USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Health

On the Front Lines in Africa

Nowhere is development such an important part of U.S. engagement as it is in Africa. In anticipation of the President’s trip next week, we thought we’d share some of our favorite FrontLines stories about our work in Africa. President Obama’s strategies on global development and Africa have laid the foundation for a new approach that focus on sustainable development and a new operational model for assistance. We look forward to the opportunities that this visit will bring.

Our Favorites include:

Food Security

Child Survival

Innovation

Women and Development

Conflict Mitigation and Prevention

  • Ethiopia: Peace Brokers: USAID-sponsored reconciliation efforts usher in historic truce accord in Ethiopia’s pastoral south.

Democracy, Human Rights, and Government

Humanitarian Assistance

Resilience

  • Niger: Niger’s Tree of Life: In the face of recurring food insecurity and acute malnutrition, USAID is promoting the cultivation of hardy, vitamin-packed moringa as one way to build resilience in communities in the drought-prone Sahel.

Follow @USAID and @rajshah on Twitter for updates on the trip and to learn more about our work in Africa. Join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica.

Introducing SILCS: It’s Not Your Mother’s Diaphragm

In the early 20th century,  distribution of and education about contraceptives were illegal in the United States, leading to the widespread use of ineffective contraceptive methods. This continued until Margaret Sanger visited a Dutch birth control clinic where she learned about diaphragms and thus began a revolution in the United States. The diaphragm was the first safe and effective woman-initiated contraception in much of the world and was widely used in the United States and other countries until the introduction of the birth control pill. While use of the device has decreased over the past 50 years, a comeback may be in the wings.

The SILCS Diaphragm, set to officially launch in Europe this June, is the first new cervical barrier method that will enter the market in more than a decade.

The SILCS Diaphragm is the first new cervical barrier method that will enter the market in more than a decade. Photo credit: Kessel Marketing

PATH, in collaboration with CONRAD and funded by USAID, designed the one-size-fits-most SILCS Diaphragm to increase access to nonhormonal barrier contraception for women in low-resource settings, as well as developed countries. PATH led a user-centered design process involving input from women, their partners, and providers. The design was then verified in clinical studies by couples in the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States. The single size should remove the need for a pelvic exam and fit assessment which are obstacles to both providers and women in many settings.   PATH licensed the SILCS design to Kessel Marketing & Vertriebs GmbH of Frankfurt, Germany, who will introduce the device as the Caya™ contoured diaphragm.

While SILCS was developed to expand women’s options for nonhormonal barrier contraception, SILCS has added value due to its potential to be used as a multipurpose prevention technology when paired with tenofovir gel—a product currently in Phase III clinical testing—which is designed to protect women from acquiring HIV.

CONRAD, which owns a license for tenofovir gel, is working on a protocol for a study that will assess the safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of the SILCS plus tenofovir gel. Another study will evaluate the potential of a modified tenofovir gel as a contraceptive by pairing it with the SILCS to assess their ability to prevent sperm from penetrating cervical mucus.

PATH is working with research partners in India, South Africa, and Uganda to identify opportunities and challenges for future introduction of the single-size diaphragm in developing countries. There are 222 million women worldwide who would like to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of contraception. Some women are either unable or unwilling to use hormonal contraceptives, and many also have infrequent sex and prefer to use a product that is on demand and woman initiated.

Imagine a world where every child born is planned and their mothers are free of HIV infection. As Louis Armstrong sang, what a wonderful world this could be.

Visit Medintim to learn more.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues.

Making a Fifth Birthday Within Reach

It’s been a year since the United States joined UNICEF and the governments of Ethiopia and India in a bold pledge to end preventable child deaths within a generation. Last week marked the first anniversary of the Child Survival Call to Action, which has since spurred a rejuvenated global movement under the banner “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.” In the past year, 174 governments pledged to redouble efforts for children. More than 200 civil-society organizations, 91 faith-based organizations, and 290 faith leaders from 52 countries signed their own pledges of support.

June 14 marked the 1 year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action. Photo credit: John Snow, Inc.

In the Rayburn House Office Building yesterday, members of Congress, PATH, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, the US Fund for UNICEF, and partner organizations celebrated the global commitment and the progress made so far. We also reminded ourselves of how critical it is to sustain this momentum because, to borrow the words of Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director, “The story of child survival over the past two decades is one of significant progress and unfinished business.”

Progress: dramatic drop in child deaths

The number of children under age five who die each year has dropped from nearly 12 million in 1990 to less than 7 million in 2011. Translated another way, every day 14,000 children who would have otherwise died now live to see their fifth birthdays.

