USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Increasing the Involvement of Men in Family Health

Reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent throughout the world by 2015 will take the involvement of men in countries where it matters most. Many of the countries where USAID works are male dominated cultures. To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries, men must be equal partners since they are the decision makers about health care in the family. These decisions include determining family size, timings of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care.

In programs around the world, USAID works to integrate men into maternal health activities at the community level. One example is through USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). Special efforts are made to emphasize men’s shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive health. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups – entreaties that could be rejected because of traditional cultural values and perceptions that maternal health is the responsibility of women only.

In some areas of Nigeria— where a woman can’t leave the home without her husband’s permission— USAID sends in male motivators, community volunteers trained in communications, to help local men achieve their vision for a healthy family.

“In many of the countries where we work, these are male dominated cultures,” said Lily Kak, senior maternal and neonatal health advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health for a feature in Frontlines. “We need to involve men in our programs since they are the decision makers about health care in the family.” These decisions include determining family size, timing of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care.

To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries—one of the targets of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals—men must be equal partners. “Men need to see the advantages for themselves,” Kak said.

African First Ladies Fellowship to Strengthen Leadership on Health and Social Ills

Today I participated in the first RAND African First Ladies Fellowship Program workshop, hosted in partnership with American University.  The fellowship program, together with Women’s Campaign International, is working to strengthen the capacity of Africa’s first ladies and their offices to address health and social problems across Africa.

Participants include chiefs of staff and other advisers to first ladies from Angola, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia.

Over a two-year period, first ladies and fellows will develop and implement a plan to address one of their nation’s top challenges, such as maternal and child health, women’s issues or education.

Drawing on experience with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance where 26 African Heads of State are positioning their countries to achieve universal net coverage and save millions of lives, I discussed the import policy and advocacy role first ladies can influence with focused participation. While not having statutory authority, African first ladies can raise the profile, funding and country commitment of key areas like improving the health status of women and removing barriers that could prevent women from accessing life-saving health services that are particular to women, such as assisted deliveries for her or her children and family planning for healthy timing and spacing of births.

During the four-day workshop, other presenters included Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues; Jocelyn Frye, deputy assistant to President Obama for domestic policy and director of policy and projects for First Lady Michelle Obama; Anita McBride, chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush from 2005 to 2009 and currently executive in residence at American University’s School of Public Affairs; and Marjorie Margolies, president and founder of Women’s Campaign International.

USAID/Zimbabwe Unveils Audio and Voting Equipment to Support Good Governance at Parliament

USAID/Zimbabwe has made a major donation of  audio equipment to the Parliament of Zimbabwe. In a ceremony at the Zimbabwe Parliament on September 22, Ambassador Charles Ray and USAID Director Karen Freeman formally handed over a new sound archiving and voting system worth about USD$500, 000. The equipment will improve audibility in both houses, allow for bilingual translation, allow for secret voting and, finally, enable the media to obtain audio recordings of any sitting of Parliament. The ceremony also included remarks by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the Senate Edna Madzongwe and House Speaker Lovemore N.M. Moyo.

The equipment was made available under a Memorandum of Understanding with Parliament signed in May 2010. “USAID has had a long standing relationship with the Parliament of Zimbabwe and this donation is symbolic of our wishes to continue to work with Parliament to expand its capacity,” said USAID Director Karen Freeman.  “We are delighted to provide equipment to support and improve the daily function of this fundamental branch of government.”

Country Leadership and Partnership for Food Security in Uganda

I just returned from a two-day High-Level Business Meeting in Kampala, Uganda. The business discussed was food security – specifically, the Government was seeking feedback and support for its plan to address food security through agriculture-led development.

Food security leaders in Kampala, Uganda. Photo Credit: Fred Mukasa

This was a unique experience where I saw what the term “country-led” really means in practice. The Government of Uganda developed its food security plan, known more formally as the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan, or DSIP, under the auspices of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an Africa-led and Africa-owned initiative geared towards growing economies and alleviating poverty. The Government led the process in developing the DSIP, but the product we are discussing today would not have been possible without real partnership with local farmers’ organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, development partners, and other stakeholders, all of whom were represented at the meeting.

