USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Humanitarian Assistance

South Sudan on the Brink of Famine Demands Urgent Action

Camp Tanping in Bor, South Sudan, after March rain. 21,000 people are sheltered at the camp following the outbreak of violence

Camp Tanping in Bor, South Sudan, after March rain. 21,000 people are sheltered at the camp following the outbreak of violence

On the first of April, I walked with great sadness through the United Nations compound in Juba, capital of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, now in free fall after a hopeful beginning three years ago. The compound is sheltering more than 21,000 displaced people who fled to safety after a spasm of violence in mid-December killed untold thousands.

I talked with 23- year-old Mary who told me how she had hid with her husband—a civil servant in the new government—and their three children as they watched neighbors being killed on the street before running to the compound for safety. I spoke with Elizabeth, a tall young woman who had taught school before she came to the camp. Together we noticed a few toddlers playing perilously close to a large pool of standing, fetid water from the first rains, a harbinger of the flooding now here.

The people of South Sudan face a spiral of conflict, displacement, and hunger that this fragile, young country can ill afford. More than one million people have been forced to leave their homes and the numbers keep growing. Almost 70,000 people are sheltering in crowded UN compounds around the country that sprung up over night and were not built to house tens of thousands of civilians. Many of these people can literally see their homes over the compound walls but remain too terrified to return, fearing they will be targeted by government or opposition forces and killed.

More than 800,000 people are displaced and dispersed in hard to reach areas, and a quarter of a million more have fled South Sudan for refuge in neighboring countries. Because of the conflict, markets are disrupted, planting season is in danger of being missed, and massive displacement is a burden for host communities. The ability of more than a million people to cope is being greatly eroded. Without fast and sustained aid, there is looming potential for one million people to teeter into famine over the next year—and children under five are already falling quickly into severe malnutrition.

AA/DCHA Nancy Lindborg plays with children at a UN camp in South Sudan. Over 67,800 people are seeking refuge in UN camps in the country.

Nancy Lindborg plays with children at a UN camp in South Sudan. Over 67,800 people are seeking refuge in UN camps in the country.

Since the outbreak of violence in December, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team has been working with UN and NGO partners to direct a full-throttle U.S. response to enable food, water, sanitation, and health assistance to reach the most vulnerable. While in Juba, I announced an additional $83 million in humanitarian assistance to support these urgently needed relief efforts for South Sudanese displaced within South Sudan and for those who have fled to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, bringing U.S. humanitarian assistance to $411 million over the last two years.

With the rainy season already upon us, there is little time to move life-saving assistance to those most in need. Even in the best of times, South Sudan presents a complex logistical challenge. Now, we need to use all possible avenues for reaching people: rivers, roads, air, and moving across borders.

Instead, leadership of both the government and the opposition have thus far refused to stop fighting and are unable to reach agreement since the violence erupted in December. Aid workers and cargoes are routinely delayed at checkpoints and where borders are open, caravans of trucks carrying relief supplies are stopped by fighting. Permission to use the Nile, the most efficient way to reach many of the suffering South Sudanese, has been denied until recently, costing precious time to save lives.

The United States has long supported South Sudan’s journey to independence. We remain committed to the people of South Sudan, who fought hard for their vision of a peaceful future. Just this week, we joined leaders from the United Nations and the European Union to issue a Call for Action on South Sudan urging an immediate end to fighting and unfettered access for UN and humanitarian organizations to reach people in need across the country. The leadership on both sides of the conflict must do everything in their power to enable immediate and unconditional access for UN and humanitarian organizations to ensure that this urgently needed assistance reaches those in need across all areas of South Sudan. They must act now to lead their country toward peace.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post on April 9, 2014

 

By Preparing for Disaster, Chile Remains Resilient

A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile in 2010 causing extensive damage and hundreds of deaths. Photo Credit: Larry Sacks/USAID

A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile in 2010 causing extensive damage and hundreds of deaths. Photo Credit: Larry Sacks/USAID

A powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck near the northern coast of Chile on April 1, prompting a tsunami and a series of strong aftershocks. Yet, nearly 1 million people were safely evacuated from harm’s way thanks to Chile’s disaster response preparations and early detection of the tsunami.

Chile is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and last week’s tremor was the most significant seismic activity since 2010, when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit central Chile. Chilean officials were able to detect the earthquake and track tsunami waves before landfall, allowing them to respond swiftly and evacuate people in potentially affected areas. The result was very few casualties in contrast to the 2010 earthquake, which tragically took more than 550 lives.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) has worked with the Government of Chile for more than two decades to strengthen its ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Since 2010, an emphasis has been placed on helping Chile establish a national monitoring system that allows local experts to study and track seismic activity in the region. Additionally, USAID and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration helped Chile develop a tsunami early warning system that has bolstered the country’s ability to detect tsunamis in advance and alert people when needed, including for evacuations.

