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Archives for Extreme Poverty

Ending Extreme Poverty in Asia through Universal Health Coverage

A woman in the Philippines receives a tetanus shot during a pre-natal visit. / HealthPRO

A woman in the Philippines receives a tetanus shot during a pre-natal visit. / HealthPRO

The 2010 World Health Report on Health Systems Financing and the unanimous endorsement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by the United Nations in 2012 have paved the way for rich and poor countries alike to take a closer, more critical look at how raise resources and improve access to health services, particularly for the poor. Asia is home to 3.9 billion people and accounts for a third of the global economy. Despite the region’s robust economic growth, almost two thirds of those in extreme poverty still live in Asia.

While there are many paths that a country can choose to get out of poverty, mobilizing domestic resources towards the health sector – in the form of Universal Health Coverage policies that seek to increase access to services especially for the poor – is a sound and sustainable investment that can lead to great economic returns. These reforms that empower the poor are critical because poor health and health shocks are leading causes of chronic poverty and impoverishment.

An Indonesian patient awaits further instructions during a check-up. / USAID

An Indonesian patient awaits further instructions during a check-up. / USAID

Rapidly growing Asian countries, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam have shown that improving health indicators and reducing extreme poverty are clearly linked. Declines in infant and child mortality rates in these countries preceded periods of strong and sustained economic growth.

Clearly, an agenda to end extreme poverty must include UHC goals.

Ill health prevents the poor from climbing out of poverty and can impoverish the near poor. When a household member falls ill, this can mean diminished labor productivity. In addition, households often make catastrophic financial outlays paid for by selling their assets, reducing their consumption, dipping into their savings, or borrowing at high interest rates for seeking health care.

High rates of out-of-pocket spending, a highly regressive way of financing health systems, create financial barriers to accessing health care., This financing represents 36 percent and 61 percent of the total health spending in developing East Asia and Pacific and South Asia regions, respectively.

Pupils in Vietnam's Bac Giang Province take part in a USAID deworming project . /  Richard Nyberg, USAID)

Pupils in Vietnam’s Bac Giang Province take part in a USAID deworming project . / Richard Nyberg, USAID)

UHC reforms come in different shapes and sizes. Some common characteristics include improving revenue collection mechanisms so that they are fair and affordable;, helping people move away from paying for health services out of pocket and toward prepayment and risk pooling; improving value for money with strategic purchasing;, and targeting the poor through subsidies.

Many of these reforms across Asia have increased access and utilization of health care, provided financial protection, as well as improved health care outcomes.

Countries such as China and Bangladesh successfully piloted schemes. In Bangladesh, the pilot voucher program to improve maternal and child health successfully increased pre-and post-natal care and facility-based deliveries, while reducing out-of-pocket spending and the costs of these services, and decreasing neonatal mortality rates by a third to almost half in home-based interventions. Bangladesh has adopted UHC as a national policy goal and USAID is providing assistance to support implementation of their health financing strategy.

Vietnam and Indonesia have reached partial coverage of their populations by around two thirds, and have recently taken additional steps to expand their coverage.

Analysis of various UHC schemes in Vietnam (public voluntary health insurance, social insurance and the health care fund for the poor) showed that they had improved financial protection – significantly decreasing spending for the beneficiary insured and providing evidence of positive impacts on their nutrition indicators. And in January of this year, Indonesia set out on the path towards UHC with the goal of covering its entire population of 250 million people by 2019.

The dynamic economic environment in fast-growing Asia means that the role of donors like USAID and the development assistance architecture will need to evolve as well.

Individual countries and the region at large will need to grapple with growing migrant populations and the need for portable schemes that ensure access for migrant labor populations across porous borders. A large and growing informal sector, individuals not covered by the labor and social security provisions, will continue to test how countries communicate expanded coverage to remote and often marginalized communities. Equally as important will be the question of how to finance and address the changing mix of population health needs arising from demographic trends and the emergence of non-communicable diseases.

As many of the developing countries in Asia continue to grow, they will have sufficient resources to afford a basic package of health services for their entire population; however, governments tend to under-invest in their health sector relative to their economic potential.

As a result, oftentimes as countries grow wealthier, public health systems fall further behind.

In Asia and globally, growing domestic resources represent a critical window of opportunity where countries must have the vision and courage to strategically direct this increased wealth towards the health sector so that development dollars are crowded out.

By financing policies that focus on increasing equity and access to quality essential health services – the aim of universal health coverage – countries will be taking concrete steps towards the bold vision of ending extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristina Yarrow is a Senior Health Technical Specialist in the Asia Bureau, backstopping technical areas specific to health systems strengthening and research such as health financing, UHC, and implementation research.

Caroline Ly is a Health Economist in the Bureau for Global Health’s Office of Health Systems.

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South Sudan: The Threat of Worsening Hunger

Residents of Bor County receive sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, in Jonglei, South Sudan.  / CRS

Residents of Bor County receive sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, in Jonglei, South Sudan. / CRS

A few weeks ago, my office instructed a vessel carrying 21,000 tons of American-grown sorghum destined to serve hungry people in South Sudan to divert from its Djibouti destination and discharge its cargo in Port Sudan instead. That vessel arrived and offloaded last week.

While the food was originally destined to travel for weeks by road from Djibouti to Gambella, Ethiopia, and then be airlifted or air-dropped into remote areas of South Sudan, a recent agreement between Sudan and South Sudan brings the possibility of a more hopeful scenario.

