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The Story Behind the Statistics: Victims of Rape in Benin Find Justice

The Statistics: In Benin, more than 75 percent of women are victims of violence, and 44 percent are sexually abused.

The Story: Déborah and her husband Djobo live in the village of Guiguiso in northern Benin. On the night of September 9, 2009, three men assaulted the couple while they slept. Djobo was left bleeding and unconscious and Déborah was raped. After Djobo regained consciousness, he alerted the village. The coordinator of a USAID project, which aims to reduce violence against women and girls in all of Benin’s 77 municipalities, promptly informed the police commissioner and project facilitator in nearby Bassila. With the help of the entire population of Guiguiso, the three men were tracked down and taken into custody before sunrise.

Déborah and Djobo sought medical attention from the Bassila hospital and, with medical certificates in hand, they went to the police commissioner. After hearing the accused, the victims, and the witnesses, the commissioner presented the case to the prosecutor. Today, the three accused men await trial from jail.

In Benin, more than 75 percent of women are victims of violence, and 44 percent are sexually abused. Since 2007, USAID has helped to not only promote greater recognition and acceptance of women’s rights in Benin but also get more women victims of violence to seek help from the Benin Government’s Social Service Centers and the justice system.

“The injury we suffered as a result of this gang rape may pass with time,” Déborah said weeks after the assault, “but I dare not imagine what life would be like had we not received help from USAID, all the way from the hospital, the police station, and down to the prosecutor’s office to press charges.”

From November 2007 to September 2010, the U.S. Government has assisted in 2,782 cases of physical and sexual violence of which 996 reached the Courts of First Instance. This is nearly seven times the number planned for the life of the project, as it is very difficult for Beninese women to press charges against the men who abused them.

“Before,” a Beninese judge said, “we would attempt to resolve cases of gender-based violence ‘amicably’ and out-of-court. This is no longer the case because of USAID programs which help the victims understand and pursue their cases in the court system; and mounting pressure from the media, which act as essential partners in the cause of justice for women.”

The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women:

From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog every day to bring much needed attention to the reality of millions of women around the world who are victims of violence and abuse.  Our blog posts will focus on the root causes of violence and individual stories of women and girls who lived through it.

Follow us on Twitter. When you see us tweet something interesting, retweet it!

Become a fan of our USAID for Global Health Facebook page and feel free to share stories, photos, and videos that demonstrate your support for women’s rights!

Gender Equality: The Development Community’s Key Ingredient to Realizing a Positive ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is a popular metric used by organizations to determine if what they spend is adding value to their bottom line. For-profit organizations typically measure the bottom line in numerical terms; the bottom line for the U.S. Agency for International Development is measured in progress toward the betterment of the human condition.

What exactly does it mean to invest in gender equality; and how does it contribute to USAID’s bottom line?  Our programs focus on women and girls because it is a goal that has intrinsic merit and because long-term social and economic progress requires that women have the same legal protection under the law as men, especially when it comes to critical access to health services that protect them from the many health risks they face in their lifetime.

Advancing rights and providing support to women and girls is a high-yield investment that trickles down to the foundation of a strong and stable society. For example, a recent study in Zambia showed that every dollar spent in family planning saved four dollars in other development areas. This ROI was similar to that found in studies completed in another 28 countries. With smaller, more sustainable populations, governments are able to spend more money on education, maternal health, immunization, water sanitation, and a multitude of infectious diseases.

The barriers that block the road to progress for billions of women in developing countries are a key focus of development organizations like USAID.  For decades our programs have been dedicated to ending the practice of gender-based violence, sex trafficking, childhood marriage, and reducing maternal deaths which needlessly claim the life of one woman every minute.

USAID will continue to support programs that work to unlock the tremendous potential of women as economic and social catalysts. Achieving a positive ROI will allow for the recovery of billions of dollars in lost productivity and healthcare expenses around the world. USAID feels the bottom line should be a hard line against the injustices inflicted upon women. The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. The tested and undying spirit of women is transcendent—and so is this opportunity to get it right.

The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women:

From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog each day that aims to prove a single point: The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. If you are moved by what you read and want to share, we’ve made it easy for you. Click here to find out how.

Follow us on Twitter. When you see us tweet something interesting, retweet it!

Become a fan of our USAID for Global Health Facebook page and feel free to share stories, photos, and videos that demonstrate your support for women’s rights!

