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Calling all Innovators to Help Fight Ebola

Saving lives at birth. Powering clean energy solutions in agriculture. Inventing new tools to teach a child to read. Across development, we’re calling on the world’s brightest minds to tackle our toughest challenges. In the last few years, we have helped launch five Grand Challenges for Development that have rallied students and scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to tackle some of humanity’s toughest problems.

Today, we face just that kind of challenge—a global health crisis that is in dire need of new ideas and bold solutions. From Guinea to Liberia to Sierra Leone, Ebola is devastating thousands of families, disrupting growth, and fraying the fabric of society. The United States is helping lead the global response to the epidemic, but we cannot do it alone. That is why President Obama launched our sixth Grand Challenge. Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development is designed provide health care workers on the front lines with better tools to battle Ebola.

To help kickstart this Grand Challenge, some of our nation’s most innovative problem-solvers will gather in DC today and tomorrow to work on this issue.  We’re also inviting people from all over the country to share their ideas. You can add your thoughts and see what other people saying here.

As the United States and the international community work to contain the worst Ebola epidemic on record, courageous men and women are performing critical tasks every day to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus. Personal protective equipment (PPE)—the suits, masks and gloves the health care worker wears—is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress. In these hot and uncomfortable suits, health workers must administer to the patients and remove contaminated materials.

Together with the White House Office of Science and Technology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense, Fighting Ebola seeks new practical and cost-effective solutions to improve infection treatment and control and provide better care to those who need it most.

The first part of the initiative is an open innovation platform powered by OpenIDEO, one of the world’s top design firms. Through it, the global community can brainstorm, collaborate, and comment on new ideas that generate practical solutions to the Ebola epidemic. The strongest ideas may be encouraged to apply for funding later in the Grand Challenge. Our aim is to begin funding ideas in a matter of weeks.

Over the last several years, we’ve found that Grand Challenges not only generate inventive tools and breakthrough technologies, but inspire us to confront seemingly insurmountable challenges—and succeed.

Get started by joining the conversation. To learn more, please visit http://ebolagrandchallenge.net/

Health workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) wait to enter the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept 22. 2014. PPE is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress

Health workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) wait to enter the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept 22. 2014. PPE is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

The Fight on Ebola Continues in the Lab

In a heavily forested area about 65 miles east of Monrovia, Liberia, statues of stone monkeys keep vigil over a sprawling campus of buildings that has seen better days. The Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR) was established in the 1970s as a premier research facility to develop scientific breakthroughs for a variety of viral infections, including hepatitis. The rusted, empty animal cages serve as a reminder of the past research conducted here.

Entrance to the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research -- once a testing facility for Hepatitis B, currently the national lab for diseases like Malaria, Cholera, and now, Ebola.  Entrance to the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research — once a testing facility for Hepatitis B, currently the national lab for diseases like Malaria, Cholera, and now, Ebola.  

Anthony, a janitor at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, walks past rusted, empty cages that once housed Chimpanzees used for testing.Anthony, a janitor at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research, walks past rusted, empty cages that once housed Chimpanzees used for testing.

Now, the facility finds itself drawn into an epidemiological battle against another outbreak, this time, the Ebola virus. LIBR is one of only a few laboratories in Liberia where Ebola specimens are sent to be tested. Due to the spiralling number of Ebola cases in the region, boosting LIBR’s laboratory testing capacity has been a top priority for a team of medical and disaster experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“People are dependent on these test results,” said Gary Wes Carter, an emergency management chief with USAMRIID. “The longer a sample sits here, the longer a doctor in the field goes without an answer needed to make critical decisions about patient care.”

Specimens from across the country are delivered to LIBR daily in these coolers.   Specimens from across the country are delivered to LIBR daily in these coolers.   


Since April, American laboratory and disease control experts have been working at LIBR to process Ebola samples and train local technicians. When the rate of Ebola infections spiked in June, more equipment and personnel were brought in. As a result, LIBR’s lab processing capacity almost doubled from 40 specimens a day to more than 70. The goal is to eventually be able to test approximately 100 specimens a day, with assistance from the USAID-led Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and the USAID Mission in Liberia.

USAID’s disaster response and development experts are working to upgrade the laboratory facility by improving specimen containment, providing improved internet access, renovating hygiene facilities, repairing plumbing, and working with contractors to rewire the building so that it receives a steady source of electricity.

“There are a number of projects underway,” said DART Logistics Officer Sergio Solis. “Working together, we could make LIBR not only more efficient, but more sustainable for the Liberian scientists and laboratory technicians who will be running the facility.”

Laboratory experts with the USAMRIID agree that partnerships are the key to combatting the Ebola outbreak.

