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This Week at USAID – June 21, 2010

Secretary Clinton and Administrator Shah will deliver opening remarks on “LGBT Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy” at an event co-hosted by State’s Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.

At an event in the Ronald Reagan Building, USAID will join the Brookings Institution to launch a new report on education in Pakistan.  The event will discuss efforts to create concrete programs in Pakistan’s education sector that can more effectively advance U.S. security objectives in the region and contribute to longer-term stability in Pakistan.  Administrator Shah, Congresswoman Lowey and Mr. Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, are among the key speakers.

Administrator Shah will give remarks at a dinner during the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) conference in Washington, DC.  AAPI is a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American Physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs.

REBUILDING SCHOOLS AND LIVES IN PORT-AU-PRINCE THROUGH THE CLEARS PROJECT

submitted by Anna Gohmann

Before - College St. Pierre

Before - College St. Pierre

Images of the first few weeks after the earthquake in Haiti are seared indelibly into all of our memories. But for USAID, the international community, and the Government of Haiti, our work continues even when there are no cable news cameras to capture it.

Alongside hundreds of other projects, we’re supporting CHF International to clear damaged buildings and help rebuild many of the hundreds of community schools that the earthquake destroyed in and around Port-au-Prince. CHF’s Emily Lynch shared the below story and photos of College St. Pierre, which collapsed in the earthquake and was cleared away through the USAID-funded CLEARS project:

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Got Milk?

Dr. Raj Shah and Head of Kirene Alexandre Alcantara

Alexandre Alcantara, Managing Director of Kirène, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator for USAID and James Billings, Chief of Party for USAID's Economic Growth Project in Senegal shake hands after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding during Dr. Shah's visit.

Bringing together local communities and private enterprise is what makes for a sustainable and mutually profitable partnership.  Just ask Alexandre Alcantara, head of Kirène, a leader in the local production of mineral water, fruit juice, milk and milk-based products here in Senegal. Alexandre has been giving me a tour of his factory located about 80 kilometers outside the capital city of Dakar. USAID/Senegal and Kirène are working together to create jobs and increase rural incomes by targeting local milk farmers to supply the raw materials for their milk products. Kirène imports most of its raw milk in powdered form. Through Feed the Future, USAID is partnering with the firm to increase the

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USAID Launches Public-Private Initiative on Newborn Resuscitation

The Golden Minute identifies the steps that a birth attendant must take immediately after birth to evaluate the baby and stimulate breathing.

USAID is launching an initiative to reduce infant mortality worldwide by expanding access to high-quality, affordable newborn resuscitation training materials and devices, improving the competence of birth attendants to resuscitate newborns, strengthening health systems, and promoting global commitment and resources for life-saving newborn care. Check out this blog by Dr. George Little of Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center on the Golden Minute of Neonatal Resuscitation at the Global Health Council.

Helping Babies Breathe: a Global Public Private Alliance is an initiative of USAID, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Save the Children/Saving Newborn Lives, Laerdal Medical AS, and a number of other global health organizations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia, or the inability to breathe immediately after delivery. Approximately the same number of stillbirths each year are linked to events during labor. A significant percentage of these may be live-born babies who simply do not breathe or move at birth, but could be resuscitated with simple measures. Helping Babies Breathe will teach these essential skills to birth attendants in developing countries.  Read more about USAID’s child and newborn health programs.

HBB is unique in that it brings together a diverse group of organizations to respond to multi-faceted program needs that include training materials, equipment, systems strengthening, evaluation, and advocacy for increased national commitment and resources. Each member of the partnership will play a unique and complementary role that, together, will leverage their resources, creativity, and expertise to scale up newborn resuscitation globally.

This Week at USAID – June 14, 2010

Currently in Dakar, Senegal, Administrator Shah will speak at the opening ceremony of a regional food security investment forum hosted by ECOWAS.  The two Deputies of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, Ambassador William Garvelink, Deputy Coordinator for Development; and Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy; are also part of the U.S. delegation attending this important regional meeting.

USAID has several officials speaking at the Global Health Council’s Annual Conference, which is being held all week in Washington, DC.  Officials will speak about a range of topics related to the work of USAID’s Global Health Bureau and President Obama’s Global Health Initiative.

On Wednesday, Administrator Shah will join Secretaries Clinton and Vilsack at the announcement of the 2010 World Food Prize winners.  The World Food Prize recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

USAID Counselor, Ambassador Jim Michel, will provide comments at the State Department’s Diplomacy Briefing Series.  This half-day public engagement conference will focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Administrator Shah will provide remarks at the lunchtime Newsmaker Series at the National Press Club on Friday.  He will discuss the Haiti recovery effort as the six-month anniversary of the earthquake approaches, including both success stories and remaining challenges.  Dr Shah will also outline the significant reform efforts underway at USAID aimed at modernizing the Agency in order to achieve President Obama’s bold development vision and meet the Administration’s foreign policy and national security priorities.

USAID Responds to Polio Outbreak in Tajikistan

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

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

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

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

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

BRINGING MOBILE BANKING TO HAITI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read our press release on the announcement.

USAID Hosts Indian-Diaspora Workshop

Indian-American Diaspora Event

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about USAID’s activities in India.

Progress and Challenges in Fight Against Malaria in Mekong SubRegion

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

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

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

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

This Week at USAID – June 7, 2010

Currently leading the U.S. delegation to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Board meeting in Rome, today Administrator Shah meets with the Executive Director of WFP, Deputy Director Generals of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Earl Gast will be sworn-in as the new USAID Mission Director to Afghanistan.

Several USAID officials will be speaking at the Women Deliver Conference at the Washington Convention Center. In addition, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health, Amie Batson, and the U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, will both speak at the Global Business Coalition on AIDS, TB and Malaria’s annual conference, also in Washington, DC.

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