USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for UNGA

Photo of the Week: Teaching Special Needs Students a Vocation

John Nyanjui and studentsThe USAID-funded Nutrition Kitchen Garden Program launched in October 2011 at Maria Magdalena Catholic Parish School in Thika, Kenya cares for the special needs of mentally handicapped children. The program better equips them with vocational skills, like gardening. Recent graduate John Nyanjui, far left, now works with his former agronomy teacher Josphat Avunga to provide this vocational training to other students. Photo is from Natasha Murigu, USAID.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

Making All Voices Count is Open for Business

Two short years ago, I was googling my way to google, skeptical about what some were calling the open revolution. That day in September 2011, when the Open Government Partnership was launched changed my mind.

A woman on a phone in India. Photo Credit: USAID

A woman on a phone in India. Photo Credit: USAID

Today, another September day in New York with the world gathering again at the United Nations General Assembly, I’m proud to see the White House touting the contribution that my team and I at USAID — together with DFID, SIDA, and Omidyar Network– have made to that revolution. Today Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development is open for business and calling for proposals. And today the Open Society Foundations have joined our effort.

Some say that when you join government you spend down your intellectual capital. Not so in the 21st century! In the last few years, I’ve been witness to and learned from this open revolution. Citizens all around the world are getting more information and demanding more from their governments and technology is helping to close the gaps between citizens and governments.

But many of us in government need help listening and responding to how we can do better. This is where Making All Voices Count comes in: we expect to see proposals for innovative ideas to close that feedback loop, proposals to scale up important efforts that already exist, and proposals that will help the world understand how transparency and accountability are critical in helping new democracies deliver to their citizens.

So today, the President has called on all of us to double down on the open revolution and think in creative ways about how to support innovations for civil society. I’m excited to work with my team to respond to that call. We’ve got some great ideas and we will be working with partners around the world to make them real. I predict whether two years from now or in twenty, it will be increasingly hard to remain a closed society while the rest of the world opens up.

Join us by making all voices count! The first call for proposals is open now. Applications close November 8, 2013.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

 

Video of the Week: Working for Disabilities in Macedonia

This year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will partly focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other agreed development goals for persons with disabilities. Over 1 billion people, or approximately 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. 80% of them live in developing countries. USAID is committed to disability-inclusive development by supporting disability-specific programs to address targeted needs and integrating disability into all our programs. Watch this video about  a success story of USAID Macedonia‘s Persons with Disabilities Internship and Employment Project.

Learn more about USAID’s role at UNGA.

 

Video: USAID at the UN General Assembly

Each Fall, world leaders from every sector descend on New York City for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).  The 67th session was no exception. From the official high-level meeting at the UN, to side events and multiple individual meetings, UNGA provides an opportunity for leaders to come together and achieve important outcomes. This was the third year at UNGA for USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah. His focus was on food security and nutrition, child survival, maternal health, humanitarian assistance and the Agency’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We had trouble keeping up with Dr. Shah as he delivered remarks at the Better Than Cash Alliance launch event, a global public-private partnership dedicated to supporting organizations’ transition away from cash to electronic payments; launched Women and Girls Lead Global, a public-private alliance focused on using the power of documentary film and new media to empower women and girls around the world; highlighted child survival, technology and innovation at the Social Good Summit; and co-hosted a high-level event with Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin on the new international commitment to building resilience for vulnerable communities.

Is Dr. Shah’s words,  “Our engagement at the end of the day makes the difference between a safer, more secure, more economically prosperous world and one that is less so.”

Addressing Malnutrition – Turning Commitments into Action

As the Olympics came to a close last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron opened the doors of 10 Downing Street to a small gathering of world leaders.  They met to announce new initiatives addressing the global challenge of malnutrition, which affects two billion people worldwide.  Perhaps the most promising pledge to emerge from this Hunger Summit was the commitment to greater cooperation between governments, civil society and business.


Mother feeding a child in Kenya. Photo credit: Sight and Life

While we share the same goal—healthy, well-nourished families and communities—too often, agencies, ministries, donors and businesses operate in silos, hindering action and missing key opportunities for collaboration that could improve the health and lives of millions.

We have made tremendous progress in the last five years in terms of prioritizing the issue, and we now have a number of global commitments to address malnutrition.  It would, therefore, seem that we are no longer lacking political will.  In addition, we now know just how cost effective it is to invest in nutrition: there is literally no greater investment we can make in health and development. The Copenhagen Consensus named micronutrient solutions the single smartest way to allocate global aid dollars, with every $1 spent generating $30 in benefits. The fact is combating malnutrition is at the top of the list because its impact can be felt across sectors—from health to agriculture to the economy. Improving nutrition is the most effective way to secure a better future.

