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USAID in the News: Weekly Briefing (9/12/2011 – 9/16/2011)

September 9: Last Friday, The Christian Science Monitor published a story about one of USAID’s partners that is connecting mobile phone users with aid and relief workers in the Middle East. The article explains how text messaging is enabling development workers to learn what’s happening in the region and give out information on where people can find aid. The use of mobile phones in development is on the rise, as phones can now be used as ATM cards and can also send weather alerts rural farmers.

September 15: In an op-ed published in The Hill, Ret. USMC General Michael Hagee and Ret. USCG Admiral James Loy discussed the importance of maintaining a strong development program, including USAID, to address global challenges. “America cannot retreat from today’s world, which is why military leaders from General Petraeus to Admiral Mullen have made clear that, in an era of global threats, U.S. national security requires strong civilian partners working alongside the military.”

This Week at USAID – September 6, 2011

After a hiatus, we will be continuing the “This Week at USAID” series on the first day of the work week.

Thursday, September 8th is International Literacy Day. The Center for Universal Education at Brookings, the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative, and USAID will mark the day by hosting a series of panel discussions on how a range of education stakeholders are addressing the challenge of improving literacy, particularly at lower primary levels, to help fulfill the promise of quality education for all.

Stephen Haykin will be sworn-in as USAID Mission Director to Georgia.

Raja Jandhyala, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, will testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on the long-term needs in East Africa.

Alex Their, USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator and Director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, will testify before U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on development programs in Afghanistan.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (8/22/2011 – 8/26/2011)

August 23: In an op-ed published in The Huffington Post, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah highlighted the recent DevelopmentXChange event, which brought together 77 grant finalists to share their innovative ideas to discover the next breakthrough in maternal and infant health. The event was part of Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development, a joint partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the Government of Norway, and The World Bank.

August 25: In an interview with The Washington Post, Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, discussed the current drought in the Horn of Africa and America’s comprehensive response to the food crisis. Lindborg emphasized that the U.S. is focusing on three critical needs: providing immediate food assistance, addressing health and sanitation concerns, and helping families purchase food through food vouchers. “When we talk about 12 million people being affected, we understand that behind each one of those individuals is a story,” Lindborg said.

50th Anniversary: President Kennedy Addresses USAID Mission Directors

President Kennedy’s remarks to Mission Directors and Deputy Mission Directors from the Agency for International Development from the Rose Garden of the White House June 8th, 1962.

Well I want to – I’m impressed by – I wish all of our fellow Americans could listen to the litany of the countries to which you are going – all of them far away – many of them countries about which most of us knew very little two decades ago, or even in the case of some of them, a few years ago.  And the term that they will spend in these countries ranges from what? A minimum of two years, two to four years

Well I want to tell you what I’m sure you must be aware of or you wouldn’t be here, and that is the importance of this program and the importance of your work and how much we depend upon your judgment

Aid, the concept of foreign assistance, is not a popular program in the United States.  That is a well-known fact.  And therefore, there will not be farewell parades to you as you leave or parades for you when you come back.  But I cannot think of any action which is more important to the effort of which we’re engaged than what you are doing and the military advisory programs which are carried on in the same countries and the Peace Corps activities which are carried on in some of these countries also.

The presence of the United States as a leading power in the free world is involved in your work directly.  The people who are opposed to AID should realize that this is a very powerful source of strength for us.  It permits us to exert influence for the maintenance of freedom.  If we were not so heavily involved, our voice would not speak with such vigor, and as we do not want to send American troops to a great many areas where freedom may be under attack, we send you, and you working with the people in those countries to try to work with them in developing the economic thrust of their countries so that they can make a determination that they can solve their problems without resorting to totalitarian control and becoming part of the block – that’s the issue.  That is why you are very much in the front line of this effort.  That is why every president of the United States since 1947 – President Truman, President Eisenhower, and myself, have strongly supported this effort.  It represents a very essential national commitment.  It is a burden, but far less than the burden that would be involved to us directly if we did not have this program.

