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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

USAID Hosts Annual Ramadan Iftar

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Last night, together with USDA, we hosted our 10th annual Iftar—a tradition also reflected in the field as Missions host dinners in recognition of this important time. As President Obama has said, Ramadan is a chance to honor a faith known for its diversity and commitment to the dignity of all human beings. A faith deeply rooted in its commitment to caring for the less fortunate and reaching out to those in greatest need.

These are values that are reflected in the founding of our own nation, the vibrancy of our diverse national community, and in the work USAID does every day across the world.

Around this time last year, we were working together to respond to devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and address the urgent needs of 13.3 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. Although the worst of this particular crisis is over, we know that 1 billion people still go to bed hungry every night across the world. And we know that there are steps we can take right now to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and lay the foundation for a safer, more prosperous future.

That is the vision of Feed the Future,  President Obama’s global food security initiative that brings together the expertise of a range of U.S. agencies. Today, we are:

  • Bridging our long-standing commitment to humanitarian assistance and food aid with increased investment in agriculture, nutrition, and governance;
  • Harnessing the power of science and technology to deliver transformational agricultural research, like drought and disease-resistant tolerant seeds;
  • Supporting safety nets and innovative insurance programs that are the backbone of farming in the United States.

We are also working to dramatically increase private sector investment in agriculture—bringing companies, local smallholder farmers, and partner governments together to lift 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty and hunger in a decade.  So far, more than 45 global and local companies have committed more than $4 billion—to expand seed production and distribution, establish small-scale irrigation systems, and source for food for global supply chains.

Our focus on strengthening food security isn’t just limited to Africa. In the Middle East, we’re working closely with smallholder famers to improve the efficiency of water and land use. This effort is especially critical in a region already classified as water scarce—which possesses less than one percent of the world’s renewable freshwater resources. At the same time, population growth rates in the region are averaging over 2 percent, increasing pressure and competition for resources.

Launched in 2010, the Middle East Water and Livelihoods Initiative works across eight countries to connect American universities and their local counterparts with the smallholder farmers who need that information the most, spurring joint research on important issues like desalination, irrigation, and energy with the ultimate goal of helping farmers grow more food with less water.

Challenges like water conservation and food security are immense, but we know that we are more than equal to the task if we harness the ingenuity, passion, and commitment across the world.

That’s the idea behind open source development. Development that doesn’t dictate answers, but paves the way by bringing the creativity of the entire global development community to bear on today’s problems.

By doing so, we not only overcome the greatest challenges of our time, we continue to lift up the values that are celebrated during the month of Ramadan—and that we carry with us every day in our work.

Photo of the Week: Secretary Clinton visits Malawi

Secretary Clinton With the Lumbadzi Milk Bulking Group in Malawi Dairy farmer Margaret Chinkwende explains her work to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Martin Banda of USAID in Lilongwe, Malawi, August 5, 2012. Photo Credit: State Department

Secretary of State Clinton visits farmers at Malawi’s Lumbadzi Milk Bulking Group. Dressed in locally produced “chitenge”, she joined the farmers in a dance to celebrate successful growth in the dairy sector. Chitenge are highly valued cultural depictions of special events in Malawi.

During her visit, the Secretary noted that with U.S. support, Malawi’s dairy sector has grown, with milk production up 500 percent, and announced ongoing commitment to support agriculture in Malawi. Through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, the U.S. is supporting growth in the agricultural sector to help reduce poverty and undernutrition.

Read more about Secretary Clinton’s visit to Malawi.

Pioneering African Entrepreneurship on Display at Diaspora Marketplace

At USAID, a central tenet of our efforts is the belief that developing nations must take the lead on implementing innovative solutions to improve their economies and the lives of their countrymen in order for development to be effective in the long term.

This principle was on prominent display at the second African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM II) at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., held June 22 and 23, where participants showcased their promising ideas for businesses to create employment and strengthen trade in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa. The event, sponsored by USAID, the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation, was an opportunity for 44 finalists selected from a pool of 495 applicants to display their entrepreneurial prowess in a wide variety of sectors, including agribusiness, renewable energy, and information and communication technology.

The U.S.-based applicants were competing for up to $50,000 in matching grants and/or up to $20,000 in technical assistance to advance the businesses that support their African communities.

