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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

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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Our Response to the Horn of Africa Drought

This morning, the United Nations declared what has become plain to anyone who has witnessed the devastation caused by this epic drought: thousands of people in southern Somalia are currently in a state of famine.

After the announcement, I visited the Wajir and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. I saw child after child weary from their long journey to the camps, eager for their first meal in days if not weeks. Seeing a child in such a fragile state—witnessing just one child face such difficult circumstances—is heartbreaking. Knowing that millions of children face a similar fate in the coming months unleashes a sense of profound sorrow.

Dadaab is now the fourth largest city in Kenya, home to more than 370,000 people who were in such a state of need that they fled their homes, many on foot, many from hundreds of miles away, just to find food, water, and healthcare for themselves and their children.

But the other thing I witnessed in those children was a strong sense of resilience. They weren’t beaten down by their circumstances or overcome with despair. They were courageous, strong, unwilling to succumb to the tragedy that surrounded them.

Throughout the region, more than 11.5 million people are in need of emergency assistance, and there is no quick fix to that need. The United States, in cooperation with all of its international partners, is doing everything it can to help relieve that suffering with food, water, healthcare, and other critical services. Our priority is to save lives, and our experts are working day and night to find every channel possible to provide that desperately needed assistance.

For years, we’ve been working with the Ethiopian government on a safety net program that has step by step improved food security for many living in areas vulnerable to drought.

Even in this record drought, due to that long-term effort, 8.3 million people that have benefited from this program today do not need emergency assistance.
Since October 2010, the U.S. Government has provided $459 million in life-saving aid to over 4.4 million people in the eastern Horn.

But that is no comfort today to those who have no food or water for their children, or for themselves. We must implement long-term strategies that can help prevent this kind of suffering once and for all.
The President’s Feed the Future initiative is designed to partner with countries like Ethiopia and Kenya to develop their own agricultural industries, helping them break free of the need for humanitarian food aid. Only through a long-term sustained investment in their own food security can these countries escape the vicious cycle of famine of food aid we’ve once again witnessed.

Dr. Rajiv Shah is the Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Learn more about USAID’s response to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

Mapping for Informed Decision Making in Rwanda

Mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS) have long been used in Rwanda for sectors such as agriculture and economic growth. The need for these innovative tools and skills, however, are just now being recognized in other fields, including health. As a monitoring and evaluation expert, I have seen how useful geography and maps can be to monitor and improve programs, and I was interested to learn more about how they were being used and enhanced in the field.

For four days, I joined 18 public health professionals at a GIS training in Kigali, Rwanda, organized by MEASURE Evaluation and Monitoring and Evaluation Management Systems (MEMS) and supported by USAID in collaboration with National AIDS Control Commission (CNLS ). The participants represented many local Rwandan organizations such as MEMS, the Ministry of Health, the Center for Treatment and Research on AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Other Epidemics (TRAC Plus), and National University of Rwanda’s School of Public Health.

Andrew Inglis and training participants use qGIS and local data to produce maps that can be used for monitoring HIV programs. Photo Credit: Kristen Wares/USAID"

GIS is a unique tool that allows people to interact with their data. Rather than comparing data in charts or graphs, mapping data through geography allows data users to identify essential trends and associations that may not be apparent in other formats. By building local capacity in GIS, we are expanding “evidence-based decision making” for high quality and strategic health programs.

There was a lot of enthusiasm during the training about GIS. The training provided an excellent forum for the participants to talk about innovative ways they are already using the GIS tool. Participants discussed plans to create  new programs that would allow for better ownership and monitoring, to improve supply chain management, and to integrate services, all things that will support and enhance the projects that USAID and its partners are implementing.

MEASURE Evaluation trainers, Andrew Inglis and Clara Burgert, introduced the concept of GIS maps and their ability to link to a database that is capable of capturing, storing, querying, analyzing, displaying and outputting data. In addition to teaching concepts such as how to interpret maps and how to effectively use spatial data, the training provided participants an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience.

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Let’s Hear it for Sustainable Tourism: A Photo Essay

By David Chalmers, Natural Resources Officer, USAID/Southern Africa

“Let’s hear it for Mozambique, let’s hear it for sustainable tourism!” crowds chanted at the opening of the Lake Niassa Reserve.

USAID has worked in partnership with the government of Mozambique, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Coca-Cola Company to protect the species and natural habitats of the of the most biodiverse freshwater lake on earth. Protecting Lake Niassa creates important economic opportunities for local fishing and tourism industries.

Below, watch women dance at the celebration of the reserve opening.

A Dream in a Nightmare in the Eastern DRC

A guest post by Dr. Denis Mukwege, Director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC.   Dr. Mukwege is the winner of the 2010-2011 King audouin International Development Prize and recently spoke at USAID in a roundtable discussion about gender based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The views in this post do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of USAID or the U.S. Government.

A few decades ago, the American pastor, Martin Luther King shook the conscience of his contemporaries in his speech with the famous line, I have a dream. This speech was written from the perspective of the “American dream”, a dream which is founded on the idea of rising up, of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It also implies an attitude, which consists of pushing back the boundaries much further, of refusing the idea of fate and of hoping for a better future.

