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Powering The Ebola Response: Monrovia’s Island Clinic

Morgana Wingard This is the first 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.

MONROVIA, Liberia—One of the saddest things about the Ebola outbreak in Liberia is the inability for many patients to get treatment. In Dolo Town recently, I watched a father carry his ailing son in a wheelbarrow to the clinic for treatment, but they did not have the capacity to help. He had been calling the government hotline for four days to no avail. A team of NGO workers proceeded to call the hotline again and a personal ambulance, but they also couldn’t get any help. All the treatment centers were full. In the end, the clinic sent him and his son home along with two other patients. Different versions of the same story have repeated across Monrovia for weeks. Liberians, trying to do the right thing, called the hotline and drove their loved ones to the hospital only to be denied entrance.

A father is devastated in Dolo Town after he was unable to get his son into an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) . It’s unclear whether he has Ebola as he can’t get to a facility for testing -- an all too common problem. The U.S. Government is helping build and staff several new facilities in Liberia. / Morgana Wingard

A father is devastated in Dolo Town after he was unable to get his son into an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) . It’s unclear whether he has Ebola as he can’t get to a facility for testing — an all too common problem. The U.S. Government is helping build and staff several new facilities in Liberia. / Morgana Wingard

After hearing too many of these stories as I have documented the unfolding Ebola crisis over past weeks, the opening of another Ebola treatment unit (ETU) was a huge relief. With the help of USAID, the Liberian Government and the WHO opened the 100-bed facility on Sunday, September 21. To power the treatment center, USAID provided two generators, amongst other supplies. These generators are vital to the functioning of the clinic by providing power for lights, pumps for water, and washing machines to clean scrubs worn by health care workers under their personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Miata, a nurse we met, said all the health care workers ran from nearby Redemption Hospital, the largest government-run hospital in Liberia, at first. A doctor and several nurses on staff became infected with Ebola and died as the outbreak was beginning in Liberia. But when a team of Ugandan health care workers arrived in Liberia who had fought previous Ebola outbreaks in their own country, they called them together for a training workshop.

“That workshop inspired me to come back. If we don’t help the patients, who will?” Now, she is not afraid because she can cover herself with personal protective equipment before she enters the “hot zone” to provide food for patients fighting the Ebola virus. This new Island Clinic facility is helping. But many more beds and qualified health care workers are needed to meet the needs of growing numbers of patients.

Qualified health care workers’ interested in volunteering can go to http://www.usaid.gov/ebola/volunteers for information.

Here are some shots I took on our trip to Island Clinic on Monday.

The entrance for health care workers going into Island Clinic

The entrance for health care workers going into Island Clinic, a new Ebola Treatment Unit that opened in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept. 21, 2014 and within one day, reached capacity. The building was a Doctors without Borders hospital during Liberia’s Civil War. It was neglected for several years until the government, with help from the World Health Organization, transformed it into a 100-bed clinic in response to the surge of patients needing care due to the Ebola crisis that is hitting Liberia especially hard. Many people are calling the battle against the Ebola epidemic a “biological war” and now these same facilities that were used during the country’s long Civil War are finding a new use as Liberia struggles to contain the crisis. USAID has provided two generators to the facility which are providing power for lights, pumps for water, and washing machines to clean scrubs worn by health care workers under their personal protective equipment.


A family waits at the entrance to the Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia

A family waits at the entrance to Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, which was opened by the World Health Organization and the Liberian Ministry of Health in response to the surge of patients needing an Ebola Treatment Unit. Here, a health worker in protective gear tells the family to wait on the side as they open the doors for an ambulance to exit the facility. Before the facility opened on September 21, ambulances and patients arrived at the gates waiting to be admitted. Just a day after opening, the clinic is already at capacity. USAID has provided two generators and other supplies to equip the facility with life-saving care.


Health care workers put on personal protective equipment before going into the hot zone at the Island Clinic in Monrovia

Health care workers put on personal protective equipment before going into the hot zone at Island Clinic, in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept. 22, 2014. The 100-bed clinic opened on Sept. 21, and within one day it is already at capacity after approximately 100 Ebola patients were moved from the nearby Redemption Hospital and ambulances brought other Ebola-stricken patients from the community. There are still more patients on the way. The facility was set up by the World Health Organization and Liberia’s Ministry of Health in response to the surge of patients needing an Ebola Treatment Unit. USAID has provided two generators and other supplies the facility.


Hygienists at the ebola treatment unit at Island Clinic in Monrovia wash health workers' scrubs

Hygienists at the ebola treatment unit at Island Clinic in Monrovia wash health workers’ scrubs, a vital part of the operation at the new clinic, which opened September 21, 2014. Health workers at the clinic must follow extensive protocol to protect themselves. All scrubs worn under their personal protective equipment and shoes must be washed thoroughly in chlorine water and then with soap. While we were at Island clinic, one of the health workers told me why she was working here: “If we don’t help the patients, who will?” She said she is not afraid because she can cover herself with personal protective equipment before she enters the “hot zone” to provide food for patients fighting the Ebola virus.


A patient lies in a bed at the newly opened Island Clinic in Monrovia

A patient lies in a bed at the newly opened Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia on Sept. 22, 2014. The patient is getting an intravenous treatment – a crucial part of treatment for Ebola because the virus quickly dehydrates those it infects. However, using IV is also considered risky for health workers if they do not take proper precautions and not all treatment centers are using them. At the Island Clinic, a concrete wall and glass window offers those outside the clinica sobering view into the patient area. While I am standing less than a foot from this man, the perception is that I’m peering into a restricted and isolated world.

