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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

NEWEST Rice Marks Latest Milestone

This post originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

“Today, we have new tools and approaches that enable us to achieve progress that was simply unimaginable in the past: the eradication of extreme poverty and its most devastating corollaries, including widespread hunger and preventable child death.” – Administrator Shah in his 2013 Annual Letter

One such tool is genetic engineering.

To help leverage this and other advanced molecular tools for food security, Feed the Future partners from U.S. and international research communities and the private sector have teamed up to apply these tools to common challenges faced by millions of rice farmers throughout Africa.

Researchers in Uganda plant seeds in the first ever confined field trials of genetically engineered rice in Africa. Photo Credit: Jimmy Lamo, NACRRI

Their efforts are paying off. This month, for the first time in Africa, researchers in Ghana and Uganda planted confined field trials of genetically engineered rice.

The new variety includes a trait for increased nitrogen use efficiency, which helps the plant take better advantage of the scant nitrogen found in Africa’s often nutrient-poor soils. Soil nitrogen deficiencies limit yields on roughly 90 percent of the lands African farmers use for growing rice. The engineered variety could also promote responsible fertilizer use by improving the crop’s responsiveness to smaller doses of fertilizer.

The field trials are a major scientific milestone and mark the latest success in a vibrant partnership between USAID, international and national agricultural research institutions, private-sector biotechnology firms, and non-governmental organizations—a partnership that is not only generating improved rice varieties, but also enhancing African researchers’ capacity to regulate and execute advanced agricultural research.

The partnership coalesces around the NEWEST rice project, which aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of rice production across Sub-Saharan Africa by relieving key production constraints for African rice farmers. In addition to the soil nitrogen deficiencies that inspired the current field trials, saline soils also reduce rice productivity in Africa. Meanwhile, climate change is elevating drought risk across the continent.

Rice varieties that are nitrogen use efficient, water use efficient, and salt-tolerant (NEWEST) could therefore boost yields by up to 30 percent in many regions, increasing farmers’ climate resilience while also minimizing their use of fertilizer and water, reducing deforestation, and slowing expansion of cultivated lands.

As a complement to traditional breeding programs, biotechnology has developed powerful tools that could help meet these ambitious agricultural and environmental goals. To harness these tools and spur agricultural innovation, Feed the Future relies on an international, multi-sector approach:

    • As part of the NEWEST rice project, California-based Arcadia Biosciences donated the intellectual property to generate improved varieties and introduced the new traits into NERICA rice, an important African variety.
    • The biotechnology firm then transferred these initial lines to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia, which worked with Arcadia to conduct preliminary field evaluations and generate seed stocks of the most promising varieties.
    • Arcadia and CIAT then shipped the seed to research partners in Ghana and Uganda’s Agricultural Research Systems, who planted their confined field trials over the past month.
    • Throughout this process, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation coordinated activities across the partnership, helping to navigate intellectual property and biosafety regulations in the two countries and ensuring that the confined field trials adhered to legal and environmental standards.

As the field trials progress, Ghanaian and Ugandan researchers will identify which of the new, nitrogen-use-efficient rice lines perform best under local conditions. Water-efficient, salt-tolerant, and triple-stack rice varieties (which combine all three traits) are still under evaluation in California and Colombia and will be tested in subsequent field trials in Africa. The researchers then plan to optimize the best-performing lines through conventional breeding and introduce the improved traits into locally adapted, farmer-preferred rice varieties.

As part of a broad portfolio of agricultural research investments, this partnership highlights Feed the Future’s strategy to harness agricultural innovation to reduce global hunger, poverty, and undernutrition, while meeting the global challenges of food security in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.

Increasing Access to Education in Northern Nigeria

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

Fourteen year-old Ammar Muhammed, born to nomadic parents in Northern Nigeria, is going to school. Not just any school, but a school for gifted children owing to his participation in a USAID-funded basic literacy program at his non-formal school in Nigeria’s northern Bauchi State two years ago.

