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This Week at USAID – July 19, 2010

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is in Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet with USAID mission personnel, visit USAID projects and attend the Pakistan Strategic Dialogue and the Kabul Conference with Secretary Clinton.  The Conference will reinforce the commitment of the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to work together to realize the goal of full Afghan ownership and responsibility for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

Technical leaders from USAID’s office of HIV/AIDS are part of the U.S. delegation to the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria.  Notably, results from a USAID-funded microbicides trial will be released at the conference on Tuesday.  The trial was conducted in South Africa in close partnership with the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the CONRAD Program, and Family Health International.

Dr. Raj. Shah Attends Launch of Pakistan’s Birthspacing Initiative

Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. ” We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

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USAID Testifies on Agent Orange in Vietnam

On Thursday, Dr. John Wilson, Director for the Office of Technical Support in USAID’s Bureaus for Asia and the Middle East, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment on “Agent Orange in Vietnam:  Recent Developments in Remediation”.

Dioxin contamination, associated with the use of Agent Orange, is one of the last vestiges of the Vietnam War and remains an obstacle to further strengthening relations between the United States and Vietnam. USAID is the lead implementer for dioxin remediation in Vietnam working collaboratively with the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense.

For more information on USAID programs in Vietnam.

USAID In The News – July 12th thru 16th

submitted by Amanda Parsons

Science Magazine’s Insider Blog looks at how USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah brought together the world’s leading science minds this week during a 2-day conference to focus and highlight the ways innovation, science and technology can revitalize the development agency. Shah hopes science and technology can help the agency solve “grand challenges” in global development and used the workshop to pose broad questions about how USAID could identify, select, and implement these challenges. USAID had solicited input via a Web site for possible ideas like “a model toilet of the future for the poor.” About 60 people from academia, industry, and government have begun to whittle down the list and brainstorm about how to proceed.

On Monday, Secretary Clinton and Dr. Rajiv Shah gave remarks regarding the status of Haiti six months after a devastating earthquake ravaged the small nation. The AFP reports that the duo reconfirmed their commitment to reconstruction and development after the disaster. Secretary Clinton stated, “Six months later, our resolve to stand with the people of Haiti for the long term remains undiminished. We are committed to aligning our investments with the needs of the people and the government of Haiti.” Dr. Shah emphasized the idea of stricter construction codes and working with local partners to achieve a responsible and functional outcome.

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In Mozambique, Religious Leaders Unite Together Against Malaria

PIRCOM has trained more than 21,000 religious leaders from a variety of faiths on malaria prevention and treatment.

Left unchecked, disease imperils the stability and prosperity of all; therefore, improving global health out­comes is a shared responsibility. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups to ensure the quality and reach of health services and messages.

Religious leaders, along with their well-established networks of volunteers and community groups, have the potential to promote and sustain positive changes in the social norms, attitudes, and behaviors of their communities, which can affect development outcomes. Thus the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) engages religious leaders to facilitate greater partnership in, as well as ownership of, a community’s development.

Over the past few years, malaria and other global health programs have increased support to grassroots health movements within faith communities. In addition to promoting health-seeking behaviors, these programs have helped bridge cultural and religious divides.  One such initiative, the Together Against Malaria (TAM) program, arose in 2006 from the common vision of national leaders from 10 faith communities in Mozambique to use their religious organizations to disseminate malaria control messages and commodities. 

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Focusing on Quality Assurance for Malaria Diagnostics

By Alison Bird. A nurse in a local clinic in Huambo Province, Angola, checks a patient and her baby before prescribing anti-malarial drugs. The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by USAID, supports countries in their efforts to scale up access to malaria diagnostics to ensure proper diagnosis of illness.

Maria José Inés, chief nurse at the Benfica Baixa Health Center in the city of Huambo in Angola, has seen many patients with fever over the years and treated countless malaria patients. In many parts of Africa, a majority of fevers have been more likely due to other pathogens than with malaria parasites, underscoring the need for proper malaria diagnosis.  Now even in highly malarious areas where effective prevention is decreasing the malaria burden this is also becoming the case. 

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by USAID and implemented jointly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), supports countries in their efforts to scale up access to malaria diagnosis, in line with the recently revised World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation, including focusing on quality assurance for malaria diagnostics, training in proper use of the diagnostics tests at all levels of the health care system, including community health workers, and information, education and communication materials IEC/BCC to assure that health care workers and patients use the test results as part of more effective management of fever cases. 

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From the Field

In Lebanon Haigazian University will be presented with $450,081 to directly support its student financial aid program. 356 Haigazian University students with demonstrable financial need from all over Lebanon will be given scholarships with these U.S. funds, made available through USAID. Without this assistance, these students would not be able to study at Haigazian University. Lebanese American University (LAU) will be presented with $1,178,122 to support its Financial Aid & Scholarships Fund for both campuses in Jbeil and Beirut. 249 qualified Lebanese students benefit from this program.