(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 U.N. World Conference on Indigenous People: An Opportunity for Real Change

Brazil’s Xingu Indian dancers celebrate. USAID has supported various efforts to reduce deforestation in the Xingu region, such as training a fire control brigade of Xingu men, and promoting sustainable cattle ranching in the reserve’s buffer zone.

Brazil’s Xingu Indian dancers celebrate. USAID has supported various efforts to reduce deforestation in the Xingu region, such as training a fire control brigade of Xingu men, and promoting sustainable cattle ranching in the reserve’s buffer zone. / International Katoomba Group

The first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), which kicked off today at the United Nations General Assembly, provides us with the opportunity to reflect and take action on the vital role that indigenous peoples play in sustainable development, protection of biological diversity, long-term food security, responding to global climate change, and safeguarding the earth’s remaining intact ecosystems.

Although they make up less than 5 percent of the global population, indigenous peoples are guardians of nearly two thirds of the world’s languages, over 80 percent of its biodiversity, and most of the genetic diversity of the planet’s seed crops. As we struggle to find solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges, the importance of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge cannot be overestimated.

Despite remarkable gains in recent decades—including increased participation in international policy-making processes, legal recognition under constitutions of numerous countries and significant advances within the United Nations—indigenous people still face many challenges. Around the world, they are still among the most marginalized peoples, facing multiple forms of discrimination, exclusion and oppression. All too often, development is a threat to their communities; logging, extractive industries, hydroelectric dams, industrial agriculture and even conservation projects continue to decimate their lands, lives and livelihoods.

Indigenous village women in Cambodia extract corn seeds from plants grown on titled community lands to provide villagers with food and income.

Indigenous village women in Cambodia extract corn seeds from plants grown on titled community lands to provide villagers with food and income. / Winrock International, SFB Project

For this reason, the success of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is critical. Not only must the world’s governments adopt a strong outcome document, they must commit to taking action to promote, protect and recognize the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. On this day, USAID reaffirms our commitment to extending the inclusiveness of its programs, while also highlighting some of our recent work:

  • In Colombia, USAID’s Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Program is investing $61.5 million over five years to build up community-based organizations, and ensure their members’ legal rights to the land they inhabit.
  • In Peru, USAID is helping indigenous communities protect their lands in the Amazon.
  • In Brazil, USAID is training indigenous people to fight forest fires and helping the Surui develop and implement their own land management plan.
  • In Guatemala, USAID has improved health clinics, trained providers and worked with communities to improve health in 30 municipalities in the Western Highlands.
  • This is encouraging, but there is much more work to do. Less than a year ago, I was honored to be appointed to the new position of Advisor on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, a role that was created by the U.S. Congress to implement a comprehensive U.S. strategy to support indigenous peoples around the world. I undertake this role with a sense of deep responsibility.
Supported by USAID, the Cofan indigenous people of Ecuador are working to become more united and stronger to continue conserving biodiversity within their territories.

Supported by USAID, the Cofan indigenous people of Ecuador are working to become more united and stronger to continue conserving biodiversity within their territories. / Thomas J. Müller

More than two decades spent working with indigenous peoples to promote and defend their rights has prepared me well for this task. I have seen firsthand the devastating impacts that poorly conceived development projects have on communities, and witnessed the brutality that native communities are met with when they seek to protect themselves and their lands. In my new role, I hope to develop policy, programs and projects that will ensure that indigenous peoples are included as equal partners in all of USAID’s work.

Strengthening their organizations has enabled Ecuador’s Cofan indigenous community to preserve their cultural identity and ancient knowledge.

Strengthening their organizations has enabled Ecuador’s Cofan indigenous community to preserve their cultural identity and ancient knowledge. / Thomas J. Müller

When President Barack Obama announced U.S. recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he declared that the United States is committed to taking a leadership role in ensuring that the collective rights of indigenous peoples—to their lands, resources and knowledge—are recognized and respected internationally. The responsibility for ensuring the long-term survival of indigenous peoples rests with all of us. If we are going to find our way forward to a truly sustainable development, if we are going to create societies that are resilient and democratic, if we are going to advance security and prosperity around the world, we are going to have to work in partnership with indigenous peoples. Let us hope that the WCIP inspires the world’s governments to take action to put into practice the ideals expressed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Keane is USAID’s Advisor for Indigenous Peoples Issues

Millennium Development Goals: Interconnected Web of Individual Goals

In 465 days we will see which Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) we achieved and where we fell short. As the focus sharpens on progress and impediments to reaching our objectives, the clearer it becomes that the eight MDGs are fundamentally interdependent. Progress towards an individual MDG can accelerate advancement elsewhere; stagnation in one area risks impeding progress towards other goals. To advance, we must balance the focus on single sectors with a cross-sectoral vision that ensures we foster long-term prosperity and well-being.

In Kenya, communities were given cows to fatten and sell for profit.

In Kenya, communities were given cows to fatten and sell for profit. / USAID, Riccardo Gangale

This interconnectedness is driven home every time I visit the field. In Kenya, I spoke with women and men about a project to increase resilience by diversifying sources of income; communities were given six cows to fatten and sell for a profit. The business helped the community ride out droughts and increase income (MDG 1). It also empowered women (MDG 3) by vesting them with responsibility for the animals, traditionally a man’s role within Maasai society. The women, in turn, used the profits to pay school fees for families too poor to send their kids to school, contributing towards universal education (MDG 2).

