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10 Reasons Vaccines are the Best Protector of Human Life

A young boy receives an oral polio vaccination at a USAID -funded medical clinic on July 13, 2010 in Petionville, Haiti.  In 2011 in Haiti, the U.S. Government  vaccinated nearly 157,000 children under the age of one for routine childhood diseases and provided more than 350,000 antenatal care visits and more than 131,000 post-partum/newborn care visits.  The United States is providing access to health services for 50 percent of the people of Haiti.  Kendra Helmer/USAID

A young boy receives an oral polio vaccination at a USAID-funded medical clinic on July 13, 2010 in Petionville, Haiti. In 2011 in Haiti, the U.S. Government vaccinated nearly 157,000 children under the age of 1 for routine childhood diseases. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

Immunization is one of the most powerful health interventions ever introduced. Every year, the World Health Organization estimates, vaccines save between 2 and 3 million children from killers such as polio, measles, pneumonia, and rotavirus diarrhea.

To mark World Immunization Week, USAID partner PATH is reporting on the lifesaving potential of vaccines against four illnesses that kill more than 2 million young children a year: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. Here, Dr. John Boslego, director of PATH’s Vaccine Development Program, lists the top 10 ways vaccines make a difference for children and for global health. This post originally appeared on PATH.

No. 10: Vaccines lower the risk of getting other diseases.

Contracting some diseases can make getting other ones easier. For example, being sick with influenza can make you more vulnerable to pneumonia caused by other organisms. The best way to avoid coinfections is to prevent the initial infection through vaccination.

Here a Nepalese boy demonstrates the water flow of a USAID-built electric tube well used for irrigation in the Terai region of Nepal. Patrick D Smith/USAID

A Nepalese boy demonstrates the water flow of a USAID-built electric tube well used for irrigation in the Terai region of Nepal. / Patrick D Smith, USAID

No. 9: They keep people healthier longer.

Some vaccines protect people for a limited time and require booster doses; others protect for a lifetime. Either way, vaccinated people are much safer from many serious diseases than people who haven’t been vaccinated, both in the short and long term.

As part of a USAID-supported polio initiative, a vaccinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) administers the oral polio vaccine March 23 in the Commune of Ndjili, Kinshasa. On that day, Minister of Health, Victor Makwenge Kaput officially launched a vaccination campaign against the wild polio virus in the capital city. USAID/A. Mukeba

As part of a USAID-supported polio initiative, a vaccinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo administers the oral polio vaccine in the Commune of Ndjili, Kinshasa. / USAID, A. Mukeba

No. 8: They are relatively easy to deliver.

Through national immunization programs and mass vaccination campaigns, vaccines can be delivered quickly to large numbers of people, providing widespread protection. Thanks to creative strategies, delivery in even the remotest parts of the world is becoming easier.

USAID and the Medical Relief International Charity (Merlin) support cholera treatment centers in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.  Pictured is a young child suffering from cholera and receiving food aid from the Agency.  /  Frederic Courbet

USAID and the Medical Relief International Charity (Merlin) support cholera treatment centers in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Pictured is a young child suffering from cholera and receiving food aid from the Agency. / Frederic Courbet

No. 7: They prevent disease where medical care isn’t an option.

Too many children die because high-quality care is unavailable. When a child in poverty gets sick, medical care could be inadequate or several days’ travel away. Stopping disease before it starts could be that child’s only lifeline.

Solar lights funded by OTI in Cap Haitien and en route to Caracol, Haiti, on Oct. 19, 2012.. / Kendra Helmer/USAID

Solar lights funded by USAID help children read at night in Cap Haitien. Haiti, on Oct. 19, 2012. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

No. 6: They play well with other interventions.

Vaccines complement other global health tools. We’re seeing this with the integrated strategy to protect, prevent, and treat pneumonia and diarrhea through basic sanitation, safe drinking water, hand-washing, nutrition, antibiotics, breastfeeding, clean cook stoves, antibiotics, zinc, oral rehydration solution, and vaccines. Leveraging these tools across diseases could save the lives of over 2 million children by 2015.

This photo took third place in the FrontLines photo contest. Maamohelang  Hlaha tenderly kisses her young son Rebone. An HIV-positive mother of four, Hlaha’s  village is inaccessible by vehicles and a three-hour hike from the nearest health clinic.  She receives HIV treatment through the Riders for Health program, which is funded  by USAID and run by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. As part of the  program, pony riders and motorcycle riders transport blood tests, drugs and supplies to  Lesotho’s remote mountain health clinics. The system allows people to receive HIV test  results sooner, access life-saving drugs and ensure an uninterrupted supply of medication.  Rebone, whose name means “we have witnessed,” was born HIV-free in August 2008. / Reverie Zurba, USAID/South Africa

A mother of four who receives HIV treatment through a USAID-funded program tenderly kisses her young son in South Africa. Thanks to the treatment, her son was born HIV-free in August 2008. / Reverie Zurba, USAID

No. 5: They continue to evolve.

