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Archives for Humanitarian Assistance

Setting an Example, Emblematic of Recovery Possible in Nepal

A young girl plays with her doll outside her family's tent at Camp Hope. More than 330 families from the Sindhupalchowk district are taking temporary shelter at the camp. / Kashish Das Shrestha/USAID

A young girl plays with her doll outside her family’s tent at Camp Hope. More than 330 families from the Sindhupalchowk district are taking temporary shelter at the camp. / Kashish Das Shrestha, USAID

The summer sun is scorching the ground beneath our feet, and it is barely past 7:30 in the morning.

We move to a perch on an elevated platform, shaded by a large old tree. From here, we see a sweeping, yet jarring view. A horizon line of neat concrete houses, dotted with seasonal potted plants on their roofs, stands in stark contrast to fabric roofs covered in plastic tarp that dot the landscape in the foreground.

This is Camp Hope—a one square kilometer tent city in Jorpati, Kathmandu that serves as a temporary home to 330 households from five villages in the Sindhupalchowk district, just north of Kathmandu. The earthquake damaged or destroyed approximately 88 percent of houses in the district.

“We had to move,” said Sukra Tamang, an 18-year-old who now lives at Camp Hope with his family. “With all the debris and the ground shaking constantly, there was no space to even rest our feet.”

The April 25 earthquake and aftershocks displaced more than 500,000 families, uprooting the foundations of their homes and turning the hill terrain that supported their villages into rubble.

Camp Hope demonstrates the positive outcomes that are possible when private and public sector partners work together.

Tents made of materials strong enough to withstand monsoon season are built at Camp Hope for families displaced from their homes by the April 25 earthquake. / [PHOTO CREDIT: Kashish Das Shrestha/USAID]

Tents made of materials strong enough to withstand monsoon season are built at Camp Hope for families displaced from their homes by the April 25 earthquake. / Kashish Das Shrestha, USAID

Welcome to Camp Hope

At the camp’s main gate, young volunteers check and register all visitors before they are allowed to enter. Inside, a group of senior citizens, already freshened up and dressed for the day, bask in the morning sun as chickens cluck as they scurry past them.

Camp Hope is alive and teeming with activities. It looks, feels, and even sounds like a village. Murmurs of conversation fill the air, people line up at the hand water pump, and children fill open spaces with laughter and play. A group of women wash clothes as the din of construction echoes in the background.

Built on a community football ground, Camp Hope is an exemplary model of private-sector led humanitarian assistance – a clear demonstration of the impact that is possible when the private sector engages with other partners.

“When we wanted to start a camp for these communities, we couldn’t get any government land,” says Sangeeta Shrestha, camp founder and operator of Dwarika, a boutique heritage hotel, owned by her family. “A local youth club came offering their football ground, so here we are.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) soon stepped in with additional support. Heavy-duty plastic sheeting provided by USAID was utilized to create shelters that are strong enough to endure the monsoon season. In addition to building temporary homes for displaced families at Camp Hope, USAID provided shelter and protection for approximately 310,000 Nepalis across earthquake affected districts.

A full-stocked kitchen offers three meals a day for residents of Camp Hope. / Kashish Das Shrestha, USAID

A full-stocked kitchen offers three meals a day for residents of Camp Hope. / Kashish Das Shrestha, USAID

A partnership of hospitality

There are many advantages when a world-class hotel owner steps in to lead and manage a shelter like Camp Hope.

“We always have a lot of resources at our disposal, and I am lucky to have my hotel team of engineers and technicians whom I could call on to help set up the camp,” said Sangeeta, who now manages the camp full-time.

Adding a bit of comfort to the lives of displaced villagers, the camp offers a fully stocked kitchen and store room tent that is maintained by Sangeeta’s hotel. Camp residents are offered chicken once a week and eggs twice a week during their meals.

While shelter, food, and basic medical services address the physical needs of residents, their social and emotional needs are also important. Camp Hope offers a variety of programs and spaces to help residents as they heal. A prayer tent allows the community to continue their spiritual rituals in a minimalist manner. In the afternoon, women in the camp engage in sewing, knitting and other crafts in a facility has been set up for training. The camp also enrolled 83 children in a local school and regularly schedules field trips for youth.

“The plan, we hope, is to build back their villages so they can return to their communities,” said Sangeeta as she discusses what the future might hold for Camp Hope.

Camp Hope is designed to be a safe and comfortable space for residents. / Kashish Das Shrestha, USAID

Camp Hope is designed to be a safe and comfortable space for residents. / Kashish Das Shrestha, USAID

Looking Ahead: Charting a roadmap to rebuild a better Nepal

But, returning home for many of the residents of Camp Hope will be a challenge. Questions remain, about when, if, and how rebuilding of some villages may happen. Massive landslides during the April 25 earthquake completely destroyed many communities.

A discussion about the road forward—for vulnerable villages in the most affected regions and across the country—is at the forefront as the Government of Nepal convenes key donors and development stakeholders together at this week’s International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction.

As Nepal’s longest standing development partner, U.S government’s commitment to Nepal has stood the test of time. Our pledge at this week’s International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction increases the total amount of U.S. emergency relief and early recovery assistance to $130 million, and is only the beginning of our contribution to Nepal’s earthquake recovery, which will span multiple years.

As recovery efforts continue, aid and investments from the U.S. Government will support efforts to get the most impacted people back on their feet and to create a Nepal that is more resilient in the future.