Data makes the intersections even clearer. For example, fostering universal primary education (MDG 2) promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment (MDG 3). The World Bank  finds that a girl’s completion of primary education will increase her lifetime wages by 5 to 15 percent. That investment can also reduce child mortality (MDG 4); according to the United Nations children under 5 have a 5 to 10 percent lower mortality rate for each additional year their mothers are educated. Universal primary education could also reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS (MDG 6); UNICEF estimates that educated girls are half as likely as uneducated girls to contract HIV/AIDS.

The World Bank finds that when a girl completes her primary education, she will earn more over her lifetime. These young girls are taking part of a school feeding program in the commune of Mbao, near Dakar, Senegal..

The World Bank finds that when a girl completes her primary education, she will earn more over her lifetime. These young girls are taking part of a school feeding program in the commune of Mbao, near Dakar, Senegal. / Engility, Stéphane Tourné

Investments in gender equality (MDG 3) can pay similar dividends. Increasing gender equality can help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (MDG 1). The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization believes that if women had access to the same agricultural inputs as men—including land, technology, financing, extension services— we could reduce the number of hungry people globally by 100-150 million. A USAID and Bangladesh Government supported project implemented by CARE found that fostering women’s empowerment in conjunction with interventions to improve nutritional well-being demonstrably increased the impact of food security-related interventions. Fostering women’s empowerment can also enhance maternal health (MDG 5) and lower child mortality (MDG 4); Kenya’s Demographic and Health Survey (2008-09) found that women with greater decision making authority were more likely to seek health care for themselves and their children before, during and after pregnancy.

Progress toward achieving certain MDGs can be inhibited by insufficient progress towards other goals. For example, permanently eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG 1) necessitates advances towards environmental sustainability (MDG 7). In the long-term, the two are intrinsically linked. A country is unlikely to have sufficient food for its citizens in perpetuity if natural resources—land, water, flora and fauna—degrade or disappear. Research from the Partnership for Economic Policy, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture found that in sub-Saharan Africa 80 percent of the loss of life and 70 percent of economic losses can be attributed directly or indirectly to droughts and floods, disasters exacerbated by climate change, unsustainable land use, and poverty that undermine resilience and create vulnerability.

Many agri-businesses, like Angelinia Michael Shirima’s rice business in Tanzania, stand to benefit from initiatives like Power Africa. The goal is to unlock the substantial wind, solar, hydropower, natural gas, and geothermal resources in the region to enhance energy security, decrease poverty, and advance economic growth.

Many agri-businesses, like Angelinia Michael Shirima’s rice business in Tanzania, stand to benefit from initiatives like Power Africa. The goal is to unlock the substantial wind, solar, hydropower, natural gas, and geothermal resources in the region to enhance energy security, decrease poverty, and advance economic growth. / CNFA

Partnerships (MDG 8) will be key to success across the board. An example—electricity is a key driver of development. Among the benefits, it enables education and storage of vaccines and medicines to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases. It also increases economic opportunity, helping eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.  To meet the needs of the 70 percent of the African population currently lacking electricity, the public and private sectors must work together. The U.S. Government launched Power Africa to focus public and private sector attention, political will and financial resources on delivering cleaner, more efficient electricity to 60 million household and businesses in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Only a collective effort will successfully mobilize the over $300 billion in capital needed to meet African energy demand between now and 2030.

So how do we manage the connections to maximize progress? First of all, we need to better understand how the MDGs intersect and affect one another. Using that deeper appreciation we must prioritize where we get the greatest bang for the buck, particularly when a single investment can advance progress towards multiple goals. We should also explore technologies to accelerate progress. Finally, we must track progress against the multiplicity of goals, understand the impact of our efforts and course correct when necessary.

USAID is striving to better understand and leverage the interconnections. For example, in 2010, we partnered with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative to create the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative, which aims to sustainably reduce global poverty and hunger. WEAI gives a broad picture of progress towards gender parity in agriculture and helps ensure we are elevating the status of women as an integral part of our work.

We are also using science and technology more extensively. In April, we launched our Global Development Lab to incubate and scale innovations that will enable faster, more effective, less expensive development. Among the advances the Lab is expanding use of is Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic for treating the umbilical cord stump of newborn infants that could potentially prevent half a million deaths globally. In Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, the use of Chlorhexidine is reducing neonatal mortality by 20 to 40 percent. Testing is now underway around the potential value of bringing the innovation to sub Saharan Africa.

As we accelerate towards the finish line, let’s focus and concentrate work to achieve the MDGs. It will pay big dividends for development and could transform the lives of millions worldwide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carla Koppell is USAID’s Chief Strategy Officer. She was formerly the Agency’s Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. You can follow her @CarlaKoppell

Water, Food and Extreme Poverty

A farmer ploughs his field in a village in West Bengal, India. The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development is helping harness ideas that have the potential to enable developing world farmers to grow more food with less water, or to make more water available for agriculture.

A farmer ploughs his field in a village in West Bengal, India. The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development is helping harness ideas that have the potential to enable developing world farmers to grow more food with less water, or to make more water available for agriculture. / A Sourav Karmakar

At USAID’s second Frontiers in Development Forum, we’re focusing on the role of innovation, science and technology in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. Over the past year, I have witnessed the potential of scientific and technological breakthroughs to address some of the developing world’s greatest challenges through our Grand Challenges for Development.

