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Archives for Latin America and the Caribbean

U.S. Government brings Sanitation Technology to Families in the Amazon

Submitted by Lisa Hibbert-Simpson

The United States Mission in Brazil, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and in partnership with the Cargill Foundation and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), celebrates the completion of the implementation of a social technology for sewage treatment in the rural area of Porto Velho, in Rondonia state. Seventeen families from a rural community, which had biodigester toilets installed in their residences, attended a breakfast with all project partners.

The technology used is cheap and, besides treating the domestic sewage, it prevents the contamination of soil and groundwater and generates compost that can be used for organic production.

Sewage treatment system for rural areas improves public health and the environment in Rondonia state capital, Porto Velho. Photo Credit: USAID / Mark Mitchell

“We saw an excellent opportunity in this project, because it combines environment conservation with the improvement of people’s lives in the Amazon region, which is part of the scope of environmental programs that the U.S. government supports in Brazil,” said Lisa Kubiske, Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States Embassy in Brazil.

This project is one of a number of joint efforts between the United States and Brazil to strengthen environmental protection and support local development.

How it works

The technology, known as a septic biodigester tank, was developed by Embrapa and works by transporting sewage from home toilets into a cement tank that transforms the material into an organic fertilizer via anaerobic biodigestion.

The first tank was built in March and installed at the residence of Luciano Alves do Prado’s. Five months after its installation, Mr. Prado is already using the compost for his açaí plantation. “The implantation of these tanks was an improvement, mainly because it prevents the pollution of water. This is new for Porto Velho,” said Mr. Prado.

The project was funded by USAID, coordinated by the Cargill Foundation and Cargill Porto Velho, and received technical support from Embrapa. The initiative is an alternative solution to the issue of sanitation in rural areas of the Amazon.

“The success of this project is due to the commitment of everyone involved in the process, particularly beneficiary families, who were willing to acquire new skills and knowledge to take care of their sanitation systems”, said Denise Cantarelli, manager of the Cargill Foundation.

“The septic biodigester tank is a cheap and environmentally friendly basic sanitation system that benefits both the environment and public health. The technology is already used in other regions of Brazil and presents itself as a successful alternative for the treatment of sewage,” explains Wilson Tadeu Lopes da Silva, technician for Embrapa.

Helping Shelter Haiti

The humanitarian community in Haiti has funds for the construction of more than 118,000 transitional shelters over the coming months for those who lost their homes in the country’s devastating earthquake earlier this year. Medair, an international NGO, is one of many partners receiving funding from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to build such shelters.

Last week, Medair unloaded construction materials for 800 transitional shelters — a fraction of the total they plan to build — in Jacmel, south of Port-au-Prince. Medair is planning to build 4,500 t-shelters in the Jacmel area, benefiting 27,000 people. Here’s a dispatch from Emma Le Beau, Field Communications Officer for Medair Haiti, about the excitement that this delivery brought to Jacmel and the direct impact of our work on the lives of Haitians affected by the earthquake:

“As our cargo ship approached Jacmel at dawn, local fishing boats rowed ahead of the boat to steer it clear of a treacherous sandbar. When the ship berthed, we began unloading the cargo with the aid of two 35-ton cranes, four forklifts, seven flatbed trucks, and the logistical support of shipping agent Kuehne and Nagel and Haitian partner Hogarth. The flatbed trucks made it over the mountains from Port-au-Prince with only one flat tire among them.

“The cranes operated throughout the night to unload 1,331 tons of cargo from the ship, including timber and galvanized iron sheeting. Because of widespread deforestation in Haiti, we chose to import the pre-treated timber to keep local trees in place.

“From the port, trucks loaded with the ship’s materials made nearly 200 runs to the Medair warehouse. When they arrived, Medair teams of technical officers, carpenters, logisticians, and community mobilizers, who have been in place since January, were there to greet them. Now that more materials are in place, they’ll be able to scale up the speed of their construction and build more shelters for Haitian families in need in hard-to-reach mountain villages near Jacmel.

“The shelters, designed to resist hurricane force winds, seismic risks and heavy rainfall, are solid structures with foundations of reinforced concrete. They take about three days to build and are finished with a wrapping of plastic sheeting and solid windows and doors. Many families will likely choose to upgrade this type of shelter into a permanent home by replacing the plastic sheeting with stone walls.

The Rossamund family, whose home was made dangerously unsafe by the earthquake, has already received a new shelter and is enjoying living in safer and dry housing. Monsieur Rossamund told Medair staff: “If I had not received this help, I would need to sell all my animals to pay for the materials to rebuild my home.” By keeping his animals, his family can continue to have a livelihood, food, and insurance for the future.”