  • We will train Nepalis to rebuild seismically-stable houses in affected areas.
  • We will help build temporary learning centers for children who are learning outside in makeshift tents. Efforts are underway to establish approximately 1,000 Temporary Learning Centers in earthquake affected districts.
  • We are helping people rebuild livelihoods by injecting cash and strengthening agricultural systems, the economic lifeblood for nearly 75 percent of the population of Nepal. USAID has already jump started early recovery— our resilience and livelihood program is distributing cash for work to the hardest-hit families, so they can begin the enormous task of rebuilding damaged homes and much-needed infrastructure.
  • We will continue to protect Nepal’s most vulnerable, including those susceptible to human trafficking.
  • We will lay the foundations for a more resilient Nepal by building institutions that can respond effectively to future disasters.

All of these efforts, along with support leveraged from the private sector, can and will help build back a better Nepal.

Those in Camp Hope know that this dream is possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth Dunford is USAID/Nepal’s Mission Director. Follow her at @beth_dunford, usaid.gov/nepal  and nepal.usembassy.gov.

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Why You Should Still Care About Syria

Amina is an 8-year-old girl living in Syria. Like many kids, she helps her family with chores. One day, Amina was picking olives with her grandmother in the family garden when a bomb hit, killing her grandmother and sending shrapnel flying into Amina’s body. She survived, but is now paralyzed.

Amina now bears the scars of a war that has marred her childhood. But she is just one of the estimated 5.6 million children in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. While the conflict has gotten increasingly worse, the American people’s interest has begun to wane. Here’s why you should still care about Syria.

In Syria, an estimated 5.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. / Louai Beshara, AFP

In Syria, an estimated 5.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. / Louai Beshara, AFP

The Worst Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time

This month, the Syrian conflict entered its fifth year. The relentless fighting has taken a catastrophic toll, making Syria the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. More than 220,000 people have lost their lives and more than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria–3 million more than a year ago. More than half of the entire Syrian population has fled their homes due to the violence, and an entire generation of Syrians–like Amina–are losing their childhood.

Torn apart by the loss of his wife, two sons and two daughters, Yousef Abo stands on the very spot where his home once stood. / Pablo Tosco, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Torn apart by the loss of his wife, two sons and two daughters, Yousef Abo stands on the very spot where his home once stood. / Pablo Tosco, AFP

Faces Behind the Numbers

The overall numbers are important and show us the scale of humanitarian needs, but behind each number is a person, and we should never forget that. With disasters and crises, it’s easy to get caught up in statistics. This is especially true for Syria where the numbers are astronomical and continue to grow. But when you really take the time to learn the stories behind the numbers — like of Yousef Abo losing his wife, two sons and two daughters when a missile hit his home — you realize just how much people have lost. It’s this that drives humanitarians to keep striving to save lives.

No One is Immune

The violence, death, loss and everyday hardship have seeped through all parts of Syrian society and affect everyone. Mothers struggle to care for their young ones; fathers grieve the loss of children; sisters and brothers help each other learn to play again after losing limbs; and the elderly watch an entire life’s worth of memories get lost under piles of rubble. Children are out of school, adults struggle to find work, and people wonder where they will get their next meal.

More than 2 million people have received medical treatment in U.S.-supported hospitals and health centers. / Edouard Elias, AFP

More than 2 million people have received medical treatment in U.S.-supported hospitals and health centers. / Edouard Elias, AFP

Beyond Borders

A crisis of this magnitude is not contained by borders. Nearly 4 million people have fled to other countries to escape the violence in Syria. This influx of people has had massive regional impacts. In Lebanon, one in four people is a Syrian refugee. In Jordan-already one of the world’s driest countries-the addition of more than 600,000 refugees has further strained the water supply. Now some areas have less than 8 gallons of water per person per day – a tenth of what the average American uses. In Turkey, which currently hosts over 1.7 million Syrians, some communities in the southeast have seen their population double in size – creating a need for more schools and hospitals, along with upgrades to sewage systems and electric grids.

Standing with the Syrian People

These are some of the reasons why we should still care about Syria, whose people have endured unspeakable tragedy during the last four years of a brutal war that has torn their country apart. Today, in Kuwait at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, the United States announced nearly $508 million in additional humanitarian assistance – bringing our total aid to almost $3.7 billion since the crisis began.

While humanitarian aid won’t solve this conflict, it is saving lives. From the beginning of the crisis, we’ve provided water, shelter, critical relief supplies, food, and absolutely vital medical and psychosocial care to people like Amina, and we will continue to do so.

During her recovery, Amina told the people helping her, “I refuse to surround myself with sadness.” If Amina can remain so determined and resilient, the least we can do is refuse to let her stand alone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Myer is the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) Leader for the Syria humanitarian crisis response.

Guinean Doctor Survives Ebola, Pays ​I​t Forward

Participants in an infection prevention and control training in Guinea learn key skills. / Jhpiego

Participants in an infection prevention and control training in Guinea learn key skills. / Jhpiego

Conakry, Guinea—Dr. Thierno Souleymane Diallo is a formidable ally in Guinea’s race to prevent and contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. As a survivor of the disease, he is championing with colleagues the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) skills that can save lives.

Last August, Dr. Thierno contracted Ebola during his rotation in the maternity ward at the Ignace Deen National Hospital. The 35-year-old father of three was infected while treating a pregnant patient who showed no Ebola-related symptoms, but who later tested positive for the disease. The doctor candidly admits that he could have avoided infection if he had known “to take every precaution.”

However, because the hospital failed to follow recommended IPC practices while caring for the patient, Dr. Thiero and five team members had to be isolated after contact. “I was the only one of the team to develop the disease,” he said.