In Albania USAID will open a Public Information Office in one of Albania’s District Courts. To tackle corruption in Albania’s judicial system, USAID’s Rule of Law program works with a set of pilot courts to improve their performance and accountability to citizens. One of several accountability measures introduced by USAID, public information offices serve as one-stop shops where citizens have quick and easy access to information on court proceedings and their legal rights.

In El Salvador a signing ceremony for the Global Development Alliance (GDA) with the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development (FUSAL). USAID will help expand FUSAL’s Libras de Amor program to two additional municipalities in Sonsonate to combat poor eating habits and malnutrition.

In Jakarta a forum will present eight finalists – that represent the finest – of more than 75 projects which entered a competition in Asia, organized by Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), and sponsored by USAID. Eight clean energy competition finalists, reps from more than 150 energy professionals, entrepreneurs, donors, banks, partners, project developers from Indonesia and Asia. The forum is a means to bridge the financial gap between creative innovators in clean energy with private investors who are willing to fund these opportunities.

Statement from Administrator Shah on the Six Month Commemoration of the Haiti Earthquake

submitted by Anna Gohmann

Administrator Shah released the following statement on the six-month commemoration of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010:

“Today, we pause to reflect on the tragedy that struck Haiti six months ago and claimed the lives of more than 230,000 people.  In the wake of the devastation, countless more were left injured and 1.5 million were displaced and moved into spontaneous settlements across greater Port-au-Prince.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, USAID participated in the largest urban food distribution in history and fed more than 3.5 million people.  We helped distribute emergency shelter to 1 million people.  And we supported a campaign to vaccinate more than one million Haitians against diseases and outbreaks that could have decimated the population.

But our work has only just begun and significant challenges lay before Haiti and the international community.   The US has committed more than $1 billion to Haiti’s long-term reconstruction and development.  USAID is working with our colleagues at the Department of State and others across the Federal Government to apply the experience and knowledge of our development experts to high-impact projects in five key areas: agriculture, energy, governance support, infrastructure, and health.

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Supporting Medical and Psychological Care to Haitian Children in the Aftermath of the Earthquake

 

A young boy receives an oral polio vaccination at a USAID/OFDA-funded International Medical Corps clinic at Petionville golf club on July 13, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Kendra Helmer/USAID

Submitted by Sara Lockwood

We’d like to conclude our project spotlight series this week by highlighting the positive change that a USAID supported clinic run by the International Medical Corps has brought to one Haitian community. Our colleagues on the ground report that the clinic, located in Bolosse, is always filled with school children. The clinic was created almost immediately after the earthquake to serve the four spontaneous settlements that now surround it, and offers medical and psychosocial care targeted to children attending the recently reopened school next door.

Here’s what Patrick Paillant, the principal at the school near the clinic, has to say about the program:

I have identified eight children suffering from mental problems [as a result of the earthquake]. There could be more. Some of the children might be too young for these problems to fully manifest . . . This clinic is really good. Before [the earthquake], when a child had a problem, we would have to find the resources to take care of it. Now we don’t have to.

The grandmother of Francesca, a six-year old girl who has received care at the clinic, had this to add:

The clinic here has done a very good job. They are seeing many, many patients.

Clinics such as these are critically important in helping Haitian children process everything they’ve experienced and all that they’ve lost over the last six months. The care given at these clinics will go a very long way towards allowing these Haitian children to focus in school and continue believing in a better future for their country.

Rebuilding Haiti isn’t just about blueprints, bricks, and mortar. It’s about helping Haitians—large and small–to rebuild their own lives despite the incredible challenges that they face.

HOW USAID’S CANAL CLEARANCE WORK IS HELPING HAITIANS DURING THE HURRICANE SEASON

submitted by Sara Lockwood

Next week marks the six-month commemoration of the earthquake that devastated Haiti last January 12th. For the next several days, we’d like to share more information here on IMPACT about what USAID and the US Government have been doing relieve the suffering of Haitians affected by the earthquake as well as how we are tackling Haiti’s longer-term development needs with the international community and in support of the Government of Haiti. And our best gauge of our impact is what Haitians themselves are saying about our work—that’s why we’re also highlighting first-person testimonials about the work we’ve been doing.

USAID is working with partner CHF to finish clearing the Grand Canal in the Solino neighborhood of Port‐au‐Prince. The canal is one of the largest and most important drainage mechanisms in the city; left uncleared and with the onset of the rainy season, the canal would have worsened sanitary conditions in the city.

Today, we’d like to include the work of one of our partners, CHF International, to clear the Grand Canal in the Solino neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. The canal is one of the largest and most important drainage mechanisms in the city–left uncleared and with the onset of the rainy season, the canal would have worsened sanitary conditions in the city and could have posed a threat to the safety of area residents.

Here’s what Madame Moude, who was displaced along with her husband and children to a camp after the earthquake, said about the canal clearance work. She currently runs a small stall in the growing market that runs along the Grand Canal.

The smell has been so bad for so long and we are very, very happy that they’re doing this; it will be much better here now.

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