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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (8/8/2011 – 8/12/2011)

August 9: The Associated Press reported that on Monday, Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah visited Somalis at a refugee camp in Kenya. During the visit, Administrator Shah stated the world has a unique opportunity to save tens of thousands of children’s lives by expanding humanitarian activities inside Somalia. The AP also highlighted the White House announcement of $105 million in humanitarian aid that will provide food, shelter, water, and sanitation and health services to those in need.

August 10: A feature story published in The Sheboygan Press highlighted the work of a local USAID Foreign Service Officer. Michael Eddy, a Sheboygan, Wisconsin native, recently completed working in South Sudan, helping the new country achieve independence. The story also includes a special online photo gallery.

August 10: NPR and Reuters reported that aid groups are warning Congress not to cut the foreign aid budget as the response to the drought in the Horn of Africa continues. “If we do see the kinds of cuts in food assistance that are identified in the emerging legislation in Congress, it will have a significant impact,” said Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of USAID

From the Field

In Uganda, we supported a youth festival to demonstrate the spirit of entrepreneurship.  USAID organized a national youth festival with 18 youth organizations and 26 youth clubs from local universities. More than 7,000 youth attended the event and three Members of Parliament who represent youth. The event was used to showcase entrepreneurial activities that youth are engaged in and link them with potential donors. Several young entrepreneurs shared their challenges and achievements, and encouraged their peers to learn skills that can enable them to create jobs. Training was held in social media, a skill that was highlighted by the entrepreneurs. Debates were also held on key factors affecting youth employment and the best ways to address the high unemployment rate among the youth in Uganda; the debate was facilitated by the youth MPs. There were even talent shows held in dance, drama and creative writing as tools for youth advocacy. USAID will continue to support youth advocacy on unemployment and follow up on promises by elected officials to create opportunities to reduce youth unemployment.

In Nicaragua, we are supporting access to public information. USAID’s Municipal Governance Program signed a grant with the municipality of Nueva Guinea to provide IT equipment and technical assistance that will improve the work of their public information office.  The grant includes a public awareness campaign component to educate citizens on the importance of requesting public information.  Democracy and Governance Office Chief, Jessica Zaman, remarked on the importance of access to public information as a basic human right.  Nueva Guinea Mayor, Obando Marín, thanked USAID for its support and emphasized that access to public information is not just intended to share information with everyone, but it should be considered a means to make concerted decisions that benefit the entire community.  More than 150 community leaders attended the event.  The Municipal Governance Program supports 20 Nicaraguan municipalities in the areas of governance, management, public services, transparency and citizenship.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (8/1/2011 – 8/5/2011)

August 2 In an interview with PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah stated that the U.S. is easing restrictions to speed the aid to Somalia. “We are working hard to make sure that authorities in Somalia allow access for humanitarian organizations and NGOs and the United States has been supporting those organizations and will continue to support those organizations going forward,” Shah said.

August 4 Appearing on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discussed the latest developments in Somalia and what can be done to help the region. “The United States…has been aggressive about providing as much support as we possibly can,” Shah said. “We have been about 50 percent of the total global response.” The Administrator also discussed the Famine Early Warning System.

A Passion for Helping People… and Animals

In his 31-year career with USAID, Dr. Kevin Rushing has helped both people and animals throughout the world.  A trained veterinarian, Dr. Rushing has provided pro bono veterinary services to animals in need in the many countries in which he has served, including Nepal, Iraq, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Cambodia, Bosnia, Russia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Serving as USAID/Nepal Mission Director from 2009 until mid-June 2011, Dr. Rushing was featured in a July 2011 article entitled “Rushing to the Rescue,” by Yukta Bajracharya, in the Nepali magazine ECS Nepal.   The article describes how Dr. Rushing’s passion for development is matched only by his devotion to helping animals in need – not the dogs and cats most of us are accustomed to, but tigers, cheetahs, lions, leopards, serval cats, elephants, chimpanzees, birds, and reptiles among others.

An excerpt from the article describes Dr. Rushing’s assistance to a tiger cub in Nepal:

[O] one of the very first trips that Dr. Rushing made was to bring a tiger cub, Narayani, to the Central Zoo at Jawalakhel. Narayani had been rescued by villagers in Chitwan but she had been kept in a very small enclosure, restricting the tigress’ motion and proper care. Dr. Rushing jokes, “Narayani can still recognize me. When I visited the zoo recently, I went to meet Narayani. She let out a threatening growl – a warning to not come near her. She remembers that I had given her anesthesia.”

