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U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.

On Friday, May 28th, FEMA Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning and I signed a work plan with the Russian government to expand bilateral cooperation through 2012 on responding to international disasters and humanitarian crises.  The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.  This committee was formed in 1996 and now serves as one of the working groups under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last year.  The U.S. delegation from FEMA, USAID, and the Department of Transportation discussed ways to enhance preparedness and response capabilities for disasters at home and abroad.  The Russian delegation, led by First Deputy Minister of the Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) Ruslan Tsalikov, was especially interested in sharing humanitarian aid best practices, and proposed partnering with USAID to address food security issues in the region.

The committee meeting was the culmination of an exciting week for cooperation in this area.  During the earlier part of the week, a FEMA-USAID delegation held a joint table top exercise with EMERCOM that simulated an earthquake scenario.  American and Russian experts jointly examined response considerations related to declaring a disaster, deploying teams to another country, coordinating search and rescue with humanitarian response, and demobilizing.  Specialists from Fairfax County’s Task Force 1 Search and Rescue team, who responded to the earthquake in Haiti, had the opportunity to sit across the table from Russian responders who also served in Haiti, and to share lessons learned from that experience.  The exercise is part of U.S. efforts to support the Russian Government’s goal of meeting the standards for the United Nations’ highest classification of search and rescue teams.

Russia’s commitment to cooperating with the U.S. in addressing humanitarian crises is another sign of its reemergence as strong global partner and international donor.  U.S. and Russian teams are already working together to improve rescue efforts in response to natural disasters and terrorism, and this is just one of many areas in which we are collaborating on global development.  USAID/Russia also partners with the Ministry of Health to send Russian medical experts to countries in Africa and with Russia’s new agency for humanitarian cooperation, Rossotrudnichestvo, to strengthen its capacity to provide aid.

After spending the week in Russia, I am even more convinced that the U.S. and Russia have much to gain by working together to address the big challenges of the 21st century. I believe USAID should continue to be at the center of much of that cooperation and partnership.

Now I am off to Bosnia for the next phase of my trip.

USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Jonathan Hale Visit to Russia – May 2010

This marks my first trip to Russia since I took on the role of Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Europe and Eurasia Bureau. I’m very pleased to be back here, at a time when there is a lot of optimism about the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations.

Today I met with Russian experts and NGOs that are partnering with USAID to reduce maternal and infant mortality, improve reproductive health, and reduce the number of children living in orphanages and on the streets. These are priorities for both Russia and the U.S., and an important area of collaboration under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last July.

I was impressed by the leading role that Russian organizations such as

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USAID launches Feed the Future Website

USAID, on behalf of the U.S. Government, is proud to launch the Feed the Future website.

“We are all impatient because we are acutely aware that today the lack of adequate food will result in the premature deaths of about 25,000 people,” Dr. Shah said during a speech today where he outlined the U.S Government’s new architecture for food security.  “We can Feed the Future, but we have not one more moment to waste.”

Feed the Future is the Obama Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative. The website includes the Feed the Future Guide, an implementation strategy for the initiative officially released today.

Please find more information here.

Aiding Agriculture after Conflict

USAID Administrator & Sudanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry launch FARM

USAID and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry launched the FARM program, which marshals a variety of resources in a re-emerging agricultural area. It's designed to inspire others to join as partners in reducing hunger in southern Sudan.

Today we launched the Food, Agribusiness, and Rural Markets (FARM) Program, an innovative and promising partnership with the Government of South Sudan to rebuild capacity in the “green belt zone,” where conflict destroyed much local agricultural production during Sudan’s civil war.  This area has high potential and, with new road construction, will be connected to fast-growing markets for farm goods.

Read more about the FARM program here.

From the Dust of Darfur to the Green Shoots of Democracy

Welcome to my debut in the brave new world of blogging at USAID.

We’ve made the most of our time during Dr. Shah’s first Africa trip as the head of this amazing agency; only in the home stretch have I found a few minutes to share an observation or two.

