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A United Africa Under a Child Survival Revolution

Peter Salama, Unicef Representative to Ethiopia, makes closing remarks at “African Leadership for Child Survival” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 18,  2013. Photo credit: UNICEF

Last Friday, it was a real honor for me to take part in the closing ceremony of the African Leadership on Child Survival – A Promise Renewed (ALCS/APR), together with H. E. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health in Ethiopia, my esteemed colleague Dennis Weller, USAID mission director to Ethiopia, and my African colleagues in health and development.

In June 2012, during the first Call to Action – Promise Renewed meeting in Washington D.C., Dr. Tedros had committed that Ethiopia would host an African Leadership for Child Survival Conference that was linked to the AU summit. That promise is now fulfilled and I wish to thank Dr. Tedros and Dr. Kesete and all of the colleagues at the Ministry of Health for making this all African meeting a reality and a success.

The pledge signed by the African countries present and the consensus reached by the conference are both significant and historic. The event has marked a new era for the African continent in which it is no longer acceptable for any child to die an untimely and preventable death.

As we have seen at this meeting, in many ways the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia, as well as many other African countries, has become a  powerful global symbol of what can be achieved in resource-constrained environments and has given many international partners renewed faith in the development enterprise.

To accelerate progress we need to do some things differently. Dramatic reductions in preventable child deaths can be achieved through concerted action in five critical areas, outlined in the global roadmap: geographical focus, high burden populations, high impact solutions, gender equality, and mutual accountability and financing.

The theme of equity, in all its dimensions, has come out very strongly through the conference conclusions on geography, gender equality and high burden populations. We know that as much as we have made global progress on child survival in recent decades so too have we seen an increasing concentration of child deaths in Africa which now accounts for around half of all the world’s child mortality.

During the three days, we have also seen that the highest rates of death are now overwhelming in fragile states and conflict-affected countries and regions. This demands that our attention also be placed on governance issues and on human security. There is a major role here, not only for the United Nations but also for regional institutions, and is why the role of the AU will be even more paramount as we move forward on this initiative. Indeed we are very hopeful that with the Ethiopia government taking over the chair of the AU in 2013, maternal and child survival will be seen as not only a health and development issue but as a peace and security issue. It seems auspicious that the African Leadership on Child Survival has taken place right before the AU heads of state meeting next week. I sincerely hope that the recommendations of this conference are shared with the AU leadership and head of states for their endorsement.

We have seen the strong leadership of African governments in this process. This is not an initiative led by UNICEF or USAID or any other partner, and it is very refreshing to see that this initiative and the commitments being made are home-grown. All countries have existing strategies and plans for improving maternal, newborn and child health. Integration of the ALSC/APR initiative with local processes, rather than setting up vertical mechanisms, will be important. Government should also coordinate efforts of various partners and the different initiatives and synthesize them into a coherent whole at the country level.

One of the most exciting aspects of the meeting and the overall process for me is to have seen the peer to peer dynamic in action. I know the lesson learning and sharing of good practices from country to country will continue over the coming months and that many countries are planning study visits to other African countries. We should nurture this dynamic at all costs. I believe the seeds of success and of sustainability for us in African have been planted by all at this meeting. By working hand in hand, we can and we will end all preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, and thus complete the work begun under the child survival revolution.

Under Five Child Survival Under Microscope at Summit

This post originally appeared on Mom Bloggers for Social Good.

This week child survival is under critical review in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the African Leadership for Child Survival – A Promise Renewed summit. This meeting, held at the African Union headquarters and convened by the Ethiopian government along with UNICEF and USAID brought together African Ministers of Health to enter into discussions about markedly improving child survival rates. The summit ends Friday.

Between 1990-2011 child mortality has decreased 39% in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo credit: Mom Bloggers for Social Good

Between 1990-2011 child mortality has decreased 39% in sub-Saharan AfricaAccording to UNICEF, 1 in 8 children in sub-Saharan Africa die before their fifth birthday from five leading causes: pneumonia, pre-term birth complications, diarrhea, intrapartum-related complications, newborn infection and malaria…continued

Read more to learn which key tweets and infographics are emerging from the summit at the#promise4children hashtag.