Particularly heartening is the progress made in countries that have carried some of the heaviest burden of child mortality. Nine countries, from Bangladesh to Cambodia to Rwanda, reduced their under-five mortality rate by 60 percent or more.

How far these countries have come is a testament to the unwavering commitment and sustained efforts of governments, the public and private sector, donors and nonprofits, civil-society groups, and communities. Other factors underpinning this global progress are impressive gains made in the research and development of medical technologies, improved ways of delivering health services, and bold new thinking in how we overcome roadblocks and speed up innovation for health equity.

Unfinished business: 7 million children

Today, almost two-thirds of child deaths are caused by diseases and conditions that rarely take a child’s life in wealthy countries, including diarrhea, malaria, tetanus, and measles. These deaths are also concentrated in a small number of countries—more than four-fifths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This health inequity is deepened by poverty, violence, political fragility, and social disparity.

As the tremendous progress to date has shown, these are not insurmountable factors—but overcoming them requires ongoing cross-sector collaboration, multi-intervention solutions, and investment in innovative approaches.

Innovating health technologies

I joined PATH as head of its Drug Development program just under a year ago because I saw how global health organizations are driving many of the transformative innovations needed to achieve big goals like the Child Survival Call to Action. For more than 30 years, PATH and our partners have advanced innovative health technologies to protect children from devastating illnesses, make childbirth safer, and provide families with tools for a healthy life. Tools like a vaccine against meningitis A developed specifically for Africa, which has been introduced in ten countries and protected more than 103 million people from epidemic meningitis. Or tools like vaccines for rotavirus and pneumonia, which have been introduced in 14 GAVI-eligible countries, or a feeding technology that ensures that premature babies and those with a cleft palate can access lifesaving breast milk.

On the first anniversary of the Call to Action, I feel even more convinced of the importance of research and development of innovative health technologies to fight against the leading causes of child death. This is why at PATH we are currently working on solutions to tackle the top child killers, like diarrhea, on many fronts. We are developing new drugs to shorten the severity and duration of diarrhea before it becomes fatal, while also working to improve the effectiveness of proven diarrhea therapies like oral rehydration solution. PATH is also working on new vaccines against the leading causes of diarrheal disease, helping countries increase access to existing vaccines for both rotavirus and pneumonia, developing and delivering safe water treatment and storage products, and advancing health devices, such as a user-friendly product design for amoxicillin dispersible tablets to treat pneumonia.

The road ahead

Yesterday’s briefing is a reminder of the critical value of sustained commitment to our children. It is an opportunity to emphasize the power of innovation for child health and get inspired by the momentum behind the current efforts to create effective health solutions.

Among other factors, development of innovative health technologies and new methods to deliver these solutions to the people who need them will continue to drive the current momentum forward toward our common goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths. Because access to necessary vaccines, drugs, basic medical and maternal care, clean water, and adequate nutrition should not be marked by a line of health inequity.

June 14 marked the 1 year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action. One year ago, leaders committed to ending preventable child deaths. Learn more about A Promise Renewed.

 

A Promise Renewed: A Great Global Ambition and Every Father’s Dream

This originally appeared on the Huffington Post Blog

What will you be doing this Father’s Day?

Reading homemade cards? Playing catch with your kids? Grilling in the back yard with the family?

We often take such simple pleasures for granted. But, elsewhere, millions of fathers around the world will struggle to help their children survive and thrive.

In our respective roles, we meet these fathers — in remote villages, bustling cities, and refugee camps. They tell us inspiring stories of their fight to care for their families, but also the heartbreaking accounts of much-loved sons and daughters who have lost their lives to preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV.

A mother plays with her infant as she waits outside a health post in Ethiopia. Photo credit: USAID

Every year, 6.9 million children under five die from these and other causes. 19,000 every day. That is equivalent to a stadium like Madison Square Garden filled to capacity.

Even crueler is the geography of fate. A child in sub-Saharan Africa is over 14 times more likely to die before reaching her or his 5th birthday than a child in the United States.

These deaths are more than a tragedy for individual children. They shatter families, diminish communities and hold nations back from progress and prosperity.

But amidst these sad statistics, there is cause for hope. Increasingly, innovations — new products, new technology and new applications of existing technology — help us reach the most disadvantaged communities and the most vulnerable children quickly and inexpensively.

For example, there are groundbreaking long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that drastically reduce the number of children who die from malaria.