“We couldn’t have made the lab sustainable in the long-term without the assistance of USAID,” said Carter. “I have never been to an outbreak response where there has been this much intergovernmental collaboration. This has been amazing.”

Dr. Alec Hail, a Senior Clinical Veterinarian at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and his team spend all day from early morning until dark in the lab working on processing samples, documenting results, and sending out reports. Dr. Alec Hail, a Senior Clinical Veterinarian at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and his team spend all day from early morning until dark in the lab working on processing samples, documenting results, and sending out reports.


Before technicians enter the lab at LIBR, they must dress in full protective gear, which is essential to protecting them against the virus. Before technicians enter the lab at LIBR, they must dress in full protective gear, which is essential to protecting them against the virus.  


Dr. Anthony Jones works inside the Ebola testing lab: “This is one of the best labs Africa has ever seen,” says Alec Hail, Senior Clinical Veterinarian at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The lab started off by testing 20 to 30 specimens per day. Just a few weeks later, the it can test up to 80 specimens per day.Dr. Anthony Jones works inside the Ebola testing lab: “This is one of the best labs Africa has ever seen,” says Alec Hail, Senior Clinical Veterinarian at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The lab started off by testing 20 to 30 specimens per day. Just a few weeks later, the it can test up to 80 specimens per day.  


Dr. Jason Kindrachuck inserts the DNA from 47 people into the PCR machine to determine if they test positive for Ebola. This machine can test up to 100 samples at a time.  Dr. Jason Kindrachuck inserts the DNA from 47 people into the PCR machine to determine if they test positive for Ebola. This machine can test up to 100 samples at a time.  


Dr. Jason Kindrachuk (left) and Microbiologist, Dr. Anthony Jones (right) spend four to eight hours of their day in protective space-like suits in a laboratory containment suite preparing samples from potential Ebola patients. Dr. Jason Kindrachuk (left) and Microbiologist, Dr. Anthony Jones (right) spend four to eight hours of their day in protective space-like suits in a laboratory containment suite preparing samples from potential Ebola patients. As the light fades outside, they face the hardest part of their day. After changing back into normal clothes, one reads the list of names of specimens tested that day as the other records the information into a spreadsheet. Each name read aloud is followed by “positive” or “negative.”  “That’s when it gets real,” says Dr. Kindrachuk. Fifty to 60 percent are positive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carol Han is a Press Officer for the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team

Washington Post Overly Alarmist on Liberia’s “Descent into Hell”

The Washington Post’s September 30 story of Liberia’s “descent into economic hell” was overly alarmist and disconnected from that country’s recent history.

Liberia’s descent into hell occurred during the nearly 15 years of civil war that ended in 2003. This was one of the sharpest economic declines ever recorded: between 1988 and 1996, per capita income fell by almost 90 percent.

The legacy of that descent remains. Despite a decade of robust post-conflict progress, Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an income per capita less than half of what it was in the early 1970s. Educational attainment is growing from a low base, the formal manufacturing sector is tiny, the rural road network is inoperable much of the year because of seasonal rains, and unemployment is widespread. Trust in government is limited.

The U.N. World Food Program distributes USAID-donated rice in West Point, a Monrovian township that has been one of the hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic. / Morgana Wingard

With funding and support from USAID, construction crews work quickly to build a new Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia, Liberia on Oct. 1, 2014 in front of the former Ministry of Defense building. / Morgana Wingard

But the Ebola crisis has hit a society that is on the rise economically and in the midst of constructing legitimate and effective government institutions.

This is ascent, not descent.

It is the responsibility of the Government of Liberia and its global partners – the World Bank, the CDC, USAID, and others – to consider worst-case scenarios in order to ensure preparedness and underscore the urgency of containing the Ebola crisis. But these are alternative views of the future; it serves nobody to caricature the present.

The World Bank’s latest economic projection suggests that Liberia’s real GDP growth will be less half of what was previously expected (prior to the Ebola outbreak, it was anticipated to be nearly 6 percent), and remain at depressed levels in 2015 even if the international response is adequate and the epidemic is contained within the first half of the year.

This is a severe shock, coupled with deep and lasting tragedy for affected families. But it is not a descent into hell.

President Obama has made the humanitarian and national security case for major U.S engagement to contain this unprecedented outbreak and maintain stability in the region. This whole-of-government response is underway, and it is in fact a whole-of-country response, in partnership with global institutions and the Government and people of Liberia and with vital and acutely-needed contributions from American families, health volunteers, and the private sector. Together we will recapture the ascent.

Stephen O’Connell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen O’Connell is USAID’s Chief Economist. He guides the Agency on economics-based decision making and provides expert advice to Agency leadership and staff in the field of economic growth.