Tackling unmet health needs requires us to continue to pursue the next generation of better and more affordable vaccines. Candidates like RTS,S for malaria and ROTAVAC® for the leading cause of severe diarrhea—rotavirus—are two examples of innovative technologies on the horizon that give families and communities more cause for hope.

This photo was chosen as a finalist in the FrontLines photo contest. These schoolchildren in Aqaba, Jordan, are beneficiaries of the Jordan Schools Program and  Education Reform Support Program. Both of these projects are funded by USAID to  support the Jordanian Ministry of Education’s reform efforts in improving the quality of education in the country. March 2011. / Jill Meeks, Creative Associates International

These schoolchildren in Aqaba, Jordan, are beneficiaries the Jordan Schools Program and Education Reform Support Program. Both  are funded by USAID to support Jordan’s efforts to improve the quality of education in the country.  / Jill Meeks, Creative Associates International

No. 4:  They indirectly protect loved ones and communities.

For many diseases, immunizing a significant portion of a population can break the chain of transmission and actually protect unvaccinated people—a bonus effect called herd immunity. The trick is immunizing enough people to ensure that transmission can’t gather momentum.

A little girl in Tajikistan eats mashed potatoes with greens, which her mother prepared for her. Over 5,000 Tajik children under 5 years old tasted new foods such as pancakes ("blini") with cottage cheese and vegetable salads that their mothers prepared for them after a training. / USAID

A little girl in Tajikistan eats mashed potatoes with greens, which her mother prepared for her. Over 5,000 Tajik children under 5 years old tasted new foods such as pancakes (“blini”) with cottage cheese and vegetable salads that their mothers prepared for them after a USAID-supported nutrition training. / USAID

No 3: They are safe and effective.

Vaccines are among the safest products in medicine and undergo rigorous testing to ensure they work and are safe. Their benefits far outweigh their risks (which are minimal), especially when compared to the dire consequences of the diseases they prevent. Vaccines can take some pretty terrible diseases entirely or nearly out of the picture, too. That’s the case with smallpox and polio, and others will follow.

School girls in Sana’a gather for their lesson. Since many girls in Yemen do not attend primary school or graduate from it, recent USAID-backed measures have ensured all girls a right to attend school and increase literacy. / Malak Shaher, USAID/YMEP

School girls in Sana’a gather for their lesson. Since many girls in Yemen do not attend primary school or graduate from it, recent USAID-backed measures have ensured all girls a right to attend school and increase literacy. / Clinton Doggett, USAID

No. 2:  They are a public health best buy.

Preventing disease is less expensive than treating severe illness, and vaccines are the most cost-effective prevention option out there. Less disease frees up health care resources and saves on medical expenditures. Healthier children also do better developmentally, especially in school, and give parents more time to be productive at home and at work.

This image captured top honors in the FrontLines photo contest. These rural schoolchildren participate in the USAID-funded Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction project, which uses radio to broadcast interactive student lessons. The lessons, based on Southern Sudan’s primary school syllabus, complement classroom instruction in literacy, English, mathematics, and life skills for grades one through four. July 2010. / Karl Grobl, Education Development Center Inc.

These rural schoolchildren participate in the USAID-funded Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction project, which uses radio to broadcast interactive student lessons. The lessons, based on Southern Sudan’s primary school syllabus, complement classroom instruction in literacy, English, mathematics, and life skills for grades one through four. July 2010. / Karl Grobl, Education Development Center Inc.

No. 1:  They save children’s lives.

Roughly 2 to 3 million per year, in fact. In short, vaccines enable more children to see their 5th birthdays, let alone adulthood. That’s reason enough to top my list.

Development Financing “Sea Change” Drives Real Change

farm in East Africa

This farm in East Africa received local financing thanks to a USAID guarantee with a local bank. / Morgana Wingard, USAID.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg News published an article explaining how USAID is undergoing a transformation – attracting private capital, rather than U.S. tax dollars, to finance development:

It’s a sea change for an agency that for years simply gave out money. The program, called the Development Credit Authority, was begun in 1999 [...] with authority from Congress to provide loan guarantees, but in the 10 years before 2011 it backed $2.2 billion in credit. Since 2011, the authority has issued $1 billion in guarantees.

As one of the newest employees of USAID’s Development Credit Authority, I recently had the opportunity to see the impact of this major shift.

