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Youth Shine at 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University

This past weekend I joined over 1,000 college students from 80 countries, and over 75 youth organizations, at the 5th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) held this year at George Washington University. For many, the highlight might have been Usher summing up his sentiment about why his foundation focuses on youth empowerment by singing Whitney Houston’s “I believe the Children are our Future” (while sharing the stage with President Clinton and Secretary Albright); or the closing conversation between Jon Stewart and President Clinton.

Dr. Nicole Goldin of USAID with youth at George Washington University while attending the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University this weekend. Photo Credit: USAID

For me however, it was connecting and interacting with the participants – some I learned already have a USAID connection.   Like the members of the CGI annual meeting in New York every September, all participants must make a commitment to action in order to attend – and many of these student personal stories and commitments are extraordinary.

During the opening plenary panel, along with President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and Usher, an amazing young Afghan woman named Sadiqa Saleem inspired the crowd with her personal journey from refugee camps, to the US and back  home to educate the girls and young women of Afghanistan.  “We need a coalition of fathers [like hers] to fight for the education of their daughters….”  Along with her follow-women founder, they went from educating 36 girls in an abandoned building, to creating and running  the Oruj Learning Center which teaches nearly 3400 girls in 6 primary schools, as well as executes other womens’ education and youth leadership programs.

After the panel, I spoke with Sadiqa and she told me she worked as Manager of the professional development center under the USAID Afghanistan Higher Education Program  – and that’s where she got the ideas and increased skills to enable her to establish her colleges.

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Our Continued Common Struggle – World Tuberculosis Day 2012

Last year on this blog, I wrote about why the United States and Eastern Europe and Eurasia need to work together to fight against multi-drug resistant (MDR) – tuberculosis (TB) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) –TB. In the world of modern travel, these diseases are a plane ride away from our shores.

As we commemorate World Tuberculosis Day this year, Eastern Europe and Eurasia continue to have the highest rates of MDR-TB and XDR- TB in the world.  Of the 27 countries with a high burden of M/XDR-TB, 10 are in the Europe/Eurasia region.  MDR-TB is a national security interest and a global health interest for the region and for the world.

Tuberculosis is largely curable but also potentially deadly. It exacts an enormous personal and economic toll, often striking people in their most economically productive years.  Diagnosis and treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB are more complicated and expensive.  MDR-TB for example requires 24 months of treatment vs. 6 months for drug-susceptible TB and the treatment is more than 260 times more expensive.  As a result, M/XDR-TB constitute major risks to effective TB control.

Europe and Eurasia are of particular concern because they have shown the world’s highest rates of MDR-TB.  A 2011 USAID-funded survey in Minsk, Belarus found the highest MDR-TB rates recorded to date.  Prior to that, one region in Russia and Baku, Azerbaijan had the highest recorded rates.

The picture of TB in the region is unique, fueled by inadequate diagnostics, poor compliance with treatment and insufficient infection control. The growth of HIV/AIDS further contributes to TB rates.  In addition, TB programs historically have been implemented in a silo fashion separate from the rest of the health care systems, and drug regimens have been improperly prescribed and/or incompletely followed by patients.

In response to alarming new rates of MDR-TB USAID, working in collaboration with national TB programs and the Global Fund, has invested strategically and targeted areas where it can have the highest impact: strengthening surveillance systems, improving the quality of data collection and monitoring, strengthening laboratories, improving infection control, strengthening treatment services,  bolstering drug management practices, and improving policies and protocols.

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Global Waters – World Water Day Edition

USAID’s water team just published a new edition of their Global Waters Magazine in celebration of World Water Day.

You can view it in the interactive e-zine version below or download Global Waters as a PDF  (5.1MB), great for smaller screens, tablets or handhelds, or for printing.

Peace, Recovery, and Development in Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda experienced one of Africa’s longest running conflicts from 1987 through 2007. The Lord’s Resistance Army terrorized communities, and abducted tens of thousands of children to train as child soldiers. The conflict exacted severe economic losses, leading to mass displacement of people, a breakdown in infrastructure, and severely weakened governance and social structures. In the years since 2007, Northern Uganda has rebounded from the shadow of conflict to become relatively peaceful and stable. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 95 percent of the 1.8 million people living in Internally Displaced Persons camps at the height of the conflict have returned to their homes.

While nearly everyone in the region has experienced loss and continues to face challenges, the process of reintegrating into society has been particularly difficult for young people who were abducted and pressed into service by the LRA. Several international and community-based organizations introduced vocational training programs to provide former abductees with skills to help them become self-reliant and reintegrate into their communities.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) identified and trained, vulnerable youth and provided them employment opportunities to make furniture for schools that were being rehabilitated by USG and other donor programs. The restored schools and housing for teachers have encouraged a large number of children to enroll.

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USAID In the News

Weekly Briefing (3/12/2012 – 3/16/2012)

March 14: A recent study highlighted in Federal Computer Week magazine showed that USAID was one of three federal agencies currently in full compliance with the White House transparency recommendations issued in March 2011. Under the Administration’s Open Government Directive released in December 2009, agencies developed open government plans in April 2010. Many of the agencies updated those plans in mid-2010 and again in 2011 and are now preparing for a third round of updates.

March 14: The White House Blog published An Alliance for Global Development written by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and DFID Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell. The blog discussed the official state visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the unique partnership the two countries share on global development.

March 14: Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg joined Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney to discuss the on-going humanitarian crisis in Sudan and South Sudan. The Associated PressVoice of America, and The Washington Post covered the hearing, among other major outlets.

