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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Famine Spreads in Somalia

Nancy Lindborg is USAID’s Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

Today the U.N. declared ongoing famine in the Bay Region, adding to the five areas in southern Somalia already facing famine conditions.  The U.N. also increased the number of Somalis in crisis to 4 million and says that 750,000 are at risk of death in the coming months in the absence of an adequate humanitarian response.

The unfortunate reality is that Somalia is the most difficult operating environment for humanitarians in the world today.  Access continues to be denied by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups, creating an indefensible situation where they would rather put hundreds of thousands of Somali lives in jeopardy than allow humanitarian aid in.  The massive amount of humanitarian aid required to save tens of thousands of lives simply cannot reach those in Bay Region and other areas in southern Somalia.

You might be wondering why people don’t just leave southern Somalia.  Many in southern Somalia are already too weak to flee to neighboring countries to receive life-saving assistance.  For those who are able to leave, they face a grueling walk through the desert, often with no food or water to sustain them.  If they survive the weeks long walk to Kenya or Ethiopia, they often tell haunting stories of losing several children on the way and are so malnourished themselves that they require treatment to survive.

So when the U.N. says “750,000 people at risk of death in the coming four months in the absence of adequate response,” what they really mean is that unless we – the international community – can get access to provide humanitarian assistance to southern Somalia, the already horrific situation will get worse.  Without access, the number of people in crisis will increase, and famine will continue to spread in Somalia.

We continue to call on all parties involved to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Somalis in need.  The international community will not stop trying to provide life-saving aid in southern Somalia, and we will not stop trying to gain access to those in need.

The United States is providing over $600 million in assistance to help those affected by drought in the Horn of Africa, including $102 million in assistance to help those in Somalia.  U.S. assistance provides food, treatment for the severely malnourished, health care, clean water, proper sanitation, hygiene education and supplies.  We continue to look for innovative ways to get assistance into southern Somalia.

On the Road with SCMS, Part 2: In Ethiopia, capacity building helps a health center manage its supply of HIV/AIDS commodities

In this three part series, Jay Heavner, Director of Knowledge Sharing and Communication at Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), highlights his experiences visiting three countries in Africa to observe SCMS project sites.

The Fital Health Center is located about 135 kilometers north of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, in a beautiful agricultural region of small villages of thatched roof huts and fields of dark, rich soil.  HIV prevalence is low here.  Although the center tests about 1,000 people a month, the center has only 37 patients on treatment, three of whom are children.

The health center has a small but well organized store room filled with medical supplies, including adult anti-retroviral medicines and HIV test kits provided by the Global Fund and pediatric antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and laboratory supplies procured by SCMS with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID.  The store room also serves as a distribution point for nine other smaller health centers in the area.

In Ethiopia, a PEPFAR implementing partner picks up a shipment of HIV test kits from SCMS’s local distribution center. Photo credit: David Fombot

As recently as 2009, the health center struggled to manage its relatively small number of medicines and other supplies. Staff here told me they faced challenges with drugs expiring and experienced stockouts of drugs and other supplies as well.

As part of a national capacity building program, SCMS has provided training and ongoing supportive supervision visits with key staff here and at 198 sites like it to strengthen the health center’s processes, including reporting and ordering to the regional warehouse hub, management of its medical supplies and distribution to other sites. Staff here showed me examples of the forms they fill out and use to report data—including consumption of commodities and current stock on hand—to the regional warehouse staff, who then enter the information in a national internet-based system developed by SCMS to support Ethiopia’s Pharmaceutical Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA) and international donors plan their funding and procurement of HIV/AIDS commodities.  They also showed me a number of other forms, including ones they use to manage their inventory and others used to process and track orders from the other sites they serve. SCMS prints and distributes many of the forms sites like this use to manage their HIV/AIDS medicines and supplies.

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Peeling Potatoes With Grace

Recently, a group of 10 bloggers traveled with ONE to Kenya. This trip was the first step in cultivating the amazing energy of thousands of American moms who have the power to help save millions of lives through simple actions they can take from right where they are.

Cross-posted from Coming Alive

Imagine being a mom standing on a small farm in Elburgon, Nakuru County in the country of Kenya on the continent of Africa learning about Irish potatoes.  You are welcomed with celebration and surrounded by the most beautiful countryside.  There is so much to take in that at times it can be overwhelming.  Then the farmer begins to demonstrate how she peels her potatoes and you discover that she does it EXACTLY like you!  That is where I found myself today and I was invited to peel potatoes with Grace.

Grace is a member of the Mastima Potato Growers Self Help Group started in Septermber 2010 with the aim of marketing Irish potatoes.  The Irish potato is the second most important food crop in Kenya and has the potential to yield over 80 tons per acre, which would dramatically increase food security, farm income, and nutrition.  Located far from markets and without the availability of planting materials (seeds) their ability to even feed their family can be difficult.  Programs like Feed the Future provide these farmers with the tools needed to feed themselves.  The Feed the Future initiative ran under USAID takes a holistic approach and incorporates in; agriculture research, access to finance, farm inputs, natural-resource management, market development, and advocacy for farmer-friendly policies.  It is important to know that these farmers have big aspirations.  During our welcoming presentation the committee chair was aware of the crisis happening in north-eastern Kenya and not only was the goal of their cooperative to feed their community, but they have in their long-term plan to feed their entire country!

