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Archives for Latin America and the Caribbean

REBUILDING SCHOOLS AND LIVES IN PORT-AU-PRINCE THROUGH THE CLEARS PROJECT

submitted by Anna Gohmann

Before - College St. Pierre

Before - College St. Pierre

Images of the first few weeks after the earthquake in Haiti are seared indelibly into all of our memories. But for USAID, the international community, and the Government of Haiti, our work continues even when there are no cable news cameras to capture it.

Alongside hundreds of other projects, we’re supporting CHF International to clear damaged buildings and help rebuild many of the hundreds of community schools that the earthquake destroyed in and around Port-au-Prince. CHF’s Emily Lynch shared the below story and photos of College St. Pierre, which collapsed in the earthquake and was cleared away through the USAID-funded CLEARS project:

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USAID Launches Public-Private Initiative on Newborn Resuscitation

The Golden Minute identifies the steps that a birth attendant must take immediately after birth to evaluate the baby and stimulate breathing.

USAID is launching an initiative to reduce infant mortality worldwide by expanding access to high-quality, affordable newborn resuscitation training materials and devices, improving the competence of birth attendants to resuscitate newborns, strengthening health systems, and promoting global commitment and resources for life-saving newborn care. Check out this blog by Dr. George Little of Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center on the Golden Minute of Neonatal Resuscitation at the Global Health Council.

Helping Babies Breathe: a Global Public Private Alliance is an initiative of USAID, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Save the Children/Saving Newborn Lives, Laerdal Medical AS, and a number of other global health organizations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia, or the inability to breathe immediately after delivery. Approximately the same number of stillbirths each year are linked to events during labor. A significant percentage of these may be live-born babies who simply do not breathe or move at birth, but could be resuscitated with simple measures. Helping Babies Breathe will teach these essential skills to birth attendants in developing countries.  Read more about USAID’s child and newborn health programs.

HBB is unique in that it brings together a diverse group of organizations to respond to multi-faceted program needs that include training materials, equipment, systems strengthening, evaluation, and advocacy for increased national commitment and resources. Each member of the partnership will play a unique and complementary role that, together, will leverage their resources, creativity, and expertise to scale up newborn resuscitation globally.

Natural Disasters Strike Guatemala

On May 26, 2010 heavy rainfall marked hurricane season’s first occurrence, Tropical Depression (TD) Agatha, began in Guatemala and El Salvador causing enormous sink holes in downtown Guatemala City and triggering floods and mudslides in two thirds of the country’s municipalities. Many public schools were converted into temporary shelters for the homeless.

Late on the afternoon of May 27 – Pacaya Volcano, one of the three active volcanoes, erupted 25 miles south of Guatemala City and spread ash, sand, gravel and fist-sized rocks for miles. The volcanic eruption covered the City with up to an inch of debris.

These incidents provide a good overview of what happens in a disaster: U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Stephen G. McFarland issued a disaster declaration and requested emergency humanitarian assistance from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The United States was one of the first nations to pledge support with $100,000 that USAID’s Guatemala Mission used to locally purchase emergency relief supplies including food rations, fuel for emergency response vehicles and helicopter time to conduct need assessments. USAID/Guatemala is working with Guatemala’s National Emergency Commission and USAID/OFDA’s assessment team and food security program partners to assess the need for further assistance.

Within hours, a seven-person OFDA assessment team was on a plane. They work closely with U.S. Mission Disaster Relief Officer, Guatemala’s National Emergency Commission officials and other humanitarian groups to coordinate U.S. assistance. The Department of Defense’s U.S. Southern Command mobilized four helicopters and 40 troops that were brought in from Honduras to support evacuations, search and rescue efforts, and transport of emergency supplies to affected areas of Guatemala.

Every year, OFDA responds to more than 80 disasters at the request of countries around the world. OFDA operates on the principle that in fragile states, a disaster—even a small one—can drain already limited resources. That’s why the United States is there to help when people need it most.