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U.S. Recognition of Government of Somalia for First Time in 20 Years

For over two decades, Somalis have been known as stateless. They have been associated with piracy, terrorism, and continued lack of law and order. Yesterday, the U.S. government formally recognized the Government of Somalia for the first time in 20 years. To me, this recognition brings back the dignity of a people who have endured so much. As a Somali-Kenyan, this recognition is meaningful to me. In the Horn of Africa, we are all Somalis regardless of our citizenship.

Over the years, my greatest areas of concern in Somalia have been increasing access to basic services and economic opportunities for the most vulnerable, and strengthening Somali women’s contributions to politics and leadership. With a recognized Somali Government, I believe these hopes will become realities in the near future.

A Somali woman who has gained economic opportunities as a result of USAID’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program, which brings communities and local governments together to realize immediate benefits of peace. Photo credit: USAID

At USAID, our work spearheads the long-term development the country needs, and we will work in close partnership with the Somali Government to achieve this. Somalia will benefit from USAID’s support, capacity building and expertise as a respected development agency. I hope that by taking USAID’s lead, other governments and financial institutions will also be more likely to directly partner with the Somali Government.

The Somali people are hardworking, innovative and very hospitable. They have already started rebuilding the country and diaspora members are returning. Somalia is a beautiful country with the most serene white beaches boasting the longest coastline on the Indian Ocean at more than 3600 km. It has a rich history and diverse groups of people; it is rich in livestock, agriculture, minerals and marine resources. Once you visit, you are hooked for life! I look forward to seeing how development in Somalia will enrich life even more for the Somali people.

Visit our website to learn more about USAID’s work in Somalia.

Nasri Hussein is a Program Management Specialist for USAID/East Africa’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization

USAID’s Youth in Development Policy: Investing in Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the Youth Health and Rights Coalition. They do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development nor of the U.S. federal government.

It is often said that young people are our future. But young people aren’t just assets for development tomorrow – they are agents of change today. The first-ever USAID Youth in Development Policy (PDF) clearly recognizes this reality and provides important opportunities to involve global youth in shaping our development agenda and advancing their health and rights.

Young people in Kenya. Photo credit: USAID.

Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history; nearly half of the world’s population—some three billion people—is under the age of 25. Given that this large demographic of young people presents the world with an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate economic development and reduce poverty, the policy is particularly timely and critical. It rightly acknowledges that in order for young people to realize their potential and contribute to the development of countries, they must be able to access information and services that protect their rights and promote their sexual and reproductive health throughout their life span. Advocates, implementers, young people and government partners can help achieve that vision by ensuring that the following important policy provisions are translated into action:

Start early in life

Young people bear a significant burden of poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including unmet need for family planning, early marriage and childbearing, maternal death, gender-based violence and HIV. However, when families, communities and nations protect and advance adolescent and youth reproductive rights, young people are empowered to stay healthy and take advantage of education and economic opportunities throughout their lives. We know when these investments happen early in life as well as throughout the life course, they help foster more gender equitable and healthier attitudes and behaviors. So why wait? Let’s embrace the tenets of the policy and invest in young people’s health and rights today.

More money, more tracking

The Youth in Development policy clearly calls for the implementation of evidence-based programs and interventions. The Youth Health and Rights Coalition (PDF) looks forward to supporting this effort with the range of tools and resources developed to effectively implement evidence-based sexual and reproductive health interventions. But we need more than guidance to truly protect and promote the well-being of young people. Advancing youth development will require more funding, better data collection to track investments and outcomes, robust partnerships across sectors, and strong commitment across the agency. It’s a challenge, but one worth taking.

“Nothing about us, without us!”

Many of the young people who are members and partners of the Youth Health and Rights Coalition often call upon this phrase to express the importance of meaningful and ongoing youth engagement, something which is still too often missing in development today. The policy puts the importance of youth participation and engagement front and center of the USAID programming process and emphasizes the need to support more meaningful and equal partnerships with young people while building capacity of local youth-led and youth-serving organizations. USAID’s dedication to civil society consultations to inform the development of the policy was an important first step to put words into action. So let’s keep it up and continue to engage young people as we move forward with the implementation of the policy.

We applaud USAID for recognizing how critical it is to meaningfully engage youth across the diverse countries where the Agency works and look forward to future collaborations. Only together can we succeed in meeting the sexual and reproductive rights and health of all young people and work with them to fulfill their full potential.