Or the three-drug regimen in one pill daily for pregnant women living with HIV. It protects their own health and helps prevent their babies and partners from HIV infection.

Or new vaccines to prevent pneumonia, diarrhea and cholera.

Thanks to innovations like these, we have an unprecedented opportunity to virtually end preventable child death. And we can do it in a generation.

To reach this goal — one year ago — the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the U.S., with UNICEF’s support, rallied the world behind the Child Survival Call to Action. It inspired a global movement — Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. Momentum continues to build and, today, 174 countries and over 400 civil society and faith-based organizations have taken up the charge in their own commitments.

In Zambia, First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba is helping to roll out a plan focused on nutrition and immunization that will save more than 26,000 children each year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ministry of Health is implementing a plan to save half a million children by 2015. This includes distributing pre-packaged family kits that contain medicines and other supplies to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Similar initiatives are underway in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Yemen and beyond, where governments, civil society and the private sector are mobilizing to fulfill the promise to give every child the best possible start in life.

In today’s world, great global ambitions require strong partnerships between the public and private sector. In India, a small pharmaceutical company is developing a new zinc syrup to help get a life-saving treatment for diarrhea into rural communities. Through the Helping Babies Breathe Alliance, private sector entrepreneurs and medical professionals are training and equipping over 100,000 health workers in 54 countries with life-saving tools such as affordable resuscitation equipment. The results are impressive. A study from Tanzania showed that these tools led to a 47 per cent drop in newborn deaths during the first 24 hours of life.

For the first time in history, we have the tools to end preventable child deaths. Now, we need to build the momentum.

Through new partnerships and a relentless focus on results, we can give fathers everywhere the same opportunity that so many of us will have today: to watch our children grow and thrive; to cheer them at a ball game; to nurture their curiosity; to support their dreams and take pride in their achievements. Isn’t that what every father wants for his child?

Co-authored by Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Follow Anthony Lake on Twitter @UNICEF.
Follow Raj Shah on Twitter @rajshah.

Photo of the Week: Improving Nutrition in Honduras

Mothers participating in the USAID ACCESO program in Santa Maria, La Paz, Honduras are being taught how to prepare more nutritious food for their undernourished children by incorporating the vegetables they grow in their gardens into their traditional rice and tortilla diet. Here a young child eats a spoonful of visibly nutritious rice, as his older sister looks on. Photo is from Michelle Los Banos-Jardina, USUN Rome.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

It’s The Silent Killer: Undernutrition

Shivani Cotter is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Shivani Cotter

This morning, my daughters ate a hearty breakfast. They had eggs, toast and a yogurt each. What do you think women and children in poverty-stricken regions throughout the world ate (or did they)?

I remember reading an article by Anap Shah a few years ago that I have never been able to get out of my head. The heading read, “Today, around 21,000 children died around the world.”

I was shocked! Living in a bubble, I rarely paid attention to how devastating the numbers were (about 1 child dying every 4 seconds)! Although written a few years ago, that article was the catalyst for my quest to learn more about global nutrition and it’s effect on women and children.

Anap Shah caused two conflicting emotions: First, relief that my children didn’t fall into one of those statistics. Second, sick to my stomach that I even felt that way!

Did you know that nearly 165 million children under 5-years-old suffer from undernutrition today? According to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million under-five child deaths annually. The numbers are stunning but don’t have to be. The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to reducing them. It’s working towards building a better future for mothers and children.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, has already improved nutrition and helped people lead healthier lives in Zambia, Guatemala, Tanzania and more. Through Feed the Future in the past year alone, 12 million children have been positively affected — and that is just the beginning. Feed the Future shares their knowledge with the people in poverty-stricken locations and support country-owned programs addressing undernutrition. Their monthly newsletter is filled with information regarding their latest goals and progress.

USAID believes in integrating their approach on dealing with global health and nutrition by forging the right partnerships through initiatives like Feed the Future. USAID, on behalf of the U.S. Government, signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, and supports the Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, which is chock filled with information about the importance of improving nutrition globally. Their goal is to ensure every child is given the best start possible in life.

The first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are the most critical for a child’s development. By focusing on maternal health and young children, the U.S. Government through USAID and the Feed the Future initiative are striving to cut the death toll for children under 5 years old. Find out more about their goal and ways to help here.