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On the road with SCMS, Part One: In Nigeria, PEPFAR partners pool procurement of life-saving commodities

In this three part series, Jay Heavner, Director of Knowledge Sharing and Communication at Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), highlights his experiences visiting three countries in Africa to observe SCMS project sites.

On a documentation tour of Nigeria earlier this month, I visited sites in four states plus the capital, Abuja, to document the progress of SCMS and find out how well the country is doing in managing its public health medicines and other supplies.  The tour was a study in contrasts: One state boasts a central medical store that is ISO Certified and has a computerized system that helps manage inventory and orders.  Nearby, a private hospital has a small, well organized and air-conditioned room dedicated to the storage of AIDS medicines.  On the other hand, in a neighboring state, the central medical store lacks even basic equipment.  Its dedicated staff, after a recent SCMS training in warehouse management, is taking a first step to improve their operations by requesting wooden pallets to reduce the risk of water damage to boxes that currently sit on the floor.

In Nigeria, a PEPFAR implementing partner picks up a shipment of HIV test kits from SCMS’s local distribution center Photo credit: David Fombot

A highlight of my trip was a visit to the warehouse in Abuja that was built with private funds to support coordinated “pooled” procurement by some 20 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) implementing partners (IPs).  Operated in a partnership between RTT, a South Africa-based company (also an SCMS team member organization), and MDS, a Nigerian company based in Lagos, the facility is a fully equipped pharmaceutical compliant warehouse.   The day I visited, the loading dock was a hub of activity.  Several IPs – Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria, Partners for Development and Vanderbilt/Friends in Global Health and AXIOS—were picking up their bi-monthly supply of HIV test kits.

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A Mother’s Bond: My Visit to an Ethiopian Therapeutic Feeding Camp

I have a one-year-old little girl at home, just like Aisha, the mother I photographed during my visit to the drought-impacted region of Ethiopia. Just like this Aisha, I hope that I am nourishing my daughter’s body, mind, and spirit by providing her everything within my means. Unlike Aisha, my daughter weighs nearly three times more than her one-year-old little girl, and she has come to this therapeutic feeding camp because it is her best hope for food for her daughter and for herself.

A woman named Aisha holds her daughter at a therapeutic feeding camp in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Aysha House-Moshi/USAID

While visiting Ethiopia last week, I saw examples of how USAID is serving the entire food continuum – food aid projects for the hungry, resilience projects for those able to work for food, and food security projects to support smallholder farmers who are delivering prized harvests to markets. All of these projects are making a difference, but as I looked at the growing numbers of hungry, risking their lives to migrate to camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, I couldn’t help but to focus on my fellow mothers risking everything to feed their children and feed our future.

I visited the Bisle Nutrition Site, which serves at least 7,500 mothers and children just like Aisha and her daughter. The community, mainly pastoralists, is in dire straits. Eligible mothers stand in line, with babies in tow, patiently awaiting food and water rations; while swarms of mothers of hungry children outside of the targeted age group wait for anything that can be spared. The men sit aimless, while elders, particularly the elderly women, are left to rely on the community to care for them.

The Bisle Nutrition Site, in the Shinile Zone, is located in the northeastern part of Somali Region of Ethiopia. It borders Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the east, and Oromia to the south and west. In normal times, the Shinile Zone receives rain during March to May and July to September. But during this drought, the area i

A view of the camps. Photo Credit: Aysha House- Moshi/USAID

s bone dry and the heat so abrasive that it hits you in the face, pounding your skin with every slight movement.

As I drove away, I thought of the mothers and children at Bisle. I hoped that peace, rain, and life would fill their immediate future. I wished that the hunger would pass and the land would awaken from the drought.

USAID knows how to respond to drought, and we know how to provide for the immediate and the long-term needs of the hungry. We are poised to do more, and the United States and the international community will continue to work together to make a difference for those in need.

Mobilizing Resources to Assist East African Drought

Dr. Jill Biden and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist visit with two recently arrived refugee families at the Dagahaley refugee camp, in Dadaab, Kenya, Aug. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

On August 11, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the International Food Policy Research Institute on the drought crisis in East Africa, the U.S. response, and the efforts underway to raise funding for relief efforts. [Full transcript and video of her remarks.] She announced that the United States would provide an additional $17 million in funding—most of which is targeted to help the people of Somalia—bringing the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $580 million this year. U.S. assistance is bringing life-saving food, water, health care, and other services to more than 4.6 million people in need.

This week Dr. Jill Biden visited a Kenyan refugee camp along with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz, and Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith.

