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Archives for USAID

Dr. Jill Biden visits a USAID sponsored school for girls in Kenya

A great video over at Whitehouse.gov highlights the travels of Dr. Jill Biden in Kenya and her visit to a girls school helping to give young women a brighter future.

BRINGING MOBILE BANKING TO HAITI

One of the lesser-known victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake last January was the country’s financial system. Banks were closed for more than a week. Remittances through Fonkoze, a leading transfer agent, ground to a halt and were only restored when a U.S. inter-agency effort flew in more than $2 million. But even as the US, the international community, and the Government of Haiti help these traditional institutions get back on the feet, a critical roadblock to progress remains: less than 10% of Haitians have ever used a commercial bank.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce today an innovative partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to incentivize the development of financial services by mobile phone in Haiti. In short, these services are quicker, safer, and cheaper than traditional banking and could play a major role in helping to lift Haitians out of poverty and facilitating the country’s rebuilding process.

As part of the program, our friends at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $10 million for a fund to provide cash awards to companies that initiate mobile financial services in Haiti. USAID will offer technical and management assistance and other funding totaling approximately $5 million through one of our projects, the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE), already underway to improve access to financial services for the underserved. We’re working with Haitian companies in this effort in order to maximize our impact and address a critical need that had not been met through traditional approaches to development.

This type of program represents the approach I’m deeply committed to promoting here at USAID: cutting-edge technologies and programs deployed in new and unique ways to deliver optimal improvement. I’m very optimistic about what this program can do for Haiti and the short and long-term benefits it can deliver.

Because so few Haitians use commercial banks, savings are limited and insecure, employers must rely on sometimes-risky cash distributions, and remittance transfers (which account for about half of the country’s total income) are slowed. This problem is particularly problematic in rural areas and contributes to the over-concentration of Haitians in Port-au-Prince.

With the development of a mobile banking system, Haitians across the country could send, receive, and store money using their cell phones, better connecting them with relatives abroad who send money, employers who want to quickly and easily pay them, and goods and services they want to purchase. Here at USAID, we hope to be able to use mobile banking to pay workers through our cash-for-work programs, which currently employ about 24,000 people every day to do rubble removal and mitigation activities.

As we near the six month commemoration of the January 12th earthquake that devastated Haiti, we’re more focused than ever on helping the people of Haiti tackle the indescribably immense challenges that the earthquake posed. We’re working tirelessly with the international community and the Government of Haiti to address in new and innovative ways—such as through this mobile banking initiative–the problems that existed before the quake and that the disaster has only exacerbated. In this way, I am hopeful that we’ll finally be able to turn a corner on Haiti’s development challenges and put it on a path to a better future.

Click here to read our press release on the announcement.

Forging New Careers: USAID program seeks to train 100,000 Pakistani youth for in-demand jobs

Najeeb focuses during welding training. He is among 100,000 underemployed Pakistani youth USAID is training and helping with job placement under its Economic Growth program.

Holding an electric arc in his right hand, and a steel and glass helmet in front of his face with his left, Najeeb Ahmed bears down on a sheet of metal, focusing intensely as he heats a straight line across a forge under the watchful eye of an experienced ironworker.

Like millions of young Pakistanis, the 30-year-old Najeeb is ambitious and eager to work yet is nonetheless unemployed.  Becoming a welder may be his last chance to provide a good life for his family of six.

USAID is facilitating the placement of 100,000 Pakistanis – at least half women – in skill-matched jobs through training and placement
centers that establish linkages with the businesses, complementing other USAID programs such as education, health, and economic growth initiatives.

USAID is helping people find new economic options that offer hope for themselves and their children.  Growing job opportunities in key emerging sectors, such as food processing, construction, educational and health services, and marble, gems and jewelry will offer a way out of the cycle of poverty and violence currently afflicting much of Pakistan, particularly in the rural parts of the country.

Inside the World Food Programme’s Board Meeting in Rome

This post was submitted by USAID EGAT Bureau‘s Tjada McKenna, Senior Advisor to Feed the Future.

Raj Shah addressing the WFP - 7 June

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah addressing the WFP board on 7 June 2010.

I have just returned from Rome where USAID Administrator Raj Shah gave a speech at the opening session of the UN World Food Programme’s Executive Board Meeting.  In addition to the World Food Programme, we met with other Rome-based agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and representatives from civil society.

Working closely with multilateral partners and other key stakeholders including civil society and the private sector are core principles that will guide our implementation of Feed the Future, the US government’s global health and food security initiative.

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Increasing the Involvement of Men in Women’s Health

In male dominated cultures, USAID programs are helping to decrease maternal deaths by encouraging men to become involved in pregnancy and childbirth matters. Pictured: a man and child in Pakistan.

Reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent throughout the world by 2015 will take the involvement of men in countries where it matters most. Many of the countries where USAID works are male dominated cultures. To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries, men must be equal partners since they are the decision makers about health care in the family. These decisions include determining family size, timings of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care for themselves and their children. USAID-supported programs make special efforts to emphasize men’s shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive health. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups – entreaties that could be rejected because of traditional cultural values and perceptions that maternal health is the responsibility of women only.

In Pakistan, USAID is building on the efforts undertaken by the Government to create a cadre of religious leader master trainers to conduct roll out trainings in family planning and reproductive health, and maternal and child health, and gender issues consistent with and supported by the teachings of Islam.

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USAID Hosts Indian-Diaspora Workshop

Indian-American Diaspora Event

USAID Mission Director to India, Erin Soto, meeting with some of the Indian diaspora.  (photo by Jan Cartwright)

Mission Director Erin Soto, who heads USAID’s Mission in India, met yesterday afternoon in the Ronald Reagan Building with 33 members of the Indian American community. The dialogue was part of a day-long session to explore ways to enhance engagement and partnership between USAID and the Indian diaspora in our development efforts in India.