After almost a year of negotiation, the U.N. World Food Program secured agreement from both governments, as well as opposition groups in South Sudan, to facilitate safe passage of this grain to hungry people in South Sudan.  Saving both time and expense, it will be trucked or shipped by barge across the border from Sudan to South Sudan to meet immediate food needs and be pre-positioned in remote areas for use in the coming months.  If the two governments follow through on their commitments, the opening of this corridor will help to stave off hunger in a new country, whose hopes for growth and prosperity were dashed by ruinous fighting between the government and armed opposition groups one year ago.

Mary Ngok, 31, a farmer in Bor County receives sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, JFSP, in Jonglei, South Sudan. / Sara A. Fajardo/Catholic Relief Services

Mary Ngok, 31, a farmer in Bor County receives sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, JFSP, in Jonglei, South Sudan. / Sara A. Fajardo/Catholic Relief Services

South Sudan is the most food-insecure place in the world. Six months ago, after visiting, I laid out five key actions that USAID was taking to avert hunger and famine in South Sudan. One of them was to draw on the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT), a seldom-used fund that USAID taps when unanticipated global needs outstrip food aid budgets, to procure additional food for South Sudan. Thanks to this trust, 50,000 tons of U.S. food – including the 21,000 tons recently offloaded in Port Sudan, are being used to respond to the hunger crisis in South Sudan.

The scale-up has enabled emergency care for more than 76,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and humanitarian workers have reached roughly 3.5 million vulnerable and displaced people with aid since January. Throughout 2014, conflict and bad weather forced the international community to rely on expensive airlift operations to move food and other supplies into remote areas of the country – operations that are roughly 8 times more costly than serving people by road. While extraordinarily costly in terms of expense, lifesaving aid has helped avert famine – for now.

The question is, what happens next?

Will the United States’ BEHT food make it safely to its intended destination, as planned? Will people already worn down by a year of war be reached with lifesaving aid and recovery support? Or will renewed fighting move South Sudan into a deeper downward spiral?

Sadly, the dry season, which typically lasts from December to April, is not only a time for recovery but has in past years also been a time for renewed conflict. Already we have reports that fighting has begun anew, adding to the suffering experienced by the nearly 1.9 million displaced people.

The international community is already overstretched due to the scale and gravity of the crisis and other humanitarian emergencies worldwide. The United States has provided more than $720 million in response to the crisis, including more than $339 million for food and nutrition assistance alone.

The future of South Sudan is in the hands of the combatants. This humanitarian crisis is man-made, as will be its resolution. The best way to avert a future famine is for the combatants to stop fighting, so that ordinary South Sudanese people can plant crops, markets can reopen and communities can begin to recover.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dina Esposito is the Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace

A ‘Daily’ Struggle for Human Rights

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Today, in honor of International Human Rights Day and the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, USAID joins the world  in standing with all those who struggle for the realization and protection of their human rights. We believe that promoting human rights is closely linked to advancing long-term, sustainable development, and that these rights are instrumental to attaining other goals such as economic growth and democracy and addressing underlying grievances that cause instability and conflict.

While USAID’s global mission is to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies, inextricably linked to this mission, is the protection and promotion of universally accepted human rights for all persons where we work.

Following the Rwanda genocide in 1994, issues of reconciliation remain a concern for maintaining peace into the future. USAID's Reconciliation and Reintegration programs provided trauma counseling and space for dialogue that allowed Elaine to forgive Alexis (both pictured) for killing her family members. They now have rebuilt their lives in the same community.  / Carol Storey

Following the Rwanda genocide in 1994, issues of reconciliation remain a concern for maintaining peace into the future. USAID’s Reconciliation and Reintegration programs provided trauma counseling and space for dialogue that allowed Elaine to forgive Alexis (both pictured) for killing her family members. They now have rebuilt their lives in the same community. / Carol Storey

Ending poverty is not feasible if people are denied the right to work, or are not paid fairly for their labor or are unable to secure housing, land, and property or lack access to health care.  Building well-functioning democratic societies requires respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of assembly, association, expression, information, political participation, and a fair trial.

Everyone should have the right to non-discrimination and protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and inhumane treatment, and forced labor and slavery.

USAID’s human rights programming is grounded not only in core democratic principles and values of the United States of America, including the four freedoms articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 (of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear), but also in the clear and timeless framework of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.   This includes:

  • Article 2.  Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.  In countries and regions such as Cameroon, Nicaragua, Bosnia, South East Asia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Zambia, and Jordan, USAID is supporting the education, advocacy and sensitization work of local activists and human rights organizations who are breaking down the barriers of many forms of discrimination. USAID’s recently launched Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Vision for Action specifically highlights our commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
Training of Human Rights Monitors, part of USAID’s Human Rights in Action Program, Chernihiv, Ukraine. / USAID/Ukraine

Training of Human Rights Monitors, part of USAID’s Human Rights in Action Program, Chernihiv, Ukraine. / USAID/Ukraine

  • Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  USAID is assisting human rights defenders and national human rights institutions in Ukraine, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Mali, among many other countries, to document, investigate, and report on the severest forms of violations of this internationally enshrined right to life. USAID also supports the protection of human rights defenders  and the victims and survivors of human rights violations.
Youth from the municipality of Caucasia (Bajo Cauca Antioqueño), Colombia, participating in the first intercollegiate human rights competition “Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate.” This initiative, carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with USAID’s Human Rights Program support, sought to promote a human rights culture at schools through a human rights competition that evaluates knowledge acquired during the project duration. Photo Credit: Jairo  Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca, partner with USAID’s Human Rights Program

