, we’re encouraging local wealth creation. To date, nearly 800,000 Haitians have registered for mobile banking, helping Haiti likely become one of the first mobile money economies in the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meeting Needs and Supporting Disaster Management in the Philippines

The people of the Philippines have been hit hard by Tropical Storm Washi (known locally as Sendong.) Heavy rains, storm surges, flash flooding, and landslides have rocked communities on the island of Mindanao, with 1,249 people reported dead as of December 27, nearly 55,000 still in evacuation centers, and hundreds of thousands affected.

USAID responded immediately, providing an initial $100,000 for disaster-relief efforts and putting disaster management specialists on the ground to assess conditions. The Agency is providing an additional $800,000 in emergency assistance to continue to support ongoing emergency relief operations, including the distribution of emergency shelter kits, water purification tablets, water containers, and hygiene kits.

USAID is also supporting logistical operations to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of emergency supplies to the most affected populations, particularly in the hardest hit cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

However, our investment in addressing disaster risks and impact in the Philippines actually goes back many years, and is more than direct disaster response. Knowing the Philippine islands face continued risks from storms, typhoons, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural hazards, the United States has been working with the Philippine Government and regional and local groups since 1998 to train and prepare emergency responders.

The Program for the Enhancement of Emergency Response, known as PEER, has been instrumental in staffing Philippine search-and-rescue and first-responder groups like the Philippines National Red Cross, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Office of Civil Defense, and even the Armed Forces. Graduates of the program must complete standardized coursework in medical first response, collapsed structure search and rescue, and hospital preparedness for mass casualties.

USAID and the U.S. Forest Service also have trained Philippine emergency personnel in what is known as the Incident Command System or ICS, which makes sure responders are “speaking the same language,” or in other words, are working under the same response framework.

The United States continues to be a key partner of the Philippines by providing humanitarian assistance when disasters strike, as well as helping the people of the Philippines strengthen their disaster preparedness capacity and improve communities’ resilience to disasters.

Learn more about USAID’s response in the Philippines.

Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflicts and Disasters

Sexual violence often increases in conflict and disaster situations, typically exposing women and girls to increased threats of rape and assault, exploitation, and abuse. This happens because of population displacement, the absence of police, and the disruption of the normal social networks that protect women and girls. Therefore, when USAID provides humanitarian assistance, such as food, relief commodities, water, and shelter, to people who have been affected by disasters, we also work to reduce risks for sexual violence and to provide support for women and girls who have experienced violence.

I have seen the importance of this program response first hand. In June I traveled to Cote d’Ivoire with four of my colleagues to assess the humanitarian situation following the fighting that occurred there earlier in the year. We visited communities in the west and the north of the country, and also some of the neighborhoods around Abidjan where the fighting was most intense. We met women, children, and men who had fled their homes in the villages, many of them witnessing and experiencing violence themselves.

Although women do not tend to speak openly about sexual violence in Cote d’Ivoire due to fears about being stigmatized or feeling shame about what has happened to them, it was clear that many women and girls had suffered from sexual violence during the conflict. Humanitarian organizations, such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), conducted rapid surveys in the areas most affected by the conflict, finding high rates of sexual violence – and especially gang rape – between January and May of this year. However, because of the involvement of the police in the conflict, women and girls were afraid to contact the police and did not report rapes or seek support services.

Based on these findings, USAID funded humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee to ensure that women and girls who experienced sexual violence could access a range of support services, such as medical care, counseling, and legal aid. Many of these services already existed in Cote d’Ivoire, but they stopped functioning when health clinics were damaged by the conflict and trained service providers fled to other parts of the country. USAID programs worked to re-start these services by training new service providers, restocking health clinics, and raising awareness within communities about the available services. In total, USAID provided more than $2 million for protection activities like these in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia, where refugees from Cote d’Ivoire fled during the conflict. These funds supported IRC and other organizations to respond to sexual violence and child protection concerns and to offer psychosocial support for affected populations.

