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Modeling Potential Impact on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

Throughout my career, I have witnessed the tremendous power of vaccines to prevent sickness and save lives – delivering incredible victories for humanity against diseases such as polio, smallpox and measles. These vaccines would not have been possible without the inspiration, persistence and courage of researchers, volunteers and health workers around the world.

Thanks to a USAID-supported program, Gladys Njeri Macharia is studying how rare individuals might be blocking HIV infection Photo credit: IAVI

And so today, on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, I join countless others around the world in reflecting on what it would mean to see AIDS consigned to a list of former pandemics. To achieve that goal, it is essential that we enlist the participation of researchers around the world in the design and development of HIV vaccines.

Young researchers such as Gladys Njeri Macharia in Kenya – who has dedicated her career to exploring immune responses to HIV – will play an especially important role in that effort. And one day, critical scientific questions addressed by this research might help lead to an effective vaccine.

New modeling data available today from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Futures Institute, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), illustrates how a safe, preventive HIV vaccine that is accessible and affordable can help us end the AIDS pandemic. This information is available in a series of publications and an interactive web tool.

The potential impact of a vaccine is striking. Because HIV is so extraordinarily resistant to the immune response, it is highly unlikely that any single vaccine will be able to prevent infection by all variants of the virus. Still, our modeling shows that if an AIDS vaccine that is only 50% effective is introduced in 2020 to 30% of the population in low- and middle-income countries, 5.2 million new HIV infections could be averted over the first decade. Higher efficacy and more coverage would have an even greater impact on the pandemic.

The world must continue to scale up and improve the response to HIV by using powerful prevention tools that are currently at our disposal. These include condoms, treatment and voluntary medical male circumcision. Our new models show that a vaccine can build on these existing tools and take us down the last mile to the end of the AIDS pandemic.

Margaret McGlynn is the President and CEO of IAVI Photo credit: Sara Mayti/IAVI

A 50% effective vaccine combined with greater use of current HIV-prevention tools could prevent nearly 20 million new HIV infections by 2030 – 20 million people that would not need to face the physical, emotional and social hardships caused by the disease and could avoid lifelong, daily antiretroviral treatment to stave off AIDS-related illness or death.

This HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, IAVI and our partners remember those we have lost to AIDS, gain inspiration from those living with and combating the disease today, and look forward to building on the incredible momentum of recent discoveries and study results to deliver on the tremendous potential of an AIDS vaccine.

To access IAVI and the Futures Institute’s impact modeling publications and interactive modeling tool, visit www.iavi.org/impact.

Expanding Access to Quality Education and Improved Health Care in the West Bank’s “Area C”

I recently had the opportunity to visit a construction site in Jalazone, just outside of Ramallah in the West Bank, where the U.S. Government is partnering with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in cooperation with Palestinian and Israeli officials, to build a school that will provide a safe and vastly improved learning environment for more than 1,100 girls.

Once completed, the school will provide an enhanced learning environment for more than 1,100 girls. Photo Credit: Lubna Rifi

Jalazone is located in what is known as “Area C,” an area that comprises approximately 60 percent of the West Bank and is under Israeli administrative and security control, in accordance with the terms of the Oslo Accords. The expansion work on the Jalazone School, which includes building 23 new modern classrooms, science labs, vocational training rooms, and all the facilities of a functioning school, is part of U.S. efforts, underway for some time, working closely with the Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials, to improve access to essential services for Palestinians living in “Area C.”

While visiting the construction site, UNRWA’s West Bank Field Director Felipe Sanchez and I spoke with the Principal at the school, Sana Bayyari. She explained how much she and her students and teachers are looking forward to moving from the current school’s overcrowded and run-down classrooms to what will effectively be a fully renovated school by March 2013. These renovations will significantly improve the educational environment at the school, originally built in the 1950s. Principal Bayyari also noted that they are especially excited that they will no longer have to attend school in double shifts as they have been doing for years to accommodate all of the students.

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Rising Out of Poverty

Good news for developing countries: In February, the World Bank released its most recent figures on global poverty and showed stunning progress in the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day) around the world.  Since 1981 the global poverty headcount ratio (the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty) has been rapidly declining.  And since the mid-1990s, the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty also has been falling. Between 1993 and 2008, the share of world’s population living in extreme poverty fell from 41% to 22%.  The total number declined from 1.9 billion to 1.3 billion people, a fall of nearly one-third in just 15 years.