Youth from the municipality of Caucasia (Bajo Cauca Antioqueño), Colombia, participating in the first intercollegiate human rights competition “Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate.” This initiative, carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with USAID’s Human Rights Program support, sought to promote a human rights culture at schools through a human rights competition that evaluates knowledge acquired during the project duration. / Jairo Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca, partner with USAID’s Human Rights Program

  • Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. As millions of people around the world continue to be exploited in the modern day slave trade or human trafficking, USAID set forth a new vision to counter-trafficking in persons (C-TIP) through an agency-wide C-TIP Policy with key programming objectives that include integrating C-TIP activities in development projects across sectors from health to economic growth.  USAID is responding to human trafficking trends in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Nepal by supporting programs that foster legal labor recruitment practices and safe migration. We also work to ensure that its own employees, partners, and procurement practices are not in any way facilitating human trafficking, by diligently enforcing the agency’s C-TIP Code of Conduct. New partnerships are being cultivated with the private sector since ending human trafficking is everyone’s business.
Nusrat Bibi, an acid burn survivor, takes photographs during a field trip for the photography workshop in Pakistan. Nusrat received photography training from Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) under the USAID Gender Equity Program, which supports women’s rights as human rights and works to empower women, especially those who are survivors of gender-based violence. As part of a rehabilitation process that includes developing new skills, ASF trained nine acid attack survivors. The photographic work of these survivors was featured in three different exhibitions in Islamabad. / Diego Sanchez.

Nusrat Bibi, an acid burn survivor, takes photographs during a field trip for the photography workshop in Pakistan. Nusrat received photography training from Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) under the USAID Gender Equity Program, which supports women’s rights as human rights and works to empower women, especially those who are survivors of gender-based violence. As part of a rehabilitation process that includes developing new skills, ASF trained nine acid attack survivors. The photographic work of these survivors was featured in three different exhibitions in Islamabad. / Diego Sanchez.

  • Article 10.  Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of his [or her] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him [or her]. USAID provides Rule of Law assistance to more than 40 countries around the world, including Bosnia, Burma, Cote d’Ivoire, and Indonesia in order to strengthen the administration of justice and promote independent, accountable, and efficient judicial systems.
Vu Lieu, LGBT Advocate, participated in the Vietnam National Dialogue as part of the “Being LGBT in Asia” Initiative.  The dialogue convened LGBT persons from around Vietnam to share lived experiences and discuss legal and socio-economical challenges they face and propose solutions. / Information Communication and Sharing, Vietnam

Vu Lieu, LGBT Advocate, participated in the Vietnam National Dialogue as part of the “Being LGBT in Asia” Initiative. The dialogue convened LGBT persons from around Vietnam to share lived experiences and discuss legal and socio-economical challenges they face and propose solutions. / Information Communication and Sharing, Vietnam

  • Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In Central African Republic, USAID is supporting local journalists, radio and press outlets to ensure critical and accurate information and peacebuilding programming is reaching those communities severely affected by the crisis.
  • Article 25.1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.  In Angola, USAID has empowered communities affected and threatened by forced evictions and demolitions through capacity strengthening activities and legal assistance and assisting the government in compiling a database of those in need of housing.

Today, we support the global efforts to expand human rights and the fundamental liberties contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reminds us that “the inherent dignity and…the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It is equally a foundation of development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Widdersheim is Human Rights Advisor for USAID’s Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

Politically Smart Development

Mid September’s Frontiers in Development conference hosted by USAID was a celebration and a reflection. It celebrated halving global extreme poverty between 1990 and 2010 and reflected on the next big goal: eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. It’s an admirable aim but the next mile will be even harder. Growth, especially in China, which lifted 680 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2010, played a pivotal role in the gains of the past few decades. Today, extreme poverty is increasingly concentrated in fragile states, with weak governments. And with the link between growth and falling poverty broken in many countries, governments will need to fix it.

Appearing at the USAID Frontiers in Development conference last week, AGI’s patron Tony Blair discussed with Raj Shah the nexus between politics and ending extreme poverty.

Appearing at the USAID Frontiers in Development conference last week, AGI’s patron Tony Blair discussed with Raj Shah the nexus between politics and ending extreme poverty. / USAID


As Francis Fukuyama haswritten in the Wall Street Journal, effective government provides “personal security, shared economic growth and the basic public services (especially education, health care and infrastructure) that are needed to achieve individual opportunity.” And without those things, zero extreme poverty won’t happen. So how can we build effective government? We need to start by providing support that’s “politically smart and locally led,” in the words of David Booth and Sue Unsworth, leading governance experts.

This isn’t always easy to do. It requires flexible funding and adapting approaches as you go, which isn’t always possible for major development agencies. One positive example from our work here at the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) is found in Rwanda. In 2011, only 16 percent of the population had access to electricity, and, lacking capacity and expertise, the government was struggling to get big power projects off the ground.

President Paul Kagame decided Rwanda should focus all government capacity building on four key areas, including energy. From there, the government, with support from AGI, set up a capacity building program that brought in international experts to work with young Rwandan counterparts across the energy sector. This approach meets the twin goals of delivery and capacity building at the same time. The results are starting to show. There’ll be a boost of 230MW to Rwanda’s grid in the coming years – enough to power tens of thousands of households and small businesses. And these gains look likely to be sustainable – local staff are already taking over from many of the external experts.

