Archives for USAID
USAID’s Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program promotes cooperation between the Arab and Israeli scientific communities through joint research projects addressing common development problems. The program was established in 1981 to facilitate research cooperation between Egyptian and Israeli scientists, and was subsequently expanded to include Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and the West Bank and Gaza.
Today, active projects involve more than 400 Arab and Israeli scientists, engineers, students and technicians at 50 institutions in seven Middle Eastern countries. New project proposals which seek out sustainable solutions to regional development challenges are accepted every year. Working together, these scientists have led innovation in agriculture, environment, water resources and health.
Given the region’s water shortages and the regional nature of water challenges, the water sector is an important component of MERC’s research portfolio. Because agriculture consumes a large amount of the region’s freshwater resources, MERC projects seek to increase the use of treated wastewater as appropriate in agriculture, minimize water demand in existing crops, and identify new crop varieties that are resistant to drought and salinity.
For example, MERC programs explore the use of wetlands and membrane-based filters for the effective and efficient re-use of reclaimed water in agriculture. Its programs model crops’ abilities to make use of low-quality water, seek the optimal amount of water plants need, and develop protocols for the safe and effective use of reclaimed water. They identify and optimize high-value traditional and specialty crops suitable to arid climates and saline soils, such as potato varieties adapted to saline soils and water, and virus-resistant tomato lines.
As do USAID’s other water projects around the region, MERC’s water portfolio makes use of cutting-edge science, technology and innovation in improving the impact and sustainability of its initiatives. One new project, for example, brings together Israeli and Palestinian scientists to look at the interaction between coastal aquifers and the Mediterranean under changing conditions. The scientists are developing empirical, quantitative estimates of seawater intrusion and freshwater outflow along the coast in and near Gaza. They will subsequently provide policy makers with recommendations about how best to manage these aquifers.
The re-use of wastewater is a growing practice in the region. Another MERC project studies the hormonal health hazards related to this re-use, the effectiveness of new wastewater treatment plants in removing hormonal pollutants, and the cost-effectiveness of new treatment alternatives. Project leader Alon Tal from Ben-Gurion University, who works with Israeli and Palestinian scientists from Bethlehem University and other groups to implement the project, commented, “I think this is going to take to the next level what we know about streams.”
Today, at a time of rapid change in the Arab world, MERC continues to bring together Arab and Israeli scientists and students to create and share solutions to regional development challenges like water while promoting a peaceful exchange between neighbors.
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In the slums of Latin America, 117 million people live in poverty. The region’s megacities, including Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, and Lima, generate over-crowded living conditions without access to clean water or electricity, poor nutritional status, and often lack of basic health services. These marginalized populations are made up of the poor, the homeless, and vulnerable indigenous groups that have migrated to the city in search of a better life; they are the urban poor of Latin America.
The combination of these social determinants generates a breeding ground for tuberculosis (TB).
Around the world, tuberculosis rates are often high in urban areas and in the Americas it is no exception. Twenty-five percent of Peru’s urban poor live in Lima-Callao, which reports 60% of the tuberculosis cases for the entire country and 85% of drug-resistant tuberculosis cases which is difficult and costly to treat.
As populations continue to explode throughout the region, health conditions will continue to worsen if they are not addressed, particularly in slums. In 2011, 30,000 people died of tuberculosis in the Americas and there were 268,000 new reported cases. Worldwide, 1.4 million lost their fight against the disease. Tuberculosis, once thought an old disease, is the new emerging problem for the most vulnerable.
Tuberculosis has been used as a prime example of a “social disease” because it finds its nest among the poor and marginalized. The control of tuberculosis in cities requires social, economic, and environmental interventions to improve living conditions and increase access to health services. USAID has funded the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to tackle this concentrated epidemic in key cities across the Americas.
PAHO currently works with municipalities in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; and Lima, Peru to improve their tuberculosis programs that service the urban poor. The successes from these cities will be shared with Mexico City, Guayaquil, and other megacities in Latin America and around the world.
As urbanization rates continue to increase, so are the chances of tuberculosis among the urban poor. Tuberculosis is contagious but also curable; acting now while the epidemic is concentrated will help avoid astronomical costs for treatment and keep the region healthy.