Although conversations like the UK Hunger Summit are important in tackling malnutrition, preventing stunting and improving the life chances of millions of children, ultimately, we won’t have the impact we seek to achieve through conversations alone. Yes, we need to convene and collaborate—but the reality is we need to come away with concrete actions clearly outlining how we will all work together across sectors, and be held accountable for our commitments. Cameron and fellow host Michel Temer, Vice President of Brazil, urged the world to take decisive action on malnutrition before the 2016 Olympic Games inRio. That’s just four years away. Between now and then, partnerships between governments, civil society and business have to move from talk to action—that is, effective nutrition programs in countries.

This week, as world leaders gather at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), we have the opportunity to again meet as a global community under the banner of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, and to outline how we will strengthen current partnerships and explore new ones to accelerate implementation. Global convenings, like the Hunger Summit and UNGA, provide us with the space to create and sustain dialogue, and share knowledge. But then it’s up to each of us, as organizations and individuals, to carry the torch. Together, we can improve nutrition and give millions of children the opportunity to grow, thrive and reach their full potential.

Klaus Kraemer, Ph.D. is Director of Sight and Life, a not-for-profit nutrition think tank of DSM, which cares about the world’s most vulnerable populations and exists to help improve their nutritional status. Acting as their advocates, Sight and Life guides original nutrition research, disseminates its findings and facilitates dialogue to bring about positive change.

Ford Foundation Event Celebrates Premieres of Half the Sky and Women and Girls Lead Global

This post was originally featured on Beyond the Box

Amid the hubbub of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, some 250 distinguished guests crowded the towering atrium of the Ford Foundation on Monday evening, September 24th.  The occasion: to celebrate the impending Independent Lens broadcast of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and mark the official launch of Women and Girls Lead Global, a new three-year, 30-film partnership to put media to work for change in nine countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Moving into the subterranean auditorium, the assembled were welcomed by Ford Foundation Vice President Darren Walker and Corporation for Public Broadcasting President and CEO Patricia Harrison, both of whom spoke passionately about the combined power of storytelling, philanthropy, and change agents to save lives and create a more just and equitable world.  NBC News correspondent Ann Curry took the stage—wearing a dress boldly embossed with the word “LOVE”—to moderate a packed program of rapid-fire panels and film clips, starting with a conversation between U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, Ford Foundation President Luis Ubiñas, and Nicholas D. Kristof, co-author with Sheryl WuDunn of the best-selling book Half the Sky.

“As journalists, we cover planes that crash,” said Kristof.  “Not planes that take off.”  His comments set the tone for an evening focused on the possibility of progress and success in the face of steep odds, highlighting the State Department’s efforts to integrate gender across all aspects of its work and the Ford Foundation’s focus on solutions in addressing poverty and specific issues like child marriage.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah spoke one-on-one with Curry, making the case for investing in women and girls not only as a moral prerogative but as a evidence-based approach to fighting poverty and strengthening national security.  He was joined by CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle and ITVS President and CEO Sally Fifer, who described the “wave after wave of stories about women and girls” that independent filmmakers, commissioning editors, and ITVS call panelists continued to surface over the last few years—including the four-hour documentary version of Half the Sky.  With Women and Girls Lead Global, Fifer announced, ITVS will now put these stories to work on the ground in countries like Bangladesh, Kenya and Peru over the next three years, collaborating with Ford, USAID, and CARE to connect television broadcasts and engagement to the existing work of NGOs.

Having drawn the big picture of the strategic forces at play in using media for change, the evening turned to the images, sounds, and characters of Half the Sky.  The crowd went still and silent before film clips of American celebrity activist Gabrielle Union, Somaliland hospital founder Edna Adan, and Amie Kandeh, a champion against sexual violence in Sierra Leone. The three featured women then joined Kristof and Curry on-stage, bringing the crowd to a standing ovation with their impassioned testimonies of great hope and strength in the face of evil, death, and misfortune. The first step, said Union, is “You have to give a damn.”  Knowledge is more powerful than advanced equipment, Edan said.

The program concluded with Ford Foundation’s Orlando Bagwell, director of the JustFilms initiative, demonstrating the Half the Sky games and transmedia strategies with Half the Sky filmmaker Maro Chermayeff and Asi Burak of Games for Change.  The featured games included a Half the Sky game for Facebook that marries gameplay with real-world donations to NGOs, along with a suite of mobile games designed for audiences in Africa and Asia focused on health and family planning.

The final word went to Bagwell, who returned the focus to the power of media to inspire change and action.  “This is just the beginning of the conversation,” said Bagwell, before the assembled leaders of NGOs, foundations, and media outlets returned to the Ford atrium to do just that.

Live @ UNGA – Day Three

To see the online conversation at UNGA, visit USAID’s Storify Feed

Day three at UNGA included two marquee events spotlighting progress to date on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  We also announced a new partnership to expand access to contraception for 27 million women and girls in low-income countries.