With impressions still intense from a day and a night in Darfur – most notably, visiting under a scorching sun a vast and desert-dusty camp for internally displaced people that thousands of victims of violence, mostly women and children, now know as home – we rose at dawn to head to Juba in the far south of Sudan.  Here the climate is different in every sense.

Right off the bat we met with our civil society partners in the effort to improve governance and confidence in democracy.  The Sudanese Group for Democratic Elections and the Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections provide voter education and poll-watching in the country’s north and south, respectively.  They face very different political situations but similar challenges in trying to protect the integrity of the electoral process.  USAID facilitates this grassroots work with technical guidance and

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Health and Development in Southern Sudan

This afternoon we visited two sites where USAID, together with community groups, is helping improve health in Juba.

Sudan is a top U.S. government foreign policy priority; we need this country to be on a stable, peaceful path, which in turn is crucial to regional security.  Ultimately this means transitioning from humanitarian assistance to long-term development.

At more than $1 billion per year, USAID’s program in Sudan is our largest in sub-Saharan Africa.  One important project is the Lolongo Clinic in an outlying area of Juba, which helps meet the community’s basic health needs while also educating parents in preventative care.  About 35,000 people in the region rely on the treatment and care that Lolongo offers; that works out to about $6 per person per year.

Non-governmental organizations such as this clinic account for a full 86 percent of all health care services in Sudan.  And it’s by far not enough.  Southern Sudan has the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, and a girl stands a higher chance of dying in childbirth than completing secondary school.

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A Visit to Otash Camp

An early a.m. flight brought us to Juba in south Sudan. We swapped planes at the airport and headed straight for Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah at Otash Camp with the WFP.

USAID works in partnership with 11 other organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the thousands living in the Otash IDP camp at near Nyala in Darfur.

After arriving, we met up with the World Food Programme (WFP) and visited an IDP camp called Otash.

USAID, through the WFP and its NGO partners like World Vision, provides emergency relief supplies to the 71,000 Dafuris living in Otash. The camp was established in 2004 and was originally home to 15,000 IDPs. It grew to its current size after large scale displacements in 2004 following fighting between the Government of Sudan and Darfuri rebels, and more recently, in 2008 after the outbreak of tribal conflict.

Since 2003, USAID has helped to meet the immediate needs of millions of people affected by the conflict in Darfur. Today, in the three states of Darfur there are some two million people living in IDP camps.

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Security and Livelihoods in Darfur

Just came from a series of meetings with our international partners in South Darfur.

We discussed a number of Darfur’s complex challenges with leaders from the World Food Programme, United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the UN Population Fund and other UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs.

Security continues to be a serious challenge for humanitarian agencies trying to access vulnerable populations. And now there’s a disturbing trend of attacks and abductions of humanitarian staff. Two UNAMID peacekeepers were recently killed when their vehicle was ambushed outside of Nyala.

Insecurity is also preventing the millions of displaced Dafuris from returning home.

But in addition to the security concerns, many Darfuris are wondering what they have to go back to, especially the young people, who have largely grown up in these camps.

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USAID in the News – May 14th, 2010

This week at USAID:

Administrator Rajiv Shah is on his first official trip to Africa since taking the helm of USAID. Shah is visiting Kenya and Sudan and his trip is focusing on the Global Health and Food Security Initiatives.

USAID, Yemeni Government officials met to discuss a new stabilization strategy. The first in a series of quarterly meetings to coordinate shared objectives identified in the assistance agreement signed by USAID and Yemen’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.

Leaders in the Caribbean expect to receive a $100 million grant to help fight AIDS over the next five years from the US government’s President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief fund. USAID contributes both funding and staff toward the PEPFAR initiative.

As of June 1, the Louisiana National Guard will be in charge of a 500-person contingent, based in Gonaives, Haiti. USAID and other relief agencies will take on the majority of logistical and aid work performed by the Southern Command’s Operation Unified Response.

Pic of the Week – Back to School in Haiti

Back to School in Haiti–USAID plastic sheeting provides a roof for students at a Petionville Golf Course camp school in Haiti.

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