The political and the local have been essential to the program’s success. President Kagame has kept the government focused on implementation and the government designed the initiative in a “locally problem driven” way, in Matt Andrews’ words – around a cadre of young Rwandan professionals. AGI’s role as partner has been to help set up systems that work “with the grain.”

The lesson for those of us who work on development is to identify what political leaders really care about and “give them politically realistic advice,” as Tony Blair told USAID Administrator Raj Shah at the Frontiers in Development conference, because they set the real priorities of government.

The U.S. Government’s Power Africa initiative is a great example. The focus of the program is right because energy is an issue that’s high on the agenda of many African leaders as well as being central to economic development. And USAID’s approach is smart because, as well as providing access to capital and technical expertise, it aims to help leaders identify politically feasible routes to manage reforms – something AGI will support through a group of senior former government, energy industry and investment figures. This is important because the politics around things like putting in place the right legislation and setting up effective, independent regulators can be tricky.

The good news is this isn’t groundbreaking. “We need to recognize that development is fundamentally a political process, not a technical one,” wrote Raj Shah in the Frontiers in Development publication. Or as Tony Blair puts it ‘if you miss the politics, you miss the point.’ So the political leader and the development leader seem to agree. If we miss the politics we may miss the chance to end extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Hymowitz is Head of Insight and Learning for the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative

Ending Extreme Poverty: Frontiers in Development Photo Contest Top 5

On September 18-19, 2014, USAID will host the second Frontiers in Development Forum in Washington, DC., which will convene a dynamic community of global thought leaders and development practitioners to address the question: How will we eradicate extreme poverty by 2030? The Forum will bring together some of the brightest minds and boldest leaders on ending extreme poverty, and lay the groundwork for a broad coalition of partners committed to achieving this goal.

In an effort to include overseas missions in the Forum, USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning invited USAID staff and partners to participate in a photo contest showcasing the many ways communities and individuals around the globe are working towards ending extreme poverty.

With more than 200 submissions from over 32 countries, we are pleased to share the top five winners of our Frontiers in Development: Ending Extreme Poverty photo competition.

Thank you to all who submitted their images and captions.

#1 – Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

In Nigeria, USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, led by Jhpiego, supports women’s savings clubs. These clubs allow women to give money or borrow it when needed for medical expenses or business initiatives. Financially empowering women to make wise decisions about their health and that of their family, and launch initiatives in their community, is an important step in eradicating extreme poverty.

#2 – Photo by: Balaram Mahalder/WorldFish Bangladesh. Submitted by: Balaram Mahalder

Photo by: Balaram Mahalder/WorldFish Bangladesh. Submitted by: Balaram Mahalder

A mother spreads out fish on a fish drying matt. In the village of  Bahadurpur, there are about 30  family-run fish drying facilities. In traditional fish drying methods, these families would get low prices for their fish at the market. After USAID and WorldFish trained them to produce higher quality dried fish, they are now getting better prices and their incomes have increased.

#3 – Photo by: Kevin Ouma/TechnoServe. Submitted by Natalya Podgorny

Photo by: Kevin Ouma/TechnoServe. Submitted by Natalya Podgorny

Thousands of Maasai women now have a reliable market for their milk thanks to a pioneering cooperative in Kenya. Women are typically the milk traders in Maasai families, with income from milk sales going toward daily household needs. Yet Maasai women in Kenya face numerous challenges in providing for their families. They often cannot sell their milk because they lack transport. Their cows are less productive because of a lack of adequate fodder. And, they face a scarce supply of water, their most precious resource. TechnoServe, an organization that implements numerous USAID-funded projects, helped the women establish Maasai Women Dairy, the first dairy plant in Kenya owned almost entirely by Maasai women. The cooperative has grown to more than 3,200 active members and nearly quadrupled its sales in 2013.

#4 – Photo by: Ahmad Salarzai/Stability in Key Areas (SIKA)-East program in Afghanistan. Submitted by: Ryan McGovern

Photo by: Ahmad Salarzai/Stability in Key Areas (SIKA)-East program in Afghanistan. Submitted by: Ryan McGovern

In Baraki Barak District of Logar Province, Afghanistan, a local Community Development Council utilized a grant from USAID to repair a dilapidated irrigation system (karez), which now supports 150 families from three villages, who rely heavily on agriculture as their primary source of income. In the past, conflict over scarce resources resulted in bad blood between the villages. Communal projects such as this help improve food security and livelihoods, while simultaneously bringing feuding parties together to promote stability.

#5 – Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, led by Jhpiego, supports the HoHoe Midwifery Training school in Ghana. Students experience a simulated birth while their instructor advises them through the process. A trained midwife helps ensure a safe delivery, provides essential newborn care, and can deliver comprehensive reproductive health services, ensuring healthy mothers and strong families, helping to eradicate extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon Lazich is a program analyst in USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning working on communications. Follow her @SLazich

The Power of Scientific Research Investment in Africa

On Friday, August 1st, Mr. Melvin Foote and Dr. Nkem Khumbah published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing persuasively that scientific and technological progress is the key to African development. In their words:

“Scientific and technological advancement will help eradicate poverty and promote homegrown economic development by providing Africa with the tools to address its own challenges and expand its industrial productivity.”

