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USAID Provides Training to Masons in Haiti

A reception in a downtown hotel in Port-au-Prince is buzzing with excitement. Fellow classmates are chatting about their plans after graduation. Many are dressed in their Sunday best to mark the proud day.

One hundred and fifty newly trained masons successfully graduated a joint program sponsored by USAID/KATA and CEMEX, a building materials company.  The program trained young people living in poor neighborhoods on how to create quality masonry blocks.  Of 150 graduates, 75 of them are people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

“The program helps them learn valuable skills and empowers them to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” said CHF International’s Haiti Director Alberto Wilde.

The graduates underwent a three month training that exposed them to masonry best practices and techniques. They also learned entrepreneurial skills to help them start micro enterprises. All students received molding, cement, sand, and a masonry guide at the end of the program.

“When I was working under somebody else I was making 2,500 gourdes ($62.50). But with my own business I make about 5,000 gourdes ($125). Of these 5,000 gourdes I have reinvested half in order that my business grows further. Now, I am planning to have a laborer in order to have even bigger productivity,” said Alcide Delcy, age 23.

The small business created by the USAID/KATA and CEMEX graduates can help support Haiti’s economic recovery. Their training also helps support the country’s efforts to build back better as homes and other buildings are constructed using higher quality blocks.

At the ceremony, CEMEX Representative Linda Gaillard said to the graduates, “You have the training in your heads and the tools in your hands. Now go out and do your best work.”

These words were met with loud cheers and big smiles.

Focus on Nutrition: Creating Inclusive Partnerships and Deepening our Knowledge

This originally appeared on DipNote.

Recently, I visited Bangladesh to find out how you feed a country that has half the population of the United States squeezed into an area the size of the state of Iowa. One thing is for certain: no one can do it alone. During my trip, I witnessed how partnerships among a broad range of stakeholders — the Rome-based UN agencies, the Government of Bangladesh, donor countries, civil society and the private sector — are coming together to change the way we address chronic hunger. The U.S. government is supporting partnerships that deliver food, including fortified vegetable oil, in conjunction with health and other interventions that help ensure our programs translate into better nutrition outcomes.

Good nutrition is crucial during the first 1,000 days — from the mother’s pregnancy through the child’s second birthday — because it affects lifelong mental and physical development, IQ, school achievement, and, ultimately, work capacity and income generation. Thus, nourishing children not only enables individuals to achieve their full potential, but creates the conditions for nations to grow and prosper. This is one of the reasons why nutrition is the critical link between Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, the game-changing Presidential initiatives that address global hunger and maternal and child health as part of a broader strategy to drive sustainable and broad-based growth.

We know that we have to look at child malnutrition in new ways to accelerate progress toward the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015. We know that better targeting and implementation of nutrition programs can greatly increase the effectiveness of our assistance and, most importantly, the ability of all children to thrive. We also know, as Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton stated at the “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” event in New York last month, that prevention is better, and less expensive, than treatment.

The U.S. government is leading programs that focus on preventing malnutrition before it occurs. Core components of this new approach aim at improving the quality and use of health services, caretaker behaviors and dietary intake. Pregnant women and lactating mothers attend monthly pre- and post-natal services and nutrition education sessions while children up to 24 months are weighed and provided with basic care. Sick or malnourished mothers and children are treated or referred for additional care. Mothers and babies receive supplementary food in addition to a household food ration. As the international community recognizes, we need comprehensive approaches that draw from a broad toolbox in order to prevent and treat malnutrition effectively.

In addition to working to improve our programs on the ground, we are increasing the quality and scope of our food assistance commodities. We recently established a pilot effort to introduce and field-test new or improved micronutrient-fortified food aid products. We are also pursuing innovation around the nutritional content, product composition, and packaging of food products delivered through humanitarian assistance programs. Congress made $14 million available to support these two efforts in fiscal year 2010.