Thierno spent 21 days in an Ebola treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders, suffering from bloody diarrhea, nausea, body aches and constant 104-degree fevers. “Sometimes I prayed to God to let me sleep, to forget my state…and when I woke up,I felt like my entire body was full of lead,” he said.

When he received a visit from his wife during this period, he was so disoriented that he at first didn’t recognize her. From the designated visitors’ area of the center, Dr. Thierno and his wife had to call out to each other from a distance of about three meters—over a wire fence and across an empty lane. Dr. Thierno remembers little or nothing of this visit.

After his release, Dr. Thierno spent another two and a half months at home recovering from severe joint pain. Upon returning to work he participated in an update and refresher training for health workers during which he learned the importance of following proper IPC practices, especially during the Ebola outbreak.

The five-day training was organized by the USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in Guinea. The training used lectures along with simulated practical sessions and health facility site visits to allow for hands-on demonstrations of proper IPC.

Dr. Thierno is now among 27 providers with updated skills who are managing a large-scale training—under the guidance of the USAID team—for 2,200 Guinean health care workers in IPC practices adapted for Ebola-impacted countries. They are also providing follow-up supportive supervision to these workers every two weeks as part of Ministry of Health efforts to keep front-line health workers safe and prepared to serve Guineans who may become ill.

“This training has closed the door on ignorance related to infection prevention and opened a door on behavior change,” he said.

Rachel Waxman contributed to this article.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jacqueline Aribot and Alisha Horowitz are the Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor and Associate Editor for USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program, implemented by Jhpiego 

“I remember it like it was yesterday. The entire city just shrunk.”

Within mere seconds, more than 200,000 people were killed, and 1.5 million were displaced from their homes.  Buildings were completely destroyed. Phone connections were down. The scene was, in short, total devastation. It was January 12, 2010—five years ago today—when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince and forever changed Haiti.

This earthquake would have been calamitous and overwhelming anywhere, but in Haiti—a poor country with weak building infrastructure—it hit at the heart, in the populous capital city, creating a massive urban disaster.

USAID’s Haiti Earthquake Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader Tim Callaghan and USAID Administrator Raj Shah during the 2010 response.  / USAID.

USAID’s Haiti Earthquake Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader Tim Callaghan and USAID Administrator Raj Shah during the 2010 response. / USAID.

As Team Leader for USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), I deployed in the first 24 hours and witnessed firsthand the perfect storm of challenging response issues: no communication as all phone connections were down; 1.5 million people were instantly displaced, with no shelter; in seconds, children were orphaned; Haitian Government officials and local disaster responders were affected themselves; transportation was severely hampered by the rubble; there was a myriad of health and nutrition concerns; and death was everywhere.

USAID-supported programs helped remove more than 50% of the total rubble cleared by the international community. / U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert J. Fluegel

USAID-supported programs helped remove more than 50% of the total rubble cleared by the international community. / U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert J. Fluegel

Rubble literally filled the streets. We found out later that the earthquake had generated enough rubble to fill dump trucks lined up from Maine to Florida twice. On the ground, this meant major obstacles to delivering life-saving assistance. It also required our DART to have a large urban-search-and-rescue (USAR) component with over 500 USAR members at its peak. These teams worked tirelessly, crawling through broken buildings, to find and save people who were trapped inside. One of my proudest memories was being on site early one morning around 3 a.m. to see our USAR teams pull people out of the wreckage. It is something I will never forget.

Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Search and Rescue Team rescue a Haitian woman from a collapsed building in downtown Port-au-Prince. The woman had been trapped in the building for five days without food or water. / U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg

Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Search and Rescue Team rescue a Haitian woman from a collapsed building in downtown Port-au-Prince. The woman had been trapped in the building for five days without food or water. / U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg

In addition to so many Haitian lives tragically taken on that day, several American colleagues from the U.S. Embassy also perished—the first time I had ever worked on a disaster response where this was the case.

Yet it’s during times like the Haiti earthquake that I am so vividly inspired by the mandate of the office I work for—USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance—which is to save lives and alleviate human suffering. The DART did that in Haiti five years ago, rapidly providing humanitarian assistance and care to those in need. I was honored to manage a team of dedicated people who worked 20-hour days for weeks on end in grueling conditions.

Looking back, I also will never forget the incredible resilience and strength of the Haitian people. They lost so much, and yet were willing to roll up their sleeves amid all the tragedy to work with us in every way possible to build back their lives. The people of Ravine Pintade—one of the hardest hit areas—joined us and our partners Global Communities and Project Concern International to transform their devastated neighborhood into a model community.

Since 2010, USAID has continued to work together with the people of Haiti and their local and national governments traversing the long road from recovery to development and helping mitigate the damage of future crises. We’ve increased communities’ disaster resilience through preparedness and response planning, support to emergency operations centers and evacuation shelters, and small-scale infrastructure projects like retaining walls and drainage systems. We’ve also helped improve local capacity by training locals to handle disaster response efforts—everything from preparing first responders to designating leadership roles to managing relief supplies.

Haiti is vulnerable to many disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding; but through these disaster risk reduction efforts, USAID is helping Haiti become more capable of preparing and responding to whatever disaster may strike next.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Callaghan is the Senior Regional Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. During the 2010 Haiti earthquake response, Callaghan served as USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader.