Our role at USAID is to help define these challenges, prioritizing key elements of the fight against extreme poverty. We then open our doors to potential solutions from a variety of disciplines, locations and specializations – in search of the most promising innovations. These Grand Challenges are developed in the form of prizes that have the potential to catalyze the world in the fight against extreme poverty.

The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development is an important element of this fight. The availability of water for food is crucial to farmers and others who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The number of people impacted by water stress and insecurity will only continue to rise, and providing simple, sustainable and cost-efficient solutions to this issue could help a poor family or community could grow more food, harvest a surplus, and earn additional income.

Over the past year, we launched two calls for Security Water for Food innovations. More than 570 applications represented more than 90 countries. Of these, we selected 17 award recipients whose proposals best demonstrated the potential to either enable the production of more food with less water, or to make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Solar-activated Lilypads kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in water used for agriculture in Mexico.

Solar-activated Lilypads kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in water used for agriculture in Mexico. / Puralytics

Ancient technologies are being revisited to provide Nepalese farmers with access to water for irrigation.

Ancient technologies are being revisited to provide Nepalese farmers with access to water for irrigation. / aQysta Holdings

These 17 winners will receive funding and acceleration support. Some were as simple as Aybar Engineering’s multi-purpose tool to move water from areas where it reduces crop yields to areas where it improves crop production, or aQysta Holding BV’s “Barsha” pump offering low maintenance, round-the-clock irrigation powered by flowing water that can help farmers double their crop yields.

Puralytics’ Lilypad acts like its namesake, floating on a body of water, while a solar-activated nanotechnology coating treats the water—sans chemicals, filters, pumps or electricity.

Practical Action proposed a unique sandbar cropping program in Bangladesh, where large, sandy islands appear in many rivers during the dry season and can actually be used by poor farmers to grow pumpkins.

Innovators MetaMeta & SaltFarmTexel and Wageningen University and Research Center have developed crops that can grow in highly saline conditions. With the support of this prize, they will find ways to transfer these crops to developing countries.

Learn more about all of the Securing Water for Food innovations here. We congratulate all of the award nominees, and are honored to support these innovative approaches in improving water availability and food security around the world – part of our work towards ending extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Holmes is USAID’s Global Water Coordinator

An Unprecedented Response to the Ebola Crisis

The Ebola crisis has quickly overwhelmed West Africa’s health system: new Ebola victims fill medical facilities faster than new ones can be established

The Ebola crisis has quickly overwhelmed West Africa’s health system: new Ebola victims fill medical facilities faster than new ones can be established. / Morgana Wingard

Today the world is facing the largest and most-protracted Ebola epidemic in history. Yesterday, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Obama declared the Ebola epidemic in West Africa a top national security priority and announced a clear, comprehensive, and global strategy to stop the outbreak.

“Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace. We’re prepared to take leadership on this to provide the kinds of capabilities that only America has, and to mobilize the world in ways that only America can do.  That’s what we’re doing as we speak.”

The United States has been combating the Ebola epidemic since the first cases were reported in March, and we have expanded our efforts and increased personnel in the region as the crisis has unfolded. More than 120 specialists from across the U.S. Government are on the ground in West Africa to prevent, detect, and stop the spread of this disease. USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team—or DART—to the region to oversee and coordinate the U.S. response, providing logistics, planning, program, and operational support to the affected countries; drawing forth critical assets and resources from several U.S. departments and agencies.

This crisis continues to escalate exponentially and requires an intensified speed and scale of response to address a rising rate of infection. It has quickly overwhelmed West Africa’s health system: new Ebola victims fill medical facilities faster than new ones can be established. Heroic doctors, nurses, and health workers are stretched to their personal and professional limits.

Against this landscape of overwhelming despair, there is hope. As the President declared in Atlanta:

“The world knows how to fight this disease. It’s not a mystery. We know the science.  We know how to prevent it from spreading. We know how to care for those who contract it.  We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives. But we have to act fast.“

That’s why yesterday afternoon President Obama announced a significant expansion of our response.

In an Ebola crisis, chlorine is used to disinfect areas that people infected with the virus may have come in contact with.

In an Ebola outbreak, chlorine is used to disinfect areas that people infected with the virus may have come in contact with. / Morgana Wingard

Through a whole-of-government approach, we’re mounting an aggressive U.S. effort to fight this epidemic and have devised a clear strategy with four key pillars to stop this epic crisis:

  • Controlling the epidemic;
  • Mitigating second-order impacts, including blunting the economic, social, and political tolls;
  • Coordinating the U.S. and broader global response; and
  • Fortifying global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond.

Our goal is to enable the most effective international response possible, using our government-wide capabilities to fight the epidemic on a regional basis. Our current efforts have focused on controlling the spread of the disease—bringing in labs for specimen testing; supporting the construction and management of Ebola treatment units; airlifting critical relief supplies; strengthening emergency response systems of the affected governments; supporting burial teams who are safely managing human remains to prevent transmission; and spearheading mass public awareness campaigns with communities to describe how to prevent, detect, and treat Ebola.

