USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Microfinance is Boosting Entrepreneurs in Southern Sudan

Submitted by Angela Stephens

Last month, USAID sponsored the First Southern Sudan Microfinance Conference, giving experts and practitioners an opportunity to exchange views about how to build the sector, which is still in its infancy in Southern Sudan. In 2003, when USAID helped establish the in Southern Sudan, a region the size of France.

Since then, SUMI has disbursed more than $2.7 million in loans to 10,000 clients—half of them women—empowering entrepreneurs to launch and expand businesses such as tea houses, bakeries, restaurants, and retail shops. It has also expanded its operations to six branches in four states—Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, Lakes, and Western Bahr el Ghazal. Two international microfinance institutions—Finance Sudan and BRAC—are also now operating in southern Sudan.

There are now an estimated 45,000 active micro-loan borrowers in southern Sudan, borrowing between approximately 200 Sudanese pounds (about $80) to more than 400 Sudanese pounds (about $160). Microlending is increasing trade and improving household incomes.

Laikipia and Beyond Unity Cup

Submitted by Nicole Enerson

Cameroonian soccer star, Samuel Eto’o, encourages young athletes at a “green soccer tournament” in Rift Valley Province, Kenya

The Laikipia Wildlife Forum, a USAID partner for the past 10 years, hosted a 6 week “green tournament” in Laikipia District. The aim of the Laikipia Beyond Unity Cup (LUC) was “to harness the power of sports and the enthusiasm for the World Cup to score goals for unity, peace and environmental awareness in the often troubled district of Laikipia”.

Throughout the tournament, thousands of people were drawn together from all over the district and representing every ethnic group and most major institutions in Laikipia – including commercial farms, wildlife conservancies, the provincial administration, government Ministries, the British Army and the Kenyan Air Force. The tournament, organized by the Zeitz Foundation in cooperation with UNEP, and sponsored by Safaricom, was the first of its kind bringing together a total of 32 teams.

As well as football, the LUC weekend gatherings also held a wide range of environmental activities such as local clean-ups, tree planting, and environmental discussions. In addition, free medical treatment was provided to tournament spectators and participants. Doctors, dentists, and VCT (voluntary counseling and testing for HIV) counselors treated over 12,000 people.

Cameroonian footballer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Samuel Eto’o, was the patron of the tournament. Eto’o, along with tournament participants took the LUC green pledge: “The Earth is our home and together we must conserve our precious water, land, forests and wildlife. I am proud to pledge that I will unite with others throughout Laikipia and that I will give a red card to environmental destruction and defend our natural heritage”. Before leaving, Eto’o dedicated his first goal of the new season to Laikipia District.

This Week at USAID – August 2, 2010

Administrator Shah will join President Obama at the White House for a town hall during the Presidential Young African Leaders Forum.  As a global leader in empowering and engaging youth, USAID works to ensure that young people have access to skills and opportunities to be active and effective citizens who contribute to their country’s overall stability and development.

Ambassador Garvelink, Deputy Coordinator of Feed the Future, will speak at two sessions during the International Food Aid and Development Conference in Kansas City.  His keynote address will underscore the U.S. commitment to addressing global hunger and food security, highlighting the whole-of-government approach and goals of Feed the Future.

Advancing Maternal and Child Health in the World We Live In

When the theme of the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda was announced, there was tremendous excitement among the public health community. “Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa” would be a real opportunity to bring to the fore some of the most critical issues in health and development. While specific diseases have gained the attention of world leaders and the global community in recent years, the essential challenge of improving the health status of women and children has often been neglected. This Summit would finally be an opportunity to engage in high-level discussion about how to improve the status of women and children on the African continent. As a Health Officer at the USAID/Uganda Mission, I was looking forward to participating in the conference in support of our U.S. Delegation, anticipating new opportunities to advance the agenda for moms and kids.

And then, two weeks before the opening of the Summit, everything changed. Terrorist bombings tore through Kampala on what should have been a joyful Sunday evening marking the close of the World Cup. Families and friends participating in the global celebration had their lives ended or forever altered by acts of horrendous murder.

Adjusting to our new reality of a terrorist threat in what is usually a safe and relaxed city was quickly overtaken by additional security concerns related to the AU Summit. Ugandans have had to simultaneously mourn while also preparing to welcome the continent’s leaders to their hometown. Grieving for many was cut short.

As I sat in the opening ceremony of the Summit on Sunday, hearing numerous Heads of State and our own Attorney General condemn the unspeakable acts of murder in Kampala, it became clear that the focus of the Summit would be Somalia. As I supported the U.S. delegation’s efforts through the Summit, Somalia and terrorism on the African continent was indeed the central theme of most meetings.

