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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Video of the Week: President Obama Speaks on Food Security

During his trip to Africa, President Obama delivered remarks on the importance of confronting an urgent challenge that affects nearly 900 million people around the world — chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security. During his visit to Senegal, the President toured the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, a gathering of several West African private sector entities, NGO partners and farmers who demonstrated how key research and innovation can help improve the lives of smallholder farmers and their families. At the event, and along with Administrator Shah, President Obama highlighted the Government of Senegal’s commitment to ensuring prosperity and trade through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The President also announced the release of the Feed the Future 2013 Progress Report, which outlines progress made through the initiative in fiscal year 2012. Read more about the marketplace event.

Follow @USAID, @USAIDAfrica and @rajshah for updates about the President’s trip and #USAIDAfrica about our work in Africa!

Learn more about Feed the Future

Equipping Women Teachers in South Sudan with the Skills to Succeed

Traditional gender roles in South Sudan have hindered women from improving their professional skills and limited their contributions as teachers and leaders of parent-teacher associations, school management committees and boards of governors. As a result, children lack female role models and South Sudan has a shortage of teachers.

Most of South Sudan’s teachers lack professional training, a legacy of decades of conflict. Women constitute only 12.3 percent of the teaching force in South Sudan’s primary schools and 10.5 percent of teachers in secondary schools.

USAID is helping to improve female teachers’ professional skills and retain female teachers in South Sudan’s workforce through training and providing working mothers with childcare so that they are able to focus on their professional development.

Teacher Samna Basha (middle) with colleagues. The women are benefiting from USAID-supported child care services that enable them to improve their professional development as teachers. Photo credit: Creative Associates International

Samna Basha, a third grade teacher enrolled in USAID-funded training, said that childcare helped her to concentrate and avoid inconveniencing colleagues in the classroom. “I did not expect to complete the training because I am a nursing mother and therefore unable to focus my undivided attention on the training material,” said Basha, who teaches at the Lokoloko Primary School in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal state. “I was pleased when a … staff member [told] us that child care services would be provided by a caretaker of our choice at a venue provided by the school and that the service would be paid for by the project. It was a great relief for all the mothers … this is the first time in my experience that working mothers have been supported to fulfill their professional duties while caring for their children.”

Pasqulina Jackino is a mother of six and has been a teacher of mathematics, science, and religion in Primary 1, 2, and 3 at Ezo Community Girls School in Western Equatoria State for nearly seven years. She had received no formal teacher training until she was offered the opportunity to participate in a USAID-funded in-service training course. “I quickly packed a bag for me and my baby and set out to attend the training because I knew this was an opportunity to make me a better teacher,” she said.  “I am now able to plan my lessons and make them more lively and interesting. Through interactions with fellow teachers and tutors from other counties, my English has improved. I am now able to explain the subject matter of the lesson to my pupils in English.”

Pasqulina can now effectively manage her classroom and encourage pupils to learn. As she explains, “to be a mother and teacher at the same time is a challenge but I am ready to take it up. This is the only way I can come out as a better person and contribute to the growth and development of my community and the entire nation.”

Food Security Takes Center Stage during President’s Last Day in Senegal

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

It’s not every day that the president of the United States travels to Senegal.

It’s also not every day that he announces more than $180 million in agriculture investments in the West Africa region to improve food security.

President Obama delivers remarks during a visit to the Feed the Future Agricultural Technologies Marketplace in Senegal. Photo credit: Kate Gage, USAID

Today, during his first stop on his Africa trip, President Barack Obama, along with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, highlighted the Government of Senegal’s commitment to ensuring prosperity and trade through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Senegal announced its intention to join the New Alliance earlier this month.

  • The Government of Senegal announced that, in partnership with the Government of Canada, it will commit to three key policy reforms to help build an environment more conducive to investment in the agriculture sector.
  • Ten private sector companies—nine of them Senegalese enterprises—have signed letters of intent to invest over $134.4 million in the agriculture sector. These investments will help provide new market opportunities for smallholder farmers through activities including maize, peanut and rice production and processing; fertilizer; organic soy and peanut seed production; and processing for cashews, dairy, millet and tomato.

