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You Can’t Save Lives if you Don’t Fight Pneumonia

MCHIP immunization work in India.

MCHIP immunization work in India / JSI

For many problems in global health, we struggle to know the solutions.

Pneumonia is not one of them.

Since passing the 500 day countdown in August, the global public health community has talked a lot about what it will take to meet the ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And one thing is clear: achieving MDG 4 – to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 – will not be realized without better addressing pneumonia, the leading killer in children under 5.

The good news is that pneumonia is preventable—and that safe, effective and affordable tools are helping to avoid and treat the disease.

Nepali village health worker counting the respirations of a sick infant

Nepali village health worker counting the respirations of a sick infant / JSI/Nepal Family Health Initiative

Pneumonia can be prevented by feeding children micronutrient rich foods, ensuring proper hygiene, including frequent hand-washing, and improving indoor air quality through well-ventilated cooking areas.

Most of all, the disease can be prevented by ensuring all children are vaccinated on schedule and treated promptly and appropriately if signs of pneumonia appear.

Devoted to combating the causes of under-5 morbidity and mortality, USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) is celebrating this World Pneumonia Day by working to ensure that every infant in the developing world is fully immunized.

Health worker in Mali assessing the respiratory rate of a sick child

Health worker in Mali assessing the respiratory rate of a sick child / JSI

In 2013, MCSP’s predecessor program—the USAID-funded Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program—joined USAID and more than 100 partner organizations, along with national and global experts, to express support for WHO and UNICEF’s first-ever global action plan to simultaneously tackle the two leading killers of children—pneumonia and diarrhea. Implementation of this plan, linked with ownership by national governments and partners’ involvement, will make these goals a reality.

The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPP-D) calls on all parties to coordinate their approach to fighting pneumonia and diarrhea, for which there are complementary interventions to provide protection, prevention and treatment.

Immunizing in Kenya

Immunizing in Kenya / MCHIP

On this day of reflection and action, let us commemorate the brief lives of the children lost to pneumonia—nearly 1 million every year worldwide—by vowing to support and focus on implementing the Global Action Plan and strengthening countries’ routine health systems in partnership with communities.

The fight against this deadly disease can be won. Children are not dying because effective interventions do not exist; they are dying because these interventions are not readily available for all. To dramatically reduce child mortality, we must achieve high and equitable coverage.

Through effective use of pneumococcal (PCV), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and rotavirus vaccines, vitamin A, zinc, oral rehydration solution, breastfeeding and other interventions, we can address MDG4.

Collectively around the world, we owe it to the future generation to give them the best start in life and protect them from preventable and treatable diseases like pneumonia.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Robert Steinglass is the Immunization Team Leader and Katrin DeCamp is the Senior Communications Specialist for USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program.

Assistance Supports Dignity for Syrian Refugees, Markets for Jordan

This post originally appeared on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog, on October 31, 2014.


A refugee living in the community pays for groceries with his pre-loaded credit card

A refugee living in the community pays for groceries with his pre-loaded credit card

Jordan, a relatively small country of 6.5 million people, has welcomed more than 620,000 Syrian refugees since 2011 (Jordan also hosts Palestinian and Iraqi refugees).  This statistic only includes registered refugees, although many thousands more are believed to have entered Jordan without registering.  This is equivalent to 27 million people entering the United States, more than the population of Texas.  All of these people need housing, water, and food.  Health and education systems have stretched to accommodate the new arrivals.  Despite a strong desire to help, Jordanians are understandably concerned about the resources required to support their needs.

Last week, I met with refugees and the humanitarian workers running their assistance programs to learn more about how the United States and international community are responding.  I visited the Za’atri Refugee Camp which, which houses 78,000 residents. I also had the opportunity to speak with Syrians living with family and friends in the neighboring community.  Because non-citizens cannot legally work within Jordan, all are dependent on international aid for their survival.