I traveled just outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on my first overseas trip with USAID to visit one of the 140,000 entrepreneurs USAID has helped access local capital from a private entity. As a new portfolio manager for DCA’s guarantees, I wanted verification that a difference was being made here, on this farm, in this entrepreneur’s life.

The farm belongs to Alex, a local farmer that started his business 13 years ago with three pigs and a $30 microloan. His ultimate goal: to rebuild his father’s house and improve the lives of his family members. After his father’s death, his role as the eldest son changed. His drive to succeed is fueled by responsibility toward his family and his will to secure them a better future. He is proud and he is kind. He smiles through the entire visit and is generous and joking, eager to tell his story.

It is a story heavy with reference to microfinance, small loans he was able to secure, and how those first loans gave him the leg up he needed.

Here’s how it works:

  • Access to financing enabled him to grow the farm from three pigs to 30.  The loan also helped him acquire more than 1,000 chickens, two cows, and a side business renting rooms.
  • Today, he owns land, his children are in school, and his dream of rebuilding his father’s house has been realized. But it almost never happened. “It was difficult,” he says, “I did not have any collateral.”
  • Things fell into place for Alex in part thanks to a 2010 partnership between USAID and the local microfinance institution PRIDE Tanzania. With a DCA loan guarantee, PRIDE was able to offer the first ever bond of its type in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Farms like this one, in East Africa, depend on financing to grow. USAID helped this farm access local credit by sharing risk with a local bank. / Morgana Wingard/USAID

Farms like this one, in East Africa, depend on financing to grow. USAID helped this farm access local credit by sharing risk with a local bank. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Through the bond, PRIDE raised $10 million from private investors, allowing the MFI to open 18 new branch offices offering loans to micro and small entrepreneurs. This opened the door to credit financing not only for Alex, but for 60,000 other entrepreneurs, many of them poor farmers who previously lacked the collateral to qualify for loans.

Through DCA, USAID partners with financial institutions like PRIDE to guarantee loans or bond issuances targeting underserved sectors. The guarantees help to change the perception of creditworthiness of those potential entrepreneurs generally ignored by banks. With the help of a USAID/Tanzania guarantee, Alex was given a chance. Now his financing is growing: in 2013 he secured a loan with PRIDE worth $3,200.

Small businesses are economic drivers. And all small businesses are run by entrepreneurs with big ideas. But ideas cost money, and money is hard to find.

In places like rural Tanzania, the demands of daily necessity can stifle a dream before it begins. Even a $30 loan can be life-changing. And that’s why I work in development: to be a part of some seemingly small but life-changing moment in someone’s life.

Video: Ghanaian Town Takes on Malaria

A couple in Ghana sits with an insecticide spray technician. / Erin Schiavone, Abt Associates

A couple in Ghana sits with an insecticide spray technician. / Erin Schiavone, Abt Associates

When it’s a buggy summer day, Americans may dust off the old bottle of Off, or light a citronella candle. Here, a mosquito bite is a nuisance. In many parts of the world, it’s a deadly killer.

 In 2012, there were still 207 million cases of malaria and over 600,000 deaths –  three quarters were children under 5. Approximately half of the world’s population is still at risk of malaria.

What choices do people in malarial zones have to protect themselves from this flying terror? And what are we doing to help?

 One of the most effective methods being supported by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) around the world is spraying homes in the areas where the mosquitos live with an insecticide.

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 3.3 million lives were saved as a result of the scale-up of malaria control interventions over the last decade. Over the same period, malaria mortality rates in African children were reduced by more than half.

This delivers a massive, concerted blow to the mosquito population. In order to have an impact, indoor residual spraying, as it is called, must be carried out in least 80 percent of the homes in malaria-prone areas, use an effective insecticide and be executed by a well-trained workforce.

In Ghana, the entire population of 25 million is at risk for malaria; indoor residual spraying is helping protect families from this deadly disease. But it doesn’t happen on its own. A network of “social mobilizers” help communities realize the benefits of spraying, and encourage other health-improving behavior as well.

Bertha Moisob a passionate public health advocate working on a PMI-funded program in Ghana says this:

“My hope for the future is to see that reduced malaria burden.. Children are healthy, pregnant women delivery safely…”

Watch this video on how Bertha and her community are mobilizing against malaria

Full Speed Ahead on Malaria

 

Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer / Platon

Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer / Platon

Today, the greatest success story in global health is anchored by a continent once known mostly for famine and war. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are making unprecedented gains in child survival and reducing the devastating burden of malaria—a disease carried by mosquitoes and a major killer of children.

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 3.3 million lives were saved as a result of the scale-up of malaria control interventions over the last decade. Over the same period, malaria mortality rates in African children were reduced by an estimated 54 percent.

