Josette Colin discusses how her earthquake-damaged home was made habitable again by USAID/OFDA-funded Pan American Development Foundation teams in the Simmond-Pele neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Dec. 16, 2010. Photo is from Kendra Helmer/USAID.
Archives for Latin America and the Caribbean
Today, in honor of International Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.S. Embassies and USAID missions around the world are opening their doors to civil society; to the Russian journalists who bravely report on corruption and abuse in the face of grave danger; to the Egyptian human rights activists who fight every day for justice; to the Kenyan political activists who recently helped shepherd a peaceful vote on a Constitutional referendum.
In 1994, USAID became the world’s first donor agency to establish democracy, human rights, and governance as core development objectives. Since then, USAID has become the leading development agency on these issues. With over 400 experts worldwide, USAID manages and programs the vast majority of the U.S. Government’s total budget—over three billion dollars this year alone—devoted to these issues.
These investments are critical to our national security and to reflect our national character, making the word safer and more equitable. That’s why the Obama Administration has laid out an ambitious democracy, human rights, and governance agenda for USAID. We are engaged in a renewed focus to help our partners deliver for their citizens.
In Colombia, USAID created an early warning system to help prevent human rights violations by illegal armed actors, paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and drug mafias.
In Indonesia, USAID worked across 9 provinces with nearly 600 local nongovernmental organizations to increase citizen participation in local governance and social service provision.
Across Asia, USAID helped uphold rights to access for at-risk populations, including transgender communities and men who have sex with men, to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, as well as building regional and in-country capacities to respond.
In Egypt, USAID is supporting disability advocates to organize and lead the development of policies and programs targeting the inclusion of people with disabilities, impacting over 15,000 Egyptians with disabilities at both the local and national levels.
And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and its partners helped provide medical services, fight impunity, and promote community awareness of and response to sexual and gender-based violence for more than 100,000 survivors of rape.
At USAID, we cherish the fundamental liberties contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we promote democratic institutions to fulfill these rights for every global citizen.
Every day, we are dedicated to making USAID the leader on advancing democracy, human rights, and governance globally. Today on this day, with our friends, with our allies, and especially with human rights activists around the world, we support and honor the global efforts to expand human rights for all.
Responding to disasters is never easy, and the cholera outbreak in Haiti is no exception. The six-week-old outbreak has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Haitians and infected 80,000 others. Sadly, this illness will likely continue to spread for many months to come, and cholera will be present in Haiti for years.
Six weeks after joining USAID, I traveled to Haiti as part of the U.S. response to the cholera outbreak. I saw the worst of it: sick women and children, massive dehydration, and widespread fear.
I also saw signs of hope and reasons for the American people to be proud of our response to the outbreak. The Haitian Government is leading the charge against cholera, and the U.S. Government is coordinating with the international community to deliver life-saving supplies, train Haitian medical staff, and monitor the outbreak.
United States government assistance to the cholera outbreak has been a swift, coordinated multi-agency effort. We have collectively provided more than $21.5 million in assistance for the cholera outbreak in Haiti to date. As cholera continues to spread, the U.S. Government is focusing on both the prevention of and treatment for the disease.
On the prevention side, USAID is supporting a nationwide messaging campaign to promote better hygiene practices and increase public awareness of prevention and treatment of the disease. We are also training almost 7,500 community health workers and hygiene promoters across all 10 departments in Haiti.
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To further assist the Government of Haiti’s cholera prevention programs, USAID has already delivered or scheduled the delivery of much-needed cholera prevention supplies. These include:
- 30 metric tons of chlorine, which will provide nationwide treatment of Haiti’s water utilities for three months
- 15 million aquatabs, enough to help 750,000 people
- Nearly 63,000 family hygiene kits, to benefit 345,000 people
As the numbers of cholera patients increases, we are also increasing our cholera treatment activities. U.S. government funding has established 27 cholera treatment facilities, and we are working to bring an additional 37 facilities online as soon as possible.
To further increase treatment capacity, USAID delivered 25 cholera treatment kits to Port-au-Prince last week. These kits include items such as medical supplies, gloves, soap, and intravenous fluid, and the kits will help treat 10,000 moderate and severe cholera patients. These cholera kits are being placed at critical sites in underserved and remote, rural areas in each of Haiti’s 10 departments.