BRINGING MOBILE BANKING TO HAITI

One of the lesser-known victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake last January was the country’s financial system. Banks were closed for more than a week. Remittances through Fonkoze, a leading transfer agent, ground to a halt and were only restored when a U.S. inter-agency effort flew in more than $2 million. But even as the US, the international community, and the Government of Haiti help these traditional institutions get back on the feet, a critical roadblock to progress remains: less than 10% of Haitians have ever used a commercial bank.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce today an innovative partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to incentivize the development of financial services by mobile phone in Haiti. In short, these services are quicker, safer, and cheaper than traditional banking and could play a major role in helping to lift Haitians out of poverty and facilitating the country’s rebuilding process.

As part of the program, our friends at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $10 million for a fund to provide cash awards to companies that initiate mobile financial services in Haiti. USAID will offer technical and management assistance and other funding totaling approximately $5 million through one of our projects, the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE), already underway to improve access to financial services for the underserved. We’re working with Haitian companies in this effort in order to maximize our impact and address a critical need that had not been met through traditional approaches to development.

This type of program represents the approach I’m deeply committed to promoting here at USAID: cutting-edge technologies and programs deployed in new and unique ways to deliver optimal improvement. I’m very optimistic about what this program can do for Haiti and the short and long-term benefits it can deliver.

Because so few Haitians use commercial banks, savings are limited and insecure, employers must rely on sometimes-risky cash distributions, and remittance transfers (which account for about half of the country’s total income) are slowed. This problem is particularly problematic in rural areas and contributes to the over-concentration of Haitians in Port-au-Prince.

With the development of a mobile banking system, Haitians across the country could send, receive, and store money using their cell phones, better connecting them with relatives abroad who send money, employers who want to quickly and easily pay them, and goods and services they want to purchase. Here at USAID, we hope to be able to use mobile banking to pay workers through our cash-for-work programs, which currently employ about 24,000 people every day to do rubble removal and mitigation activities.

As we near the six month commemoration of the January 12th earthquake that devastated Haiti, we’re more focused than ever on helping the people of Haiti tackle the indescribably immense challenges that the earthquake posed. We’re working tirelessly with the international community and the Government of Haiti to address in new and innovative ways—such as through this mobile banking initiative–the problems that existed before the quake and that the disaster has only exacerbated. In this way, I am hopeful that we’ll finally be able to turn a corner on Haiti’s development challenges and put it on a path to a better future.

Click here to read our press release on the announcement.

Increasing the Involvement of Men in Women’s Health

In male dominated cultures, USAID programs are helping to decrease maternal deaths by encouraging men to become involved in pregnancy and childbirth matters. Pictured: a man and child in Pakistan.

Reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent throughout the world by 2015 will take the involvement of men in countries where it matters most. Many of the countries where USAID works are male dominated cultures. To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries, men must be equal partners since they are the decision makers about health care in the family. These decisions include determining family size, timings of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care for themselves and their children. USAID-supported programs make special efforts to emphasize men’s shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive health. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups – entreaties that could be rejected because of traditional cultural values and perceptions that maternal health is the responsibility of women only.

In Pakistan, USAID is building on the efforts undertaken by the Government to create a cadre of religious leader master trainers to conduct roll out trainings in family planning and reproductive health, and maternal and child health, and gender issues consistent with and supported by the teachings of Islam.

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USAID – The Week Ahead

June 2:  Administrator Shah will be the keynote speaker at the Interaction Forum 2010, which is being held at the  Washington Convention Center.  Several other USAID officials will speak on topics such as food security and the response to the Haiti earthquake.

June 3:  Administrator Shah will give brief remarks at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue being held at the State Department.  These remarks will propose concrete ways to further U.S.-India cooperation on common priority issues.

June 3-8: Administrator Shah will lead the U.S. Delegation to the World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Board Meeting in Rome, Italy.  It is anticipated that 3,000 people from 36 member states will be in attendance.

New Estimates Document Decline in Mortality for Children Under 5

By developing and implementing high-impact, evidence-based interventions, delivered at low cost, USAID programs reduced newborn mortality by 16 to 42 percent in 11 these countries. With USAID support, counties as diverse as Nepal, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Afghanistan have reduced under-five mortality by 25 percent in 5 to 7 years.

Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at an accelerated pace, according to a new report in ‘The Lancet’ based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010. Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year down from the 1990 figure of 11.9 million.

Global child survival programs have focused on reaching increased numbers of children with basic health interventions, which scientific research and field programs have demonstrated to reduce the susceptibility of children to serious illnesses. Vaccines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria, more education for women, reduced numbers of high risk and closely spaced births, and AIDS medicines in high-HIV prevalence countries are among the factors that have helped lower death rates. USAID has supported much of the research that identified and proved the effectiveness of high-impact interventions, from Oral Rehydration Therapy and vitamin A to community treatment of pneumonia and essential newborn care.

USAID’s work with developing country governments alongside UNICEF, the World Health Organization, World Bank, other donors, NGOs and private sector partners has contributed to successes at an unprecedented global scale. When the U.S. Child Survival program began in the early 1980s, it was estimated that almost 15 million children died each year in the developing world. Without reduced rates of mortality, the number of deaths today would be about 17 million each year. However, The Lancet report notes that, despite significant progress, the rate of decline in infant and child mortality is still not fast enough to meet the 2015 MDG target.  This underscores the importance of the Global Health Initiative’s increased focus on maternal and child health.

Lancet Series Puts Spotlight on Global Tuberculosis Efforts

On May 19th, ‘The Lancet’ released a special series on tuberculosis, which includes a series of papers and comments highlighting the need for new tools, the threat posed by drug-resistant strains, results of current control efforts and other issues about TB worldwide http://www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis. While treatment strategies saved six million lives and 36 million cases of the disease were successfully treated between 1995 and 2008, TB remains a severe global public health threat. TB remains second only to HIV among infectious killers worldwide today and is the third leading cause of death among women aged 15-44.

The Lancet series also focused on the broader issues that contribute to the spread of the disease. The majority of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. TB proliferates in close spaces, and it perpetuates poverty by striking the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Large numbers of TB cases go undetected and untreated, fueling new cases and deaths. Making matters worse, new forms of the disease have emerged that are resistant to existing drugs. According to the report, without significant investments in new technology and prevention and treatment tools, drug-resistant strains of TB could become the “dominant” form of TB over the coming decades. In addition, new approaches to diagnose TB, coupled with improved health delivery systems and stronger community awareness, are critical to earlier detection and treatment. Urgent actions are also needed to scale up effective and integrated services for TB and HIV at the country level.

On March 24th, the U.S. Government, through USAID, released its Global Tuberculosis Strategy – our blueprint for expanded TB treatment and control over the next five years. To meet our targets, we will invest in country-led plans, scale up country level programs, increase our impact by leveraging our efforts with the Global Fund and mobilize additional resources from the private sector. We will also promote research and innovation. Our investments focus on new diagnostics that will allow us to detect TB more easily, including drug resistant TB, and new drugs that will reduce the duration of TB treatment. Assisting countries to introduce these new tools into programs is also a priority.

USAID in the News – May 14th, 2010

This week at USAID:

Administrator Rajiv Shah is on his first official trip to Africa since taking the helm of USAID. Shah is visiting Kenya and Sudan and his trip is focusing on the Global Health and Food Security Initiatives.

USAID, Yemeni Government officials met to discuss a new stabilization strategy. The first in a series of quarterly meetings to coordinate shared objectives identified in the assistance agreement signed by USAID and Yemen’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.

Leaders in the Caribbean expect to receive a $100 million grant to help fight AIDS over the next five years from the US government’s President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief fund. USAID contributes both funding and staff toward the PEPFAR initiative.

As of June 1, the Louisiana National Guard will be in charge of a 500-person contingent, based in Gonaives, Haiti. USAID and other relief agencies will take on the majority of logistical and aid work performed by the Southern Command’s Operation Unified Response.

Pic of the Week – Back to School in Haiti

Back to School in Haiti–USAID plastic sheeting provides a roof for students at a Petionville Golf Course camp school in Haiti.

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