World Humanitarian Day: Response Coordinator Reflects on Progress Made in Haiti

Yesterday was World Humanitarian Day, a day when we remember the millions of people experiencing conflict, natural disasters, sickness and extreme poverty and the people committed to saving their lives, relieving suffering and empowering those who are struggling make a better life.

At USAID, we have a long history of extending a helping hand to people overseas recovering from disaster and are continuing to respond to humanitarian needs. We support Pakistanis affected by the epic flooding in the country’s south and west. And since January 12, our aid workers and partners have worked hard to help the people of Haiti build back better after the earthquake.

Watch a video featuring Response Coordinator Skip Waskin and learn about humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti.

Apparel Training Center in Haiti Educates Textile Factory Workforce

Forming a Better-Trained Workforce in Haiti
Written By Joanna Stavropoulos, CHF Haiti communications manager

Graduate of USAID-funded garment training center in Haiti

Steve Jean, a graduate of the new USAID-funded Haiti Apparel Center, trains sewing machine operators in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Joanna Stavropoulos/CHF

Steve Jean, 37, grew up in a family of tailors – his mother, father, even his grandfather and before him. When he was a child, more than 100,000 textile workers had jobs in Haiti. Now there are fewer than 20,000.

But USAID is working to change this statistic and bring vitally needed economic development, jobs and investment to Haiti.  On Wednesday, USAID led the inauguration with CHF International for the Haiti Apparel Center (HAC), which will train 2,000 Haitians a year on a wide variety of jobs needed for Haiti to develop its textile manufacturing sector.

Even before HAC’s official opening, Steve graduated from the Center as a trainer for sewing machine operators and has been overseeing workers in apparel factories next door.

Steve’s face shone with pride as he walked me through the 30,000-square-foot freshly refurbished HAC building with its many rows of shiny new sewing machines where he will soon train other Haitians eager to join the textile industry.

“I believe in this, I know it will be a success,” he says with emotion. “There is a future here because Haitians like to work; young people want to work. So if they have the opportunity they will learn and they will prove what they can do.”

Steve explains that it’s difficult to find a family in Haiti without a tailor among its members. “Even if we have 10 or 20 centers like this,” he said, “you will have a lot of people waiting for this opportunity.”

Steve also points out that the sewing machine operators from HAC will learn all the varieties of stitching (single-needle, cover-stitch, lock-stitch and over-lock), which will increase their appeal to a wide variety of potential employers.

The Center will teach virtually the entire spectrum of skills needed by textile manufacturing workers. There will be instruction for sewing machine mechanics, quality control specialists, industrial engineers, supervisors and plant managers. There will even be seminars for top executives and factory owners who wish to further educate themselves about the latest innovations and techniques in the field.

Steve is excited about his job as a trainer. “The main thing that I learned is how to teach,” he says about the three-month long instruction at HAC. “How to explain and when you explain and they don’t understand – how to figure out what you did wrong and become better in the explanation.”

“I very much enjoy teaching,” says Steve, smiling as we stop outside the building. “When you try to figure out what to do to help someone learn and understand, I like that.”

You can see more photos from the HAC inauguration on the USAID Flickr feed.

USAID – From the Field

In Egypt USAID is supporting the Ministry of Health (MOH) by providing full, two-year scholarships for a total of 25 ministry employees to attend U.S. – based MBA programs. This program targets a small number of employees who have leadership potential to be change agents to implement Egypt’s health sector reform program; and it responds to the country’s need to develop a cadre of business-minded professionals. In addition to their academic studies, the students are expected to participate in an internship activity during their two years to practically apply the skills they are learning.  Past participants returned to Egypt and are now serving in critical positions in the Ministry of Health, contributing new knowledge and experiences to improve health programs, policies and procedures.  Through this successful partnership USAID is significantly contributing towards improving health coverage of underserved populations and strengthening the technical and managerial capacity of the Egyptian health sector.

In Lebanon the Opening of the “Live Akkar” trade fair that will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  This four-day trade fair will open its doors again to visitors from Akkar, the North and all of Lebanon.  This trade fair will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  It will also stimulate local enterprises, agriculture, and tourism.  “Live Akkar” will feature around seventy enterprises from Akkar exhibiting agricultural products, local foods, handicrafts, garments, and other items.   Presentations on local production of commodities such as dairy, olive oil and mushrooms will be provided  by experts on a daily basis.  In addition, the trade fair will have cultural and family attractions including  daily performances by popular local artists, puppet shows and traditional music concerts.