The American people will continue to provide emergency food aid assistance to vulnerable populations. And we are working with top researchers to help ensure that the food aid provided has a high nutritional value. With Tufts University’s School of Nutrition, we are examining nutritional needs and how we can best meet those needs — be they in Bangladesh or the Great Lakes of Central Africa — where I’ve seen incredible work being done. The study includes a scientific review of current enrichment and fortification technologies, a review of methods for delivery of micronutrients and an active consultative process that involves industry, academic and operational experts. Ultimately, it will provide recommendations on how to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations with food aid assistance in a cost-effective manner.

While we expect that some time will be necessary to implement the recommendations, make the necessary changes in formulations, and test new products, our purpose is clear: We are committed to delivering high-quality, nutritious food assistance to people in need. As reaffirmed in the Committee on World Food Security nutrition side event last week, nutrition science has pointed the way to interventions that are basic, low-cost and effective. There is political will to scale up nutrition, align our efforts and measure our results. As Secretary Clinton has emphasized, we must use this remarkable opportunity to make a measurable impact on child hunger and malnutrition.

Millions Soap Up to Commemorate Global Handwashing Day

Water is everywhere — covering almost three-quarters of the earth’s surface — yet nearly one billion people in the world do not have safe water. In addition, inadequate sanitation destroys lives, increases disease and infections, undermines economic growth, and prevents children from attending school.

On October 15th,  we celebrate Global Handwashing Day with the great hope of a healthier future for children and families.

Children washing their hands in celebration of Global Handwashing Day. Photo Credit: USAID/Indonesia

Studies have shown that handwashing with soap can cut deaths from diarrhea by almost 50 percent and deaths from acute respiratory infections by 25 percent – saving more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. Washing ones hands with soap could reduce world-wide rates of diarrhea by almost half and save at least one million lives.

People all over the world wash their hands with water. But washing hands with water alone is significantly less effective than washing hands with soap in terms of removing germs, and handwashing with soap is seldom practiced.

Handwashing with soap works by interrupting the transmission of disease. Hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces. When not washed with soap, hands that have been in contact with human or animal feces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions, and contaminated foods or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to unwitting hosts.

USAID works in partnership with host countries to reduce diarrheal disease prevalence and improve child survival through sustainable improvements in three key hygiene behaviors: hand washing with soap, safe feces disposal, and safe storage and treatment of drinking water at the household level. These health-focused interventions complement community and municipal water supply infrastructure programs by empowering households with the tools to protect their own health.

For the greatest impact, hands should be scrubbed with soap for at least 20 seconds. Hands should always be washed with soap after using the toilet, cleaning a child’s bottom, and before eating or handling food.

On December 1, 2005, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act made access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of U.S. foreign assistance programs. As a result, the U.S. has strengthened our response to water, sanitation and hygiene challenges in developing countries.  Promoting Global Handwashing Day is essential to advancing the goals of the Act.

Last year, the United States invested about $774 million for all water sector and sanitation-related activities in developing countries, and as a result, some 5.7 million people received improved access to safe drinking water and 1.3 million received improved access to sanitation. We want to continue to build on these efforts and those of our partner countries.

USAID @ the 10th Annual Mini University

Over 1,100 people descended on George Washington University’s campus today for lessons on exciting developments in the field of global health. Participants, including USAID and partner staff, students from 16 universities, government officials, and members from the five military branches, were able to choose from over 70 sessions highlighting state-of-the-art information from a variety of technical areas across the Global Health field.  Topics included: how mobile technology is transforming health programs, how health workers are able to reach populations in rural areas, and how offering family planning services can play a critical role in preventing further transmission of HIV.

Health policy expert and special health advisor to the White House, Zeke Emanuel attended the conference to highlight the importance of bringing together global health technical experts with the younger generation of leaders in the field.  He also highlighted the key role USAID will play in the implementation of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI).  Under the GHI, the United States will invest $63 billion over six years to help partner countries improve health outcomes through strengthened health systems – with a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns, and children through programs including infectious disease prevention, nutrition, maternal and child health, and safe water.

