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Substations Enable Full-time Police Presence in Haiti

On a recent hot and sunny day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a group of military personnel from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), staff with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Treasury went to Tabarre Isa camp armed with buckets of blue and white paint and paintbrushes. Their mission is  to work with camp residents to paint a newly constructed police substation. The structure enables U.N. Police (UNPOL) and Haitian National Police (HNP) to have a full-time presence in the camps, and it provides crime victims, especially women and children, a safe refuge where they can report crime.

The U.S. government built police substations in six key camps in the Port-au-Prince area for people displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake, including Ancien Aeroport Militaire, Golf del Mar 48, Acra, Tabarre Issa, Carredeaux and Corail Cesselesse, to help reduce crime in the camps, particularly gender-based violence. Originally, UNPOL was going to construct the police substations over the course of six months for $50,000. But because SOUTHCOM had extra time and resources, they completed the project in six weeks at a cost of $5,000.

In August, Louisiana National Guard Task Force Commander Col. Michael Borrel and his Task Force Kout Men had two engineer rotations working in Gonaives as part of SOUTHCOM’s New Horizons humanitarian assistance exercise. When Lt. Col. Paul Gass, an Army civil affairs officer attached to the U.S. Embassy, heard they had finished their six weeks of projected work in only four and had two extra weeks of time, he reached out to Col. Borrel with ideas for a “light-duty” project they could perform.

After examining needs in the camps, Gass and Borrel had an epiphany: Use these troops to build the substations. This would ensure a better police presence in the camps sooner.

With the agreement and cooperation of UNPOL and the HNP, they took on the project. The Louisiana Army National Guard, Task Force Kout Men and South Dakota National Guard engineers took over the design and construction of the 8-by-12-foot buildings. Once the idea was pitched, UNPOL became the voice for the HNP with input from Kevin Kennedy, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

“This project is a shining example of how a simple design, some coordination, extra resources and commitment can result in an extremely successful project,” Lt. Col. Gass said.

In addition to the police substations in the camps, USAID worked to increase lighting in camps, especially around latrines and shower facilities. USAID has also helped form women’s support groups and provided funding for psychosocial services such as GBV referral information, legal counseling and protection coordination.

A photo slide show of the substations is on Flickr.

This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

Administrator Shah opens a weeklong training for over 80 USAID communications staff from USAID Missions all over the world.  These communicators are in Washington, D.C. to engage with senior officials about elevating development, particularly the first-ever national development strategy issued by a U.S. President and “USAID Forward”, the Agency’s change management agenda.  Sessions featured during the week include: a meeting with staff from the National Security Council, a joint session at the annual State Department Public Affairs Officer’s conference, and a panel discussion with leading foreign policy journalists at the Newseum.

Administrator Shah travels to Des Moines, Iowa to speak at the Borlaug Dialogue, which is held each year in conjunction with the awarding of the World Food Prize.  The theme of the conference is: smallholder agriculture, “Take it to the Farmer“.  Dr Shah will focus on how you take interest in fighting poverty to the smallholder farmer.  He will also promote progress under Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

The Congressional Black Caucus and Haiti’s Recovery

Submitted by Paul Weisenfeld, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator/LAC

Today, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on Haiti’s path to reconstruction at the 40th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, in Washington D.C.   The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was one of the champions that helped to push the Supplemental Request, which unlocked essential funding for Haiti’s reconstruction, into law, and I’m grateful for their continuing support.

I’m also pleased that African Americans and other minority groups, including the Haitian-American community, are part of Haiti’s recovery, not just in Washington but also in Haiti.  As I mentioned during a panel discussion at the 2010 Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference, the energy and creativity of the private sector — both U.S. and Haitian – will play a key role in the reconstruction effort.  In fact, we’re already tapping the talent of minority groups.  One of the first contracts that USAID awarded after the earthquake was to PHS Group, a minority-owned firm, to manage a debris dump site in Port-au-Prince.

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USAID Eases Hardships of Haiti’s Earthquake Survivors

After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 100,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau.

While the area was one of the country’s poorest regions even before the earthquake, it’s seen an influx of survivors who’ve come to live with family and friends, straining already limited resources.

To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, USAID partner Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.

With USAID/OFDA support, Mercy Corps is providing livelihood opportunities to 2,000 people per week in the Central Plateau. An additional 20,000 people are on track to benefit from the cash-for-work program.

These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation systems. Some have used their salary and tools from the programs to start more sustainable small businesses.

Under USAID’s Food Security Program in Haiti, Mercy Corps will also provide food vouchers to 100,000 in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite region. This new initiative provides grants, cash or vouchers to buy desperately needed food.

In the town of Mirebalais, Mercy Corps employs Haitians to clear debris from canals and other public spaces to mitigate flooding during hurricane season. Watch a video on this important program.

View photos of Mercy Corps’ work in Mirebalais on Facebook and Flickr.

This Week at USAID – September 7, 2010

It is education week at USAID!  We will be highlighting the Agency’s ongoing education efforts throughout the week.  Stay tuned for a joint video message from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; a blog post on education from Congresswoman Nita Lowey; guest bloggers from BBC World Service Trust, Carnegie Mellon and Brookings; and stories, video and pictures from USAID missions.  