In Dominican Republic a press trip to The Salto de Jimenoa, which was recently declared as National Protected Area. The Ministry of Environment and the USAID Environment Protection Program will lead a discussion with media attending the importance of this area and the benefits it provides to surrounding communities. The main highlight is protecting the environment and biodiversity of the area and the importance of hydraulic resources that the Salto de Jimenoa provides.

Helping to Communicate Life-Saving Information to Haitians

Credit: Janice Laurente/USAID

If you visit USAID-funded Internews in Port-au-Prince, you’ll see a newsroom full of busy Haitian journalists. There’s a pile of empty cardboard boxes in the corner organized neatly in rows that almost reach the ceiling. After examining it more closely, you’ll notice that the boxes form a temporary radio studio where a young woman is recording part of Enfomasyon Nou Dwe Konnen (News You Can Use), a daily radio program that provides humanitarian relief and assistance information to victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. 

Internews increases the quality and amount of news and information on relief and recovery efforts. It also helps strengthen journalism in Haiti through a training program for both journalists and radio station business managers.  

 “After a crisis, people need information just as much as any other basic need like shelter and water,” said Jennifer Mandell, research, monitoring and assessment director at Internews. “Through News You Can Use, we help people affected by the earthquake find solutions to everyday problems they encounter.”

Haitian surveyors go into camps and surrounding communities to ask people what information they need to make their lives better. The data is then shared with members of the news team who report on key topics of concern. “Mailbox,” a popular segment of the show answers questions sent by listeners via SMS. News You Can Use is disseminated in and around Port-au-Prince to nearly 30 radio stations, reaching approximately 3 million listeners. About 98 percent of Haitians get their news through the radio.     

“I know we’re helping people,” said Alain Draye, senior journalist advisor at Internews. “One listener that comes to mind is a man who submitted a question to “Mailbox.” He lost his leg in the earthquake and needed a prosthetic so we contacted different groups to get information. This helped him, and many others like him, get what he needed to walk again.”

This Week at USAID – July 26, 2010

Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Management Drew Luten will testify before the Commission on Wartime Contracting on Subcontracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Administrator Shah and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations for an oversight hearing on corruption in Afghanistan.

Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill will participate in a briefing entitled: Innovation to Catalyze Development: Leveraging Research in Foreign Assistance, which is organized by the Global Health Technologies Coalition and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Administrator Shah will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere about: The Crisis in Haiti: Are We Moving Fast Enough?  He will also brief the Congressional Black Caucus about efforts in Haiti.

Pic of the Week

Haitian workers are building a USAID-funded irrigation canal. Photo by Herve Jean-Charles.

As Haiti passes six months since the earthquake, men and women are employed in the USAID-funded reconstruction of an irrigation canal that not only provides a source of water for agriculture and livestock, but also a source of income for Haitians.

Dr. Raj. Shah Attends Launch of Pakistan’s Birthspacing Initiative

Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. “ We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

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From the Field

In Lebanon Haigazian University will be presented with $450,081 to directly support its student financial aid program. 356 Haigazian University students with demonstrable financial need from all over Lebanon will be given scholarships with these U.S. funds, made available through USAID. Without this assistance, these students would not be able to study at Haigazian University. Lebanese American University (LAU) will be presented with $1,178,122 to support its Financial Aid & Scholarships Fund for both campuses in Jbeil and Beirut. 249 qualified Lebanese students benefit from this program.

In Albania USAID will open a Public Information Office in one of Albania’s District Courts. To tackle corruption in Albania’s judicial system, USAID’s Rule of Law program works with a set of pilot courts to improve their performance and accountability to citizens. One of several accountability measures introduced by USAID, public information offices serve as one-stop shops where citizens have quick and easy access to information on court proceedings and their legal rights.

In El Salvador a signing ceremony for the Global Development Alliance (GDA) with the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development (FUSAL). USAID will help expand FUSAL’s Libras de Amor program to two additional municipalities in Sonsonate to combat poor eating habits and malnutrition.

In Jakarta a forum will present eight finalists – that represent the finest – of more than 75 projects which entered a competition in Asia, organized by Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), and sponsored by USAID. Eight clean energy competition finalists, reps from more than 150 energy professionals, entrepreneurs, donors, banks, partners, project developers from Indonesia and Asia. The forum is a means to bridge the financial gap between creative innovators in clean energy with private investors who are willing to fund these opportunities.

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