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Measured Marriage: For One 15-year old, a Chance to Finish Childhood from USAID

Due in large measure to USAID-provided health messages provided to a member of the local Village Council and leader in her community, 15-year-old Bakhtawar will be able to finish school - and growing up - before she is married.

Kanjeer, Pakistan – Bakhtawar was a good student in the fifth grade at a small school located in a Southern Pakistan village.

She enjoyed learning, laughing with her friends, and spending time with her family. But one evening, as she sat nervously in a chair beside her parents at the local meeting hall, she knew that everything about her childhood was coming to an end. No more school, no more girlfriends, no more fun.

At 15, Bakhtawar was about to become engaged to be married. Read her story here!

The impacts of early marriage are substantial not

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USAID Wins Again!

submitted by LaToya Butler
Dr. Rajiv Shah, our Administrator, has just accepted the Combined Federal Campaign’s Annual Summit Award on behalf of the agency for the second consecutive year.

The CFC coordinates fund-raising efforts of various charitable organizations so that federal donors will have the opportunity to make charitable contributions through payroll deduction. This year’s campaign: “The Compassion of Individuals – The Power of Community,” encompasses  one way that staff can serve broader communities both domestic and overseas.

More than 1,000 members of our team donated over $600,000 to the CFC in 2009.   Despite 2009 being a tough economic year, USAID managed to increase its contribution efforts by nine percent over 2008.

Congratulations to the dedicated team at USAID for all of the effort and generosity involved in achieving this high level of participation in a worthy cause.

Stories of economic growth in Africa

Economic growth is critical to reducing poverty and building a better future. The African Growth and Opportunity Act was signed into law 10 years ago to support free markets and growing economies throughout Africa, and USAID has been building on AGOA by supporting entrepreneurs, promoting exports, and creating trade networks. And the results have been incredible. Success stories throughout Africa—from fair-trade cotton farmers in Senegal to a blooming flower market in East Africa—illustrate how trade improves lives. Read a brand-new collection of stories from the field.

U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.

On Friday, May 28th, FEMA Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning and I signed a work plan with the Russian government to expand bilateral cooperation through 2012 on responding to international disasters and humanitarian crises.  The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.  This committee was formed in 1996 and now serves as one of the working groups under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last year.  The U.S. delegation from FEMA, USAID, and the Department of Transportation discussed ways to enhance preparedness and response capabilities for disasters at home and abroad.  The Russian delegation, led by First Deputy Minister of the Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) Ruslan Tsalikov, was especially interested in sharing humanitarian aid best practices, and proposed partnering with USAID to address food security issues in the region.

The committee meeting was the culmination of an exciting week for cooperation in this area.  During the earlier part of the week, a FEMA-USAID delegation held a joint table top exercise with EMERCOM that simulated an earthquake scenario.  American and Russian experts jointly examined response considerations related to declaring a disaster, deploying teams to another country, coordinating search and rescue with humanitarian response, and demobilizing.  Specialists from Fairfax County’s Task Force 1 Search and Rescue team, who responded to the earthquake in Haiti, had the opportunity to sit across the table from Russian responders who also served in Haiti, and to share lessons learned from that experience.  The exercise is part of U.S. efforts to support the Russian Government’s goal of meeting the standards for the United Nations’ highest classification of search and rescue teams.

Russia’s commitment to cooperating with the U.S. in addressing humanitarian crises is another sign of its reemergence as strong global partner and international donor.  U.S. and Russian teams are already working together to improve rescue efforts in response to natural disasters and terrorism, and this is just one of many areas in which we are collaborating on global development.  USAID/Russia also partners with the Ministry of Health to send Russian medical experts to countries in Africa and with Russia’s new agency for humanitarian cooperation, Rossotrudnichestvo, to strengthen its capacity to provide aid.

After spending the week in Russia, I am even more convinced that the U.S. and Russia have much to gain by working together to address the big challenges of the 21st century. I believe USAID should continue to be at the center of much of that cooperation and partnership.