USAID teams up with local disaster first responders in Chile to teach collapsed structure rescue methods. Photo Credit: Mariela Chavarriga/USAID

USAID teams up with local disaster first responders in Chile to teach collapsed structure rescue methods. Photo Credit: Mariela Chavarriga/USAID

USAID/OFDA also supports training workshops for local and emergency responders in Chile that focus on tsunami response exercises as an effective preparedness tool, as well as bolstering skills in medical aid, urban-search-and-rescue capabilities, and coordination during a disaster.

Underscoring the importance of disaster preparedness, geologists predict that Chile will experience more earthquakes in the future. However, the Chilean Government’s response to this most recent disaster demonstrates the lifesaving power of disaster risk reduction work.

 

Standing with the People of the Central African Republic for a Stronger Future

Originally featured on the Huffington Post

Last week, as I flew into Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), what first appeared as a densely populated city came into sharp focus as a sprawling, miserable settlement of tarps, sticks, and rags. With a total population of about 750,000, almost 400,000 people in Bagui are displaced and 100,000 people are now huddled in an encampment by the airport, seeking refuge from a vicious cycle of attacks and lawlessness. Humanitarian agencies have improvised the delivery of food, water, and basic supplies, but the urgent hope is that the deployment of international troops will bring security fast enough to allow people to return home, especially before the spring rains turn this camp into a giant swamp.

Nancy Lindborg is the USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Photo Credit: USAID

For decades, CAR has topped the list of forgotten countries. Landlocked in the middle of the African continent, surrounded by neighbors with longstanding tensions of their own and left to decay through decades of incompetent and corrupt leadership, CAR is the poster child for why development matters-especially development linked to inclusive, legitimate, democratic governance. In a free fall of violence since the collapse of a short-lived consensus government in March 2013, warring militias have taken up arms in communities across the country, motivated increasingly by revenge, while religious labels are being slapped onto tensions with much deeper, historical roots.

Like many conflicts, the current crisis in CAR is complicated. But what isn’t complicated is the suffering of the more than one million women, children, and men who have been forced from their homes as a result of the recent violence in a country already struggling with chronic poverty. Almost everyone I met with in the Bangui camp or in similar camps I visited in Bossangoa, a city to the north, had a story of displacement, fear, and loss.

In Bossangoa, I met a woman called Nana, a slender older woman from Benzamde, a district roughly 40 kilometers from the rough tent she lives in now alongside 8,5000 other Muslims seeking safety. Nana lost her husband and four children to the recent violence and now resides with her sister and grandchildren at Camp École Liberté. The local Imam is living in the camp for protection as well, having lost his wife and four of his children in recent attacks. The local Bishop lives nearby in a church that now has 41,300 Christians encamped around it, including Dorcas, a Christian woman who lost her husband in the December 5th violence and now supports their four children, including a six-month-old girl who nodded sleepily in the sling on her back.

Although the Bishop and Imam talk regularly, they despair that their messages of peace are not reaching a larger audience, especially with so many radio stations destroyed by the violence and in a country that avails no opportunity to prosecute those who steal, kill, or loot.

In this tinderbox environment, tensions remain high and the prevention of further violence is an international priority. Since the escalation of hostilities in December 2013, the United States has moved urgently to respond with $101 million in security assistance, both for French troops and additional African troops. During my visit, I saw two U.S. planes arrive with soldiers from the region to augment the existing peacekeeping troops.

On the heels of my visit to CAR, I traveled to Brussels, accompanied by colleagues from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, where the international community collectively pledged nearly $500 million in new funds to address the rising humanitarian crisis in CAR, including $54 million from the United States to provide urgent food, water, and medical assistance to the millions of Central Africans in need as well as support for courageous religious and community leaders who are promoting calm and peace among their communities.

An important step forward is the appointment one week ago of a new interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, the former mayor of Bangui. After decades of exploitation and corruption by political forces, we are hopeful that Samba-Panza will provide political leadership focused on democratic governance rather than association with militia groups or narrow interests. To this end, she has called repeatedly for an inclusive peace and a new future for the country, and she recently appointed a technocratic Prime Minister, who formed a 20-member interim cabinet comprised of seven women and three representatives of ex-Seleka rebels.