To complement these efforts, the President also announced the launch of the USAID-led Community Care Campaign, which will aim to provide every family and every community the critical information and basic items that can help protect them from this deadly virus.  Information will stress the importance of sick families members seeking help at a clinic or Ebola treatment unit and how to exercise basic infection control that can be life-saving, such as washing hands or not washing their dead relatives. Items like soap and chlorine can reduce transmission. Women are especially important to reach given their traditional role in washing the bodies of dead relatives — a prime transmission route of the virus. To reach people with low literacy, the campaign will train health volunteers and community leaders on how best to verbally provide messages to their neighbors.

Partnering with the affected countries, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and organizations on the ground, USAID will initially target 400,000 of the highest risk households in Liberia with this vital training and important tools.

The campaign is also rooted in a sobering reality. Half of all people who get sick don’t seek treatment at hospitals or Ebola treatment units. Many are frightened by rumors and deterred from traveling to hospitals where their friends and neighbors are taken and never return. A complex array of traditional beliefs and practices mean many of those who should seek help choose to stay in their homes – often putting those family members who care for them at risk.

The Ebola crisis is wreaking havoc on West Africa’s health care system. USAID is focused on supporting the construction and management of Ebola treatment units; airlifting critical relief and medical supplies; training health care workers; strengthening emergency response systems of the affected governments; and supporting public messaging with communities on how to prevent, detect and treat Ebola.

The Ebola epidemic is wreaking havoc on West Africa’s health care system. USAID is focused on supporting the construction and management of Ebola treatment units; airlifting critical relief and medical supplies; training health care workers; strengthening emergency response systems of the affected governments; and supporting public messaging with communities on how to prevent, detect and treat Ebola. / Morgana Wingard

This week, working alongside the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, we will airlift 50,000 USAID-funded home health care kits to be delivered to some of the most isolated and vulnerable communities in Liberia. We will simultaneously work with every part of society to educate people on how to prevent and detect Ebola through mass public awareness campaigns supported by radio, text, television and community announcements. As we scale up our response, the only way the virus will be controlled is if we make concerted efforts to reach every community, and every home in the affected areas.

We know tough months lie ahead. It will require a coordinated effort by the entire global community to help stem this terrible public health crisis. But every outbreak of Ebola in the last 40 years has been stopped, and this one will be, as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Lindborg is the USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

International Day of Democracy: Engaging Young People on Democracy

The theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy – Engaging Young People on Democracy – is an opportunity to reflect on our Agency’s efforts to protect, support and empower young people across the globe, especially as they engage in democratic processes. Youth play a critical role in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts, and are often at the forefront of people’s movements, such as the “Arab Spring.”

Despite being the majority of the population of many of the countries in which USAID operates, youth are frequently excluded from the political process, due to members of older generations who expect subservience and offer no respect to youth voices. Studies have shown that not effectively engaging disaffected youth can result in instability in communities and nations in the long term, and foment unrest that may ultimately hinder – not assist – the advancement of peace and democracy. If not engaged in efforts to advance positive change, youth can easily lose faith in the democratic process, become disillusioned or apathetic, vulnerable to extremist groups or gangs, and, in the worst case,  become perpetrators of violence.

Alumni of the 4th edition of the Certificate in Leadership and Political Management course, Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Corina Fuentes

Alumni of the 4th edition of the Certificate in Leadership and Political Management course, Matagalpa, Nicaragua. / Corina Fuentes

However, strengthening youth capacity will enhance their resilience and their communities. Investing in young people will also pay sustainable returns; youth may indeed be the primary hope for a reform-minded leadership. This was noted by President Barack Obama, who launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2010 to support young African leaders as they work to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent.

USAID is working to incorporate youth through strengthening youth programming, participation and partnership in support of Agency development objectives, as well as integrating youth issues and engaging young people across Agency initiatives and operations.

 Opening ceremony of the District youth Forum in Oecusse in Timor Leste on April 23, 2013. A total of 40 youth representatives from across the country participated.  / SFCG Timor Leste

Opening ceremony of the District youth Forum in Oecusse in Timor Leste on April 23, 2013. A total of 40 youth representatives from across the country participated.  / SFCG Timor Leste

In Nicaragua, USAID’s Young Civic and Political Leaders Initiative, implemented by National Democracy Institute (NDI), supports a Certificate on Leadership and Political Management program which equips young Nicaraguans with skills and knowledge to govern effectively and become community leaders.  The program specifically aims to create a space where youth representing different political ideologies and from different backgrounds can come together to learn about democratic leadership.

In East Timor, USAID’s Youth Radio for Peace Building (YR4PB) project, implemented by Search for Common Ground, is aiming to transform the way in which youth engage with government and community leaders  to promote peace and reconciliation, and prevent election-related violence through civic education, leadership training and media programming.

In Kenya, USAID’s Inter-Party Youth Forum, implemented by NDI, is promoting inter-party youth leadership and engagement through working with political parties, and nominated party youth to establish the Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF).  The Youth Forum focuses on clean elections, implementation of youth provisions in the constitution, and campaigning against negative ethnicity.

To date, the IPYF has expanded to the country level, engaged more than 1,500 youth through outreach sessions, held a national youth peace conference attended by 950 young people, and conducted a peace campaign around the 2013 election.

In Egypt, USAID’s LEAD-Women and Youth Program, implemented by Creative Associates, is a $1.3 million project with the objective to encourage and support the active participation of women and youth in political dialogue and debate. This includes during key transitional democratic processes through voter education, civic outreach and the establishment and expansion of civil society advocacy networks.