It is interesting to note that Martin Luther King’s dream unfolded against the backdrop of a social nightmare.

Today everybody knows that women in the eastern DRC are living a nightmare. Hundreds of women are raped every day. They are kidnapped and reduced to sexual slavery. Others have been raped by dozens of armed men who take pleasure in mutilating their genitals – a savagery that is unprecedented in the region’s history. Meanwhile unscrupulous traders and multinationals have joined forces with these militias and have taken to exploiting the minerals in the region for the manufacture of mobile phones and computers.

I cannot stress this enough : the organised rape of women in the eastern DRC is designed to destroy all of society in this region. In a country where the unemployment rate for men is estimated to be over 80%, women constitute the main pillar of socio-economic life, because of their hard labour in the fields or their small businesses selling their products at local markets. In fact, women are responsible for children’s education; they also pay for the cost of tuition and of medical care. A raped woman is equivalent to the long-term destruction of a family with several children. What will happen in the future to these thousands of children who were conceived in rape? These children, who have no identity, who cannot trace their descent and who are rejected by their communities? How will they integrate in tomorrow’s society? In a region where indifference is killing communities, USAID’s grassroots work can make all the difference.

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USAID Appears in Congressional Hearing on Sudan

USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa Raja Jandhyala appeared at a congressional hearing last week along with U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Ambassador Princeton Lyman, to discuss the current crisis in Sudan and the impending independence of South Sudan on July 9.

The hearing, titled “Africa’s Newest Nation:  The Republic of South Sudan,” explored the challenges South Sudan will face as it becomes an independent nation, in keeping with the outcome of the January referendum on self-determination (PDF, 873kb) for southern Sudan, a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which USAID has helped implement.  Nearly 99 percent of southern Sudanese voted in January for secession. Called by the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, the hearing also explored the current crisis that has resulted from conflict that erupted in Sudan’s Abyei Area last month and in Southern Kordofan state this month, displacing some 170,000 people.

Read in her written testimony (PDF, 51kb) about how USAID is responding to the current crisis with humanitarian assistance, and how USAID is helping the Government of Southern Sudan prepare for statehood.

USAID Convenes Discussion on South Sudan Private Sector Engagement

Angela Stephens is a Development Outreach and Communications Officer in the Africa Bureau.

USAID on June 14 convened a discussion in Washington with representatives of the World Bank, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Citibank, the Corporate Council on Africa, and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) to discuss investment and economic issues for South Sudan as it approaches independence on July 9.

Earlier this year, USAID inaugurated the electrification of two key market towns in Eastern Equatoria (Kapoeta, shown here) and Western Equatoria (Maridi), which—like most of southern Sudan— had never had electric power. This has already helped boost economic activity in these towns, enabling merchants to extend their hours, improving community security, and helping schoolchildren to study after dark. Photo Credit: Jenn Warren

Led by Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa Raja Jandhyala, the discussion addressed topics including working with the GOSS Ministry of Investment on its priorities and focusing on sectors that can attract investors to the new nation, including agriculture and infrastructure, which may offer the greatest immediate opportunities for private sector employment.

As Jandhyala told the gathering, “This is a follow-up to the private sector event we had last month in Juba with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and private sector representatives who are already on the ground.”  She mentioned that USAID funded a study released by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation last month, Doing Business in Juba 2011, the first assessment of business regulations in southern Sudan’s capital.  The United States is encouraging a wide variety of investors, in and beyond the Africa region, to explore opportunities in southern Sudan.

The United States, United Kingdom, and Norway are working with the GOSS on an international engagement conference for South Sudan to take place in Washington in September, which will provide an international platform for the GOSS to present its vision for the new country, and to engage development partners and private sector entities on priority areas for support and collaboration.  GOSS officials seek to build a broad coalition to promote private sector engagement in South Sudan post-independence.

Investing in Women to Defeat Hunger in Malawi

Submitted by guest blogger Anita McCabe, Country Director, Concern Worldwide, Malawi

As the hot, dry breeze wafts through the lakeside district of Nkhotakota, Malawi, a group of women sing as they take turns to water their near-ripe crop of maize. Further downstream, another group is busy making seed beds in preparation for another crop.

Like many women in developing countries, these women face a particular set of responsibilities and vulnerabilities when it comes to providing food for their families. Not only are they the primary caregivers, they are also the producers of food and the income earners. Women farmers in rural areas of Malawi grow, buy, sell, and cook food in order to feed their children. In fact, in all the countries in which I’ve worked during my time with Concern Worldwide, I’ve seen how very hard women must work to ensure the survival of their families, and the burdens they bear.

Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of food in developing countries, and they hold the key to tackling hunger and malnutrition. A woman’s nutritional status is critical not only to her own health but also to her ability to work, and her ability to ensure that her children are properly nourished and healthy.

Nkhotakota has suffered from recurring drought and flooding, and the people here know the consequences. “As a woman, it hurts to see my children cry with hunger” says Grace Kalowa from Thondo village. “It’s more painful as a mother to tell them that I don’t have any food to give them. In their eyes I am supposed to provide for them but knowing that I can’t do anything is heartbreaking. That feeling of desperation is what brought us together as women to drive hunger away from our families.”

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