At the same time, President Obama also announced that the United States has delivered on a major New Alliance commitment made at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David. USAID and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have launched the Scaling Seeds & Technologies Partnership, a multilateral effort that will coordinate diverse country-led, donor-financed and private-sector efforts to promote technology-driven agricultural productivity growth. The $47 million grant will work to increase production of high-quality seeds by 45 percent over three years (for 97,758 metric tons of additional seed) and ensure that 40 percent more farmers gain access to innovative agricultural technologies.

Closing out his time in Senegal, President Obama joined Administrator Shah to tour the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, a gathering of several West African private sector entities, NGO partners, and farmers demonstrating how key research and innovation can help improve the lives of smallholder farmers.

At the marketplace, President Obama announced the release of the Feed the Future 2013 Progress Report, which outlines progress made through the initiative in fiscal year 2012.

These investments in agriculture embody our new approach to development, which emphasizes:

  • Country-led reforms that foster a positive environment for private investment
  • Partnership with the private sector as an engine of growth and development
  • Innovations in science and technology to bend the curve of development
  • Local capacity building to ensure sustainable, long-term progress

See the White House fact sheet on global food security and nutrition for more information.

Additional Resources

Behind the Scenes: Interview with Jeff Borns on Democracy-Building in Southern Africa

This blog is part of a new interview blog series called “Behind the Scenes.” It includes interviews with USAID leaders, program implementers, Mission Directors, and development issue experts who help fulfill USAID’s mission. They are a casual behind-the-scenes look into USAID’s daily effort to deliver economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world — and the results we’ve seen.

Recently, we chatted with Jeff Borns, Mission Director of USAID South Africa to learn more about our democracy-building initiatives in the region and how they impact governance at local levels. 

Can you tell us more about what is needed to build up a democracy? Is it just about voting?

What happens on election day is just one piece of democracy. The voting process must take place in an environment that respects the rule of law and has strong institutions like parliaments and independent judiciaries. This is not only necessary to a democratic government, but also necessary to development. And when you have the assurance that comes with these elements of good governance, it is easier for companies to invest and for economies to take off.

Southern Africa elections professionals on a USAID-financed program learn from members of the Independent Electoral Court in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo credit: UNISA

What is USAID doing to support democracy-building in Southern Africa? Can you give us an example?

USAID supports regional democracy-building and governance efforts by encouraging improvements to regional election management. This includes providing technical assistance and training to electoral management bodies in the region, as well as providing training and support to election professionals. These election professionals often toil in the shadows, and are rarely given development opportunities or the time and place to build professional networks. Through a five-year grant to the University of South Africa (UNISA), in partnership with the the South Africa Independent Electoral Commission, USAID is training and connecting election professionals with one another and helping them improve their technical skills to support free, fair and open elections around Africa. UNISA is the largest distance-learning university in Africa–a third of all higher education students in South Africa are enrolled there. With this grant, USAID and UNISA hope to support the training and connecting of over 375 elections professionals from across Africa.

What does this mean, in practical terms?

By teaching new skills, and by creating a web of dedicated, trained professionals, USAID is supporting a connected cadre of election experts.

Midway through the grant, results are already streaming in. It’s very exciting! Elections management officials are now clamoring to send their technical staff to the training, and UNISA has observed significant changes in the professionalization of elections bodies in participating countries. This year USAID will support two trainings of 75 officials at UNISA’s campus in Pretoria, South Africa. The selected elections professionals spent three weeks in classroom learning followed by a week of fieldwork at the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa.

The intangible benefits of the program are huge, and we anticipate that this trend of fantastic results will continue. USAID is providing the building blocks to a grassroots network of highly qualified, highly motivated election professionals – which will be tremendously beneficial to the region and population as a whole.

Learn more about our work in Southern Africa.

Follow @USAIDAfrica and @USAID_SAfrica on Twitter!

USAID’s Investment in Africa

As President Obama embarks on his trip to Africa, USAID is proud to take this opportunity to highlight the important work we are doing to partner with Africans in new and innovative ways to build a peaceful and prosperous future. For the first time in over a generation, sub-Saharan Africa is seeing steady progress toward ending extreme poverty, fueled by robust economic growth and better governance and service delivery in many countries. These gains have been supported by USAID’s investments in improved agriculture, health care, and democratic institutions, and our increased focus on women and a new generation of African thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each of which are delivering transformational results. In concert with partners throughout Africa, we are working toward ending poverty and providing millions a foothold in the global economy—and helping to realize the promise of the world’s most youthful region.

