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Catching Mosquitoes, Not Fish: Returning Bed Nets to their Proper Use in the DRC

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

It is 1 p.m. in the village of Kavimvira. The sun is high over Lake Tanganyika, at the foot of the Mitumba Mountain, in scenic South Kivu. Frank Baraka has packed the bounty of the morning fishing trip and folded his nets, when his cell phone chimes to signal an incoming text message: : “Sleep every night under an Insecticide-Treated Net (ITN), to protect your family from malaria,” he reads out loud, amused, to his fishing companion.

Frank Baraka sewing a bed net that he will use as a fishing net. Photo Credit: USAID

“This is exactly the message my wife has been pounding at home lately,” Roger Amisi responds. “She says that she heard it at the ETL (Education-Through-Listening) meeting, with Nathalie, you know, the primary school teacher.”

Delaying his lunch, Frank hurries to Nathalie Niéla’s compound to find out about the messages.  “Malaria kills children in our community,” Nathalie says. “Sleep under a net every night, to live safe from malaria,” she confirms.

This is the call to action of the Malaria 3+1 Campaign implemented by USAID’s Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP), in partnership with C-Change. An estimated 140,949 Congolese from 194 villages were exposed to campaign messages on malaria awareness and prevention. In a country where only five percent of pregnant women receive proper preventive malaria therapy, and malaria accounts for nearly 40 percent of child deaths, prevention is a critical priority.

Nathalie is one of 37 women ETL facilitators recently trained in the DRC-IHP’s field office of Uvira.  “Thanks to ETL, our husbands no longer use the nets to fish or to protect vegetable gardens,” she affirms proudly. “Nets now serve their purpose of protecting children and pregnant women from mosquito bites.”

ETL is one pillar of IHP’s Tuendeni-Kumpala Behavior Change Communication strategy which empowers communities to adopt health-seeking behaviors. Tuendeni-Kumpala which means “moving forward” in Swahili and Tshiluba (two local languages), is an integrated strategy in which ETL facilitators work in synergy with other innovative communication approaches such as mobile technology, to increase the reach and enhance the behavioral impact of project interventions such as malaria prevention and use of reproductive health services.

Through this partnership between USAID, DRC-IHP and C-Change, a total of 64,584 ITNs were distributed across Bukavu, Kolwezi, Uvira, and Kamina, supporting the effort to boost the number of people using insecticide-treated nets.  Campaign results from two health zones point to the value of ETL, in terms of actual ITN use. After four months, 89 percent of the 9,471 households exposed to campaign activities in Uvira slept every night under an ITN.  By contrast, 82 percent of the 12,965 households involved in Kamina (Katanga province) reported adoption of the preventive behavior. When the campaign was launched in June 2012, ETL was not yet rolled out in Kamina.

For the project’s communication team, the difference illustrates the powerful effect of ETL. “ETL truly shows results here,” said Donat Ngoyi, DRC-IHP Communication Expert in Uvira.  “This approach will, no doubt, help us meet our malaria prevention and treatment goals.”

The DRC-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP) — a five-year USAID cooperative agreement led by Management Sciences for Health in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd — is strengthening the leadership and governance capacity of people working in the health sector to improve the access, availability, and quality of services within 80 target health zones.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Saving a Syrian Student’s Life

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Ghassan* was leaving his university classes when he was injured in the crossfire in Rif Damascus Photo Credit: USAID NGO Partner *Name changed to protect identity

The United States has provided nearly $409 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria. Since February 2012, USAD has provided support to over 144 field hospitals, medical clinics, and medical points across Syria that have saved countless lives, including Ghassan.

Ghassan, a university student from Rif Damascus, was heading home from classes when fighting broke out between regime and rebel fighters. Ghassan was not able to take cover in time and was hit by shrapnel in both legs.

When the fighting died down, he was taken to a nearby USAID-supported field hospital, where doctors found a closed fracture in his right leg and shrapnel wounds in his left foot. Luckily, the femoral artery in his leg was not hit and he only suffered a bone fracture, but no displacement. The doctors removed the shrapnel, cleaned the wounds, and cast his right leg.