“The African Diaspora Marketplace is a great example of the type of public-private partnership we want to see more of at USAID,” said Dr. Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Director of the Office of Innovation and Development Alliances at USAID. “By supporting African diaspora entrepreneurs who are looking to create innovative, sustainable businesses in their country of origins, we are building the foundation for inclusive economic growth critical to sustaining long-term development. USAID is proud of our partnerships with diaspora communities—from the ADM II to our ongoing work with the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA)—and we wish the winners great success in their business endeavors.”

Michael Griffin, CEO of produce importer Sardis Enterprises International, discussed the work his company was doing in Ghana to provide opportunity for fruit growers.

“One of the biggest things is that we have a co-op,” he said. “The cooperative farms for us. Without us bringing the product in [to the U.S.], they don’t get to take their product to the export platform. … The main thing is that we help them in building some type of finance for themselves.”

Another eye-catching display at the market belonged to the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which creates durable bicycle frames from bamboo.

“Most of the bikes that are imported into the country are of poor quality, they are very expensive, and they are not designed for rough roads that run in the country,” said Kwaku Kyei, a global strategist at the organization. “So we decided to come out with these bamboo bicycles which are multipurpose and affordable for our target groups, especially for farmers and people from the rural areas.”

David Bariho, the Technical Director for ORIBAGS Innovations, highlighted the dual benefits of his business, which produces paper and customized reusable shopping bags from agricultural waste in Uganda.

“Our aim is to increase production, fulfill the market, give our clients what they need, and increase employment for people, mostly women and youth,” he said. “These are people who give us materials, so we need to give back. … Our product, really, provides both social and environmental benefits for the community and for all people.”

This year’s 17 winners, and the innovative approach of the ADM II will be recognized at the Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum on July 25-26. Hosted by the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and IdEA, the Global Diaspora Forum celebrates the contributions of America’s diaspora communities to development and encourages greater partnership between diasporas, the U.S. Government, the private sector, and civil society.

African Leaders Call for Scale up Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in East and Southern Africa

Dr. Emmanuel Njeuhmeli is the Senior Biomedical Prevention Advisor with USAID and Co-Chair of PEPFAR’s Male Circumcision Technical Working Group.

Scientific advances in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection over the past years have created unprecedented optimism that the fight against the HIV/AIDS. Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention is one such intervention that has enormous potential to alter the course of the epidemic.

Three clinical trials have definitively demonstrated that VMMC can reduce female to male transmission of HIV by approximately 60%.  This means that if brought to scale to achieve a coverage of 80% of adolescents and men, VMMC could prevent 3.4 million new HIV infections and save countries in East and Southern Africa US$16.5 billion in care and treatment costs between now and 2025.

With tens of thousands of people who work in the field of HIV in Washington, D.C. —political leaders, public health experts, activists, people living with HIV—all equally committed to achieving a future free of AIDS, the time is now to examine possibilities to rapidly scale up comprehensive VMMC services. Key African political and traditional leaders from some of the hardest hit countries of East and Southern Africa will participate in a satellite session tonight to discuss challenges and solutions to accelerating VMMC scale up in 14 priority countries.

These leaders understand very well the urgency of bringing this intervention to scale.  Mr. Blessing Chebundo, a member of Zimbabwe’s Parliament, was publicly tested and circumcised last month in an amazing show of leadership. I was fortunate enough to be in Zimbabwe that day and witness 44 members of Parliament in a makeshift tent at Parliament House stepping up to inspire other men in their country to do their part for HIV prevention. It was a moment I will never forget.

We know that with strong leadership, commitment and coordination this is doable. We’ve seen Kenya’s successful VMMC program where more than 400,000 voluntary medical male circumcisions have been administered since 2008. Government leadership and program flexibility have been key.  In Iringa, Tanzania, local leaders and officials, with PEPFAR support, overcame human resource and infrastructure constraints and managed to exceed their targets, performing more than 100,000 VMMC since 2010. Thirty-one thousand circumcisions were performed during an eight-week campaign. Based on modeling estimates, they’ve already prevented over 14,000 new HIV infections. Surely other countries can do this too.

Preventable HIV infections occur every day among uncircumcised men in the countries of East and Southern Africa. Each day that this proven prevention method is not brought to scale represents a lost opportunity to change the course of the epidemic.

