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Earth Matters Workshop Helps Nepali Journalists Link Environment to Socio-Political Dialogue

Given Nepal’s high vulnerability to climate change, one might expect reporters like Mangal Man Shakya, a veteran investigative journalist and chairman of Nepal’s Wildlife Watch Group, to find great demand for his environmental stories. Unfortunately, that isn’t the always the case.

“It has been a long time since I saw an investigative environmental report in the Nepali media,” Shakya said as he spoke at a recent “Earth Matters Workshop” for journalists in Kathmandu. Although many Nepali leaders recognize the need to take action on environmental issues, the preeminence of political and economic stories often means reporting on climate change and conservation gets buried on page 6. The environmental stories that do get published are typically limited in scope, rather than in-depth and linked to broader political, economic, or health issues.

Recognizing the media’s critical role in raising public awareness and influencing public policy, USAID, in partnership with WWF Nepal, organized a media Earth Day workshop called “Earth Matters,” designed to help journalists understand how environmental issues can be linked to broader socio-political issues in Nepal and produce content with more in-depth analysis. The workshop, organized through the USAID-funded Hariyo Ban (Green Forests) Program, invited Nepali journalists to engage with some of the nation’s top conservation experts, high-ranking policy makers, veteran media professionals, and an award-winning journalist from the United States, in sessions that often took on a press conference format.

Former Parliamentarian and Politician Gagan Thapa joined the “Earth Matters Workshop” to discuss the environmental issues and challenges in the Constituent Assembly and reiterated the important role media plays in raising public awareness and influencing policy discourse and action. Photo credit: Fungma Fudong, USAID Nepal

The 12 participants, selected from a large pool of applicants, shared the common challenges they face not only in accessing resources to pursue environmental reporting, but also in getting buy-in from newsrooms that do not care for, or do not understand, the country’s environmental issues. Such challenges make it even more important for journalists to link environmental stories to political and economic issues, which tend to receive greater coverage.

Speaking at the workshop, former Member of Parliament’s Natural Resources and Means Committee Gagan Thapa reiterated the influence that good reporting can have on policy: “Often, it was the media that brought many issues to our attention,” he said, discussing the relationship between reporters and the Parliament and Constituent Assembly. He added that, with Nepal’s current lack of a Parliament, it is all the more important for environmental reporters to be bold and vigilant.

“Environment issues are at the heart of Nepal’s socio-economic present and future problems and solutions, and it is high time Nepali politics recognizes this,” Kashish Das Shrestha, well-known environmental writer and moderator of the workshop, said. “An informed and responsible media is critical in helping to shape the political discourse accordingly.”

By the end of the workshop, one of the 12 participants had produced a radio show on the devastating effects of mining and deforestation in Nepal’s mid hills for Image FM 97.9, one of Nepal’s largest stations, and also published an article on the story. Another participant had produced a radio report for the Community Information Network, which includes more than 100 community radio stations throughout Nepal. These reports are just few of the bright sparks lit by the workshop.

In the second phase of the workshop, participants will head to the field to conduct research in the areas where Hariyo Ban operates. This interaction with those most affected by environmental issues is expected to inform and expand environmental media coverage. The workshop culminates on World Environment Day, June 5, when all participants—Hariyo Ban Champions—will share the work they have produced based on the workshop and field research.

USAID’s Hariyo Ban program has, since 2011, helped Nepalis prepare for and adapt to climate stresses. Hariyo Ban is a cornerstone of President Obama’s Global Climate Change Initiative in Nepal and is implemented by a consortium led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Other consortium members include: CARE, the Federation of Community Forestry Users in Nepal, and the National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Glass Half Full in this “Almost Revolution”

Larry Garber serves as deputy assistant administrator for Policy, Planning and Learning

Last week I participated in two panel discussions organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that addressed two important development issues: 1) “Closing Space for International Assistance,” a roundtable discussion that included over 20 participants from various U.S. Government agencies, implementing partners, and think-tanks; and 2) the role of politics in the work of development agencies as described in a new book Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution.

USAID confronts the issue of closing space in a number of different country settings. Recently, Agency efforts have catalogued the diverse and creative Mission responses to the problem under the rubrics of prevention, adaptation, and continuing support. In addition, we have engaged implementing partners–both those involved in Democracy, Rights and Governance and in more traditional development sectors–and donor counterparts regarding the challenges we all face.