Ammar in front of his school. Photo Credit: USAID

Forty-two percent of primary-age children in this country, about 10.5 million, are out of school. Less than a third of primary school children proceed to junior secondary school and even fewer go on to complete secondary school. The situation is worse in predominantly Muslim Northern Nigeria where primary school attendance and academic achievement are far below national averages. A recent USAID-funded assessment of reading skills in Hausa, the local language, in the Northern States of Bauchi and Sokoto found that about 70 percent of  P3 (third grade) pupils could not read a single word of a simple narrative text. In this region many students attend non-formal religious schools where the focus is on learning the Quran and Islamic values with no training in basic reading and math skills. In some schools male children (referred to as “Almajiri”) often leave very poor families to attend school and are encouraged to beg on the streets to pay for their care and instruction.

Through its Northern Education Initiative (NEI), USAID is working in the Nigerian States of Bauchi and Sokoto to strengthen state and local governments’ capacity to deliver basic education services by addressing key management, sustainability and oversight issues. To demonstrate to state governments that basic education systems can be strengthened through improvements in teacher training and instructional delivery, the NEI developed new activity-based training manuals, trained about 3,500 teachers, and monitored the delivery of reading and math instruction. Two hundred pilot schools were selected to participate in the program, 80 of which were non-formal Amajiri schools—40 from each state.

Children outside of school in Nigeria. Photo Credit: USAID/Nigeria

Ammar’s school was selected to participate in the pilot. He diligently applied himself to his studies and was one of 200 students from NEI’s 40 demonstration schools in Bauchi State to pass exams for entry to formal schools in 2011. Once admitted to Central Primary School, Gwaram, he was reassessed and placed in Class Five. His teachers were surprised to learn he was a student from an Almajiri school.  ”He performed better than other pupils that had spent six years in school and took first position in his class examination,” said Malam Usman Khalifa, head teacher at Central Primary School.

In 2012 Ammar took the Bauchi State Special Secondary School Examination for entry into one of the state’s three schools for gifted children. He passed with flying colors and is now a student at the Special Science Secondary School in Toro. He has now set a new target: to earn university admission. “I want to be a doctor, to help my people,” said Ammar.

 

 

 

Facilitating Economic Growth through Infrastructure and Trade

Eric Postel is assistant administrator for the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment

Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to 11 of the world’s 20 fastest growing economies. Economic growth in the entire region is expected to be strong – between five and six percent – in the next few years, and it will be led by the private sector; foreign direct investment now dwarfs foreign aid in Africa.

Yet, a recent World Bank report noted that regional trade barriers are cost African countries billions of dollars in potential revenue every year. Trade among African countries makes up only 10 percent of the region’s total trade volume. In East Africa, it costs 50 percent more to move freight one kilometer than it does in the United States or Europe, and in landlocked countries transport costs can be as high as 75 percent of the value of the goods they are trying to export.

On March 29, I participated in an economic growth roundtable with the Presidents of Malawi, Senegal, and Sierra Leone and the Prime Minister of Cape Verde to discuss these challenges and to examine ways to strengthen trade and investment, enhance regional integration, and improve the four countries’ business environments.

The four African leaders called attention to a major impediment to trade and investment in Africa: poor infrastructure, which inhibits both regional and global trade.  That is why USAID is working with governments to assess and prioritize critical infrastructure needs.  For example, in South Sudan, USAID helped build a 192-kilometer-long Juba-Nimule Road, the largest infrastructure project ever built in South Sudan, and the young nation’s first paved highway. The road has reduced travel time between Nimule and Juba from eight hours to less than three, linking Juba with Uganda and providing the shortest, most efficient route to the Port of Mombasa in Kenya. The road has generated economic activities along the route, and created employment and training opportunities for South Sudanese communities, thereby enhancing stability.

Meeting with the four leaders allowed me to reaffirm USAID’s commitment to work with both the governments and private sector in all four countries to improve export readiness, and reduce the time and cost to trade.  In Cape Verde, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, USAID has helped establish Resource Centers to assist local businesses take advantage of the provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which offers duty free entry for 6,400 products from qualifying African countries into the United States.

We are also supporting three regional Trade Hubs designed to help sub-Saharan African governments and businesses reduce the time and cost of trade, harmonize trade and regulatory requirements, and work directly with African firms to identify export opportunities. In Malawi, our Southern Africa Trade Hub has helped to streamline customs procedures and develop a national single window system, which allows traders to submit all required data into a single electronic system accessible to all border agencies. Systems like this one significantly reduce the time and cost of moving goods across borders and increase customs revenue.