Ghassan stayed at the hospital for nine days while the doctors treated his injuries. He continues to visit the hospital when he is able and sometimes receives USAID-supported doctors at his home.

Ghassan thanks the doctors and those who support them for their help in treating his injuries. His father was killed in crossfire six months ago, but Ghassan says he still wishes to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue studying for his business degree when his injuries have healed.

To learn more about our assistance to those affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria, visit our website.

 

USAID in the News

In a recent editorial, the New York Times says that President Obama’s budget proposal to redirect some U.S. food aid funds to “buy food in bulk in countries in need or to provide individual recipients with vouchers or debit cards for local food purchases” rather than purchase the food in the U.S. and ship it overseas may be unpopular with domestic food producers, but it “will feed more people for the same amount the United States spends now.” The Times says “there is no excuse” for not enacting the change.

In another piece, “Proposal for Changes in Food Aid Sets Off Infighting in Congress,” the New York Times reports that the proposal “has set off a jurisdictional fight among” lawmakers, “threatening to derail the most significant change to the program since it was created nearly 60 years ago.” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah says, “This new reform would give us the flexible tools we need to get food to people who need it now, not weeks later,” adding that “we would still buy from U.S. farmers. But this way we can help feed two to four million more people without additional costs.”

LAUNCH, a series of forums to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to global challenges, was recognized by Harvard’s Ash Center as a Top 25 Innovations in GovernmentWashington Post reported that “among the projects that made the cut is a public-private collaboration between NASA, USAID, the State Department and sportswear company Nike called Launch. The project, through a series of forums and networks, seeks to surface and accelerate the development of strong, innovative ideas.”

The Financial reports, “USAID announced the release of exciting new datasets and tools that increase transparency and provide the fuel for innovators and decision makers to solve problems.” The conference, “convened countries from the G-8 and New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to discuss the potential of open data for agriculture and develop action plans to open and apply food security relevant datasets. To demonstrate the power of open data to deliver solutions, the conference also featured technologists and entrepreneurs who use USAID and U.S Government data to develop products to bring real solutions to the developing world.”

LAUNCH: Addressing Development Problems Through Systems Innovation and Collaboration Across Boundaries

Will Schmitt serves as the LAUNCH program manager for Office of Science and Technology. Photo credit: Will Schmitt

Last week USAID and its LAUNCH partners held a very successful “LAUNCH 2020 Summit” at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. We are also excited and honored that the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School just named LAUNCH one of its Top 25 Government Innovations. To mark the start of an exciting new phase of LAUNCH and to celebrate our success, we would like to provide a short overview for those not familiar with the program, as well as some news about where we are taking the program next.

What is LAUNCH?

LAUNCH, a collaborative public-private partnership between USAID, NASA, NIKE Inc., and the Department of State, is aimed at identifying, showcasing, and accelerating innovative approaches to specific global challenges. LAUNCH searches for visionaries whose world-class ideas, technologies, or programs show great promise for making tangible impacts on society.

Since the beginning of LAUNCH in 2010, we have completed four program cycles (Water, Health, Energy, and Beyond Waste) and have just kicked off a fifth focused on transforming the system of textiles and apparel manufacturing.   For each challenge, LAUNCH convenes a group of thought leaders for an expert consultation called the “Big Think” to help identify the areas ripe for innovation within that sector and guide us in sharpening our challenge statement. A two-day Summit follows, where global stakeholders from across that cycle’s system build a collective understanding of the systems problems outlined in the LAUNCH challenge.  The challenge is publically released at the Summit, beginning an open innovation process that will identify hundreds of innovations related to the challenge. Ten promising innovations are chosen through a rigorous evaluation process and invited to the three-day LAUNCH Forum, the centerpiece of the LAUNCH process. At the Forum, the ten innovators meet with the LAUNCH Council, a selected multidisciplinary group of leaders whose expertise, networks and resources align with the particular challenge.   During the Forum, the LAUNCH Council helps the innovators chart a course of action that will accelerate their innovations forward.  Innovators then receive six months of support through the LAUNCH Accelerator, a program custom designed for each innovator to harvest and act on the most promising connections, ideas and opportunities surfaced during the LAUNCH Forum.