USAID has supported Egypt’s water sector – including its water and wastewater utilities – for more than three decades. Much of Egypt’s water and wastewater infrastructure built since the early 1980s – including treatment plants and water distribution networks – has been developed with U.S. assistance. Before USAID’s involvement, water and sanitation services were unevenly provided by a mix of municipal services providers and regional authorities. In 1975, for example, 70 percent of Egyptians had access to piped water; today, nearly 100 percent do. Accurate and consistent data were rare. Data aggregated nationally were difficult to verify. As elsewhere in the region, U.S. assistance strives to make available accurate data and decision-support systems to improve water-related decision-making.
The latest generation of USAID assistance works to ensure the sustainable stewardship of Egypt’s water infrastructure by emphasizing the management systems required to make the most of past infrastructure investments. With USAID assistance, major infrastructure investment and regulatory reform projects were launched, and the local water and wastewater departments were restructured and consolidated as operating subsidiaries of a national holding company. A key element in USAID’s approach is creating the systems to track and monitor data, and indicators to monitor service quality, the efficiency of water applications, and the cost-effectiveness of capital investments.
In Egypt, five national agencies are involved with construction and maintenance of water supply infrastructure. Until recently, there were no systems in place to track the thousands of construction projects underway nationwide at any given time. This inability to track and monitor construction progress led to poorly informed investment decisions and inadequate cost control. In 2006, the newly-installed minister overseeing these efforts requested U.S. assistance to establish a capital investment project tracking tool. Today, this system provides real-time summaries of over 3,000 construction projects underway, helping to prioritize investment decisions, quantify the expected impact, and justify and explain investment decisions.
Another USAID funded system provides a platform for tracking utility performance against key indicators for national- and regional-level managers. The system, installed in all 25 of Egypt’s water and wastewater companies, tracks a wide variety of data on a quarterly basis, including figures on utility finances, customer service, drinking water quality and efficiency of operations. The comprehensive and standardized set of indicators allows leadership to review performance, make accurate comparisons across utilities and detect inefficiencies. Mohamed Hassan, executive director of the Egyptian Water Regulatory Association, credits the USAID system for “allowing the water sector regulator to track the performance of water and wastewater utilities and customer-based level of service indicators, and assisting in tariff and licensing decisions.”
Today, a range of USAID systems and tools are being used by sector officials, making use of American technical expertise to improve local water management. Using these and other management tools, USAID is helping monitor performance, prioritize and track investments, and effectively make the case for water and wastewater investments.
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In arid parts of the Middle East and North Africa, famine and climate-related food shortages remain critical development concerns. In sub-Saharan Africa, after devastating famines in the 1980s, USAID created the Famine Early Warning Systems Network – FEWS NET –to monitor and predict developments that affect food security. The system has been serving the region ever since. Among its accomplishments, FEWS NET is known for pioneering the application of satellite remote sensing and models to track and predict climate-sensitive aspects of food security.
There is a powerful interdependence between water availability and agriculture, health, nutrition, and political and economic development. In Yemen, for example, variable rainfall has decreased crop production, food prices are rising, and declining GDP growth and security diminish the population’s ability to obtain adequate nutrition. Today, more than 10 million Yemenis face food insecurity, as do 8 million citizens of Sudan and South Sudan. In Sudan, rainfall has declined by 20 percent since the mid-1970s, with acute impacts for pastoral communities reliant on rainfall for crop production.
Without a stable and sufficient food supply, little other development is possible. Climate change threatens to further destabilize the situation, and recent changes in weather patterns and rainfall have already exacerbated regional water resource management problems. Rain-fed agricultural productivity is particularly vulnerable to shifts in precipitation patterns. Resilience to climate change is critical to ensuring that broad-based development priorities can be met. As Jose Graziano Da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, puts it, “there is no food security without water security.”
FEWS NET staff collaborates with U.S. Government agencies, national government ministries and international partners to collect data and produce objective, forward-looking analyses on more than 30 of the world’s most food-insecure countries. FEWS NET helps guide adaptation efforts by providing high quality analyses of recently observed climate trends.
The importance of early warning is critical. With adequate lead time, governments, development agencies and citizens have the opportunity to plan for and mitigate the impact of climate developments. FEWS NET provides continuous monitoring of weather, climate, agricultural production, prices, trade and other factors, and thus can predict and plan for emerging problems. Pioneering in its analytical approach, FEWS NET forecasts the most likely climate patterns up to six months in advance. To help government decision-makers and relief agencies plan for food emergencies, FEWS NET publishes monthly reports on current and projected food insecurity, up-to-the-minute alerts on emerging or likely crises, and specialized reports on weather hazards, crops, market prices and food assistance at www.fews.net.