As USAID continues to adapt our democracy, human rights and governance programs to the changing global context, we remain committed to continuing to empower and support young people to become active, engaged and passionate leaders and democracy supporters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Benton Cooney is the Communications Specialist for the USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance in the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.

Ending Extreme Poverty: Frontiers in Development Photo Contest Top 5

On September 18-19, 2014, USAID will host the second Frontiers in Development Forum in Washington, DC., which will convene a dynamic community of global thought leaders and development practitioners to address the question: How will we eradicate extreme poverty by 2030? The Forum will bring together some of the brightest minds and boldest leaders on ending extreme poverty, and lay the groundwork for a broad coalition of partners committed to achieving this goal.

In an effort to include overseas missions in the Forum, USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning invited USAID staff and partners to participate in a photo contest showcasing the many ways communities and individuals around the globe are working towards ending extreme poverty.

With more than 200 submissions from over 32 countries, we are pleased to share the top five winners of our Frontiers in Development: Ending Extreme Poverty photo competition.

Thank you to all who submitted their images and captions.

#1 – Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

In Nigeria, USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, led by Jhpiego, supports women’s savings clubs. These clubs allow women to give money or borrow it when needed for medical expenses or business initiatives. Financially empowering women to make wise decisions about their health and that of their family, and launch initiatives in their community, is an important step in eradicating extreme poverty.

#2 – Photo by: Balaram Mahalder/WorldFish Bangladesh. Submitted by: Balaram Mahalder

Photo by: Balaram Mahalder/WorldFish Bangladesh. Submitted by: Balaram Mahalder

A mother spreads out fish on a fish drying matt. In the village of  Bahadurpur, there are about 30  family-run fish drying facilities. In traditional fish drying methods, these families would get low prices for their fish at the market. After USAID and WorldFish trained them to produce higher quality dried fish, they are now getting better prices and their incomes have increased.

#3 – Photo by: Kevin Ouma/TechnoServe. Submitted by Natalya Podgorny

Photo by: Kevin Ouma/TechnoServe. Submitted by Natalya Podgorny

Thousands of Maasai women now have a reliable market for their milk thanks to a pioneering cooperative in Kenya. Women are typically the milk traders in Maasai families, with income from milk sales going toward daily household needs. Yet Maasai women in Kenya face numerous challenges in providing for their families. They often cannot sell their milk because they lack transport. Their cows are less productive because of a lack of adequate fodder. And, they face a scarce supply of water, their most precious resource. TechnoServe, an organization that implements numerous USAID-funded projects, helped the women establish Maasai Women Dairy, the first dairy plant in Kenya owned almost entirely by Maasai women. The cooperative has grown to more than 3,200 active members and nearly quadrupled its sales in 2013.

#4 – Photo by: Ahmad Salarzai/Stability in Key Areas (SIKA)-East program in Afghanistan. Submitted by: Ryan McGovern

Photo by: Ahmad Salarzai/Stability in Key Areas (SIKA)-East program in Afghanistan. Submitted by: Ryan McGovern

In Baraki Barak District of Logar Province, Afghanistan, a local Community Development Council utilized a grant from USAID to repair a dilapidated irrigation system (karez), which now supports 150 families from three villages, who rely heavily on agriculture as their primary source of income. In the past, conflict over scarce resources resulted in bad blood between the villages. Communal projects such as this help improve food security and livelihoods, while simultaneously bringing feuding parties together to promote stability.

#5 – Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

Photo by: Karen Kasmauski/MCHIP. Submitted by: Cole Bingham

USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, led by Jhpiego, supports the HoHoe Midwifery Training school in Ghana. Students experience a simulated birth while their instructor advises them through the process. A trained midwife helps ensure a safe delivery, provides essential newborn care, and can deliver comprehensive reproductive health services, ensuring healthy mothers and strong families, helping to eradicate extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon Lazich is a program analyst in USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning working on communications. Follow her @SLazich

A Thank You to our Partners in Literacy

Students using tablets during a lesson at a classroom in the Ban San Kong school of Mae Chan, a town located in Thailand's northern province of Chiang Rai. / AFP, Christophe Archambault

Students using tablets during a lesson at a classroom in the Ban San Kong school of Mae Chan, a town located in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai. / AFP, Christophe Archambault

We partner because we recognize that none of us can reach our goals alone. But, building and maintaining partnerships requires hard work. Partnerships require focusing on common goals while allowing give and take, different strengths and weaknesses, and attention to equity and fairness, especially in contractual partnerships like marriage or a business.

I know because I’ve been married for 41 years and my husband engaged in a law practice with my father and brother for over three decades. In my personal and professional life in education, I’ve had the opportunity to work collaboratively with talented, strong-minded family and colleagues. Such partnerships are simultaneously challenging and stimulating.

At USAID we work in partnership with host country governments, as well as non-governmental and civil society organizations who implement many of our education development programs on the ground. As a bilateral donor we enter into partnership agreements with other donors, and contribute to the Global Partnership for Education, a growing multilateral donor organization. More and more, through our Agency’s ambitious reform agenda, USAID Forward, we create innovative partnerships with the private sector and work in tandem with governments and ministries to identify barriers to education and to remove them. We work across cultures, languages, and communicate through time zones.

We also partner with advocacy groups, civil society and with universities whose students and faculties share our passion for making the world a safer, more prosperous place. Through the Let Girls Learn campaign, we even partnered with Hollywood celebrities to send out a common message that young girls everywhere have the right to an education and a safe learning environment. Let Girls Learn has a ripple effect. The more people who learn about our work, the more partners we have to get it done.

