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Live at UNGA – Day Three

To see the online conversation at UNGA, visit USAID’s Storify Feed

Day three at UNGA included two marquee events spotlighting progress to date on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  We also announced a new partnership to expand access to contraception for 27 million women and girls in low-income countries.

With only 15 months until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline, USAID partnered on an event with the UK Department for International Development for a second year to draw attention to the importance of the global community working together to reach the MDG targets by 2015.  The event brought to life the enormous development advancements made on the way to achieving the MDGs and featured innovators from across the development community sharing transformative programs and policies.  The world has met two MDG targets ahead of the 2015 deadline – poverty has been cut by 50 percent globally and the proportion of people with no safe drinking water has been cut in half.

That afternoon, Administrator Shah co-hosted with other G8 members the New Alliance: Progress and the Way Forward event.  President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security & Nutrition earlier this year, in which G8 nations, African partner countries and private sector partners aim to help lift 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years by supporting agricultural development. Initially launched in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, at the event, representatives from the New Alliance, G8 countries and the private sector announced the expansion to other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mozambique.

Finally, Administrator Shah took part in the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. Prior to the meeting, Dr. Shah joined the Commission Co-Chairs, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, alongside former President Bill Clinton, to launch a new partnership to make a safe, effective, long-acting, reversible method of contraception available to more than 27 million women in the world’s poorest nations. Under the agreement, Bayer is reducing by more than half the current 18 USD price of its long-acting, reversible method of contraception, Jadelle, in return for a commitment to assure funding for at least 27 million contraceptive devices over the next six years.  Dr. Shah stated, “The US Agency for International Development is proud to have funded the development of this life-saving product. Today is a major step forward to making this product more accessible to millions of women, empowering them with the ability to make decisions about their health and family.”

As always, follow us live on Twitter to keep up with the latest developments!

Building the Foundations for Sustainable Health Services

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator, USAID, Global Health Bureau

I am proud to serve as the Assistant Administrator for Global Health, where I’ve often remarked that I feel like a kid in a candy store when I think about all of the important work going on at USAID, especially in global health.  Recently, we reorganized the Bureau to establish an Office of Health Systems, which will be the hub for the Agency’s worldwide leadership network of technical experts in health systems strengthening.  This is a key to focusing our work on country ownership, sustainability, and broadening access to critical health services to the most vulnerable populations, as envisioned by the Global Health Initiative.

The new office is important for two main reasons:  first, it responds to the changing landscape of health and development and second, it will help meet all of other health goals in global health.

The development landscape is changing.  Many countries in Africa and around the world are seeing an unprecedented growth of GDP.  World per capita GDP has rocketed from around $2,000 in 1950 to more than $7,500 by 2008, and the MDG for poverty alleviation was met already, years before 2015.  This represents an incredible success of the development enterprise launched by President Kennedy half a century ago.

As developing economies grow, they will inevitably spend more on health.  Without thoughtful organization of the system, however, there tends to be an explosion of unregulated private services paid for out-of-pocket, which leads to inefficiencies and health bills that cause families to sink back into poverty.  But we know this is avoidable.

The time to work on health systems and universal health coverage is now—countries need technical assistance that helps create and sustain an efficient, quality and equitable health system.  The political momentum for universal health coverage is growing, and is part of the discussion, on a global level, of framing the post-MDG goals. Because we have aligned ourselves with the changing global health environment, if feel confident that USAID is ready and positioned to respond to this changing needs of our country partners.

As the world moves toward increasing health coverage and financial protection for more and more people through mixed public and private sectors, work on health systems is a way to make a dramatic difference in health and development. The key is not adding more capital from donors, but increasing local capacity to reorganize and manage growing domestic resources. The gains we have made in public health are amazing, and cause for great hope.  The new office will allow us to galvanize our work in health systems, examine and communicate successes and gaps, and plot a course for an end game where everyone has access to appropriate health services at a cost that they can afford.

Recently, in Oslo, Secretary Clinton noted the “powerful, inescapable correlation” between strong health systems and saving lives.   As a development agency, we have a mandate from the American people to help make lasting changes that ensure a more hopeful future.  Good health systems include not only medical care but also public health, and not only diseases of old but new ones as well. And we know that strengthening health systems makes it possible to successfully graduate countries that no longer need financial assistance; so work ourselves out of jobs.  That is our ultimate measure of success.

 

5 More Questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Tjada McKenna is the Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future and Jonathan Shrier is Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy for Feed the Future.