As a public health practitioner, there is of course disappointment that maternal and child health did not gain as much central attention at the Summit as had been hoped for. But the Summit made it clearer to me than ever to me why taking a development approach to advancing health in Africa is so essential. Taking a development approach means working in the real world with the real world problems that conflict, poverty, and even terrorism bring. We need to pay as much credence to applying health interventions to real-world settings as we do to the scientific research that helps us understand what might work in the first place. Conflict, poverty, and terrorism are a real part of women and children’s lives in Africa. While scientific research and innovations remain fundamentally important, we do not have the luxury of applying health interventions in a controlled setting. To advance health status in a sustainable way, we need to be vigilant of the harsh realities that women and children in Africa are facing. For although maternal and child health deserves a great deal of attention in its own right, we cannot separate health interventions that need scale-up from the realities that moms and kids are living in.

So, on the closing day of the AU Summit, I applaud the public health practitioners and advocates who soldiered on during the Summit to maintain some focus on maternal and child health, as it is an issue that deserves the highest levels of attention. But I also challenge us as a public health community to remember that terrorism and conflict are not simply distractions to our goals. This is, unfortunately, the world we are working and living in. These issues shape the lives of the women and children we are working to save. We need to work with local institutions to understand local issues, and transform evidence-based interventions into reality-based interventions. It is only by addressing the reality of conflict, poverty, and now even terrorism that our goals for improving health can be realized. With a development approach to improving health, women and children all over the continent, including Somalia, stand a better chance.

USAID – From the Field

In Zambia USAID has partnered with World Vision to implement The Community Based Prevention Initiative for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Youth and other Vulnerable Populations Program to strengthen community response and leadership for HIV prevention and improve the quality of life for orphans and other vulnerable, at-risk children.  USAID and World Vision will work with the Zambian government to strengthen community response and leadership for HIV prevention; improve the quality of life for orphans and other at-risk children through educational, psychosocial, food and nutritional support and by improving their access to health care, child protection and legal services.

The American people’s response to HIV/AIDS in Zambia has contributed significantly to the scale up of HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. Notable among the successes has been a significant number of community-based care programs for orphans and vulnerable children, care and support programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, increased access of pregnant women to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission services, establishment of a network of trained volunteer caregivers and peer educators, a significant number of Zambians accessing Anti-retrovrial Therapy and a decrease in the prevalence of HIV from 15.6 percent to 14.3 percent between 2001 and 2007.

In Indonesia a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Information Computer Technology (ICT) lab at the Al-Ahliyah religious junior secondary school (Madrasah) in Karawang, West Java.  The event highlights a public/private partnership to support quality and relevance of education through strengthening the use of ICT in education.  The school will receive a state-of-the-art computer lab, with equipment, software and educational resources from private sector partners.  USAID is providing teacher training and support, The Office of Defense Cooperation has also provided resources for construction of the lab building and donated staff time and resources.

Evidence Shows Historic Breakthrough Can Save Lives

Carol is in her mid-20s and raising her young daughter on her own.  With very few economic options available to her she turned to commercial sex work when she was 21 years old. Every day she puts herself at risk of HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy. Because of a USAID-funded campaign, Carol knows she needs to use condoms to protect herself but as a commercial sex worker she does not always have the negotiating power to do so.

Often at USAID we support the ABC approach- abstain, be faithful, and correct and consistent condom use. While these methods can be effective in preventing HIV transmission, often it can be difficult for women to negotiate prevention interventions. With women representing nearly 60 percent of those living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, it is imperative to find a method of prevention that can be initiated by women.

Women participating in the CAPRISA 004 trial in the CAPRISA Vulindlela Clinic in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa

Women participating in the CAPRISA 004 trial in the CAPRISA Vulindlela Clinic in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa

For almost 25 years, USAID has been on the frontlines of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Our development programs have been cutting-edge, and have long put women at the center of programming. Gender, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, male circumcision, counseling and testing, nutrition, and HIV vaccine research are just some of the comprehensive array of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs administered through USAID.

Progressive programs continue today with the USAID-funded clinical trial, CAPRISA 004. The trial, which took place in South Africa, provided the first evidence that use of a vaginal gel, or microbicide, containing an antiretroviral drug (ARV) known as tenofovir can prevent HIV infection in women.

