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USAID Kicks-off Conference on Science, Technology, and Innovation in Development

Dr. Shah at yesterday's opening plenary session of Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation. Credit: USAID/Bethany Egan

Dr. Shah at yesterday's opening plenary session of Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation. Credit: USAID/Bethany Egan

Below, please find a quick read-out from yesterday’s fascinating opening plenary session of USAID’s groundbreaking conference entitled: Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation.

In front of a high-powered audience of science, development, and Federal government experts, Dr. Shah began the evening’s discussion by expressing his enthusiasm for the conference’s goals and urged participants to think strategically and across sectors about how we can better deploy science, technology, and innovation (STI) to further development in high-impact and scaleable ways.  He stressed the need to quickly move advancements “out of the lab and on the ground.”  And Dr. Shah encouraged the group to think about how we partner with private industry to create sustainable, scalable development that will bring lasting change to individuals around the world.

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Transforming Development Through Science, Technology and Innovation Begins Today

Today, USAID will convene a first-of-its-kind conference to bring together some of the world’s preeminent scientists, development experts and Federal science agency leaders to discuss the challenges we face and how we can partner to creatively tackle them through new scientific and technological advancements.  Entitled Transforming Development through Science, Technology and Innovation and co-hosted with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, we believe the next two days will herald a new era for science and technology at USAID.

Scientific and technological breakthroughs can save millions of lives and strengthen fragile communities worldwide. Using science and technology to deliver high impact development is a top priority for President Obama and is core to our agenda here at USAID. 

Our advancements in these fields have led to game-changing improvements in every sector in which we work and across our more than 80 missions around the world.  USAID was at the forefront of developing oral rehydration salts to fight against diarrheal diseases and using life-saving vaccines to reduce infant mortality.  And just last month, we announced an innovative partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a $10 million fund to incentivize a mobile banking revolution in Haiti. 

We’ll keep you updated on the conference’s findings through posts, photos, and other materials that we’ll post to IMPACT.

Building Back Better

Last Friday, I went down to Haiti to take a look at our progress since the earthquake. My first stop after I arrived in Port-au-Prince was in the neighborhood of Delmas 32. As we walked around, I saw buildings that had been marked with green, yellow, and red spray paint–buildings that are safe to inhabit are marked green, those that can be made secure with repairs are marked yellow, and structures that need major repairs or demolition are marked red. Since the earthquake, teams from the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works, Transport, and Communications in partnership with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and other humanitarian organizations to determine the habitability of structures that may have been damaged in the earthquake. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is a supporter of this project through a grant to PADF.

Administrator Shah surveys habitability assessments done by the PADF and Government of Haiti.

As of late June, these teams have assessed more than 170,000 buildings and have found that 46% are structurally safe, 28% require minor to moderate repairs, and 24% require major repairs or demolition.

In Delmas, I met with engineers and masons who were working on repairing some of these buildings, most of which are homes. We spoke with officials from the Ministry—they told us that initial structural and cost assessments of these structures are often done with handheld electronic devices to more efficiently keep track of data. Assessors then work with area partners, including Haitian engineers and masons, to complete repairs to yellow and red houses. This is one way they can keep costs low as well as give tradesmen experience that will be put to good use during Haiti’s reconstruction.

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Kicking off the World Cup

The FIFA 2010 World Cup kicks off tomorrow, June 11th and USAID has created a webpage dedicated to all things soccer.  Check out videos, stories and pictures from our missions and partners around the world.  Find out what a vuvuzela is and what it means to communities around the world.

We will also publish blog posts here with updates from our soccer fanatic staffers in the field on programs, events and activities surrounding the World Cup.  Stay tuned for a report from South Africa about the grand opening of a state-of-the art stadium for youth and a field trip for USAID and PEPFAR sponsored kids to meet the US Soccer Team.

Soccer and development have a long history.  In so many countries it seems all you need is a soccer ball to start a conversation.  Our field offices have long utilized soccer and sports to bridge divides and teach critical life skills in health, economy, academia and community.  This month is all about spirited competition and patriotism but also about coming together to address the global challenges we all face.

Inside the World Food Programme’s Board Meeting in Rome

This post was submitted by USAID EGAT Bureau‘s Tjada McKenna, Senior Advisor to Feed the Future.

Raj Shah addressing the WFP - 7 June

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah addressing the WFP board on 7 June 2010.