How We Can Save Over 4 Million Children

This originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Childhood vaccines are one of the great triumphs of modern medicine. Indeed, parents whose children are vaccinated no longer have to worry about their child’s death or disability from whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis, or a host of other infections. Vaccines are the most cost-effective health care interventions there are. A dollar spent on a childhood vaccination not only helps save a life, but greatly reduces spending on future healthcare.

Fortunately, the global effort to date has resulted in 80 percent of children or more being reached worldwide and many deaths are averted each year because of that. Unfortunately, thousands of children still die every day from vaccine-preventable diseases in developing countries. Life-saving vaccines we take for granted haven’t yet reached them. But the good news is that there is a solution, and we are helping to solve that problem. Over the past decade, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), founded and supported in part by the U.S., has immunized more than 250 million children, preventing the deaths of over 5 million…[cont.]

Click here to read more.

U.S. Pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

This originally appeared on  DipNote.

I am in New York for the Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The United States is committed to the success of the Global Fund as part of our shared goal to save lives devastated by these diseases. Our investment is a central component of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative, along with our large bilateral programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and U.S. programs focused on issues such as maternal and child health.

We strongly support the Global Fund’s collaborative, country-driven, performance-based approach, and we are proud to be its largest donor, having provided more than $5.1 billion to date. As President Obama said in his speech at the Millennium Development Goals Summit last month, we are strengthening our commitment to the Global Fund.

I was pleased to announce yesterday that the Obama Administration is making a three-year pledge of $4 billion to the Global Fund for 2011 through 2013. This marks the first time that the United States has made a multi-year pledge to the Global Fund.

What’s more, this pledge is a 38 percent increase in the U.S. investment over the preceding three years and is by far the largest dollar increase of any donor nation this year.

Why are we taking this step? It will save and improve lives of those devastated by these three diseases. It will increase life expectancies in affected countries.

Moreover, this pledge is linked to a firm call to action that calls upon the Fund to make needed reforms and for other donor nations to share in the responsibility of saving more lives effectively and efficiently.

Simply put, we have three goals with this historic pledge:

First, we need to drive needed reforms and ensure smart, effective investments that will build upon the success of the Fund and save more lives. At this conference, the U.S. has called upon the Global Fund Board to develop an action agenda that includes clear timelines and measures progress so all parties can be held accountable for clear action steps. You can read our “Call to Action” at www.PEPFAR.gov.

Second, we made this pledge to leverage other donors’ contributions. This commitment serves as a challenge to other donors — including other governments and the private sector — to do their share to save more lives, alleviate suffering and increase life expectancies. Meeting the need is a global responsibility. All donors have a shared responsibility to not only sufficiently invest in the Fund, but to ensure that its investments are achieving the ultimate goal of saving lives. Moreover, country grantees have an obligation to continue to improve their health systems to ensure that investments are made effectively and efficiently, and the U.S. will continue to support them in building the capacity to do so.

Finally, this pledge shows continued U.S. leadership to the ultimate measurement of success — increasing the number of lives saved. This pledge is part of a comprehensive approach to combating AIDS, TB, and malaria through President Obama’s Global Health Initiative. In addition to financing, as part of our effort to strengthen Global Fund grant performance and impact, the U.S. will increase our already substantial investment in technical assistance, capacity building, and country level coordination.

Any future increases in U.S. funding will be tied to fulfillment of the Global Fund’s action plan, as well as to the relative scale-up of contributions by other donors to the Fund. In short, all stakeholders must come together to build upon the past success achieved by the Fund.

Ultimately, this pledge will allow the Global Fund to do its job — and do it better. We are proud of our relationship with and commitment to the Fund and the work it has done over the years. This unprecedented pledge is a signal to the world that even in these difficult times, the U.S. is firmly committed to fighting these devastating diseases and ultimately saving more lives.

This Week at USAID – October 4, 2010

USAID joins the global community in recognition of World Habitat Day. The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October as annual World Habitat Day to raise awareness of the need for improved shelter and highlight the connection between human health and housing.  This year’s Habitat theme is “Better City, Better Life.”