Tenofovir gel is a clear, colorless, and odorless viscous gel in single-dose plastic applicators

Tenofovir gel is a clear, colorless, and odorless viscous gel in single-dose plastic applicators

In the trial, tenofovir gel administered topically before and after sexual activity provided moderate protection in women at high risk of HIV infection. At the end of the study, researchers found that the use of 1% tenofovir gel by 889 women at high risk of HIV infection in Durban, South Africa proved the method to be 39 percent effective in reducing a woman’s risk of becoming HIV infected. The gel could be a unique HIV prevention tool for women who are not able to negotiate HIV prevention methods.

The successes of CAPRISA 004 ties in with the core principles of the U.S. Government’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). USAID is committed to a women- and girl- centered approach, creating a strong partnership with countries to sustain country ownership, and focusing on learning and accountability.

Once the results are confirmed through ongoing and future studies, USAID will work at every level to ensure women are able to access this unique form of prevention. This means Carol, and other women in developing nations, will have a form of protection against HIV that they can control and initiate. This new discovery puts the power of protection against HIV transmission in the hands of the woman and can ultimately save lives.

USAID’s HIV Knowledge-Sharing Technology Offers Access to Latest Strategies in HIV Programming

Health was one focus of last week’s Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation conference, which highlighted the central role innovation and technology play in USAID’s mission to achieve high-impact development goals, including HIV service delivery. While recent breakthroughs hold promise for a future HIV vaccine, USAID is using information technology today to share innovation and successes in HIV programming, enhancing local, national, and regional responses to the pandemic.

The Agency’s Office of HIV/AIDS is leveraging advances in web technology to identify, document, and disseminate promising HIV practices through the AIDSTAR-One Promising Practices Database. This unique knowledge-sharing portal allows HIV program implementers to share their recent successes in resource-constrained settings with other programs across countries, regions, and continents, leading to rapid replication of cutting-edge HIV program strategies. For example, an AIDSTAR-One database user recently identified lessons learned from an Ethiopian HIV prevention program for adolescents to design a similar project in Kenya. AIDSTAR-One’s HIV Prevention Knowledge Base is another knowledge-sharing tool that provides quick access to current HIV prevention research, examples of successful programs, and tools and resources to help design and implement a range of HIV prevention programs.

Administrator Shah pointed out that quickly moving research to implementation is at the heart of USAID’s development strategy. The Office of HIV/AIDS is working to achieve this through Project SEARCH’s promotion of greater use of evidence in the design and implementation of HIV prevention programs in countries most affected by the epidemic. This approach allows USAID to evaluate effectiveness and focus its resources on strategies that deliver strong results.

As HIV researchers, program planners, and implementers from across the globe gather in Vienna this week for the XVIII International AIDS Conference, USAID stands with its partners to reflect on the progress made to combat global HIV and rejuvenate our collective efforts to minimize the impact of this devastating disease. USAID is dedicated to providing global technical leadership to prevent the spread of the virus and to support the efforts of host country governments to provide prevention, treatment, and care for communities most in need.

This Week at USAID – July 19, 2010

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is in Afghanistan and Pakistan to meet with USAID mission personnel, visit USAID projects and attend the Pakistan Strategic Dialogue and the Kabul Conference with Secretary Clinton.  The Conference will reinforce the commitment of the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to work together to realize the goal of full Afghan ownership and responsibility for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

Technical leaders from USAID’s office of HIV/AIDS are part of the U.S. delegation to the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria.  Notably, results from a USAID-funded microbicides trial will be released at the conference on Tuesday.  The trial was conducted in South Africa in close partnership with the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the CONRAD Program, and Family Health International.

Dr. Raj. Shah Attends Launch of Pakistan’s Birthspacing Initiative

Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. “ We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

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USAID In The News – July 12th thru 16th

submitted by Amanda Parsons

Science Magazine’s Insider Blog looks at how USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah brought together the world’s leading science minds this week during a 2-day conference to focus and highlight the ways innovation, science and technology can revitalize the development agency. Shah hopes science and technology can help the agency solve “grand challenges” in global development and used the workshop to pose broad questions about how USAID could identify, select, and implement these challenges. USAID had solicited input via a Web site for possible ideas like “a model toilet of the future for the poor.” About 60 people from academia, industry, and government have begun to whittle down the list and brainstorm about how to proceed.

On Monday, Secretary Clinton and Dr. Rajiv Shah gave remarks regarding the status of Haiti six months after a devastating earthquake ravaged the small nation. The AFP reports that the duo reconfirmed their commitment to reconstruction and development after the disaster. Secretary Clinton stated, “Six months later, our resolve to stand with the people of Haiti for the long term remains undiminished. We are committed to aligning our investments with the needs of the people and the government of Haiti.” Dr. Shah emphasized the idea of stricter construction codes and working with local partners to achieve a responsible and functional outcome.

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