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Haiti One Year Later: “As long as I am alive, I have hope”

By: Ben Edwards

If you read a newspaper, surfed the internet or watched TV on Wednesday, you know the heart-wrenching state of Haiti one year after the earthquake.  For many, the milestone was a benchmark to measure progress toward earthquake recovery – to report the amount of rubble moved and shelters constructed.  But, for those who lost loved ones in the earthquake, rubble figures and shelter facts seemed far from their minds.

In the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood of Port-au-Prince,more than a thousand Haitians squeezed into a street corner wearing white to commemorate those who died in the earthquake.  Small children grasping heavy blocks of rubble to use as seats wobbled toward the gathering.

From a small stage, a religious leader addressed his community, several of whom clutched tattered photos of loved ones.  He called for a moment of silence at 4:53 p.m., muting whispers and shuffling feet.  Seconds later, a wail erupted from a young girl, tearing through the silence.

“Mama…Mama,” she cried.

A lump grew in my throat.  Heads turned to pinpoint the source, which we never found.  It didn’t matter; her burden was shared by all in attendance.

The crowd began to sing, “How Great Thou Art,” and washed away the sound of weeping.  The music rolled up an adjacent hillside where a group of locals were planting trees – orange, mango, coconut and others — to signify the community’s rebirth.

“Today is a day to remember my friends, and it’s a day to think about a new future,” said a worker.

The 60 trees planted on Wednesday were a small sample of a much larger USAID project to recognize the lives lost in the earthquake by planting 300,000 trees in Parc la Visite National Parc.  Forests cover less than two-percent of Haiti, and the new tress will help restore part of a watershed that descends toward Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.

The 60 trees planted on the hillside in Carrefour Feuilles overlook a new school that was rebuilt in the past year.  The school is a sign of progress, but skewed buildings and pockets of rubble are lingering reminders that Carrefour Feuilles was hit particularly hard by the earthquake. To make matters worse, neighborhoods that suffer the greatest human loss and infrastructure damage tend to attract criminal activity.

After the earthquake, USAID helped keep Carrefour Feuilles from falling into this trap by employing residents to rebuild their neighborhood.  Temporary employment brought relative calm to the community, but stability remains tenuous.  The tree planting that took place on Wednesday was part of USAID’s temporary employment program.

While most of the workers on the hillside seemed happy to talk about trees, they offered less about hopes for their country’s future.  One man, however, was eager to talk reconstruction.

“(International) aid built shelters, helped with rubble and with cholera,” said Maxime.

He then offered a wish-list for progress, citing education reform and governance as key issues.  The timely gut-check highlighted the staggering challenges that lie ahead and the years it will take to overcome them.

As the sun dipped below the surrounding mountains and the sky turned orange, Maxime reconciled my ambivalence about what they’ve accomplished and what remains.

“As long as I am alive, I have hope.”

Haiti: The First Year of the USG’s Long-Term Commitment

By: Paul Weisenfeld, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Latin American and the Caribbean
Photo of Amelia

Seven-year-old Amelia bears a scar from where a concrete block struck her during the earthquake. She is a student at Ecole Marie Dominique Mazzarello in Port-au-Prince, which has temporary classrooms built as part of the PHARE program of USAID. Photo Credit:Kendra Helmer/USAID

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, it’s important to reflect on the lives lost and shattered by this devastating tragedy. But we should also remind ourselves of the commitment of the Haitian people and the international community to rebuilding the country. I was privileged for much of the past year to lead USAID’s Haiti Task Team, charged with coordinating reconstruction efforts in Washington. Seeing Haitians pick themselves up and dedicate themselves to rebuilding their lives after having suffered so dramatically was inspirational. Seeing my colleagues at USAID and other agencies work long hours away from their families and under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to begin the process of recovery and reconstruction was a source of pride. Anyone who has traveled to Haiti over the past year has heard countless stories of heroes that are etched in our minds.