In the days before the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah encouraged the U.S. Government to embrace “a science-led agenda in Africa” by pairing American higher education institutions, scientific research centers and tech entrepreneurs with African counterparts to spur economic growth and reduce dependence on aid.

Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah’s vision is one that USAID fully supports and has already taken significant steps to catalyze. Today, Africans are the architects of their development, not just beneficiaries. This new model for development focuses on partnerships — with African governments, businesses, universities and civil society.

USAID-related science programs assist in expanding training for women. / Zahur Ramji (AKDN)

USAID-related science programs assist in expanding training for women. / Zahur Ramji (AKDN)

Building lasting partnerships with African leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators is at the core of USAID’s approach, which seeks to end extreme poverty by investing in Africa’s greatest resource: its people. Many of our newest initiatives reflect not only our renewed commitment to science and technology, but the central importance Africans play in global affairs throughout the 21st century.

USAID is constantly seeking new African partners in an effort to support great ideas from people all over the continent. Under efforts like USAID’s new Global Development Lab, which brings together diverse partners to discover, test and scale new solutions to chronic development challenges, we have identified 200 promising innovations that are currently being tested and evaluated.

Many of these solutions come from developing country entrepreneurs, including African entrepreneurs. A prescription medication verification and tracking system invented by Sproxil, a Kenya-based company (and USAID partner) has reached over 2 million customers in Ghana, Nigeria and East Africa by placing scratch cards on packs of medication. The scratch card reveals a numerical code, and when texted to a Sproxil-provided phone number, will verify whether the drug is genuine or fake. Dozens of similar innovations that have the potential to save millions of lives are currently being tested in Africa, including inexpensive chlorine dispensers in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi and stickers to encourage passengers to urge bus drivers in Kenya to slow down, thereby reducing traffic accidents and related deaths.

Site supervisor Haji Huessen Ngwenje of Symbion Power analyses cables at the Mtoni service station in Zanzibar, Tanzania. / Jake Lyell for the Millennium Challenge Corporation

Site supervisor Haji Huessen Ngwenje of Symbion Power analyses cables at the Mtoni service station in Zanzibar, Tanzania. / Jake Lyell for the Millennium Challenge Corporation

Power Africa is another example of USAID’s new model in action. Through the U.S. Government’s partnerships with African governments, private investors, developers and others, not only is Power Africa saving lives by, for example, bringing electricity to a rural clinic, but it is also spurring long-term growth by scaling new technologies, generating new jobs, and reducing the risks for foreign investment.

Power Africa may have been conceived by the U.S. Government, but the private sector has since taken the lead — the U.S. Government commitment of $7 billion in financing and loan guarantees has given both international and African businesses the confidence to invest in Africa’s emerging electricity sector to the tune of more than $20 billion to date.

As Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah note, it is critical to train the next generation of Africans in science and engineering. USAID supports a number of efforts to this end currently, and is hoping to do more in the near future. In November 2012, USAID and seven universities launched the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) with the goal of bringing their intellectual power and enthusiasm closer to real-time development innovations in the field. This network currently collaborates with labs at four African universities to support studies of how communities respond to changing conditions such as urbanization, changes in local climate, and post-war recovery.

In addition, members of the network collaborate with and support existing S&T based African-led enterprises and emergent community led technology development. The Higher Education for Development (HED) program has supported dozens of partnerships between U.S. universities and African peer institutions. These partnerships typically last years beyond the U.S. investment and result in broad and deep connections between the U.S. and Africa.

Forest monitors in Western Tanzania receive training on how to collect field data using Android smartphones and Open Data Kit (ODK).

Forest monitors in Western Tanzania receive training on how to collect field data using Android smartphones and Open Data Kit (ODK). / Lilian Pintea, Jane Goodall Institute

Similarly, the Research and Innovation Fellowships (RI Fellowships) program and Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program foster science and engineering partnerships on the individual level. RI Fellowships currently supports more than 60 African scientists to collaborate with U.S. fellows in applying their scientific and technological expertise to local development challenges. The PEER program funds scientists who see problems in their midst to do the in-depth research required for creative solutions, while simultaneously expanding research ecosystems in the developing world.

One hundred and fourteen PEER scientists around the world tackle local challenges with tenacity and intellectual vigor, guiding the local development agenda and building an academic foundation for progress. The recent 2014 PEER awardees’ meeting brought 39 PEER awardees from 10 African countries to Arusha, Tanzania to build new connections. As part of the conference, the Vice President of Tanzania, His Excellency Mohamed Bilal, delivered the keynote address in which he said, “Science, engineering and technology education in Sub Saharan Africa holds the key to unlocking the continent’s great potential that could propel sustainable growth and development.”

Mr. Foote and Dr. Khumbah are right on the mark that a new model of development for Africa must be inclusive, grounded in the latest scientific and technological advancements, and focused on African priorities. Working with counterparts across Africa is the best way to catalyze the technological and scientific change that will be necessary to make the continent’s economic growth sustainable far into the future. Great ideas backed by 21st century science and technology – many of them home-grown in Africa – are the surest path to lifting hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty for good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jerry O’Brien is the Director of the Center for Data, Analysis, and Research in the U.S. Global Development Lab. Follow the Lab @GlobalDevLab

Hunger Season Has Arrived: So What are We Doing?

Hunger season has arrived in the Sahel region of West Africa, where millions of people are at risk of food insecurity each year. This year, the U.N. estimates that 20 million people—nearly 13 percent of the region’s population—will be at risk of hunger and will lack enough food for a healthy and productive life. Decreased food availability, inefficient markets, high prices, and improper nutrition all contribute to an ongoing cycle of hunger and poverty.