The Youth Health and Rights Coalition (PDF) is comprised of advocacy and implementing organizations who, in collaboration with young people and adult allies, are working to advance the sexual and reproductive rights and health of adolescents and youth around the world. The YHRC advocates with key decision makers to prioritize funding and support for comprehensive adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights and health policies and practices. Their goal is to ensure young people in the developing world have the sexual and reproductive rights and health information, tools, commodities, and quality services necessary to make healthy and informed choices about their own lives.

Member organizations of the coalition include: Advocates for Youth, American Jewish World Service, Americans for Informed Democracy, CARE, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Family Care International, FHI 360, Georgetown University-Institute for Reproductive Health, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Guttmacher Institute, International Center for Research on Women, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, International Women’s Health Coalition, Ipas, John Snow, Inc., Marie Stopes International-US, PATH, Pathfinder International, Plan International USA, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau, Population Services International, Public Health Institute, Save the Children, and Women Deliver.

Ethiopia Hosts African Leaders to Accelerate Gains in Child Survival

Today it was an honor for me to join African colleagues in health and development at the opening of the African Leadership for Child Survival – A Promise Renewed. Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom, Minister of Health Kesetebirhan Admasu, and the rest of the Ethiopian Government should be congratulated for hosting this meeting to accelerate the reduction of Africa’s child mortality rates.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Tedros Adhanom opens the African Leadership for Child Survival meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo credit: UNICEF

Ethiopia has made great progress in tackling child survival and strengthening their health sector. Since the development of Ethiopia’s first national health policy in the mid-1990s, Ethiopia and the United States Government have partnered to increase and expand access of quality health services to Ethiopians nationwide. The United States is proud to have a long-standing health program in Ethiopia with many of our agencies working in the health sector: CDC, DOD, Peace Corps and my agency, USAID.

Last June, Ethiopia joined India and the United States in cooperation with UNICEF to host a Child Survival Call to Action in Washington. More than 700 global leaders came together and challenged each other to reduce child mortality to 20 deaths per 1,000 births, or lower, in every country around the world by 2035. Assuming countries already making progress continue at their current trends, achieving this rate will save an additional 5.6 million children’s lives every year.

In the last two decades, Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a 39 percent decline in the under-five mortality rate, a tremendous achievement that has been called part of the “the best story in development.” But despite this progress, we know that some countries are doing better than others. By joining together to share best practices, we can create a strong coalition to help each other’s children live to see their fifth birthdays.

An investment in Africa’s children is an investment in Africa’s future. I am pleased USAID is supporting the African Leadership on Child Survival meeting – and we are committed to being Africa’s partner in this effort for years to come.

Ethiopia Shares Best Practice for Maternal and Child Survival

In advance of tomorrow’s African Leadership on Child Survival meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Ministry of Health organized a media site-visit to showcase their community health extension program and its impact on the country’s tremendous reductions in child mortality.

I was taken away from the hustle and bustle of Addis to the Aleltu district, which is north in the Oromia region. The visit began at a health center, then a health post and finally I visited households in a kebele (village). I saw firsthand how the health extension workers along with the voluntary community health promoters, called the “women health development army,” are key to Ethiopia’s health infrastructure. Health extension workers have finished secondary school, or grade 10, and have been through one-year of training that covered 16 components under four categories: family health; disease prevention and control; sanitation and hygiene; and health education. This is called the health extension worker package.

Members of the press interview women at a health center in Mikawa, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Nicole Schiegg

At the health center in Mikawa, the capital of Aleltu, I observed kids getting immunized and women accessing prenatal care. Two women with their newborns in the waiting area agreed to be interviewed by the press. Both commented on how they learned about family planning from the center and how birth spacing leads to healthier children. They planned to wait three years before their next child by using family planning methods offered by the center, which is funded by USAID as part of an Integrated Family Health Program through JSI and Pathfinder International.

At the Wogiti Dera health post, where they focus on maternal and child health in collaboration with the Mikawa health center, I met a 25-year old health extension worker named Mandarin. She showed me charts depicting data from the progress in her village. Practicing what she teaches, Mandarin is one of the women in the village who delivered her baby at the health center. When asked if she aspired to be a doctor, Mandarin replied, “Of course, anything is possible.”