The second panel discussion involved the launch of a new book by Tom Carothers and Diane de Gramont, entitled Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution. As I stated in my remarks at the launch, the book is a must-read for all USAID staff, whether they are in policy making or operational positions, and whether they are based in Washington, D.C. or serving in the field.

The book describes how the development community shifted over a period of 50 years, from a generally apolitical, technical orientation during the 1960s, 70s and 80s to a recognition in the 1990s that both political goals and political methods are essential for achieving development results. The book acknowledges the progress that many donor agencies, including USAID, have made in introducing democracy and governance programs into their portfolios and in encouraging robust political analysis as part of their strategy and project design processes.

Carothers and de Gramont include many examples from USAID. There is an extended quote from the 2010 Ethiopia Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) (PDF), which forthrightly describes the “competing objectives of engaging and assisting Ethiopia as a high profile example of poverty and vulnerability to famine, and addressing the major challenges and constraints to democratic space, human rights abuses and severe restrictions on civil society.” There is also a wonderful quote from a Mission Director serving in Africa, who extols the virtues of political economy assessments and “insists that all newcomers read the report as part of their briefing materials.”

And yet, the authors conclude that this transformation is only an “almost revolution.” I share their view that the glass is half full, yet also hope that the book will motivate a profound debate within the broader development community as well as USAID regarding the proper relationship between politics, political methods, and political goals on the one hand, and an emphasis on the achievement of traditional development results on the other hand.

Let the debate begin!

Adding Vaccines to Intensify the Assault on Malaria

David Kaslow, MD, serves as Director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. Photo credit: David Kaslow

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

At the turn of the last century, the call to action to bring to bear tools such as insecticide-treated bed nets, malaria rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies, was heard. Governments, foundations, non-profit groups, and the commercial sector mobilized to stem the tide against an ancient scourge—the result has been an estimated 274 million malaria cases and 1.1 million deaths averted between 2001 and 2010.

And yet, the fight against malaria is far from over and new tools will be needed to continue to build on these initial impressive gains.

Given these gains the World Health Organization (WHO) has undertaken an update of the 2006 Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap—a document developed through a consultative process to align the malaria vaccine development community toward common goals. In 2006, the Roadmap set a shorter-term goal—by 2015, develop and license a first-generation malaria vaccine that has a protective efficacy of more than 50% against severe disease and death and lasts longer than one year—which is expected not to change. However, the long-term goal will be updated to better reflect the global health community’s desire to eradicate malaria altogether and targets vaccines that interrupt malaria transmission (VIMTs) and that support the elimination/eradication agenda, including transmission-blocking vaccines (TBV). TBVs are designed to break the cycle of transmission, preventing the malaria parasite from passing from humans to mosquitoes. When used in conjunction with other technologies, a transmission-blocking vaccine could help a country push across the threshold from control to elimination and ultimately help achieve global eradication.

Although there is not an approved malaria vaccine today, several lines of evidence indicate that it is biologically feasible to develop one. A recent update by the WHO of the global malaria vaccine pipeline identified more than two dozen active vaccine candidates in clinical development. This list includes the most clinically advanced candidate, GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS,S, which is in the midst of late-stage Phase 3 trials in Africa. Results to date show that RTS,S cuts cases of malaria in half in toddlers and by one-third in infants, on top of the protection provided by bed nets.

The final set of data from the Phase 3 efficacy trial is expected in 2014, and will provide decision-makers with important information about RTS,S, including vaccine effect in different malaria endemic settings and the impact of a booster dose. And anticipated modeling outputs will illustrate how the vaccine candidate’s efficacy may translate into public health impact—another important input for decisions about the possible role of RTS,S in the future. Experience from vaccines to combat other diseases, such as rotavirus, has shown that the relationship between vaccine efficacy and public health impact is not always straight forward. Rotavirus vaccine efficacy is higher in South Africa than in Malawi (77 percent versus 49 percent – 60 percent greater in South Africa), but the vaccine’s impact in terms of cases averted is actually 60 percent greater in Malawi.