There is no time to waste, now, it’s time to act.

One Year On: Looking Back on Famine and a Smarter Response in the Horn

About six months into my tenure as Director of Food for Peace, in July 2011, I remember calling Nancy Lindborg, the Assistant Administrator of our Bureau, to let her know that famine had been officially declared in Somalia. It was with an air of both sadness and disbelief that I myself absorbed the news that we had actually reached this point. I had left the world of humanitarian aid for development and governance work in the mid-1990s, shortly after one of the most intense periods of my working life, responding to the 1991 Somalia famine. I was in the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in those years, and we broke records by mounting the largest-ever (at that time) Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in the office’s history and spending more on a single disaster in a short span of time than the office ever had before. As a member of USAID’s DART in Somalia, I witnessed the crisis firsthand. I traveled with Fred Cuny, a great humanitarian, as he shared his insights into the nature of famine and the challenges of response. As the months unfolded and relief operations ramped up with the support of the U.S. military, names of towns like Belet Huen, Baidoa, Merca and Kismayo all became commonplace, as did the terrible images of starving children and sprawling graveyards.

We learned a lot from that famine response, and looking back I can say that we played it smarter this time around. Recognizing that mortality rates often spike due to outbreaks of preventable diseases, USAID prioritized health and hygiene programs such as vaccination campaigns and providing clean water and hand washing soap before the rainy season, when disease rates are known to spike. Much improved early warning systems gave us a clear picture of both nutritional needs and market prices. Based on this information, we prioritized cash and voucher programs that allowed people to stay in their villages and buy food and other supplies in their local markets. We found that markets did indeed respond to the increase in demand, inflation was kept at bay, and traders brought goods to areas that were off limits or too dangerous for aid workers.

The in-kind food distributions we supported through the United Nations World Food Program WFP) were also smarter. Thanks to the early warnings received from the experts at Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) and Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), our food aid was already pre-positioned in the region. WFP largely set aside general food distributions, which are often chaotic at best and violent at worst. Instead WFP focused on more efficiently reaching those in need by working together with health facilities to provide families with food aid, and if needed, supplementary nutrition. For many years USAID has been providing funds for partners to purchase ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to help those in crisis, but for the first time ever, Food for Peace provided an RUTF that it helped create. And we now have RUTF in our stockpiles.

While the food security conditions in Somalia have improved, our response this past year reflects our understanding of the fragility of the situation: Along with our partners, we are continuing to provide assistance that saves lives while also protecting and advancing livelihoods.

Last night I attended a celebration in honor of Senator George McGovern’s 90th birthday. He was feted with toasts that acknowledged his extraordinary contributions to feeding hungry children around the world. As an American citizen and public servant, I am proud to be part of the U.S. government effort that stays true to the spirit of Senator McGovern’s vision. In far flung and difficult places, including Somalia, we make a difference and make evident every day the compassion and generosity of the American people.

One Year After Famine: The Need for a Continued Comprehensive Response

On July 20, 2011, I got a call from Dina Esposito, USAID’s Director of the Office of Food for Peace, alerting me of the official declaration of famine in Somalia. That moment, more than a year ago, is still deeply, vividly and painfully with me.

Famines are entirely man-made and have become increasingly rare. In my confirmation hearing, I quoted Amartya Sen’s famous words that famines don’t happen in democracies. So as the worst drought in 60 years gripped the Horn of Africa last year, it was only in Somalia, racked by 20 years of conflict and instability, and with limited access for humanitarian action, that famine was declared. The United States’ commitment and long-term work with Ethiopia, Kenya, and many of their neighbors have reduced the populations’ vulnerability to crises like this one and greatly reduced the need for emergency assistance.

In the humanitarian community, famine is a very specific technical term to describe only those most severe food crises that reach three clear sets of conditions. In famine, more than 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished; at least 20 percent of the population consumes fewer than 2,100 calories of food a day; and the mortality rate exceeds two deaths or four child deaths per 10,000 people on a daily basis.

This translates into unforgivable conditions in any country at any time — yet at this time last year, in parts of southern Somalia, the mortality rate reached as high as six deaths per 10,000 people with one child death estimated to occur every six minutes. These are staggering numbers — and this marked a tragic, unacceptable, unnecessary loss of life.