What kinds of innovations has LAUNCH supported?

Over the past three years, LAUNCH has supported dozens of innovations with game-changing potential. The Carbon for Water project, for example, has distributed nearly 900,000 easy-to-use water filters in western Kenya, obviating the need to boil water to make it safe for drinking. This reduces wood consumption and carbon emissions by an estimated two million tons annually. The company that manufactures the filters is subsequently able to sell carbon credits on the global carbon credit market. That’s real financial sustainability alongside cost-effective service delivery.

Or LUCAS, (now produced by spin-off company Holomic) a lens-free microscope that attaches to a camera-equipped cell phone and is able to remotely detect bacteria and parasites in blood or drinking water. The LUCAS technology came out of Professor Aydogan Ozcan’s UCLA lab and has subsequently garnered significant private investment.

What makes LAUNCH different from other types of programming models?

For one thing, LAUNCH is fundamentally about sustainability—we pick apart sustainability problems and find the innovators we think stand the best chance of radically impacting those problems. We’re sourcing and supporting new technologies and innovations, yes, but we don’t want these to be one-off innovations that get “stuck in the garage.” We want to promote innovations that are sustainable, scalable, and contribute to human development in a way that minimizes the strain on resources. And we want to do it in a way that is ultimately financially sustainable. LAUNCH is as much about systems thinking as it is about new technology.

Secondly, LAUNCH is collaborative and open. We’re partnering with NASA, NIKE Inc., and the State Department precisely because we believe that each partner brings its own unique perspectives, capabilities, and audiences to the table, and each plays a major role in shaping the program. A powerful network built by the partners and our collaborators that is poised to help LAUNCH innovators with their greatest business or program needs is critical to our success. The principle of openness also applies to the selection of our LAUNCH innovators (the winners of each LAUNCH Challenge), many of whom are organizations that have never worked with USAID before.

What should we know about the new phase of LAUNCH that began with the LAUNCH 2020 Summit?

We held a LAUNCH 2020 Summit at NIKE headquarters to kick off a new LAUNCH focus on systems innovation. After a few program cycles, we realized that the problems we are addressing are fundamentally systems problems and that the program should both explain and attack them as such.  We began by gathering a broad selection of members of the system we’re addressing in one room for a few days. We used the Summit to build a collective understanding of that system’s challenges and the possibilities for collaboration in solving them. We decided to focus on the textiles and apparel system because of its complex global supply chains, common interest for all four partners, and immense scope for change in the system. This industry has a disproportionate impact on the livelihoods and the environmental and social well-being of the world’s poor. As a result, it provides fertile ground for the LAUNCH program model and its new focus on tackling systems innovation problems to drive transformative progress in the industry. For the LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge, we’ve chosen to focus on the materials of which fabrics are made and the manufacturing systems that make those fabrics. Elements of the challenge statement focused on putting workers at the center of innovation in the industry and on building inclusive business models should be of very significant interest to the development community.

The 2013 Systems Challenge went live on April 24th and will close on July 15th.  We will also soon be opening our first LAUNCH “nano-challenge,” a call for solutions specifically aimed at university students.

Please visit www.launch.org for more information about the program. You can view the current challenge statement and submit an application. Please distribute the challenge statement far and wide across your own networks (downloadable file here)—it’s a critical part of finding the very best innovators!

Free Press: The Cornerstone of Democracy

Today marks two decades since the United Nations General Assembly designated May 3 as World Press Freedom Day to celebrate press freedom and raise awareness about threats to media independence around the world.  A free press plays a vital role in democratic societies, enabling the open exchange of information and opinions among ordinary citizens, businesses, citizen associations, political parties, and governments. Free and open media systems give voice to citizens, truth test candidates and political parties during elections, inform policy debates in legislatures, investigate corruption, hold public officials accountable, enable democratic governance and facilitate more effective development.