Standing with Liberia to Reverse Ebola’s ‘Spillover’ Effects

 With funding and support from USAID construction crews work quickly to build a new Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia in front of the former Ministry of Defence Building. / Morgana Wingard

With funding and support from USAID construction crews work quickly to build a new Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia in front of the former Ministry of Defence Building. / Morgana Wingard

The Ebola Virus Disease, and the pressing need for rapid containment over the next 3 to 9 months, presents the global community with a formidable challenge. More than 7,000 cases have already been confirmed in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (the three core countries of the epidemic), and more than 3,300 people have already died. The epidemic is strengthening, but so too is the international response.

Ebola threatens not only lives, but livelihoods. The main driver of economic impacts is not the loss of labor to sickness and death, or even the major diversion of resources into health care, but rather the much broader spillover effects from peoples’ fear of contagion.

Isolation of infected persons is critical to controlling transmission, and wider restrictions including land border closings and partial community quarantines can interrupt economic activity on a temporary basis. But in an atmosphere of uncertainty about personal and business risks, activity can decline across the entire economy. Self-protective aversion behavior shuts down businesses, disrupts transportation and agriculture, and sidelines employment-creating investment plans – all of which drives down peoples’ livelihoods by undermining a country’s production and trade.

Liberia, where the outbreak is worst, has been rebuilding its economy since emerging from a long civil war in 2003. While economic growth has been strong in recent years, the country remains one of the poorest in Africa, with a per capita income of only $440 dollars and nearly 60 percent of the population below the poverty line. Liberia remains both institutionally weak and aid dependent, so a swift international policy reaction to this epidemic is crucial.

Food prices have recently begun to rise sharply in urban areas in Liberia, reflecting slowdowns in container shipping and uncertainty about future supplies. Regional trade has been reduced by land border closings. Internal transport has slowed down, reflecting official and unofficial restrictions on movement and higher fuel costs. The expatriate economy – with its incomes and expertise – has thinned out.  Some urban enterprises are shedding workers as many government contracts are being cut back, or put on hold.

The World Bank’s latest estimate of economic losses for 2014, in the three core countries, is $359 million. Under a rapid containment scenario, losses in 2015 are projected to be roughly $100 million, with the bulk of these in Liberia where per-capita incomes are not expected to begin rising again until 2016. Left unchecked, however, this epidemic could grow exponentially and drive up both human and financial costs by as much as 8 to 10 fold.  So the international community needs to act quickly and decisively, along a number of fronts.

Simply put, an Ebola epidemic that is not effectively contained and mitigated could reverse years of development progress for the affected countries, with harsh negative impacts on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Failure to contain would also increase the risk of outbreaks in neighboring countries, driving economic losses into the tens of billions of dollars.

 Washing is a vital part of the operation of the Ebola Treatment Unit at Island Clinic in Monrovia. All scrubs worn under PPEs and shoes must be washed thoroughly in chlorine water and then with soap. / Morgana Wingard

Washing is a vital part of the operation of the Ebola Treatment Unit at Island Clinic in Monrovia. All scrubs worn under PPEs and shoes must be washed thoroughly in chlorine water and then with soap. / Morgana Wingard

This epidemic calls for concerted international response including health workers, new treatment facilities, and medical supplies to the health sectors of the core countries, food security assistance to stressed and especially isolated and quarantined areas, and preparedness training for health systems in neighboring countries.

The United States, along with our international partners, is stepping up to this challenge. With Liberian clinics overwhelmed with new patients, we are providing 2,000 new beds, 130,000 sets of personal protective equipment, and 50,000 hygiene kits, along with plans to rapidly construct new health clinics.  To prevent further infections within Liberia, the USG and its partners will also provide 400,000 protection kits to reduce transmission in community settings.

To help offset declining government revenues and skyrocketing health costs, we are providing base salary support for civil servants in Liberia’s Ministry of Health, and working closely with the World Food Program to provide emergency food supplies to 1.3 million people across the region, including Ebola patients and communities under quarantine.

We’re also working closely with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to intensify our response across a broad range of areas, including supporting the country’s health system so that the focus on Ebola does not come at the expense of providing care to pregnant mothers or newborn infants.

Additionally, we’re working with the Government of Liberia and partners to mitigate the economic impacts of the crisis outside of the health system. This includes the crucial area of public messaging about the safe resumption of normal economic activities.

We’ve seen outstanding teamwork across our Agency, the U.S. Government, and our Disaster Assistance Response Team on the ground in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone—but we cannot win this fight alone.

We need qualified health care workers—nurses, doctors, and physician assistants—who could be a part of this historic response. We’re encouraging them to register at www.usaid.gov/ebola, and we’ll put them in touch with a network of organizations that are standing by to train volunteers. We’re also identifying care and evacuation procedures to support these professionals in their heroic humanitarian work.
With the same creativity and rigorous efficiency that we have applied to previous disasters, we can—and will—stop this epidemic. By working together with our partners from government, business, civil society, and the military, we can lay the groundwork for a brighter future in vulnerable communities grappling with Ebola’s devastation.