I have just returned from Rome where USAID Administrator Raj Shah gave a speech at the opening session of the UN World Food Programme’s Executive Board Meeting.  In addition to the World Food Programme, we met with other Rome-based agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and representatives from civil society.

Working closely with multilateral partners and other key stakeholders including civil society and the private sector are core principles that will guide our implementation of Feed the Future, the US government’s global health and food security initiative.

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Increasing the Involvement of Men in Women’s Health

In male dominated cultures, USAID programs are helping to decrease maternal deaths by encouraging men to become involved in pregnancy and childbirth matters. Pictured: a man and child in Pakistan.

Reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent throughout the world by 2015 will take the involvement of men in countries where it matters most. Many of the countries where USAID works are male dominated cultures. To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries, men must be equal partners since they are the decision makers about health care in the family. These decisions include determining family size, timings of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care for themselves and their children. USAID-supported programs make special efforts to emphasize men’s shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive health. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups – entreaties that could be rejected because of traditional cultural values and perceptions that maternal health is the responsibility of women only.

In Pakistan, USAID is building on the efforts undertaken by the Government to create a cadre of religious leader master trainers to conduct roll out trainings in family planning and reproductive health, and maternal and child health, and gender issues consistent with and supported by the teachings of Islam.

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Measured Marriage: For One 15-year old, a Chance to Finish Childhood from USAID

Due in large measure to USAID-provided health messages provided to a member of the local Village Council and leader in her community, 15-year-old Bakhtawar will be able to finish school - and growing up - before she is married.

Kanjeer, Pakistan – Bakhtawar was a good student in the fifth grade at a small school located in a Southern Pakistan village.

She enjoyed learning, laughing with her friends, and spending time with her family. But one evening, as she sat nervously in a chair beside her parents at the local meeting hall, she knew that everything about her childhood was coming to an end. No more school, no more girlfriends, no more fun.

At 15, Bakhtawar was about to become engaged to be married. Read her story here!

The impacts of early marriage are substantial not

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Lancet Series Puts Spotlight on Global Tuberculosis Efforts

On May 19th, ‘The Lancet’ released a special series on tuberculosis, which includes a series of papers and comments highlighting the need for new tools, the threat posed by drug-resistant strains, results of current control efforts and other issues about TB worldwide http://www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis. While treatment strategies saved six million lives and 36 million cases of the disease were successfully treated between 1995 and 2008, TB remains a severe global public health threat. TB remains second only to HIV among infectious killers worldwide today and is the third leading cause of death among women aged 15-44.

The Lancet series also focused on the broader issues that contribute to the spread of the disease. The majority of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. TB proliferates in close spaces, and it perpetuates poverty by striking the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Large numbers of TB cases go undetected and untreated, fueling new cases and deaths. Making matters worse, new forms of the disease have emerged that are resistant to existing drugs. According to the report, without significant investments in new technology and prevention and treatment tools, drug-resistant strains of TB could become the “dominant” form of TB over the coming decades. In addition, new approaches to diagnose TB, coupled with improved health delivery systems and stronger community awareness, are critical to earlier detection and treatment. Urgent actions are also needed to scale up effective and integrated services for TB and HIV at the country level.

On March 24th, the U.S. Government, through USAID, released its Global Tuberculosis Strategy – our blueprint for expanded TB treatment and control over the next five years. To meet our targets, we will invest in country-led plans, scale up country level programs, increase our impact by leveraging our efforts with the Global Fund and mobilize additional resources from the private sector. We will also promote research and innovation. Our investments focus on new diagnostics that will allow us to detect TB more easily, including drug resistant TB, and new drugs that will reduce the duration of TB treatment. Assisting countries to introduce these new tools into programs is also a priority.

Check out the latest edition of Frontlines

April 2010 Frontlines

Check out the latest edition of USAID’s premier publication, FrontLines for these stories:

Climate change is prompting developing countries to take action and USAID experts are backing several of those efforts

An international sting operation that led to the arrest of ivory traffickers selling elephant tusks on the internet is hailed as a major victory by Thai and U.S. officials

In post-earthquake Haiti, USAID will focus reconstruction assistance on health care, economic growth, agriculture and infrastructure

New girls’ school in Sudan named in honor of two murdered USAID/Sudan staffers

Good medicine: Hip Hop Therapy Project in Uganda mixes dance and youth empowerment

Read these stories and everything else in the new issue of FrontLines
here.  If you would like to automatically receive Frontlines every month, you can subscribe here.

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