We have also helped Malawi and Sierra Leone develop export strategies and stand ready to support strategy implementation and the crafting of similar strategies in Senegal and Cape Verde. When developed and implemented in consultation with the private sector, the strategies serve as an invaluable tool to facilitate trade and improve economic growth.

By working to reduce barriers to trade in African markets, USAID supports sustained growth in the region and improves bilateral trade and investment opportunities for both African and U.S. firms.

The Growing Movement to End Preventable Child Deaths

Yesterday at an event hosted by AEI and the Center for American Progress, USAID Administrator Raj Shah spoke about President Obama’s vision to end extreme poverty through innovation and partnership. His remarks mentioned an important corollary goal – the end of preventable child deaths. The first audience question commended the visionary Child Survival Call to Action held in Washington last year and asked about progress at country-level. Administrator Shah responded that the movement to end preventable child deaths is nothing short of extraordinary.

Administrator Raj Shah earlier this month in India at their Child Survival Summit. Photo Credit: USAID/India

Since the Call to Action, 172 countries have now signed A Promise Renewed pledge to accelerate declines in child deaths.  More than 400 civil society and faith-based organizations as well as over 2,000 individuals have also pledged support. Each signature represents a renewed commitment to give every child the best possible start in life.  Governments are leading the effort to convene policymakers, technical experts, and development partners in a concerted effort to scale-up high-impact strategies for maternal, newborn and child survival. Below are a few highlights of countries leading and how USAID is supporting this important work.
Bangladesh

USAID and other donors are supporting the Ministry of Health to develop an action plan to end preventable child deaths in Bangladesh, particularly at district level.  This plan will identify priority actions and benchmarks to reach the goal of no more than 20 deaths/1,000 live births by 2035, or earlier.  A technical advisory group has been convened to discuss evidence-based interventions that can be deployed in Bangladesh to bend the curve. This includes programs to address Pneumoccocal and Rotavirus vaccines, corticosteroids, clean cord care, child drowning and Kangaroo Mother Care, among others.  Given the fact that 60% of child deaths in Bangladesh occur within in the first 28 days of life, there is a huge need for post-natal monitoring to reduce stubborn neonatal mortality rates.

Burma

Building upon the Child Survival Call to Action, USAID recently launched a public private partnership: Survive and Thrive. This partnership will expand the coverage of quality and high impact maternal newborn services starting with essential newborn care, and link pediatricians, midwives, and obstetricians from American professional associations to peer associations in Burma to build capacity in service delivery. Survive and Thrive will partner with civil society and professional and educational institutions, work within the Ministry of Health’s health system, support the programs of the 3MDG Fund, and maximize synergy with community-based programs of existing partners.

Ethiopia

At the African Leadership on Child Survival meeting hosted by the Government of Ethiopia earlier this year, the consensus reached by over twenty African countries present was both significant and historic. The participating countries declared, in a consensus statement, that they are committed to developing and implementing country-led roadmaps that integrate ongoing efforts to accelerate progress to end preventable deaths among children by 2035, and reduce the mortality rate to below 20 per 1,000 live births in all African nations. Recently, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Namibia. Officials from Namibia are undertaking a study tour to review Ethiopia’s health extension program.

India

At India’s recent Call to Action, the Government of India launched the Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Health Adolescent health strategy (RMNCH+A), which serves as a roadmap for the States. India also released several guidance documents including implementation of newborn care as well as management of pneumonia and diarrhea. A National Child Survival Scorecard was showcased, and States were encouraged to develop their own scorecards and to monitor progress. USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Project (“MCHIP”) supported the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in organizing the recent India National Call to Action for Child Survival and Development, and USAID will continue to provide support in establishing quick response teams for Indian states with the highest child mortality that have committed to accelerating their efforts for child survival.