Programs like FEWS NET are putting to work leading American science and technology in support of effective regional water management and decision-making. “Much of the information that we rely on comes from FEWS NET,” says Abdoulaye Diop, director of the World Food Program in Malawi. “It is quite valuable…no one else on the ground can provide this type of information.”
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World TB Day is Sunday, March 24.
Fighting tuberculosis (TB) is extremely tough on any patient. Treatment consists of multiple pills each day over the course of at least six months. The medicines often have significant side effects and adhering to treatment often infringes on a patient’s ability to work and interact with his/her family. As prolonged and harsh as it sounds, that is actually the best case scenario for a TB patient. Those who contract or develop TB that is resistant to “first-line” treatments (the most commonly prescribed TB medicines) will be prescribed a still harsher combination of thousands of pills and shots—a draining course of treatment with greater side effects that can last as long as two years. And even then, a clean bill of health is far from guaranteed.
As grueling and debilitating as TB treatment may be for an adult, a child who is infected with TB will face an even rougher road. Treatments for children with TB are the same for children as they are for adults, but the recommended dosages are different. However, pediatric-appropriate versions of TB treatment remain absent from the marketplace. In 2010, WHO issued new guidelines for pediatric TB treatments, however, in the years since, child-friendly TB treatments in the correct dosages have not been produced. Parents or caregivers are left to split or crush adult pills for children, estimating the proper amount of medicine. If they guess wrong, children can be undertreated, resulting in poor outcomes and the development of drug-resistant forms of TB.
Furthermore, because treatments are designed for adults, none of the medicines used to treat children come in formulations that are easy for children to take. This means every dose becomes an adventure for the little ones and their caregivers—a struggle lasting as long as two years in attempt to cure the disease.
As a parent, I find it hard to understand how children with TB can be so neglected. Even among TB patients, who are underserved as a whole, children are particularly vulnerable and face the toughest road to cure when sick. But we’re going to change that! USAID is teaming up with TB Alliance, which is dedicated to the research and development of better TB drugs, to change course, help our children, and brighten the future prospects for the youngest TB patients.
In this new partnership, efforts will promote new understanding of the problem that can help lead to the sustainable supply of new TB drug formulations for children. And a stronger emphasis on patient care will help the world’s youngest TB patients comfortably and confidently survive one of the most persistent diseases ever known.
For those of us who have always had it, access to clean water is something that is all too easy to take for granted. We turn on the tap, cook and bathe, and water our lawns and gardens, without ever thinking of the complexities that bring us our clean water. Others must constantly think about clean water because they have never had access to piped-in clean water in their homes, and have always made do by carrying water from the local well.
In the former Soviet Union, some communities once had access to clean water, but are now suffering the effects of crumbling infrastructure and increasing water demands. Nowhere is this more true than in the small communities scattered across Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Crimea is an attractive region, with a wide variety of ecosystems, rainfall, sunshine, land use and people. For two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived in Sevastopol, a city located on the peninsula’s south-western tip, and often traveled throught small villages and towns in Crimea where Ukrainian NGO colleagues and other volunteers were based. I saw firsthand how many people in rural Crimea go days or even weeks without water, particularly in summer. In many villages, the public water system operates for one or two hours a day only on a few days a week. Even quick showers are a luxury and residents use the brief time the water system is functioning to quickly fill up as many empty plastic containers as possible in order to live through the dry period. Bottled water is expensive for the average Crimean villager, whose monthly income rarely exceeds $200. Crimea is also growing as a tourism destination, further burdening the overwhelmed public water system during the summer season.
The problem with poor water availability isn’t caused by a lack of water in the region. While Crimea is a fairly dry place, averaging just over 15 inches of precipitation annually, there are ample sources of underground water and Dnipro river tributary water provided by aqueducts from the north. The challenge is transporting enough water from aquifers and aqueducts to households in order to satisfy seasonal demand during the periods of increased use. This is particularly true in spring and summer when people use this water to irrigate backyard cash crops, which are critical to supplementing rural residents’ annual income.
The USAID Project “Partnership for Sustainable Water Supply for Agriculture Development in Crimea (SWaSAD)” launched in July 2012 by our Ukrainian partner, Agrarian Markets Development Institute, is successfully demonstrating that with transparent planning, modest investment and strong community support, infrastructure improvements can be made that will bring reliable water service to residents in small communities in Crimea. The Project includes demonstration projects in three districts in Crimea: Saki, Pervimaysky and Razdolnensky.