Most Americans are unaware of the devastating impact of malaria. But the insidious disease, a root cause and consequence of poverty, conspire against young children and pregnant women. The anopheles mosquito is a serial killer — a flying syringe that injects parasites during nightly blood meals.

Just a decade ago, the malaria story was one of despair across wide swathes of the African continent, killing more than 1 million people, and burdening health systems — up to 45 percent of all hospital admissions were caused by malaria.

A mother and child under a malaria-fighting bednet. /  Maggie Hallahan

A mother and child under a malaria-fighting bednet. / Maggie Hallahan

I was raised in Asia, and was infected by malaria as a child. Although malaria no longer threatens boys and girls in the United States, across Africa and in parts of Asia, it is still a frightening and literally gut-wrenching fact of life. Each case can be a struggle for survival.

Because malaria remains one of the foremost health problems on the African continent it is vital to test all children with fever and treat those who test positive for malaria as well as provide appropriate treatment to those with non-malaria fevers. With many people living great distances from or lacking transport to health facilities, community health workers are often the first and only link to providing health services essential to child and maternal health.

Community health works, like these in Madagascar, are often the front lines of defense against malaria. Photo Credit: Maggie Hallahan

Community health works, like these in Madagascar, are often the front lines of defense against malaria. / Maggie Hallahan

Thanks in part to American investments made through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61,000 front-line health workers were trained on how to treat malaria cases. Many were also trained to diagnose and treat the other main causes of childhood illness, diarrhea and pneumonia.

In the past year, Americans, through PMI, protected over 45 million people with a prevention measure (insecticide-treated nets and/or indoor residual spraying), as well as procured more than 48 million antimalarial treatments and more than 51 million rapid diagnostic tests.

In Madagascar, people line up to receive insecticide-treated bednets and treatment. Photo Credit: Maggie Hallahan

In Madagascar, people line up to receive insecticide-treated bednets and treatment. / Maggie Hallahan

Success is a triumph of partnership – the initiative was launched by President George W. Bush, and expanded under President Barack Obama. We have benefited from strong bipartisan support in the Senate and House. And with host country government leadership, donors, partners like the Peace Corps, and countless groups like Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, Malaria No More and Nothing But Nets – we are taking malaria and other public health interventions the last critical mile, to communities in the most remote parts of malaria endemic Africa.

‘Without Access we are Looking at Famine’ in South Sudan

Last week Nancy Lindborg, our assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, wrote about her recent trip to South Sudan where she witnessed how rapidly escalating violence is sending shockwaves through the world’s newest nation.

The people of South Sudan face a spiral of conflict, displacement, and hunger that this fragile, young country can ill afford. More than one million people have been forced to leave their homes and the numbers keep growing. Almost 70,000 people are sheltering in crowded UN compounds around the country that sprung up overnight and were not built to house tens of thousands of civilians. Many of these people can literally see their homes over the compound walls but remain too terrified to return, fearing they will be targeted by government or opposition forces and killed.

Lindborg called on the international community to take urgent action.

With the rainy season already upon us, there is little time to move life-saving assistance to those most in need. Even in the best of times, South Sudan presents a complex logistical challenge. Now, we need to use all possible avenues for reaching people: rivers, roads, air, and moving across borders.

Yesterday she and Khalid Medani of McGill University spoke about the escalating violence and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan on PBS Newshour. Lindborg voiced the U.S. Government’s extreme concern over the recent attacks on the U.N. compound in Bor and on civilians in Bentiu; and called on South Sudan’s leaders and all parties to the conflict to let international aid reach the country’s displaced, vulnerable and malnourished.

“If we are not able to reach the hard to reach areas through better access that is now being blocked by both sides, we are looking at famine.” Lindborg said.

Watch the full interview:

NASA Earth Data Jumpstarts World’s Aspiring Researchers

Question: What do you get when you mix NASA data, USAID’s development expertise, and some of the best young scientific minds the world can offer?

Answer: Some of the most promising ideas to help solve the world’s biggest challenges

In early April, a select group of fellows for the USAID and NASA My Community Our Earth (MyCOE) program travelled to Washington D.C. where experts from the two agencies, the Association of American Geographers, and U.S. Universities and NGOs proffered advice and encouragement on continuing their research and their careers.

International students in MyCOE fellowship program pose with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. / Brandy Ajose

International students in MyCOE fellowship program pose with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. / Brandy Ajose

The MYCOE fellowship program supports the next generation of scientific leaders from developing countries to create innovative, science-based solutions to meet their countries’ development challenges. These students – who hail from some of the poorest, most climate-vulnerable countries in the world in East and West Africa, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia – used NASA satellite information to develop tools and approaches that bring higher incomes to those in poverty and help protect their country’s most vulnerable from potential disasters.