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Lessons Learned a Decade after the Indian Ocean Tsunami

Ten years ago today, the Indian Ocean tsunami roared across more than 3,000 miles and a dozen countries from Southeast Asia to Africa, killing 200,000 people and leaving 40,000 missing. I remember watching the news from my parents’ kitchen, in the aftermath of Christmas, as hour by hour the enormity of the disaster registered on the world.  And it was Aceh, a conflict affected province of Indonesia, that suffered the greatest impact, accounting for nearly half of the total casualties.

Eight days later, I was in Aceh.   I will never forget the surreal sights and stench of such massive destruction.  In a humid heat, bodies were still trapped beneath towers of debris and piled along the road.  Boats were in trees and houses were upended.  Survivors and humanitarian workers alike had a dazed look.

The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history, destroying lives, homes, and livelihoods. In the disaster’s immediate aftermath, USAID provided emergency support in the form of food, shelter, water, sanitation, and medical supplies. In the years that followed, USAID has continued to work alongside survivors to help affected communities rebuild and create jobs.

The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history, destroying lives, homes, and livelihoods. In the disaster’s immediate aftermath, USAID provided emergency support in the form of food, shelter, water, sanitation, and medical supplies. In the years that followed, USAID has continued to work alongside survivors to help affected communities rebuild and create jobs. / USAID

In the face of this utter tragedy, the world mobilized to save lives and reconstruct.  The tsunami generated an unprecedented outpouring of support from the international community. Indonesia received more than $7 billion in aid, the most generous response ever to a natural disaster.  In three years, Indonesia built new airports, roads, schools, and over 130,000 new homes.

USAID was front and center in the response, deploying a multi-country Disaster Assistance Response Team to the most affected areas immediately following the tsunami. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace provided more than $96 million in emergency support in the form of food, shelter, water, sanitation, and medical supplies. In the immediate aftermath USAID airlifted 20,000 kitchen sets, 20,000 mosquito nets, 8,400 ten-liter water containers, 2,000 hygiene kits, 230 rolls of plastic sheeting, and two 12,000-liter water bladders. Partners built or rehabilitated more than 1,600 water systems in villages throughout Aceh, benefitting more than 77,000 people. Repaired sewages systems and sanitation facilities improved hygiene conditions for over 90,000 people. In the years that followed, USAID has continued to work alongside survivors to help affected communities rebuild and create jobs.

So what have we learned since 2005? Below are six lessons that inform the way we respond to disasters a decade after the Indian Ocean tsunami:

1. Early Warning Leads to Early Action

Although there was a lag of several hours between the earthquake and the tsunami, almost all of the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami were taken by surprise, because there were no early detection or early warning systems in place.   In the aftermath of the tsunami, USAID provided $16.6 million to support the development of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System (IOTWS), an integrated early warning and mitigation system that allows countries in the Indian Ocean region to detect and prepare for tsunamis and other coastal hazards. When the Banda Aceh earthquake struck in 2012, the IOTWS system successfully alerted communities across the Indian Ocean and millions of people were able to move away from the coastline.  As a result of these and other early warning efforts, countries and communities, USAID and its development partners are better prepared to respond and mitigate the impact of disasters before they strike.

In addition to aiding recovery and reconstruction, USAID has supported the development of a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean region to help governments detect and prepare for tsunamis in the future. / USAID

In addition to aiding recovery and reconstruction, USAID has supported the development of a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean region to help governments detect and prepare for tsunamis in the future. / USAID

2. Effective Civil-Military Cooperation is Essential

More than 15,000 U.S. soldiers participated in Operation Unified Assistance, the U.S. military’s response to the Indian Ocean tsunami.  Without the unique strategic and tactical lift capabilities of the military, we would not have reached remote places with life-saving supplies as quickly.  Yet, civil-military coordination was a major challenge, with 17 militaries and hundreds of international NGOs responding.  Over the past decade, UN agencies, donors, relief organizations, and the U.S. and other militaries have learned to coordinate more effectively on disaster responses, from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to last year’s typhoon in the Philippines. USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance is the designated U.S. government lead agency in disasters and has worked closely with the military and other U.S. government agencies to create a more seamless system for calling forward needed capabilities. In the current Ebola crisis, USAID and the U.S. military are working hand in glove to sustain an agile and effective response to one of the most complex emergencies of our time.

3. Focus on Jumpstarting Economies

In Aceh, Indonesia, USAID, in partnership with Chevron developed and hosted three-month vocational courses for hundreds of young people from the region, like Junaidi and Syahrizal (pictured). Courses ranged from welding and masonry to bookkeeping and automobile repair. These courses gave graduates the skills they needed to rebuild their communities, and also improved their ability to find jobs with higher wages. / USAID

In Aceh, Indonesia, USAID, in partnership with Chevron developed and hosted three-month vocational courses for hundreds of young people from the region, like Junaidi and Syahrizal (pictured). Courses ranged from welding and masonry to bookkeeping and automobile repair. These courses gave graduates the skills they needed to rebuild their communities, and also improved their ability to find jobs with higher wages. / USAID

In Indonesia, the 2004 tsunami completely razed coastal towns like Banda Aceh, but left others further from the shore untouched. The massive outpouring of aid in the aftermath of the tsunami provided life-saving relief to devastated communities, but also threatened to create a second crisis by smothering local markets that remained active across the country. The tsunami helped catalyze a greater understanding of the power of pivoting quickly from delivering commodities to a focus on using cash for work and other strategies to revive local markets.  USAID supported cash-for-work recovery projects that employed 70,000 people, and helped finance the construction of 278 fishing boats to revive Aceh’s fishing industry. In partnership with Chevron, USAID also developed and hosted three-month vocational courses for hundreds of young people in Aceh, like Junaidi and Syahrizal (pictured above). In the decade since the tsunami, the humanitarian community has increasingly recognized the value of cash-based approaches to emergency responses. USAID has continued to be a trailblazer in these efforts, using mobile e-payments and harnessing public-private partnerships to help jumpstart economies after a crisis, including in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

