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The Story Behind the Statistics: Victims of Rape in Benin Find Justice

The Statistics: In Benin, more than 75 percent of women are victims of violence, and 44 percent are sexually abused.

The Story: Déborah and her husband Djobo live in the village of Guiguiso in northern Benin. On the night of September 9, 2009, three men assaulted the couple while they slept. Djobo was left bleeding and unconscious and Déborah was raped. After Djobo regained consciousness, he alerted the village. The coordinator of a USAID project, which aims to reduce violence against women and girls in all of Benin’s 77 municipalities, promptly informed the police commissioner and project facilitator in nearby Bassila. With the help of the entire population of Guiguiso, the three men were tracked down and taken into custody before sunrise.

Déborah and Djobo sought medical attention from the Bassila hospital and, with medical certificates in hand, they went to the police commissioner. After hearing the accused, the victims, and the witnesses, the commissioner presented the case to the prosecutor. Today, the three accused men await trial from jail.

In Benin, more than 75 percent of women are victims of violence, and 44 percent are sexually abused. Since 2007, USAID has helped to not only promote greater recognition and acceptance of women’s rights in Benin but also get more women victims of violence to seek help from the Benin Government’s Social Service Centers and the justice system.

“The injury we suffered as a result of this gang rape may pass with time,” Déborah said weeks after the assault, “but I dare not imagine what life would be like had we not received help from USAID, all the way from the hospital, the police station, and down to the prosecutor’s office to press charges.”

From November 2007 to September 2010, the U.S. Government has assisted in 2,782 cases of physical and sexual violence of which 996 reached the Courts of First Instance. This is nearly seven times the number planned for the life of the project, as it is very difficult for Beninese women to press charges against the men who abused them.

“Before,” a Beninese judge said, “we would attempt to resolve cases of gender-based violence ‘amicably’ and out-of-court. This is no longer the case because of USAID programs which help the victims understand and pursue their cases in the court system; and mounting pressure from the media, which act as essential partners in the cause of justice for women.”

The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women:

From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog every day to bring much needed attention to the reality of millions of women around the world who are victims of violence and abuse.  Our blog posts will focus on the root causes of violence and individual stories of women and girls who lived through it.

Follow us on Twitter. When you see us tweet something interesting, retweet it!

Become a fan of our USAID for Global Health Facebook page and feel free to share stories, photos, and videos that demonstrate your support for women’s rights!

Up Close and Personal With Our Global Health

I recently traveled to Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mozambique to visit a wide range of global health programs supported by USAID and other U.S. Government Agencies including the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Defense, and the Peace Corps.

My colleague, Zeke Emanuel, from the White House Office of Management and Budget, blogged extensively during this two-week trip about President Obama’s Global Health Initiative.  This whole-of-government effort encourages a more integrated approach to global health — building upon historic efforts under the Bush Administration through PEPFAR and PMI with a renewed focus on child and maternal health, TB and other diseases.  It also strengthens health systems to ultimately save more lives.

Is funding for global health a never-ending waste of money in which billions are spent but nothing gets better? Or are we being selfish and grossly unethical, because we are unwilling to spend a few hundred dollars more per year in order to save a life of a poor person half way around the world?

These are tough questions, and Zeke addresses them in his first blog entry, now featured at The New Republic.

Democratic Republic of Congo Joins Malaria Initiative

On Tuesday, November 16th, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) became the 16th focus country of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and one of the most important. DRC is the second largest and third most populated country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 95 percent of the population – some 69 million people – live in malaria endemic areas and suffer nearly 30 million cases of this treatable and preventable disease. Malaria accounts for nearly half of the deaths of the 620,000 children in DRC who die before their fifth birthday.

The launch of PMI was held in Mbuji Mayi, capital city of East Kasai. Admiral Timothy Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, U.S. Ambassador to DRC James Entwistle, and USAID Mission Director Stephen Haykin joined thousands of Congolese for the public launch of the program, which included distributing long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) and preventive malaria treatment to pregnant women. Next year, PMI will procure 2 million LLINs to support the universal coverage strategy in Katanga Province, which is part of the National Malaria Control Program’s (NMCP) five-year strategic plan for universal coverage. PMI will procure another 645,000 LLINs for routine distribution in 112 health zones in the four provinces where USAID works, which will be part of the NMCP’s distribution plan for 2009-2014.

With its large population, geographic size, and heavy burden of malaria, the DRC presents a major challenge to reducing morbidity and mortality attributable to malaria in Africa. As with other PMI focus countries, the goal of PMI in the DRC will be to expand malaria control efforts to reach large areas of the country, achieving a 50 percent reduction in malaria burden by targeting those most vulnerable to malaria – children under the age of five and pregnant women. PMI will work with the NMCP to provide LLINs and antimalarial drugs, help strengthen health systems, and integrate malaria control and prevention activities with other health programs in 112 health zones in the four target provinces. PMI will also help identify and fill gaps in other malaria interventions in close collaboration with other partners, including donors, civil society organizations, faith-based groups, and the private sector.