Building on the key learnings from RTS,S, and using unique tools, such as the malaria “human challenge model”, revolutionary new ways to accelerate vaccine development are being used to hunt for additional vaccine targets. The US Government, through multiple cross-sector collaborations, is at the center of much of this research. Initial breakthroughs in malaria vaccine science came from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health—often with the support of USAID. And key elements of the global malaria vaccine pipeline are supported by USAID’s Malaria Vaccine Development Program, which, along with the President’s Malaria Initiative, has been integral to the successes made to date in the fight against malaria. Indeed, it is only through strong partnerships that the overall battle against this disease will be won.

The international community has made phenomenal progress against malaria, but the gains are fragile. More than 650,000 people still die from malaria each year, almost all of them young African children, and history tells us that when support for control programs wanes, the parasite resurges with a vengeance. Over the years, malaria vaccine development has progressed from a pipe dream to a pipeline, and adding a vaccine to the arsenal is more important than ever to vanquish this parasite. At the turn of the next century, malaria should exist only in the annals of eradicated infectious diseases.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Feeding Africa’s Future

This originally appeared on the World Economic Forum Blog.

Today, we have the tools and knowledge to end extreme poverty and hunger by working together to transform agriculture. This isn’t just a development hypothesis; it’s actually happening.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the dramatic results of an emerging agriculture transformation on a visit to Tanzania. In just one year, rice yields have increased by over 50% and horticulture yields by 44% – early progress being reflected in farms and fields across Africa.

Across the continent, African nations are taking concrete steps to make agricultural development like this a priority, lifting families out of poverty and increasing their participation in the global economy.

A farmer picks coffee beans in Nyeri. Photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer

More than 20 countries in Africa have developed country-owned investment plans and at least seven have increased expenditures in agriculture. African nations have come together under a common vision to make progress like this possible and reduce underinvestment in agriculture to put their continent on a new course towards sustainable, inclusive development.

Grow Africa is helping that vision become reality.

Grow Africa is a partnership of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and the World Economic Forum. After only one year, it is already seeing results by working with eight African countries to engage governments, civil society, and the private sector to advance sustainable agricultural growth. These partnerships have already invested more than US$ 60 million in agriculture and reached more than 800,000 smallholder farmers, connecting them to markets and innovative tools and opportunities.

We are excited to be a part of this progress, supporting Grow Africa and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future targets investments in countries that have demonstrated a commitment to their own agricultural development. This past year, we helped more than 7 million farmers around the world apply new technologies and practices, four times the number we reached the previous year.

To expand this progress and reach more people across the continent, President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the 2012 G8 Summit. Much like Grow Africa, this global partnership brings together African governments, the private sector, and donors to accelerate investment in agriculture through market-oriented reforms and new private sector commitments.

African nations are leading progress on this effort. Tanzania has removed its export ban on staple commodities, Mozambique eliminated permit requirements for inter-district trade, and Ethiopia no longer imposes export quotas on commercial farm outputs and processed goods. At the same time, more than 60 companies – half of them local African firms – have committed US$ 3.7 billion towards African agriculture, with plans to lift 50 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years.

This week, we will announce with our partners new efforts that will catalyze private sector investments in agricultural infrastructure in Africa and strengthen capacity in African agriculture sectors. These efforts align with our commitments through Feed the Future and the New Alliance to help reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition.

Earlier this year, during the State of the Union address, President Obama called on the United States to help end extreme poverty in the next two decades. The President spoke from the belief that even in a time of tight budgets around the world, we can still come together to accomplish incredible goals.

We can’t do it without our partners. We look forward to continuing to support country-led efforts like Grow Africa, building momentum towards a future free of extreme poverty and hunger.

Rajiv Shah is Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Follow him on Twitter @RajShah

The Power of Mobile to Improve Women’s Health

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

Last month, I had the chance to visit a clinic in Nigeria just outside of the Federal Capital Territory where approximately 70 pregnant women were waiting to receive prenatal care. Being a big fan of impromptu focus groups, I asked the women to raise their hands if they had a cell phone. Hands shot up around the outdoor meeting space, many of them proudly clutching mobiles phones of all shapes, sizes and varieties. This was an exciting moment for me, a clear representation of just how ubiquitous mobile technology has become in low-income countries. The GSM Association estimates that the mobile penetration rate in developing countries is now 89%.

There is no doubt that the pervasiveness of mobile technology has made possible innovative new ways to deliver health information and services. mHealth projects throughout  the world are harnessing the power of mobile to do everything from registering births to supporting health workers to raising awareness about disease prevention (and a great deal in between!). Mobile phones have also become valuable tools for empowering women: more than 1 billion women have access to a mobile phone in developing countries, and 9 out of 10 women who use mobile phones say they feel safer and more connected with friends and family.