4. Give Cash, not Goods

The second stop on my 2005 trip was Sri Lanka, where I encountered a depot of donated goods—a new shipment of bikinis, ties and other donations clearly ill-suited to meet the needs of ordinary people trying to survive the aftermath of the tsunami. The outpouring of generosity after the Indian Ocean tsunami was truly impressive and unprecedented. However, it also led to massive “goodwill dumping,” as well-meaning people flooded the region with unnecessary goods that overwhelmed transit points and ended up as trash. As this experience and many other disasters have illustrated, donating cash instead of goods is always the best option, allowing victims to get the quickest access to basic items in local markets

5. Disasters Can Spur Conflict Resolution

The Indian Ocean tsunami caused massive social upheaval, uprooting the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.  Sinhalese and Tamil communities came together in Sri Lanka around the common enemy of a natural disaster.  In Sri Lanka, I saw an Office of Transition Initiatives program that brought together Sinhalese and Tamil youth to work side by side to clean the debris and rebuild their communities. And, recognizing that their own people needed to rebuild not fight, the Free Aceh movement signed a peace deal with the Indonesian government in August 2005. Indonesia’s experience sparks important lessons for how— if given the right circumstances and leaders willing to put their people first— disaster response can catalyze opportunities for peace and inclusive governance.

6. Build Resilience

Most importantly, we know that tsunamis, typhoons, droughts and other shocks will continue to batter communities, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.  Since 2011, USAID has been at the forefront of a global conversation on building resilience.  We know that all our development gains can be wiped out in an instance if households, communities, countries and regions are not better able to adapt, prepare, and recover from the shocks we know will continue to occur. That is why in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and Swedish sida, we launched the Global Resilience Partnership, which will drive evidence-based investments and innovations that enable cities, communities, and households to better manage and adapt to inevitable shocks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Lindborg is the USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Follow her @nancylindborg

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Building Ebola Treatment Units to Foster Hope, Healing in Liberia

Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai, middle, gets a tour of the U.S.-built Tubmanburg Ebola treatment unit from USAID partner International Organization for Migration, which will be running the facility / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai, middle, gets a tour of the U.S.-built Tubmanburg Ebola treatment unit from USAID partner International Organization for Migration, which will be running the facility / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

In the Bomi Hills northwest of Monrovia, in an area that used to be the region’s iron and diamond mining center, it’s hard to miss the new “precious resource” that has become critical to Liberia’s fight against Ebola.

Four stark white tents gleam in the sun, the most prominent part of the new Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Tubmanburg, which is the first ETU to be built and staffed by the United States in Liberia.

Liberian Army Capt. Glee Dilliard Dada led a team of Liberian soldiers who worked closely with the U.S. military to build the facility. Despite the rain, heat and construction setbacks, the Ebola treatment unit was built in 35 days / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Liberian Army Capt. Glee Dilliard Dada led a team of Liberian soldiers who worked closely with the U.S. military to build the facility. Despite the rain, heat and construction setbacks, the Ebola treatment unit was built in 35 days / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Construction on the 2-acre site was overseen by the U.S. Defense Department in close partnership with the Armed Forces of Liberia. More than 60 people had to overcome the rain, heat, poor roads and supply shortages to build the site in 35 days, completing the ETU earlier this month.

“Especially in this time of national crisis, it has been rewarding to be out here and assisting,” said Armed Forces of Liberia Capt. Glee Dilliard Dada, who supervised the Liberian military construction crew. “I am very overwhelmed with a lot of pride. In a month’s time we did all of this.”

The Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Tubmanburg is the first ETU to be built and staffed by the United States in Liberia / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

The Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Tubmanburg is the first ETU to be built and staffed by the United States in Liberia / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team leader Bill Berger called the ETU an extraordinary effort, saying, “It took strong partnership to build this ETU. It will also take strong partnership to provide care to patients.”

USAID partner the International Organization of Migration, or IOM, has stepped forward to manage the ETU under the leadership of the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. For the past two weeks, IOM’s medical team—made up of local and international health care workers—received rigorous training on Ebola patient care, safety protocols and ETU management.

Within the 2-acre site is a changing area where local and international staff with the International Organization for Migration will be donning googles and other protective equipment to care for patients. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Within the 2-acre site is a changing area where local and international staff with the International Organization for Migration will be donning goggles and other protective equipment to care for patients. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

More than 120 members of IOM’s team are now prepared to care for patients. Tejanie Golafaley, a local resident and Ebola survivor, is especially eager to speak to patients at the ETU about his experience beating the disease.

“When I got Ebola, people didn’t want to come around me. I was stigmatized by Ebola,” Golafaley said. “The best thing I can do is talk to [patients] …. I’m going to tell them I’m a survivor. I want to give them hope.”

Tejanie Golafaley, an Ebola survivor, saw it as his personal mission to work at the USAID-supported Ebola treatment unit in Tubmanburg. “I want to explain my story to patients [so that] they can start to take courage.” / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Tejanie Golafaley, an Ebola survivor, saw it as his personal mission to work at the USAID-supported Ebola treatment unit in Tubmanburg. “I want to explain my story to patients [so that] they can start to take courage.” / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Han is the Press Officer for USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team [DART], which is overseeing the U.S. Ebola response efforts in West Africa. The DART includes staff from across the government, including USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services.