Finally, I visited a household in the Wogiti Dera village, designated a “model household” because it successfully completed a checklist of 16 good behaviors consistent with the 16 components in the health extension worker package. Examples of good behaviors in the package include: women delivering their babies with a skilled birth attendant, children being vaccinated, and the household practicing good sanitation and hygiene.

What was consistent throughout the visit was an emphasis on data to measure impact and performance. This information feeds up to the regional and national level to populate a scorecard to measure Ethiopia’s progress in reducing maternal and child mortality in the region. The community health extension program is one of many best practices that will be shared at this week’s African Leadership on Child Survival meeting.

8 Things Our Future Military Leaders Need to Know About Water Management

Last year the National Intelligence Council released its first-ever Global Water Security Intelligence Community Assessment (PDF). The report noted that during the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems—shortages, poor water quality, or floods—that will risk instability and state failure. Additionally, between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources.

At USAID, we support a wide variety of water programs that foster economic development throughout the developing world. These programs help mitigate the prospect of conflict and play an important role in both meeting emergency relief needs and bringing long-term stability to people in areas afflicted by conflict.

One day, our future military leaders will be planning and implementing peace-keeping operations, and it is important for them to know how the range of water management approaches implemented by USAID can help foster stability, resilience and economic growth.

I was thus pleased to receive an invitation from Col. Wiley Thompson, the head of the United States Military Academy Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, to deliver a lecture in mid-December on water to about 140 West Point cadets. As these men and women will one day be leading our country, I was honored to impart lessons about how water management may help strengthen the cadets’ capacity to lead.

Chris Holmes with West Point cadets following the lecture on water management. Photo credit: USAID

While my core message to the cadets was this –Water management is key to stability, to improving health, to producing food and energy, to adapting to climate change – there are eight key lessons that I believe would help these cadets as they continue their educations.

1. USAID and the military can and must form effective partnerships.

The Army and USAID have partnered on wide range of water activities, such as: increasing the energy output of the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan, restoring carp fisheries in Iraq, and providing relief to flood and earthquake victims in Pakistan. Such partnering is supported by the USAID- DOD Civilian Military Cooperation policy (PDF). Both USAID and the military bring differing but complimentary technical expertise. In addition, the military provides the logistics support and security to support USAID efforts in the field. This collaboration is essential, especially in providing security in areas prone to conflict and in providing emergency humanitarian assistance requiring the transport of medical supplies and relief personnel.

2. Women leaders must play a vital role in leading water programs.

In Afghanistan, the USAID Sustainable Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene program supports the development of women leaders, including Female Health Action groups. Women leaders play an essential role in leading community-based water organizations and in resolving disputes over water.

3. Policy Makers must take an integrated approach, linking sectors, programs and policies.

The objective of USAID’s recently initiated Rwanda Integrated Water Security Program is to improve the sustainable management of water quantity and quality to positively impact human health, food security, and resilience to climate change for vulnerable populations in targeted catchments. This integrated water resource management project is intended to serve as a model for USAID water projects.

4. Remote sensing and communications technologies change the game.

In East Africa, The USAID Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) is identifying where climate change is actually occurring, analyzing climate change data in patterns over the last 30 to 50 years. This enables USAID and its developing country partners to look in to the future and take steps to adapt to climate change.

The Indonesia WATER SMS project will apply new data-collection tools and sharing methodologies through Short Messaging Services (SMS) and web mapping to increase civic participation to improve water services. Residents, using hand phones and email, can rapidly report chronic and acute conditions.

5. Think across the border.

More than 300 water bodies are shared by two or more countries. Tanzania and Kenya border the Mara river. The USAID Transboundary Water for Biodiversity and Human Health project in the Mara River Basin (TWB-MRB) has helped local communities to develop new water services, refurbish nonfunctioning water systems, and improve sanitation services. There has also been support for setting up water user associations and village savings and loan groups, emphasizing the participation and empowerment of women and the long-term sustainability of the new organizations. Major conflicts can arise over water resources, grazing lands and territory; loss of assets, livestock, hundreds of people killed and  thousands displaced. This calls early focus on  a peace building process, e.g., strengthening Institutions for peace and development

6. It’s not just high tech.

Meeting complex economic development needs requires combining traditional low-tech approaches to water management, such as sand-dam water catchments, with sophisticated high-tech approaches. As part of the climate adaptation strategy in Mali, informed by data from the high-tech FEWSNET, USAID also supports programs that reintroduce traditional soil conservation and management programs to increase food production, a tried and true low-tech approach to enhanced productivity that is being practiced of millions of acres. Drilling rigs for bore holes can easily be counterproductive if not sited in close collaboration with all stakeholder groups in a wider landscape, and linked to local village management capacity.