  • On the Impact Blog, Administrator Shah wrote a first-hand account of the immediate needs in the refugee camps and the agricultural innovations such as drought-resistant seeds that are addressing long-term food security.
  • Senator Bill Frist wrote on CNN about why Americans should care about famine in Africa and emphasized the importance of medical care in emergency response.
  • The White House posted a photo gallery of Dr. Biden’s trip to the refugee camp in Kenya.

International Youth Day: Meeting the Reproductive Health Needs of Youth

I first came to D.C. in 1994, the year of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, which marked a milestone in the field of population and reproductive health.  The conference set a turning point as the world agreed that population is not about numbers but about people and their rights.  It also solidified my commitment to youth, health and development which began when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working with youth in Ghana.  Today I am the youth advisor for USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health.

Personal photo of Cate while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana circa 1994. Photo Credit: Cate Lane/USAID

More than half of the world’s population is under age 25.  I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital in ensuring future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives.  When girls are able to delay first pregnancy, they are more likely to obtain an education and end the cycle of poverty.  The United Nations proclaimed the past year commencing on August 12, 2010 as the International Year of Youth.  As the year comes to an end on International Youth Day, let us continue to stress the need for investment in programs that reach out to youth.

Listen to more of my thoughts on youth and development in this audio podcast by the Population Reference Bureau:

Involving Youth in Development Programming: Interview With Cate Lane, USAID by PopulationReferenceBureau


A Glimpse from the Horn of Africa

Refugees wait in line to register and receive their initial bundle of supplies at the Dagahaley refugee camp, in Dadaab, Kenya, Aug. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Day Two: On the Ground in the Horn of Africa

Earlier this week, I visited the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya, where thousands of exhausted and starving refugees have sought food, water and medical care after fleeing from famine-stricken lands in southern Somalia. The United States is providing life-saving help for millions of people across the eastern Horn of Africa, as the region experiences its worst drought in 60 years.

Although we will always provide aid in times of urgent need, emergency assistance is not a long-term solution. To address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, we need to invest in agriculture, build strong markets and harness advances in science and technology. Spearheaded by USAID, President Obama’s food security initiative—Feed the Future—is helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves.

Together with Dr. Jill Biden and Senator Bill Frist, I had the opportunity to see some of the innovative work Kenyan scientists and researchers are doing to help transform agriculture in the region. At the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), we saw new drought-resistant seed varieties of sorghum, millet and beans, as well as a gigantic cassava root and the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Unlike other kinds of sweet potato common to the region, the orange-fleshed sweet potato is rich in vitamin A and helps children build resistance to river blindness. We also saw irrigation systems in affordable greenhouses that are designed expressly for smallholder famers.

Since pastoralist communities throughout the region rely on livestock for their livelihoods, we are helping protect animal herds through vaccine programs and accessible veterinary care. In Ethiopia, we are supporting a government-led safety net program that builds boreholes for water, constructs health clinics and educates vulnerable communities about nutrition.

These programs are already making a difference.  That is why—even though this is the worst drought in 60 years—it is not the worst famine in 60 years.

The circumstances are still dire, however. In Kenya, I heard from families whose crops and livestock had withered in front of them and who themselves were barely surviving. I know that there is another way. Feed the Future is making smart, cost-effective investments in agriculture to ensure we address many of the root causes of today’s crisis.  Together, we can shape a better, safer future for the region’s families.

Helping South Sudan Establish Secure Land Tenure

Written by Eric Postel, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade and Raja Jandhyala, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa

South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, faces many challenges, including land use policy. A continuing focus of USAID’s work in South Sudan is land tenure reform, an important strategy for improving economic growth and food security and for reducing conflict.

Drafting the policy involved extensive research, formal consultation workshops with citizens, and training and capacity building of government officials. In February 2011, the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) received its draft Land Policy, which is now under final review. Once approved, the RSS will define, test, and implement the laws and regulations, and institutions needed to guide the administration and management of land and property rights.

The draft Land Policy calls for a number of actions to ensure equality of land rights for women and men.  While it recognizes the continuing value of customary tenure arrangements, it takes the important step of providing women and men with equal rights to customary allocations. This is especially relevant now because nearly half of the families that have returned to South Sudan are headed by women.

USAID will also take a lead role in helping develop land use planning and land administration and management systems in three counties of South Sudan. This effort can then be replicated in the remaining seven states of South Sudan.

A comprehensive approach to land tenure and property rights (LTPR) is critical because it addresses, and seeks to resolve, different expectations about land use at all governance levels, from the national government down to communities.

Historically, people in rural South Sudan accessed land through traditional means – the customary systems mentioned above. Families were entitled to land by virtue of their membership in a particular community, which could be based on clan, tribe, or other ties. This approach has certain benefits – land is available free of charge and acts as a security net for community members. However, customary systems tend to limit the land rights of unmarried women and widows by making women’s rights subsidiary to men’s rights. The new Land Policy changes this approach.

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