One Year Later—the Road to Resilience After Typhoon Haiyan

The United States is providing more than $47 million in humanitarian aid to help the people of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, Nov. 18, 2013. At least 200,000 people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine city of Tacloban and six surrounding districts are now receiving clean water for cooking and drinking, as the first water treatment plant came back to full operating capacity /  IOM/J. Lowry

The United States is providing more than $47 million in humanitarian aid to help the people of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, Nov. 18, 2013. At least 200,000 people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine city of Tacloban and six surrounding districts are now receiving clean water for cooking and drinking, as the first water treatment plant came back to full operating capacity / IOM/J. Lowry

This week a year ago, I was in the Philippines, flying with the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team in a C-130 to Tacloban in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda). The strongest storm in recorded history, Haiyan hit on Nov. 8, killing more than 6,000 people, displacing 4.1 million, and affecting 16 million in total—about 14 percent of the country’s total population. Flying into Tacloban, I saw a flattened landscape littered with what looked like matchsticks—the splintered remains of homes, businesses and millions of coconut trees. The damage was immense.

The Philippine Government estimates the typhoon caused $12.7 billion in losses. More than a million homes were damaged or destroyed, and 33 million coconut trees, a source of income for many Filipinos, were wiped out. As the average growth span of a coconut tree is 12 years, the storm essentially wiped out a decade of livelihoods for many Filipino families.

USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg greets a man at the Tacloban airport who is set to board a flight to Manila, Nov. 19, 2013 / USAID

USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg greets a man at the Tacloban airport who is set to board a flight to Manila, Nov. 19, 2013 / USAID

While we have seen enormous progress by the Philippines to build back better, including plans to move 1 million people away from the coast, many of the 4 million people displaced by the storm are still living in temporary shelters. The Philippines continues to lose up to $5 billion, or 2 percent of its gross domestic product, each year to recurring natural disasters.

The Philippines’ steady but tough recovery one year after Haiyan underscores the importance of investing in resilience—of helping people, communities, countries and systems survive and recover from acute shocks and stresses.

Far from being an isolated incident, Haiyan is part of a litany of natural disasters that are coming faster and harder each year thanks to climate change. Research suggests that, as our oceans become warmer, the severity of storms will inevitably increase. The number of reported disasters has already nearly tripled since 1980, and the cost of those disasters is up 300 percent, to $200 billion every year.

As Haiyan illustrates, when disaster strikes, the most vulnerable populations are the hardest hit, often without a chance to recover before the next shock hits them. Many of the communities affected by Haiyan already had poor infrastructure, which was devastated by the storm.

We know that droughts, typhoons and other disasters will continue to happen. By investing in resilience, USAID has pledged to help the world’s most vulnerable get ahead of these recurring shocks. We have changed the way we do business to help communities adapt, mitigate and manage the risks that will inevitably come. These efforts include bringing our humanitarian and development teams together to integrate, layer and sequence our relief and development resources around the shared aim of reducing persistent emergencies by addressing underlying vulnerabilities.

Caption: Boxes of relief kits from USAID sit outside the heavily damaged Tacloban airport, Nov. 19, 2013 / IOM/J. Lowry

Boxes of relief kits from USAID sit outside the heavily damaged Tacloban airport, Nov. 19, 2013 / IOM/J. Lowry

Climate change adaptation is critical to mitigating the impact of disasters like Haiyan, and USAID is investing in these efforts. We are part of the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund, a $140 million partnership with the Department for International Development and the Rockefeller Foundation targeting infrastructure projects in Asian cities. We also launched the Pacific American Climate Fund, a $24 million program that provides grants to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

In the aftermath of Haiyan, our humanitarian assistance of over $90 million helped the Philippines not only bounce back, but rebuild livelihoods and build up stronger systems to weather future shocks. Our Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance deployed people before the storm hit so we were prepared to provide immediate assistance to help save lives. We quickly turned our cash assistance programs into cash-for-work and cash-for-training activities, including emergency employment programs that engaged 118,000 people in essential reconstruction efforts to clear debris, repair more than 1,500 kilometers of roads, and restore services in 560 schools, 220 rural health care centers and more than 30 hospitals.

We also provided skills training and micro-enterprise and small business support to the most vulnerable populations, particularly small-scale coconut farmers.USAID joined together with Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola to help revive economic activity and livelihoods in Leyte, the province worst hit by the typhoon. These efforts helped restore damaged or destroyed sari-sari stores (small community stores) in public markets, and jump-start business by providing store owners access to micro-financing loans.

And we continue to seek the best ideas for building resilience in advance of a crisis. USAID joined forces with the Rockefeller Foundation and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency earlier this fall to launch the Global Resilience Partnership, which aims to catalyze innovation and scale what is already working in resilience efforts by bringing in new actors, including the private sector and academia. With an initial investment of $150 million from the three partners, the Partnership will help to drive evidence-based investments that enable cities, communities and households to better manage and adapt to inevitable shocks.

The Partnership’s first activity is the Global Resilience Challenge, a call for the creation of teams from all sectors to come together to produce locally driven, high-impact solutions to resilience challenges (application deadline: Nov. 30). Our focus will be in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia—areas with high resilience needs.