Administrator Shah travels to Columbia University to address their Business School’s Social Enterprise Conference.  Dr Shah will focus on how USAID is pursuing innovative models by working with the private sector and leveraging social enterprise.

USAID’s Global Health Bureau along with the George Washington University Center for Global Health will host the 10th Annual Global Health Min-University.  Over 1,000 people will attend more than 50 unique sessions to learn evidence-based best practices and state-of-the-art information across the global health field.

The United Nations Designated the First Monday in October as Annual World Habitat Day

On Oct. 4, 2010, USAID will join the global community in recognition of World Habitat Day. The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October as annual World Habitat Day to raise awareness of the need for improved shelter and highlight the connection between human health and housing.  This year’s Habitat theme is “Better City, Better Life.”

USAID understands there is a direct correlation between a country’s population, and the pressure growing demographic trends place on the environment, health systems, economy and housing availability.  Since 1965, USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health has worked to create programs that better understand this synergistic relationship. These programs play an important role in helping countries achieve a sustainable population size so they are better able to balance available resources. Achieving sustainable populations will help ensure the availability of decent housing for all.

Visit Habitat.org for ideas on how you can take action in your community this year on World Habitat Day.

From the Field

In Madagascar, as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), we will launch an indoor residual spraying campaign (IRS).  The campaign will cover 16 districts in Madagascar, including 6 in the central highlands, and 10 in the northwest and southwest. IRS involves the coordinated, timely spraying of the inside walls of houses with insecticides. Mosquitoes are killed when they land on these sprayed walls, reducing malaria transmission.

In Senegal, a report of a study on the Feminization of HIV/AIDS in Senegal will be released.  According to the 2008 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) report, approximately two women are HIV positive for every HIV-positive man. This feminization of the epidemic is a sharp shift from the beginning of the epidemic, when the numbers of HIV-positive men were higher. Women 25 to 29 years of age now have the highest prevalence of any age group at 1.5 percent, according to the 2005 Senegal Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS), with the next highest group, men 35 to 39 years of age, at 0.7 percent.

In Zimbabwe, we will launch the Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE) Consortium.  The PRIZE consortium is an initiative funded through the Food for Peace program to address the acute relief and recovery needs of Zimbabweans arising from economic, political and environmental shocks that have plagued Zimbabwe.  It provides emergency food aid and seeks to improve long term food security through agricultural program and development of community skills.

Nigeria @ 50: Microenterprises Support Caregiver Families

Like many caregivers in Kano, northern Nigeria, Jamila is responsible for raising her children and caring for relatives affected by HIV/AIDS. Previously, she relied on her husband or other sources for financial support. After her husband lost his job, and with six people in her household, Jamila had to find a means to provide for her family financially.

Jamila and her husband display their peanut butter. Business skills training has empowered many women caregivers to engage in effective business practices. Photo Credit: Fernando Maldonado, USAID/MARKETS

In 2009, Jamila joined about 90 other caregivers from Bauchi, Kano, and Cross River States to attend the MicroEnterprise Fundamentals™ training course offered by USAID through its Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites project. This training equips participants with practical business skills to become successful entrepreneurs.

After the course, Jamila combined her modest savings with a small loan from a community savings and loan group to finance her business. Within a couple of weeks she was able to generate a healthy profit and contribute to her household’s upkeep.

“The most important learning I took from the training was how to plan my business. I now allocate my income between business expenses, personal expenses, and savings,” said Jamila.

Jamila is currently expanding her business. As a result of training on product differentiation, Jamila adds spices to her peanut butter, which she packs in attractive containers. Demand for her product has increased. She has even gained the confidence and financial resources to start a poultry business.

“I am now the main contributor to my household and we make up to $200 in profit each month.”

Like Jamila, many caregivers are reaping the benefits of the USAID training. A recent survey of caregivers trained in 2009 showed that over 50 percent started new businesses, and nearly 100 percent of the respondents reported an increase in income.

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