With a mobile phone, this mother has access to health information and services. Photo credit: VillageReach

Women, as mothers and health workers, are commonly the beneficiaries of mHealth projects. But even as we acknowledge the potential power of mobile phones to improve their health and wellbeing, it’s important to recognize that they are rarely equal participants in the development of these interventions or the policies that govern access and use.

I believe firmly that mHealth projects, especially those related to reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, must take into account social, cultural and gender norms in order to produce improved health outcomes. This belief led me to work with my colleague, Madhu Deshmukh, who is seconded to the mHealth Alliance from CARE – a leader in the movement to promote the empowerment of women and girls – to develop a Gender Analytical Framework (PDF). Through this framework, mHealth implementers can better understand the nuances and implications of gender issues, and then design or modify their projects accordingly.

When developing the framework, we interviewed a number of organizations working on mHealth projects, including VillageReach, one of our grantees bringing a toll-free maternal health hotline to scale in Malawi. What VillageReach told us is that they have experienced first-hand the challenges of taking gender into account when designing mHealth programs, for instance when they realized men were calling into the service on behalf of their families. By creating this framework, the mHealth Alliance is providing mHealth implementers like VillageReach with a powerful tool that will help ensure women and men not only have access to mobile technology but that it is being harnessed in a way that truly benefits the health of pregnant women and their families, as well as the male and female health workers that serve them.

Returning to my unofficial Nigerian focus group, my second question to the women was how many had used their phone to obtain some sort of health information. Remarkably about half of the hands went up. When I probed, many shared that they used their phones to either call a family member or a health worker to seek advice about their pregnancy, though it wasn’t necessarily through a formal service.

In Nigeria, the government has recognized this power of mobile phones to empower citizens, health workers, and the health system through the Saving One Million Lives initiative.  They have also highlighted equity and gender, specifically, as key to ensuring that the full potential of mobile is realized to reach targets for significant reductions in maternal and child deaths and improvement in health and wellbeing.

As more services to provide access to health information are implemented by programs such as VillageReach and the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), I fully anticipate that more women will be empowered to better care for themselves and their children. On my next visit to Nigeria, I hope to see the number of raised hands rise dramatically, due in no small part to mHealth implementers and designers applying a gender lens to their work.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Why Open Data Matters: G-8 and African Nations Increase Open Data for Food Security

Jimmy Wambua, a social justice worker and young entrepreneur in Nairobi, Kenya, saw a problem. In a country where smallholder farmers grow the food that feeds the Kenyan people, crop yields were not reaching their full potential and growers were not getting a fair price. Decisions about what crops to plant and when were made on speculation and instinct, and farmers sold their crops based on prices offered by middlemen and traders. A solution seemed evident: increase access and sharing of information that already exists and is public, but is not in-use by the farmers. Jimmy joined the M-Farm organization that set up a text-message based mobile phone application for farmers to gain a better price by accessing market price for their crops- rather than relying on the word of the buyer- and provide a platform for farmers to sell their goods online. USAID contributed to the work of M-Farm- not through a grant or loan or other financial capital- but with information capital. With the release of an open data set from the Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNet) M-Farm now has access to ten years of historic data about market prices of crops, which show trends in crop price fluctuation, and enables better decision making on which crops to plant to yield the highest income.

Kenyan farmer shows her crops. Photo credit: Jimmy Wambua

M-Farm’s story was just one of dozens that took the stage April 29 & 30 at the G-8 International Open Agriculture Data Conference and showcased innovative organizations that use open data to support global food security. Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro of Mars Global shared progress on mapping the genomes of over 100 crops that are vital to food security, but are overlooked because they are not commercially viable. Palantir Technologies and Grameen Foundation displayed their open data app that they developed at USAID’s Hack for Hunger,which uses community knowledge worker-collected data and Palantir analytics to build a crop-specific food security early warning system for farmers in Uganda.

