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Archives for Humanitarian Assistance

Flying Over Swat Showed me the True Scope of the Disaster

Shortly after arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday, I met with retired General Nadeem Ahmed, the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.  As the general took me up in a military helicopter to inspect the once-beautiful but ravaged Swat valley, we spoke openly and candidly about the true extent of the damage wrought by the floodwaters.

As was clearly visible in areas where the waters had receded, the real work to bring Pakistan back to life has yet to start.  As far as the eye could see, foundations and buttresses supported nonexistent houses and bridges, power lines lay hopelessly tangled on the ground, and roads destroyed and washed away.  A layer of mud coated the landscape like brown paint and the normally sparkling, turquoise Swat river has become a river of mud.  As I look around me, it is obvious that Pakistan faces the biggest challenge in its 64-year history.

As I convene my senior staff tonight, we will fine-tune a plan that top USAID officials have been formulating since the scope of the disaster became apparent.  Throughout the flight, General Nadeem pointed out schools and medical centers that are still standing that were built with the help of USAID.  One thing is clear, though, which is that the United States intends to show itself as a friend and committed partner of Pakistan for many years to come.

World Humanitarian Day: Response Coordinator Reflects on Progress Made in Haiti

Yesterday was World Humanitarian Day, a day when we remember the millions of people experiencing conflict, natural disasters, sickness and extreme poverty and the people committed to saving their lives, relieving suffering and empowering those who are struggling make a better life.

At USAID, we have a long history of extending a helping hand to people overseas recovering from disaster and are continuing to respond to humanitarian needs. We support Pakistanis affected by the epic flooding in the country’s south and west. And since January 12, our aid workers and partners have worked hard to help the people of Haiti build back better after the earthquake.

Watch a video featuring Response Coordinator Skip Waskin and learn about humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti.

Apparel Training Center in Haiti Educates Textile Factory Workforce

Forming a Better-Trained Workforce in Haiti
Written By Joanna Stavropoulos, CHF Haiti communications manager

Graduate of USAID-funded garment training center in Haiti

Steve Jean, a graduate of the new USAID-funded Haiti Apparel Center, trains sewing machine operators in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Joanna Stavropoulos/CHF

Steve Jean, 37, grew up in a family of tailors – his mother, father, even his grandfather and before him. When he was a child, more than 100,000 textile workers had jobs in Haiti. Now there are fewer than 20,000.

But USAID is working to change this statistic and bring vitally needed economic development, jobs and investment to Haiti.  On Wednesday, USAID led the inauguration with CHF International for the Haiti Apparel Center (HAC), which will train 2,000 Haitians a year on a wide variety of jobs needed for Haiti to develop its textile manufacturing sector.

Even before HAC’s official opening, Steve graduated from the Center as a trainer for sewing machine operators and has been overseeing workers in apparel factories next door.

Steve’s face shone with pride as he walked me through the 30,000-square-foot freshly refurbished HAC building with its many rows of shiny new sewing machines where he will soon train other Haitians eager to join the textile industry.

“I believe in this, I know it will be a success,” he says with emotion. “There is a future here because Haitians like to work; young people want to work. So if they have the opportunity they will learn and they will prove what they can do.”

Steve explains that it’s difficult to find a family in Haiti without a tailor among its members. “Even if we have 10 or 20 centers like this,” he said, “you will have a lot of people waiting for this opportunity.”

Steve also points out that the sewing machine operators from HAC will learn all the varieties of stitching (single-needle, cover-stitch, lock-stitch and over-lock), which will increase their appeal to a wide variety of potential employers.

The Center will teach virtually the entire spectrum of skills needed by textile manufacturing workers. There will be instruction for sewing machine mechanics, quality control specialists, industrial engineers, supervisors and plant managers. There will even be seminars for top executives and factory owners who wish to further educate themselves about the latest innovations and techniques in the field.

Steve is excited about his job as a trainer. “The main thing that I learned is how to teach,” he says about the three-month long instruction at HAC. “How to explain and when you explain and they don’t understand – how to figure out what you did wrong and become better in the explanation.”

“I very much enjoy teaching,” says Steve, smiling as we stop outside the building. “When you try to figure out what to do to help someone learn and understand, I like that.”

You can see more photos from the HAC inauguration on the USAID Flickr feed.

Helping to Communicate Life-Saving Information to Haitians

Credit: Janice Laurente/USAID

If you visit USAID-funded Internews in Port-au-Prince, you’ll see a newsroom full of busy Haitian journalists. There’s a pile of empty cardboard boxes in the corner organized neatly in rows that almost reach the ceiling. After examining it more closely, you’ll notice that the boxes form a temporary radio studio where a young woman is recording part of Enfomasyon Nou Dwe Konnen (News You Can Use), a daily radio program that provides humanitarian relief and assistance information to victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. 

Internews increases the quality and amount of news and information on relief and recovery efforts. It also helps strengthen journalism in Haiti through a training program for both journalists and radio station business managers.  