Yet the global struggle for press freedoms remains a work in progress. According to the latest Freedom House reports, the sobering reality is that more than one-third of all global citizens live under highly state-controlled media and information environments classified as “not free”.

In Mozambique, USAID supports the five-year, $10 million Media Strengthening Program to promote a free, open, diverse, and self-sustaining media sector. Photo Credit: IREX

In nearly 35 countries, USAID provides media development assistance, tailoring initiatives to local conditions and prevalent challenges. Using a multi-pronged strategy, USAID aims to strengthen journalists’ skills, build economic self-sustainability of media outlets, and legally protect press independence.

Since 2002, USAID has been instrumental in building a freer, more professional media in Afghanistan. Once very isolated, the Afghan people now enjoy unprecedented access to quality local newscasts (such as the national radio news program Salam Watandar) and international education and entertainment media. With USAID support, a national network of nearly 50 Afghan-owned and operated radio stations has emerged, reaching virtually all corners of the country. USAID also provided the initial seed capital for the highly successful independent television network Tolo TV, which now reaches over two-thirds of the population.

In Burma, USAID has worked for over a decade with more than 1,000 Burmese journalists, starting with support on the Thai-Burmese border in 2001 and extending inside Burma since 2003. Journalists trained in the program’s early years have now gone on to become leaders of the media industry, as part of both the local print media and the media in exile. USAID’s media program responded to almost every major development in the country: it equipped Burmese journalists with training and key support to cover the Saffron Revolution in 2007, Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the constitutional referendum in 2008, and the elections of 2010-2012.

In Eastern Europe, the USAID-funded Regional Investigative Journalism Network helps connect practicing investigative journalists across borders who seek to uncover corruption, organized crime, and others engaged in the criminal services industry.

In eight countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the “Building a Digital Gateway to Better Lives” program empowers professional and citizen journalists, giving them hands-on experience with digital tools to design and implement multimedia projects that report on public service issues affecting citizens’ everyday lives. Almost 300 journalists have participated in the program so far, with results felt throughout the region. Gripping stories of the abuse of children with disabilities in Jordan, human rights violations in Lebanese prisons, corruption in the West Bank/Gaza, polluted drinking water in Iraq, and detecting unexploded landmines in Morocco have attracted significant public interest and response.

Today and every day, USAID applauds the brave work of journalists, editors, and the increasing millions of “citizen reporters” throughout the world in their common pursuit to freely gather, report, analyze, and share news. We also commend the media activists who advocate for media development and freedom despite challenging and sometimes dangerous conditions. We salute you.

Young Communicators Promote Climate Change Awareness

In recognition of Earth Week last week, we explore the connections between climate change and the environment we depend on to sustain us. 

Climate change is already impacting life in the Dominican Republic. Hurricanes, flooding, and dramatic changes in weather are all becoming more prevalent and severe. Throughout the country, rainfall is highly variable—in some areas, rain is becoming increasingly more extreme, while in other areas lower rainfall and high temperatures are bringing more prolonged droughts. This is threatening the already shaky livelihoods of farming communities whose soil, crops, and livestock are highly sensitive to the changing climate. In coastal communities, like Samaná, coral reefs and mangrove forests are rapidly being degraded by both climate and non-climate stresses, leaving communities without their natural buffers to protect their precious beaches from erosion and their property from storm surges and flooding.

High schoolers in Samaná, Dominican Republic learn about climate change so they can help educate others in their community, in a USAID mission funded adaptation project. Photo credit: Nora Ferm, USAID

USAID is supporting programs in the Dominican Republic to help people of all ages not only understand the effects of climate change, but also communicate those changes to their fellow citizens, creating new leaders in this critical area.

As part of this effort, USAID and partners—The Nature Conservancy and the Center for the Conservation and Eco-Development of Samaná Bay and its Surroundings (CEBSE)—are holding workshops about climate change adaptation for local youth. Youth in Samaná are now fired up and eager to put into practice the knowhow they have picked up from their recent training. They are reaching out to other members of their community and teaching them about the dangers of climate change and ways to adapt to these changes locally.