The new data show that the pace of poverty declines has been accelerating, plus something new and striking: For the first time ever, between 2005 and 2008 the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty declined in all major developing regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.

The story is basically the same across all three of the most widely used poverty lines ($1.00/day, $1.25/day and $2.00/day) – across all three, both the share and total number of people living in poverty are falling around the world.

Among USAID’s major partner countries, these trends are no less impressive.  In the 21 countries that have received more than $1 billion in cumulative USAID assistance from 1993 to 2008 (excluding Afghanistan, where complete data are unavailable), the number of people living on less than $1.25 fell over that period by 136 million.

For those that claim that efforts to reduce global poverty are foundering, these data show just the opposite: global poverty is falling more rapidly than at any time in history, and progress is much more than just an Asian phenomenon. The World Bank concluded that the first Millennium Development Goal – to cut poverty in half between 1990 and 2015 – was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of the target. The credit for these gains goes to the leaders and the citizens of the countries involved, but USAID can take pride in playing an important supporting role.

Q&A with the First Lady of El Salvador Vanda Pignato

The Impact Blog interviewed the First Lady of El Salvador Vanda Pignato about development issues important to her in El Salvador. 

The First Lady of El Salvador and Secretary of Social Inclusion Vanda Pignato meets with Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Mark Feierstein.

First Lady, I know you are very passionate about women’s rights. How are you raising the profile of this issue in El Salvador?

As Secretary for Social Inclusion, one of the main goals during my mandate is to promote public policies based on a human rights approach to ensure the realization, respect and guaranty of rights of historically excluded populations. Women make up over half of the population in El Salvadorand have been excluded from access to governmental services, as these were designed without a gender specific focus. With this in mind, the idea to create a center specifically for women to promote and enhance their fundamental human rights became an issue that needed to be addressed. Ciudad Mujer is a program that has raised awareness of the invisibility women have had when it comes to accessing state services, and has begun to change the model of government by integrating services and having a gender based approach. But what is most important is that Ciudad Mujer is changing the lives of thousands of women and they have begun to recognize themselves as right holders.

Do women in El Salvador have an active voice at the table, be it in politics, business, or civil society? What can be done to enhance the role of women?

As in most societies and countries, women’s visibility within politics, business, civil society and others is not at the same level and condition than that of men. This is the heritage and legacy of secular discrimination based on gender issues, a discrimination that figures some jobs are for men and some jobs are for women, a discrimination that figures some colors are for men and other colors are for women, a discrimination that figures some toys are for boys and some are for girls, and so on. This discrimination has created a cleavage between men and women as an irreconcilable antagonism. No society or country is free of this kind of discrimination. Many countries have developed laws to prevent and punish discrimination based on gender issues. Many societies have advanced in their awareness on women’s rights. But the world itself has a long road ahead to walk. Some countries and societies have to walk more than others, but all have to walk.

Bearing that as a starting point, many actors are responsible to enhance the role of women, as much complex work needs to be implemented. The Government has a role to play: eradicate all de jure discrimination, promote the eradication –in a progressive manner– of all de facto discrimination (even using criminal law if needed) and to take the initiative to promote women in higher seats sharing the same responsibilities as men, as in the military forces, in the non-traditional jobs, etc. But what is most important, as a part of the Government’s role is to recognize –and conduct itself consequently and coherently– that men and women are not equal, but both have the same rights that must be ensured and respected equally.

 How does the spike in crime and violence affect women?

Let me start my point with this view: if discrimination against women is a matter of unequal distribution of power, than that makes women vulnerable –women are not vulnerable per se, however they have been historically vulnerated– so the main victims of crime and violence are women. I am not saying that women are killed more frequently than men; however I am speaking about victimization that is the result of crime and violence.

Many crimes and violent behaviors committed are mainly addressed towards women. Sexual harassment, rape, and all kind of sexually motivated crimes and violent behaviors do victimize women (and children, mostly girls). Domestic violence, in addition, occurs almost exclusively against women. And many –but I think I should say most– of these crimes and violent behaviors fall under the unregistered data, I mean, the system never realizes their occurrence. From this perspective, we will never know how many of these crimes and violent behaviors really occur.