Malaria prevention and treatment is a core component of the U.S. Government’s development policy and the Administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). Rather than attack diseases individually, GHI focuses on tying health programs together, creating an integrated and coordinated system of care. For example, PMI is expanding efforts to support health systems strengthening and to integrate with USAID’s maternal and child health (MCH) programs and the President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Given that malaria control is essentially a maternal and child health program, PMI has been working to ensure that all its activities at the health facility level are integrated with the MCH program.

The Global Health Initiative and the President’s Malaria Initiative share a common focus on women — improving their health status benefits women, as well as their families and communities. By expanding women’s access to care, increasing the focus on women’s health outcomes, and incorporating women’s perspectives into health systems, the GHI and PMI will impact women, their children, and their families.

The United States Government has supported malaria control in DRC during the past 10 years as a key component of the health program supported by USAID in almost half of the country, including Katanga, South Kivu and East and West Kasai provinces. During the past two years, the DRC has conducted mass distribution of LLINs in Kinshasa, Equateur, Orientale and Maniema provinces. Similar campaigns are planned in Katanga and East and West Kasai in the near future. These life-saving bed nets are also being provided for routine distribution through antenatal and child health clinics. As a result of these programs, since 2008, nearly 30 million LLINS have been brought into the country by the government of the DRC and the donor community.

Voter Registration Begins for Sudan Referendum

Voter registration began today in Sudan for the landmark referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan, which is scheduled to begin January 9. The referendum—a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (PDF) that ended 22 years of war between northern and southern Sudan—will allow the people of southern Sudan to choose either to remain part of a unified Sudan or to secede and form an independent nation.

USAID is playing a key role in supporting this historic referendum process, including the purchase and delivery of voter registration books, cards, and training manuals that are now in use, conducting voter education to inform voters about the process, helping domestic organizations to observe the process, and supporting independent international observation of the process.


Slideshow of Voter Registration from Sudan

More than 5.4 million southern Sudanese are eligible to register, and there are nearly 3,000 registration centers in Sudan that will register voters through December 1. Registration of eligible voters is taking place in Sudan as well as eight other countries that have large populations of southern Sudanese—Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Three American cities are hosting voter registration: Phoenix, Arizona; Omaha, Nebraska; and the Washington, DC, metro area.

Introducing the NGO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa

Whether acting as advocates, watchdogs, or service providers, it is widely recognized that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

However, their ability to make a true impact depends not only upon their own organizational capacity and financial viability, but also upon such external factors as their country’s legal framework, communications, and other sectoral infrastructure.

USAID is now giving users an easy way to understand the opportunities and the threats facing NGOs across the region with our roll-out of the NGO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa (PDF).

The Index measures NGO sustainability using a methodology that employs seven “dimensions”. These include legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image.

By combining numerical scores with narrative justifications, the Index offers a useful description of the state of the NGO sector in 19 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mirroring the long-established Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia NGO Sustainability Index, this first edition of the Africa NGOSI will provide a benchmark for observing trends across sub-Saharan Africa as well as between

Pic of the Week: Rapid Diagnostic Test for Malaria

(At left) Mr. Moussa Diagne, Entomologist with the Parasite Control Service in Senegal, performs a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for malaria on Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the White House Office of Management and BudgetMr. Moussa Diagne (left), Entomologist with the Parasite Control Service in Senegal, performs a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) for malaria on Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, during the first leg of a three-country visit to health programs in Africa. RDTs, which were introduced in late 2007, have proven to be a more scientific method for identifying malaria cases. Last week, a report released by the international partnership Roll Back Malaria announced that in just one year, Senegal has managed to reduce the number of cases of malaria by 41%. Senegal is a focus country of the President’s Malaria Initiative. Photo is from Nicole Schiegg/USAID.

USAID Delivers Materials for Southern Sudan Self-Determination Referendum

One of the highlights of my trip to Sudan last week was seeing all the work we at USAID have been doing to help southern Sudan prepare for its historic referendum on self-determination. Voting is due to start January 9, 2011.

Despite initial delays as the parties to Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement put in place the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) in Khartoum and Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) in Juba and established their operating procedures, preparations for the referendum are now in full swing on an extremely compressed timeline.  Our dedicated team of electoral experts, including both USAID Mission staff and an experienced team from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, have been working day and night with the SSRC and SSRB (which are in charge of the referendum) to plan and assist in carrying out this historic event.  We have also been working closely with the international community, particularly the United Nations, to ensure timely and coordinated efforts to support the referendum process.