 “After a crisis, people need information just as much as any other basic need like shelter and water,” said Jennifer Mandell, research, monitoring and assessment director at Internews. “Through News You Can Use, we help people affected by the earthquake find solutions to everyday problems they encounter.”

Haitian surveyors go into camps and surrounding communities to ask people what information they need to make their lives better. The data is then shared with members of the news team who report on key topics of concern. “Mailbox,” a popular segment of the show answers questions sent by listeners via SMS. News You Can Use is disseminated in and around Port-au-Prince to nearly 30 radio stations, reaching approximately 3 million listeners. About 98 percent of Haitians get their news through the radio.     

“I know we’re helping people,” said Alain Draye, senior journalist advisor at Internews. “One listener that comes to mind is a man who submitted a question to “Mailbox.” He lost his leg in the earthquake and needed a prosthetic so we contacted different groups to get information. This helped him, and many others like him, get what he needed to walk again.”

Pic of the Week

Haitian workers are building a USAID-funded irrigation canal. Photo by Herve Jean-Charles.

As Haiti passes six months since the earthquake, men and women are employed in the USAID-funded reconstruction of an irrigation canal that not only provides a source of water for agriculture and livestock, but also a source of income for Haitians.

The President’s Commitment to Fight HIV/AIDS

Cross-posted from The White House Blog.  Originally posted by Gayle Smith on July 21, 2010 at 03:50 PM EDT

In light of the International AIDS Society conference being held in Vienna this week, many people have raised questions about the Obama Administration’s commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

First, consider the facts:

As a UNAIDS report documented just days ago, the United States provided 58 percent of all funds worldwide to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries.  Furthermore, while numerous developed countries were cutting back on their support for HIV/AIDS between 2008 and 2009, the United States actually increased its funding by more than 10 percent.  The fact that these increases were done during the worst recession in a generation and a deteriorating fiscal situation speaks volumes about the President’s – and our country’s – commitment to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Read more on The White House Blog

Long-Term Investments to Bring Real-Life Improvements to People of Pakistan

A summary map on the activities announced or underway in Pakistan.

During Dr. Raj Shah’s whirlwind two-day visit to Pakistan with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, the U.S. announced more than $500 million in new development assistance for Pakistan. 

The new projects include the completion of two hydroelectric dams in South Waziristan and Gilgit-Baltistan that will supply more than 34 megawatts of additional power to 280,000 residents in those areas, the renovation and construction of three medical facilities, economic growth programs and seven projects to improve water distribution and efficiency in the country. Much of the assistance will be delivered by USAID.

The United States shares with Pakistan a vision of a future in which all people can live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Dr. Shah spoke with press about USAID’s role in Pakistan, saying that “Our commitment is broad and deep,” and one that encompasses programs ranging from health and energy to economic growth and agriculture. 

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USAID’s HIV Knowledge-Sharing Technology Offers Access to Latest Strategies in HIV Programming

Health was one focus of last week’s Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation conference, which highlighted the central role innovation and technology play in USAID’s mission to achieve high-impact development goals, including HIV service delivery. While recent breakthroughs hold promise for a future HIV vaccine, USAID is using information technology today to share innovation and successes in HIV programming, enhancing local, national, and regional responses to the pandemic.

The Agency’s Office of HIV/AIDS is leveraging advances in web technology to identify, document, and disseminate promising HIV practices through the AIDSTAR-One Promising Practices Database. This unique knowledge-sharing portal allows HIV program implementers to share their recent successes in resource-constrained settings with other programs across countries, regions, and continents, leading to rapid replication of cutting-edge HIV program strategies. For example, an AIDSTAR-One database user recently identified lessons learned from an Ethiopian HIV prevention program for adolescents to design a similar project in Kenya. AIDSTAR-One’s HIV Prevention Knowledge Base is another knowledge-sharing tool that provides quick access to current HIV prevention research, examples of successful programs, and tools and resources to help design and implement a range of HIV prevention programs.

Administrator Shah pointed out that quickly moving research to implementation is at the heart of USAID’s development strategy. The Office of HIV/AIDS is working to achieve this through Project SEARCH’s promotion of greater use of evidence in the design and implementation of HIV prevention programs in countries most affected by the epidemic. This approach allows USAID to evaluate effectiveness and focus its resources on strategies that deliver strong results.

As HIV researchers, program planners, and implementers from across the globe gather in Vienna this week for the XVIII International AIDS Conference, USAID stands with its partners to reflect on the progress made to combat global HIV and rejuvenate our collective efforts to minimize the impact of this devastating disease. USAID is dedicated to providing global technical leadership to prevent the spread of the virus and to support the efforts of host country governments to provide prevention, treatment, and care for communities most in need.

USAID Testifies on Agent Orange in Vietnam

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

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

For more information on USAID programs in Vietnam.

USAID In The News – July 12th thru 16th

submitted by Amanda Parsons

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

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

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