Secondly, I can understand that many other crimes and violent behaviors will victimize men directly. It usually happens with murders and assassinations, but who is the indirect victim? Women. They will alone have to attend to their children’s necessities while growing up, as a widowed mother, as an older sister, as a grandmother. What I am trying to say is that women are indirect victims as a result of crimes and violent behaviors. All the exigencies of reproductive work fall upon her shoulders.

Thirdly, the spike of crimes and violent behaviors is not only a matter of quantity (as the frequency of these events) but also a matter of quality. Violence against women is increasing daily and it is hard to pinpoint the source of it. In the past, for instance, drugs were trafficked inside devices, baggage, etc., but now, women’s natural anatomic cavities are used to traffic or hide drugs. In the past, a crime of passion usually finished in killing the lover and his or her cheater, but now, most of the time, women’s body shows high levels of unnecessary roughness and violence. In fact, this observation applies not only to crimes of passion, but to any other crime or violent behavior where the intention is to kill a woman. The situation of Ciudad Juarez speaks for itself and El Salvador, as well as many other countries, is facing similar situations.

What I have said gives me the opportunity to express something: we cannot continue the traditional approach to analyze and understand crime and violent behaviors. It is absolutely necessary to provide those analysis and understandings with a gender approach too.

As Secretary of Social Inclusion, what are your top two priorities?

It is very hard to pick two priorities, since the Secretariat for which I am responsible for works with various groups; women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, sexual minorities. We have taken firms steps in promoting these groups’ rights and continue to seek social change to include these groups in all public policies. However, the common denominator in my work rests upon two principles: to build and enhance public policies based on a human rights approach (keeping in mind the national Constitution and the international treaties that are operative to El Salvador) and to bring down any form of discrimination. Those principles are linked with reciprocity. I cannot address my work on human rights being tolerant with discrimination; and with the same token, I cannot fight against any discrimination if my work is not supported by an approach based on human rights.

With the intention to answer your question, I must then say, that my top two priorities in my work as Secretary of Social Inclusion is the human rights based approach in public policies and the thorough fight against any form of discrimination.

We work very closely with you and your government; do you have a favorite USAID project in El Salvador?

As Secretary of Social Inclusion I have to thank all the cooperation USAID provides to Salvadoran people and Government. But obviously, I do consider as my favorite, all the aid and help you provide in the coincidence of my work, mainly, the eradication of all forms of discrimination and the promotion, guarantee, realization and fulfillment of women’s rights. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the contribution you have made directly to Ciudad Mujer; thousands of Salvadoran women appreciate this gesture and would love to express their gratitude.

Do You Remember Being 5?

Originally featured on ABC’s Million Mom Challenge

Do you remember being 5? I do! My three younger brothers had adventures galore in our tree house, cruised in the back seat of Big Red (our awesome car) and maybe got caught throwing a grapefruit at old Mr. Johnson’s head across the back fence. I remember this day at the beach with my brothers and Dad – it was blustery and the water freezing – but nothing would stop us!

Turning five is one of those special milestones when we head off to Kindergarten and really begin our journey through childhood to adulthood. It’s also a time when kids have passed the most dangerous years of their life in many parts of the world. Getting past five means everything for survival.

Huge leaps have been made to make sure more and more kids get to that all-important 5th birthday. Together, we’ve come a long way — childhood deaths have been cut by 70 percent in the last 50 years. And yet . . .

Worldwide, still, more than 7 million children under age five die each year from largely preventable and treatable causes. USAID (United States Agency for International Development) is celebrating 5th birthdays. You can join the movement for more children to reach their 5th birthday right here.

 

Are Philanthropists Key?

How donor grants may unlock billions of investment dollars for impact enterprise.

In 2010, JP Morgan released a figure that shocked the investment industry: the group estimated that the potential capital market for impact investing—putting dollars into enterprises that would deliver positive social impact—was between $400 billion and $1 trillion. Buoyed by the success of the microfinance revolution, philanthropists, governments, entrepreneurs and investors began in earnest to see how else they could do well by doing good.

Impact investors have surged forward with capital, ready to support the pioneering entrepreneurs creating fortunes and development gains at the base of the pyramid (BoP). There are now 200 impact investment entities poised to pour billions of dollars into impact enterprises in the next year. They have cast wide nets, but it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a dearth of enterprises that can deliver both the social and the financial returns the investors seek.