Shivani Cotter is a writer, blogger and social media activist. Through her blog, TrendingMom.com, Shivani is dedicated to teaching others how to live positive and fulfilling lives as well as leaving a lovely legacy for her daughters. Shivani is part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of 1000+ mom bloggers, in seventeen countries, who spread good news about the amazing work non-profit organizations and NGOs are doing around the world.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

SPRING to Better Nutrition Across the Globe

Amanda Pomeroy is a Research & Evaluation Advisor for the SPRING Project. Photo credit: SPRING

Evidence has been mounting to support the hypothesis that maternal undernutrition, as well as in-utero infant and young child undernutrition, are correlated with the risk of developing nutrition related non-communicable diseases (N-RNCDs) later in life. Since 2012, the Strengthening Partnerships, Results, Innovations around Nutrition Globally (SPRING) Project has been mining this evidence base for information that can help program planners and policy makers better conceptualize what this correlation could mean in practical terms for maternal and child nutrition interventions.

SPRING has completed several activities that contribute to this effort. As a first step, we conducted descriptive analyses of secondary data in selected regions and countries to explore where future N-RNCD risks may lie, and to identify how undernutrition programs may need to be tailored to reduce health problems as children and adolescents reach adulthood. Currently SPRING has ten country profiles across Africa and Southeast Asia, and two regional profiles that summarize trends across countries for these two regions.

Based on these descriptive analyses for our selected countries, we found that most nutritionally at-risk countries had several sub-populations with overlapping nutritional burdens (where both under- and over-nutrition were present at the same time within the same household or same individual). While one would expect this to consistently happen in the wealthier, more educated households, this pattern was not uniform across countries, and several countries such as Zambia and Malawi, the less wealthy, rural, and the less educated also saw significant overlap.

While sub-national analyses could not be conducted for pre-NCD and N-RNCD conditions, in the regional profiles we were able to examine trends and prevalence across nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) type II diabetes mellitus (diabetes) and cardiovascular disease (CVD), along with cancer and other NCDs, account for around one-quarter to one-third of all deaths in SSE Asia (calculated from WHO 2011) and around one-third of all deaths in Africa (calculated from WHO 2011). The data that have been estimated for prevalence of diabetes, show that while growth of diabetes in SSE Asian countries has not been remarkable, it does in fact have one of the highest average prevalence rates of diabetes among adult women, only recently overtaken by the Americas region in 2007. While Africa overall does not have a particularly high rate of diabetes, there has been a steady increase over the ten most recent years of data. The range of diabetes prevalence is quite wide for this region, with the lowest figure being 5.9% in Burundi, and the highest being 14.7% in Cape Verde (2008 estimates). Southern Africa seems to have the highest sub-region burden, with Swaziland and Lesotho both coming in at around 12%. For comparison, the United States had an average prevalence for adult women of 9.1% that year.

The regional profiles also discuss the national trends in calorie availability and child nutritional status, to highlight where future risk may be building. For copies of the regional and country briefs, and to learn more about SPRING, please go visit their website. SPRING will be adding new country profiles as needed, so check back for additional countries.

The country and regional profiles are a useful first step in operationalizing research into usable information for program planning and policy advocacy. As a second step, SPRING completed the first phase of a cost effectiveness simulation model looking at the short and long term effects of undernutrition interventions that are conducted in the first 1,000 days. The goal is to produce a more inclusive understanding of the relative value of nutrition interventions by extending the time frame for estimating benefits, specifically in terms of quantifying the ‘value added’ by their impact on early life genetic programming and any resulting later life course N-RNCD risk. For more information on our simulation model, please see our activities.

Going forward, SPRING will actively work with USAID to identify innovative applications of these resources to country programs. Via improved planning, advocacy, and targeting, this information can contribute to reducing the impacts of NCDs via better nutrition across the globe. 

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Behind the Scenes: Interview with Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez on Global Nutrition

This blog is part of a new interview blog series called “Behind the Scenes.” It includes interviews with USAID leaders, program implementers, Mission Directors, and development issue experts who help fulfill USAID’s mission. They are a casual behind-the-scenes look into USAID’s daily effort to deliver economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world — and the results we’ve seen.

In this issue, we interview Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, about the key role nutrition has in global health.

Ariel Pablos-Mendez, PhD, is the Assistant Administrator for Global Health

Tell us about nutrition and how programs fit into the effort to end preventable child death?