The United States has pledged to join the international community to urgently help prevent the potential for even more killings and violence, including support for the possible pathway to peace that President Samba-Panza presents. The international community is mobilizing to help people like Dorcas and Nana climb out of the current cycle of violence with new attention and assistance-and it matters. So will our continued attention to stronger institutions, rule of law, and justice for a lasting peace.

See Also:
Additional $30 Million in Humanitarian Assistance for the People of the Central African Republic

Follow Nancy Lindborg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NancyLindborg

Syrian Women: Critical Partners for Peace

As negotiations to halt the violence in Syria continue, I am reminded daily of the essential role that Syrian women must play in order to resolve the crisis. Two weeks ago, I represented the U.S. Government at a high-level preparatory conference organized by UN Women and the Dutch Government to prepare women for a voice in the upcoming Geneva II talks. The compelling briefings and written declarations by delegates underscored how important women’s perspectives are to progress.

Despite their widely varying views regarding the future of Syria, the women who gathered in Geneva unambiguously called for an immediate end to violence, unfettered humanitarian access, and support of the Geneva 1 communique and diplomatic negotiations. Most importantly, their declaration also emphasized that women must participate robustly in all talks.

Syrian refugees in Ankara, Turkey

Credit: AFP/Adem Altan

I have no doubt that the perspectives of women will add breadth and depth to the conversations. Syrian women and girls are experiencing the conflict in specific ways. They are coping with sexual violence that can have a significant impact on their health, well-being, and position within their families and communities. They are assuming non-traditional roles as their husbands, fathers, and brothers go off to fight or are targeted by violence. They are facing the risk of being married off young in exchange for dowries to put food on their families’ table, or to pay rent.

Last week, Geneva II negotiations began and fortunately, for the mediators and for the Syrian people, women were included on government and opposition delegations. Today, the talks focus on enabling humanitarian aid for Homs. Women at the talks are reminding delegates that a diverse coalition of women called for medical and humanitarian aid weeks ago. These women can also help garner support for negotiations back home in Homs, in Aleppo, in Damascus and elsewhere, because they represent a constituency on the ground, living the violence every day.

The participation of these women will be invaluable because like other women before them, including in Sudan, Uganda, Iraq, and among Israelis and Palestinians, they raised unique issues during negotiations. Women focus on the need to re-establish civilian security; they emphasize the need to maintain and rebuild communities; and they focus attention on the needs and interests of the displaced. Women are well-connected to war-affected communities back home; they help create lines of communication to increase local knowledge and ownership of talks and support for negotiated solutions.

As negotiations continue, women will remain a critical resource in pushing for peace. They will be able to provide insight to the situation on the ground and best strategies for rebuilding and reuniting communities torn apart by the conflict.

It is in the global community’s own interest to ensure Syrian women’s continuing role and influence in dialog and problem-solving at both the local and national levels. Without their involvement, peace is likely to be harder to attain, more tenuous, and more fragile.

USAID Remains Focused on Typhoon Response in the Philippines

Excerpts from remarks made by Greg Beck on January 8, 2014, at a Center for Strategic and International Studies conference on the U.S. response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

I’m always worried that after the first month or two, on a large emergency such as Typhoon Haiyan, that the attention fades because there are so many other pressing issues and disasters around the world. It’s really important to remain focused on our efforts going forward.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck discussing continuous Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda relief operations with a DSWD representative. Photo credit: USAID.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck discussing continuous Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda relief operations with a Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development representative. Photo credit: USAID.


I was in Tacloban a few weeks ago, and I was able to see the immediate impacts of a long-term partnership with the Government of the Philippines. I was able to see the impact of our initial investments over the last five years in building up their capacity to mitigate the effects of these large natural disasters. I also was able to see how we’ve been working very strongly with diaspora groups, NGOs, local groups and the private sector to build the long-term relationships that we were able to put into action on day one.

USAID had been tracking the typhoon and saw that it was becoming incredibly powerful about a week before it hit land. We prepositioned a number of disaster assistance staff in Manila from our regional office in Bangkok. Within the first day, they were in Tacloban and immediately working with our colleagues from the Department of Defense (DOD), who deserve recognition for contributing to strong interagency coordination. Without the “air bridge” support DOD provided, we would not have been able to effectively deliver all the supplies that we brought in from our bases in Dubai and Miami. Over 2,000 metric tons of critical relief supplies were brought out to the secondary and tertiary distribution sites because of the air bridge — because of the C-130s, the Ospreys, the choppers, and the operational support that the Defense Department gave to the Government of the Philippines. It was incredibly critical.

Having worked in Asia for over a decade and responded to a number of natural disasters that have happened, I have to say this really was a textbook response. We had been working for a number of years to build up the network and partnerships to have the capacity to immediately respond, no matter the size of the scope of the emergency.