This post was originally featured on FeedtheFuture.gov

Women and children pick green beans at the Dodicha Vegetable Cooperative in Ethiopia. The beans will be sold to a local exporter, who will sell them to supermarkets in Europe. Credit: K. Stefanova/USAID

In May 2012 we answered a few of the most common questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in the blog post Five Questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. This blog post follows with additional answers to other common questions about the New Alliance and progress.

1. What has happened with the New Alliance since the G8 announced it at the Camp David Summit in May 2012?

While it has only been a few months, we’re excited about the progress and momentum of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which is a unique partnership between African governments, members of the G8, and the private sector to work together to accelerate investments in agriculture to improve productivity, livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers. This New Alliance aims to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through sustained and inclusive agricultural growth.

In May, President Obama launched the New Alliance with three initial countries—Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania. Each partner country developed a Country Cooperation Framework outlining key commitments by governments, donors, and the private sector. These commitments totaled more than $3 billion from more than 45 African and multinational companies.

Over the past 4 months, 21 additional private sector companies, most of them African, signed letters of intent, committing themselves to invest an additional $500 million in African agriculture—and more companies are lining up to sign letters of intent.

We’ve been very encouraged that despite some unexpected and difficult leadership transitions in Ghana and Ethiopia, the governments of all three initial New Alliance countries demonstrated continued country ownership, hosting New Alliance planning meetings. A wide range of stakeholders, including senior government officials, the private sector, and civil society met to discuss:

  • The alignment of New Alliance activities with existing country plans, processes and institutions.
  • Progress against policy reform commitments to create a positive enabling environment for the private sector.
  • Coordination of all partners to achieve shared objectives.
  • Priority-setting to show tangible outcomes and progress in the near term.
  • A way forward with tracking New Alliance implementation in each country.

And three more African countries have developed—jointly with private sector and G8 partners—their own Country Cooperation Frameworks. Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique officially announced these new frameworks on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York City in September 2012.

2. What is the relationship between the Feed the Future initiative and the New Alliance?

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a commitment made by the G8 leaders to work in close partnership with African governments and the private sector toward a common goal to raise productivity and address global food security, nutrition and poverty. As a G8 member, the United States contributes to this new global partnership through whole-of-government efforts such as President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.

Feed the Future embodies many of the core principles of the New Alliance, including:

  • Strengthening and building upon existing country plans and processes.
  • Coordinating and collaborating with other donors to create transformative change in a country.
  • Leveraging innovation and private sector investment to transform agricultural value chains for smallholder farmers, especially women.

3. How does nutrition factor in to the New Alliance?

The United States and other G8 members are committed to improving global nutrition, especially for women and children. And we recognize that nutrition interventions historically have high rates of return on impacting development.

In the context of the New Alliance, the G8 committed to:

  • Actively support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and welcome the commitment of African partners to improve the nutritional well-being of their populations, especially during the critical first 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday.
  • Improve tracking and disbursements for nutrition across sectors and ensure coordination of nutrition activities across sectors.
  • Support the accelerated release, adoption and consumption of biofortified crop varieties, crop diversification, and related technologies to improve the nutritional quality of food in Africa.
  • Develop a nutrition policy research agenda and support the efforts of African institutions, civil society and private sector partners to establish regional nutritional learning centers.

4. How will the New Alliance ensure that partners uphold their commitments?

In order to implement and track progress of the New Alliance over time, we are implementing a new approach to development that enlarges the development sphere beyond the donor and partner government paradigm to include private sector and civil society actors and build upon existing effective and collaborative accountability initiatives. Impact for smallholder farmers and women at the country level drives this new approach.

The New Alliance is committed to mutual accountability of all partners, and partners have expressed a strong desire to ensure that activities and investments are consistent with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment.

The New Alliance intends to build on the accountability work of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program and L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, which respectively track the commitments, investments and impacts of African governments and donors. At the Camp David Summit, the G8 agreed to convene a Leadership Council to drive and track implementation. This Council will report to the G8 and African Union on progress toward achieving the commitments under the New Alliance, including commitments made by the private sector.

The G8 also agreed to report to the 2013 Summit on the implementation of the New Alliance (including the actions of the private sector) in collaboration with the African Union. The Leadership Council convened its first meeting in September 2012 and continues to discuss options about how to best ensure mutual accountability.

5. Why does the New Alliance focus on Africa? What is the United States doing to improve food security elsewhere in the world?

As part of our commitment to do development differently and work in partnership behind country-led plans, the New Alliance is working in partnership to strengthen African commitments to promote and protect food security and nutrition—articulated in multiple settings since 2003 and validated by tremendous progress made in Africa since 2009.

