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Archives for Health

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.”

State Department to Host India Diaspora Conference

When people hear that I am a medical doctor and that I work for USAID, they often say that my heart is in the right place.  I correct them:  actually, my heart is in three places—America first, as I am now an American, but also India and Pakistan, where I grew up.

I was born in Pakistan, but as a young child I contracted polio at the age of ten months and was sent to India for treatment.  I spent much of my childhood and teen years in India. I did recover, but the disabling effects of polio had already set in. I had also discovered my calling in life to help others in need and my focus has been on women and children to improve their health status and survival.  I became a medical doctor and specialized in public health.

I have been fortunate to achieve that dream here in the States and, like so many others in the diaspora, knew I wanted to “give back”—both to my adopted country and to my “home” countries, India and Pakistan.  So I am especially excited that the State Department is hosting a gathering of the Indian American diaspora this afternoon, and I am honored to have been asked to participate in a panel on health.

The theme of today’s U.S.-India People-to-People Conference is “Building the Foundation for a Strong Partnership,” and it is an especially appropriate time given the new relationship that is forming between the U.S. and India.

Diaspora groups are natural partners for USAID.  They have unparalleled insight into their home country, as well as their adopted one.  And they have a passion for seeing good development in their home country, as well as seeing that their U.S. tax dollars are spent effectively and accountably.

It is no secret that, for too long, it has been difficult for small organizations, like many diaspora groups, to navigate the process of applying for USAID grants and contracts.  This is changing, as a result of the reforms currently being instituted at USAID.  As just one example, USAID’s Administrator Rajiv Shah recently launched Development Innovation Ventures, which will enable the Agency to work with a diverse set of partners to identify and scale up innovative solutions to development challenges.

I hope that this conference is the first of many to bring diaspora groups, the private sector, and the government together to address the issues that we all care so much about.

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.

From the Field

In Ghana, media will cover Phase One of the Integrated Coastal and Fisheries Governance (ICFG) program.  The ICFG Program is a four-year program seeking to pilot strategies and actions to sustainably manage resources in the fishing sector, in relation to food security and the Feed the Future initiative in six coastal districts of the Western Region of Ghana.  The proposed activities include interviews with implementing partners and fishermen in communities in Aboadze/Bosumtwi Sam Harbor, Axim Landing and Assini Landing over a two-day period.

In Washington, DC on October 28th, we will support the Indian Diaspora – People to People Conference at the State Department.  Dr. Shah will be providing keynote remarks and Dr. Rushna Ravji (USAID/Global Health) will be leading a panel discussion on Health.

In Burkina Faso, The U.S. Ambassador and Burkina Faso’s Minister of Commerce and Industry will open a week-long series of seminars on increasing the competitiveness of West African handcrafts producers and exporters. SIAO is the world’s largest African handcrafts fair and connects more than 6,000 artisans from across the continent to professional buyers from around the world. Competing successfully in world markets requires sophisticated business knowledge and know-how, which USAID is providing during these workshops.

USAID Seizes Development Opportunities in Ukraine

I arrived in Ukraine on Columbus Day to discuss challenges in Ukraine and how our programs are addressing those issues, as well as to visit our projects to see the real impact American aid has on the ground.

On Tuesday we met with the U.S. Embassy, USAID Mission, and implementing organizations in Kyiv to discuss our programs in Ukraine, the upcoming municipal elections, and financial reform programs. Since regional issues have long torn Ukraine’s regions apart, it was interesting to see those areas where Ukrainians had common perspectives – particularly on the devastating impact of the global economic crisis (which caused Ukraine’s GDP growth to fall from +8 percent in 2007 to -15 per cent in 2009).

Roberta Mahoney and others discuss the results of the USAID Municipal Heating Reform project with city and hospital officials. Photo Credit: USAID/Ukraine

I then traveled to Crimea accompanied by the USAID Mission Director, Janina Jaruzelski, State’s Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe & Eurasia (ACE), Dan Rosenblum, and several other State, USAID, and Embassy staff.

On our first morning in Crimea, we visited a number of hospitals that have received some 2,800 pieces (filling 96 trucks!) of medical equipment from a project of ACE’s Humanitarian Affairs section.

In the afternoon, we met a cross-section of young leaders in Crimea’s NGO community working to address issues from minority and prisoner rights to the media and the rights of persons with disabilities.  The group, which received leadership training through the USAID Ukrainian Strengthening Civil Society Organizations (UNITER) project, was remarkably perceptive about their capacity to influence policy and politics, the need to represent and motivate their members, and the real need to focus in sustained and creative ways on financial sustainability.

Thursday took us to a different Crimean city, Yevpatoria, where we met with the dynamic mayor about his comprehensive plan for the revitalization of the city’s economy. We then visited another hospital, this time from the outside, and watched as Ukrainian workers retrofitted the exterior of the hospital’s walls and attics with insulation with assistance from the USAID Municipal Heating Reform (MHR) project, which is also working in four other towns in Crimea.

The hospital will be able to increase heat generating efficiency in this cold region from roughly 64 to 99 percent, which will save the hospital money and improve conservation of critical resources.  Such a dramatic reduction in energy waste is one example of the positive impact MHR can have on Global Climate Change.

The highlight of the day, however, still lay ahead: meeting with NGOs and businesses devoted to promoting Crimea to the rest of the world!  We discussed the opportunities and challenges of promoting Crimean tourism with a significant representation of Crimean tourism businesses.

During a tour of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, we learned that Yevpatoria’s last multi-domed mosque was designed by Sinan, the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire, who took inspiration from the domes of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul in creating Yevpatoria’s impressive Turkish-style mosque.  Sinan had also designed many other Istanbul mosques.

Yevpatoria is home to the Qaraim, an ancient community closely linked to Judaism that is arguably the smallest ethnic group on earth, numbering some 2,000 individuals.  During the Russian Civil War, Mr. Duvan, the town’s mayor and one of the most illustrious members of the Qaraim community who had fled the Russian Revolution for exile in France, sent a shipload of wheat to the city to help his former citizens survive.

One last stop remained — the one stop business center. Hailed as a success by the business community, citizens, and the government, the office brings all the actors together under one roof to significantly reduce the time it takes to register a new business and limit opportunities for bribery and corruption during the process. It was a fitting end to a successful visit, as we came away assured of the capacity of Crimeans to establish businesses to share the beauty, history, and bounty of the peninsula with the world, while providing hope and jobs for its citizens.

In all we’ve had a very successful visit, gaining exposure and insight to the breadth of the USAID’s program and accomplishments and the challenges that remain in Ukraine, from democracy and governance to health, energy, and the economy.

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.

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