We are now beginning our pivot to the early recovery stage and we will continue to focus on some critical areas. Transitional shelter, livelihoods, health, cash-for-work, microfinance, temporary schools, and the rebuilding of rural health units will be very important focus areas for us over the next three to 12 months. When Secretary of State John Kerry was in Tacloban on December 18th, he announced a terrific USAID partnership with Coca Cola and Proctor & Gamble to rebuild 2,000 sari-saris — small convenience stores that provide access to important basic supplies for people who are living on less than a dollar a day. Reestablishing sari-sari stores creates income and livelihoods for families, and it is our priority to get those up and running very quickly.

It is a heavy lift going forward. We have some critical areas to address, especially in shelter, as we saw in the Washington Post article over the weekend. We’ll be working with Leyte Province and developing a Green Plan so that we’re building back not only better, but building back safer, building back healthier. The Government of the Philippines has been building their capacity and their ability to respond quickly and effectively over the last decade. We’ll continue to work very closely with the government to further strengthen that capacity, recognizing that this is not the last of the emergencies that we’re going to be seeing.

Coping with Conflict: Helping Syrians Overcome the Trauma of War

An Arabic translation is available.

USAID provides children with healing and learning spaces that offer a safe and stable environment to learn and play.

As the brutal conflict in Syria nears its third year, 9.3 million people now find themselves in need of humanitarian assistance and growing increasingly vulnerable with each passing day. Sadly, women and children often fare the worst in war, and the crisis in Syria is no exception.

Syrian children create art at a learning center geared toward helping them deal with the psychosocial stresses of the conflict.

Syrian children create art at a learning center geared toward helping them deal with the psychosocial stresses of the conflict. Photo: USAID Partner

Insecurity and violence forced Mariam and her five children to flee their home in Damascus not once, not even twice, but three times. They found safety sharing a room in an abandoned school with several other displaced families, but what they experienced in the process of fleeing is unimaginable.

Unfortunately, Mariam’s story is not unique—6.5 million people are displaced within Syria and more than two million have sought security in neighboring countries. Nearly half of these refugees are children. The impact on the social and emotional well-being of Syrians like Mariam is considerable, and can have long-term consequences for children, women, their families and communities.

As one part of an ongoing effort to meet the most critical humanitarian needs of millions of people inside Syria, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance helps provide psychosocial services through women’s health centers, mobile clinics,and outreach workers to help Syrians deal with the stresses of conflict and displacement. USAID provides children with healing and learning spaces that offer a safe, stable environment to learn and play. Home-based support is assisting people living on the front lines who are unable to travel for care.

USAID partners also lead parent support programs aimed at equipping mothers, fathers, and caretakers with the knowledge and skills to cope with psychosocial stress and to provide appropriate protective care for their children.

“I learned methods of dealing with my children during these tough circumstances. The trainers encouraged the kids to interact and play together, which helped my son Mohammed overcome his fears and sadness,” said Mariam.

The U.S. will continue to provide mental health support to people affected by the Syria crisis as they cope with the daily challenges of war — all part of the $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance for the crisis.

Preparing Syrians for a Harsh Winter

An Arabic translation is available.

The crisis in Syria continues to escalate and 9.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance—more than 40 percent of the country’s total population. With winter fast approaching, these staggering numbers speak to the urgency of preparing Syrians for the upcoming cold weather.

A young Syrian boy receives a box of clothing at a USAID-supported distribution site. Photo credit: USAID Partner

A young Syrian boy receives a box of clothing at a USAID-supported distribution site. Photo credit: USAID Partner

Majd and his family are one of many receiving winter relief assistance from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. Intense fighting forced him to flee Homs with his wife, three-year-old son and elderly mother. When they reached safety in Tartous, they had nothing but each other and the clothing on their backs.

The family managed to find shelter in a small room of a shared compound housing several displaced Syrians, but this new ‘home’ was in no condition to protect them from a cold winter. It had no furniture, bed, or floor coverings, leaving them with nowhere to sleep but the hard, cold floor.

Due to the conflict, Majd had been out of work for close to a year. Left without any source of income, he was unable to buy even one blanket for his family. It was USAID partners that provided Majd with mattresses and extra blankets to help keep his family warm.

With many more people now in need since last year, the United States began preparing winter relief kits and coordinating distribution plans over the summer. Efforts to distribute thermal blankets, warm clothing and additional plastic sheeting for shelter will ramp up as the cold weather sets in.