The concept of open agriculture data fuses transparency and technology to improve food security worldwide; farmers, entrepreneurs, and researchers recognize the impact and potential of increasing access to information and are increasingly receiving high-level support. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack touted the U.S. Government’s leadership role in increasing open data for development impact and for global growth. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted the use of open genomic data to leapfrog development of new agricultural products. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA Administrator and the first American woman to walk in space, delivered an inspiring perspective of the role that data can play in transcending and unifying an Earth without country borders or sector divisions. Four hundred food security specialists, data scientists, and technology experts gathered with policy makers from G-8 and the six African New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition countries to work together to increase available information and launch G-8 country action plans to get more data open from both the public and private sector. U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Special Assistant to the President Todd Park cheered the work of the conference stating that, “by liberating data from the vaults of government and the private sector, we can accelerate the use of open agriculture and nutrition data to advance global food security while also fueling the growth of new businesses and jobs.”

The G-8 Heads of Delegation Valery Khromchenkov (Russia), Robert Turnock (Canada), Hideaki Chotoku (Japan), Tim Wheeler (United Kingdom), Guillou Marion (France), Martin Koehler (Germany), and Giulio Menato (European Union) listen to Agriculture Under Secretary Research, Education and Economics (REE) Dr. Catherine Woteki (U.S.) announce the action plans developed at the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture 2013. Photo Credit: USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

USAID has been consistently demonstrating its role as a leader in increasing open data. Multiple G-8 conference speakers joined because of products they had made as a result of the December 2012 Development DataJam that USAID’s Innovation & Development Alliances (IDEA) office co-hosted with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. At the DataJam, USAID leadership joined with other issue experts, innovators, data scientists, and entrepreneurs to commit to developing prototypes that use open data to improve international. Continuing the support of these and other data innovators and social entrepreneurs, last week USAID launched www.usaid.gov/developer with new datasets and tools that had previously not been available to the public, including some we support through Feed the Future the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Each of these datasets are useful on their own, and when compared and applied with other datasets from USAID and other organizations, they have the growing potential to dramatically increase the impact and efficiency of international assistance.

In an increasingly networked and tech-savvy world, open data has the potential for more people to use information for social good, and USAID and global development goals directly benefit from increasing access to information.Like any technological tool, open data is useless without the people applying and engaging with it. Only through active and consistent participation can we ensure that information is timely, useful, and used. We can expect that these changes will come. Let’s get that information online and useable. Let’s get data open. Food security data is just the beginning.

For more information on USAID’s open data work, visit www.usaid.gov/developer or email OpenAgData@usaid.gov.

Katherine Townsend serves as Special Assistant for Engagement in USAID’s office of Innovation & Development Alliances. Follow her on Twitter @DiploKat.

Netbooks Empower Community Health Workers to Improve Health in Bangladesh’s Poorest Communities

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

With a population of 150 million, Bangladesh is a bustling country filled with vibrant people. On a recent trip to Dhaka and Chittagong we experienced first-hand the kindness and welcoming spirit of the country. The goal of our trip was to meet with various USAID implementing partners, and several units within the Ministry of Family Health and Welfareto find out more about their behavior change communication work. Developing high quality, evidence-based communication campaigns that promote healthy behaviors is quite a challenge for Bangladesh with their large population, numerous rural communities, and with so many health issues that need to be addressed. These health areas range from improved antenatal and postnatal care, family planning, nutrition, and child health. USAID implementing partners and the Ministry of Family Health and Welfare are now streamlining their health communications work, making sure their messages are in agreement, effective, and accessible to a range of people of all ages and educational backgrounds.

Community health workers receive training on the new netbooks. Photo credit: Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative

A key part in this new effort was the launch of a three-month eHealth pilot program, developed by Johns Hopkins University – Center for Communication Programs in partner with Eminence, the Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs, and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with funding from USAID. The pilot will take place in Sylhet and Chittagong where 300 community health workers have received a netbook computer loaded with several eToolkits that contain a digital library of communication materials in maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition, and eight eLearning courses. The eToolkit includes 116 materials and tools which were selected by a team after a detailed assessment and review. The eToolkit will improve the quality and effectiveness of counseling visits that the community health workers have with their clients, while replacing the heavy materials they previously carried from house to house. The eight eLearning courses on the netbooks are meant to supplement the training that community health workers currently receive. Each course also includes an assessment designed to measure changes in the knowledge and skills of community health workers.