Stephen O’Connell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen O’Connell is USAID’s Chief Economist. He guides the Agency on economics-based decision making and provides expert advice to Agency leadership and staff in the field of economic growth.

Andrew Hill: “There’s no standard blueprint for an Ebola treatment unit.”

Morgana Wingard This is the second blog in our Profiles in Courage series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight on Ebola. This series will record the experiences of our Disaster Assistance Response Team staff on the front lines of the Ebola response – from the security officers, to public health experts, to information specialists – and offer their reflections on this historic health crisis.
Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill
U.S. Army Civil Engineer

The buzzwords here in Monrovia are “unprecedented” and “exponential.” Everything about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is unprecedented as it spreads exponentially.

U.S. Army civil engineer Andrew Hill is part of the USAID-led Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) tasked with implementing an unprecedented response to the Ebola crisis.

An essential part of that response is constructing and staffing new treatment facilities that can isolate and care for the growing number of people infected with the virus.

On the ground in Liberia, one of the first tasks by Andrew and the U.S. military engineers was to conceptualize and design an ETU. Working hand-in-hand with members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), they consulted the experts with a gold standard ETU model: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Building off of their expertise, they tailored the designs to create Department of Defense and AFL-specific versions, which could be built and implemented with their resources.

The plans started with a hand-drawn sketch that Andrew created while driving in a car on his way to various sites. That sketch formed the basis for what would become a full concept and material list needed to begin ETU construction.

Photo of Andrew Hill sketching

Photo of Andrew Hill sketching

The U.S. Army Africa engineers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Scott Sendmeyer, pooled their collective professional engineering knowledge and tools in order to continue developing and finalizing the design, and to determine the remaining requirements needed for implementation.

The first site to use the design is scheduled to begin construction imminently — and this model will be replicated and constructed across Liberia by a team of 150 AFL engineers to help save lives and stop the spread of Ebola.

(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. All this week she will be guest posting from USAID’s instagram

The Extreme Poor Shouldn’t Have to Make Extreme Choices

People living in extreme poverty too often experience the denial of basic human dignity—forced to make trade-offs of what is possible on an income that is literally pocket change for people in the developed world. Food comes at the expense of medicine, clothing at the expense of a roof over one’s head, water at the expense of education. Every trade-off is a potential disaster for the extreme poor; it is an insult to every person’s basic humanity.

The number of people classified as extremely poor (living on less than $1.25/day) has been reduced by 700 million over the last 20 years. Given this progress, USAID and other development partners believe that extreme poverty can continue to be reduced and be ultimately eliminated by 2030. Some unit of measure must be used, of course (agreed to be $1.25 per day), but using a precise number for income is but a crude indication of the dividing line between having to make heartbreaking choices and not.

Some wonder if it is actually viable to create a world free from extreme poverty. What has happened over the past 25 years provides the best indication of what is possible. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty was met five years ahead of schedule, in 2010. The mortality rate of children under 5 years of age has dropped by half since 1990. And both the maternal mortality rate and hunger rate nearly halved in the same period of time.

To be sure, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done—over 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty—but this video speaks to USAID’s resolve to live up to its mission statement and make 2030 truly historic.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christina Droggitis is a Policy Analyst in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning.

Facing Death, Six Days a Week

Morgana Wingard This is the third blog in our Daily Dispatches series in which we’ve teamed up with photojournalist Morgana Wingard, who is on the ground with USAID staff in Liberia documenting the fight on Ebola. Her photo series and blogs from the team will offer unique angles into the many facets of the Ebola story – from life inside a treatment center, to profiles of the health care workers battling Ebola from the front lines, to the many ways the epidemic is impacting the health, economy and future of the nation.

What do you say to a mother who just lost her child? To a neighbor who just lost her best friend? How do you comfort them before you carry away the body of their loved one in a black bag in the back of a dark green pick-up truck? Varbah Dolley faces these scenarios six days a week. Varbah is tough – like most Liberian women who have lived through two civil wars. She is now fighting another a war, against an enemy she can’t see.

Varbah is a member of a Liberian Red Cross burial team. Funding from USAID and support from the U.S.-based NGO Global Communities is providing burial-team support activities in all 15 counties of Liberia, as well as engaging with communities to share information on proper hygiene practices and preventing transmission through workshops, community meetings, and radio campaigns.

From the moment they start showing symptoms, someone who has contracted the Ebola virus is highly contagious. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids including vomit, diarrhea, blood, and saliva. After the person dies, the body is even more contagious.