Africa is home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies and the rate of return on foreign investment is higher in Africa than in any other developing region. Doing business in Africa makes good business sense. It is a growing place of opportunity for both business and agriculture. The New Alliance is combining smart assistance with leveraged private sector investments in African agriculture to benefit both resource-poor smallholder farmers and increase private sector growth.

While the New Alliance focuses on Africa, the U.S. Government also works to improve food security—in partnership with countries—throughout the world through the Feed the Future initiative.

Read more about the New Alliance on the Feed the Future website.

Tjada McKenna is Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future and Jonathan Shrier is Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy for Feed the Future

Have a Coke and Some Life-Saving Medicine

Lifesaving medicines are frustratingly unavailable to millions of women and children each year. Frank Naqvi, Photoshare

When was the last time you heard a woman say, “I went to the hospital to have my baby, but they sent me to the drug shop down the street to buy supplies?” Or a health worker say, “I knew what medicine my patient needed, but I haven’t had that medicine for months?”

If you live in the U.S. or any other developed country, you’ve probably never heard this, or would think this woman and health worker were joking. But for women, families, and providers in developing countries, these stories and others are all too common…and it’s definitely not a joke.  As my colleague, Mary Ellen Stanton, eloquently captures in her post earlier this week on Saving Mothers, Giving Life, lifesaving medicines are frustratingly unavailable to millions of women and children each year.  It is unimaginable that simple and affordable medicines could save millions of lives, yet are still so far out of reach for millions.

The medicine oxytocin is needed to prevent and treat severe bleeding after childbirth. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc are needed to prevent deaths from childhood diarrhea.  And family planning commodities are needed to ensure women and their families can decide when or whether to have children – all key factors in maternal and child survival.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working on access to maternal health medicines or commodities. During this time, I’ve learned that the issues related to lack of availability, access, and demand for maternal, newborn, and child health and family planning commodities have many causes, including lack of manufacturers; lack of quality control at many points in the supply chain; providers are unfamiliar with or untrained in newer medicines or equipment; supplies don’t reach the “last mile” to remote health centers; and people don’t know that treatments are available.

But I’ve also learned that these are not insurmountable challenges. Commodities of various types do reach distant and hard-to-reach areas. One often cited example is Coca-Cola, a beverage enjoyed by millions every day, which is both affordable and available even in the most remote villages. You can actually get a Coke in remote Tshikaji, DRC!

And now, we are seeing renewed commitment among donors, country governments, and other stakeholders to make lifesaving health commodities accessible, affordable and available to millions of women, children and families around the world.

Today, the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children released 10 bold recommendations which, if achieved, will ensure women and children will have access to 13 life-saving commodities.

USAID’s long term, strategic vision looks to integrate these life-saving commodities as part of the next steps to other key efforts, like the Child Survival Call to Action and London Summit on Family Planning, in order to increase the speed at which we scale-up in host countries. It is important that we learn from our experiences and successes in getting vaccines and malaria, HIV/AIDS, and family planning commodities into the hands and homes of those most in need. Additionally, we need to integrate systems across commodities to better and more efficiently serve women and children everywhere, and scale up programs to have nation-wide impact.

Country leadership is also a vital component to successfully addressing many of the Commission’s recommendations.  Getting pallets of commodities in warehouses is just one step.  Medicines and drugs must reach people, and health care workers have to be present and skilled to administer them.

With our host country partners in the lead, we are working to strengthen supply chains for commodities, which include use of mHealth solutions; support local market shaping; improve the quality of medicines; and increase demand by mothers for necessary medicines.  This needs to happen if we are to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable women and children have the commodities they need.

These two themes, integration and country ownership, form the cornerstones of our work. My hope is that someday soon, I’ll walk past a market in a remote part of Africa with fully stocked shelves of Coke, and into a health clinic fully stocked with life-saving commodities and medicines.

Working Together to Save Moms & Kids in Afghanistan

A decade ago, Afghanistan’s health system collapsed, leaving crumbling and neglected infrastructure, widespread prevalence of malnutrition, infectious disease, and some of the highest maternal mortality rates the world had ever seen. Over the last decade, the Ministry of Public Health, in a strong partnership with the international community, has made major progress in improving the health of Afghan mothers and children. National programs to improve the quality of, and increase access to, basic health services and essential hospital services, along with programs to increase the number of trained female providers including midwives, and improved community-based healthcare, contributed to these significant achievements.

