By: Mark Feierstein, USAID Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean
One of the hallmarks of the U.S. Government’s fresh approach to development in Haiti is making better use of innovative private sector ideas to solve tough development challenges.
So when one third of Haiti’s bank branches were destroyed in the earthquake a year ago, we looked for ways to overcome one of the primary obstacles to economic growth in the country: poor access to affordable financial services. But instead of building more banks or installing ATMs, the U.S. Agency for International Development partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to set up a $10 million incentive fund to jump start the provision of banking services to Haitians through their mobile phones.
Maarten Boute, CEO of Digicel Haiti (left), is joined at the podium by Scotia Bank's Maxime Charles. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID
In the short term, the Haitian Mobile Money Initiative will enable Haitians, 40% of whom own a mobile phone, to communicate, send, receive and store money on their devices.
The Government of Haiti and the private sector have enthusiastically embraced the mobile money initiative. The Central Bank of Haiti has already issued new directives on mobile banking. And yesterday, USAID and the Gates Foundation awarded Digicel $2.5 million for being the first telecommunications company to develop a competitive mobile money service in Haiti.
The project has already significantly increased the number of Haitians with access to banking services, and it has the potential to provide universal access thanks to the increasing penetration of cell phones in the country. By helping Haiti leapfrog the limits of the physical infrastructure of banking, mobile banking is putting financial power literally into Haitian hands.
Submitted by: Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator, USAID Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance
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.
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 (PDF). 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.
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 Credit: Eduardo Smith/ PrensaLibre 2008
Written by Steffani Fields, protection program manager for USAID Haiti
On a recent hot and sunny day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a group of military personnel from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), staff with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Treasury went to Tabarre Isa camp armed with buckets of blue and white paint and paintbrushes. Their mission is to work with camp residents to paint a newly constructed police substation. The structure enables U.N. Police (UNPOL) and Haitian National Police (HNP) to have a full-time presence in the camps, and it provides crime victims, especially women and children, a safe refuge where they can report crime.
When leaders from Panama’s Ella Drua community, Carlos Gil and Isabel Carpio Chami, came all the way to the USAID office in Panama City, we could hardly contain our surprise. They had travelled here to thank us for a project we had recently completed in their community. In tow, they carried a giant hand-woven basket that took five women nearly a year to finish. The fact that they had left their quiet secluded village in the jungle to come into the bustling city truly moved us. Yet ultimately it made us realize there was something remarkably appropriate about the occasion.
Amidst the daily routines that we at USAID have all grown accustomed to, from our desks behind the mountains of work, we sometimes fail to keep in mind the most important results of our work: the benefits that the men, women, and children receive as a result of our long hours. By losing sight of this, it’s also possible to lose the driving inspiration necessary to keep doing what we do.
Community women of Ella Drua. Photo Credit: Fernando Alvarez/USAID
So what we found so striking about this unexpected visit was how it managed to bring everything back full circle. While at one time we at USAID/Panama had reached out to lend a hand to the men, women, and children of Ella Drua, they had now come here to lend a hand to us. To remind us why we do what we do. And whether or not they had intended to do so, by bringing this gift of thanks they put a strong gust of wind into our sails.
As part of a long-term program in Panama Canal Watershed— which not only ensures the wellbeing and smooth operation of the Panama Canal, but also provides the water supply for half of the country’s population— USAID/Panama administered a small grant to the people of Ella Drua to support activities to benefit the area.
After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 100,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau.
While the area was one of the country’s poorest regions even before the earthquake, it’s seen an influx of survivors who’ve come to live with family and friends, straining already limited resources.
To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, USAID partner Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.
With USAID/OFDA support, Mercy Corps is providing livelihood opportunities to 2,000 people per week in the Central Plateau. An additional 20,000 people are on track to benefit from the cash-for-work program.
These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation systems. Some have used their salary and tools from the programs to start more sustainable small businesses.
Under USAID’s Food Security Program in Haiti, Mercy Corps will also provide food vouchers to 100,000 in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite region. This new initiative provides grants, cash or vouchers to buy desperately needed food.
In the town of Mirebalais, Mercy Corps employs Haitians to clear debris from canals and other public spaces to mitigate flooding during hurricane season. Watch a video on this important program.
View photos of Mercy Corps’ work in Mirebalais on Facebook and Flickr.
School children at the Leogane School opening. Photo credit: Janice Laurente
In Léogâne, the town that was the epicenter of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, you see signs of recovery and life resuming. People have returned to markets to sell their crops and wares, rubble is being removed from key thorough fares, and schools are being rebuilt.
On August 25, USAID and the Digicel Foundation inaugurated École Louis de Borno, the first school built under a new public-private partnership to construct new schools for people affected by the earthquake. Approximately 50 schools are planned that benefit up to 30,000 children.
“Immediately after the earthquake, 4,800 schools were damaged or destroyed. USAID is proud to play a role in helping children return to school through a number of our projects,” said USAID Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei. “This new partnership with Digicel illustrates USAID’s commitment of exploring new and innovative approaches meet the educational, economic development and job-training needs of Haitian communities.”
Under the USAID partnership, some of the schools will be constructed with U.S. military shipping containers which are being converted into school campuses. USAID procured about 100 shipping containers that had been used as part of the Joint Task Force-Haiti’s humanitarian mission in the aftermath of the earthquake.
The project is also employing youth for the construction of the schools through the USAID-funded IDEJEN livelihood initiative. IDEJEN provides out-of-school youth ages 15-24 with basic, non-formal education and vocational training. This effort, which will employ up to 100 people at a pre-fabrication plan in addition to those on site assembly will serve to get money to Haitian families in need, stimulate the economy and help develop a workforce able to participate in upcoming reconstruction efforts.
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.
Three hundred fifty bundles of pre-treated timber, weighing about 2 tons each, are carefully unloaded from the vessel to the dock using on-board cranes. It took 48 hours of continuous working to disembark all the materials. Photo copyright Emma Le Beau/Medair.
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.”
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.