This week, more than 250 high-level investors, business executives, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and academics are convening in Washington to ask the important question: how can public and private actors work together to unleash the potential of the impact economy? 

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Sesame Workshop Celebrates Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday

Amie Batson, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Global Health, USAID

Tomorrow is the annual day when parents bring their sons and daughters to work. At USAID, the morning typically starts with all the kids and youth being “sworn in” by Administrator Shah as employees for the day.

In recognition of the Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday campaign, our friends at Sesame Workshop put together this great video. Sesame Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential. In support of our new child survival campaign, Sesame Workshop pulled together footage from their programs in several countries. The educational programs showcase: vaccination campaigns, hand washing, malaria control, and HIV anti stigma efforts.

We encourage all workplaces to incorporate this educational video into your Take Your Child to Work Day activities. And, of course, we encourage everyone to find their 5th birthday or Age 5 photo an upload it to 5thBDay.usaid.gov.

USAID Holds Screening & Discussion on LGBT Human Rights

USAID’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Coordinating Committee hosted a screening last Friday of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic speech on LGBT Human Rights.

In her landmark speech made at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Secretary Clinton marked Human Rights Day 2011 by affirming that any definition of human rights must include sexual orientation and gender identity and that the Obama Administration would defend the human rights of LGBT people as part of the United States Government’s comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of American foreign policy.

In her speech, the Secretary stated, “Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do.”

She continued, by reminding the audience that, “progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, ‘How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?’ This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.”

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Tell USAID’s Story with Photos – Last Call

To celebrate Earth Day this year, USAID is hosting a photo contest to showcase the ways we are working to conserve the environment and mitigate climate change.

The contest is open to all, including USAID employees and interns; employees of NGOs and contractors; and representatives from universities, foundations and other organizations that partner with the Agency.

The deadline for photos is midnight, April 16, 2012.

Winning photos must:

  • Illustrate why and how USAID is engaged in the specific environmental project. Photos of people, animals, plants and landscapes that are relevant to programs are all eligible.
  • Include the date and location for the photograph as well as a brief description of what is happening in the image.
  • Be at least 300 dpi or larger (low resolution photos will not be considered).
  • Be in color (black and white photos will not be considered).
  • Submitted digitally, with jpg files preferred.

Each photographer can submit up to five images. Contest photos should not have been previously submitted to USAID for another purpose. Also, note that submitting a photo through this contest grants USAID full reproduction rights to the images, including use in official USAID print and online publications and inclusion in the USAID photo gallery.

Photos will be selected and announced in time for Earth Day.  See last year’s winning photos here.


White House Easter Prayer Breakfast: Gathering Leaders — and Partners

In his opening remarks to over one hundred Christian leaders at the White House Prayer Breakfast, President Obama said that “I’m even more grateful for the work that you do every day of the year — the compassion and the kindness that so many of you express through your various ministries.”

President Obama addresses the audience at the 3rd Annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast. Photo Credit: USAID

Many of the ministries that the President referred to are focused outside of the U.S.  They are ministries, organizations and initiatives that partner with and complement the work of USAID.  From efforts to increase the bounty of agricultural work with Feed the Future, to helping provide medical care that helps children reach their fifth birthday with the Global Health Initiative to literally freeing persons chained into human trafficking together with our Counter Trafficking in Persons efforts, the leaders and their supporters strengthen and extend their own goals of the goals of USAID.

After the Prayer Breakfast, the religious leaders took part in a briefing that included hearing about the tremendous progress that has been achieved in the last few decades in child survival from USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health Amie Batson. In the past two decades child deaths have fallen dramatically, from 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. In fact, the goal of ending preventable child deaths is possible –  if the world works together.  Along with strong country ownership, partnership with faith-based and community organizations will be critical to make this a reality.

This is where you can help!  In close collaboration with UNICEF, the United States is co-convening a Call to Action in June 2012 to set the course towards the end of preventable child deaths.  We need your help to raise awareness and drive collective action! If you’re interested in learning more and want to partner with us, please email:  FBCI@usaid.gov for more information.

Echoing the President’s remarks, thank you for you continued leadership, passion and dedication to helping the most vulnerable.  Together we can create a world where every child, no matter where he or she is born, has an equal opportunity to survive and grow.

 

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