Building upon lessons learned from the 2012 Sahel crisis—one of the worst food crises in Africa the past decade—USAID is actively addressing the underlying causes of hunger while also focusing on saving lives and helping communities withstand future shocks.

Here are five ways our teams are curbing the hunger season in the Sahel:

Women participating in food-for-work activities in Tillaberi,  Niger. / USAID, Rebecca Goldman

Women participating in food-for-work activities in Tillaberi, Niger. / USAID, Rebecca Goldman

1. By Building Resilience

Drought, climate change, conflict and bad harvests are examples of the shocks that families throughout West Africa face every year. Throughout the Sahel, USAID is committed to helping households and communities mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks. In 2013, USAID launched Resilience in the Sahel-Enhanced (RISE), a five-year initiative to address root causes of vulnerability in the region and better integrate relief and development programming. Interventions will include transfers (food, cash or vouchers) for activities that improve communities such as land regeneration, reforestation and water development; social investments — such as those in education, nutrition, and family planning; and investments that increase economic opportunities, such as livelihood diversification, value chain development, and market facilitation. Through this initiative, RISE aims to reach 1.9 million people facing recurrent crises and chronic poverty, and help ensure that these communities stay firmly on the path to development.

A Savings and Internal Lending Committee group keeps records of savings and loans. / USAID, Anne Shaw

A Savings and Internal Lending Committee group keeps records of savings and loans. / USAID, Anne Shaw

2. By Providing Access to Banking

For many people, one disaster can mean a spiral into extreme poverty. Banking services allow people the chance to financially prepare by giving them the opportunity to save for unexpected expenses. In Burkina Faso, we are working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to reach vulnerable people through the establishment of savings and internal lending communities. As a result, more than 9,000 people will have access to small loans that will help them earn a living through activities like growing and selling peppers, or making their own peanut paste to bring to market. In addition, CRS is hosting small animal and seed voucher fairs where people can access healthy livestock and high-quality seeds for household planting.

Community members gather around a newly rehabilitated well. / Africare

Community members gather around a newly rehabilitated well. / Africare

3. By Teaching about Health and Sanitation

Each year, approximately 575,000 children in the Sahel die of malnutrition and its health-related illnesses—underscoring the urgent need to help these communities prepare for the hunger season. In Chad, we are partnering with World Vision to reduce acute malnutrition and enhance the resilience of 8,500 households in Guera Region. According to a 2012 study conducted in the region by the International Rescue Committee, diarrhea and fever are more significant factors in malnutrition than lack of food alone. The majority of the population lacks appropriate knowledge, attitude, and practice of sanitation, hygiene and hand-washing, all essential to avoiding illness and preventing malnutrition. To address this, the program provides trainings to vulnerable families on hygiene and nutrition to improve the health of young children, and pregnant women and new mothers. In exchange for participating in trainings, households receive cash-based food vouchers, giving families the liberty to choose their foods while promoting key proteins and micronutrients required for children under 5 and pregnant women.

Beneficiaries use cash transfers and food vouchers to meet their food needs. / Jessica Hartl, USAID

Beneficiaries use cash transfers and food vouchers to meet their food needs. / Jessica Hartl, USAID

4. By Using Innovative Food Aid Tools

Ongoing violence in northern Mali throughout the past year has exacerbated hunger and impeded food aid efforts. In Mali, we are working with the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) to reduce overall food insecurity through food assistance delivered from the U.S. in addition to cash transfers and food vouchers throughout Gao, Mopti, Tombouctou, and Kidal regions. Market assessments have shown a favorable environment for cash transfers and food vouchers in urban and semi-urban areas, which help families increase access to more diverse, nutritious foods in local markets. We are also supporting food-assistance-for-asset activities, in which families work to build community assets in exchange for food assistance. By using varied food assistance interventions, USAID is able to respond appropriately and best address the food needs of vulnerable families affected by conflict.

Food baskets in Mauritania. / Counterpart International

Food baskets in Mauritania. / Counterpart International

5. By Preventing Child Malnutrition

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of one out of three deaths of children under 5 in the developing world. Often, families have access to healthy foods, but are unaware of how to feed their children properly. In Mauritania, we are working with Action Contre la Faim (ACF) to prevent malnutrition and improve food security in the Guidimaka Region. ACF, alongside local organizations, will promote appropriate feeding practices for infants and young children through cooking demonstrations and nutrition education for community members, including mothers, fathers, religious leaders, and local health workers. Community volunteers will conduct frequent screenings to identify children at risk of malnutrition and refer those in need of treatment to health centers.

So far this year, we have already provided more than $205 million in humanitarian assistance to the region to ensure food is available and ready to be distributed to people in need before the height of the agricultural lean season — which ranges from June through September depending on the country.

But humanitarian assistance will not solve the larger problem. USAID remains committed to helping people across the Sahel build longer-term resilience  and providing them with the knowledge and tools to break the cycle of crisis—and hopefully one day, avoid the hunger season altogether.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Dina Esposito is the Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and Jeremy Konyndyk is the Director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance

Extraordinary Efforts in U.S. Food Assistance Underway as Extreme Food Insecurity Stalks South Sudanese

It was raining hard as we slipped and slid through the narrow muddy lanes between the dilapidated plastic-covered shelters that are home to roughly 3,600 displaced persons. Here in the town of Bor in Jonglei state South Sudan, I traveled to see for myself the conditions of some of the 4 million people who require emergency food aid. The political crisis that erupted last December in the capital, Juba, has triggered a brutal conflict that has caused more than 1 million people to flee their homes.