As education partners, we have common goals driven by the Education for All movement and the Millennium Development Goals. As a sector, we are ready to re-commit to ambitious global goals, along with goals specific to our organizations. We all want more children in schools–particularly girls—and want quality learning to happen once a child gets there.

A Pakistani school girl attends class in Mingora, a town in Swat valley, on October 9, 2013, the first anniversary of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban. /AFP, A. Majeed

A Pakistani school girl attends class in Mingora, a town in Swat valley, on Oct. 9, 2013, the first anniversary of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban. / AFP, A. Majeed

We all want children to stay in school and agree that it’s important to provide opportunity for meaningful employment that will build prosperity and security around the world. Some of us may focus on early childhood or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), some may invest in technology or higher education, but in the end we all want the next generation to fare better than this generation and those that came before us.

We divvy up responsibilities. We maintain mutual respect for people of all nationalities, religions, races, ages and gender identities. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we revise. Together we keep trying to make each program a little better.

International Literacy Day highlights the work the world community is doing to give the next generation a chance at opportunity through education. Those of us at USAID within the Office of Education would like to take time on this day to thank the people within our partner organizations who help us to do our jobs better to improve opportunities for children.

I, for instance need to thank Ed Gragert and the folks at the Global Coalition for Education for helping introduce me to contacts at the colleges and universities I visited in April. I need to thank my husband, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for agreeing to partner with USAID on aligning school feeding programs in countries where USDA and USAID work. I thank Maureen McLaughlin from the Department of Education who helped coordinate a trip for Secretary Duncan to travel to Haiti to visit our reading programs and announce additional resources. I thank April Mora from the Basic Education Coalition who worked with me to create messages that the education sector can use to educate Main Street audiences. I thank former Prime Minister Gordon and Sarah Brown for bringing Malala Yousafzai to the United Nations a year ago to inspire the global education community.

If you receive thanks on this International Literacy Day from an education officer overseas or a program director here at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C., please know that it is heartfelt and personal. Thank you for all that you do!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christie Vilsack is USAID’s Senior Advisor for International Education. Follow her @ChristieVilsack

The $1 Trillion Market Opportunity: Taking Innovations to the Next Level

BioLite conducts a nighttime training on its low-cost biomass Homestove

BioLite conducts a nighttime training on its low-cost biomass Homestove. /BioLite

Next week, 11 USAID-supported innovators will join a delegation from the U.S. Global Development Lab in San Francisco at the 7th annual Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP). This diverse group of innovators includes, among others, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, the founder of a Sikh civil rights organization, a computer engineer, a Burmese-American lawyer, and the author of a book about a road trip from Maputo to Tunis.

Joining 2,000 fellow entrepreneurs, investors, philanthropists and venture capitalists at SOCAP — the largest annual gathering on impact investing in the world — these innovators will discuss their successes, celebrate their failures and engage with their peers and mentors on how their businesses can deliver financial returns while serving the needs of vulnerable communities. Most importantly, they will seek to connect with potential impact investors and attract capital in what is considered to be a $1 trillion market opportunity.

Events like SOCAP address one of impact investing’s primary challenges: capital to incubate innovators often isn’t available for early-stage entrepreneurs in developing countries. USAID has an important role to play here. By providing a limited amount of public capital through initiatives like the Development Innovation Ventures fund, the LAUNCH open innovation platform and the “Priming the Pump” Global Development Alliance (GDA) with Echoing Green, we can develop a pipeline of investment-ready social enterprises that can then attract private capital and scale.

One of the 12,800 Tanzanian homes Off.Grid has connected to energy over the past year

One of the 12,800 Tanzanian homes Off.Grid:Electric has connected to energy over the past year / Off.Grid:Electric

We invite you to meet this diverse and exciting array of innovators the Lab is supporting at SOCAP:

Niokobok: Senegal
The problem:  Thirty million African migrants send $60 billion back home annually. Africans pay the highest charges for money transfers in the world, costing them billions.

The solution:  Senegalese company Niokobok is an online retailer offering food and goods such as solar lanterns for delivery in Senegal. The company bypasses high transfer charges by giving Senegalese abroad the opportunity to order essential goods for their relatives rather than send cash directly. McKinsey estimates the African online retail market will be worth $75 billion by 2025.


Koe-Koe Tech Co. Ltd.: Burma
The problem:  A data-deprived health sector in Burma.

The solution:  Koe-Koe, in Yangon, creates software for hospitals, labs, and government and has created a mobile health app for the general population. Koe-Koe’s software has been installed at several major Burmese health institutions. The company’s goal is to develop a nationwide health information exchange where health information can be shared between health institutions.


Off.Grid:Electric: Tanzania
The problem:  85 percent of Tanzanian households operate without electricity. The alternative, kerosene, is costly and dangerous, and solar devices are often cost-prohibitive.

The solution:  Tanzanian-based start-up Off.Grid:Electric realized they could approach solar lights as telecom companies do cell phones: as services, not as products. With this unique approach, Off.Grid has connected 12,800 homes to energy over the past year and attracted investment for expansion.


Pixatel: India
The problem:  Low-quality teaching and absenteeism in India are major obstacles to improving student performance.