Workshop participants Ulrich and Vanessa say that they want to hit the ground running: “We’re going to communicate in schools and colleges what we learned in the climate change workshops so that young people in our communities get to know the environmental problems that face us…and realize that part of the solution is that we have to adapt and that this in turn requires a change in our attitudes to our environment.”

The focus on youth is essential—more than 60 percent of the population of the province of Samaná is composed of young people. They have an important role to play in solving problems affecting their environment, and bringing this awareness of how to act in a climate-sensitive manner into the future.

Leani and Deliz, two other workshop participants, are eager to get started by using twitter and blogs to “communicate on the internet about climate change, not only with our peers but also with a view to exchange ideas with young people from other areas of the Dominican Republic as well as from neighboring islands facing the same threats.”

According to one participant, “I did not really understand what global warming and the greenhouse effect meant. Now I know how they relate to climate change…but more importantly, I learned about mangroves and coral reefs. Although we live so close to them we were not aware how they protect our coast and what an important role they play in our livelihoods.”

The youth benefitting from this workshop are already becoming leaders in their community by leading conservation efforts as volunteers with CEBSE, working in their local Mayors’ offices, and seeking learning opportunities on climate change outside of the program. Fifteen-year-old participant Daniel Aurelio Reyes Gomez has grand aspirations to keep his momentum going and eventually become a great political leader for his nation. The program will continue to support these future Dominican leaders by expanding to
education centers and fifteen high schools, training 20-50 students at each school.

USAID is also helping smallholder farmers in the Dominican Republic to access and use new methods to deal with climate risks, such as adjusting planting cycles, and better managing natural resource inputs. Farmers are being instructed in ways to take full advantage of climate and weather forecasts and market-based insurance products that complement risk reduction efforts. Such efforts help ensure that farm productivity is sustainable into the future.

This not only reduces the impacts of shocks that farmers themselves face, but also improves the environmental condition of resources downstream, such as the mangroves and coral reefs in coastal communities like Samaná, which are degraded by an onslaught of negative impacts, from upstream agricultural pollution to climate change-induced alterations in ocean chemistry.

By working with those whose livelihoods are currently impacted by the effects of climate change, and by engaging the youth in impacted communities, USAID is promoting multigenerational awareness of and engagement with climate change resiliency.

Rebuilding Haiti One Concrete Block at a Time

This originally appeared on the OPIC Blog.

“You can’t build a country without concrete.”

The statement has particular relevance in Haiti, where, more than three years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake resulted in extensive death and destruction, the country is still working to repair and rebuild and assume a path of sustained economic vitality.

Luis Garcia (pictured), spoke about the importance of basic building materials like concrete when he described his work in Haiti to an OPIC delegation in February. As Vice President for Planning at Haiti 360, Garcia oversees  projects that not only produce badly-needed concrete, but also highlight the critical role of the private sector in addressing urgent developing world needs such as modern infrastructure.

Luis Garcia describes his work in Haiti to an OPIC delegation in February 2013. Photo credit: OPIC

Haiti 360 – one of multiple OPIC-supported projects that were initiated after the 2010 earthquake – has used a $6 million OPIC loan to support startup costs of two plants producing high-quality concrete used to rebuild homes, roads and even an airport runway. In 2012, more than 500 homes were built with concrete from the new plants. Some of the homes, like those pictured below at the Cabaret housing settlement, were built to tap into the country’s sunny climate. They have solar panels on the windows and come with ATM-like machines, where residents can swipe cards to keep track of the power they use. Haiti 360 is now one of Haiti’s largest concrete producers, and is establishing a series of micro-mixing sites around the country so it can better meet the demands of local builders in different regions. The company is also planning to donate a percentage of its profits to local charities.