Ambassador Lane observes the process of registering refugees to enable them to receive food vouchers

Ambassador Lane observes the process of registering refugees to enable them to receive food vouchers

As expected, the first concern for all the refugees, whether in a camp or not, is adequate food for their families.  The World Food Programme (WFP), with extensive support from USAID’s Food for Peace program, helps meet this need.  But feeding such a large population is neither easy nor cheap.  In fact, it costs $23 million per month.  One reason I went to Jordan was to observe how these funds are being spent, and the impact this support is having both on the refugees and on Jordan.  What I saw was encouraging.

Recent reforms to U.S. food assistance regulations have provided flexibility for USAID to choose between in-kind food assistance or the use of cash and vouchers to allow refugees to purchase their own food.  This flexibility is important in Jordan.  As a stable and relatively prosperous country, Jordan has well-developed markets.  However, as trade routes into Syria and Iraq have been cut, the economy has contracted, leaving farmers less able to export the food they produce.  By giving Syrian refugees the ability to purchase the food they need through the local markets, WFP is supporting the existing market system, contributing to the Jordanian economy, and helping to dispel concerns that refugees will drain Jordanian resources. Vouchers also give Syrian refugees access to a more diverse diet which can better meet their nutritional needs.

WFP and USAID elected to provide their support through vouchers and pre-paid credit cards, enabling Syrian refugees to purchase food in nearby stores.  While this seems like a small matter within the bigger picture of having to flee war in one’s homeland, the difference in how assistance is delivered has a large impact on how well people survive such difficult times.  One refugee described the dignity and sense of normalcy she feels when she walks into a store, chooses the food she wants to buy, and pays for it with a credit card.  While the efforts of WFP, USAID, and other donors are essential to helping Syrian refugees cope in very difficult times, the programs also help support the Jordanian economy by compensating farmers and entrepreneurs for their efforts, helping keep markets stable, and promoting economic activity that benefits Jordan and the people who call it home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ambassador David Lane serves as the United States Representative to the United Nations Agencies in Rome.

Moldova at a Crossroad

 USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Jonathan Katz (left) shakes hands with Iurie Ciocan, the head of Moldova’s Central Election Committee.


USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Jonathan Katz (left) shakes hands with Iurie Ciocan, the head of Moldova’s Central Election Committee. / Romand Purici

Moldova finds itself at an important crossroad. This past June, Moldova, together with Georgia and Ukraine, signed a European Union Association Agreement, and in September ratified the EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCTFA). The United States applauded the signing of these historic agreements that marked a major step toward Moldova’s integration with the European Union.

While these critical agreements deepen Moldova’s link to the common EU market, unlocking new opportunities for trade and assistance, they have also led to increasing economic and political pressure from Russia. As Moldova moves closer to EU integration with the West, the Russian government has enacted increasingly harsh bans on wine and produce from Moldova, a real economic hardship given the importance of the agricultural sector to the economy.

As Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, my visit to Moldova focused on strengthening the partnership between the United States and the Moldovan people and reaffirming our ongoing support at this important time.

Throughout my stay in Moldova, I was inspired by the civic responsibility of its citizens and their strong desire for closer economic and political ties with Europe. Sitting down face to face with wine and fruit producers, I learned about their perseverance in the face of Russian bans, their ongoing efforts to take full advantage of the new DCTFA, and the strong partnership they have with USAID.

Russia’s ban of Moldovan wine and fruit remains a major challenge for local producers to overcome, as Moldova’s economy depended heavily on trade with Russia. Today USAID is working hand in hand with Moldovans to respond to this challenge by helping ensure that they meet EU export requirements and supporting Moldovan producers in marketing and outreach to buyers in the EU as well as non-traditional markets.

Through USAID’s CEED project, we successfully helped Moldovans create a national brand—Wine of Moldova, A Legend Alive. This branding, along with USAID-assisted marketing efforts in other key Moldovan industries, has made it possible for 80 enterprises in Moldova to expand exports in regional markets.