Through the Partnership, we seek to create a community of practice to strengthen resilience globally. In the face of shocks and stresses caused by epidemics, fragility and our planet’s changing climate, we need all-in ideas and solutions. The Partnership is an important effort to learn from disasters like Haiyan, build preparedness for the future, and help the world’s most vulnerable get on a solid path toward development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Lindborg is the USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Follow here @nancylindborg

“I’ve Never Had a Job Like This”: Life Inside an Ebola Treatment Unit

Morgana Wingard This blog is part of our Daily Dispatches series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight on Ebola. Her photo series and blogs from the team offer unique angles into the many facets of the Ebola story – from life inside a treatment center, to profiles of the health care workers battling Ebola from the front lines, to the many ways the epidemic is impacting the health, economy and future of the nation.

SUAKOKO, Liberia—”It becomes day-to-day life. You get into your PPE [personal protective equipment] and you go in every day and you feel safe,” explains Audrey Rangel – a nurse at the Bong County Ebola treatment unit run by International Medical Corps with support and funding from USAID.

Before landing at Roberts International Airport in Monrovia on September 8,  Audrey worked on a maternal, child health and nutrition program in Timor Leste. “I always wanted to do disaster relief work. The crisis started to take off. It was in the news a lot. People were talking about it. So I went online. I saw a position for an Ebola response nurse. To me it was just the right time. The description just kind of fit me. I was speaking with my husband and I was saying I can’t not do this. I can’t not do this…. They need people. There was an actual need for me. And I just kind of felt like the description was made for me. It was just perfect. I had to do it.”

The Bong County Ebola treatment unit where Audrey was stationed is a four hour bumpy journey from Monrovia. Bong has some of the highest rates of infection after Lofa and Montserrado Counties. Their two ambulances drive for hours every day to pick-up patients in remote locations like Bong Mines where they picked-up 18-year-old Cephas after his father carried him on his back for an hour to a location where the ambulance could reach him.

Audrey’s days are spent on the front lines of the Ebola response, suiting up in protective gear and caring for patients like Cephas. Even as she roots for survivors, she admits that it’s easy to get attached to her patients: “For some reason you’re sad to see them go.”

“It’s turned out to be an amazing, amazing experience. I wouldn’t take it back for anything.  I guess you can say it exceeded my non-expectations,” says Audrey.

To learn how qualified medical professionals can join the fight against Ebola, visit: www.usaid.gov/ebola/volunteers.

Watch Audrey’s Story

(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. All this week she will be guest posting from USAID’s instagram

2014: A Year of Food Assistance

From the dusty plains of South Sudan to the tropics in the Philippines, the world saw a whirlwind of crises destroy lives, livelihoods and human dignity over the past year. Severe drought, ravaging conflict and powerful natural disasters devastated communities and pushed already vulnerable families into crisis, oftentimes lacking enough food. USAID, through its Office of Food For Peace, was there to provide emergency food assistance in those times of need. The face of hunger is changing and we have changed with it—by thinking outside the box and providing more innovative responses to reach families faster, cheaper and more effectively. Among the largest responses this year were Syria, South Sudan, the Philippines and Central African Republic. Keep reading to learn about a few of the innovations USAID used to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need.

Syria

A boy purchases bread in Aleppo, Syria, using a food voucher he received from the World Food Program. / USAID Partner

A boy purchases bread in Aleppo, Syria, using a food voucher he received from the World Food Program. / USAID Partner

Violence in Syria escalated over the past year due to heavy fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and opposition forces, increasing the number of displaced persons to more than 6.4 million. Over the past year, USAID and its partners supported food vouchers for refugee families enabling them to buy food in local markets. Bakeries inside Syria turned regionally purchased wheat into bread for hungry families, ensuring families had that most basic of staples in their daily diets. With this and other forms of assistance—including family-size food packs—USAID assisted partners in reaching nearly 5 million conflict-affected Syrians.

South Sudan

In South Sudan, clashes sparked by a political crisis in December 2013 spurred conflict through much of the country that eventually displaced more than 1.8 million people. Ongoing displacement prevented farmers from planting or harvesting their crops and led to emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity for 1.5 million people. Even before the crisis began, 40 percent of South Sudanese needed humanitarian assistance. In preparation for increasing 2014 needs, USAID shipped U.S. food to South Sudan that arrived in February.

By May, when United Nations officials alerted the world to the possibility of famine, USAID had already authorized the U.N. World Food Program’s (WFP’s) South Sudan program to fully utilize those resources for the emergency response. When on-the-ground distribution became unfeasible due to conflict and the rainy season that collectively made roads impassable, WFP started the very expensive alternative of delivering food aid by aircraft. As part of its response, USAID distributed regionally purchased ready-to-use specialized food products to prevent and treat acute malnutrition in children under the age of 5.

The situation in South Sudan was already dire, but has since spiraled downward to become the worst food security crisis in the world. As a result, USAID has tapped into a seldom-used special authority in the Farm Bill—the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust—to respond to extraordinary, unforeseen and expanding need with additional food aid. Shipments of more than 64,000 metric tons of U.S. food commodities purchased under this special authority are now on their way to Africa to help the South Sudanese people.

Food distribution in South Sudan. / World Food Program

Food distribution in South Sudan. / World Food Program

Philippines

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan swept into the Philippines and proved to be one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. The storm displaced over 14.1 million people and caused billions of dollars in damages to infrastructure and livelihoods. Within three weeks of its landfall, USAID provided WFP and the the Philippine Government with the tools needed to provide life saving food assistance to nearly 3 million people.