The Honorable Hope Mwesigye, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, described the importance of this partnership best, “We shall not implement [the DSIP] alone; we have you as our partners in the journey.”

Later on the meeting, the findings of an independent technical review of the DSIP were presented and each group of stakeholders provided substantial feedback to the government on the plan. I was impressed to see that instead of a closed-door meeting, the Government led an open floor discussion with the entire audience until all major issues were worked out!

Working with such a broad array of partners is not easy, and the day was certainly not without tensions and heated discussions. But the spirit of transparency and cooperation prevailed and by the end of the first day of the meeting, the group had a reached consensus on a roadmap to move forward.

On the second day, the Ugandan Government reaffirmed their commitment to fund 75 percent of the DSIP using existing resources. In concert, high-level officials from development agencies and donors formalized their partnership with the Government of Uganda by committing to align their support with the DSIP and work together with the country towards the shared goal of combating hunger, undernutrition and poverty and achieving Millennium Development Goal 1 . Through the Business Meeting, the Government and their partners exemplified the principles of country leadership and partnership, which all parties have agreed to continue.

Why Security Matters in Developing Africa

Submitted by Sharon Cromer

Today I had the opportunity to take part in a panel on Africa’s role in world security at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference. Security is a required precursor to development. You cannot attain economic growth, better health and education, and good governance without it. But while the number of armed conflicts in Africa have decreased since the 1990s, violence and political instability remain a reality of every day life for many Africans. In conflict-affected areas—such as Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Mali and Niger, the Niger Delta of Nigeria, Darfur and the Three Areas in Sudan, and the Casamance region of Senegal—the capacity of governments and people to engage in sustainable development has plummeted.

That’s why USAID partners with the U.S. Africa Command on the continent. We share common objectives and coordinate our work to multiply our impact on the ground. For instance, across the Sahel, where the specter of violent extremism threatens stability and security, USAID works closely with AFRICOM on an integrated approach to support host nation efforts to counter radicalization, recruitment, and support to violent extremist organizations. On the one side, AFRICOM supports trainings in our partner nations on preventing terrorism and enhancing stability; at the same time USAID focuses on groups most vulnerable to extremist ideologies by supporting youth employment, improving access to education, and strengthening local government capacity to manage resources.

Although USAID and AFRICOM bring two very different work cultures to the table, it is these different approaches that can create a dynamic, multiplied result. And despite any challenges, there is clear and direct evidence of the positive results that stem from our civilian-military cooperation. International actors can make a major positive impact in mitigating conflict in Africa when they present a united face in support of a just peace and deploy sufficient resources to achieve progress.

Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia

Submitted by Justin Prud’homme

In 2008, at the start of the Early Grade Reading Assessment program, a study was conducted in Liberia to assess the reading fluency of students in grades 2 and 3. The study was conducted in 47 randomly chosen schools throughout the country.

What the study showed was that Liberian students in Grade 2, on average, read 18 correct words per minute and students in Grade 3 read an average of 28 words per minute. By contrast, a student in the US in Grade 2 is usually able to read about 90 words per minute, and a third Grader about 110 words per minute.

Clearly something in Liberian schools needed to change.

USAID’s EGRA program, in conjunction with Ministry of Education efforts, aimed to improve the quality of the primary education on offer in Liberian schools by focusing on improving early grade reading. EGRA employed a variety of best practices culled from around the world, ranging from simple interventions like increasing reading time in schools and increasing the number of textbooks and other reading materials available to the students, to more complex interventions such as providing teachers with training, supervision, and year-long lesson plans, and community participation and mobilization. The video seen below is one of the tools used to educate communities on the value of learning to read, and engage them in encouraging their students.