It is a very exciting time for nutrition with the global community coming together to commit to halting a leading killer of children: undernutrition. This week also marks the one year anniversary of the Child Survival Call to Action when the United States joined UNICEF and the governments of Ethiopia and India, in a bold pledge to catalyze action towards ending preventable child deaths within a generation. What emerged from the Call to Action was a rejuvenated global movement for child survival under the banner of ‘Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.’ Since then, 174 governments have renewed their promise to children by pledging to redouble efforts on child survival. Obviously, good nutrition is very closely linked to the Call to Action and the A Promise Renewed movement. We will continue to work with our partners to build on the progress made since the launch of the call to action, strengthen efforts to scale up evidence-based nutrition interventions during the first 1,000 days, and cultivate new leaders and nutrition champions to help us achieve our goals.

Why is The Lancet series important?

The Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition re-focuses the global community on the critical importance of proper nutrition in preventing child and maternal deaths and in preventing later complications from non-communicable diseases and in ensuring that children have the best start in life. The Series also provides strong evidence that improving nutrition is one of the best ways to achieve lasting progress in development. One of the most sobering statistics from this ground-breaking series is that more than 45% of deaths in children under 5 years of age are attributable to nutrition disorders, resulting in more than 3 million deaths annually.

It has been five years since the 2008 Lancet nutrition series, which galvanized the global community around evidence-based interventions for the prevention of needless suffering and death among children. The 2008 series brought focus to the crucial and strategic importance of good nutrition to the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and the second birthday. We agree with the authors of the Lancet series that “now is our crucial window of opportunity to scale up nutrition.” Indeed, we must work together to seize this opportunity to create the future we want.

How is the U.S. prioritizing nutrition?

The U.S. is providing global leadership, mobilizing our resources with a keen focus on results, and helping accelerate partnerships needed to achieve impact.  From the creation of his Feed the Future initiative to launching the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, President Obama has championed food security and nutrition. Nutrition is the defining link between Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Addressing undernutrition is critical to meeting our shared goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths.

To demonstrate this commitment, we have coordinated and packaged, for the first time, the significant USG effort behind global nutrition: $1 billion for nutrition-specific interventions and nearly $9 billion for nutrition-sensitive activities over fiscal years 2012-2014. Also, USAID will develop a comprehensive nutrition strategy, informed by robust USG interagency input and learning. Supported by USAID’s Bureaus for Global Health and Food Security, Administrator Shah will personally serve as the focal point for coordinating nutrition programs.

What is new or different in your approach?

The U.S. is continuing to advance nutrition through a modern approach and new model of development that emphasizes innovation, technology, and a focus on the private sector and civil society organizations as key partners to ensure long-term success because we know we cannot do this alone.  By leveraging the resources and expertise of a diverse constellation of actors — from the private sector to research universities — we can leapfrog traditional development barriers and create solutions that will encourage countries to create their own development plans to achieve their own national nutrition goals.  In support of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the 1,000 Days partnership, USG has made a new commitment to track “nutrition-sensitive” and “nutrition-specific” investments so that we provide consistent, accurate and meaningful reporting on programs.

Where must we do better?

We must crowd in local resources. Host country-led investment in nutrition is absolutely critical. But beating hunger and undernutrition takes leadership and collective action, not just resources. Countries themselves must take ownership and accountability in the fight and local civil society has a critical role in ensuring sustained commitment and investment at a country-level. It is also vital for donor partners to better coordinate our work. The strength of cooperation is crucial in the changing development landscape. Ultimately, coordination brings programmatic synergies, economies of scale, reduced duplication of effort, shared risk, and streamlined reporting. Importantly, in the current global health architecture, coordination among us can help us achieve better impact in complex systems.

Follow Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez on Twitter (@ampablos).

Join the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition with  @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture and use #GHMatters.

Keeping Global Nutrition on the Table

Jennifer Barbour is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Jennifer Barbour

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog.

When I was pregnant with my sons, I paid close attention to my diet. I cut out caffeine and the occasional alcoholic drink. I ate more spinach when my body needed more iron.

I continued to make adjustments to my diet when I breastfed my boys for the first several months of their lives. I thought about the food I put in my body for the health of my babies and for me.

I knew the importance of nutrition in those early stages of childhood, even before my kids were born. What I didn’t realize is that if a child isn’t given the proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to age 2, his growth could be stunted and his performance in school could be affected.

To think that pregnant women and children are lucky to even have a daily meal, let alone a nutritious one, never even crossed my mind when I was pregnant.

I was lucky to have the means to eat a healthy diet and access to the food my body needed.

I’m much more aware of what it means to be food insecure these days. My nonprofit work in Maine has opened my eyes to child poverty that I didn’t know existed in my own back yard. Nearly 1 in 4 children in Maine are food insecure.