Indonesia

USAID supported a national newborn conference in Jakarta from Feb 26-March 1. The conference included international experts from India and the U.S. as well as representatives from the Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, key professional associations, academia, and district and provincial health leaders. This was the first such event in Indonesia focusing on newborn survival. Responding to Indonesia’s commitment to A Promise Renewed and the MOH’s call to accelerate progress toward the MDGs, this conference addresses one of the key indicators slowing achievement of MDG goal 4. DHS data from 2012 is now available and demonstrates no progress in newborn mortality since 2007. The rate remains at 19/1000 live births. Partners are committed to reducing this rate by 25% by 2017, in partnership with USAID, UNICEF and WHO, and an exceptionally strong collaborative relationship with the Ministry of Health.

Liberia

The Ministry of Health in Liberia is sharpening its child survival plan using evidence and aligning donors to support the plan.  There is great donor support and commitment to implementing the national plan through the alignment of programs. A launch for A Promise Renewed is being planned by the Government of Liberia. A steering committee led by the Government of Liberia and comprised of representatives from NGOs, house of representatives, representatives from different Ministries has been established and meets regularly to plan the launch event.  An expected key outcome of the launch is greater mobilization of support and resources at the counties, civil society organizations and community leaders around A Promise Renewed.

For more information about A Promise Renewed, please visit: apromiserenewed.org.

Video of the Week: Celebrating World Water Day 2013 in Senegal

A USAID-funded dike in Senegal‘s Boli Valley has extended the rice growing season to nine months a year, and permitted recovery of hundreds of hectares of land for cultivation to help ensure food security in the region. USAID also provides seeds and financing to local farmers, including women, who make a significant contribution to sowing the land and maintaining the dike.

Saving Mothers: A New Initiative to Address Maternal Mortality

This originally appeared on Smart Global Health

“In Zambia, when women have delivered, we say ‘Oh, you have survived.’” This chilling reminder of the impact of maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa came from Professor Elwyn Chomba, a Zambian government public health official interviewed by CSIS for a new video about the challenges of maternal mortality and a new initiative to address it.

Pregnancy-related deaths remain an acute problem in many places, despite overall global declines in rates of maternal mortality. Every day, nearly 800 women die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth, and 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. These deaths are largely preventable with interventions and training to prevent or treat complications such as hemorrhage, infection, and obstructed labor, and with increased access to reproductive health services and emergency care.

We traveled to Zambia because it has a disproportionately high rate of maternal mortality – an estimated 440 women dying for every 100,000 live births, which is 20 times higher than the U.S. But Zambia, as well as Uganda, is also the site of a new program, called Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL), designed to reduce maternal mortality by up to 50 percent in selected districts in a year.

SMGL builds on the fact that most maternal deaths result from one or more of three delays: in seeking care, in arriving at a health facility, and in receiving appropriate care. SMGL is working to address those delays by supporting linkages between communities and health facilities through Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs); by improving communications and transportation in the districts to speed the care and referrals of pregnant women; and by training and hiring health care providers, while improving equipment and standards of care at health facilities.

Although the U.S. government has been a driving force behind SMGL, it is a public-private partnership. The U.S. Agency for International Development leads SMGL for the U.S. Government, in partnership with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Peace Corps, and the Department of Defense.  The other SMGL partners include the governments of Norway, Zambia, and Uganda, the Merck for Mothers program, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Every Mother Counts.

SMGL has generated excitement, but its implementers know that there is no quick fix for reducing maternal mortality. Accordingly, the initiative faces significant challenges to national scale up and to sustainability, and many experts believe that the changes required will take years – not months — to achieve.

Effectively addressing maternal mortality — in Zambia and elsewhere — will demand ongoing commitment, from national governments and international partners– and investments in community awareness, in improving health facilities and transportation, and in expanding women’s access to health services, including family planning programs. As Professor Chomba said, we want to get to a point where “every woman can look forward to labor, and not say, I may die.”

Photo of the Week: Building Peace Along Borders in East Africa

USAID has supported peace-building along Kenya’s northern borders for over a decade. The current program focuses on communities on the Kenya-Uganda and Kenya-Somalia borderlands and enables residents to take peace into their own hands. USAID helps communities on opposite sides of the border select, plan, build and manage projects for joint use. These “peace dividend” projects include schools, marketplaces, and clinics.

All photos by Aernout Zevenbergen and Abraham Ali from Pact.