Although Moldova is celebrated for the quality of its produce, many of the country’s farmers have been hit hard by the Russian bans

Although Moldova is celebrated for the quality of its produce, many of the country’s farmers have been hit hard by the Russian bans. / Roman Purici

While the Russian bans create a difficult challenge to Moldovan farmers, they also provide an enormous economic opportunity. As Moldova is connected to new markets, it gains the ability to increase both the volume of its exports and the price of its product.

The Moldovan people are ready to take advantage of this opportunity. During a meeting with local fruit producers, I learned that even in the face of the Russian fruit ban, businesses were able to increase exports. This is particularly impressive given that 90 percent of their apples were sent to Russia before the ban. Over the past year, USAID-assisted producers have made $16.7 million in export sales to several countries, with nearly $4.6 million of these sales coming from women-owned or managed businesses.

Moldova’s elections on Nov. 30 will be an important nexus of these different pressures and will be crucial in charting Moldova’s future course. The U.S. remains committed to working with Moldova to achieve its full democratic potential, including free and fair elections.

During my visit I saw up close the impact of our elections assistance, meeting with Iurie Ciocan, the head of Moldova’s Central Election Committee (CEC). He shared his insights into the upcoming parliamentary elections. For the first time, the CEC has mandated that all voting booths and boxes be standardized, an important component for transparent elections.

Ciocan highlighted USAID’s support for short- and long-term election observation efforts with an $800,000 award to the local entity Promo-Lex. I also met with local partners, as well as the National Democratic Institute, to learn more about the challenges of the upcoming elections. USAID is also supporting independent news analysis and providing information on political party platforms to help ensure the people of Moldova have all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

I look forward to my next visit to Moldova and building on a successful 20-year partnership with the Moldovan people. Since 1992, the United States has provided nearly $1.2 billion in assistance to Moldova, including over $22 million in FY 2013 and a five-year, $262 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact launched in 2010.

USAID will continue to provide assistance to strengthen Moldova’s democratic governance and economic growth as it moves toward deeper integration with the European Union and a stronger U.S.-Moldova bilateral relationship.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Katz is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Bill Berger: “There is no book on responding to this Ebola crisis… we’re writing it now.”

Morgana Wingard This is the fifth blog in our Profiles in Courage series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight against Ebola. This series records the experiences of our Disaster Assistance Response Team staff on the front lines of the Ebola response – from the security officers, to public health experts, to information specialists – and offers their reflections on this historic health crisis.
General Darryl Williams, Bill Berger, and U.S. Ambasador to Liberia Deborah Malac.

General Darryl Williams, DART Team Leader Bill Berger, and U.S. Ambasador to Liberia Deborah Malac. / Natalie Hawwa, USAID

“There is no book on responding to this Ebola crisis… we’re writing it now,” says Bill Berger, Team Leader for the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in West Africa.

A seasoned disaster expert, Bill has responded to more than 30 large-scale emergencies across the globe and led several DARTs for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

But how exactly are Bill and his team fighting this unprecedented Ebola epidemic?

“Day by day, pushing at a maximum speed on all fronts,” he says, and with every ounce of compassion and disaster knowledge they have.

As the DART Team Leader, Bill strategizes alongside the local governments and U.S. Ambassadors in the affected countries, the United Nations and NGO partners on the ground to mount the most effective aid effort possible. With Ebola, there are many complex technical pieces that need to come together to help save lives.

“We know the basic things that need to happen, such as building treatment centers, training health care workers, providing testing capabilities and coordination — but we also have a real opportunity here to transfer that capacity and boost national health care systems in West Africa.”

The DART is working across the region in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – each a unique country with its own dynamic for responding to Ebola. While there are challenges of navigating unknown territory for this unprecedented crisis, Bill draws strength from having the opportunity to help those affected by this tragedy. He’s also inspired by his team and the chance they have to contribute to such a critical and historic global issue together.