Their innovative solutions range from monitoring frost to improve tea crops in Kenya, to predicting glacier melting patterns to prevent catastrophic outburst floods in Nepal. Here are some highlights:

Helping Kenya’s Tea Fight Frostbite

(1) SERVIR in Africa is installing Wireless Sensor Networks in Kenya to help tea growers fight crop-killing frost.  / Servir

SERVIR in Africa is installing Wireless Sensor Networks in Kenya to help tea growers fight crop-killing frost. / Servir

Aberdere and Mount Kenya are among Kenya’s top areas for growing tea, a crucial crop for the region’s smallholder growers. Recently, frequent frosts in the region — a weather phenomenon that could worsen due to climate change — have led to severe crop damage and income losses for tea growers. Susan Malaso, a student at Kenyatta University in Nairobi is addressing this challenge head on. With support from NASA and USAID, Susan is using Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing data to map and predict frost risk in the region. The project produces data on frost trends to help farmers plan their planting schedules, choose the most frost-tolerant crops, and select the safest locations for planting their higher value tea crops. The data will also inform crop insurance programs that will help smallholder farmers recover from severe crop damage. Ultimately, this will help a wide range of Kenyans employed by the tea industry and promote sustainable economic growth, even in the face of climate change.


Helping Thai Fishermen Weather a Changing Climate

Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands

Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands / USAID, CTSP, Tory Read

Jirawat Panpeng, a doctoral student at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, is researching the vulnerability of coastal fishery communities in the Laemsing district of Thailand. Laemsing has been affected by rising sea levels and associated soil erosion and flooding, a phenomenon linked to climate change. Using climate simulation and GIS software, Panpeng’s results are helping to raise awareness among both government officials and local communities on the need to develop adaptation measures such as improved infrastructure to adapt to climate fluctuations.


Protecting Burma’s Lake Ecosystem

Burma’s Inle Lake attracts thousand of tourists each year but its fragile ecosystem is in danger.  / Kelly Ramundo, USAID

Burma’s Inle Lake attracts thousand of tourists each year but its fragile ecosystem is in danger. / Kelly Ramundo, USAID

Khi Seint Seint Aye, another AIT student, is studying the impact of floating gardens on the environment of Inle Lake in central Burma. This lake attracts thousands of local and international tourists each year because of its scenic beauty and the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of surrounding communities, who live in stilt houses in and around the lake and derive their livelihood from aquaculture, fishing and floating garden aquaculture. Floating gardens are one of the highlights of the lake’s cultural heritage; however, the lake can sustain only a limited amount of such gardening without compromising its natural balance. Seint Seint will assess the impact of the gardens on the lake’s ecosystem using a participatory rural appraisal, water analyses, and remote sensing and GIS technologies facilitated by SERVIR. The results of her research will be used to conduct an awareness campaign with local and national stakeholders and to develop a mitigation plan to prevent the collapse of the lake’s ecosystem.

10 Ways the U.S. Government is Fighting Global Climate Change (that you’ve never heard about)

Photo Credit: Daniel Byers, SkyShip Films 2011

Nepals Imja Lake / Daniel Byers, SkyShip Films 2011

1. In Nepal, rapidly expanding glacial lakes are often unstable and prone to burst their banks, washing out communities below. USAID is working with high-mountain communities to help measure the impact of melting glaciers on Imja Lake, not far from Mount Everest base camp.

Read about how we’re helping bring Andean expertise to Nepal’s glacial lake region.


Wheat farmers in Kazakhstan are learning about the expected climate change impacts on their crop.

Wheat farmers in Kazakhstan are learning about the expected climate change impacts on their crop. / USAID

2. In Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s breadbasket, USAID is working with the government to ensure wheat farmers get better weather and climate forecasts to make better planting and harvest decisions. A severe drought in 2012 slashed Kazakhstan wheat harvests by half, contributing to a worldwide food shortage that led the World Bank to issue a global hunger warning.

Read more about how we’re helping to preserve “Asia’s breadbasket.”


Ethiopian Sheep

Ethiopian Sheep / Nena Terrell, USAID

3. Cows, camels, goats and sheep are the lifeblood of pastoralist farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia. But these poor farmers live with the constant threat that a severe drought, like the one in 2009, could decimate herds and flocks. USAID is working with locals to develop livestock insurance, new water conservation practices and other measures so pastoralists can survive and bounce back from severe droughts.

Read more about how East Africa’s dryland herders are taking out a policy on survival.


Forest measurement demonstration near Lae by staff of Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea.