Through an innovative approach, USAID combined U.S. food—including pre-positioned meal-replacement bars from Miami and pre-positioned rice from Colombo, Sri Lanka—with cash-based assistance to meet urgent food needs. With the cash assistance, WFP purchased rice directly from the Government of the Philippines and airlifted high-energy biscuits from Dubai, including these items in family food packs distributed just five days after the typhoon. WFP also provided cash transfers to purchase basic food items in places where markets were functioning. Additional U.S. rice arrived in February to support food-for-assets activities, which focused on agricultural livelihoods restoration, and direct distribution to the most vulnerable households.

USAID distributes rice and high-energy biscuits to vulnerable families after Typhoon Haiyan. / World Food Program

USAID distributes rice and high-energy biscuits to vulnerable families after Typhoon Haiyan. / World Food Program

Central African Republic

Ongoing armed conflict and political instability in Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2012 has displaced over 490,000 people, created close to 418,000 refugees, and greatly exacerbated food insecurity. Due to heightened insecurities this year along the roads entering the country, USAID and WFP worked to expand the number of entry points into CAR and figure out creative ways to distribute food assistance to those in need, such as using airlifts and river barges.

Using a combination of U.S. and regionally available food, USAID reached over 1 million vulnerable, food insecure people—including both internally displaced persons and refugees.  Returnees in Chad, who fled CAR at the outbreak of violence, are using food vouchers to buy food available on local markets. As the conflict has raged on, decreased access to vulnerable populations has meant USAID and its partners have had to continually search for new and innovative ways to deliver life saving assistance.

Children carry vegetable oil provided by USAID in the Don Bosco camp for internally displaced persons in Bangui, CAR. / World Food Program

Children carry vegetable oil provided by USAID in the Don Bosco camp for internally displaced persons in Bangui, CAR. / World Food Program

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nina Rosenberg is an Information Officer in USAID’s Office of Food for Peace.

An Outsized Problem with a Small-sized Solution

In the lush countryside of Burundi, you wouldn’t expect there to be chronically high rates of malnutrition. But hidden behind the walls of a family’s house, poor feeding practices, compounded by large families with kids close in age, means malnutrition lurks. According to a 2013 IFPRI study, more than 73 percent of the population in Burundi is undernourished, and 58 percent of the population is stunted. These figures are staggering, given the population of Burundi is only 10 million.

That’s where USAID and partner UNICEF come in. Burundi is one of the first countries where U.S.-produced Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, or RUTF, is being used to treat acute malnutrition.

A child eats his ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat his malnutrition. / USAID, Katie McKenna

A child eats his ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat his malnutrition. / USAID, Katie McKenna

Why do these small packets make such a difference? Previously, kids with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) had to be treated at the hospital. This meant families’ staying weeks and weeks as the child recuperated. Now, with the advent of products like RUTF, children without any other health symptoms can be treated at home. Imagine you’re a small kid who is sick – which would you prefer? Being at a hospital for weeks at a time, or in the comfort of your own home? It’s a no brainer.

A new food assistance product for the Agency’s Office of Food for Peace, this product is a game changer for tackling severe acute malnutrition. Previously the Agency’s food assistance partners did not have capacity to purchase this product in the United States for food assistance programs because U.S. suppliers were not producing it. This meant only doing small scale interventions with locally purchased ready-to-use foods, or not being able to treat severe acute malnutrition at all through food assistance.

Starting in 2012, this changed. Currently USAID plans to meet at least 10 percent of UNICEF’s global need for RUTF, and has already provided this specialized product in 14 countries since 2012. In Burundi, RUTF is helping treat 16,500 severely acutely malnourished kids under 5 in nine provinces.

UNICEF staff are working tirelessly to ensure that the Ministry of Health of Burundi is able to treat severe acute malnutrition, and help mothers learn to treat it themselves at home. In villages across Burundi, every week women bring their children to the local health clinic for nutrition training, and to get their kids’ health assessed. In exchange, they receive a week’s supply of RUTF for their kids identified as severely acutely malnourished.

In Burundi, more than 73 percent of the population is undernourished, and 58 percent of the population is stunted. U.S.-produced Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food is being used there to treat acute malnutrition. / USAID, Katie McKenna

In Burundi, more than 73 percent of the population is undernourished, and 58 percent of the population is stunted. U.S.-produced Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food is being used there to treat acute malnutrition. / USAID, Katie McKenna

Elias Ndikumana, a father of three, has two children enrolled in treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Twins Alain Don Divin Igiraneza and Alain Bon Idée Ahishakiye, both 1.5 years old, were brought into the health center in Muyange colline, in Makamba Province,  when they started to show some of the telltale signs of being malnourished.

“The children were so weak when I brought them to the clinic. I was so worried about them,” said Ndikumana. For the last six weeks, they’ve been eating RUTF. “Now they’ve been eating the paste, they are livelier and getting healthier. I am so relieved.”

UNICEF and USAID are not stopping there. We are working to build the capacity of the Ministry of Health nutrition office to do outpatient care at the health center level and inpatient treatment of SAM at the hospital level. A first step is helping the government manage the supply chain for RUTF. With funding from both PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and Food for Peace, warehouses to store the RUTF have been equipped to improve storage space and stock management.

Health workers, nurses and doctors, including those still in medical schools, are also being trained to recognize the signs of acute malnutrition and how to treat it so the problem can be tackled early on, and not once a child gets to a critical stage. It is hoped in the long run that the Ministry of Health will be able to tackle this persistent problem without outside assistance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Hartl is lead Information Officer for the Office of Food for Peace. Follow Food for Peace @USAIDFFP

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