In Liberia, rituals to prepare bodies for burial are contributing to the rapid spread of the virus. The dead body is typically washed and dressed by multiple people before being carried to a grave — a ripe situation for the virus to spread. Graves are also important landmarks for Liberians. Decoration Day, a government holiday, is dedicated to visiting and decorating family graves. It’s where they can speak with their ancestors and commune with them. As the burial team prepared to take one body, I heard a woman wail: “I will have nothing to decorate on Decoration Day.”

To stop the spread of Ebola, burial teams have been mobilized across Liberia to provide safe disposal of contagious bodies, which often includes cremation. With the epidemic on the rise, every dead body is now considered an Ebola body. Varbah’s team leaves central Monrovia every morning to respond to reports of deaths. These calls often lead them to communities deep in rural Liberia. Last week, we drove for more than two hours over rough dirt terrain to reach Arthington – which also happens to be the birthplace of former warlord Charles Taylor.

On Sept. 26, 2014, Varbah, a member of  Liberia Red Cross and Global Communities burial team, listens to the mother of  Phelica Anthony, 6, explain the events leading up to her daughter’s recent death. Although  Phelica was taken to several hospitals, the cause of her death was not determined, and now her father is exhibiting symptoms of Ebola.

On September 26, 2014, Varbah, a member of the Liberian Red Cross and Global Communities burial team, listens to the mother of  Phelica Anthony, 6, explain the events leading up to her daughter’s recent death. Although Phelica was taken to several hospitals, the cause of her death was not determined, and now her father is exhibiting symptoms of Ebola.


Monrovia, Liberia - September 26, 2014: Burial team members take notes for their end-of-day report as  Phelica’s mother describes the events leading up to her 6-year-old daughter's death.

Burial team members take notes for their end-of-day report as Phelica’s mother describes the events leading up to her 6-year-old daughter’s death.


Varbah climbs out of the mud-splattered jeep and calmly walks over to a crowd with her notebook and pen. She jots down as much information as possible about each patient and their family for the report she submits every evening. “I know what you people are going through. But take courage,” she counsels the family of 6-year-old Phelica as they describe the events leading up to her untimely death. Phelica became inexplicably sick while playing outside. Her mother carried her to multiple hospitals for treatment. After spending a couple days at one hospital where they ran several lab tests, the doctor said she would not survive and Phelica died on the way home. Her father, who had cared for her, later began exhibiting symptoms of Ebola. A health team transported him to an Ebola treatment unit the day before we arrived.

Like many in West Africa, when it comes to the current public health crisis, Phelica’s family is suspicious.“You don’t know what killed the person because they are hiding the truth from us,” Varbah tells me later in the car.

Melvin Payoh, the assistant team leader of the burial team, suits up like an astronaut in the middle of the hot, rural village as onlookers gather and stare. A few minutes after disappearing past the first row of earth-walled homes, the team returns carrying a black bag. Everything about this Ebola outbreak feels unreal until men in white spacesuits walk through a town with a body-filled bag. A mother wails, “My baby, O. My baby, O.” Then it is painfully real. Numbers have names. Tears flow. Relatives fall on the ground. Hands flail. Melvin and his team lay Phelica’s little body in the back of a dark green pick-up truck.

I think Varbah and Melvin have the hardest job fighting this Ebola outbreak. They face death six days a week in order to save more lives. When I asked Varbah why she applied for the position she replied, “I do this for my country.”

"The body is over there," says Arthington's town chief pointing past the mother of Phelica, a 6-year-old girl that had recently died on Sept. 26, 2014.

“The body is over there,” says Arthington’s town chief pointing past the mother of Phelica, a 6-year-old girl that had recently died on September 26, 2014.


Melvin, a member of a burial team, suits up to remove the body of 6-year-old Phelica Anthony as onlookers from Arthington town film with a cell phone.

Melvin, a member of a burial team, suits up to remove the body of 6-year-old Phelica Anthony as onlookers from Arthington town film with a cell phone.


Varbah helps Melvin put on his personal protective equipment and ensures there are no gaps from the outside world to his skin before he goes in to pick-up the body of 6-year-old Phelica .

Varbah helps Melvin put on his personal protective equipment and ensures there are no gaps from the outside world to his skin before he goes in to pick-up the Phelica’s body.


The mother of Phelica Anthony, 6, says goodbye to her daughter as a burial team takes her body away. USAID is supporting the safe burial teams and Agency partners are working with communities to share information on proper hygiene practices and preventing transmission through workshops, community meetings, and radio campaigns.

The mother of Phelica Anthony, 6, says goodbye to her daughter as a burial team takes her body away. USAID is supporting the safe burial teams and Agency partners are working with communities to share information on proper hygiene practices and preventing transmission through workshops, community meetings, and radio campaigns.