USAID is also providing supplies to aid in the treatment of cholera. The following supplies are already in country or planned for staggered arrival through the month of January:
- 5.3 million ORS sachets, which will benefit an estimated 530,000 people
- 600,000 liters of ringer’s lactate, which will benefit 75,000 patients
- 2,000 cholera beds
NGOs, donors, and other members of the international community are also mobilizing to help curb the spread of this epidemic. Tragically, it will be nearly impossible to fully stop the course of this epidemic. The earthquake exacerbated Haiti’s weak sanitation systems and health infrastructure, making it particularly susceptible to disease outbreaks. Cholera is also a new disease for Haitians, so their immune system is more vulnerable than those populations where cholera is endemic.
Our goal is first to ensure every Haitian receives information about how to prevent infection and how to recognize the early symptoms of cholera. Secondly, we are determined to reduce both fatalities and the number of severe cases that require hospitalization. We’re already seeing progress. Early in the outbreak, about 9 percent of hospitalized cholera cases were fatal. In the latest reports from Haiti’s Ministry of Health, that figure is down to 3.5 percent.
To say 2010 was a challenging year for Haiti would be a brash understatement. An earthquake, hurricane, and disease outbreak would test the mettle of any population, but Haitians are confronting these challenges head on, and they’re doing it with unprecedented resolve and tenacity.
USAID’s Development Credit Authority recently surpassed a $2 billion milestone of private sector credit mobilized in developing countries. USAID uses partial loan guarantees to encourage local banks to invest locally in sectors ranging from health to clean energy to infrastructure.
The two billionth dollar was made available from a new partnership with two banks in Haiti for small and medium businesses. Since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, established businesses lost most, if not all, of their property and equipment. Without these assets, small and medium enterprises no longer have the collateral needed to obtain loans to rebuild their businesses. The DCA guarantee will substitute as collateral for borrowers, enabling two local banks to lend up to $20 million of their funds to help businesses rebuild.
In Nicaragua, we will co-sponsor The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ two-day fair from November 11-12th in Managua to continue the celebration of World Food Day. The purpose of this activity is to bring attention to the serious problem of world food security. As the second poorest country in the hemisphere, the issue of food security is critical for Nicaragua.
In Iraq, we will hold training as part of the Iraq Legislative Strengthening Project (ILSP). The training will focus on 1) Legislative Drafting Training, 2) Analyzing Law 56 of 1977 “collecting Governmental Debts”, 3) Basic Report Writing and 4) Motivation and Team Building.
In Kyrgyzstan, we will open a Food for Peace food distribution site. This event will support transparency of food distribution and also support reconciliation and trust among ethnic group beneficiaries.
A farmer shows an example of a pepper grown at a farm that is part of a USAID WINNER project in Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program or WINNER for short, is a five-year, $126 million program funded by USAID to increase productivity in the country’s ailing agricultural sector. Photo is from Kendra Helmer/USAID.
A reception in a downtown hotel in Port-au-Prince is buzzing with excitement. Fellow classmates are chatting about their plans after graduation. Many are dressed in their Sunday best to mark the proud day.
One hundred and fifty newly trained masons successfully graduated a joint program sponsored by USAID/KATA and CEMEX, a building materials company. The program trained young people living in poor neighborhoods on how to create quality masonry blocks. Of 150 graduates, 75 of them are people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
“The program helps them learn valuable skills and empowers them to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” said CHF International’s Haiti Director Alberto Wilde.
The graduates underwent a three month training that exposed them to masonry best practices and techniques. They also learned entrepreneurial skills to help them start micro enterprises. All students received molding, cement, sand, and a masonry guide at the end of the program.
“When I was working under somebody else I was making 2,500 gourdes ($62.50). But with my own business I make about 5,000 gourdes ($125). Of these 5,000 gourdes I have reinvested half in order that my business grows further. Now, I am planning to have a laborer in order to have even bigger productivity,” said Alcide Delcy, age 23.
The small business created by the USAID/KATA and CEMEX graduates can help support Haiti’s economic recovery. Their training also helps support the country’s efforts to build back better as homes and other buildings are constructed using higher quality blocks.
At the ceremony, CEMEX Representative Linda Gaillard said to the graduates, “You have the training in your heads and the tools in your hands. Now go out and do your best work.”
These words were met with loud cheers and big smiles.
Women preparing vegetables at San Judas packing plant to sell to grocery stores in Guatemala. The San Judas company is participating in a USAID Global Development Alliance program with partners Wal-Mart, Mercy Corps, and Fundación AGIL. Photo is from Eduardo Smith/ PrensaLibre 2008.