In Afghanistan, USAID is working with the Government to build capacity in its Ministry of Health, among midwives, and in local hospitals, and have helped to increase health coverage from eight percent to over 60 percent of the people over ten years.  This progress has helped the country realize an incredible drop in infant, child and maternal mortality rates, and the global community move the dial on Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.

Watch Dr. Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health in Afghanistan, talk about this incredible milestone.

El Salvador Makes the Grade in Universal Primary Education

Jorge Renderos (left), Principal of the Oscar Arnulfo Romero School, and Oscar Armando Cruz (right), math teacher, celebrate finishing the day's school work with their fourth grade students. Photo credit: Karen Azucena, USAID

I live in the Zaragoza region, one of the poorest areas in central El Salvador.  We have limited economic development opportunities for our people, yet one of the highest rates of population density in the country.  While grappling with poverty, our municipality must also deal with gang activity and school violence.

In order to respond to this situation, my school joined with 12 other schools to form a cluster under the Ministry of Education’s Integrated System for Full Time School (SI-EITP, its acronym in Spanish).  SI-EITP is supported by USAID/El Salvador’s Strengthening Basic Education Program.

We share limited resources so that we can equitably offer educational and extracurricular services to all students, especially those who are at risk of joining a gang or dropping out of school.  For example, my school shares its sports auditorium with all 1,670 students coming from those 12 schools.  The group of schools provides extracurricular activities in areas such as technology, baking, dressmaking skills, school gardens, art, culture, sports and recreation.  Because of these activities, our students are more excited to attend school and learn new skills.

Teachers are also using new resources, materials, and techniques like more group work that allow students to more actively participate in their lessons.  The response from students has been very positive.  The lessons have been so successful that students from the Barillo school, who previously had spotty attendance, said that they were excited to go to school each day.

And this integrated system doesn’t end at the school gate. Parents, teachers and school principals all participate in the school cluster.  For instance, parents are walking to school with their children every day, as they need to cross dangerous areas where gangs are prevalent.

School principals are also working together in new ways.  Because of SI-EITP, the principals of the Corralito and Canton Guadalupe schools collaborated to improve transportation for their students.  As a result, 56 students who finished sixth grade, but did not have a secondary school close to their home, are now able to travel to neighboring secondary schools and continue their education.

With the support of the Ministry, USAID and its implementers, we have made a lot of progress but we must acknowledge the leadership of the students.  When the educators were worried about gang clashes, the student governments mitigated our concerns. They formed a “Peace Band” with participants from all of the schools.  Today the Peace Band has 300 members whose purpose is to promote healthy living and a culture of peace. We are proud to say that, not only are the student working hard to reach their own potential, they are showing real leadership skills and giving back to the community.

MDG Countdown: Working to Fulfill A Global Promise

Susan Reichle is the Assistant to the Administrator for USAID's Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning. Credit: USAID

We all have a deadline in 2015 that can be easily lost amid our busy day-to-days and crowded lists of to-dos.

In 2000,189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and to extend hope and opportunity to millions across the developing world – all by 2015.  Under the United Nation’s umbrella of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the 189 countries committed to eight development goals that were  ambitious in scale and yet vital.

That’s why this week, USAID and our counterparts at the UK Department for International Development are once again drawing attention to the MDGs at an event in New York,during the UN General Assembly.

The good news is that great progress is being made towards achieving the MDGs, and the global community can be inspired by the innovations and successes we are seeing around the world.

Poverty has been cut by 50 percent globally and the proportion of people with no safe drinking water has been cut in half, ahead of the 2015 deadline..   

As evidenced at the New York event this week, USAID is also making a significant contribution to meet the MDG’s:

  • In El Salvador, we work with the Salvadoran Ministry of Education to not only improve the quality of teaching and learning, but also partner with local communities to keep students in school and to recruit children who were not attending classes.  (MDG 2)
  • In Afghanistan, we work with the Government to build capacity in its Ministry of Health, among midwives, and in local hospitals, and have helped to increase health coverage from eight percent to over 60 percent of the people over ten years and helped the country realize an incredible drop in infant, child and maternal mortality rates.   (MDG 4 and 5)
  • In Indonesia, where only 40 percent of citizens receive water from a household tap, we worked to vastly improve the water and sanitation systems.  While our effort has scaled down, the program legacy lives on in private and public sectors’ support for clean water and sanitation, and proof that local and the central governments are willing to commit funds to the utilities to improve performance and expand services if a clear and compelling justification is presented.  (MDG 7)

Still, with only 15 months until the deadline we still have the other six goals to meet.  USAID is applying its resources more strategically than ever to enable countries to achieve the MDGs.  As outlined in USAID’s County Development Coordination Strategies, we are implementing the President’s Policy Directive on Global Development by focusing on those development imperatives that are priorities for the host country and USAID investment can make a difference.  These strategies are informed by evidence, rather than anecdote and lead to stronger projects designed in cooperation with host country counterparts, including government and civil society.