U.S. Government and United Nations representatives in Khartoum on October 30 hand over to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) materials for southern Sudan’s January 2011 self-determination referendum.  From left:  U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration; USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa Larry Garber; UN Development Program Resident Representative Claudio Caldarone; SSRC Chairman Professor Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil; UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division Director Denis K. Kadima; Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Jasbir Lidder.  Credit:  Jim Parys/USAID

Working with the Sudanese, we are playing a key role by providing technical and material assistance, and have provided significant funding to international and domestic groups to both educate voters and ensure credible observation of the referendum.

On October 30, I witnessed a key milestone in this effort—we and our UN partners handed over more than 3,000 registration kits and training materials necessary for voter registration, which is due to start November 15.   Along with me and our Sudan team was U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan General Scott Gration; Mr. Jasbir Lidder, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General; and SSRC Chairman Professor Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil.

From all the participants, I heard words of gratitude for our support.  Mr. Lidder characterized the delivery of referendum materials as the “first fruits of our cooperation,” recognizing that much more effort is still required to ensure a credible referendum process.  Most encouraging to me was the presence of Professor Khalil, who described the registration process as “this complex task for this important event to allow all eligible southern voters—even those living in the north—to participate in this decision on the future for all southern citizens.”

Mapping Effort Will Paint Picture of African Youth

How does Africa’s growing youth population spend its time? How do they interact with society? What services do they use—and what services do they need? These are just a few of the questions a new USAID-funded assessment hopes to answer in the coming years.

A peer educator talks with Tanzanian youth about HIV/AIDS prevention.Photo Credit: IYF

The population of Africa is ballooning, expected to double to two billion people by 2050. This phenomenal trend is going to drive much of everything else in Africa over the next two generations in Africa—conflict, demand for school, healthcare, food, and water, and the ability of these countries to develop responsive democratic institutions.

With support from USAID, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) is launching a major assessment that will capture a comprehensive picture of the lives of young people in eight African countries—Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. “This is a terrific opportunity for us to dig deeper into how young people across Africa view their lives and what kinds of skills or opportunities they think they need to be successful,” said IYF President and CEO William S. Reese.

The $10-million YouthMap program will survey both in- and out-of-school, employed and unemployed youth, and investigate opportunities and challenges related to youth development in areas like education, livelihoods, economic growth, health, democracy, and governance. Complementing the assessment, the YouthMap Innovation Fund will support pilot activities based on the findings, test promising practices, support the transfer of results and experiences to stakeholders across participating countries, and scale up interventions in education and employability.

YouthMap is part of a larger USAID-funded program that is operating in Jordan, Latin America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Morocco, and the Palestinian

USAID Responds to Massive Flooding in Benin

More than 100,000 Beninese have been made homeless due to massive flooding caused by the country’s worst rains in a half century. According to the United Nations, 360,000 people have been affected, while 50,000 homes and 276 schools have been flooded or destroyed. In this Pennsylvania-sized west African country of 9 million people, the effects have been devastating.

On October 26, flood victims from Vekky village in Sô Ava county are transported to a safe site on the premises of the county council, where they can receive USAID-funded relief. Photo Credit: Simplice Takoubo/USAID

After the U.S. Embassy declared a disaster, USAID responded immediately, granting Catholic Relief Services $50,000 to purchase and distribute water storage units and water purification kits to flood victims in Sô Ava county—one of the worst affected areas that has been under water since the beginning of September. This assistance will provide 3,000 people with clean drinking water for three months, a crucial step in preventing the emergence and spread of disease.

USAID also donated plastic sheeting that will be used to construct 1,700 emergency family shelters and will soon provide an additional grant of $1.5 million to assist families in resuming their livelihoods and to help communities rehabilitate their infrastructure.

Throughout the disaster, USAID has been closely coordinating with the United Nations and the Government of Benin to ensure that aid is coordinated and reaches those most in need.

From the Field

In Ghana, media will cover Phase One of the Integrated Coastal and Fisheries Governance (ICFG) program.  The ICFG Program is a four-year program seeking to pilot strategies and actions to sustainably manage resources in the fishing sector, in relation to food security and the Feed the Future initiative in six coastal districts of the Western Region of Ghana.  The proposed activities include interviews with implementing partners and fishermen in communities in Aboadze/Bosumtwi Sam Harbor, Axim Landing and Assini Landing over a two-day period.

In Washington, DC on October 28th, we will support the Indian Diaspora – People to People Conference at the State Department.  Dr. Shah will be providing keynote remarks and Dr. Rushna Ravji (USAID/Global Health) will be leading a panel discussion on Health.

In Burkina Faso, The U.S. Ambassador and Burkina Faso’s Minister of Commerce and Industry will open a week-long series of seminars on increasing the competitiveness of West African handcrafts producers and exporters. SIAO is the world’s largest African handcrafts fair and connects more than 6,000 artisans from across the continent to professional buyers from around the world. Competing successfully in world markets requires sophisticated business knowledge and know-how, which USAID is providing during these workshops.

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