USAID Supports Innovative “Survive” Partnership To Reduce Breast And Cervical Cancers In The Republic Of Georgia

On Monday, November 22, Dr. Nino Berdzuli, at a presentation before representatives of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and staff members of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), highlighted the Survive Project, a public private partnership supported by USAID and implemented by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc (JSI), to improve awareness, screening ,and prevention of cervical and breast cancers in the Republic of Georgia.  Dr. Berdzuli is a trained OB-GYN from Georgia and serves as Maternal and Reproductive Health Technical Advisor at JSI.

In the Republic of Georgia, breast cancer is the single leading underlying cause of death for women aged 15-49.  Within cancers, cervical cancer is the second leading killer.  These were the findings of the recent Georgian Reproductive Age Mortality Survey (RAMOS) conducted through Georgian Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. CDC, and Georgia’s Ministry of Health to investigate the deaths of women of the reproductive age (15-49) who died in 2006.  The results were published in 2009.

A young woman and her daughter attend the ‘Race for the Cure’ in Georgia. Photo Credit: JSI

From its inception, the Survive Project has received strong support from First Lady of Georgia Sandra Roelofs, the Municipality of Tbilisi, UNFPA, and other civil society groups.  It also has benefited from advocacy campaigns such as the Race for the Cure. Under the patronage of the First Lady, the National Screening Center was established and began providing Georgia’s first organized breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment of precancerous diseases for women residing in Tbilisi.

The objectives of the Survive Project were: 1) improving the knowledge and skills of health care providers on evidence-based cervical cancer prevention and breast and cervical cancer screening practices; 2) increasing utilization of cervical cancer screening and breast cancer early detection practices by strengthening existing health care facilities and programs and by building a  referral system; and 3) advancing cervical and breast cancer early detection through informed and empowered health consumers. Screening statistics from the National Screening Center showed progressive increases in the number of women screened for breast and cervical cancer.

Under the Survive Project, a total of 445 providers (366 family doctors and 79 OB/GYNs) completed cervical and breast cancer training courses.  Screening statistics from the National Screening Center showed an 89.7 percent increase in the average number of women screened monthly in the Center.  During the activity, the percentage of women diagnosed in early stages of cancer (vs. late stages when the cancer is more difficult or impossible to treat) increased three-fold in Tbilisi.  The vast majority of women (75%) that underwent screening reported that they learned about the screening program through the TV and outreach awareness raising campaigns.  The Survive Project also conducted large-scale educational campaigns covering television, radio, targeted mailings, text messages and events such as the “Race for the Cure” and the “Pearl of Wisdom” campaign against cervical cancer.

As Dr. Berdzuli noted during her presentation, “Survive was able to accomplish significant results over a short period of time due to the leadership of the First Lady of Georgia and the Tbilisi Municipality, the enthusiasm, confidence and commitment of local NGO partners, and the strong coalition of public and private donors supporting the effort.”

Learn more about USAID’s health programs.

USAID Commends Major Advance in HIV Prevention Research

Results released today from the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative (iPrEx) study confirmed that daily oral use of a combination antiretroviral (ARV), Truvada, reduced the risk of HIV infection by 44 percent among men who have sex with men. This historic iPrEx trial provides the first proof of concept that oral PrEP of an ARV can prevent HIV transmission.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) congratulates the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology-UCSF, and most importantly, the 2,499 pioneering participants who volunteered for this important clinical trial on the promising results from iPrEx.  Global iPrEx is the first large efficacy study to evaluate the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men in Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

These promising results also encourage other research partners to continue working on more PrEP and microbicide options which may lead to new tools for HIV prevention.  The AIDS pandemic calls for a dynamic variety of HIV prevention methods to ensure those at risk have choices to use the one that best suits the needs of their lifestyle.

According to new UNAIDS estimates, women worldwide account for more than half of all HIV infections, and in sub-Saharan Africa continue to bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic, USAID will continue critical research and development work in PrEP for women at high risk.  The FemPrEP clinical trial—led by FHI with support from USAID—is designed to test the safety and effectiveness of a daily dose of Truvada for HIV prevention.  Close to 4,000 HIV-negative women who are at higher risk of HIV are being enrolled in five sites in four countries: Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe; results are expected 2012.