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Melvin, a member of the Liberian Red Cross and Global Communities burial team removes the body of Phelica Anthony from her family home in Arthington.


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Phelica’s mother sings, “My baby O. My baby O” as the burial team removes her body.

Family, friends, and neighbors grieve as the body of Phelica is removed from their family home.

Family, friends, and neighbors grieve as the Phelica’s body is removed from their family home.


Family, friends, and neighbors grieve as the body of Phelica is removed from their family home.

Melvin lays the body of 6-year-old Phelica in the back of a pickup truck. They are under a mandate by the Government of Liberia to take all bodies they collect in Montserrado County to the crematorium.


(All photos by Morgana Wingard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgana Wingard is a photojournalist documenting the many facets of the Ebola crisis in Liberia. All this week she will be guest posting from USAID’s instagram

United with Ukraine: Hope, Progress, and the Challenging Road Ahead

In mid-September, I had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine to see firsthand the work that USAID is doing to support critical recovery and reform efforts. Not only did I return with a better understanding and appreciation of the programming we are implementing, but also was impressed by the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people facing the challenging road ahead.

During my trip, I had the opportunity to travel to Dnipropetrovsk – only a couple of hundred miles from the conflict zone in the East where thousands of Ukrainians were driven from their homes by the battle between Ukrainian forces and Russia-supported separatists.

At a visit to a Dnipropetrovsk center for internally displaced persons (IDPs), organized and run by volunteers, I was awestruck by the outpouring of support and the capacity of Ukrainians from all walks of life to contribute and assist their countrymen.

This center is providing food, clothing and temporary shelter to over 21,000 people pouring into Dnipropetrovsk from the neighboring Donetsk and Luhansk regions. I was able to meet Maria and her young daughter who were forced to leave their home in Horlivka, close to Donetsk and have been in  Dnipropetrovsk for a few weeks. While she told me that being displaced is difficult, she was very impressed with the reception provided in Dnipropetrovsk. Maria spends her days volunteering at the center and helping new arrivals.

USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige Alexander meets Lydia at the Dnipropetrovsk IDP Center.

USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige Alexander meets Lydia at the Dnipropetrovsk IDP Center. Lydia was forced to leave her home but hopes to return home soon. She is grateful for the support provided by Dopomoha Dnipra and the IDP Center. / Roman Woronowycz, USAID

In early June, the center received around 100 people per day. Now, with more than 300 new arrivals per day, the center needs support.The United States Government, in coordination with the government of Ukraine, has responded to the need to help the roughly 271,000 people displaced by this conflict. This center, and others like it, will receive bedroom furniture and kitchen appliances for new arrivals with nowhere else to go. USAID is also developing plans to refurbish two floors of the center to shelter an additional 200 people.

USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige Alexander and Head of Dopomoha Dnipra Foundation Vladislav Makarov sign a Memorandum of Understanding by which USAID will provide funds to assist an additional 200 internally displaced persons

USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige Alexander and Head of Dopomoha Dnipra Foundation Vladislav Makarov sign a Memorandum of Understanding by which USAID will provide funds to assist an additional 200 internally displaced persons. / Roman Woronowycz, USAID

During Ukraine’s Maidan movement, thousands took a stand against corruption and government abuse to demand a free and democratic Ukraine. Throughout my trip, it became evident that the Ukrainian people are eager to contribute to their new government’s efforts. At one meeting, I entered a room packed with dozens of civil society representatives, many of whom we support to build their organizations’ capacity to advocate for and oversee reform efforts in decentralization, transparency, and health. Not only is their passion and dedication working to hold the government accountable, but many are also working to improve the humanitarian situation in the East by helping the government care for IDPs and even feeding and clothing soldiers. They are truly continuing to fight for the dignity that started on the Maidan and are one of the main reasons I’m hopeful about Ukraine’s future.

Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovska (left) and USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige Alexander attend the launch of a USAID human rights project in Kyiv

Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovska (left) and USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Paige Alexander attend the launch of a USAID human rights project in Kyiv. / Roman Woronowycz, USAID

Although the Government was not able to pass an anti-corruption bill on September 16th, key officials remain committed to paving the way for a new Ukraine. I had the honor to meet with newly elected Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klychko – some of you might remember Mr. Klychko, who for years reigned as heavyweight boxing champion of the world before entering the Ukrainian political ring. Mr. Klychko is pushing for major reforms in this city of 4 million to address waste and corruption. USAID is redoubling its efforts to partner with the City on its anti-corruption agenda, especially on e-governance, where USAID has recently hired an advisor to assist the city, the Presidential Administration, and the Ministry of Regional Development.