7. We must provide sustainable solutions to enhance the resilience of communities.

USAID and other donors, through the Productive Safety Net Program, identified a population of 8 million people in Ethiopia particularly vulnerable to climate change. Building large-scale water irrigation and supply systems helped provide sustainable, lasting assistance to enable these communities to weather the 2010/2011 East African droughts.

8. We can’t do it alone.

In Ethiopia, the USAID-funded Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Transformation for Enhanced Resilience (WATER) program works closely with regional and community governments to develop access to clean, safe and sustainable water sources.

 

When I arrived at West Point, I was awed by the history and physical geography of the place, the Academy high on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, gray granitic slabs of stone emerging from the hills, blending into the school’s impressive stone architecture. The geology, the architecture, the teachers, the students all conveyed one word: strength. In reflecting on my interactions with West Point faculty and students, I came away encouraged and impressed by their understanding of the “strength” of effective water management, how it links both the respective resources and missions of  the military and USAID to foster stability and economic development.

Video of the Week: Crowdsourcing at USAID: An Example for Aid Transparency & Open Data

Shadrock Roberts from USAID’s GeoCenter describes how crowdsourced data was leveraged for the Development Credit Authority at the 4th International Conference of Crisis Mapping (ICCM), offering important lessons learned for government institutions who want to work with crowdsourced information.

Public, Private, and Civil Society Partnerships in Action

This post originally appeared on the Save the Children Blog.

We like to think of development as a team sport requiring all players to work together toward the same goal. The game gets particularly exciting when you add new players to the team at half time.

Save the Children has served children and families in Nicaragua for almost 80 years. Three years ago, we began partnering with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR), based in Vermont, on a project to increase the income and food security for families of workers on coffee farms. By helping families to diversify their crops, improve storage techniques, and bring crops to market, they can better withstand periods of food scarcity during the months between coffee harvests.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined the partnership two years ago, adding an ambitious health component through their regional “4th Sector Health” project. Implemented by Abt Associates, 4thSector Health develops public-private partnerships and supports exchanges between countries to advance development through health in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Nicaragua, 4th Sector Health is working with Save the Children and GMCR, along with local civil society partners, to boost maternal and child health and nutrition for the same coffee-growing communities.

USAID’s 4th Sector Health also recently funded an experience sharing trip for Save the Children staff from five Latin American countries, who were involved in implementing GMCR-funded projects. The participants learned from each other’s experiences and are replicating best practices in their own programs, serving to increase their impact and sustainability.

Save the Children visits neighborhoods in Nicaragua to monitor child health and nutrition, and treat sick children. Photo credit: Gerardo Aráuz

The alliance between USAID, Save the Children, and GMCR is intended to maximize the use of resources and help identify new solutions to challenges affecting these communities. Sometimes the alliance organizations face challenges of their own — coordinating work plans, reporting on technical outcomes, and carrying out their separate missions.

Public-private partnerships, otherwise known as the “Golden Triangle,” are a hot topic in the field of international development. Donors like USAID have invested millions of dollars in partnerships with the private sector, yet some development experts have questioned the development impact of such partnerships in achieving real benefits for the poor and marginalized in developing countries.

As part of its recent reform efforts, USAID has put more attention towards improving its public-private partnership model. For one, USAID is including technical experts in health and nutrition such as Save the Children in some partnerships, recognizing that U.S. civil society groups lend valuable expertise in maternal-child health and other technical areas. Moreover, USAID is steering the private sector towards achievement of concrete development targets through their partnerships, as well as ensuring that companies are held to certain standards, such as respect for workers and environmental stewardship.

From my perspective, this alliance between Save the Children Nicaragua, USAID, and GMCR, is having a transformative impact on the communities in which it operates.