Women in Senegal. Photo credit: USAID

The President will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania–some of USAID’s most important development partners–but his messages are relevant for the entire continent. USAID with thousands of grassroots organizations, communities and local businesses in 42 African countries to achieve these shared goals. Some examples of these partnerships are featured in this collection of stories about our work in Africa.

Throughout the President’s trip, our teams on the ground will provide regular social media updates. Be sure to follow Administrator Shah on Twitter (@rajshah) as he accompanies the President and join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica! Follow us also on Facebook and our Impact Blog for real-time stories from our missions in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you throughout this trip and beyond.

Video of the Week: Feed the Future in Tanzania

Feed The Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative focused on specific countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Tanzania, U.S. Government (USG) assistance will support MKUKUTA, the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction. This represents a critical effort as the country is not presently on target meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing the percentage of people below the food poverty line and halving the number of people below the income poverty line. USAID is working closely with other USG organizations through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach, bringing its technical expertise and capacity to lead this initiative.

Learn more about Feed the Future.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDAfrica on Twitter to learn more about our work in Africa and use #USAIDAfrica to join the conversation.

A Promise Renewed: A Great Global Ambition and Every Father’s Dream

This originally appeared on the Huffington Post Blog

What will you be doing this Father’s Day?

Reading homemade cards? Playing catch with your kids? Grilling in the back yard with the family?

We often take such simple pleasures for granted. But, elsewhere, millions of fathers around the world will struggle to help their children survive and thrive.

In our respective roles, we meet these fathers — in remote villages, bustling cities, and refugee camps. They tell us inspiring stories of their fight to care for their families, but also the heartbreaking accounts of much-loved sons and daughters who have lost their lives to preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV.

A mother plays with her infant as she waits outside a health post in Ethiopia. Photo credit: USAID

Every year, 6.9 million children under five die from these and other causes. 19,000 every day. That is equivalent to a stadium like Madison Square Garden filled to capacity.

Even crueler is the geography of fate. A child in sub-Saharan Africa is over 14 times more likely to die before reaching her or his 5th birthday than a child in the United States.

These deaths are more than a tragedy for individual children. They shatter families, diminish communities and hold nations back from progress and prosperity.

But amidst these sad statistics, there is cause for hope. Increasingly, innovations — new products, new technology and new applications of existing technology — help us reach the most disadvantaged communities and the most vulnerable children quickly and inexpensively.

For example, there are groundbreaking long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that drastically reduce the number of children who die from malaria.

Or the three-drug regimen in one pill daily for pregnant women living with HIV. It protects their own health and helps prevent their babies and partners from HIV infection.

Or new vaccines to prevent pneumonia, diarrhea and cholera.

Thanks to innovations like these, we have an unprecedented opportunity to virtually end preventable child death. And we can do it in a generation.

To reach this goal — one year ago — the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the U.S., with UNICEF’s support, rallied the world behind the Child Survival Call to Action. It inspired a global movement — Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. Momentum continues to build and, today, 174 countries and over 400 civil society and faith-based organizations have taken up the charge in their own commitments.

In Zambia, First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba is helping to roll out a plan focused on nutrition and immunization that will save more than 26,000 children each year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ministry of Health is implementing a plan to save half a million children by 2015. This includes distributing pre-packaged family kits that contain medicines and other supplies to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Similar initiatives are underway in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Yemen and beyond, where governments, civil society and the private sector are mobilizing to fulfill the promise to give every child the best possible start in life.

In today’s world, great global ambitions require strong partnerships between the public and private sector. In India, a small pharmaceutical company is developing a new zinc syrup to help get a life-saving treatment for diarrhea into rural communities. Through the Helping Babies Breathe Alliance, private sector entrepreneurs and medical professionals are training and equipping over 100,000 health workers in 54 countries with life-saving tools such as affordable resuscitation equipment. The results are impressive. A study from Tanzania showed that these tools led to a 47 per cent drop in newborn deaths during the first 24 hours of life.

For the first time in history, we have the tools to end preventable child deaths. Now, we need to build the momentum.

Through new partnerships and a relentless focus on results, we can give fathers everywhere the same opportunity that so many of us will have today: to watch our children grow and thrive; to cheer them at a ball game; to nurture their curiosity; to support their dreams and take pride in their achievements. Isn’t that what every father wants for his child?