Looking forward, the U.S. Government remains committed to supporting Ukraine in both the short and long term as its leaders make the difficult sacrifices required to build the stable, democratic, and prosperous country its people deserve.

During President Poroshenko’s visit on September 18th, President Obama announced a new package of assistance totaling $53 million and has requested an additional $45 million from Congress in the next fiscal year to support Ukraine. The U.S. Government has provided $291 million in critical assistance this year as well as a $1 billion loan guarantee in May.

USAID, as part of a U.S. Government interagency team, is working closely with local partners and international donors to deliver immediate support to meet Ukraine’s most urgent areas of need. Together, we can help get relief to IDPs and provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict areas in eastern Ukraine.

USAID is making every effort to help Ukraine prepare for the challenges presented by the coming winter, replacing damaged windows to make homes habitable in the cold, and working with the electrical system managers to reduce the dangers of black-outs because of the fuel shortage. We are gearing up to assist in next month’s parliamentary elections to help ensure that the voices of all Ukrainians are heard and represented.

While these pressing needs are being addressed, USAID will continue to help Ukraine make important reforms that are necessary to end corruption, decentralize power, and reform its constitution.

In the longer term, USAID continues to work with the Ukrainian Government to support a prosperous Ukraine, with a stable economy, more productive farms, and greater energy efficiency.

In recent months Ukraine has made great strides in many areas. The Ukrainian Parliament unanimously passed the Association Agreement with the European Union, committing Ukraine to economic, judicial and financial reforms in line with European Union policies and legislation. Ukraine has fulfilled several steps of the Minsk ceasefire agreements necessary to stop the loss of life in Eastern Ukraine. A free and fair presidential election was held in May and the country now prepares for historic parliamentary elections.

Despite these achievements, serious challenges remain.

Even while fighting to protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and responding to the pressing needs of its citizens in the short-term, the Ukrainian government cannot forget the message of the Maidan and must follow through on its commitments to fighting corruption, improve the rule of law, and build the transparency and accountability that they promised.

Ukraine is at a critical juncture and if history is any indicator, there is a limited window of time for the Ukrainian Government to make good on these commitments. Only through the passing and implementation of challenging reforms, will Ukraine be successful in the long road ahead. The United States, including USAID, look forward to remaining a strong and committed partner in this journey.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paige Alexander is USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia

Diaspora Businesses Find Success in Africa and Beyond

Want to build a global business? Start it in Africa.

The African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) encourages promising diaspora entrepreneurs to do just that.

The partnership between USAID’s Global Development LabWestern Union, and Western Union Foundation provides seed funding, expertise, and networking opportunities for a talented group of entrepreneurs to create new opportunities in and outside the continent.

We  recently caught up with a few of ADM’s entrepreneurs to discuss their progress, and what they like most about doing business in Africa.

U.S. based tech company, Sproxil created an efficient way to verify the authenticity of medicine and other  products for consumers in Africa and Asia.

U.S. based tech company, Sproxil created an efficient way to verify the authenticity of medicine and other products for consumers in Africa and Asia. / Sproxil

Protecting Consumers from Fake Drugs
Tech start-up and ADM grantee, Sproxil developed an anti-counterfeiting service for a range of products, including pharmaceuticals drugs. The firm’s Ghanaian founder first pioneered the SMS-based verification service in Nigeria and quickly scaled it to additional markets. In 2013, Fast Company magazine ranked Sproxil as seventh amongst the year’s 50 most innovative businesses along with Google and Nike.

“[ADM] was fundamental in accelerating our growth, enabling Sproxil to scale-up faster than we would have otherwise,” says Alden Zecha, Sproxil Chief Financial Officer and Strategist.

“Consumers, governments, and businesses are very receptive to technological innovations that enhance quality of life. Consequently, more startups and investments are focusing on countries across Africa,” said Zecha about the region’s tech sectors.

Today, Sproxil’s mobile phone based service has helped American, African, and Asian consumers verify the authenticity of more than 11 million medicines and other products.

Grown in Ghana, Ashanti Pineapples were able to sell their certified organic produce in Whole Foods Market grocery stores thanks in part to the ADM partnership.

Grown in Ghana, Ashanti Pineapples were able to sell their certified organic produce in Whole Foods Market grocery stores thanks in part to the ADM partnership. / Sardis Enterprises International

Going Organic Reaps Sweet Success
Sardis Enterprises International and its Ghanaian partners, grow organic fruits for export. By producing and selling organic fruits, Sardis is reaching higher-value markets. In January, its Ashanti brand pineapples began selling in Whole Foods grocery stores in the southeast United States.

With support from the ADM, farming cooperatives in Ghana that supply Sardis were able to become certified to sell organic produce in the U.S. and E.U. “That venue [ADM] was very good for a young entrepreneur that needs a platform to get exposure and assistance to expand,” says Michael Griffin, CEO of Sardis.