Now I am off to Bosnia for the next phase of my trip.

New Estimates Document Decline in Mortality for Children Under 5

By developing and implementing high-impact, evidence-based interventions, delivered at low cost, USAID programs reduced newborn mortality by 16 to 42 percent in 11 these countries. With USAID support, counties as diverse as Nepal, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Afghanistan have reduced under-five mortality by 25 percent in 5 to 7 years.

Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at an accelerated pace, according to a new report in ‘The Lancet’ based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010. Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year down from the 1990 figure of 11.9 million.

Global child survival programs have focused on reaching increased numbers of children with basic health interventions, which scientific research and field programs have demonstrated to reduce the susceptibility of children to serious illnesses. Vaccines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria, more education for women, reduced numbers of high risk and closely spaced births, and AIDS medicines in high-HIV prevalence countries are among the factors that have helped lower death rates. USAID has supported much of the research that identified and proved the effectiveness of high-impact interventions, from Oral Rehydration Therapy and vitamin A to community treatment of pneumonia and essential newborn care.

USAID’s work with developing country governments alongside UNICEF, the World Health Organization, World Bank, other donors, NGOs and private sector partners has contributed to successes at an unprecedented global scale. When the U.S. Child Survival program began in the early 1980s, it was estimated that almost 15 million children died each year in the developing world. Without reduced rates of mortality, the number of deaths today would be about 17 million each year. However, The Lancet report notes that, despite significant progress, the rate of decline in infant and child mortality is still not fast enough to meet the 2015 MDG target.  This underscores the importance of the Global Health Initiative’s increased focus on maternal and child health.

Lancet Series Puts Spotlight on Global Tuberculosis Efforts

On May 19th, ‘The Lancet’ released a special series on tuberculosis, which includes a series of papers and comments highlighting the need for new tools, the threat posed by drug-resistant strains, results of current control efforts and other issues about TB worldwide http://www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis. While treatment strategies saved six million lives and 36 million cases of the disease were successfully treated between 1995 and 2008, TB remains a severe global public health threat. TB remains second only to HIV among infectious killers worldwide today and is the third leading cause of death among women aged 15-44.

The Lancet series also focused on the broader issues that contribute to the spread of the disease. The majority of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. TB proliferates in close spaces, and it perpetuates poverty by striking the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Large numbers of TB cases go undetected and untreated, fueling new cases and deaths. Making matters worse, new forms of the disease have emerged that are resistant to existing drugs. According to the report, without significant investments in new technology and prevention and treatment tools, drug-resistant strains of TB could become the “dominant” form of TB over the coming decades. In addition, new approaches to diagnose TB, coupled with improved health delivery systems and stronger community awareness, are critical to earlier detection and treatment. Urgent actions are also needed to scale up effective and integrated services for TB and HIV at the country level.

On March 24th, the U.S. Government, through USAID, released its Global Tuberculosis Strategy – our blueprint for expanded TB treatment and control over the next five years. To meet our targets, we will invest in country-led plans, scale up country level programs, increase our impact by leveraging our efforts with the Global Fund and mobilize additional resources from the private sector. We will also promote research and innovation. Our investments focus on new diagnostics that will allow us to detect TB more easily, including drug resistant TB, and new drugs that will reduce the duration of TB treatment. Assisting countries to introduce these new tools into programs is also a priority.

Russians are Committed to Improving Energy Efficiency and Protecting their Environment

by Jonathan Hale

Energy and environmental issues have been a key focus of my visit to Russia this week.  I had the great opportunity to meet with officials at the Ministry of Energy, which is responsible for improving energy efficiency in Russia, as well as with civic leaders from environmental groups and the Institute for Sustainable Development of the Public Chamber, an entity that serves as an intermediary between Russian citizens and the government.  Across the board, my Russian counterparts expressed a strong interest in collaborating with the U.S. to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.