Co-authored by Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Follow Anthony Lake on Twitter @UNICEF.
Follow Raj Shah on Twitter @rajshah.

Allowing Women to Nurture Themselves and Their Children Before Giving Birth Again

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. This week we are focused on family planning. 

In too many places around the world, women lack the access to contraception or the decision-making ability to seek services.

Mother in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Jhpiego

Eighty million unintended pregnancies were estimated to have occurred in developing countries last year. Of these, 63 million occurred among the 222 million women with an unmet need for modern contraception.[1]And in sub-Saharan Africa, one in four women in is unable to decide when and how many children she will have.

The importance of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies cannot be underestimated. According to the World Health Organization, short birth-to-pregnancy intervals—the time between the date of a live birth and the start of the next pregnancy—greatly affect maternal, newborn, and child health and mortality outcomes. In low-resource settings, preventing another pregnancy by using family planning and waiting to get pregnant again for 36 months can reduce under-five child mortality by 25%.  For neonates in the developing world, this number is even greater—findings indicate that mortality is reduced by approximately 40% for preceding birth intervals of 3 years or more, compared with intervals of less than 2 years.[2]

The likelihood of miscarriages and stillbirths are also much higher for extremely short birth-to-pregnancy intervals. Women who become pregnant 15 to 75 months after a preceding pregnancy are less likely to miscarry or have a stillbirth baby than those with shorter or longer inter-pregnancy intervals.1

Family planning can help women ensure that pregnancy occurs at the healthiest times of their lives. Research shows that positive health outcomes for both mothers and newborns occur when pregnancy happens:

  • 24 months after a live birth (an almost three-year birth-to-birth interval);
  • 6 months after an induced abortion or miscarriage;
  • To women who have had fewer than four live births; and
  • To women between the ages of 18 and 34.

Family planning, including healthy timing and spacing of births, has been recognized as one of the most cost-effective global health interventions. For every $1 spent on family planning, $6 are saved on other interventions. And with a better-spaced family, there are more opportunities for members to grow, remain healthy, and be better educated.

Here at USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), we are working around the world to save and improve lives through increased use and understanding of family planning. In India, for instance, the Program has worked with the Ministry of Health to help prevent nearly 100,000 unintended pregnancies during the extended postpartum period through our work with the postpartum IUCD.  This is just one example of our work in more than 50 countries, but is illustrative of our efforts to scale up results to reach as many women as possible.

And in Africa, where the PPIUD has been slower to gain acceptance, we’re seeing signs of hope. At a regional PPIUD meeting co-hosted by MCHIP last month in Zambia, 60 enthusiastic champions from professional societies, service delivery, INGOs, donors and governments representing 10 countries[3]convened to share their successes and challenges implementing PPIUD programs. But while these international and regional experts will surely help to advance integration of PPIUCDs into maternal health services in their respective contexts, we must multiply this number by a factor of 10—or even 100—to reach all the women who need PPFP to space their pregnancies at the safest intervals. Given the lack of understanding of return to fertility after a birth or miscarriage in much of Africa, as well as elsewhere, coupled with early return to sexual activity after delivery and short periods of amenorrhea, the role of PPFP/PPIUCD is critical to healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. Raising awareness to dispel myths and misconceptions among clients and service providers is also key to improving PPIUCD uptake.

In our own lives, many of us have had the luxury to determine when and if we will have children. We cannot forget the millions of women in developing countries who do not have this same freedom—and who desire more time before becoming pregnant again, facing the risk of death with every pregnancy. Healthy pregnancy spacing is a cost-effective intervention that can reduce both maternal and childhood mortality and excessive population growth. Investing in women’s reproductive health and autonomy improves not only the health of the individual, but also the welfare of the whole family and, ultimately, the larger society. This investment is modest in relation to the dramatic returns it yields.


[1] UNFPA World Population Report, 2012

[2] Setty-Venugopal V, Upadhyay UD. Birth spacing: three to five saves lives. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, Population Information Program, 2002.

[3]Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe

 

Task Shifting to End Preventable Maternal/Child Death in Kenya and Zambia

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health.