The solution:  Pixatel’s business model is based on evidence that computer-based learning is effective in supplementing varying teacher quality and responsive to student needs. The company created an adaptive, tablet-based learning platform that tailors content to each student. Teachers and administrators are provided with visibility into individual student performance as well as reports at a class and school level.


Eco-Fuel Africa: Uganda
The problem:  Many Ugandans cook food over wood or charcoal fires, causing chronic illness and death from smoke as well as deforestation.

The solution:  Ugandan firm Eco-Fuel Africa combined a unique business model with simple, low tech machines to convert agricultural waste into clean cooking fuel briquettes, which are sold as healthier cooking alternatives. The briquettes burn cleaner and longer and are cheaper than charcoal from wood. Over 10,000 Ugandan households are now using Eco-Fuel’s briquettes.


Sanergy: Kenya
The problem:  Contact with human waste in Kenyan slums is a leading cause of diarrheal disease, resulting in thousands of deaths each year.

The solution:  Nairobi-based Sanergy collects and recycles human waste into organic fertilizer, which is sold to the region’s commercial farmers. The company serves 18,000 Nairobi residents with hygienic sanitation daily.


Stromme Foundation: Peru
The problem:  Women in remote regions of the Andes often spend eight hours a day herding a flock of sheep, yet make just $120 a year. Overgrazing by livestock is the primary cause of environmental degradation in these areas.

The solution:  The Stromme Foundation uses a technique called Hydroponic Green Forage (HGF), which allows Andean region residents to grow grass at home. The technique uses less water and produces higher yields than other methods. It also saves time, allowing residents to engage in other, income generating activities.


DrinkWell: Bangladesh
The problem:  In Bangladesh, 20 percent of deaths are due to arsenic in the water supply.

The solution:  Bangladesh-based DrinkWell’s filtration technology delivers 60 times as much water, is 17 times more efficient, and reduces waste by seven times compared with existing solutions. DrinkWell uses a local franchise model, creating jobs and income.


Buen Power Peru: Peru
The problem:  In Peru, 6.7 million people don’t have access to electricity.

The solution:  Buen Power Peru provides affordable, renewable solar lighting products to rural communities through unique distribution channels including rural teachers and radio station distribution hubs.


BioLite: India
The problem:  Cooking on open fires results in 4 million premature deaths each year and contributes to climate change.

The solution:  BioLite has created a low-cost biomass Homestove that, by converting waste heat into electricity, reduces smoke emissions by 90 percent, reduces fuel consumption by half, and delivers electricity to recharge mobile phones and provide an evening’s worth of light.


Carbon Roots: Haiti
The problem: Ninety‐four percent of the Haitian population relies on charcoal and wood as a primary source of energy, resulting in health problems and deforestation.

The solution: Carbon Roots International has been refining “char” technology, which converts biomass-like agricultural waste into cleaner cooking fuel as well as an alternative to fertilizer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Boezwinkle is a Senior Program Manager in the Office of Development Innovation Ventures, U.S. Global Development Lab.

An Opportunity of 300,000 Lifetimes

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” The Greek physician Hippocrates wrote this in about 400 BC. Of course, when Hippocrates practiced medicine, opportunities to heal were scarce as he and his peers understood relatively little about anatomy and physiology, much less biomolecular science. In Hippocrates’ era, some percentage of young children were expected to succumb to illness. Over the last 2,000 years, however, developments in medical science have allowed for the previously unthinkable. The collective brilliance and hard work of scientists and healers have ensured that many of the maladies that afflicted Hippocrates’ patients took a one-way trip to the history books.  Children, for the most part, can be expected to reach adulthood.

Alas, some exceptions stubbornly remain.

There is no clearer example than pediatric HIV. A single generation has seen the rise of a devastating epidemic and, though there have been breakthroughs in the fight against the virus, 3.2 million children currently live with the virus and an estimated 700 children are infected daily. The recent, sudden viral rebound in the “Mississippi baby,” the first child believed to be functionally cured, was the latest punch to the gut in the long, drawn out brawl to protect children from the virus. In low-resourced regions, children living with HIV are often among the last to be tested and treated. Initiating children on treatment early, which allowed the Mississippi baby to remain virally suppressed for years, is exceptionally rare.

A baby receives life-saving drugs. / Anna Zeminski, AFP / Getty Images

A baby receives life-saving drugs. / Anna Zeminski, AFP / Getty Images

Now for some good news. Earlier this month, as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),in partnership with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), launched Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT). ACT is an ambitious $200 million initiative to double the total number of children receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) across 10 priority African countries over the next two years. This investment will enable 300,000 more children living with HIV to receive life-saving ART.

At the onset of the HIV epidemic in the early 1980′s, an HIV diagnosis was equivalent to a death sentence. Failing to treat a child remains just that, as half die by 2 years of age. Up to three people die of AIDS every minute and an estimated 190,000 children died of AIDS in 2013 alone.

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An HIV-positive mother holds her child after visiting an HIV clinic. For children who are born HIV-positive, life-saving antiretroviral therapy is critical to protecting their health. / AFP

Hippocrates was right: Healing is indeed both a matter of time and opportunity. Time does not heal HIV, however, and deaths continue to mount, a disproportionate number of them among children.

So, now is the time to act. Thanks to PEPFAR and CIFF, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do just that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Benjamin Ryan Phelps is a Medical Officer who focuses on Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and Pediatric AIDS. Follow him at @BRPhelpsMD.
Joella Adams is a Global Health Fellows Program intern working with PMTCT programs.

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