I joined my colleagues from USAID in late February in visiting the communities selected for partnership on this project. In Saki, we heard from the project’s major stakeholders. A local farmer remarked that this project was “very important” in improving crop yields and local income, and that locals were “enthusiastic” about the prospect of reliable water in their communities.
In many ways, the objectives are simple: most of the project sites involve simply connecting the existing water sources, such as the water in a canal with homes along the streets in the villages, using simple irrigation pipes and pumps, so that people can irrigate their backyard cash crops with non-potable canal water without burdening the community’s drinking water system.
One of the project sites plans a broader-based agricultural application on large, communally-owned plots of land. The site we visited in Pervimaysky would restore the function of Soviet-era water infrastructure to irrigate fields farmed by 30 families. This, in turn, would support 300 beneficiaries in the nearby village, providing much-needed employment opportunities and increased economic activity for local businesses. The difference between an irrigated field and a non-irrigated field was fairly obvious and pretty stark — one field a bright green, the other a dull brown.
As tourism continues to develop in Crimea, water demands will continue to grow. It is economically critical that the region develops a plan to supply reliable potable water to the tourist centers, while also allowing farmers to irrigate their crops, helping to fulfill Ukraine’s promise as the breadbasket of Europe.
What makes this project particularly unique is that USAID/Ukraine is implementing it with the support of the Development Grants Program, which is designed specifically to increase the capacity of locally-managed and operated organizations, thereby increasing local knowledge to sustain the results of USAID-funded initiatives after grant completion. As part of this initiative, our local implementing partner is improving its internal controls and management processes, and developing its human resources so that it can independently achieve results from similar activities.
In the end, we are not only helping Crimea increase its water security and improve the quality of life of local residents, we are also improving the ability of local NGOs to use their own skills and resources to continue to develop this critical region of Ukraine.
Yesterday at an event hosted by AEI and the Center for American Progress, USAID Administrator Raj Shah spoke about President Obama’s vision to end extreme poverty through innovation and partnership. His remarks mentioned an important corollary goal – the end of preventable child deaths. The first audience question commended the visionary Child Survival Call to Action held in Washington last year and asked about progress at country-level. Administrator Shah responded that the movement to end preventable child deaths is nothing short of extraordinary.
Since the Call to Action, 172 countries have now signed A Promise Renewed pledge to accelerate declines in child deaths. More than 400 civil society and faith-based organizations as well as over 2,000 individuals have also pledged support. Each signature represents a renewed commitment to give every child the best possible start in life. Governments are leading the effort to convene policymakers, technical experts, and development partners in a concerted effort to scale-up high-impact strategies for maternal, newborn and child survival. Below are a few highlights of countries leading and how USAID is supporting this important work.
USAID and other donors are supporting the Ministry of Health to develop an action plan to end preventable child deaths in Bangladesh, particularly at district level. This plan will identify priority actions and benchmarks to reach the goal of no more than 20 deaths/1,000 live births by 2035, or earlier. A technical advisory group has been convened to discuss evidence-based interventions that can be deployed in Bangladesh to bend the curve. This includes programs to address Pneumoccocal and Rotavirus vaccines, corticosteroids, clean cord care, child drowning and Kangaroo Mother Care, among others. Given the fact that 60% of child deaths in Bangladesh occur within in the first 28 days of life, there is a huge need for post-natal monitoring to reduce stubborn neonatal mortality rates.
Building upon the Child Survival Call to Action, USAID recently launched a public private partnership: Survive and Thrive. This partnership will expand the coverage of quality and high impact maternal newborn services starting with essential newborn care, and link pediatricians, midwives, and obstetricians from American professional associations to peer associations in Burma to build capacity in service delivery. Survive and Thrive will partner with civil society and professional and educational institutions, work within the Ministry of Health’s health system, support the programs of the 3MDG Fund, and maximize synergy with community-based programs of existing partners.
At the African Leadership on Child Survival meeting hosted by the Government of Ethiopia earlier this year, the consensus reached by over twenty African countries present was both significant and historic. The participating countries declared, in a consensus statement, that they are committed to developing and implementing country-led roadmaps that integrate ongoing efforts to accelerate progress to end preventable deaths among children by 2035, and reduce the mortality rate to below 20 per 1,000 live births in all African nations. Recently, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Namibia. Officials from Namibia are undertaking a study tour to review Ethiopia’s health extension program.