Because of lessons learned during the last Somalia famine in the early 1990s, we were able to mount a smart and effective response. Our disaster experts from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace used market prices and nutritional data to chart a strategy that focused on highly targeted cash and vouchers, attention to market dynamics. We also kept a focus on health programs, knowing that the leading cause of death for children in famines is preventable disease.

USAID worked around the clock in the region and in Washington to ensure strategies, supplies and partners were in place, including creative approaches to address the limited humanitarian access in many parts of Somalia.

By February, famine conditions had abated, thanks to a massive humanitarian mobilization and decent winter rains. However, the situation remains tenuous in Somalia and underscores that as natural disasters continue to strike, it is imperative to address the need for a stable, legitimate government that can meet the needs of the Somalia people. This is a priority of the U.S. government and our international partners.

Learn more about our response in the Horn of Africa and our Productive Safety Net Program.

Video of the Week: “Development Credit Authority & Food Security”

USAID’s Development Credit Authority designs and delivers investment alternatives that unlock private financing in support of U.S. development objectives.

A Year After South Sudan’s Independence, a Needless War of Attrition Between South Sudan and Sudan

Originally published to the Huffington Post.

Earl Gast, USAID official photo

Earl Gast, Assistant Administrator for Africa

One year ago, the world welcomed South Sudan to the community of nations after a referendum supported by USAID gave the people of this war-scarred land the opportunity to choose their future through a peaceful, democratic process.

Those of us who watched this process closely knew that South Sudan’s independence would not resolve its longstanding disputes with Sudan, including agreement on their shared border and a key question that has brought the economies of both countries to a standstill — how much should South Sudan pay Sudan to use its pipeline to export oil?

When South Sudan seceded, three-quarters of the greater Sudan’s oil fields went with it, but South Sudan is a landlocked nation with no oil pipeline, and the only existing pipeline it can access is through Sudan. The disagreement over revenue sharing of this key resource has escalated into a war of attrition that is putting the economic well-being of the 44 million people in these two nations at risk.

Because of this dispute, the government of South Sudan decided in January to halt all production of oil, which provided 98 percent of government revenue. As one of the least developed countries in the world, as an oil producer with no oil refining capacity, and as a country where one of the legacies of war is a lack of large-scale farming and mechanized agriculture, South Sudan imports all of its fuel and most of its foodstuffs. This makes the population exceedingly vulnerable to stresses on the nascent economy. Inflation and rising prices can make food, fuel, and other necessities unaffordable for most South Sudanese.

More critically, a humanitarian crisis is escalating in both countries, further exacerbated by the economic crisis. Conflict in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states has severely affected or displaced half a million people, more than 200,000 of whom fled across the border to South Sudan or Ethiopia. Many Sudanese people are trapped in the conflict zone, with little access to food, water, shelter, or medical care. However, the government continues to deny international humanitarian organizations full and unfettered access to affected areas to help the hundreds of thousands still in need of life-saving assistance.

In the face of these critical challenges, I recently traveled to Sudan and South Sudan to evaluate the impact of the economic and humanitarian crises on the people of these two nations and ensure that U.S. assistance is sufficiently flexible to respond. A fuel shortage in South Sudan is creating hardships and hindering our ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, particularly in areas near the Sudanese border, where needs are greatest. In Sudan, the government’s announcement that it will reduce food and fuel subsidies has triggered weeks of protests throughout the country.

USAID has a historic role as the lead donor to South Sudan. We are proud of the accomplishments we have helped achieve since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan’s civil war, including lower infant and child mortality rates and a dramatic increase in primary school enrollment from 20 percent of children in 2005 to 68 percent. We are increasingly concerned about losing ground on these achievements due to the devastating impact of rising food and fuel prices. As more people fall into severe poverty because of the dire economic conditions, school enrollment rates are likely to drop and child mortality rates are likely to increase as families become unable to acquire sufficient food and medical care.

Regardless of the difficulty of resolving the major issues that remain between South Sudan and Sudan, our commitment to the people of these two nations remains steadfast. We are working in close coordination with the international community to prevent duplicating assistance efforts and focus our assistance on local leadership and communities where aid can be best targeted to those who need it most. With careful planning, increased donor coordination, and sustained pressure on both governments to behave responsibly, we may help to minimize the impact of a crisis on the peoples of these two nations. The steps we are taking and the adjustments we are making alone will not prevent a crisis. Only the governments of these two nations have that power.

