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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

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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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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