USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Europe and Eurasia

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.

USAID – From the Field

submitted by Abby Sugrue

In Kazakhstan: An event to raise awareness about the risks of drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and TB among at-risk youth – the event will include an awards ceremony for a drawing competition, a football match, and educational sessions on prevention of drug-use, HIV/AIDS and TB.  Local NGOs, youth groups and local media are invited.

In Armenia: An Amerenian Eye Care Project, and an international conference on the Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disorder that primarily affects premature infants.  A group of very well known ROP and retina specialists from the US and Australia will be traveling to Yerevan to train and teach the Armenian specialists to launch the program.  Attendees will include neonatologists, pediatric & regional ophthalmologists, clinical residents and neonatal nurses.

In Serbia: “Agribusiness & Renewable Energy Sources,” a conference to inform investors and agricultural producers on possibilities of production and the need for the use of sustainable sources of energy, in order to lower the emission of  pollutants and dependency on import of fossil fuels.  Attendees will include Senior representatives of Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Mining and energy, Special Advisor to the Ministry of Environment, and Agbiz project companies and clients.

In Egypt: The inauguration of El Akarmeya clinic.  Outreach is focused on Egyptian beneficiaries in disadvantaged areas, especially women and children.  An integral part of the process involves The Integrated Reproductive Health Services Project (Takamol), which provides technical assistance to the Egyptian Government to include Maternal-Child Health, Family Planning, and Reproductive (MCH/FP/RH ) services.

USAID Responds to Polio Outbreak in Tajikistan

More than 500 million children are vaccinated each year, including in the most difficult access places in the world.

Tajikistan is experiencing its first importation of wild poliovirus into the country in 12 years and the first case in the WHO European Region since it was certified as polio free in 2002. As of June 9, 2010, there are 183 confirmed cases of polio, including 3 deaths, in Tajikistan – out of 288 total polio cases confirmed worldwide(compared to 1604 for the same time period in 2009). For each confirmed case, there are hundreds of silent infections.

USAID is working closely with the United Nations (U.N) and countries to address this outbreak. Tajik authorities plan to conduct the next round of vaccination for children ages 6 to 15 during June 15-19. The global polio eradication effort is at a critical point in time.  Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988, the global number of polio cases has reduced by over 99 percent.  Now, polio is endemic in only four countries (India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan) compared to 145 countries before the GPEI began.  Furthermore, GPEI’s efforts have mobilized 20 million volunteers around the world, staged mass immunization campaigns, and vaccinated about 2.5 billion children worldwide.  Cases in India and Nigeria are at their lowest ever – an indication that we can not let up on our efforts now.

Still, significant challenges remain to eliminate the persistent reservoirs of this disease including insecurity, inconsistent management and ownership by local governments, sub-optimal communication and community mobilization, and reaching newborns, minority and mobile populations. Because of the need to frequently repeat campaigns, there is often a certain fatigue about seeing yet another vaccination team knocking at the door. Yet these proactive house-to-house campaigns are the only proven way to eliminate polio from a country. And with the world being so close to wiping out polio forever, we can’t afford to give up or to settle for “almost.”

The U.S. is the largest donor to the GPEI, contributing over $1.4 billion to date. Polio eradication is also a key part of the Administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). In 2009, President Obama announced a U.S. commitment to work with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on polio eradication during his speech in Cairo in which he called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world. Read about USAID’s approach to polio eradication. The new 2010-2012 GPEI Strategic Plan, recently endorsed by the World Health Assembly, requires a $2.6 billion budget through 2012, with a $1.3 billion funding gap.

