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Archives for Humanitarian Assistance

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!

Strengthening the Philippines through USAID Relief

The sheer destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally in the Philippines as Yolanda) is mind-boggling. Thousands have been killed, countless homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos left homeless. Americans, and indeed people all over the world, have been shocked by arresting images of a destroyed landscape and desperate people whose lives have been ruptured. While nothing can undo the damage wrought by the storm, the U.S. Government has mounted a swift, large, and coordinated relief effort using all of the tools at our disposal, with USAID leading that humanitarian response.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Chiarito, from Hyde Park, N.Y., left, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Thornton, from Lake Havasu, Ariz., load supplies to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Chiarito, from Hyde Park, N.Y., left, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Thornton, from Lake Havasu, Ariz., load supplies to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

While this is the fifth time since 2009 that USAID has been called to respond to a significant typhoon in the Philippines, this is by far the most devastating. It is also the first major disaster in my short tenure as Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and I have been encouraged to see how the present effort is beginning to make a tangible difference in the lives of ordinary Filipinos. As aid begins to reach tens of thousands of survivors, we are proud of our assistance to the Filipino people even as we are humbled by the breadth of the devastation. A few observations from the past week:

  • Preparedness and rapid response was critical. USAID/OFDA’s hydro-meteorological expert had sounded the alarm about the storm well in advance, and so we were able to pre-position a disaster response advance team in Manila ahead of the typhoon. That team reached Leyte Island, the epicenter of the crisis, within 24 hours of the typhoon’s passage. That team was on the first commercial vessel to reach the affected area and rapidly began to assess the areas hit by the storm and pinpoint the major priority needs. We found the immediate needs to be emergency shelter, water, and food and we have been working closely with our military colleagues to deliver much-needed assistance.

  • The damage is heartwrenching. Roughly 90 percent of structures are visibly damaged, including office buildings, hospitals, and homes. We saw severe damage to infrastructure systems, making access to water systems, communications systems, and transportation systems difficult. 
Weaker structures were totally destroyed but even hardened concrete structure suffered major damage in the ferocious storm surge.

  • Much more help will be needed. Immediately after Haiyan hit, the United States offered $20 million in humanitarian assistance, which allowed us to distribute emergency shelter kits and family hygiene kits to the region. This is enabling us to reach 20,000 families with plastic sheeting for their homes, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and sanitary supplies. Additionally, with the help of World Food Program, USAID has sent 55 metric tons of food, including highly nutritious bars and paste–containing a day’s worth of calories–to nourish approximately 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for roughly four to five days.

This is a first step, and we will do more in the coming weeks to help families meet their basic needs, regroup, and begin to recover. It has been incredible to witness the unity of communities to offer help where they can. We are already beginning to see a major uptick in the volume of international aid to the Philippines as the global aid response reaches full capacity. As more and more aid from the U.S. and many others – from countries to charities to individual donors – begins to reach the Philippines, we are optimistic that the response effort is turning a corner.

Get the latest news and updates on Typhoon Haiyan.

USAID in the News

Carribbean 360 detailed a new program launched by USAID to improve nutrition and access to locally produced foods in an effort to prevent hunger in the most vulnerable households in Haiti. A large focus of the program, which is a part of the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, will be on developing the agriculture sector in Haiti. Combined with the use of food vouchers, improved nutrition education, and better quality health and nutrition services, the program is expected to reach 250,000 households.

Food distribution in Haiti. Photo credit:  Osterman

Food distribution in Haiti. Photo credit: Osterman

Nehanda Radio featured a story on the $10 million increase in food assistance granted to Zimbabwe by USAID’s Office for Food and Peace. This funding will go to feeding the 2.2 million people who require food assistance in Zimbabwe, particularly during the hunger season, which is expected to affect 32% more people than it did last year. Melissa Williams, the USAID Mission Director in Zimbabwe said about the project, “Although the U.S. Government and other major donors are transitioning assistance in Zimbabwe from humanitarian relief to promoting sustainable development, humanitarian assessments continue to indicate that significant numbers of people in Zimbabwe still require seasonal assistance to meet their minimum food needs.”

The Nation (Pakistan) reported on a meeting between the Pakistani Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, and USAID Mission Director for Pakistan, Gregory Gottleib, where the Federal Minister praised USAID for economic and social support in the country and discussed important areas of study and focus to address as the partnership moves forward.

News Medical covered two five-year awards from USAID to International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) to advance new HIV prevention tools for women and ensure that they will be available to the countries where they are most needed. “Women urgently need a range of new tools that are tailored to their needs, and to the complex social, cultural and behavioral realities they face,” said Dr. Lee Claypool, USAID Biologist. “To beat the epidemic, we must continuously invest in innovative HIV prevention tools for women.”

CarDekho reported on a certificate of recognition given to Volkswagen India at the USAID-organized International Conference on Promoting Water Use Efficiency in Urban Sector to Address Climate Change. Volkswagen India received the recognition for eco-friendly measures they have taken to minimize their impact on the environment. Many of Volkswagen India’s initiatives have focused on adopting measures to reduce the consumption in fresh water, with scarcity being a problem in the area.

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