2010 was a year of multiple challenges for Haiti, which suffered not only the earthquake, but also Hurricane Tomas and a dangerous cholera outbreak that continues to threaten the lives and health of Haitians across the country. This is indeed a pivotal moment for the country. Haiti will eventually have a new government, and reconstruction efforts, which have been in the planning phase for many months, will soon begin apace. We are at a point where we will start to see real gains being made. This opportunity for progress is due in large part to the hard work of the Haitian people, with the support of the international community. Together with our U.S. Government colleagues and the international community, we’ve worked with the Government of Haiti to save lives, respond to urgent needs, and lay the foundation for real improvements in the quality of life in Haiti.

Over the past year, we’ve helped provide safer housing for almost 200,000 displaced Haitians; supported vaccinations for more than 1 million people; cleared more than 1.3 million cubic meters of the approximately 10 million cubic meters of rubble generated; helped more than 10,000 farmers double the yields of staples like corn, beans, and sorghum; and provided short-term employment to more than 350,000 Haitians, injecting more than $19 million into the local economy. We’ve provided nearly $42 million to help combat cholera, helping to decrease the number of cases requiring hospitalization and reducing the case fatality rate. By introducing innovations like mobile banking and vertical farming, we’re having a long-term impact on improving the lives of those we serve. We’re partnering with the Government of Haiti in all of our efforts, ensuring that what we do will be sustainable for years to come.

The U.S. Government has developed a robust and ambitious long-term development strategy for our work in Haiti that aligns with the Government of Haiti’s national development plan. Our strategy focuses on rebuilding four key areas: health, infrastructure, economic growth, and governance. We’re placing a priority on innovation and alliances with the private sector and ensuring that we operate responsibly and accountably. And while we will continue to work on rebuilding Port-au-Prince, we’re also encouraging decentralization by tackling poverty and other development challenges in population centers across the country.

Haiti faces a long and difficult road ahead, but we can take encouragement from the resilience and courage of Haitians themselves. During my many visits to Haiti, I’ve heard repeatedly from the Haitian people that they recognize the magnitude of the challenge of rebuilding their country, but because they are no strangers to struggle, they are prepared for the tough task ahead. Together with the rest of the U.S. Government, we at USAID are committed to fulfilling President Obama’s pledge to support the Haitian people’s efforts to rebuild over the long term.

Snapshot from Sudan

USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg with Darfuri childrenUSAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg with Darfuri children at the Otash camp for internally displaced persons outside Nyala, South Darfur. Photo is from Doug Arbuckle.

Picture of the Week: Progress in Haiti

Josette Colin Josette Colin discusses how her earthquake-damaged home was made habitable again by USAID/OFDA-funded Pan American Development Foundation teams in the Simmond-Pele neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Dec. 16, 2010. Photo is from Kendra Helmer/USAID.

From the Field

In Mozambique, as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), we will launch the Malaria Communities Program (MCP).  This program will support the efforts of communities and indigenous organizations to combat malaria.  The primary beneficiary groups of the MCP are children under five and pregnant women.

In Zambia, a rural health center built with support from a USAID humanitarian assistance program will be handed over to the local community for its own management and use.

In Ghana, we will hold a Voucher Fair to distribute vouchers to those affected by recent flooding.  This one-day event will distribute vouchers to 700 households, an estimated 4,200 people that were affected by the recent floods in the Central Gonja District.  The vouchers can be used to purchase items such as blankets, clothes, plastic sheets, mattresses, kitchen supplies and school supplies from local

U.S. Responds to Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

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

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

Responding to disasters is never easy, and the cholera outbreak in Haiti is no exception.  The six-week-old outbreak has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Haitians and infected 80,000 others.  Sadly, this illness will likely continue to spread for many months to come, and cholera will be present in Haiti for years.

Six weeks after joining USAID, I traveled to Haiti as part of the U.S. response to the cholera outbreak.  I saw the worst of it:  sick women and children, massive dehydration, and widespread fear.

I also saw signs of hope and reasons for the American people to be proud of our response to the outbreak.  The Haitian Government is leading the charge against cholera, and the U.S. Government is coordinating with the international community to deliver life-saving supplies, train Haitian medical staff, and monitor the outbreak.