Although sexual violence is an ugly consequence of conflict and disasters, by providing safe, sensitive, and appropriate services for survivors, we can help them and their communities to recover and rebuild their lives.

New FEWS Data – Updated 11/18/2011

Moving Forward

The facts are hard to fully grasp: across the Horn of Africa, there are 13.3 million people in crisis – more than the populations in the cities of Los Angeles and New York combined.

And the crisis is the worst in Somalia, a country gripped by two decades of conflict. Somalis, primarily women and children, have streamed across the borders into Ethiopia and Kenya in search of life-saving food. For those still in Somalia, an early September report (pdf) was heart-wrenching: four million Somalis in crisis, with 750,000 at risk of starvation if critical assistance didn’t reach them over the next few months.

USAID, working with partners, has moved forward with critical and life-saving assistance. We know from past famines that the biggest killer of children weakened by lack of food is preventable diseases. So we have worked to provide vaccinations, clean water and basic hygiene. For nearly six months, our emergency teams have worked to save lives in one of the most difficult places in the world to reach those most in need.

And now, we finally have some good news to report. The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) and the U.N. Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) released the latest data from Somalia today. The latest information indicates improvements in food security in all areas of Somalia, largely driven by humanitarian assistance, which has significantly improved household food access. Humanitarian assistance has also contributed to sharp drops in food prices, which nonetheless remain above average.

Famine conditions have abated in three of the six areas previously declared as experiencing ongoing famine in southern Somalia. Conditions have improved from famine to emergency levels in Bay, Bakool, and Lower Shabelle regions. Though the data shows improvement, famine conditions persist in Middle Shabelle region and the areas of Mogadishu and Afgoye.

Let me clearly note that while the number of Somalis at risk of imminent starvation has dropped, four million Somalis remain in need of humanitarian assistance through August 2012. We are not declaring victory, but we are heartened to have this critical data affirming that we are reaching many of those so desperately in need of help.

Unfortunately, we also know that the crisis is far from over. We know from past famines that when we stop assistance too early, we have new spikes of mortality and disease.

It is too early to ease up on assistance in Somalia or across the Horn, where more than $750 million in U.S. assistance continues to provide food, treatment for the severely malnourished, health care, clean water, proper sanitation, and hygiene education and supplies to help 4.6 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.

We remain committed to providing vital emergency assistance, and we continue to look ahead – especially in Ethiopia and Kenya, where we can literally “Feed the Future” by building sustainable solutions through investments in agriculture, livelihoods and health.

And with today’s report, we know we are on the right track in Somalia, but our life-saving efforts continue. Those in the midst of this crisis still need our help, and you can be part of the solution. Join us.

FWD Day Surpasses Goal, Hitting 117 Million Forwards

 

The USAID FWD Campaign successfully garnered 117 million forwards of crisis facts on FWD Day, dwarfing the goal of 13.3 million—the number of people currently affected by the crisis in the Horn of Africa.  Celebrities, NGOs, corporations, and the American public joined forces to amplify the message through a host of online channels including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email, blogs and listservs.  The results were staggering, not only because of the number of forwards, but because of the new audiences reached, many perhaps for the first time.

In this blog post we wanted to share some of the inspiring ways you got involved.

Social Media Explosion

YouTube partnered with USAID by highlighting FWD videos on its homepage and by hosting a featured page for the campaign.  This enabled over 1 million views of FWD videos.  YouTube also spread the word to their more than 47 million Facebook fans.

Americans across the country of all ages and backgrounds led the effort by relentlessly propelling this message to friends, colleagues, and family through social network channels.  Nearly 24 million impressions were generated by #FWD on Twitter alone. Many people used their creativity to craft their own unique messages.  Some even filmed personal public service announcement videos!  Here are a few highlights:

Musician, Arthur Garros performed and filmed a tribute for the Horn of Africa, which he mixed with photos of the crisis and posted to the FWD YouTube page.