On September 8th, David Barth, Director of USAID’s Education Office, will speak as part of the Brooking Institution’s celebration ofInternational Literacy DayRTI International will present the cutting-edge literacy report, Early Reading: Igniting Education for All, on the urgency to support, especially in developing countries, accurate and timely reading assessment and teacher preparation in reading education for K–3 age groups.  Audience discussion will follow presentation of the report.

From the Field

In Liberia, to celebrate International Literacy Day, USAID’s Core Educational Skills for Liberian Youth (CESLY) is launching a writing contest across all 266 schools they support. Students will compete to write short, original stories built around a positive, inspiring, and unifying theme, and the winning stories will be published and distributed to students across the country to show the importance of literature by Liberian authors.

This is all part of our larger effort along side the Ministry of Education to rebuild the education system after the civil conflict years in which rebel factions frequently targeted schools as places to recruit soldiers.

In the Dominican Republic, we are holding a Digital Journalism Workshop as part of our support to tourism clusters in nine different provinces in the DR.   USAID is sponsoring this workshop with the support of a group of journalists who specialize in tourism area.  The goal is to educate Dominicans on how to more effectively market their many desirable tourism destinations.

In Lebanon, we are opening the American Community School (ACS) Outdoor Education and Nature Center.  This center will enable approximately 1,000 ACS students to re-connect with nature, create awareness on ecological and environmental issues, and establish a networking/exchange program with schools in the area.  The center will be utilized throughout the year to enrich students’ knowledge, raise their respect for nature, and build their personality to become responsible and rely on themselves.

From the Field

Submitted by Abby Sugrue

In Zambia we re-launched the Safeplan Family Planning Pill through our Partnership for Integrated Social Marketing program (PRISM).  The new Safeplan pack will be available at registered outlets including clinics, pharmacies and retail shops across the country.  Oral contraceptive pills, like Safeplan, are a safe, convenient and effective way for women to accurately and reliably control their reproductive lives and thereby improve their health.  USAID is working with the Ministry of Health and the private sector to improve access to high quality, affordable modern contraceptives throughout the country.

In Paraguay we are collaborating with the Millenium Challenge Corporation, which is donating software to the Ministry of Health to handle distribution and logistics of medicines in the country.  For the first time, the Ministry of Health will have software that will help avoid corruption by properly tracking and distributing medicines.

In Cambodia we are collaborating closely with the Department of Defense to assist in the planning of a series of pandemic flu preparedness exercises.  This is part of a national workshop focused on refining collaborative civilian-military provincial response plans in Cambodia.

This Week at USAID – August 30, 2010

Wayne Nilsestuen will be officially sworn-in as Mission Director-Designate to Bolivia, and Jim Barnhart will be officially sworn-in as Mission Director-Designate to Lebanon.

USAID’s Mark Ward, Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, will speak at Brookings as part of a panel discussion on challenges the Pakistani government and the international community face in the flood response.

USAID’s Carol Chan, Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, will brief about key developments in the Pakistan flood response at the State Department’s daily press briefing.

Former Afghan Aid Chief Reflects on Career in Foreign Assistance

After 14 months heading the largest USAID office in Agency history—in Afghanistan— Bill Frej stepped down from a long career in foreign assistance this summer. “We have completely transformed the aid program and made agriculture the number one priority,” said Frej in an interview in Washington.

Although Frej admitted to many challenges in delivering large amounts of foreign assistance in a war zone, the aid veteran is replete with success stories. Frej counts the mass enrollment of girls in schools as one of USAID’s major accomplishments in Afghanistan, explaining that U.S. assistance helped increase countrywide school enrollment from 400,000 children—only boys—in 2001 to 6.5 million today, 40 percent of them girls.

Frej said he recently travelled three hours by jeep to visit a USAID program in a village in Bamiyan at 10,000 feet. He was struck to see children, boys and girls, being taught to read, write and even speak English by a trained teacher in such an isolated place. “USAID and our development partner, Aga Khan Trust, were the first development organizations to visit this village,” he said.

Frej also points to major healthcare improvements as a result of U.S. government aid activity. “I’ve been to 28 of the 34 provinces and in almost every visit, seen midwives training. [Afghanistan] had the highest mortality rate of mothers and children in childbirth in the world and it has been completely turned around,” he said. Frej called Afghanistan one of the best success stories “anywhere in the developing world” in terms of gains in mother-child health. “USAID has a great deal to be proud of.”

Flying Over Swat Showed me the True Scope of the Disaster

Shortly after arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday, I met with retired General Nadeem Ahmed, the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.  As the general took me up in a military helicopter to inspect the once-beautiful but ravaged Swat valley, we spoke openly and candidly about the true extent of the damage wrought by the floodwaters.

As was clearly visible in areas where the waters had receded, the real work to bring Pakistan back to life has yet to start.  As far as the eye could see, foundations and buttresses supported nonexistent houses and bridges, power lines lay hopelessly tangled on the ground, and roads destroyed and washed away.  A layer of mud coated the landscape like brown paint and the normally sparkling, turquoise Swat river has become a river of mud.  As I look around me, it is obvious that Pakistan faces the biggest challenge in its 64-year history.

As I convene my senior staff tonight, we will fine-tune a plan that top USAID officials have been formulating since the scope of the disaster became apparent.  Throughout the flight, General Nadeem pointed out schools and medical centers that are still standing that were built with the help of USAID.  One thing is clear, though, which is that the United States intends to show itself as a friend and committed partner of Pakistan for many years to come.

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