Based on the positive results from the CAPRISA 004 trial which were released in July, USAID will continue to support the regulatory approval of 1% tenofovir gel after further confirmation of its effectiveness.  USAID is committed to ensuring the launch of a new generation of products designed expressly for women and capable of preventing the transmission of HIV.

Finding a woman-controlled method of prevention is critical in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  In line with President Obama’s Global Health Initiative, USAID is committed to focusing on the needs of women and girls in its health programming worldwide.

USAID continues to build on a solid foundation of robust science and new technologies, enabling innovation to redefine and strengthen U.S. development assistance globally.

Up Close and Personal With Our Global Health

I recently traveled to Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mozambique to visit a wide range of global health programs supported by USAID and other U.S. Government Agencies including the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Defense, and the Peace Corps.

My colleague, Zeke Emanuel, from the White House Office of Management and Budget, blogged extensively during this two-week trip about President Obama’s Global Health Initiative.  This whole-of-government effort encourages a more integrated approach to global health — building upon historic efforts under the Bush Administration through PEPFAR and PMI with a renewed focus on child and maternal health, TB and other diseases.  It also strengthens health systems to ultimately save more lives.

Is funding for global health a never-ending waste of money in which billions are spent but nothing gets better? Or are we being selfish and grossly unethical, because we are unwilling to spend a few hundred dollars more per year in order to save a life of a poor person half way around the world?

These are tough questions, and Zeke addresses them in his first blog entry, now featured at The New Republic.

Democratic Republic of Congo Joins Malaria Initiative

On Tuesday, November 16th, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) became the 16th focus country of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and one of the most important. DRC is the second largest and third most populated country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 95 percent of the population – some 69 million people – live in malaria endemic areas and suffer nearly 30 million cases of this treatable and preventable disease. Malaria accounts for nearly half of the deaths of the 620,000 children in DRC who die before their fifth birthday.

The launch of PMI was held in Mbuji Mayi, capital city of East Kasai. Admiral Timothy Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, U.S. Ambassador to DRC James Entwistle, and USAID Mission Director Stephen Haykin joined thousands of Congolese for the public launch of the program, which included distributing long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) and preventive malaria treatment to pregnant women. Next year, PMI will procure 2 million LLINs to support the universal coverage strategy in Katanga Province, which is part of the National Malaria Control Program’s (NMCP) five-year strategic plan for universal coverage. PMI will procure another 645,000 LLINs for routine distribution in 112 health zones in the four provinces where USAID works, which will be part of the NMCP’s distribution plan for 2009-2014.

With its large population, geographic size, and heavy burden of malaria, the DRC presents a major challenge to reducing morbidity and mortality attributable to malaria in Africa. As with other PMI focus countries, the goal of PMI in the DRC will be to expand malaria control efforts to reach large areas of the country, achieving a 50 percent reduction in malaria burden by targeting those most vulnerable to malaria – children under the age of five and pregnant women. PMI will work with the NMCP to provide LLINs and antimalarial drugs, help strengthen health systems, and integrate malaria control and prevention activities with other health programs in 112 health zones in the four target provinces. PMI will also help identify and fill gaps in other malaria interventions in close collaboration with other partners, including donors, civil society organizations, faith-based groups, and the private sector.

Malaria prevention and treatment is a core component of the U.S. Government’s development policy and the Administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). Rather than attack diseases individually, GHI focuses on tying health programs together, creating an integrated and coordinated system of care. For example, PMI is expanding efforts to support health systems strengthening and to integrate with USAID’s maternal and child health (MCH) programs and the President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Given that malaria control is essentially a maternal and child health program, PMI has been working to ensure that all its activities at the health facility level are integrated with the MCH program.

The Global Health Initiative and the President’s Malaria Initiative share a common focus on women — improving their health status benefits women, as well as their families and communities. By expanding women’s access to care, increasing the focus on women’s health outcomes, and incorporating women’s perspectives into health systems, the GHI and PMI will impact women, their children, and their families.

The United States Government has supported malaria control in DRC during the past 10 years as a key component of the health program supported by USAID in almost half of the country, including Katanga, South Kivu and East and West Kasai provinces. During the past two years, the DRC has conducted mass distribution of LLINs in Kinshasa, Equateur, Orientale and Maniema provinces. Similar campaigns are planned in Katanga and East and West Kasai in the near future. These life-saving bed nets are also being provided for routine distribution through antenatal and child health clinics. As a result of these programs, since 2008, nearly 30 million LLINS have been brought into the country by the government of the DRC and the donor community.