Puspa Rani Paramdar, a community health worker, said she felt empowered with information and knowledge after she received the netbook. Photo credit: Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative

The eHealth pilot is one of the first large steps towards achieving a Digital Bangladesh by 2021. The use of digital resources will help extend the reach of key messages for health, population, and nutrition. In early April, colorful balloons and banners welcomed guests to the launch event for the pilot program in Chittagong. Here we witnessed the ceremonially hand-off of ten netbooks to community health workers before an audience of more than100 guests who were excited and engaged, asking interesting technical questions and offering suggestions for future iterations of the project.

On April 20-21, the first 30 community health workers attended an orientation, learned to use the netbook, and navigate the eToolkit and eLearning courses. Facilitators led an interactive orientation to ensure the community health workers felt comfortable operating the netbooks. There was much enthusiasm for the eHealth pilot program from the field workers during the orientation, who shared they felt empowered, informed, and energized to continue their important work.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

The Promise of MPTs: An Integrated Approach to Women’s Health

During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 1-10, we will be featuring the role that Science, Technology & Innovation plays in Global Health.

In recent years, the global community has intensified its focus on women’s health and rights. This reflects a universal recognition that women and girls are fundamental to the health and well-being of societies worldwide — and that we still have significant challenges to overcome before reaching essential development goals.

HIV and maternal mortaility, and their frequent intersection, are  among the greatest obstacles to women’s health and development. Together, they consisitute the two leading causes of death among women of reproductive age.

A woman holding a ring. Photo Credit: USAID

Women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS due to a combination of biology, gender inequality and sociocultural norms. In sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, young women are twice as likely to become infected with HIV as young men.

At the same time, a lack of access to modern contraceptives in developing countries remains a major contributor to global maternal deaths. An estimated 222 million women worldwide want to delay or avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of family planning. Contraceptives allow women to space and limit their pregnancies,  leading to better health, education and economic outcomes for women and families.

Women in areas with high rates of HIV often have the greatest unmet need for contraception. New multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) now being developed address these dual risks, and may give women tools they can use to protect their health and better their lives.

While existing MPTs such as male and female condoms are extremely effective when they can be used, many women cannot negotiate condom use. New MPTs in development — including vaginal gels, long-acting rings and new types of barrier devices — could expand options for discreet, female-initiated prevention methods. In addition, because women’s perceived risk of HIV is low compared to their perceived risk for pregnancy, and given potential stigma around receiving HIV services, combined technologies may be widely used. As such, new MPTs may also help promote increased integration in health care delivery.

With leadership and support from USAID, the International Partnership for Microbicides is applying its experience in HIV prevention to the development of a 60-day MPT vaginal ring that would offer protection against HIV and unintended pregnancy. Now in preclinical stages, the ring would deliver an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine along with the hormonal contraceptive levonorgestrel. Clinical studies are planned for 2014.

The contraceptive field has long taught us that no single product will address women’s unique needs and preferences. While some women may prefer to use a gel around the time of sex, others may find that a longer-acting ring is more convenient and encourages consistent use. USAID is working on a number of new technologies to expand contraceptive options for women and couples across the globe. Learn more about these new contraceptives and multipurpose prevention technologies under development in this slideshow.

While at least several years away, new integrated solutions like these could result in significant health gains for women by reducing rates of HIV transmission, STIs, and maternal and newborn death associated with unintended pregnancies. As a result, MPTs could help advance progress on multiple development goals related to health, poverty and gender equality — and give women and girls a chance to reach their full potential.

Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.

Photo of the Week: Administrator Shah in North Colombia

Last week, Administrator Shah met with displaced families in Corozal, Sucre in Northern Colombia at a land titling event, and received a warm “thank you” from one of the community members. Photo is from USAID.

Video of the Week: LAUNCH Systems Challenge 2013

Last week, USAID and partners NASA, NIKE Inc., and the Department of State, held a LAUNCH 2020 Summit to kick off a new LAUNCH focus on systems innovation. LAUNCH is aimed at identifying, showcasing, and accelerating innovative approaches to specific global challenges. LAUNCH searches for visionaries whose world-class ideas, technologies, or programs show great promise for making tangible impacts on society. On April 24, the LAUNCH 2013 Systems Challenge went live, calling innovators to come up with programs and processes that will transform the system of fabrics to one that advances equitable global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet’s resources. The challenge closes on July 15.  We will also soon be opening our first LAUNCH “nano-challenge,” a call for solutions specifically aimed at university students.

Please visit www.launch.org for more information about the program. You can view the current challenge statement and submit an application.

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