Galen Carey, the Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals chose to post a call to action on YouTube, challenging evangelical communities to respond to the crisis.

Visit youtube.com/FWD to see these and more FWD videos submitted by YouTube celebrities and Americans throughout the county. You can view and share videos from YouTube celebrities such as Brittani, Lisa Nova, and the “Chocolate Rain” signer, as well as videos from Second City, Funny or Die, and Barely Political.

 

Amplified: Websites, Blogs, and Events

Online meal delivery company Seamless offered discounts on food orders for customers who forwarded the facts to friends on Facebook, offering up to a 20% discount for 800 people to share the facts. Customers willingly accepted the challenge, and shared the facts over 1700 times, reaching thousands of people.


In his blog, A View from the Cave, writer Tom Murphy explored the power of social media to reach bigger audiences.  By linking celebrity news to facts about the crisis on Twitter, he attracted more readers and generated more discussion and retweets.  Read about it here!

The White House also got invovled.  Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement, held a Twitter Chat for FWD day with representatives from the FWD campaign and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Twitter users had the opportunity to send in questions about the crisis with the hashtag #FWDatWH. Questions came in from across the country on topics like irrigation, infrastructure projects, climate change, and how the public can get involved.

The staff at USAID was energized by FWD Day and organized a walk and reflection to commemorate the occasion during their lunch break.  Foreign Service officers and civil servants alike took the opportunity to share stories and insights. Many spoke from their own life experience in the Horn of Africa.

FWD>Day has proven the capacity of the American People to raise awareness through the accessible online platforms that we all use.  A choice to send an email, post on Facebook or upload a simple YouTube video can literally have a lifesaving impact.  The inspiring creativity of others showcased here helps us to renew our commitment to keep up the search for new ways to forward the facts!

A $5,000 Prize for the Best Plan to Spread Awareness About the Horn of Africa Crisis

As featured on Good

The largest humanitarian crisis in the world today is happening in the Horn of Africa, where more than 13 million people are suffering from a deadly famine caused by decades of conflict, instability and the worst drought the region has seen in 60 years.

The devastation has spread across four countries, ravaging farmlands, displacing families and killing tens of thousands in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Conditions in southern Somalia are reported to be especially severe. There, emergency assistance continues to be limited or denied, even as many families are forced to walk more than one hundred miles in search of their next meal and children are dying hourly from malnutrition and starvation.

Shockingly, only a fraction of the American public recognizes the urgency of the situation, and according to a recent national survey released by the Ad Council, 52 percent of us aren’t even aware that this catastrophe is occurring at all.  In response to these statistics, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Ad Council have launched FWD, a major multimedia and public awareness campaign that aims to connect people to the East Africa relief efforts in new and creative ways. FWD, as you might have wondered, stands for famine, war and drought. It represents a call to action to “FWD” the facts about the crisis and spark a community-wide dialogue about how to respond.

GOOD is heeding this call by teaming up with USAID and the Ad Council to offer the next challenge on GOOD Maker, our new collaborative platform connecting fresh ideas with the funds needed to make good happen. We’re asking you to tell us how you would use $5,000 to help raise awareness for the Horn of Africa crisis in your community,whether by hosting a local event or starting your own grassroots campaign. Participate in the challenge by submitting a proposal here between now and November 28. We’ll review each entry, and from November 28 to December 12, the public will vote on which idea would have the most impact. GOOD will award the winner $5,000 to implement the plan locally, and the top-voted submission will be featured in digital and social media channels by USAID and the Ad Council.

Dr. Biden Meets with ONE Mom Bloggers

As featured on the White House Blog

On Wednesday, October 25th, Mom Bloggers from the ONE campaign came to the White House to meet with Dr. Jill Biden, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Gayle Smith, Special Assistant and Senior Director for Development and Democracy in the National Security Staff.