United States government assistance to the cholera outbreak has been a swift, coordinated multi-agency effort.  We have collectively provided more than $21.5 million in assistance for the cholera outbreak in Haiti to date.  As cholera continues to spread, the U.S. Government is focusing on both the prevention of and treatment for the disease.

On the prevention side, USAID is supporting a nationwide messaging campaign to promote better hygiene practices and increase public awareness of prevention and treatment of the disease.  We are also training almost 7,500 community health workers and hygiene promoters across all 10 departments in Haiti.

Slideshow provided by Flickr. Click here for captions and high-resolution images

To further assist the Government of Haiti’s cholera prevention programs, USAID has already delivered or scheduled the delivery of much-needed cholera prevention supplies.  These include:

  • 30 metric tons of chlorine, which will provide nationwide treatment of Haiti’s  water utilities for three months
  • 15 million aquatabs, enough to help 750,000 people
  • Nearly 63,000 family hygiene kits, to benefit 345,000 people

As the numbers of cholera patients increases, we are also increasing our cholera treatment activities. U.S. government funding has established 27 cholera treatment facilities, and we are working to bring an additional 37 facilities online as soon as possible.

To further increase treatment capacity, USAID delivered 25 cholera treatment kits to Port-au-Prince last week.  These kits include items such as medical supplies, gloves, soap, and intravenous fluid, and the kits will help treat 10,000 moderate and severe cholera patients.  These cholera kits are being placed at critical sites in underserved and remote, rural areas in each of Haiti’s 10 departments.

USAID is also providing supplies to aid in the treatment of cholera.  The following supplies are already in country or planned for staggered arrival through the month of January:

  • 5.3 million ORS sachets, which will benefit an estimated 530,000 people
  • 600,000 liters of ringer’s lactate, which will benefit 75,000 patients
  • 2,000 cholera beds

NGOs, donors, and other members of the international community are also mobilizing to help curb the spread of this epidemic.  Tragically, it will be nearly impossible to fully stop the course of this epidemic.  The earthquake exacerbated Haiti’s weak sanitation systems and health infrastructure, making it particularly susceptible to disease outbreaks.  Cholera is also a new disease for Haitians, so their immune system is more vulnerable than those populations where cholera is endemic.

Our goal is first to ensure every Haitian receives information about how to prevent infection and how to recognize the early symptoms of cholera. Secondly, we are determined to reduce both fatalities and the number of severe cases that require hospitalization.  We’re already seeing progress.  Early in the outbreak, about 9 percent of hospitalized cholera cases were fatal.  In the latest reports from Haiti’s Ministry of Health, that figure is down to 3.5 percent.

To say 2010 was a challenging year for Haiti would be a brash understatement.   An earthquake, hurricane, and disease outbreak would test the mettle of any population, but Haitians are confronting these challenges head on, and they’re doing it with unprecedented resolve and tenacity.

U.S. Dispatches Airborne Assistance and Materials for Israel’s Wildfires

The U.S. Government, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is immediately dispatching U.S. Department of Defense aircraft to aid in the suppression of the raging wildfires in Israel.

Three U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) aircraft will depart the United States for Israel this weekend to conduct fire suppression operations in support of the Government of Israel. In addition, two U.S. European Command C-130 aircraft carrying 20 tons of fire retardant will depart Ramstein Air Base in Germany to arrive over the weekend to further aid in fighting the wildfires.

These aircraft are in addition to the commercial aircraft chartered by USAID to deliver 45 tons of Fire-Troll fire retardant and 12,000 liters of WD881 Class A foam. Through its partnership with the U.S. Forest Service’s Disaster Assistance Support Program, USAID is also deploying a team of experts join with their Israeli counterparts to help combat the fires.

The United States stands prepared to provide additional assistance should it be necessary.

For more information about US assistance in the wake of the wildfires in Israel, please visit www.usaid.gov.

Women’s Garden Reopens in Kabul

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry joined senior Afghan officials, including the Minister of Women’s Affairs, the Mayor of Kabul, the Governor of Kabul province, and members of parliament, to celebrate the reopening of the Women’s Garden in Kabul on November 3, 2010.

