USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Disaster Relief

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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Making Progress in the Fight Against Hunger: World Food Day 2011

Jonathan Shrier serves as Acting Feed the Future Acting Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy/Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security, and Ertharin Cousin serves as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.  Originally posted on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.

Today, World Food Day, reminds us that hunger is a reality for nearly a billion people worldwide. Rising and volatile food prices since last year have pushed tens of millions of additional people into the ranks of the hungry.

This is a particularly poignant day as we have just returned from the Horn of Africa, where there more than 13 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. In Somalia, a lack of effective governance and the actions of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those in need have turned a bad drought into outright famine.

We traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya with USAID Administrator Raj Shah, where we met with our partners in the region, including government officials, civil society, and private sector representatives, to discuss improving food security over the short, medium, and long-term.

With our partners, we’re making progress.

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Avoiding Future Famines: We Have the Tools

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in 60 years, with famine now affecting parts of Somalia. It doesn’t have to be this way. Droughts are cyclical and will continue to occur. They don’t have to lead to famine. We have the tools and can lead the way to helping ensure communities are resilient and can feed themselves. This video, from the ONE campaign, shows how Ethiopia has become more resilient to drought thanks to government leadership and support from the international community.

Learn more about what the U.S. is doing to promote agricultural-led development to help prevent future famines through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. And learn how you can get involved to help the Horn of Africa:

Libya: Humanitarian and Transition Assistance

Mark Ward is Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Yesterday, at an event organized by the Middle East Institute and International Relief and Development, I made three key points about the humanitarian situation in Libya.

First, the humanitarian crisis has eased considerably since the beginning of the conflict, with life normalizing in key parts of the country, and credit for that goes first and foremost to the tremendous resilience of the Libyan people.  Local city councils, community leaders, and members of what I hope is the start to a vibrant civil society have stepped up to coordinate and deliver humanitarian assistance, saving lives in difficult and dangerous conditions.  This has truly been their achievement, but one to which the U.S. Government has made its own important contribution.  In early March the U.S. deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, to multiple locations in the region, and later into Benghazi, Libya as well.  We did not wait for conflict to subside, but instead, working with truly heroic NGO partners, we helped send medical personnel and emergency health kits into cities still under siege and rocket attack by Qadhafi’s forces.  We supported health facilities, distributed blankets and emergency goods, helped fund early warning monitoring for epidemic-prone diseases, pre-positioned food for those most vulnerable inside Libya, and helped feed those who fled the conflict.  Overall, the U.S. Government has provided over $90 million in humanitarian assistance, and has played a vital role in supporting the evacuation and repatriation of third country nationals, especially migrant workers, who fled from Libya to neighboring countries.

Second, we are pleased to see a strong Libyan counterpart taking the lead.  The Transitional National Council (TNC) is now coordinating assistance with the international community.  A good example on the ground — when Tripoli was short of drinking water over the past two weeks, UNICEF and others sent in emergency supplies, but it was the TNC which got engineers to the distant southern water wells in Jebel Hassouna, traveling through still insecure regions, to restart the municipal water supply.  International team work, led by the Libyans, makes our job much easier.

Third, our role is changing from humanitarian relief to transition and stabilization, and we will help the Libyan people and the TNC as they set their key priorities.  Our transition assistance will strengthen emergent media outlets and civil society organizations.  We can provide expertise and help fill gaps, particularly in building a free media and organizing elections.  But this is Libyan-led, a fact underscored in a recent donor meeting when the TNC official responsible for reconstruction said “We don’t need your money, we just need your expertise, now, to help us rebuild our country.”  This Libyan determination to help themselves, so evident throughout their struggle, is truly inspiring.

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