Protection of civilian site in Bor, South Sudan. / USAID

Protection of civilian site in Bor, South Sudan. / USAID

At the U.N. compound in Bor, I saw where thousands of people have sought shelter and protection as fighting has devastated their homes and livelihoods. I marveled at how some of the children, despite having endured crowded conditions here for many months, sing a song of welcome, and at the teacher who tells them education is their future and that all things are possible if only they study. This undaunted hope during such extreme hardship and uncertainty is inspiring.

At this U.N. compound and others like, it is estimated that 95,000 people have settled. At least here, in these facilities they are receiving some aid and protection from the conflict that rages around them. Outside of these compounds, there are an estimated 750,000 South Sudanese in hard- to-reach places that have not yet seen much assistance or protection due to conflict and the onset of seasonal rains that render nearly two thirds of the country inaccessible by road.

Because conflict disrupted the prepositioning of food throughout the country before the rains set in, the U.N. and its partners are now mounting a major air operation across the three most conflict-affected states in an effort to mitigate famine.

WFP airdrops in South Sudan.  /  WFP/Guilio D’Adamo

WFP airdrops in South Sudan. / WFP/Guilio D’Adamo

USAID is taking five major steps to help the people of South Sudan:

  • As the potential scale of the crisis began to emerge in February 2014, USAID shipped 20,000 metric tons (MT) of U.S. food to the region. By May, when U.N. officials alerted the world to the possibility of famine, Food for Peace put that food into action, rapidly moving it to the U.N. World Food Program’s South Sudan program.
  • At the South Sudan Humanitarian Pledging Conference in Oslo, Norway in May, $112 million of the almost $300 million pledged by the U.S. Government was for food assistance. These funds go toward 29,600 MT (enough to feed 1.8 million people for a month) of in-kind food aid to WFP, and regional purchase by WFP and UNICEF of specialized nutritious foods.
  • As part of our Oslo pledge, the United States provided $8 million to support a dramatic scale-up of emergency air operations. This is one of the first times USAID will use its new authorities in the Farm Bill for activities that “enhance” in-kind food programs. By providing a generous and early contribution to the U.N. to begin leasing aircraft to deliver food, USAID helped to ensure the air assets needed for expanded operations are in place as the rains begin.
  • USAID is tapping a seldom-used special authority in the Farm Bill—the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust—to respond to extraordinary, unforeseen and expanding need with additional food aid.
  • In March and April, USAID doubled its monthly procurement of U.S.-manufactured ready-to-use food products to prevent and treat malnutrition so it can speed these products to South Sudan for use later this year and next.

These extraordinary efforts will help bring emergency food assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in need, and remind the South Sudanese people of the compassion and generosity of the American people as they face the most extreme crisis this young nation has known since its independence in 2011.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dina Esposito is the Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace

Why Fighting Gender Violence is Also Fighting Hunger in the DRC

Ms. Namuhindo demonstration her new writing skills./Rachel Grant, USAID

Ms. Namuhindo demonstration her new writing skills. / Rachel Grant, USAID

Ms. Rurayi Namuhindo, pictured above writing her name, is proud of her reading and writing skills. They are giving her a new lease on life, as she can now help her children with homework and use her newfound skills when selling her bread and soap. Ms. Namuhindo and others are just a few of the empowered women I met recently while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The people of the DRC have faced so many challenges, which are unfathomable to someone growing up in the developed world – years of conflict, occasional natural disasters, and poverty.

The lives of women are especially hard.

Today, armed conflict, sexual violence, and abuse continue to be widespread. Some 2.6 million people have been displaced, and 6.4 million lack enough food to be able to eat every day.  Eastern DRC is said to be the “rape capital of the world,” according to a 2011 American Journal of Public Health study.

So how does this relate to that country’s food crisis?

Women play a critical role as agricultural producers, yet most of their work goes unrecognized.

They lack access to land and other resources, limiting their ability to fully participate in the agricultural sector. Though women suffer among the highest rates of gender violence in the world, their attackers often go unpunished. In fact, attacked women can even be rejected by their families, and left to fend for themselves.

If the DRC can alter its behavior towards women, these women can stay in their communities. Just being able to stay put means they can increase production on their land, earn incomes, and put food on their families’ tables.

Tackling gender inequities is key to resolving any food insecurity in the communities where we work.

In my role as East, Central and Southern African Division Chief for the Office of Food for Peace, I have visited my fair share of countries in crisis. With a history of working in 150 countries over the last 60 years, Food for Peace has helped many countries recover from crises and thrive. And for the last several decades we have worked to tackle the root causes of chronic food insecurity in places like the DRC – through interventions to increase agricultural yields, develop new ways to earn an income, or empower women, for example.

I came away from the DRC feeling an immense sense of accomplishment and hope in our work, particularly around elevating the role of women. Women Empowerment Groups are a critical aspect of some of our programs. These groups provide women with literacy, numeracy, and business skills training while helping them to start projects to generate income such as soap making, bread making, or breeding of small livestock.

Intermittent evaluations of these programs tell us that we are having an impact, supporting the abundance of evidence that indicates that if the status of women is improved, then agricultural productivity will also increase, poverty will be reduced, and nutrition will improve.