My work in international development has led me to Haiti several times but when I visited the country in February with an OPIC delegation led by OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield, it was my first visit since the earthquake three years earlier. Today there are about 300,000 Haitians living in tents, down from almost three million who were left homeless after the earthquake. Long a poor country facing multiple development challenges, Haiti today faces the immediate challenge of housing and feeding a large displaced population, and is hoping to do so in a sustainable manner.  Construction underway throughout the country is aimed not just at repairing damage, but extending roads, bolstering infrastructure and fostering new industrial development beyond the capital city of Port au Prince, which is overcrowded with displaced people and job seekers.

The work I witnessed during my visit in February also underscored how governments, private businesses and NGOs all have an important role in this country, which U.S. Ambassador Pamela White has described as “too rich to be poor.” Indeed, Haiti is rich in talent, youth, innovative spirit and land. All of these resources were on display when our delegation visited the Cabaret Housing Settlement, where about 156 houses will be built with the support of Development Innovation Group (DIG). A Maryland finance and development firm, DIG is using a $17 million OPIC loan, together with grants from USAID and the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, to support lending in amounts as small as $1,000 for mortgages and home repairs for low-income borrowers. Builders at the Cabaret site are sensitive to the urgency to construct more housing and have organized a friendly-yet-fierce competition between two construction teams to see who can complete the most homes.

Development Innovations Group offers a good illustration of OPIC’s ability to form partnerships to achieve a greater developmental impact. As the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, OPIC helps private businesses invest in frontier markets and often collaborates with other agencies or NGOs to channel additional investment into projects addressing major social and environmental needs. As the builders’ contest illustrates, DIG and other OPIC-supported projects have responded quickly to the need in Haiti. [continued]

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Embracing Innovation and Discovery to Accelerate Global Health Progress

Ariel Pablos-Mendez, PhD, serves as assistant administrator for Global Health

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

Improving women’s and children’s health is critical to the development of successful economies and stable communities. It not only saves lives, but it helps communities move themselves out of poverty. Yet every year, 6.9 million children die of preventable causes and more than 287,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

In his State of the Union Address earlier this year, President Obama set forth a vision to, within the next two decades, achieve some of the greatest contributions to human progress in history– eliminate extreme poverty, ensure an AIDS-free generation, and end preventable child and maternal deaths.

To many, these goals seem impossible. They seem like nothing more than a catchy statement, in a political speech. But in reality, these goals are achievable, and we’ve already begun to see tremendous progress.   For example, we’ve supported the scale up of a simplified newborn resuscitation program, “Helping Babies Breathe” through a public-private partnership. The partnership has trained and equipped 100,000 health providers in 50 countries in the last two years. This past year, USAID reached more than 84 million women with family planning information and services. By enabling women to delay and space pregnancy, this helped to prevent 15,000 maternal deaths and save the lives of more than 230,000 infants. These are just a couple examples of the recent advancements we’ve made.

But while we have tools and knowledge that can save and improve lives today, we must also look toward the future. Millions around the globe still do not have adequate access to reproductive, maternal and child health services. There is no guarantee that today’s tools will meet tomorrow’s challenges. We must not become complacent.

USAID and the broader global health community invest in innovation, science & technology to find game-changing solutions. Solutions that will help accelerate the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths, and creating an AIDS-free generation.

Through the Grand Challenges for Development, Development Innovation Ventures, and the Higher Education Solutions Network, USAID is helping to drive breakthroughs in science and technology that can transform development challenges. Recently, we launched the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact in Global Health to help promote and discover innovative, business-minded approaches to address key bottlenecks in the development, introduction and scale-up of global health technologies and interventions.

And since 2011, Saving Lives at Birth has supported 39 exciting and potentially transformational solutions to women’s and newborns’ health. The innovative ideas include an instrument-free, low-cost, rapid point-of-care CD4 test; a postpartum intrauterine device simulation training model; a counterfeit and substandard drug detector device for use in the developing world; and a low-cost, sustainable health cooperative.