Griffin sees expanding opportunities for growing small businesses on the continent. “[Africa] gives the small guy a shot…the atmosphere is conducive for a smart entrepreneur to succeed.”

The company is now working on expanding its partnership with Whole Foods across America’s east coast.

Chinwe Ohajuruka, an American educated architect and business women is creating a model for green and affordable housing units in Nigeria.

Chinwe Ohajuruka, an American educated architect and business women is creating a model for green and affordable housing units in Nigeria. / CDS

Making Affordable Green Housing a Reality
In Nigeria, there is a need for more than 17 million houses. The nation also faces major challenges with reliable power, and access to clean water. Enter Comprehensive Design Services (CDS), a Diaspora founded and woman-owned business. CDS has designed and built a set of prototype housing units that provides dependable renewable energy and clean water for Nigerians of average incomes.

“The ADM grant provided much needed start-up financing,” said Chinwe Ohajuruka, head of CDC and a Nigerian-American Architect. ‘The partnership has increased [our] visibility, as we have been invited to South Africa, Japan, and even the White House to speak about our innovative and sustainable design solutions to the housing, renewable energy, clean water, and sanitation crisis.”

A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Ohajuruka says the ADM allows her to stay connected with the continent in a meaningful way.

Her ambitious goal is to eventually build 100 green and affordable residential buildings in each of the 774 local municipalities across Nigeria.

Thanks to the success of CDS, Sproxil, Sardis and other diaspora businesses supported by the ADM, it has been nominated as a finalist for the P3 Impact Awards.  The award showcases outstanding public-private partnership for their innovations and results.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Romi Bhatia is a Senior Advisor in the U.S. Global Development Lab (@romib15)
Jeffrey Jackson is a Senior Advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Africa (@USAIDAfrica)

A Grand Challenge to Help Health Care Workers Fight Ebola

Health care workers put on Personal protective equipment (PPE) before going into the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept 22 2014. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Health care workers put on personal protective equipment (PPE) before going into the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept. 22 2014. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Today, West Africa faces the largest Ebola epidemic in history. Markets are empty. Schools are closed. Friends greet each other from a distance. As President Obama said yesterday at the United Nations:

“Ebola is a horrific disease. It’s wiping out entire families. It has turned simple acts of love and comfort and kindness — like holding a sick friend’s hand, or embracing a dying child — into potentially fatal acts. If ever there were a public health emergency deserving an urgent, strong and coordinated international response, this is it.”

From Guinea to Liberia to Sierra Leone, the alarm has been sounded, and United States is mobilizing a global response. We know how to stop this epidemic, but it will take ingenuity, speed, and cooperation. That is why President Obama announced a new Grand Challenge for Development to generate pioneering solutions that help health care workers provide better care in the midst of the epidemic.

“I’m pleased to announce a new effort to help health workers respond to diseases like Ebola. As many of you know firsthand, the protective gear that health workers wear can get incredibly hot, especially in humid environments. So today, we’re issuing a challenge to the inventors and entrepreneurs and businesses of the world to design better protective solutions for our health workers… And our goal is to get them to the field in a matter of months, to help the people working in West Africa right now.  We can do this.”

Every day, courageous men and women are performing critical tasks that save lives and prevent the spread of the virus. Personal protective equipment (PPE)—the suits, masks and gloves the health care worker wears—is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress. In these hot and uncomfortable suits, health workers must administer to the patients and remove contaminated materials.

Health workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) wait to enter the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept 22. 2014. PPE is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Health workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) wait to enter the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept 22. 2014. PPE is their primary protection, but it is also the greatest source of stress. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Announced at the Global Health Security Summit in Washington, D.C., this Grand Challenge for Development will unite the global community in the quest for ingenious ideas that deliver practical and cost-effective innovations in a matter of months, not years.

We need new ideas to help ensure that treatment sites, communal transport units, and burial sites do not become infection sources. We need new solutions that strengthen the safety and increase the comfort of the suits, from improving fabric design to measuring a health worker’s temperature and heart rate.

We need new ways to simplify clinical processes, including point-of-care diagnostics. And we need new tools that continue to create a safer clinical environment, including improving infection control and waste disposal. Taken together, these innovations will enable health workers to provide better care for those who are suffering.

Together with our international partners, we will translate the expertise and ingenuity of scientists, innovators, engineers, and students from across the globe into real solutions. With your bold thinking and engagement, we can give health workers the tools they need to win this fight.

To get involved, please visit: http://www.usaid.gov/grandchallenges/ebola

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Rajiv Shah is USAID Administrator. He tweets from @rajshah

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