In addition EGRA employed a rigorous and scientific assessment method to determine the success of their methods relative to previously chosen ‘control’ schools. While final assessment results of the program success are still being compiled, an assessment done just four months after interventions began showed that students benefiting from the EGRA program outperformed students in control schools, in reading, by 50%. Following the announcement of the final results it is hoped that the EGRA methods will be adopted by the Ministry of Education on a nation-wide scale.

Zimbabwe’s Students Get the Tools to Learn

Zimbabwe’s primary school students will soon be able to get a better education, thanks to an influx of new materials and support provided in part by USAID. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai launched the program on September 8.

Zimbabwe’s 5,300 primary schools will receive over 13 million new textbooks, dramatically improving the current situation of one textbook for every ten students to one textbook for every two students. Schools will also each get steel cabinets where they can safely store the books and other materials.

USAID is working in cooperation with the Government of Zimbabwe and several other international donors on this education fund, which will also help train teachers and school administrators and work to reform policies to allow more poor children to attend school.

Water Education for African Youth

John Etgen, Senior Vice President of the Project WET Foundation, wrote a great piece this week for Johns Hopkins University’s Global Water Magazine on the booming youth population and the benefits of educating students about water. Here’s a bit of what he had to say…

In the 16 African countries where the Project WET Foundation has trained teachers and localized water science education materials in cooperation with educators and education ministries, teaching about water has led to real change that has improved lives—not only for schoolchildren but also for the community at large.

At the Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe, Uganda; for example, students who had been taught about water quality as well as sanitation and hygiene formed an after-school environment club to tackle some of the issues the lessons raised for them.

Their first action was to resurrect an old rain barrel that had fallen into disuse and connect it with new gutters on the school to collect rain water for use in hand washing and other school water needs.

For the full story, be sure to visit the Global Water Program.

Improving Access to Education for Girls in Sudan

Submitted by Angela Stephens, USAID/LPA

Following more than two decades of civil war, Southern Sudan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.  The areas in Sudan’s north-south border zone also suffered greatly during the war, including Blue Nile state, bordering Ethiopia.  Girls have been disproportionately affected, with lower rates of literacy and school attendance than boys.  To help alleviate these challenges, USAID this year opened the Granville-Abbas Girls’ Secondary School in the Blue Nile town of Kurmuk.  The school is named in honor of John Granville, an American diplomat who worked on democracy programs for USAID in Sudan, and his Sudanese colleague Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama. They were assassinated in Khartoum on January 1, 2008.  The school, which can accommodate 120 female students, has three sets of classrooms, a library, theater, cafeteria, dormitories, and teachers’ offices.  A USAID-supported learning center attached to the school provides students with Internet access and computer training.  Watch this two-part video of the school dedication ceremony and tribute to Granville and Rahama.

To see PART TWO, click here.

Partnership Plans Announced at Southern Sudan Agriculture Conference

Submitted by Angela Stephens

Despite enormous potential for Southern Sudan’s agriculture sector, decades of conflict and the legacies of war—including poor transport, limited storage capacity and processing facilities, and a poor investment climate—have hindered agriculture development.  As a result, most southern Sudanese farmers produce for subsistence rather than profit, and consumers suffer from high prices of food products, many of which are imported from neighboring countries.

USAID and the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan hosted a conference in Nairobi August 24-25 with the Government of Southern Sudan to address these challenges and revitalize agriculture in southern Sudan, with the goal of improving food security and economic growth for the people of the region.

At the conference, USAID and the Government of Southern Sudan launched an Agriculture Innovation Fund designed to finance public-private sector partnerships promoting new approaches to agricultural development in southern Sudan.  USAID also described its plans to establish a United States-Southern Sudan Agriculture Advisory Council composed of agriculture experts from the two governments, and from universities in the United States and southern Sudan, to provide expert advice to the governments on the design and assessment of agriculture development programs in the region.  In addition, USAID is working to establish partnerships on agriculture education between Juba University, Catholic University of Sudan, John Garang University, and leading U.S. educational institutions.

Howard G. Buffett, President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, participated in a panel on private sector partnerships and pledged support for a seeds program with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

 

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