Forest measurement demonstration near Lae by staff of Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Low Emission Asia Forests project / USAID, RDMA

4. Worldwide, forest destruction generates more greenhouse gas emissions each year than do all the trains, planes and cars on the planet. Worldwide, 50 soccer fields of forest are lost every minute of every day, and forests in Southeast Asia are being cleared faster than almost anywhere on earth. In Papua New Guinea, USAID is working to teach forest carbon measurement techniques so that local people and communities can show the progress they are making conserving tropical forest.


multispectral imagery of the Nzoia River basin

The Nzoia River basin lies entirely within the Lake Victoria basin in Kenya. The SERVIR-Africa team captured multispectral imagery of the Nzoia River basin from the NASA’s EO-1 satellite on August 23, 2008 to provide baseline imagery of this frequently flooded area for future analysis. / NASA, EO-1

5. Fighting climate change requires good data. USAID and NASA partner to provide satellite-based Earth observation data and science applications to help developing nations improve their environmental decision-making as well as monitor other issues like famines, floods and disease outbreaks. We are currently working with Tanzania’s weather agency to use satellite data to map climate and weather risks and to create early warning systems, including for malaria outbreaks.

Read more about how USAID uses data to better manage land resources.


The Russian boreal forest

The Russian boreal forest / Vladimir Savchenko

6. What happens when anyone can become a forest ranger? USAID is supporting World Resources Institute with the Global Forest Watch interactive global forest mapping tool. The online tool allows people to access – or upload – near real-time information about what is happening on the ground in forests around the world.


Southern downtown section of Hue. Photo: Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting

Southern downtown section of Hue. / Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting

7. In 2006, the Vietnamese city of Hue was paralyzed for days, submerged under more than six feet of floodwater after a large rain. USAID today helps Hue and other at-risk coastal cities anticipate and address the repeated flooding and other climate impacts on roads and energy systems by helping them plan smarter cities that can weather climate events. In Hue, we are helping urban planners customize and apply a tailored software tool that anticipates the effects of climate change on critical infrastructure.

Read more about how USAID is helping build a climate-smart Vietnam.


Asma Molla with her husband Jalal, their five sons, and their two solar lamps.

Asma Molla with her husband Jalal, their five sons, and their two solar lamps. / Souradeep Ghosh, Arc Finance

8. Worldwide, more than 1.4 billion people lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion lack access to modern cooking fuels and devices. In Uganda, India and Haiti, USAID is helping low-income people buy devices that improve their incomes and quality of life, and reduce carbon emissions at the same time by expanding the availability of consumer financing for clean energy products. We are also helping 13 companies develop and test business models that will make it easier for tens of thousands of poor people to purchase clean energy products such as solar lanterns and clean cookstoves.

Check out how USAID’s Renewable Energy Microfinance and Microenterprise Program is improving the quality of life of low-income populations while at the same time helping USAID partners to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about how the Renewable Energy Microfinance and Microenterprise Program is bringing clean energy to people who live most of their lives in the dark.


Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands

Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands / USAID CTSP, Tory Read

9. Ever hear of the Coral Triangle? This  massive swath of ocean in between Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste is not only likely where your seafood dinner came from – it’s reefs also buffer shorelines against waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and land erosion. But today, as much as 90 percent of Coral Triangle reefs (and the 360 million people that depend on them) are threatened by overfishing, population growth, development, pollution and the impacts of climate change. USAID helps protect this “amazon of the seas” by helping the six Coral Triangle nations better manage the most biodiverse and productive ocean region in the world.

Read more about how the Coral Triangle Initiative is helping protect this unique marine wonder and check out this photostory.


A Cofan shaman.

Strengthening their organizations has enabled the indigenous Cofan people to preserve their cultural identity and ancient knowledge / Thomas J. Müller

10. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change. Several studies show that deforestation and illegal trafficking of species are significantly lower in indigenous territories, even when compared with natural protected areas, such as national parks and reserves. USAID is equipping indigenous populations to become active guardians of the Amazon biome in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and is investing in youth who will continue the fight to preserve the native culture and territory as future scientists, lawyers, doctors and political leaders.

Serbia Plugs Into Cow Power

In the past, I would speed up when driving by a farm. The only thing I could think of was the awful smell that made me hold my breath. Now, I slow down and think of endless supplies of clean energy, thanks to a USAID project that is helping convert manure into renewable energy– all the while, banking on American industrial expertise.

On one farm in Blace, a town of 11,000 people in southern Serbia, 700 cows produce thousands of gallons of manure each day. But this farm’s waste does not “go to waste.”

With support from USAID’s Agribusiness Project, manure from the Lazar Dairy is being “digested” by Serbia’s first biogas plant and converted into electricity, which the dairy sells to the national electricity company, EPS, at a preferential rate applicable to renewable energy suppliers.

Lazar pays about €0.05/kWh for the electricity it purchases from EPS, but it will receive about three times as much for the electricity that it sells to power company.

