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Archives for Europe and Eurasia

New Partnership to Support Child Welfare Reform Launched in Russia

During my recent trip to Russia, I was presented with USAID/Russia’s exciting new child welfare project implemented by a first-time Russian grantee, the National Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NFPCC). This project, which was officially launched September 9, is very timely, as preventing child abandonment and supporting the development of family-based services for orphans are priorities for the Russian government.

Around 130 people participated last week in the official launch of USAID/Russia’s “Compass for Childhood” project.  They included representatives of the Russian government, professional community, leading NGOs in child welfare and journalists writing about child welfare issues.  Opened by the Russian government, the event focused on the presentation of the project’s goals and objectives to help Russian regions strengthen the system of care for vulnerable children and families.  Although there has been substantial economic growth in Russia over the past decade, there were still over 126,000 children newly registered without parental care in 2009 alone.  Although reforms are underway in several regions, there is still much to be done to improve the system of care nationwide and establish services to ensure children get the proper care they need and a family-based environment.

During my visit to Moscow, I was pleased to meet with NFPCC representatives, UNICEF, and representatives from other Embassies to discuss how we can work together with Russian government counterparts and civil society to support this priority area. Although we’ve worked with NFPCC for several years as a sub-grantee, I am thrilled that we’re a part of this new partnership, working directly with a Russian organization. This is a good example of the long-term work we are trying to do in Russia to build the capacity of civil society organizations such as NFPCC.

U.S., Russia Explore Opportunities to Collaborate to End Polio

A. Sabin and M. Chumakov work on Oral Poliomyelitis Vaccine (Moscow, 1950s)

Submitted by Jonathan Hale
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia

Today, I am back in Moscow.  The Russian government has already made significant contributions to stopping the polio outbreak in Central Asia. Now we are exploring opportunities for further U.S.-Russian collaboration on this issue to work toward ending polio once and for all. I met with Dr. Mikhail Mikhailov, Director of the M.P. Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis. We were joined by the Institute’s Deputy Director, Evgeniy Tkachenko, and some of our USAID Health Office staff to discuss U.S.-Russia collaboration on the response to the polio outbreak in Central Asia.

As Dr. Mikhailov asked me to sign the Institute’s 50-year old guest book, I was struck by the long history of cooperation between its Russian scientists and our own American scientists. In the late 1950s, Dr. Albert Sabin, the American scientist who would later become famous for developing the oral polio vaccine (OPV), needed more subjects for his vaccine clinical trials since earlier polio vaccines had been used so extensively in the United States.

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia signs the guest book at the M.P. Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitis.

Although this period marked the height of the Cold War, Dr. Sabin was allowed to conduct massive clinical trials in the Soviet Union, working with Dr. M.P. Chumakov, founder of the Institute. In the first five months of 1959, ten million children in the Soviet Union received the Sabin oral vaccine.  Shortly after, the Institute began manufacturing OPV for internal and international use. Later, Dr. Sabin would receive a medal of gratitude from the Soviet Union – one of the only Americans to do so. I hope more Americans can learn about this longtime U.S.-Russian cooperation that has literally saved millions of lives around the world.

Today, as Americans and Russians explore new ways to once again fight polio – this time in Central Asia – I look forward to deepening our collaboration with the Polio Institute and the Ministry of Health on this in the coming months.

Resetting for Clean, Efficient Energy in Russia

I am very excited to sign a Protocol of Intent on energy efficiency cooperation between USAID and the Russian Energy Agency. Russian Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko and Secretary Chu will witness the signing. The Russian Energy Minister is here to take part in the first-ever Clean Energy Ministerial, which is being hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Working under the protocol, USAID will link U.S. and Russian utilities and regulators to share best practices and to exchange lessons learned about smart grids. I am convinced that bringing people together will accelerate development and deployment of clean energy technology. We really need it to fight climate change!

The USAID protocol is part of a larger effort aimed at fulfilling Presidents Obama and Medvedev’s commitment to jointly promote energy efficiency and clean energy. I am so pleased to be able to get this protocol in place little more than two months after I first met with Russian energy officials in Moscow back in May. I am now headed back to Russia to keep this initiative moving forward.