With only 15 months until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline, USAID partnered on an event with the UK Department for International Development for a second year to draw attention to the importance of the global community working together to reach the MDG targets by 2015.  The event brought to life the enormous development advancements made on the way to achieving the MDGs and featured innovators from across the development community sharing transformative programs and policies.  The world has met two MDG targets ahead of the 2015 deadline – poverty has been cut by 50 percent globally and the proportion of people with no safe drinking water has been cut in half.

That afternoon, Administrator Shah co-hosted with other G8 members the New Alliance: Progress and the Way Forward event.  President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security & Nutrition earlier this year, in which G8 nations, African partner countries and private sector partners aim to help lift 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years by supporting agricultural development. Initially launched in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, at the event, representatives from the New Alliance, G8 countries and the private sector announced the expansion to other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mozambique.

Finally, Administrator Shah took part in the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. Prior to the meeting, Dr. Shah joined the Commission Co-Chairs, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, alongside former President Bill Clinton, to launch a new partnership to make a safe, effective, long-acting, reversible method of contraception available to more than 27 million women in the world’s poorest nations. Under the agreement, Bayer is reducing by more than half the current 18 USD price of its long-acting, reversible method of contraception, Jadelle, in return for a commitment to assure funding for at least 27 million contraceptive devices over the next six years.  Dr. Shah stated, “The US Agency for International Development is proud to have funded the development of this life-saving product. Today is a major step forward to making this product more accessible to millions of women, empowering them with the ability to make decisions about their health and family.”

As always, follow us live on Twitter to keep up with the latest developments!

Have a Coke and Some Life-Saving Medicine

Lifesaving medicines are frustratingly unavailable to millions of women and children each year. Frank Naqvi, Photoshare

When was the last time you heard a woman say, “I went to the hospital to have my baby, but they sent me to the drug shop down the street to buy supplies?” Or a health worker say, “I knew what medicine my patient needed, but I haven’t had that medicine for months?”

If you live in the U.S. or any other developed country, you’ve probably never heard this, or would think this woman and health worker were joking. But for women, families, and providers in developing countries, these stories and others are all too common…and it’s definitely not a joke.  As my colleague, Mary Ellen Stanton, eloquently captures in her post earlier this week on Saving Mothers, Giving Life, lifesaving medicines are frustratingly unavailable to millions of women and children each year.  It is unimaginable that simple and affordable medicines could save millions of lives, yet are still so far out of reach for millions.

The medicine oxytocin is needed to prevent and treat severe bleeding after childbirth. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc are needed to prevent deaths from childhood diarrhea.  And family planning commodities are needed to ensure women and their families can decide when or whether to have children – all key factors in maternal and child survival.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working on access to maternal health medicines or commodities. During this time, I’ve learned that the issues related to lack of availability, access, and demand for maternal, newborn, and child health and family planning commodities have many causes, including lack of manufacturers; lack of quality control at many points in the supply chain; providers are unfamiliar with or untrained in newer medicines or equipment; supplies don’t reach the “last mile” to remote health centers; and people don’t know that treatments are available.

But I’ve also learned that these are not insurmountable challenges. Commodities of various types do reach distant and hard-to-reach areas. One often cited example is Coca-Cola, a beverage enjoyed by millions every day, which is both affordable and available even in the most remote villages. You can actually get a Coke in remote Tshikaji, DRC!

And now, we are seeing renewed commitment among donors, country governments, and other stakeholders to make lifesaving health commodities accessible, affordable and available to millions of women, children and families around the world.

Today, the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children released 10 bold recommendations which, if achieved, will ensure women and children will have access to 13 life-saving commodities.

USAID’s long term, strategic vision looks to integrate these life-saving commodities as part of the next steps to other key efforts, like the Child Survival Call to Action and London Summit on Family Planning, in order to increase the speed at which we scale-up in host countries. It is important that we learn from our experiences and successes in getting vaccines and malaria, HIV/AIDS, and family planning commodities into the hands and homes of those most in need. Additionally, we need to integrate systems across commodities to better and more efficiently serve women and children everywhere, and scale up programs to have nation-wide impact.

Country leadership is also a vital component to successfully addressing many of the Commission’s recommendations.  Getting pallets of commodities in warehouses is just one step.  Medicines and drugs must reach people, and health care workers have to be present and skilled to administer them.

With our host country partners in the lead, we are working to strengthen supply chains for commodities, which include use of mHealth solutions; support local market shaping; improve the quality of medicines; and increase demand by mothers for necessary medicines.  This needs to happen if we are to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable women and children have the commodities they need.

These two themes, integration and country ownership, form the cornerstones of our work. My hope is that someday soon, I’ll walk past a market in a remote part of Africa with fully stocked shelves of Coke, and into a health clinic fully stocked with life-saving commodities and medicines.