Lazar Dairy Biogas Plant 5

A DAI-led USAID project supported the construction of Serbia’s Lazar Dairy new biogas plant. The plant was designed by DVO Inc., of Chilton, Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

Ushering the $2 million plant from drawing board to full operation took two-years. USAID’s Agribusiness Project acted as the “matchmaker” between Lazar Dairy and DVO, Inc., of Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

The dairy had faced significant problems dealing with its manure, a major pollution issue. Now, this is virtually eliminated by the digester — a sealed container — as is the odor problem. Since its inauguration in May 2012, the plant has been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, feeding up to 1 MW of renewable electrical energy into the national electrical grid every month—enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

In addition to generating biogas that powers the generator, the leftover solids and liquids are filtered and used for cow bedding and as fertilizer. The recycling of other organic waste (such as whey from cheese production at the farm) results in a liquid fertilizer and waste heat in the form of hot water that can be used to heat buildings.

Lazar Dairy Biogas Plant 3

A DAI-led USAID project supported the construction of Serbia’s Lazar Dairy new biogas plant. The plant was designed by DVO Inc., of Chilton, Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

“The introduction of the bio-digester completely changed our business operations. We now have a steady cash inflow and dispose of our waste without harm to the environment,” said Milan Vidojevic, owner of the Lazar Dairy and one of Serbia’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Bolstering technological innovations like these, which encourage economic growth both abroad and at home, while supporting responsible agricultural practices, is a priority at USAID.

“This investment demonstrates that environmentally sound production can increase profits AND provide wide reaching benefits for the whole community. The U.S. Government is proud to have facilitated this process, through which this American technology has found its way to Blace,” said the former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Mary Warlick.

Lazar Dairy, which employs 120 people, is an economic engine for villages around Blace. In addition to its dairy farm, Lazar buys up to 45,000 liters (12,000 gallons) of milk per day from a network of more than 2,000 local farmers within a 100-kilometer radius. Its processing plant converts this raw milk to processed milk, yogurt, creams, and cheeses.

As a result of USAID’s assistance since early 2009, the company has generated annual sales of nearly $1 million, which translates to more than $600,000 in cash payments to the 2,000 raw-milk suppliers. Should future environmental regulations in Serbia allow it, the dairy would be eligible for additional revenue through the sale of carbon credits.

Eight Facts About ZunZuneo

On Thursday, April 3, the Associated Press published an article on a social media program in Cuba funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The article contained significant inaccuracies and false conclusions about ZunZuneo, which was part of a broader effort that began in 2009 to facilitate “twitter like” communication among Cubans so they could connect with each other on topics of their choice. Many of the inaccuracies have been re-reported by other news outlets, perpetuating the original narrative, or worse.

Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

The article suggested that USAID spent years on a “covert” program to gather personal information to be used for political purposes to “foment” “smart mobs” and start a “Cuban spring” to overthrow the Cuban government.  It makes for an interesting read, but it’s not true.

USAID’s work in Cuba is not unlike what we and other donors do around the world to connect people who have been cut off from the outside world by repressive or authoritarian governments. USAID’s democracy and governance work focuses on strengthening civil society, governance, and promoting human rights.

Here are eight claims made by article, followed by the facts:

1) The story says the “program’s legality is unclear” and implies the program was “covert.”

FACT:  USAID works in places where we are not always welcome. To minimize the risk to our staff and partners and ensure our work can proceed safely, we must take certain precautions and maintain a discreet profile. But discreet does not equal covert.

The programs have long been the subject of Congressional notifications, unclassified briefings, public budget requests, and public hearings. All of the Congressional Budget Justifications published from 2008 through 2013, which are public and online, explicitly state that a key goal of USAID’s Cuba program is to break the “information blockade” or promote “information sharing” amongst Cubans and that assistance will include the use or promotion of new “technologies” and/or “new media” to achieve its goals.

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office—the U.S. government’s investigative arm—spent months looking at every aspect of USAID’s Cuba programs. GAO’s team of analysts had unrestricted access to project documents, extended telephone conversations with Mobile Accord (ZunZuneo) and even traveled to Cuba. The GAO identified no concerns in the report about the legality of USAID’s programs, including ZunZuneo, and offered USAID zero recommendations for improvements.

2) The article implies that the purpose of the program was to foment “Smart Mobs,” funnel political content and thereby trigger unrest in Cuba.

FACT:  The “USAID documents” cited in the article appear to be case study research and brainstorming notes between the grantee and the contractor.  The specific reference to “Smart Mobs” had nothing to do with Cuba nor ZunZuneo. The documents do not represent the U.S. government’s position or reflect the spirit or actions taken as part of the program in Cuba.  The project initially sent news, sports scores, weather, and trivia.  After which, the grantee did not direct content because users were generating it on their own.