“Every DART is like living a full lifetime; you have many experiences and feelings in a short period, with so much confronting you daily,” he says. “Working with others during a crisis brings about wonderful and special bonds.”

Bill jokes that the DART will be giving each other the ‘Ebola bump’ — the new West African greeting of hitting elbows, adopted in lieu of a handshake due to the ‘no touch’ atmosphere — for years to come.

“Our DART is a very special group of dedicated people bringing in every piece needed for this Ebola response. It’s a great gift to lead this team.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. Check out her guest posts from USAID’s instagram

First Look at a New Hospital for Ebola Aid Workers: 10 Photos You’ve Never Seen

Morgana Wingard This blog is part of our Daily Dispatches series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight on Ebola. Her photo series and blogs from the team offer unique angles into the many facets of the Ebola story – from life inside a treatment center, to profiles of the health care workers battling Ebola from the front lines, to the many ways the epidemic is impacting the health, economy and future of the nation.

HARBEL, Liberia—”Where have you done this before?” USAID Administrator Raj Shah asked on October 15, as he stepped through the taupe colored tent flap into the new 25-bed critical care hospital being built to treat all health care and aid workers who fall ill to Ebola. “Nowhere, sir. No one has,” replied an army engineer.

Historically, mobile medical units like this one provide versatile trauma care for military operations. In this case, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) customized the Monrovia Medical Unit to treat highly contagious Ebola patients.

Once complete, the hospital will be operated and staffed by a team of 65 specialized officers from the USPHS Commissioned Corps – an elite uniformed service with more than 6,800 full-time, highly qualified public health professionals, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations domestically and abroad.

The Commissioned Corps will deploy clinicians, administrators, and support staff to Liberia to treat health care workers with Ebola, and to continue efforts by USAID, DoD and international partners to build capacity for additional care in Liberia.

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The new 25-bed critical care hospital being built in Harbel, Liberia to treat health care and aid workers who fall ill to Ebola. The new hospital is expected to be online in early November.


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Rear Admiral Scott Giberson (Acting U.S. Deputy Surgeon General and Commander of the USPHS Commissioned Corps Ebola Response) gives USAID Administrator Raj Shah a tour of the new 25-bed critical care hospital for all health workers who fall ill with Ebola while on the frontlines of the epidemic in Liberia on October 15, 2014.  


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Colonel Joann Frye, nurse, Officer in Charge, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command 633rd IPTS and USAID Administrator Raj Shah inside the new hospital.


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Tents are connected by a covered passageway inside the “Hot Zone.”  Soon the only people inside this area will be health workers either as patients or suited up in personal protective equipment.


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Inside one of the patient wings of a new critical care hospital being built by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Public Health Service in Harbel, Liberia.


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The new hospital’s supply room.


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CAPT Ed Dieser (Engineer, USPHS Commissioned Corps Safety/Facilities Officer) gives USAID Administrator Raj Shah a tour of the new 25-bed critical care hospital for health workers who fall ill to Ebola while on the front lines of the outbreak in Liberia.

(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. Check out her guest posts from USAID’s instagram

Paloma and Alisha: The Information Gurus Behind the U.S. Ebola Response

Morgana Wingard This is the fourth blog in our Profiles in Courage series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight against Ebola. This series records the experiences of our Disaster Assistance Response Team staff on the front lines of the Ebola response – from the security officers, to public health experts, to information specialists – and offers their reflections on this historic health crisis.
U.S. Information Officers Paloma Clohossey and Alisha McMichael, left to right.

U.S. Information Officers Paloma Clohossey and Alisha McMichael, left to right.

Though Alisha McMichael and  Paloma Clohossey’s jobs on the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) aren’t as high profile as the health care workers who suit up in protective gear everyday, one could argue that their role is just as vital to the U.S. response.

“Alisha and Paloma bring all the threads of the operation together for reporting and information collection — they know the ins and the outs of the response as a whole,” said Bill Berger, the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader.