El Salvador Makes the Grade in Universal Primary Education

Jorge Renderos (left), Principal of the Oscar Arnulfo Romero School, and Oscar Armando Cruz (right), math teacher, celebrate finishing the day's school work with their fourth grade students. Photo credit: Karen Azucena, USAID

I live in the Zaragoza region, one of the poorest areas in central El Salvador.  We have limited economic development opportunities for our people, yet one of the highest rates of population density in the country.  While grappling with poverty, our municipality must also deal with gang activity and school violence.

In order to respond to this situation, my school joined with 12 other schools to form a cluster under the Ministry of Education’s Integrated System for Full Time School (SI-EITP, its acronym in Spanish).  SI-EITP is supported by USAID/El Salvador’s Strengthening Basic Education Program.

We share limited resources so that we can equitably offer educational and extracurricular services to all students, especially those who are at risk of joining a gang or dropping out of school.  For example, my school shares its sports auditorium with all 1,670 students coming from those 12 schools.  The group of schools provides extracurricular activities in areas such as technology, baking, dressmaking skills, school gardens, art, culture, sports and recreation.  Because of these activities, our students are more excited to attend school and learn new skills.

Teachers are also using new resources, materials, and techniques like more group work that allow students to more actively participate in their lessons.  The response from students has been very positive.  The lessons have been so successful that students from the Barillo school, who previously had spotty attendance, said that they were excited to go to school each day.

And this integrated system doesn’t end at the school gate. Parents, teachers and school principals all participate in the school cluster.  For instance, parents are walking to school with their children every day, as they need to cross dangerous areas where gangs are prevalent.

School principals are also working together in new ways.  Because of SI-EITP, the principals of the Corralito and Canton Guadalupe schools collaborated to improve transportation for their students.  As a result, 56 students who finished sixth grade, but did not have a secondary school close to their home, are now able to travel to neighboring secondary schools and continue their education.

With the support of the Ministry, USAID and its implementers, we have made a lot of progress but we must acknowledge the leadership of the students.  When the educators were worried about gang clashes, the student governments mitigated our concerns. They formed a “Peace Band” with participants from all of the schools.  Today the Peace Band has 300 members whose purpose is to promote healthy living and a culture of peace. We are proud to say that, not only are the student working hard to reach their own potential, they are showing real leadership skills and giving back to the community.

MDG Countdown: Working to Fulfill A Global Promise

Susan Reichle is the Assistant to the Administrator for USAID's Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning. Credit: USAID

We all have a deadline in 2015 that can be easily lost amid our busy day-to-days and crowded lists of to-dos.

In 2000,189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and to extend hope and opportunity to millions across the developing world – all by 2015.  Under the United Nation’s umbrella of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the 189 countries committed to eight development goals that were  ambitious in scale and yet vital.

That’s why this week, USAID and our counterparts at the UK Department for International Development are once again drawing attention to the MDGs at an event in New York,during the UN General Assembly.

The good news is that great progress is being made towards achieving the MDGs, and the global community can be inspired by the innovations and successes we are seeing around the world.

Poverty has been cut by 50 percent globally and the proportion of people with no safe drinking water has been cut in half, ahead of the 2015 deadline..   

As evidenced at the New York event this week, USAID is also making a significant contribution to meet the MDG’s:

  • In El Salvador, we work with the Salvadoran Ministry of Education to not only improve the quality of teaching and learning, but also partner with local communities to keep students in school and to recruit children who were not attending classes.  (MDG 2)
  • In Afghanistan, we work with the Government to build capacity in its Ministry of Health, among midwives, and in local hospitals, and have helped to increase health coverage from eight percent to over 60 percent of the people over ten years and helped the country realize an incredible drop in infant, child and maternal mortality rates.   (MDG 4 and 5)
  • In Indonesia, where only 40 percent of citizens receive water from a household tap, we worked to vastly improve the water and sanitation systems.  While our effort has scaled down, the program legacy lives on in private and public sectors’ support for clean water and sanitation, and proof that local and the central governments are willing to commit funds to the utilities to improve performance and expand services if a clear and compelling justification is presented.  (MDG 7)

Still, with only 15 months until the deadline we still have the other six goals to meet.  USAID is applying its resources more strategically than ever to enable countries to achieve the MDGs.  As outlined in USAID’s County Development Coordination Strategies, we are implementing the President’s Policy Directive on Global Development by focusing on those development imperatives that are priorities for the host country and USAID investment can make a difference.  These strategies are informed by evidence, rather than anecdote and lead to stronger projects designed in cooperation with host country counterparts, including government and civil society.

The challenges involved in meeting the MDGs by 2015 remain daunting, yet USAID along with our global partners are making significant strides.  Using breakthrough innovations, integrated approaches, and strategic partnerships we can achieve unprecedented progress in the years to come.

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