Read the Press Release.

 

Dr. Raj. Shah Attends Launch of Pakistan’s Birthspacing Initiative

Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. “ We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

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From the Field

In Lebanon Haigazian University will be presented with $450,081 to directly support its student financial aid program. 356 Haigazian University students with demonstrable financial need from all over Lebanon will be given scholarships with these U.S. funds, made available through USAID. Without this assistance, these students would not be able to study at Haigazian University. Lebanese American University (LAU) will be presented with $1,178,122 to support its Financial Aid & Scholarships Fund for both campuses in Jbeil and Beirut. 249 qualified Lebanese students benefit from this program.

In Albania USAID will open a Public Information Office in one of Albania’s District Courts. To tackle corruption in Albania’s judicial system, USAID’s Rule of Law program works with a set of pilot courts to improve their performance and accountability to citizens. One of several accountability measures introduced by USAID, public information offices serve as one-stop shops where citizens have quick and easy access to information on court proceedings and their legal rights.

In El Salvador a signing ceremony for the Global Development Alliance (GDA) with the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development (FUSAL). USAID will help expand FUSAL’s Libras de Amor program to two additional municipalities in Sonsonate to combat poor eating habits and malnutrition.

In Jakarta a forum will present eight finalists – that represent the finest – of more than 75 projects which entered a competition in Asia, organized by Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), and sponsored by USAID. Eight clean energy competition finalists, reps from more than 150 energy professionals, entrepreneurs, donors, banks, partners, project developers from Indonesia and Asia. The forum is a means to bridge the financial gap between creative innovators in clean energy with private investors who are willing to fund these opportunities.

World Population Day 2010

Why Population Data Matters: Ensuring Families Around the World Have Access to Family Planning

While you are out celebrating the close of the World Cup this Sunday, don’t forget to take a minute to remember that Sunday, 11 July, is World Population Day. World Population Day is annually observed on July 11 to reaffirm the human right to plan for a family. It encourages activities, events and information to help make this right a reality throughout the world.  This year’s theme, “Everyone Counts” is meant to highlight the critical role data plays in tracking population trends.

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USAID in the News – July 2nd to July 9th

USAID is helping bring popular children’s television program Sesame Street to Nigeria through a five year grant. The show will be a 30 minute program titled Sesame Square that will run for three years. A portion of the grant will be focused on outreach programs for the country’s 25 million preschool-age children of whom only 10 percent are enrolled in school. The intent of this grant is to aid the country in building a strong foundation of basic literacy and numeracy as well as concentrating on the prevalent social issues. Sesame Square will be hosted by Kami, a lady Muppet who is HIV-positive, and another furry blue boy Muppet who has yet to be named. A national text vote campaign is currently in place to help name the unnamed Muppet and raise program awareness.

Albanian food producers, through USAID support, presented their products at an agro-food fair in New York last week. Over the last two years, USAID’s Competitiveness of Albanian Agriculture (CAA) program had aided Albanian agro-businesses in exploring profitable international markets. The New York food fair helped the nation establish trade contacts and provided information about the current and potential role of agriculture and food industry in the Balkans to American investors.

USAID Mission Director Pamela White participated in the celebration of the signing of a $15 million Threshold Program grant with Liberia. The grant will fund a three year program coordinated by USAID that will focus on improving land rights and access as well as girls’ primary education and trade policy. The people of Liberia chose these areas themselves as part of their national development strategy.

Liberia was chosen for the program by the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors because of their progress and commitment to reform. The MCC has currently signed 22 threshold programs in 20 countries. MCC is a US Government agency that was devised to assist developing countries and is based on the idea that aid is “most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic, and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth.”

On Tuesday in Kigali, USAID announced that it will contribute $2.5 million for two years to the East African Power Pool (EAPP) project. The announcement was made at the two-day EAPP Steering Committee Conference which included USAID officials as well as stakeholders in the energy sector from the eight member countries. Candace Buzzard, Director of USAID’s Regional Growth and Integration Office, spoke at the conference to address concerns about the lack of electricity and efficient clean power. She also mentioned that the collaboration between USAID and EAPP will produce significant results exploiting clean and renewable energy resources as well as improving cross-border energy trade policies and regulations.