A United Africa Under a Child Survival Revolution

Peter Salama, Unicef Representative to Ethiopia, makes closing remarks at “African Leadership for Child Survival” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 18,  2013. Photo credit: UNICEF

Last Friday, it was a real honor for me to take part in the closing ceremony of the African Leadership on Child Survival – A Promise Renewed (ALCS/APR), together with H. E. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health in Ethiopia, my esteemed colleague Dennis Weller, USAID mission director to Ethiopia, and my African colleagues in health and development.

In June 2012, during the first Call to Action – Promise Renewed meeting in Washington D.C., Dr. Tedros had committed that Ethiopia would host an African Leadership for Child Survival Conference that was linked to the AU summit. That promise is now fulfilled and I wish to thank Dr. Tedros and Dr. Kesete and all of the colleagues at the Ministry of Health for making this all African meeting a reality and a success.

The pledge signed by the African countries present and the consensus reached by the conference are both significant and historic. The event has marked a new era for the African continent in which it is no longer acceptable for any child to die an untimely and preventable death.

As we have seen at this meeting, in many ways the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia, as well as many other African countries, has become a  powerful global symbol of what can be achieved in resource-constrained environments and has given many international partners renewed faith in the development enterprise.

To accelerate progress we need to do some things differently. Dramatic reductions in preventable child deaths can be achieved through concerted action in five critical areas, outlined in the global roadmap: geographical focus, high burden populations, high impact solutions, gender equality, and mutual accountability and financing.

The theme of equity, in all its dimensions, has come out very strongly through the conference conclusions on geography, gender equality and high burden populations. We know that as much as we have made global progress on child survival in recent decades so too have we seen an increasing concentration of child deaths in Africa which now accounts for around half of all the world’s child mortality.

During the three days, we have also seen that the highest rates of death are now overwhelming in fragile states and conflict-affected countries and regions. This demands that our attention also be placed on governance issues and on human security. There is a major role here, not only for the United Nations but also for regional institutions, and is why the role of the AU will be even more paramount as we move forward on this initiative. Indeed we are very hopeful that with the Ethiopia government taking over the chair of the AU in 2013, maternal and child survival will be seen as not only a health and development issue but as a peace and security issue. It seems auspicious that the African Leadership on Child Survival has taken place right before the AU heads of state meeting next week. I sincerely hope that the recommendations of this conference are shared with the AU leadership and head of states for their endorsement.

We have seen the strong leadership of African governments in this process. This is not an initiative led by UNICEF or USAID or any other partner, and it is very refreshing to see that this initiative and the commitments being made are home-grown. All countries have existing strategies and plans for improving maternal, newborn and child health. Integration of the ALSC/APR initiative with local processes, rather than setting up vertical mechanisms, will be important. Government should also coordinate efforts of various partners and the different initiatives and synthesize them into a coherent whole at the country level.

One of the most exciting aspects of the meeting and the overall process for me is to have seen the peer to peer dynamic in action. I know the lesson learning and sharing of good practices from country to country will continue over the coming months and that many countries are planning study visits to other African countries. We should nurture this dynamic at all costs. I believe the seeds of success and of sustainability for us in African have been planted by all at this meeting. By working hand in hand, we can and we will end all preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, and thus complete the work begun under the child survival revolution.

Under Five Child Survival Under Microscope at Summit

This post originally appeared on Mom Bloggers for Social Good.

This week child survival is under critical review in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the African Leadership for Child Survival – A Promise Renewed summit. This meeting, held at the African Union headquarters and convened by the Ethiopian government along with UNICEF and USAID brought together African Ministers of Health to enter into discussions about markedly improving child survival rates. The summit ends Friday.

Between 1990-2011 child mortality has decreased 39% in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo credit: Mom Bloggers for Social Good

Between 1990-2011 child mortality has decreased 39% in sub-Saharan AfricaAccording to UNICEF, 1 in 8 children in sub-Saharan Africa die before their fifth birthday from five leading causes: pneumonia, pre-term birth complications, diarrhea, intrapartum-related complications, newborn infection and malaria…continued

Read more to learn which key tweets and infographics are emerging from the summit at the#promise4children hashtag.

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