They are the DART’s Information Officers – also known as ‘IOs.’: the information gurus who compile, collate and verify all the information about the U.S. Government’s Ebola response efforts and the crisis at large. After absorbing every last detail and fact, they distribute them to team members on the ground and back to Washington, D.C. so that everyone is on the same page and has the correct information they need, when they need it.

In a disaster response environment – especially one like the Ebola epidemic, where everyday the international community is navigating new territory – information is critical. Alisha and Paloma constantly take in and filter information to ensure they’re up to date on the latest — no easy feat given the ever-evolving situation as the crisis progresses and the U.S. response gains momentum.

In fact, Alisha has been dubbed the DART’s ‘sync-master,’ responsible for tracking daily the progress of Ebola treatment units, community care centers, trainings for health care workers, burial teams, airlifts of relief supplies, and other response efforts – following the military’s Sync Matrix model. Meanwhile, Paloma writes daily updates about the situation on the ground to inform Washington and communicate key gaps, challenges and successes.

Being a DART IO requires a lot of attention to detail and long days, but working 24/7 doesn’t get them down.

“The best part by far,” says Paloma, “is getting to have the opportunity to do work that feels meaningful. I’ve been given a chance to contribute to something that I believe in.”

Adds Alisha, “This is a great team, and I know everyone gives their best everyday. That feels good.”

(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. Check out her guest posts from USAID’s instagram

RELATED LINKS

“I’ve Never Had a Job Like This”: Life Inside an Ebola Treatment Unit

Morgana Wingard This blog is part of our Daily Dispatches series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight on Ebola. Her photo series and blogs from the team offer unique angles into the many facets of the Ebola story – from life inside a treatment center, to profiles of the health care workers battling Ebola from the front lines, to the many ways the epidemic is impacting the health, economy and future of the nation.

SUAKOKO, Liberia—”It becomes day-to-day life. You get into your PPE [personal protective equipment] and you go in every day and you feel safe,” explains Audrey Rangel – a nurse at the Bong County Ebola treatment unit run by International Medical Corps with support and funding from USAID.

Before landing at Roberts International Airport in Monrovia on September 8,  Audrey worked on a maternal, child health and nutrition program in Timor Leste. “I always wanted to do disaster relief work. The crisis started to take off. It was in the news a lot. People were talking about it. So I went online. I saw a position for an Ebola response nurse. To me it was just the right time. The description just kind of fit me. I was speaking with my husband and I was saying I can’t not do this. I can’t not do this…. They need people. There was an actual need for me. And I just kind of felt like the description was made for me. It was just perfect. I had to do it.”

The Bong County Ebola treatment unit where Audrey was stationed is a four hour bumpy journey from Monrovia. Bong has some of the highest rates of infection after Lofa and Montserrado Counties. Their two ambulances drive for hours every day to pick-up patients in remote locations like Bong Mines where they picked-up 18-year-old Cephas after his father carried him on his back for an hour to a location where the ambulance could reach him.

Audrey’s days are spent on the front lines of the Ebola response, suiting up in protective gear and caring for patients like Cephas. Even as she roots for survivors, she admits that it’s easy to get attached to her patients: “For some reason you’re sad to see them go.”

“It’s turned out to be an amazing, amazing experience. I wouldn’t take it back for anything.  I guess you can say it exceeded my non-expectations,” says Audrey.

To learn how qualified medical professionals can join the fight against Ebola, visit: www.usaid.gov/ebola/volunteers.

Watch Audrey’s Story

(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. All this week she will be guest posting from USAID’s instagram

Livestock Production: Empowering Women in Ethiopia

For some, Ethiopia conjures images of famine and extreme poverty. I see a completely different picture.

Ethiopia is a country rich in opportunity and resources, composed of hardworking men and women with innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirits. However, agricultural technology and best business practices are not widely available or utilized. Women are also not fully empowered to make financial decisions for their families and struggle to own land or access credit.  Ethiopia’s dairy sector is dominated by smallholder farmers caring for dairy cows. Processing milk is traditionally viewed as women’s work.

