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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

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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Notes from the Field: We Can Feed the Future

Julie A. Howard is the U.S. Government Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future

My job as the Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future is to champion the cause for global food security. It’s good for health, it supports economic growth, and it promotes global stability. For as much as I value the work I do in Washington, it is opportunities to visit our programs in the field that really reinforce for me what a difference investments in food security can make.

I am in Zambia this week for the tenth annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum. Earlier today, I was with United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk when he announced a U.S. commitment of up to $30 million per year for four years to support trade expansion in Africa. This will facilitate U.S.-Africa trade and intra-regional trade. It will also leverage private sector resources and investments by other donors.

Following the day’s events at AGOA, I saw firsthand how this can work. USTR Kirk and I joined U.S. Ambassador Mark Storella for a visit to the Freshpikt canning factory – the only one of its kind in Zambia. Over the past several years, investments from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have helped the factory to source produce from smallholder farmers, which raises their incomes. In turn, this has provided consumers throughout the region the option to purchase high-quality, locally canned goods that are competing favorably against imported products. They are also being exported, which helps the Zambian economy.

During our visit, Freshpikt and PS International – a U.S.-based company specializing in international trade of bulk agricultural commodities – signed a letter signifying PS International’s intent to invest up to $30 million to increase Freshpikt’s capacity to can tomatoes for regional markets.

A main objective of Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, is to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and rural incomes through diversification and private sector development. Today’s visit was inspiring. I’m looking forward to spending the next few days in Zambia!

Running for Maternal and Newborn Lives in Ethiopia

Growing up in New England, the highlight of spring was always the Boston Marathon. Whether we cheered the runners on from alongside the road or if we watched the event live on television, the experience always had a distinct allure. Bonded together with a singular purpose, beating their feet along the pavement with a steady rhythm, the runners were simply captivating.

In recent years, the race has been dominated by African competitors; since the 1990s, both the male and female winners have almost exclusively hailed from Kenya and Ethiopia. Nearly 7,000 miles away—or, more than 250 marathon-lengths—a different race recently brought together Americans and Africans with a common goal.

In recognition of our 50th Anniversary, USAID co-sponsored the EVERY ONE half-marathon in Awassa, Ethiopia, along with Save the Children and the Great Ethiopian Run, a local NGO founded by world marathon record-holder Haile Gebreselassie. The event sought to raise awareness about efforts to reduce maternal, newborn, and child deaths.

View photos and captions on Flickr.

Seven thousand Ethiopians and international participants congregated on the Rift Valley Lake of Awassa to run and to greet elite runners from Kenya and Ethiopia including the Ethiopian winner of the 2010 New York Marathon, Gebregziabher Gebremariam. Local musicians and theater groups used their artistic talents to educate attendees about how public health workers support maternal and child health.

Every year in Ethiopia, about 19,000 women die due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, and thousands of women suffer from birth injuries. Nearly half a million Ethiopian children under five die every year. Of these, 120,000 die before they are one month old. Many of these injuries and deaths could be prevented with interventions that are currently available, effective, and often low-cost.

USAID supports the goals of the EVERY ONE campaign by expanding the reach of health extension workers, increasing access to delivery and emergency obstetric care, improving neonatal care and nutrition, and expanding access to voluntary family planning methods that enable birth spacing which can help strengthen the health of mothers and children. Last year, in the region of Ethiopia where the race was held, with USAID support:

  • Health extension workers  visited over one million households;
  • Over 500,000 pregnant women received pre-natal care by a skilled service provider, and more than 700,000 new clients received voluntary family planning services;
  • Over 80,000 pregnant women learned their HIV status, and nearly 300 received important medical therapy to prevent HIV transmission to their babies; and
  • More than 50,000 orphaned and vulnerable children received specialized care.

Running alongside—or behind—Ethiopians in the race were U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Booth, USAID/Ethiopia Mission Director Thomas Staal, and staff members from the U.S. Embassy, USAID, and the Peace Corps (which also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year). Thomas Staal said, “I am pleased that this year the EVERY ONE campaign has chosen to recognize the contribution of health workers to saving lives of mothers and children and to promoting the health of families and communities. However, success will depend on mutual respect, and the trust that comes from that mutual respect, between husbands and wives, neighbors and communities, and above all, between patients and health workers. It truly takes EVERY ONE to help mothers and children to survive and thrive.”

Fans from New England may protest, but this year, the EVERY ONE race in Ethiopia was the one that captivated me.

Picture of the Week

USAID is providing food, including sorghum shown here at Majak Aher near Turalei, Warrap State, and other emergency assistance to Sudanese displaced by fighting in the Abyei Area. Photo Credit: USAID/Donna Kerner

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