USAID partners are also working to improve infrastructure in both camp and urban areas to provide people with adequate protection from winter weather elements.

The United States has accelerated its humanitarian response at every step to meet the increasing needs, having contributed more than $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid to date.

USAID in the News

US News and World Report reported on USAID’s contributions to the relief effort in the Philippines following the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. The article focuses on USAID’s decision to purchase food directly from local Filipino distributors—a choice which will not only ease the logistical complications of getting supplies to the areas where they are needed, but also inject cash into the Philippine economy at a time when it is greatly needed. Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance program at USAID, said, “We’re getting to a point where we can start thinking about recovery aspects, but we don’t want to declare victory prematurely. The destruction in those coastal areas was near total.”

This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, where USAID, working with UNICEF, has helped repair the municipal water system. Photo credit:  IOM/J. Lowry

This photo was taken in hard-hit Tacloban, where USAID, working with UNICEF, has helped repair the municipal water system. Photo credit: IOM/J. Lowry

Thomas Reuters Foundation featured a story that examined the USAID relief efforts in the Philippines in the light of lessons learned from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The piece quotes USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah saying that the Philippines’ “strong, capable central government” will help avoid problems in the reconstruction process. “To get reconstruction investment back into the (Philippines) economy and rebuild these communities will take a longer amount of time and will have to be very strategic and focused. But it will require very strong leadership from the government of Philippines and we expect we will see that,” said Shah.

GMA News reported on the scale of USAID’s relief operations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, quoting Al Dwyer, the head of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) at USAID, who said that the current effort in the Philippines “is much greater than what we have ever done in the past.” The U.S. is working with other countries to coordinate the response, and has donated at least $47 million in humanitarian assistance and sent 2.6 million food parcels thus far.

Another piece from GMA News focused on the $10 million that was pledged earlier in the week by the U.S. government to help restore clean water in Tacloban City and provide support to the logistical operations. USAID Assistant Administrator of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy E. Lindborg said that the funding “will allow much-needed relief supplies to reach to hard-hit areas and ensure that 200,000 people in and around Tacloban have clean running water.”

Devex reported on a speech given by Administrator Shah at Brookings Institution, which outlined the agency’s new three-part commitment to helping end extreme poverty. The approach will focus on public-private partnerships, country programs that demand mutual accountability and disaster-prone, fragile areas and communities. In the speech, Shah expressed that a focus on fragile areas must be better informed by an understanding of what results investment in these areas can be expected to produce.

Spy Ghana covered USAID scholarship awards to prospective students through the USAID West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program at the University for Development Studies in Tamale. The scholarships will support 30 students at six universities in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger who wish to pursue master’s degrees in the fields of soil and water conservation, innovation communications, development studies, and science.

Dhaka Tribune featured a piece on the USAID Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity partnership with WildTeam focused on conserving the rich biodiversity of Bangladesh, particularly the Royal Bengal Tiger. The effort, named the Bagh Project, will devote approximately $13 million to wildlife conservation efforts through reducing illegal trafficking, minimizing human-wildlife conflict, enhancing outreach and engagement, and improving livelihoods for conservation.

Photos of the Week: USAID Response to Typhoon Haiyan

Nancy Lindbog greets a woman at the Tacloban Airport

Click on the photo above to view other photos of our assistance in the Philippines (note will direct to USAID Flickr).

Since Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, hit the Philippines‘ coasts on November 8, USAID has been working hard with the U.S. Government to provide relief to Filipinos in affected areas. Above is pictured Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg at the Tacloban Airport with a Filipino woman. Photo is from Carol Han, USAID/OFDA.

Yesterday (November 18), Nancy Lindborg announced the provision of an additional $10 million in U.S. Government (USG) humanitarian assistance for those affected byTyphoon Yolanda/Haiyan. The additional funding brings the total USG assistance for the crisis to more than $37 million. The additional $10 million will support the transportation and distribution of relief commodities to typhoon-affected populations, among other life-saving activities.

Learn more about USAID’s relief efforts and response to Typhoon Haiyan

Video of the Week: USAID Announces Additional $10 Million for Philippine Relief Effort

On November 18 at the Tacloban Airport in the Philippines, USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg talks about “steady drumbeat” of aid from the U.S. to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. On the trip, Nancy will visit Tacloban and Manila to meet with senior U.S., UN, and Philippine officials. She will observe multilateral, interagency, and USAID relief operations. She will also tour distribution centers to determine additional humanitarian aid relief.

Learn more about USAID’s relief and response efforts to assist those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Follow @NancyLindborg on Twitter for on-the-ground updates!

Page 1 of 18:1 2 3 4 »Last »