Dr. Rushing believes that his passion for animals enhances and improves his work as a development professional.  For example, while serving in Iraq, he helped provide veterinary exams to cows that were given to Iraqi widows, which enabled the women to earn an income and provide for their children.  In Nepal, Dr. Rushing helped to focus attention on the plight of the tiger – his favorite animal – and the Mission now provides funding to combat illegal poaching and to count the number of tigers in the country without endangering them.

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Bringing Science and Technology Expertise to USAID

Recognizing the Importance of Science & Technology in Development, USAID attended The Space Coast Job Fair and Hands-On Training Event in Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 26th. This event was part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) continuing effort to promote Federal hiring in areas most adversely affected by current economic conditions. OPM is supporting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in its efforts to assist aerospace workers impacted by the ending of the Space Shuttle program.

“We’re looking for people who are fundamentally entrepreneurial, and who can bring a ‘Yes we can approach’ to USAID.” Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

The conversation always begins with “why aren’t you working for the United States Agency for International Development?” The replies were always different.  Most people never heard of us; some did not know why; and there was an occasional “you never asked.”

On July 26th, 2011, we traveled to Cape Canaveral for a NASA Job Fair where we spoke to well over a hundred very talented people from a wide variety of disciplines–engineers, contract specialists, and IT specialists to name a few– who had devoted decades of their lives to the space program.  Our give-aways were USAID pens; jokingly, we told our visitors that they were designed by NASA.  We told them that they could write underwater, upside down, and in space, for comic relief, but with all sincerity we asked that their next job acceptance letter be signed with this pen.

One NASA employee, Jill, was ending her military career in the Air Force as a lawyer.  Dennis told her of the benefits and opportunities for veterans at USAID, including the Veterans Recruitment Appointments (VRAs) and other special hiring authorities that are available for women and men of service.  For more information on these authorities, visit  http://www.fedshirevets.gov/job/shav/index.aspx and http://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/careers/veterans-opportunities.

There was Anna, who was once an assistant school principal, but left her love of education for her love of space, to work as a Human Resource Administrator at NASA. We told her of the work the agency performs in global development and that we have a need for education specialists all over the world, as well as in Washington, and that she should look at our agency to rekindle her interests in teaching.

The person that we were impressed with the most was a portly fellow named Victor.  He had a great suit, but was sweltering through his shirt because he stopped to change the tire of stranded motorist.  He told us of his volunteer endeavors with the community and his work with all of the Space Shuttle launches as an IT Program Manager.  His character and sincere devotion to helping others stood out; we told him that he would be a tremendous asset for USAID (or any agency) that he wanted to serve with.

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USAID Legacy Sworn in as Mission Director

Friday afternoon, Diana Putman vowed to protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies as she accepted her new assignment as the Mission Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Previously, Diana served as the Humanitarian and Health Activities Branch Chief at the U.S. Africa Command, where she has served since August 2008. Before that, Diana served in Tunisia (3 years), Tanzania (5 years), and at the regional mission in Kenya (6 years) as Director of the Office of Food Security which designed and managed regional programs in 23 countries with a focus on agriculture, trade and food security.

She conducted much of her doctoral research in Mali, Rwanda and Somalia and in Japan, Diana conducted post-doctoral research on women and gender differences with Fulbright and National Science Foundation Support in the 1990’s.   In June 2010, she was awarded the American Foreign Service Association’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent for her efforts to provide counseling and rehabilitation for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

With 3 degrees in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and studies at the Université de Grenoble in France, Diana has received multiple Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from USAID, the Secretary of State’s Group Award for Heroism after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, and the Praxis Award from the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists.

The long list of accomplishments, achievements and accolades goes on for a bit, but you get the picture.

What you missed from Friday’s ceremony: Diana’s family  looking on with pride. Most notably, Warren Putman, Diana’s father, who was recognized during the ceremony for his own service with USAID as a livestock and agricultural specialist—starting in March of 1962! —only five months after USAID was created.

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