We appeal to the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to reinvigorate their efforts to resolve their outstanding differences for the good of their citizens.

Taking Stock of Improvements in South Sudan’s Health Sector

As South Sudan celebrates the first anniversary of its independence on July 9, the new nation is taking stock of what it has accomplished over the past year.

After suffering through civil war for most of its history (since before Sudan’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1956), South Sudan remains one of the world’s least developed nations. Part of this underdevelopment stems from the fact that South Sudan had an informal health system during the war, which was supplemented heavily by relief agencies.  With a lack of skilled health professionals, vast distances between service delivery points, and a dearth of basic health education, the world’s newest country has some of the worst global health indicators, including one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality.

Overcoming the vast logistical, technical, political, and social roadblocks to improving health for the population of more than 10 million South Sudanese seems nearly insurmountable.  Deficiencies in infrastructure, human resources, supply chains, pharmaceutical management, education, and health policies produce challenges and delays at every step.

In addition to health and development needs, South Sudan continues to be challenged by conflict, instability, and population movements, including refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan and the return from Sudan of more than 400,000 people of South Sudanese origin since October 2010.  These conditions are taxing an already strained health system and exacerbating the existing deficiencies.

Despite these challenges, progress is being made. South Sudan’s child mortality rate dropped from 135 per 1,000 in 2006 to 106 per 1,000 in 2010. Infant mortality saw a similar decline from 102 per 1,000 in 2006 to 84 per 1,000 in 2010.

To sustain and expand these positive health trends, USAID is funding the Sudan Health Transformation Project, Phase II (SHTP II).  Led by Management Sciences for Health, SHTP II is working closely with South Sudan’s Ministry of Health and local partners to improve access to and demand for health services, while building the skills and knowledge of South Sudanese health workers.  One element of the project is the Leadership Development Program, which focuses on teaching health workers and managers how to identify challenges and seek solutions to overcome barriers to providing health services.  The program teaches teams to look at areas where they are underperforming, and find ways to achieve measureable progress.

At a recent workshop, Marco Agor, who works in the County Health Department in Tonj South, Warrap state, praised the program, saying, “The Leadership Development Program is very important. In my office, we had a lot of organization problems.  Those who had known Thiet in Tonj South before [the program] would say it is a different place. Now, Thiet is the best-run facility.”  The program has been so successful in SHTP II-supported facilities that the Ministry of Health is now assessing its own operational challenges using the Leadership Development Program. The Ministry is also currently working to develop a strategy for training even more of the nation’s health workers in this leadership development program.

Chronic Crisis in the Sahel Calls for a New Approach

Originally published in the Huffington Post.

It is the lean season in the Sahel, a spine of arid and dry lands that runs from Senegal to Chad in western Africa, and once again we are seeing the devastating images of children gaunt with hunger. This is a region that faces high childhood malnutrition and underdevelopment even under the best of circumstances so one poor harvest can push millions of the most vulnerable into severe risk. In the aftermath of poor rains, and with food prices stubbornly stuck on high since the food crisis of 2008, some 18.7 million people across eight affected countries in the Sahel are at risk of food insecurity this year alone. At least 8 million people are already in need of emergency assistance.

At USAID, we are determined to get ahead of these kinds of chronic crises. We know that millions of Africans living in the dry lands of the Horn and Sahel regions need new solutions. Last year, the worst drought in 60 years ravaged the Horn of Africa, driving 13.3 million people into crisis. And this summer, families in the Sahel are feeling the peril of depleting food supplies, high food prices, and rising malnutrition.

We can’t prevent what appears to be increasing cycles of drought, but we can and are working to create better solutions and build greater resilience among the most vulnerable.

Every crisis is complex, and the Sahel is no exception. A regional drought has been overlaid with instability stemming from the coup in Mali and conflict in the northern part of that country where armed militant groups have forced the suspension of critical relief operations. More than 184,000 refugees have fled to communities in neighboring countries that are already deeply stressed from drought. Though still functioning, local and regional markets have been disrupted, driving food prices even higher. And as of mid-June, swarms of locusts from southern Algeria and Libya had arrived in northern Mali and Niger; now expected to move southward, these infestations could result in crop destruction exacerbating an already worsening situation.