A mother and her baby. Photo Credit: USAID

 Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Bondo, Kenya — Babies Gabriel and Mary show the progress that Kenya is making in moving towards an AIDS-free generation. Although their mothers are HIV-positive, the two babies were born free from the virus that causes AIDS thanks to a team of determined community health workers who recruited their young mothers into a project funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The project, carried out by USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), which is led by Jhpiego, connects women to—and keeps them enrolled in—high-quality health care to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child.
Mothers Beatrice and Grace are grateful they met community health worker Jane Akoth. After recruiting them into the project, Akoth saw both women regularly, through home visits or appointments at the clinic, to ensure that they remained healthy during and after their pregnancies. “After I delivered my baby, Jane advised me on how to take care of my child by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and to continue taking my medication,” adds Grace, the mother of baby Mary. “I want Jane to continue doing what she is doing so that she can help other mothers.”

 

In Africa, HIV and AIDS affects women and mothers at a greater rate than men, creating a heavy disease burden among families. When parents die of the disease, children are left orphaned or given to the care of relatives who may not have the means to raise them. Pregnant and breastfeeding women who are infected with HIV also run the risk of transmitting the disease to their children but antiretroviral drugs can dramatically reduce the risk of vertical transmission. [AE1]

 

The experience of Beatrice and Grace shows that the transmission of this life-threatening virus is indeed preventable. The success of the MCHIP project was due in part to an innovative strategy that was originally developed to improve immunization of children, which links pregnant women to care and keeps them enrolled.

 

More than 300 community health workers like Jane are working in Bondo District to keep the next generation alive and healthy. Since 2010, coverage through this project has expanded so that women in the most hard to reach areas are being connected to health services. As a result, the percentage of expectant mothers going to all four antenatal care visits increased from 25 percent to 41 percent in two years, and the percentage of HIV-exposed infants who were tested for HIV increased from 27 percent to 78 percent.

We know that follow-up by community health workers is key to saving lives—getting mothers into care, keeping them there, and providing them with the lifesaving medications that they and their children need.

 

Community-based Approach Prevents HIV in Children and Keeps HIV+ Mothers Healthy in Bondo, Kenya

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global HealthFrom May 18-27 we will be focusing on an AIDS-Free Generation. 

Bondo, Kenya — Babies Gabriel and Mary show the progress that Kenya is making in moving towards an AIDS-free generation.

Beatrice, holding Gabriel, and Grace, with baby Mary, listen as CHW Jane Akoth (right) counsels them on their health choices. Photo Credit: USAID

Although their mothers are HIV-positive, the two babies were born free from the virus that causes AIDS thanks to a team of determined community health workers who recruited their young mothers into a project funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The project, carried out by USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), which is led by Jhpiego, connects women to—and keeps them enrolled in—high-quality health care to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child.

Mothers Beatrice and Grace are grateful they met community health worker Jane Akoth. After recruiting them into the project, Akoth saw both women regularly, through home visits or appointments at the clinic, to ensure that they remained healthy during and after their pregnancies. “After I delivered my baby, Jane advised me on how to take care of my child by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and to continue taking my medication,” adds Grace, the mother of baby Mary. “I want Jane to continue doing what she is doing so that she can help other mothers.”


In Africa, HIV and AIDS affects women and mothers at a greater rate than men, creating a heavy disease burden among families. When parents die of the disease, children are left orphaned or given to the care of relatives who may not have the means to raise them. Pregnant and breastfeeding women who are infected with HIV also run the risk of transmitting the disease to their children but antiretroviral drugs can dramatically reduce the risk of vertical transmission.


The experience of Beatrice and Grace shows that the transmission of this life-threatening virus is indeed preventable. The success of the MCHIP project was due in part to an innovative strategy that was originally developed to improve immunization of children, which links pregnant women to care and keeps them enrolled.

More than 300 community health workers like Jane are working in Bondo District to keep the next generation alive and healthy. Since 2010, coverage through this project has expanded so that women in the most hard to reach areas are being connected to health services. As a result, the percentage of expectant mothers going to all four antenatal care visits increased from 25 percent to 41 percent in two years, and the percentage of HIV-exposed infants who were tested for HIV increased from 27 percent to 78 percent.

We know that follow-up by community health workers is key to saving lives—getting mothers into care, keeping them there, and providing them with the lifesaving medications that they and their children need.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

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