I’ve written blog posts on food insecurity, hunger and global nutrition. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how my audience would react to such subjects. Hearing about 165 million malnourished children in the world isn’t exactly uplifting.

But I always try to show the good that can come out of such knowledge, whether it’s a local restaurant giving a meal to needy families for every meal sold or employees tending a garden to stock a food pantry. Telling the stories of those who are helping to solve these problems inspires action in others.

On a global level, there is much to be done. An initiative like the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future, led by USAID, is leading the way by showing how nutrition, poverty and food insecurity are all related.

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Feed the Future is addressing undernutrition through country-owned programs. They are looking at agricultural development and addressing the most at-risk population, women and children. The investment in food security is seen as an investment in our own economy. I am elated to see that almost 12 million children under 5 have been reached by Feed the Future nutrition programs.

It’s encouraging to see our world leaders take on global malnutrition.

Together, we can keep them accountable.

About the author: Jennifer Barbour is a copywriter, blogger, aspiring author and new media consultant. She aims to inspire, to entertain and to make you think. Her passions are writing, philanthropy, her awesome family and bacon, though not necessarily in that order. You can find out more at anotherjennifer.com.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

SMART Training Enables Egyptian Woman to Educate Community on Nutrition, Healthy Behaviors

Gaz Mohamed Mohamed Hussein Al Masarah comes from Masrah, a small village on the Nile about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the governorate capital of Asyut, Upper Egypt. She is 25-years-old and delighted to be included in a group of 20 young women selected by the SMART Project (Community-based Initiatives for a Better Life, funded by USAID) to work as Community Health Workers (CHWs) in their own communities. This class of 20 future CHWs is part of a total cadre of 1,200 women who have been trained.

The SMART project—a USAID-funded MCHIP project that focuses on improving maternal and neonatal health and nutrition—works through community development associations in Upper and Lower Egypt to train physicians and CHWs to improve newborn care, nutrition, and the use of modern family planning methods. Providers and CHWs are trained to focus on the nutritional habits of pregnant and lactating women, implement perinatal practices (such as intensive care for preterm or low birth weight babies), and encourage exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

Gaz Mohamed, third from the left (in red scarf), attending the CHW training. Photo credit: MCHIP.

During a break in the training on infant nutrition, Gaz recounts how, as one of six children, her family was never able to afford to send her to school. Her older sister married young and her brothers attended primary school, but Gaz was kept at home to help her mother. However, when she was 10-years-old, a relative started a literacy class in the village, and persuaded Gaz’s father to allow her to attend.

Gaz laughs when she tells how happy she was to carry her books around like the other students she had seen. She worked hard at the literacy classes and was soon able to join Year 5 in Primary School. She finished with good results and, with the support of her father, went on to secondary school, where at graduation her marks were good enough for her to have entered the faculty of agriculture, education, or commerce. However, her father did not want her to move into Asyut to continue her studies.

Not wanting to stay in the house all day, Gaz began to look for something she could do in her village. At the beginning of 2012, she was nominated by a local community development association to participate in the SMART training course for CHWs. The Smart Project selects CHWs in every community in the targeted governorates to visit pregnant and breastfeeding women in order to disseminate messages about healthy nutritional habits and infant care. Gaz’s best friend from school, Manal, was also nominated, and they were very excited to join the training together.

Gaz excitedly shares her knowledge from the training. She says she has learned about the benefits of breastfeeding and is convinced it will help mothers who traditionally start feeding their children different drinks and soup after only 40 days. She speaks confidently and enthusiastically about her new role in the community, saying how happy she is to be able to help her neighbors and friends in the village. Thankfully, her father has also accepted the idea that his daughter is working.

Gaz’s mother is proud of her daughter, too, especially for choosing to help other women. As the first woman in the family to have received an education and worked outside the home, Gaz contributes some of her monthly salary toward the family food bill. The rest she is saving for her marriage expenses. Although she is engaged, she is in no hurry to marry and insists she will continue working after she marries. She recognizes that the knowledge she has gained during the CHW training will be very useful for her when she has children of her own.

And reflecting back on her childhood desire to go to school, Gaz says she never would have imagined that she would one day have the information and confidence to go into women’s homes to discuss health and nutrition issues. “I just wanted to be educated like my brothers,” she says. “And that gave me the chance to be working and helping people. I wish that all the girls in Masrah could have an education. With education we could chase the ghost of malnutrition from Asyut!”

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Page 10 of 56:« First« 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 »Last »