Helping Babies Breathe

submitted by Amanda Parsons

Babies across the globe, wealthy or poor alike, all face the same treacherous moment—the moment when they take their first breath. And for 829,000 babies each year, this moment is their last. These infants require help to fill their lungs with life-sustaining air and for too many poor nations, the knowledge and tools to necessary to save them aren’t available.

USAID is working with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laerdal Medical AS, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Save the Children to correct this issue through the “Helping Babies Breathe” initiative. This international campaign aims to prevent birth asphyxia through teaching midwives and birth attendants in poor countries how to gently nudge newborns into the world of respiration.

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USAID Helps Put Albanian Products on the Road to Markets

Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni Trading Company, sends off his first shipment of watermelons to a distributor in Lithuania. With USAID support, Albanian farmers and traders like Mr. Koni, are able to find lucrative international markets.

Albania is a country that produces a wealth of high-quality agricultural products and because of its geography and climate it can enter produce markets in the region and in the European Union earlier in a given year for premium prices. But that potential has not been fully met because Albania’s agriculture sector does not have adequate technological and business sophistication to be competitive.

Albanian farms are usually small, family-run operations, many of which cannot meet large purchase orders nor send their products to distant markets. Helping Albanian farmers overcome these difficulties would have an impact on reducing poverty and supporting economic development in rural areas where the poverty levels are much higher than the national average.

With USAID support, Albanian farmers, processors and traders are gaining the knowledge and skills they need to better reach regional and even international markets. Last week, USAID helped Agro-Koni, an Albanian producer of improved seedlings and consolidator, export 10 containers of early-season watermelons to Lithuania, valued at over US$50,000. The sale marks a milestone in a year-long process, where USAID’s assistance enabled Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni, to navigate the complex process of establishing trade links with a regional buyer. Koni is preparing for two additional shipments in the coming weeks that would provide his company more than $100,000 in sales.

USAID’s five-year, Albanian Agriculture Competitiveness program is working with farmers, processors, suppliers and traders to build an integrated value-chain network that will increase the competitiveness of Albanian agriculture. Since it began in 2007, the project has had increased domestic and export sales by over 65% for assisted clients.

USAID has also published the first Albania’s Buyer Guide, a user-friendly directory with contacts for companies interested in purchasing Albanian products.

From the Field

In Jordan, the Petra New Wonder of the World Celebration, the third anniversary of Petra being selected as a New 7th Wonder of the world. The USAID Tourism project will celebrate this with an evening of entertainment in the park itself. The project will use this occasion to provide background and build support for critical development plans at this beautiful and historic site. The event will be attended by the Prime Minister of Jordan and other senior ministers, and in addition to the celebration, they will learn about the challenges and opportunities at Petra.

In Ukraine, a Conference on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Accounting Standards (IAS). The United States Government has worked to develop Ukraine’s financial markets for nearly 15 years. Since 2007, USAID/Capital Markets Project has been working with the Ukrainian Securities Commission and market participants to develop the Electronic System of Comprehensive Information Disclosure (ESCRIN) for issuers of publicly listed companies. ESCRIN, has two major advantages: the information required by ESCRIN is much more comprehensive and allows the information to become public immediately on the regulator’s Web site, helping to move the country toward internationally accepted standards of disclosure. ESCRIN is now ready to be transferred and operational. The Securities Commission is about to receive final ministerial approval of a regulation that makes the system mandatory. 250 experts and professionals on investment projects, management, financial reporting, etc. from 30 countries worldwide will attend.

In Egypt, an event to present the best practices of the partnership between the USAID’s Technology for Improved Learning Outcomes (TILO) project and the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership (DCGEP). This partnership works on introducing 150 educational video segments to 60 Egyptian primary schools; teachers are trained on how to integrate the videos into their lesson planning. Attendees will include 90 school teachers who were trained under USAID’s program, as well as the Ministries of Education, Communication and Information Technology, and the Governor of Beni Suef.

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