March 15: The Oregonian (Portland, OR)  reports that 20 international students from Latin America will soon be heading home after receiving two years of academic and technical studies at a local college. The students were selected to participate in the Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program, an initiative funded by USAID. SEED scholarships provide training to youth and community leaders from economically disadvantaged and historically underserved populations, including women and ethnic/Indigenous groups, to become key leaders in their countries’ development.

USAID’s FrontLines – April/May 2012

frontlines banner graphic

Read the latest edition of USAID’s premier publication, FrontLines, to learn more about the Agency’s work with partnerships and in the countries that make up the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP) is the brainchild of an Armenian-American diaspora-led organization, which launched its efforts in 2003 to strengthen the eye-care system and reduce preventable blindness in Armenia. In 2004, USAID and AECP joined forces. Through the partnership, USAID/Armenia helped AECP scale up its programs, which complemented the mission’s health care goals for the country. For part of that effort, AECP brought in a mobile eye hospital, which made stops in 90 percent of Armenia’s communities to provide eye exams and necessary treatments. Pictured: a man receives an eye exam. Photo credit: AECP

Some highlights:

  • Soap. Water. Tippy Tap. After answering nature’s call, some Senegalese wash up in ways both inventive and resourceful.
  • What is proving good for economic growth in post-war Sri Lanka is also providing a positive communal experience for people from all sides of the two-decades-long conflict.

Subscribe to FrontLines for an email reminder when the latest issue is posted online.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (3/5/2012 – 3/10/2012)

March 4: Over the weekend, the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.) highlighted USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah’s trip to General Mills’ Minnesota headquarters. Shah was in town to present the company with a Global Citizenship award, recognizing several hundred employees who volunteered their time and expertise to educate farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and other African countries through the Partners in Food Solutions program.

March 6: Last Friday, USAID announced the creation of the Donald Payne Fellowship program, which aims to attract diverse young professionals to careers in international development. With the passing of Congressman Payne, Roll Call published a story that included a statement Administrator Shah issued. “There have been few greater friends of USAID, and Rep. Payne’s legacy of helping people and solving problems around the world will continue through this fellowship,” Shah said.

March 8: Speaking at a Congressional hearing to discuss the latest developments in the Horn of Africa, AFP and Voice of America report that Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg testified that the U.S. took immediate action, ensuring direct food assistance to 4.6 million people and emergency health care for nearly one million more. Lindborg also underscored the serious challenges ahead, particularly the unsteady rains which will impact the amount of food the region will be able to produce. The United States and other major donors will meet in Kenya later this month to discuss longer-term Horn of Africa plans.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah Honors the Life, Memory of U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne

U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey. Photo Credit: USAID

A statement on the passing of a true advocate of USAID’s work, Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey.

“There have been few greater friends of USAID than Rep. Donald M. Payne. Mr. Payne beat the drum of dignity and civil rights for women and girls from Rwanda and Afghanistan to Colombia and Morocco. He was a giant in the world of African affairs whose sage counsel I relied upon time and again – whether on the challenges of promoting economic development and justice in post-apartheid South Africa or helping to sustain peace between Sudan and South Sudan. He was there the day South Sudan became an independent republic, and was personally involved in the development of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the creation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program and the strengthening of the African Union. His imprint on our Agency is large. Mr. Payne visited nearly every USAID Mission in Africa and directly touched the lives of our staff in the field and here in Washington, DC. From protecting human rights, to promoting food security or combating HIV/AIDS, Rep. Payne held our Agency accountable for delivering real results. His absence will leave a deep void, but his legacy as a champion for those in need will live on.”

Inclusive Development: USAID’s New Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy

As posted on the White House Blog

There are moments that make you proud. Proud to work in an Administration led by President Obama and Secretary Clinton who have made gender equality a top priority.  Last week was one of those times.

Last year USAID Administrator Shah and I established a task team to craft a new policy on gender quality and female empowerment, the Agency’s first in 30 years. I am proud to say that USAID released that policy, achieving great strides and reaffirming our commitment to close the gender gap in international development.

The goal of this policy is to improve the lives of citizens around the world by advancing equality between females and males, and empowering women and girls to participate fully in and benefit from the development of their societies.

USAID has long recognized that drawing on the full contributions of women is key achieving better, inclusive, and more sustainable results.  That’s why we’re integrating gender equality and female empowerment into the very DNA of everything we do.   From Presidential initiatives like Feed the Future (FtF), the Global Health Initiative (GHI), and Global Climate Change to the full range of the Agency’s programs, we are ensuring that gender is not just being included, but fully incorporated.  Eliminating gender bias and empowering women isn’t just a question of fairness or equity: it’s simply good business practice.   

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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (2/27/2012 – 3/2/2012)

February 27: Over the weekend, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah visited the campus of Bethel University, in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Administrator Shah praised Bethel for their commitment to international engagement and discussed USAID’s work in the areas of global health and food security. While in Minnesota, Administrator Shah also visited General Mills headquarters and recognized employee volunteers for their global citizenship.

February 27: Bloomberg highlighted the release of the “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index,” the first ever report to measure the impact women play in food growth in developing countries. USAID was a key partner in the development of the report and the index will be applied to all programs in President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative.

February 29: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed written by Senator John Kerry, discussing his support for foreign aid and the work being performed by USAID and the State Department. Citing former President Ronald Reagan, Kerry writes that Reagan “knew that diplomacy and development policy neutralize threats before they become crises; manage crises if threats escalate; and assure security and stability after conflicts are resolved, all at a fraction of the cost of military deployment.”

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