At USAID, we are committed to finding innovative solutions to global health  problems (PDF) and if the global health community can harness science, technology and innovation for the poorest communities in the world, we can leave an unparalleled legacy in global health in this next decade. Over the next few days, we will be blogging about some of the latest cutting-edge solutions that are changing the global health arena. By working together to discover and build new solutions, we can maximize our impact and expand what is possible in development.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Money & Microfinance

What does having access to savings and credit have to do with disaster risk reduction? What does having access to savings and credit have to do with disaster risk reduction?In this next installment of the USAID Pounds of Prevention series (PDF), we discuss the important role that financial services play in reducing vulnerability to disasters and facilitating post-disaster recovery. We travel to Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean where USAID supports a number of efforts that increase people’s access to finance and also strengthens the preparedness capacity of the providers themselves. Photo by USAID.

A New Partnership with South Sudan, A New Way of Promoting Development in Fragile States

Earl Gast serves as assistant administrator for Africa

Last month, USAID helped to spearhead a New Partnership between the government of South Sudan and the international community—including donor nations, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank—based on mutual commitments to focus international assistance and host country resources on strengthening governance, political inclusiveness and sustainable development in South Sudan.

As the world’s newest nation, South Sudan is also one of the least developed countries and therefore, has been highly reliant on donor assistance. Following its independence in July 2011, the international community’s high hopes for the new nation’s future were quickly tempered by an escalation in tensions between South Sudan and Sudan that led to the January 2012 suspension of oil production from South Sudan and transit through Sudan. Given that oil represents 98 percent of Juba’s revenue, the impact of this cessation was immediate and devastating.

The last year of living in austerity and diminishing government services has been a difficult time for the people of South Sudan, who have suffered high food and fuel prices, inflation, displacement from internal conflict and floods. South Sudan also hosts 200,000 refugees from Sudan, who fled fighting and a severe humanitarian crisis in that country.

In early April 2013, Sudan and South Sudan resumed cooperation on oil production, and oil is beginning to flow again. Nonetheless, South Sudan would do well to remember the tough lessons learned over the past year without oil revenues. Despite the hardships, this time of austerity has also been an opportunity to put in place tough, but necessary, economic reforms and fiscal discipline that will help grow the economy and improve transparency.

To help get South Sudan on a sustainable path for development, more than 40 governments and international organizations attended the South Sudan Economic Partners Forum in Washington on April 16. This year, donors have committed to provide approximately $1.3 billion to South Sudan—part of the continuing effort to help the new and underdeveloped nation get on its feet and provide emergency humanitarian assistance where needed. They also indicated a willingness to add new support—up to $300 million—to their existing assistance to South Sudan should the government continue on the right path. The United States is South Sudan’s largest donor. In fiscal year 2012, USAID and the State Department provided $680.4 million in assistance to South Sudan, including emergency (PDF) and development assistance, as well as peacekeeping and security sector programming.

However, donor assistance alone cannot be the solution to South Sudan’s long-term challenges—good governance and private sector growth are equally critical for sustaining the new country’s future. We know, based on decades of hard-earned experience in other parts of the world, that coun­tries with strong economies and sta­ble gov­ern­ments tend to pro­vide more access to ser­vices for cit­i­zens, and oppor­tu­ni­ties for employ­ment. As part of the New Partnership, South Sudan’s partners—including the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, European Union, the World Bank and others —agreed to help the government of South Sudan organize a Private Sector Investment Conference in Juba later this year. As a critical first step, USAID organized a South Sudan Investment Forum in Washington on April 17, 2013 to introduce U.S. companies in South Sudan’s priority sectors (agriculture, petroleum, energy, infrastructure and mining) to government ministers to explore potential investment opportunities. Demonstrating U.S. Government’s commitment to supporting private sector investment in South Sudan, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) signed an Investment Incentive Agreement supporting U.S. private sector investment in South Sudan.

To complement these efforts, USAID has offered its expertise to help the government of South Sudan complete investment agreements based on transparency and responsible stewardship of South Sudan’s public resources, to grow and diversify the economy, and to help the people of South Sudan realize their potential. With this assistance, we believe USAID and other donors’ collaboration in South Sudan in close partnership with the government will put South Sudan on a better path to deliver on its independence promise.

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