In these cases of chronic crisis, recurring shocks erase development gains and set local populations back into urgent need over and over again. With many in the Sahel still struggling to recover from the region’s last food crisis in 2010, they now face a new crisis of food access. Borrowing money to buy food or the seeds to plant this rainy season has the farmers of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and their neighbors incurring amounts of debt that are crippling, and a vicious cycle of suffering persists.

We cannot and should not accept this course as inevitable. Through smarter programming and a coordinated response, we can help make these recurring shocks less devastating. To this end and so that our relief work enables greater growth, we are committed to doing business differently in four key ways:

1. Early action in response to early warning: Last fall, thanks to early warning systems, we saw signs of the tough lean season ahead for the Sahel. USAID began committing food commodities as early as November and, in February, I traveled to Niger and Burkina Faso to assess the worsening situation and identify programs that work firsthand. As of July 1, 2012, more than 74,000 metric tons of food has arrived in the region out of a total of approximately 107,000 metric tons purchased, the rest of which will arrive in the next 30 to 45 days. This food will reach approximately 3.2 million people. The U.S. commitment to a strong humanitarian response and helping those in need remains unwavering.

2. A smarter, targeted and market-sensitive humanitarian response: We are determined to ensure our assistance is building resilience even as we save lives. Because food markets are still functioning in the Sahel — albeit at higher than normal prices — our cash-based programs allow vulnerable families and communities to access locally available food and basic goods in addition to our in-kind food aid. Through food vouchers, cash transfers, and temporary work opportunities, we support local markets and develop land reclamation and sustainable agriculture practices even while responding to acute needs now. In addition to including new food products and efforts to strengthen nutrition, our emergency programs are helping families keep livestock healthy and alive, as cows, sheep and goats are tantamount to savings accounts for many pastoralist families. And we are focused especially on women, as we know they are key to their families’ futures and to the health of their children.

3. More effectively connecting our relief and development programs: As we did in the Horn of Africa, we are bringing our relief and development teams together to identify ways to layer, integrate, and sequence programs with the goal of creating long term resilience. Later this month, I will return to the region to join colleagues in Dakar, Senegal who are leading our Sahel Joint Planning Cell (JPC), a comprehensive effort to connect our range of relief and development work in the field and in Washington to apply our humanitarian resources for the greatest good. Moreover, the JPC is working in lockstep with Feed the Future, President Obama’s landmark initiative to increase food security by battling the root causes of poverty and undernutrition through increased investments in agriculture-led economic growth.

4. Working in partnership with the international community to support effective country-led plans: At a recent high-level meeting with the EU Commission in Brussels, along with other donor governments, U.N. agencies, regional institutions, and humanitarian and development aid organizations, we reaffirmed our commitment to helping communities in the Sahel improve their ability to withstand future emergencies by forming the Global Alliance for Resilience Initiative-Sahel (AGIR-Sahel). This new partnership is linked to the Global Alliance for Action for Drought Resilience and Growth stood up together with international partners and African leaders in Nairobi this April with a focus on new country frameworks and mutual accountability.

The steps we are taking now are a direct result of the lessons we learned last year through our successful response to crisis in the Horn: that all tools must be applied in ways that are context-specific and cause no harm; that our impact multiplies tenfold when we work in close coordination with the international community and local leadership; and that to make the greatest difference, even during acute crisis, major donors from the humanitarian and development sectors must come together to identify causes of vulnerability to build resilience going forward.

Resilience programming can make a difference in the Sahel just as it has in the Horn. I have seen the effects firsthand in Burkina Faso, where USAID programs that have diversified livelihoods, introduced new seeds and highly nutritious crops, improved nutrition and increased access to water and irrigation have helped women farmers stand strong and feed their children even amidst drought.

With a total Fiscal Year 2012 commitment of more than $321.5 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance for drought-affected and conflict-displaced communities in the Sahel, we must use these resources in ways that both alleviate the dire situation at hand and lay the foundation for longstanding gains. Our mission to achieve real sustainable development — and millions of livelihoods — depends on it.

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