Soto noted that the Indian American community has much to bring, in terms of expertise, understanding, and resources, to development projects in India. She encouraged participants to network and to familiarize themselves with USAID’s budget cycle.

The participants, who came from a wide variety of organizations throughout the United States, appreciated the opportunity to come together as a group, to get questions answers, and to hear about the programs and priorities of USAID’s work in India.

Anju Bhargava, a member of the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2009 to 2010 and one of the participants of the event said, said, “The in-depth discussions through the various speakers, as well as with the USAID Mission head, gave us, the Indian American community, an insight into the process. Now we have to develop our capacity and partner with USAID to leverage the talent of our Diaspora to strengthen America’s strategic interest.”

Learn more about USAID’s activities in India.

Progress and Challenges in Fight Against Malaria in Mekong SubRegion

USG Strategy for Malaria in VietnamWhile major progress has been made in the fight against malaria in the Mekong SubRegion covering the six countries of Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China, the disease continues to be a major public health problem, according to the World Health Organization’s recent Mekong Malaria report.

USAID provides critical strategic support in the region to address three major challenges: monitoring and mitigation of emerging multi-drug resistant malaria; combating the distribution of counterfeit and sub-standard drugs; and assessing hard-to-reach and mobile trans-border populations.

Malaria is on the agenda of the Lower Mekong Initiative Infectious Diseases Conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 17–18 where participants will examine integrated regional approaches to fighting infectious disease. President’s Malaria Initiative Coordinator, Rear Admiral (USN, retired) Timothy Ziemer, will open the conference and co-lead the U.S. delegation.

The U.S. Government six-year strategy to combat malaria globally outlines contributions to stop the spread of multi-drug resistance in Southeast Asia; increase emphasis on strategic integration of malaria prevention and treatment activities with programs for maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases, and tuberculosis through multilateral collaboration to achieve internationally-accepted goals; and intensify efforts to strengthen health systems.

New Commitment to Helping Women and Children Globally

Great news on maternal and child health today.  On behalf of the Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates committed $1.5 billion to support integrated women’s and children’s health programs in developing countries at the Women Deliver Conference in Washington, DC.  The United States through the Global Health Initiative shares the goals of the Gates Foundation to improve the health and nutritional status of women and children worldwide.  While progress in reducing maternal and under-five mortality has been made, much remains to be done.  The new commitment of the Gates Foundation highlights the need for the global community to develop more integrated approaches to women’s and children’s health.  It also plans to evaluate innovative programs and share effective strategies with other countries.   This approach will help national governments achieve lasting reductions in maternal and under-five deaths.   USAID welcomes the opportunity to partner with Gates and other partners in this effort.

USAID in the News

Submitted by Jessica Scott

Administrator Shah took part in the first ever US-India Strategic Dialogue this week. The meeting included a host of senior leaders from both sides.  Dr. Shah discussed development as part of the complex relationship between the two countries.

The final 314 American troops from Operation Unified Response were airlifted from Haiti on Tuesday. Even as troops were being pulled out of the country, they continued to work with USAID and the UN in nine camps housing Haitians who lost their homes.  The Washington Post’s editorial page commemorated the transition with a lead editorial that mentions USAID in connection with the importance of continued U.S. involvement in Haiti’s recovery.  USAID officials who have been leading this effort, including Paul Weisenfeld and Christopher Milligan, attended the World Summit on the Future of Haiti.

The USAID-Funded FIRMS Initiative is helping bridge the gap between Pakistani mango farmers and European consumers.  Pakistan exports a relatively small percentage of its mango production.  Under the FIRMS program, farmers are being trained in the best ways to pick, sort, grade, and package the

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USAID Support to Girls’ Education Helps Break Cycle of Poverty in Pakistan

Students celebrate at a new school built through USAID assistance from the American people

In many households in Pakistan, poverty and tradition prevent millions of school age children access to quality education.

Low attendance rates, inadequate infrastructure, and poorly trained teachers perpetuate theseserious gaps in education.  Despite these challenges, education is a top priority for families.

USAID/Pakistan is making schooling more accessible to girls so to help them become pillars of Pakistan’s future progress. When girls attain higher levels of education, they are more likely to improve household living standards, have smaller and more sustainable families and their children are less likely to be malnourished. In short, they are better equipped, empowered and inspired to break the cycle of poverty.

At the Interaction Forum in Washington, D.C. on June 2, USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah said “Girls’ education is one of the most valuable interventions that can be made to improve long-term social outcomes.” Read his remarks here.

USAID/Pakistan, in coordination with other donors, has embarked on a large scale program to help Pakistan increase enrollments and expand educational opportunities, improve the quality of learning, rebuild schools and increase support for higher education. To date, USAID programs ensured that approximately 900,000 school-aged children were able to attend classes.

USAID/Pakistan plans to renovate 4,000 primary schools to repair the schools, provide furniture, toilets and clear water for students throughout the country; renovate primary schools to include the middle school grades (six to eight), especially for girls; and is increasing student achievement in science, math, English and computer literacy – four critical subjects at the middle and secondary school levels, and upgrading teacher skills.

In addition, a new USAID educational outreach program through the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop will build language, problem-solving and analytical thinking skills for children across Pakistan. The project will feature puppet-based television broadcasts, complementary radio programming and a dynamic website where children can interact with their favorite puppets, live shows staged from vehicles set up as theatres will reach remote, rural areas, including conflict-affected districts. Messages will promote learning while reflecting Pakistani culture and values, based on the country’s education curriculum. Read more here.

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