Bonded by their experiences from their recent trips to Africa, the participants spoke about the ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa.  Dr. Biden, who had recently travelled to Kenya with Administrator Shah and Smith, listened to the Mom Bloggers as they described their encounters with women and children in the troubled region.  Dr. Shah highlighted specific issues and described what USAID has done to address some of these concerns.  Smith urged the Mom Bloggers to continue to bring attention to the issue by talking about their experiences and helping Americans recognize that there are more commonalities than differences between us and those suffering in the Horn.  For more information on the Crisis in the Horn of Africa, visit the USAID website to learn about the FWD Campaign.

Read the rest of this entry »

For the Hungry, Raising Awareness = Action. We are the Relief.

The sun was beaming down on us. Some were clearly starting to feel tired, hungry, and thirsty.

“Are we there yet?” joked a young man a few feet ahead of me.

“Apple cider?” asked a man standing behind a table set up along the road just for us. “We have cookies, too. Take what you’d like!”

We were less than two miles into a six-mile CROP Hunger Walk in Arlington, VA. Sponsored by Church World Service (CWS), about 2,000 CROP Hunger Walks are organized each year by local groups in communities across the United States to raise awareness about hunger at home and around the world.  I was honored to have been invited to help kick off the walk and participate with about 100 others who were taking time out of their Saturday morning to demonstrate a commitment to ending the plight of those suffering from hunger.

Read the rest of this entry »

USAID Recognizes Excellence in Disaster Risk Reduction

USAID/OFDA Director Mark Bartolini presents Dominic MacSorley of Concern Worldwide (U.S.) and William Canny of Catholic Relief Services with a plaque. Photo Credit: Doug Ebner/USAID

On October 17, 2011, USAID’s Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)
recognized two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for excellence in disaster risk reduction programming. USAID/OFDA Director Mark Bartolini presented the organizations with
commemorative plaques at the 2011 Annual OFDA NGO Partner Consultations. Dominic MacSorley accepted on behalf of Concern Worldwide (U.S.) for its program to help village disaster management committees in Zambia clear and maintain a complex network of canals prone to flooding. William Canny accepted for Catholic Relief Services for its work to train young people to prepare their communities for disasters in Kingston, Jamaica.

Rebuilding a City, and Lessons of Post Disaster Urban Recovery

Charles A. Setchell is Senior Shelter, Settlements, and Hazard Mitigation Advisor in USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance.

In the field of disaster relief and recovery we face a growing challenge of urbanization. This was the focus of a recent panel discussion at the Brookings Institution. Urban areas account for perhaps one percent of the world’s land mass but these areas are now home to more than half of humanity — roughly 3.5 billion people. Because of their scale, complexity, and concentrations of impoverished people living in hazard-prone slums, responding to crises and natural disasters in urban areas poses significant challenges to humanitarian agencies, which often have their institutional genesis and past experience rooted in the refugee crises of rural areas.

Looking ahead, more than 90 percent of total global population growth will be in the cities of developing regions, where resources and institutional capacities are limited. This level of growth will be so significant that the equivalent of a city of Bangalore, nearly six million people, will emerge during every month of every year for the next 20 years. Cities in developing regions will be the dominant form of global human settlement, and slums may well represent the dominant form of global housing design.

An important lesson is to integrate local context in our efforts. Local resources, institutions, expertise, and wisdom exists even in severely damaged human settlements, and should help form the basis for understanding the capacities, resources, opportunities, and disaster impacts that will guide response and recovery activities. Shelter needs should be responded to with a focus on its role within a settlement, not just “four walls and a roof.” In urban areas disasters compel a change in the unit of analysis from household to neighborhood. In Haiti, for example, USAID and other agencies have embraced this “neighborhood approach” as an operational means of working through — and out of — the rubble pile, and initial results are quite promising.

Read the rest of this entry »

Page 7 of 14:« First« 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 »Last »