Recently, Ethiopian women have turned this traditional role into an economic opportunity based on the training and financial assistance provided by USAID. Livestock fattening and dairy production are areas that employ women. However, in most parts of Ethiopia, a lack of training and knowledge has prevented women from taking on leadership roles.

Yeshi, a professional milkmaid, milks cows for households throughout Bishoftu twice a day—early in the morning and again at night. / CNFA

Yeshi, a professional milkmaid, milks cows for households throughout Bishoftu twice a day—early in the morning and again at night. / CNFA

As part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development project seeks to improve nutrition and boost incomes, through training and investments in commodities like dairy, meat, and live animals. The project targets both men and women, with specific interventions to integrate women entrepreneurs into the broader livestock value chain. For example, the project developed a specific female entrepreneur training package designed to enhance the business capacity of women. Moreover, to better facilitate the participation of women in the offered technical trainings, the project provides innovative daycare services for the children of women participants.

One of the project’s key objectives is to strengthen local Ethiopian organizations and help them build effective, long-term partnerships. In June 2013, USAID signed an agreement with Project Mercy; a local, faith-based not-for-profit relief and development agency established by Marta Gabre-Tsadick, the first woman senator of Ethiopia. Through the agreement, USAID is assisting with an innovative cattle cross-breeding program. The local cattle – when crossed with Jersey breed bulls, create offspring that are up to ten times more productive. The project specifically assisted input suppliers’ import of Jersey Cattle inputs to Ethiopia.

Every morning, farmers drop off milk collected from their dairy cows at one of three collection centers for Ruth and Hirut Dairy in Cha Cha, Amhara, Ethiopia. / CNFA

Every morning, farmers drop off milk collected from their dairy cows at one of three collection centers for Ruth and Hirut Dairy in Cha Cha, Amhara, Ethiopia. / CNFA

A year and a half into its five-year time frame, this project is achieving significant results To empower women, the projecthas launched various training and technical assistance programs, including a leadership program and grants for female entrepreneurs. More than 100 rural women were trained in entrepreneurship and leadership during one 2013 session. These women now serve as business role models in livestock market development in their communities.

Hirut Yohannes embodies the entrepreneurial spirit I see in so many Ethiopian women. In 2008, she launched Rut and Hirut Dairy, a milk processing company located in Cha Cha, Amhara, just outside Addis Ababa. After some initial successes, she wanted to expand her company’s operations but needed guidance. Hirut approached USAID for support and was trained in production and marketing of quality products. She learned to make higher quality gouda and mozzarella cheese, flavored yogurt, cream cheese, and several other types of cheese. USAID also assisted Hirut to introduce packaging for fluid milk products.

Following support from the project, Rut and Hirut Dairy saw an almost immediate 50 percent increase in sales, which enabled Hirut to increase the volume of milk she purchases from farmers and to increase its sale price by 12 percent per liter. Hirut now provides market access for more farmers in her area and has plans to establish new milk collection centers to further expand her business.  With higher quality products, she has increased her income and profitability and is now able to service the bank loan that she had accessed to originally establish her milk processing facility.

Extreme poverty is still a serious problem in many parts of Ethiopia. Projects like this, however, are providing sustainable solutions to some of the most intractable issues that Ethiopians face. Successful women entrepreneurs serve as role models for other women who see little opportunity to improve their family’s income. While the role models are the ones that inspire other women to initiate and expand their livestock businesses, USAID provides essential training and support to help their endeavors succeed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Yirgalem Gebremeskel is a Livestock Program Specialist Economic Growth and Transformation Office, USAID Ethiopia

The Digital Development Opportunity

Bangladeshi farmer Jalal Kha talks over a mobile phone as he works in his paddy field. / AFP, Farjana K. Godhuly

Bangladeshi farmer Jalal Kha talks over a mobile phone as he works in his paddy field. / AFP, Farjana K. Godhuly

At last month’s Frontiers in Development Forum, we welcomed some of the world’s brightest minds and boldest leaders to discuss how to best partner to end extreme poverty. We not only heard from leaders like Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Secretary of State John Kerry, but also from innovators who are creating mobile apps to fight human trafficking and using 3-D printers to build prosthetic hands in the field. It was a recognition that we live in a unique moment, one where new technologies and partnerships are redefining what is possible.