Cherilien raised a potato into the sunlight for a gathering crowd of Haitian farmers and visitors to see. Cherilien explained that he normally produces 110 pounds of potatoes each year, but this year he produced 440 pounds.
Cherilien disappeared into the group of farmers as another Haitian farmer, Marisette, chimed in, “We used to not have good yields, but now we have good yields.”
Cherilien, Marisette, and other farmers joined representatives from USAID and the government of Haiti at the Wynne Farm, a mountaintop training facility for farmers in Haiti, to discuss their successful Spring 2010 crop season. USAID announced that crops averaged an increase of 75 percent over the previous year for sorghum, corn, beans and potatoes.
The good news is giving farmers hope despite the recent decline in Haiti’s agricultural sector. Sixty percent of Haitians are employed in agriculture, and still, a whopping 23 percent of Haitian imports are food. Experts cite many reasons for the struggling sector from erosion and deforestation to Haiti’s mountainous geography.
A photo taken at Wynne farm by my colleague, Kendra Helmer, shows rows of vegetables wrapped around a mountain ridge. The landscape looks like something out of a Salvador Dali painting, and one can imagine that farming these steep slopes challenges even the most sure-footed agrarians.
So, how did the farmers who gathered at Wynne Farm defy the odds? Because they are hard working, of course, but also because they are participating in the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program. WINNER, for short, is a five-year, $126 million program funded by USAID to increase productivity in the country’s ailing agricultural sector.
WINNER advisers at Wynne Farm work with Haitians to teach them innovative farming techniques, strengthen farmer associations, and provide access to expertise and vital supplies (seeds, fertilizers, credit and tools). Among the more impressive features of Wynne Farm is the greenhouse, the training ground for farmers to learn innovative techniques like vertical agriculture.
WINNER works in other parts of the country, too, with more than 250 community-based organizations that represent 50,000 small farmers. The program is increasing food productivity, dredging and widening rivers, constructing small dams and water catchments, treating ravines, and reforesting the land.
Mark Feierstein, USAID’s new Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, was present at Wynne Farm to announce the exciting news about WINNER’s increased productivity, but truth be told, he seemed more interested in hearing from farmers like Cherilien and Marisette than talking himself. One thing he made clear was that agriculture will remain a priority for USAID’s work in Haiti – a sentiment that seemed to conjure a sense of relief and hope among the farmers.
Funky beats and roaring laughter echoed through Cap Haitien’s town square as local dancers, poets, comedians, and musicians performed at the city’s cultural festival over the weekend. Thousands of Haitians attending the festival danced, sang and laughed as performances stretched into the wee hours of the morning.
USAID cohosted the two-day festival with local authorities to boost civic pride and mark a renewed focus on economic growth in Cap Haitien. The festival fell on a holiday dedicated to King Henri Christophe, Cap Haitien’s most well-known historical figure, and featured some of Haiti’s most popular performers. Kompa band Tropicana, comedian Jesifra and dance troop Dahomey were among the audience favorites.
Despite a heavy storm that flooded the streets, Haitians rushed into the town square as the rain let up and the water receded. Locals called the festival Cap Haitien’s biggest event in recent memory and estimated that three to four thousand residents attended.
Some Haitians set up shop on the square’s perimeter to sell steaming food, frosty drinks and hand-made crafts. Others climbed trees or sat atop cars to get a better view of the stage.
The hopeful tenor of the audience showed Haitians’ resilience in spite of their hardships. Extreme poverty was commonplace for Cap Haitien residents even before the earthquake nine months ago. The northern port city lies far outside the range of the earthquake, but many Haitians sought refuge in Cap Haitien after their homes were destroyed in and around Port-au-Prince. As a result, Cap Haitien’s population swelled in the disaster’s aftermath, straining the city’s already sparse resources.
The Government of Haiti and international community see an opportunity to reinvest in Cap Haitien. A number of USAID projects are already in the works. USAID partner, Development Alternatives Inc., is implementing many of those projects including cash-for-work programs that provide short-term employment for women, agriculture projects that boost incomes from farming, and infrastructure projects that increase the number of students attending school.
I arrived in Haiti just two days before the cultural festival, and the weekend-long celebration shaped my first impression of the country. I witnessed many struggles in Haiti, but I also witnessed proud, hopeful Haitians working hard to overcome these challenges.