From the Field

In Pakistan, we will hand over medical equipment to 1500 female health workers.  These practitioners will receive a set of equipment to create makeshift health units and provide health services in flood-affected areas of Pakistan.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we will launch The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).  Under the 2008 Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde Global Leadership against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act (Lantos/Hyde Act) funding for PMI was expanded to two additional countries – DRC and Nigeria becoming the 16th and 17th focus-countries.

In the Philippines, we will hold a Clean Energy Business Plan Competition.  USAID will partner with the Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN); a global public-private partnership that matches innovative clean energy projects with sources of financing.

Pic of the Week: Rapid Diagnostic Test for Malaria

(At left) Mr. Moussa Diagne, Entomologist with the Parasite Control Service in Senegal, performs a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for malaria on Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the White House Office of Management and BudgetMr. Moussa Diagne (left), Entomologist with the Parasite Control Service in Senegal, performs a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for malaria on Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during the first leg of a three-country visit to health programs in Africa. RDTs, which were introduced in late 2007, have proven to be a more scientific method for identifying malaria cases. Last week, a report released by the international partnership Roll Back Malaria announced that in just one year, Senegal has managed to reduce the number of cases of malaria by 41%. Senegal is a focus country of the President’s Malaria Initiative. Photo is from Nicole Schiegg/USAID.

Midwives from Afghanistan Gather for Capacity Building Training in Alexandria, Egypt

On October 21, USAID/Egypt Director James Bever and Dr. Hassan Sallam, Director of the Suzanne Mubarak Regional Center for Women’s Health and Development (SMC) participated in the graduation ceremony of a mix of 31 Afghan Midwives of various ages and from various provinces. The Midwives attended the training program at the SMC in Alexandria and it was funded through the Health Services Support Project, implemented by USAID/Afghanistan.

Afghan midwives with their Egyptian trainer at the end of the USAID/Afghanistan funded capacity building training held in Egypt. Photo Credit: USAID/Egypt

Afghan midwives with their Egyptian trainer at the end of the USAID/Afghanistan funded capacity building training held in Egypt. Photo Credit: USAID/Egypt

The SMC was selected as a training provider for its excellent results in the areas of women’s health and development in Egypt and in neighboring countries. The SMC is the lead partner organization for the USAID/Egypt funded Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness. The training focused on the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to provide care to Afghani women with the ultimate goal of ensuring safe motherhood.

In his remarks during the event, the USAID/Egypt Director lauded Egypt as it has achieved its Millennium Development Goal Number 4 of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 and it is approaching the achievement of MDG 5 in reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015.  “Egypt is now leveraging those achievements by hosting training programs like these where our Egyptian counterparts can share valuable lessons learned and effective practices with efficient health practitioners from Afghanistan to improve health not only in Egypt, but around the world.”

U.S.-India People to People Conference: Building the Foundation for a Strong Partnership

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

Tomorrow, the Department of State will host the U.S.-India People to People (P2P) Conference. Ahead of President Obama’s visit to India, this event will highlight the crucial role of Indian-Americans in the U.S.-India relationship. Secretary Clinton has been clear that connecting with all citizens, not just government officials, is essential to cultivating long-term relationships. While government cooperation remains essential, it is the myriad people-to-people connections that continue to define and further deepen the U.S.-India partnership.

The P2P conference will provide a grassroots discussion forum on four areas important to both countries: renewable energy, global health, education, and economic empowerment. By bringing together innovators and thinkers in these fields, this conference seeks to strengthen the personal networks that spark innovation. We aim to continue working with Indian Americans and others to strengthen and leverage such networks for the mutual benefit of both our countries. Tomorrow’s conference is only the start of our conversation, and we look forward to following up with all the conference attendees and participants.

You can stay connected to the conference by following the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on Facebook and Twitter.

The People-To-People Conference will be hosted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with the Indian American Leadership Council (IALC) and the American India Foundation (AIF) in the Loy Henderson Auditorium from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on October 28, 2010. The program will consist of panel discussions related to the five pillars of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, specifically Renewable Energy, Global Health, Education and Economic Empowerment. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats will provide opening remarks. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah will give the keynote address and Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar has been invited to give closing remarks. Other senior U.S. government officials will also be in attendance and participating in the various conference sessions. Click here for more information.

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