Above all, the Forum was a reminder that—as we near the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals—we must accelerate progress. For our Agency, new technologies and partnerships have created unprecedented opportunities to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.

From GPS to Skype to e-tablets, new innovations are fundamentally changing the way we communicate, work, learn, share and interact. Almost two decades ago, we launched the Leland Initiative, an effort to expand access to information and communication technology in more than 20 African countries. To build on this legacy, we teamed up with the U.K., Google.org, and the Omidyar Network to establish the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Since then, the Alliance has grown to more than 65 members, from Facebook to the Government of Mozambique. Together, they are building global consensus around a set of policy and regulatory recommendations that will lower the cost of internet access—unlocking new opportunities for doctors, entrepreneurs, and local leaders across the developing world.

Much of this progress won’t happen at a desktop; it’ll happen in the palms of billions of hands. Today, farmers are using mobile payments apps to send payments and receive loans; entrepreneurs are selling their goods on the global marketplace; and health workers are treating more patients, at less cost, and without expensive equipment.

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A mobile money user in the Philippines checks her balance on her phone. / USAID, Brooke Patterson

We’re also tapping into affordable, game-changing technologies with the potential to transform the way we work. In Uganda, we’re using mTrac, a tool that enables local health workers to send the government reports via SMS. Recently, the Ministry of Health used mTrac to survey 10,000 health workers on whether their health unit had a fridge that kept perishable drugs and vaccines cold.

The survey cost just $150 and took less than three days—providing the Ministry of Health with information from 1,862 health facilities. As a result, we learned that only about 70 percent of them have working fridges to store life-saving treatments. As Uganda ramped up its national campaign to eradicate polio, it used this information to target the most vulnerable populations and protect more children.

Technology we often take for granted is creating monumental changes in developing economies. In Senegal, rice millers buy expensive Asian imports, while local rice farmers are unable to sell their crops. To build up local supply chains and improve the quality of harvests, we are helping farmers share information through Excel and Dropbox. With this information in hand, rice millers can monitor local crops, schedule shipments in advance, and collect payments online. With 30 farming networks involved to date, this project is helping tens of thousands of smallholder farmers boost their sales and reach new customers.

We’re not creating technology for technology’s sake. There are too many apps that might look sleek, but are not transformative for the people who use them. That’s why we have helped publish a set of guidelines on best practices for development programs that utilize technology.

We call these principles the Greentree Consensus, and they are built on earlier sets of principles that draw on the insight of more than 300 NGOs with expertise in the field. Representing our commitment not only to innovation, but sustainable results, we’re thrilled to be launching these principles in partnership with over a dozen donors and multilaterals, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the United Nations Development Program and the World Food Program.

This is just the beginning of a conversation. We must do more to take these insights into action.  Over the next year, we want to hear from the development community about your experiences in bringing technology to tackle development challenges—from promoting media freedom to solving water shortages. With our Agency’s new U.S. Global Development Lab at the center of this effort, we’ll be able to create, test, and scale breakthrough solutions like never before. In doing so, we can make strides towards a day when extreme poverty—like cassette tapes and dial-up internet—is a thing of the past.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Rajiv Shah is USAID Administrator. He tweets from @rajshah

Justin Pendarvis: “We have to demystify Ebola. It’s not a superhuman and magical thing.”