These skills elevated Ms. Namuhindo’s status at home and increased her role in decision making; she is now seen by her husband as a breadwinner and partner. The pride I sensed in her as she explained the life-changing effect on her left an indelible impression on me.

Similarly the role-play dramas led by Gender Discussion Groups left me convinced that gender-sensitive activities are crucial to promoting change. Groups of men and women come together to discuss issues affecting their households and community, including alcoholism, domestic violence, treatment of boys as compared to girls, and division of household labor.

Gender Based Violence Role-Play by community members./Jessica Hartl, USAID

Gender Based Violence Role-Play by community members. / Jessica Hartl, USAID

The discussions are dynamic and animated, and would certainly be day-time Emmy contenders. “Who picked this topic?” I asked as I watched the first drama  that portrayed a father marrying off his 14-year old daughter to make money for his alcohol addiction. “We did,” answered the community. Alcoholism affects the homes in many ways – financially, women carry an unfair work-burden, girls drop out of school and many marry at a young age. These messages, delivered through live dramas or other media, have attracted a large following. Surveys in Katanga and South Kivu found that nine out of 10 of those surveyed listened to the discussion. And six out of 10 of the people surveyed believe the drama contributed to a changed attitude and behavior.

I was compelled by the dramas we watched and genuineness with which men and women answered about resultant changes;  men and women making decisions together about money, working hand-in-hand on chores, and men changing their decisions as they better understood the effect of their choice on their household.  Ms. Nkumbula*, another participant, said, “Since my husband is attending Gender Discussion Group meetings, we are now in peace at home. He began to tell me all the truth about finances and the money he earns fixing bicycles, and to consult me on other problems.”  Mr. Kalambo* shared how after a local trader had come to his home and offered to buy his stock of beans he had replied, “I have to talk to my wife first.  We have to make a joint decision; either we will sell this stock of beans or not.”

Needs remain vast across eastern DRC. But I came away from the trip with evidence that our approach is working, and that it will have long-lasting impacts on individuals, homes and communities.

*No first names given.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Grant is Division Chief in East, Central and Southern Africa Office for USAID’s Office of Food for Peace

 

Engaging China on Global Development

China is currently undergoing an evolution in its approach to development assistance and cooperation. The country continues to expand its contributions of resources, expertise and engagement on international development issues. As a result, the Chinese Government is continually reflecting on emerging challenges; the structure, mechanisms and partnerships needed to advance development priorities abroad; and new means of financing international development efforts.

Alex Thier addresses an audience member question during a CIDRN speaking engagement.

Alex Thier addresses an audience member question during a China International Development Research Network (CIDRN) speaking engagement. / Maria Rendon, U.S. Department of State

Recognizing the importance of frank, face-to-face bilateral dialogue to discuss these trends,  USAID held the inaugural U.S.-China Global Development Dialogue in Beijing on April 29.

China’s ongoing economic, social, political and environmental transformation will have a significant bearing on its domestic and global positions on related issues over the next 10 to 15 years. Despite progress, China still accounts for more than 10 percent of the world population living in extreme poverty – yet also sits on the world’s largest foreign cash reserves, some $4 trillion. Indeed, while we were in Beijing, the World Bank revised the purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, which boosted Chinese GDP by more than 20 percent, putting it even closer to the size of the U.S. economy by that measure.

Alex Thier poses with Prof. Li Xiaoyun of China Agriculture University.  Prof. Li Xiaoyun co-chaired and commented during the CIDRN public event series on China and international development where Thier was a featured speaker.

Alex Thier poses with Prof. Li Xiaoyun of China Agriculture University. Prof. Li Xiaoyun co-chaired and commented during the CIDRN public event series on China and international development where Thier was a featured speaker. / Maria Rendon, U.S. Department of State

China is an important partner with developed and developing economies in negotiations around the post-2015 development agenda, climate change, financing for development and other global issues.

In the official U.S.-China global development dialogue, the Chinese exhibited a strong desire to engage with the U.S. Government on global development issues related both to broad international policy as well as practical elements of implementation.

The country is proud of the role it has played in achieving the current Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of its own people living in extreme poverty—over the last two decades China has helped lift nearly 600 million of its citizens out of extreme poverty—but still sees much need for continued domestic progress. We found strong agreement with the Chinese on the goal of ending extreme poverty  and common ground on increasing development cooperation effectiveness through internationally agreed on principles like the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

USAID, like other government and private donors, has started small scale, practical cooperation with China in third countries (“trilateral cooperation”). For example, the United States and China recently launched an agriculture partnership in East Timor that is intended to improve the production of income-generating crops to enhance food security and nutrition. The first harvest was in March, and now more than 52 participating East Timorese farmers are seeing the benefits of modern farming techniques.

Charles Rice for USAID

A U.S.-China partnership is helping enhance food security and nutrition in Timor-Leste / Charles Rice for USAID

Discussions with a variety of Chinese universities, think tanks, foundations, and private sector and civil society organizations also demonstrate a growing interest and participation in development policy and implementation.

Overall, the first U.S.-China Global Development Dialogue was an important opportunity to advance our mutual interest in development policy dialogue, strengthening cooperation and enhancing policy coherence in partner countries. The next set of global development goals—including ending extreme poverty and sharing a sustainable global commons and economy—will require a concerted effort with all partners, China key among them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Thier is the Assistant to the Administrator in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning. Follow him @Thieristan.

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