The garden, once a sanctuary, was destroyed during the Afghan civil war. During the paralyzing restrictions of the Taliban era, women and girls were unable to enter the park, and it became a garbage dump.

Now that the historic Women’s Garden has reopened its doors, the eight-acre enclosure provides the women of Kabul a safe space to participate in a range of recreational and educational activities. The garden hosts gym and sports classes, vocational training, literacy classes, and serves as a place to socialize. It is also home to the provincial Directorate of Women’s Affairs.

The reconstruction project was led and implemented by the Director of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Karima Salik, who had played in the garden as a young girl before it was destroyed. The Women’s Garden was rehabilitated through USAID’s Food Insecurity Response for Urban Populations (FIRUP) and the Local Governance and Community Development (LGCD) programs, with CARE International acting as the implementing partner for FIRUP, and DAI as the implementer for LGCD. Fifty percent of the laborers who rebuilt the garden were women.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Husnbanu Ghazanfar, Minister of Women’s Affairs said, “Over the last 30 years this garden turned into a ruin but with the assistance of the U.S. government and other international donors, the garden has a new life now. More than ever, it is both a place to relax and to learn.”

Acknowledging the dedicated work and leadership of Ms. Salik, and the tremendous efforts of Minister Ghazanfar, Governor Zabihullah Mujadadi, Mayor Mohammad Yunus Nawandish, and the entire Provincial Development Committee for their efforts to advance the rights of women, Ambassador Eikenberry noted, “Today marks a new day — and the hope that Afghan women can again have a garden of their own in Kabul. While this Garden heralds the strength of Afghan women, it is my hope that it will also be seen as a symbol of the United States government’s — and, for that matter, the whole international community’s — support for a lasting friendship and partnership with all Afghans.”

USAID Responds to Massive Flooding in Benin

More than 100,000 Beninese have been made homeless due to massive flooding caused by the country’s worst rains in a half century. According to the United Nations, 360,000 people have been affected, while 50,000 homes and 276 schools have been flooded or destroyed. In this Pennsylvania-sized west African country of 9 million people, the effects have been devastating.

On October 26, flood victims from Vekky village in Sô Ava county are transported to a safe site on the premises of the county council, where they can receive USAID-funded relief. Photo Credit: Simplice Takoubo/USAID

After the U.S. Embassy declared a disaster, USAID responded immediately, granting Catholic Relief Services $50,000 to purchase and distribute water storage units and water purification kits to flood victims in Sô Ava county—one of the worst affected areas that has been under water since the beginning of September. This assistance will provide 3,000 people with clean drinking water for three months, a crucial step in preventing the emergence and spread of disease.

USAID also donated plastic sheeting that will be used to construct 1,700 emergency family shelters and will soon provide an additional grant of $1.5 million to assist families in resuming their livelihoods and to help communities rehabilitate their infrastructure.

Throughout the disaster, USAID has been closely coordinating with the United Nations and the Government of Benin to ensure that aid is coordinated and reaches those most in need.

Video Highlights Civilian-Military Coordination of Task Force Mountain Warrior

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

State Department officers, USAID development experts, and representatives from several other U.S. government agencies serve alongside the U.S. military throughout Afghanistan as part of our efforts to integrate civilian and military operations, including with Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), with combat battalions, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and District Support Teams.


BCT Task Force Mountain Warrior’s area of operations covered the four eastern Afghanistan provinces of Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman, and the BCT was deployed from June 2009 to June 2010. Task Force Bastogne replaced the Task Force Mountain Warrior team, but many civilians under Chief of Mission authority remain in the area, providing valuable continuity.

In March 2010, Time.com embedded with Task Force Mountain Warrior and produced a video that reflects the work of the Brigade Senior Civilian Representative and other State Department Officers in Kunar province over the past year. The video shows the integrated nature of the Task Force’s work and the important role that civilians are playing on the front lines, working hand-in-hand with their military colleagues.

You can watch their video here.

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