Morgana Wingard This is the third blog in our Profiles in Courage series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight against Ebola. This series records the experiences of our Disaster Assistance Response Team staff on the front lines of the Ebola response – from the security officers, to public health experts, to information specialists – and offers their reflections on this historic health crisis.
Justin-Pendarvis

Justin Pendarvis: “We have to demystify Ebola. It’s not a superhuman and magical thing.”

Before the United States deployed an Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), there was Justin Pendarvis. As one of the Public Health Advisors at USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, Justin was the first disaster expert tapped to travel to West Africa and assess the growing Ebola situation for USAID.

In early July, Justin traveled to Guinea – home of the epidemic’s ‘patient zero.’ His mission: to observe and gauge the growing outbreak, understand the coordination at play for the response, and identify key challenges.

In Guinea he observed the protocols required to run an Ebola treatment unit (ETU) at one of Medecins sans Frontieres’ first facilities – an intense operation out of the capital city, Conakry. The following week he headed to Sierra Leone where frightening narratives were emerging from Kenema, one of the country’s largest towns hit hard by the virus.

“People were working around the clock, but more Ebola cases kept popping up,” recalls Justin. Health care workers were also falling ill.

By the time Justin landed in Liberia a week later it was clear that a significant amount of resources were needed to support West Africa and help save lives. Weak public health systems fell prey to the disease, and more help was needed. With key insight provided by Justin, USAID stood up the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) – the team of roughly 30 people from across the U.S. Government leading and coordinating the U.S. Ebola response.

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Patients wait outside the JFK Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia on September 15, 2014.


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An Ebola patient rests on his bed inside the patient area at the Ebola treatment unit at Island Clinic September 22, 2014 in Monrovia. With the help of USAID, the Government of Liberia and the World Health Organization opened the facility on September 21. Within one day it was filled to capacity with more than 100 patients. USAID provided generators and other supplies to equip the facility with life saving care.


Since then there has been an “evolution of thought,” says Justin, as everyday USAID, alongside the affected countries and international community continue to learn how best to respond to this unprecedented crisis and fight the world’s largest Ebola outbreak in history.

In Liberia’s capital Monrovia, most residents know somebody who has been affected by the epidemic. Justin, like many West Africans, finds Ebola and this humanitarian response to be very personal. He first arrived in Liberia in 2009 and considers it his second home. His first three-and-a-half years in country were spent working with a Liberian NGO to strengthen and rebuild the country’s health infrastructure — systems that had been destroyed by decades of brutal civil war. But progress was being made.

Five years ago, only 11 percent of women in Liberia were delivering babies at health clinics, putting most — those delivering at home often in unsanitary conditions –  at great risk for complications and death. Liberia had one of the globe’s highest maternal mortality rates.

Fast forward to last year, where more than half of Liberian women were safely delivering at hospitals and clinics – a significant health breakthrough.Although maternal mortality is still high, the numbers have started to fall.

Today, in the face of Ebola, any woman who comes to a hospital to deliver her baby and is bleeding becomes untouchable. Staff hesitate to provide medical care due to fear and risk of  contracting the virus, which is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids.

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Midwives at John F. Kennedy hospital now wear extra protective gear when they go to work because of fears of the spread of Ebola.


“We have to demystify Ebola, it’s not a superhuman and magical thing. We know how to control it, and we know how to keep people safe – but there is a crippling fear.”

Justin says that many of the challenges in responding to the Ebola crisis are fighting that exact fear, and arming West Africans with knowledge to understand the virus and learn how to weave protective measures into their daily life and cultural traditions.

As USAID continues to work toward bringing more Ebola treatment units online, the DART is also prioritizing messaging campaigns that educate communities on how to protect themselves. These efforts have already proven to be life-saving.

“Liberia is definitely a special place to me. I feel lucky to be in a position where I can hopefully contribute, and am proud of the momentum we’re now seeing – it’s this impact and the collective commitment alongside the Liberian people to fight Ebola that drives me forward every day.”

(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Hawwa is a USAID Press Officer for the Disaster Assistance Response Team on the ground in Monrovia, Liberia

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