At India’s recent Call to Action, the Government of India launched the Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Health Adolescent health strategy (RMNCH+A), which serves as a roadmap for the States. India also released several guidance documents including implementation of newborn care as well as management of pneumonia and diarrhea. A National Child Survival Scorecard was showcased, and States were encouraged to develop their own scorecards and to monitor progress. USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Project (“MCHIP”) supported the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in organizing the recent India National Call to Action for Child Survival and Development, and USAID will continue to provide support in establishing quick response teams for Indian states with the highest child mortality that have committed to accelerating their efforts for child survival.
USAID supported a national newborn conference in Jakarta from Feb 26-March 1. The conference included international experts from India and the U.S. as well as representatives from the Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, key professional associations, academia, and district and provincial health leaders. This was the first such event in Indonesia focusing on newborn survival. Responding to Indonesia’s commitment to A Promise Renewed and the MOH’s call to accelerate progress toward the MDGs, this conference addresses one of the key indicators slowing achievement of MDG goal 4. DHS data from 2012 is now available and demonstrates no progress in newborn mortality since 2007. The rate remains at 19/1000 live births. Partners are committed to reducing this rate by 25% by 2017, in partnership with USAID, UNICEF and WHO, and an exceptionally strong collaborative relationship with the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health in Liberia is sharpening its child survival plan using evidence and aligning donors to support the plan. There is great donor support and commitment to implementing the national plan through the alignment of programs. A launch for A Promise Renewed is being planned by the Government of Liberia. A steering committee led by the Government of Liberia and comprised of representatives from NGOs, house of representatives, representatives from different Ministries has been established and meets regularly to plan the launch event. An expected key outcome of the launch is greater mobilization of support and resources at the counties, civil society organizations and community leaders around A Promise Renewed.
For more information about A Promise Renewed, please visit: apromiserenewed.org.
Ayala Foundation became a USAID Forward partner in September 2011 when USAID/Philippines awarded to us the contract to implement the “Strengthening the Capacity of Philippine Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Project.” The goal of the project is simple: to strengthen the organizational capacity of over a hundred civil society organizations.
The project could not have come at a better time—the Aquino administration is expanding partnerships with civil society in new and exciting areas such as budget transparency, participatory audit, and even election campaign finance monitoring.
Our foundation works with a consortium of leading CSOs and networks in the country — Association of Foundations (AF), Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE NGO), Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), and the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) of the University of Philippines. With the support of these organizations, the project helped CSOs to respond to tremendous opportunities for engagement. It also served as a mechanism to pool a wide array of support for their initiatives. Aside from the funding component, USAID also shared its expertise in designing and delivering the training programs that will enhance the capacity of our mentee organizations in managing donor funds, monitoring and evaluation and project design.
In my conversations with participating organizations, they expressed appreciation for the opportunity to seriously assess their organization’s capability and effectiveness. They recognize that “putting their house in order” will increase their potential for partnerships and organizational sustainability. They are willing to invest time and resources to participate in the project because they see this as a meaningful opportunity to advance their development agenda.
I hope to see more donors adopt the USAID Forward model to expand partnerships and to enable local organizations to have a more active stake in the development of the country.
Marissa Camacho is the chief of party of the USAID Strengthening the Capacity of Philippine Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Project.
Actress and Avon Foundation for Women Ambassador, Salma Hayek Pinault, recently presented the USAID-funded CHAMPION project in Tanzania with one of five Avon Communications Awards: Speaking Out about Violence against Women for its outstanding work to bring attention to the need to end violence against women. The CHAMPION Project, implemented by EngenderHealth with communications support from FHI360, received the award for their work on the Kuwa Mfano wa Kuigwa (Be a Role Model) mass media campaign. The award recognizes outstanding communications campaigns that are helping change communities, policies, institutions, and behaviors to end violence against women.
The CHAMPION Project’s Kuwa Mfano wa Kuigwa campaign is part of a five-year effort to engage men in Tanzania by increasing their involvement in addressing the underlying gender issues and power imbalances in relationships. The campaign, which was launched in Tanzania in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children in December 2011, aims to turn men from bystanders to champions with its key message, “Violence is everyone’s problem. Be a role model. Earn respect by standing up to violence.”
Watch a TV spot from the award-winning campaign below and learn more.