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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Bosnia-Herzegovina – searching for paths toward prosperity

submitted by Jonathan Hale

Earlier this week, I flew four hours from Moscow to Sarajevo. Bosnia and Herzegovina is mountainous and very green in the spring. While it is a post-conflict country, people here are still in many ways searching for the path towards sustainable peace and prosperity. Divisions still run deep. Life remains segregated by ethnic community. There are separate schools within the same buildings. Multiple layers of segregated government and politics. There are even segregated telephone systems! Speaking with our very talented local foreign national staff, it is clear that there are still deep and painful memories of war here, even though it ended more than a decade ago. It’s striking to note that, according to the UNDP, a considerable proportion of Bosnians (up to 19% per UNDP figures), which enjoyed a relatively high living standard before the war now live at or below the poverty line.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday on the road. We drove around the country from Sarajevo to Mostar, Grude, Jajce, and Banja Luka in the Republika Srpska, and back. Along the way, I saw some hope along with the challenges. In Grude, I met with a mayor that is pressing for reforms to make government more responsive to the needs of the people. I understand there are a handful of other mayors and local officials like him throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. I had the privilege of participating in a community event

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U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.

On Friday, May 28th, FEMA Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning and I signed a work plan with the Russian government to expand bilateral cooperation through 2012 on responding to international disasters and humanitarian crises.  The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.  This committee was formed in 1996 and now serves as one of the working groups under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last year.  The U.S. delegation from FEMA, USAID, and the Department of Transportation discussed ways to enhance preparedness and response capabilities for disasters at home and abroad.  The Russian delegation, led by First Deputy Minister of the Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) Ruslan Tsalikov, was especially interested in sharing humanitarian aid best practices, and proposed partnering with USAID to address food security issues in the region.

The committee meeting was the culmination of an exciting week for cooperation in this area.  During the earlier part of the week, a FEMA-USAID delegation held a joint table top exercise with EMERCOM that simulated an earthquake scenario.  American and Russian experts jointly examined response considerations related to declaring a disaster, deploying teams to another country, coordinating search and rescue with humanitarian response, and demobilizing.  Specialists from Fairfax County’s Task Force 1 Search and Rescue team, who responded to the earthquake in Haiti, had the opportunity to sit across the table from Russian responders who also served in Haiti, and to share lessons learned from that experience.  The exercise is part of U.S. efforts to support the Russian Government’s goal of meeting the standards for the United Nations’ highest classification of search and rescue teams.

Russia’s commitment to cooperating with the U.S. in addressing humanitarian crises is another sign of its reemergence as strong global partner and international donor.  U.S. and Russian teams are already working together to improve rescue efforts in response to natural disasters and terrorism, and this is just one of many areas in which we are collaborating on global development.  USAID/Russia also partners with the Ministry of Health to send Russian medical experts to countries in Africa and with Russia’s new agency for humanitarian cooperation, Rossotrudnichestvo, to strengthen its capacity to provide aid.

After spending the week in Russia, I am even more convinced that the U.S. and Russia have much to gain by working together to address the big challenges of the 21st century. I believe USAID should continue to be at the center of much of that cooperation and partnership.

Now I am off to Bosnia for the next phase of my trip.

Lancet Series Puts Spotlight on Global Tuberculosis Efforts

On May 19th, ‘The Lancet’ released a special series on tuberculosis, which includes a series of papers and comments highlighting the need for new tools, the threat posed by drug-resistant strains, results of current control efforts and other issues about TB worldwide http://www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis. While treatment strategies saved six million lives and 36 million cases of the disease were successfully treated between 1995 and 2008, TB remains a severe global public health threat. TB remains second only to HIV among infectious killers worldwide today and is the third leading cause of death among women aged 15-44.

The Lancet series also focused on the broader issues that contribute to the spread of the disease. The majority of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. TB proliferates in close spaces, and it perpetuates poverty by striking the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Large numbers of TB cases go undetected and untreated, fueling new cases and deaths. Making matters worse, new forms of the disease have emerged that are resistant to existing drugs. According to the report, without significant investments in new technology and prevention and treatment tools, drug-resistant strains of TB could become the “dominant” form of TB over the coming decades. In addition, new approaches to diagnose TB, coupled with improved health delivery systems and stronger community awareness, are critical to earlier detection and treatment. Urgent actions are also needed to scale up effective and integrated services for TB and HIV at the country level.