Far Eastern leopard

Two American wildlife experts examine the health of a female Far Eastern leopard in Primorskiy Krai, Russia. With a population of only 30-40 confined to a thin stretch of forest along the Russian-Chinese border, this leopard is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered cats. USAID is supporting a joint US-Russian effort to better understand their ecology and protect their habitat. (Photo by Andrew Harrington, Wildlife Conservation Society)

President Medvedev has identified inefficient use of energy – and its impact on the country’s economy and environment – as an issue of critical importance and has called for reducing the energy intensity of the Russian economy by half by 2020.  Today, Russian energy losses due to inefficiency are equal to the annual energy consumption in France! But it’s estimated that Russia could save 45% of consumed energy through innovation and modern technology, which will also help Russia better address climate change. In my meetings here this week, we discussed the challenges of improving energy efficiency in Russia and the substantial impact USAID programs have had in other countries.

At the Public Chamber, I was especially pleased to meet some of the Russian scientists and activists who are a driving force behind environmental protection here. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia and Greenpeace Russia are led by impressive Russian experts – such as Dr. Ivan Blokov, who also serves as the interim Head of Greenpeace International’s Research Unit.  I heard their concerns about pollution and its impact on human health. They also offered their insight on how USAID can continue to partner with Russia to improve the stewardship of its forests – the largest in the world. Together, we can ensure that Russian forests continue to serve as one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and as home to unique ecosystems that include amazing animals like the Amur tiger, the Far Eastern leopard, and the Baikal seal.  We also spoke about the Arctic.

Why should this matter to Americans? Russia’s forests and ecosystems make up 22% of the world’s territory so protection in Russia is essential to maintaining a balanced biosphere worldwide. The passion that I have seen this week has energized me even more to find new and exciting ways for USAID to partner and cooperate with Russia on energy efficiency and the environment.

A Postcard from Dhaka

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s visit to Bangladesh.

USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, visited Bangladesh May 25-26th to participate in the opening of the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum, hosted by the Government of Bangladesh and launched by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During his visit, he met with bilateral and multilateral development partners from the UN, FAO and DFID, as well as with the Prime Minister to discuss development issues and mutual cooperation.  After addressing a press conference where he highlighted President Obama’s new Feed the Future initiative, Dr. Shah met with USAID staff working in the region.

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

This post was submitted by David Kahrmann, USAID’s Development Outreach Communications officer in Belgrade, Serbia.

Film production putting Serbia on the map “For all the right reasons”

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

Serbia is back. After years of being off the beaten path, the rest of the world is waking up to the fact that Serbia is a pretty hip and trendy place, with Lonely Planet travel guides even recently dubbing its capital Belgrade one of the world’s “Ultimate Party Cities.”  But, few people are probably aware that as recently as the 1980s, Serbia was also one of the world’s leading filming locations.

USAID’s Competiveness Project is now working with production companies in film, TV, post-production and special effects to regain that status by promoting the advantages of Serbia as a film destination. USAID brought local stakeholders together to establish the Serbia Film Commission and helped it become a member of the International Association of Film Commissioners (AFCI). The Commission actively utilizes key industry trade shows, including the Cannes Producers Network and the American Film Location Market, to drum up interest in filming in Serbia.

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USAID Attorney Honored for Contribution to “Human Capital”

Federal News Radio has just recognized the contributions to public service of one of USAID’s own: Sabrina M. Segal, an Attorney Advisor, is among a number of people being honored with an inaugural Causey Award.

USAID Attorney - Sabrina Segal

Ms. Segal is being recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Human Capital Management field.  The new award is named after Mike Causey, who spent a long career dedicated to reporting on federal workforce management and federal workforce management and federal pay benefits issues.

Ms. Segal designed and developed Ethipedia, an ethics-focused wiki for USAID employees and an online collaboration space.  Built with open-source software, Ethipedia gives our team members 24-hour access to up-to-date ethics information.  It also allows them to post questions or have conversations with ethics advisors  no matter where in the world they work.  USAID is proud of its ethics training program, and this tool has been a low-cost value-added component to an already award-winning program.

For more information on the Causey Award, an MP3 of a radio interview with Sabrina Segal click here.

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