3) The story states there was a “shell company” in Spain formed to run the program.

FACT:  No one affiliated with the ZunZuneo program established a private company in Spain as part of this program.  The project sought to do so if it was able to attract private investors to support the effort after USAID funding ended.  Private investment was never identified and thus no company was ever formed.

4) The story implies that the USG tried to recruit executives to run ZunZuneo without telling them about USG involvement.

FACT:  A USAID staff member was present during several of the interviews for candidates to lead ZunZuneo.  The staff member’s affiliation with USAID was disclosed and it was conveyed that the funding for the program was from the U.S. Government.

5) The article states that private data was collected with the hope it would be used for political purposes.

FACT: The ZunZuneo project included a website, as is typical for a social network.  Users could voluntarily submit personal information. Few did, and the program did not use this information for anything.

6) The article says that the funding was “publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan,” implying that funds were misappropriated.

FACT: All funds for this project were Congressionally appropriated for democracy programs in Cuba, and that information is publicly available.

7) The story stated, “At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions.”

FACT: At its peak, the platform had around 68,000 users.

8) The article suggests there was an inappropriate base of operations established in Costa Rica outside of normal U.S. government procedures.

FACT: The Government of Costa Rica was informed of the program on more than one occasion.  The USAID employee overseeing the program served under Chief of Mission Authority with the U.S. Embassy, as is standard practice.

We welcome tough journalism – and we embrace it.  It makes our programs better.  But we also believe it’s important that the good work of USAID not be falsely characterized.

Commemorating World Health Day

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called upon our nation to join with the world in ending extreme poverty in the next two decades. Today, we have new tools that enable us to achieve a goal that was simply unimaginable in the past: the eradication of extreme poverty and its most devastating corollaries, including widespread hunger and preventable child and maternal death.

Preventing and controlling vector-borne diseases, diseases carried by insects, ticks and small animals, is central to achieving President Obama’s vision of ending extreme poverty. On World Health Day, commemorated each year on April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights actions we can all take to protect ourselves from the serious diseases that these “vectors” can cause.

Children wash their hands in Ghana, where USAID supports prevention and treatment of trachoma, a blinding eye disease.  International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) ..

Children wash their hands in Ghana, where USAID supports prevention and treatment of trachoma, a blinding eye disease.
International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) ..

More than half of the world’s population is at risk from vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever and neglected tropical diseases. The most commonly known vectors include mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, ticks and snails, which are responsible for transmitting a wide range of parasites and pathogens contributing to deadly diseases.

Senegal: Demonstrating the proper use of ITNs in Senegal. Photo Credit: Maggie Hallahan

Senegal: Demonstrating the proper use of ITNs in Senegal. Photo Credit: Maggie Hallahan

Below, we highlight solutions to combat extreme poverty and vector-borne diseases.

Solutions

  • In this scene-setter, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah explains how USAID and its partners have embraced the challenge of creating a world without extreme poverty.
  • In “A Call to Action to End Extreme Poverty,” Alex Thier and Ilyse Stempler discuss how USAID and its partners are adopting an integrated, holistic approach that capitalizes on their collective expertise. They share past successes in addressing extreme poverty and introduce some new ideas to finish the job.
  • In “Your Voice,” a continuing FrontLines feature, Adm. Tim Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, shares his perspective on leading a major presidential initiative to end deaths from malaria
  • Katherine Sanchez profiles Ghana’s efforts to become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.
  • A Yumbe survey team learns how to use electronic tablets to collect data on trachoma.  Christine Ninsiima

    A Yumbe survey team learns how to use electronic tablets to collect data on trachoma.
    Christine Ninsiima

    And in “Trachoma vs. Technology,” Phil Downs and Scott Torres uncover efforts to capture and analyze data quickly on mobile electronic tablets in rural Uganda. This approach is transforming the battle against an ancient eye disease, for which timely treatment can prevent blindness.

  • Students prepare to take part in a mapping survey at Pav Primary School in Rattanakiri.  Credit: Chan Vitharin ..

    Students prepare to take part in a mapping survey at Pav Primary School in Rattanakiri.
    Credit: Chan Vitharin ..

    In “Wiping Snail Fever Off Cambodia’s Map – by Drawing It On,” Sokhon Sea delves into an effort to enlist many, including school children, on a mission to wipe out the infection that can lead to debilitating illness and malnutrition and cognitive difficulties in children.

  • Finally, Ann Varghese and Chris Glass explore a unique drug-shoe combination that could stomp out two debilitating diseases endemic to Haiti and how wearing new sneakers kicks up that protection even more by creating a barrier between parasites and kids’ feet.

 

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