On March 24th, the U.S. Government, through USAID, released its Global Tuberculosis Strategy – our blueprint for expanded TB treatment and control over the next five years. To meet our targets, we will invest in country-led plans, scale up country level programs, increase our impact by leveraging our efforts with the Global Fund and mobilize additional resources from the private sector. We will also promote research and innovation. Our investments focus on new diagnostics that will allow us to detect TB more easily, including drug resistant TB, and new drugs that will reduce the duration of TB treatment. Assisting countries to introduce these new tools into programs is also a priority.

Russians are Committed to Improving Energy Efficiency and Protecting their Environment

by Jonathan Hale

Energy and environmental issues have been a key focus of my visit to Russia this week.  I had the great opportunity to meet with officials at the Ministry of Energy, which is responsible for improving energy efficiency in Russia, as well as with civic leaders from environmental groups and the Institute for Sustainable Development of the Public Chamber, an entity that serves as an intermediary between Russian citizens and the government.  Across the board, my Russian counterparts expressed a strong interest in collaborating with the U.S. to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.

Far Eastern leopard

Two American wildlife experts examine the health of a female Far Eastern leopard in Primorskiy Krai, Russia. With a population of only 30-40 confined to a thin stretch of forest along the Russian-Chinese border, this leopard is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered cats. USAID is supporting a joint US-Russian effort to better understand their ecology and protect their habitat. (Photo by Andrew Harrington, Wildlife Conservation Society)

President Medvedev has identified inefficient use of energy – and its impact on the country’s economy and environment – as an issue of critical importance and has called for reducing the energy intensity of the Russian economy by half by 2020.  Today, Russian energy losses due to inefficiency are equal to the annual energy consumption in France! But it’s estimated that Russia could save 45% of consumed energy through innovation and modern technology, which will also help Russia better address climate change. In my meetings here this week, we discussed the challenges of improving energy efficiency in Russia and the substantial impact USAID programs have had in other countries.

At the Public Chamber, I was especially pleased to meet some of the Russian scientists and activists who are a driving force behind environmental protection here. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia and Greenpeace Russia are led by impressive Russian experts – such as Dr. Ivan Blokov, who also serves as the interim Head of Greenpeace International’s Research Unit.  I heard their concerns about pollution and its impact on human health. They also offered their insight on how USAID can continue to partner with Russia to improve the stewardship of its forests – the largest in the world. Together, we can ensure that Russian forests continue to serve as one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and as home to unique ecosystems that include amazing animals like the Amur tiger, the Far Eastern leopard, and the Baikal seal.  We also spoke about the Arctic.

Why should this matter to Americans? Russia’s forests and ecosystems make up 22% of the world’s territory so protection in Russia is essential to maintaining a balanced biosphere worldwide. The passion that I have seen this week has energized me even more to find new and exciting ways for USAID to partner and cooperate with Russia on energy efficiency and the environment.

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

This post was submitted by David Kahrmann, USAID’s Development Outreach Communications officer in Belgrade, Serbia.

Film production putting Serbia on the map “For all the right reasons”

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

Serbia is back. After years of being off the beaten path, the rest of the world is waking up to the fact that Serbia is a pretty hip and trendy place, with Lonely Planet travel guides even recently dubbing its capital Belgrade one of the world’s “Ultimate Party Cities.”  But, few people are probably aware that as recently as the 1980s, Serbia was also one of the world’s leading filming locations.

USAID’s Competiveness Project is now working with production companies in film, TV, post-production and special effects to regain that status by promoting the advantages of Serbia as a film destination. USAID brought local stakeholders together to establish the Serbia Film Commission and helped it become a member of the International Association of Film Commissioners (AFCI). The Commission actively utilizes key industry trade shows, including the Cannes Producers Network and the American Film Location Market, to drum up interest in filming in Serbia.

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USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Jonathan Hale Visit to Russia – May 2010

This marks my first trip to Russia since I took on the role of Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Europe and Eurasia Bureau. I’m very pleased to be back here, at a time when there is a lot of optimism about the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations.

Today I met with Russian experts and NGOs that are partnering with USAID to reduce maternal and infant mortality, improve reproductive health, and reduce the number of children living in orphanages and on the streets. These are priorities for both Russia and the U.S., and an important area of collaboration under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last July.

I was impressed by the leading role that Russian organizations such as

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