Martha Lorena Diaz is one of many enterprising women working with us,whose partner, Jose Manuel Benavidez, is a coffee farmer on a cooperative that sells to GMCR. Martha was initially given five hens and now keeps 40 in her small business, earning about one dollar a day from selling the eggs and chickens. Save the Children project training sessions have helped Martha to identify nutritious sources of food for her three children, particularly during the lean months when she struggles to provide enough food for them. Martha now makes a corn flour drink to boost her childrens’ daily vitamin intake. Moreover, health promoters, trained by Save the Children, visit her neighborhood and others to monitor child health and nutrition and treat sick children in their communities, which are often far from the closest health center.

Successful partnerships, such as the one between USAID, GMCR, and Save the Children Nicaragua, are critical to achieving lasting results in the communities that we all serve. With an increase in USAID’s partnerships with private sector and NGO players, who are committed to making a real difference in the lives of families in Nicaragua and elsewhere, I believe our team will prevail.

FrontLines Year in Review: Fighting Modern Day Slavery

This is part of our FrontLines Year in Review series. This originally appeared in FrontLines January/February 2012 issue.

The opportunity was too good to pass up. Shantos was 20 years old when a group of men came to his village in Bangladesh. They promised him a job in India, a little less than $100 for 50 days of work as a mason. He believed them. It was only after leaving home that he realized what was going on. He came back scared and desperate, but wiser, after 28 months in an Indian jail, arrested after he could not produce his passport to a local police officer.

For Sonaly, who was only 16 when she was sold to a brothel, there was no place to come home to.

Fatema, at 22, was locked up in a room and tortured for 14 days before she found the courage to escape.

With USAID’s help, Shantos, Sonaly, and Fatema, three victims of human trafficking, have found new lives.

Human trafficking is today the third most profitable crime in the world after illicit drug and arms trafficking, resulting in an estimated $30 billion to $32 billion in profits worldwide each year.

USAID’s Actions to Combat Trafficking-in-Persons program works closely with the Government of Bangladesh to help survivors of human trafficking through counseling and life skills training. Photo credit: Winrock International

Since 2005, USAID and the Government of Bangladesh have collaborated to address human trafficking on two fronts: by preventing it and by alleviating the suffering of its victims.

Bangladesh is a major source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to both forced labor and sex trafficking. Men typically are fraudulently recruited to work overseas, especially to the Middle East and Gulf countries, and are subsequently exploited under conditions of forced labor or debt bondage. Bangladeshi children and women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labor.

For the past three years, Bangladesh has been included on the Tier 2 Watch List in the Department of State’s Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Under State’s tier placement system, rankings are determined based on the extent of a government’s actions to combat trafficking: Tier 1 signifies the highest degree of government action, and Tier 3 is the lowest ranking. Countries on the Tier 2 Watch List, like Bangladesh, are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the U.S. Government’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but are making significant efforts to comply.

Protection and Prosecution

In Bangladesh, USAID’s anti-trafficking program is implemented by Winrock International under the Actions to Combat Trafficking-in-Persons program (ACT), a four-year initiative that began in 2009 to reduce trafficking in men, women, and children in that country.

“The ACT program’s prevention efforts focus on protection and prosecution. The program works with government institutions to identify and prosecute perpetrators, empower survivors of trafficking and those at risk, provide viable economic alternatives to unsafe internal and cross-border migration, and expand public awareness and prevention efforts to include labor migration abuses and victimization of men,” said Habiba Akter, USAID/Bangladesh’s human rights and rule of law adviser, who manages the ACT program.

Still, the legal and justice systems need updating. Cases of human trafficking are seldom filed, and perpetrators are rarely sentenced for their crimes. In addition, the existing legal framework on trafficking ignores labor and internal trafficking, and acknowledges only women and children as potential victims. Sometimes law enforcement agencies prefer not to file a trafficking case due to mandated investigation timelines. Out-of-court settlements between perpetrators and victims’ families also hinder prosecution.

Since 2009, USAID’s ACT program has been working closely with the Government of Bangladesh to develop a comprehensive gender-sensitive, national anti-trafficking law and action plan on trafficking. The draft version of the law, with expected parliamentary passage in January 2012, is endorsed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her cabinet, an indication that the government is committed to preventing trafficking and punishing those convicted of the crime. An action plan for 2012-2014 is under development, and will guide monitoring to combat human trafficking in the country. [continued]

Read the rest of the article in FrontLines.

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