The challenges involved in meeting the MDGs by 2015 remain daunting, yet USAID along with our global partners are making significant strides.  Using breakthrough innovations, integrated approaches, and strategic partnerships we can achieve unprecedented progress in the years to come.

Live from UNGA: Day Two

To see the online conversation from Day 2 at UNGA, visit our Storify Feed.

Our second day at UNGA included two addresses by President Obama, an event about Ensuring Resilient Livelihoods, a Coca Cola partnership announcement, and an event to commemorate the the Every Woman Every Child movement.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama remembered Ambassador Chris Stevens and delivered a defense of both free speech and the spirit of tolerance:  “Understand America will never retreat from the world.  We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends, and we will stand with our allies. We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment, and science and technology, energy and development — all efforts that can spark economic growth for all our people and stabilize democratic change.”

Later that day at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), President Obama made moving remarks on combating trafficking-in-persons (C-TIP), calling it “one of the great human rights struggles of our time.”  USAID is answering the President’s call to “pay attention” to this “barbaric” human right offense.  Earlier this year, USAID launched a new Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy to reinvigorate and focus Agency efforts to C-TIP on concrete, measurable principles and objectives.

At CGI, the Coca-Cola Company and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that they will expand the reach of “Project Last Mile,” which helps government and non-governmental organizations deliver critical medicines to remote parts of the world, beginning in rural Africa.  As “Project Last Mile” continues to expand to other regions, USAID will partner to help ensure that vital drugs, medicines and medical supplies get to the people who need them most.  “We are proud to join this high-impact public-private partnership with an eye towards expanding into other countries,” said USAID Administratrator Shah. “Leveraging Coca-Cola’s core business expertise and distribution channels has the potential to significantly improve how we bring life-saving products to the hardest-to-reach parts of the world.”

That afternoon, USAID, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the United Nations Foundation hosted a high-level event highlighting the new international commitment to building resilience for vulnerable communities.  Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah welcomed expert speakers including Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme; and Heikki Holmås, Minister of International Development of Norway. USAID is helping to lead an international commitment to building resilience in areas prone to cyclical crisis so that development gains endure and whole livelihoods are not lost with the next shock.

Finally, Administrator Shah joined global leaders and celebrities to advocate for women and children at the Every Woman, Every Child dinner held at the Museum of Modern Art. In his remarks, Dr. Shah reflected on U.S. leadership in maternal and child health, and highlighted the Child Survival Call to Action held in June. More than 150 countries have now signed the “A Promise Renewed” pledge – committing to sharpen country strategies with the goal of ending preventable child deaths.

To see the live conversation, read our story on Storify. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest and follow our live coverage on Twitter @USAID.

The Journey Towards “Cash Light”

Around the world, 2.5 billion people lack access to formal financial services. As a result, most poor households live almost entirely in a cash economy. The Better Than Cash Alliance, a global public-private partnership dedicated to accelerating the use of electronic payments in place of physical cash.  USAID convened the Alliance, which includes forward-thinking partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, the Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, Visa Inc., and the U.N Capital Development Fund, to move the world toward a more transparent, efficient, inclusive, cash-light society.

Shifting to electronic distribution of social benefits, humanitarian aid or payroll payments can advance financial inclusion and help poor people build savings while achieving cost savingsefficiency and transparency.  The Alliance provides expertise and resources needed to make the transition from cash to digital payments to achieve the shared goals of empowering people and growing emerging economies.

Visit Betterthancash.org for more information.

Designing Smartphones For Resource-Poor Women

Mobile phone use in the developing world is exploding, yet women are at risk of being left behind.   On average, GSMA research shows women to be 21 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone in low- to middle-income countries.  The resulting mobile phone gender gap represents as many as 300 million women in the developing world who do not have access to this potentially life-enhancing tool.

Barriers to mobile phone ownership among resource-poor women include limited technical literacy and limited understanding of the full potential of mobile devices and services.  The GSMA mWomen Program, as part of USAID’s mWomen Global Development Alliance, set out to address this by launching the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge: Redefining the User Experience at the third annual Social Good Summit in New York on Sunday. Through submissions from the global design and developer community, the design challenge seeks to increase access to life enhancing mobile services so that regardless of someone’s skill level, they can pick up a phone and maximize its potential.

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