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Photo of the Week: Eating a Healthy Snack

A young child eats a healthy snack. Photo Credit: Courtney Stokes

Nursery school children enjoy a snack of peanut butter on cassava bread in Aranaputa, Guyana. The peanuts they are eating were provided by farmers in the region, supported by the Peanut and Mycotoxins Innovation Lab. Local cottage industries processed the peanuts, turning them into peanut butter for the children to eat at school.

This program was set up in seven villages throughout the region, serving 1,400 school kids one snack per day. Due to the success of the project, this has been expanded to 47 villages and now serves 4,300 children per day.

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Working to Keep Civil Society Open

Larry Garber and Sarah Mendelson are, respectively, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning and Learning and for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Seconds after landing at Dulles Airport this past Tuesday, scrolling through the dozens of emails that have accumulated while flying from Europe, the many marked “Urgent” caught our eye: earlier that day, news broke that in Egypt 43 activists had been convicted of criminal offenses relating to their work promoting democracy and human rights that they performed while working for U.S. and German funded non-governmental organizations (NGO).

Ironically, we were arriving from Brussels, Belgium where we had held a day-long consultation with European Union and NGO counterparts to discuss the very grave topic of “closing civil society space.” Our European colleagues and we agree on the scope and seriousness of this rising threat to our ability to carry out development activities worldwide and on the need to coordinate our responses.

For the past year, we have led an internal USAID working group that has watched with dismay as governments have imposed restrictions on registration, funding and basic freedom of association, all designed to limit the activities of civil society in their countries. In Russia and Bolivia, the governments went so far as to expel USAID Missions. Experts will point to multiple reasons for these unprecedented actions, but fundamentally the governments sought to end USG support of civil society organizations. And now in Egypt, the government has criminalized the activities of our implementing partners, imposing severe prison sentences on both Egyptian activists and citizens of other countries, while intentionally mischaracterizing their work in support of democracy and human rights.

We have tracked this global phenomenon with a mix of dread and determination. We have collected the experiences of our field Missions, many of which have creatively sought to counter the trend, taking into account unique socio-political contexts. We have catalogued these responses under three broad categories of “prevention,” “adaptation” and “continued support,” have shared the specific examples of Missions’ responses across the Agency, and encouraged our Missions to maintain their commitment to expanding civil society space and to working with a broad range of non-governmental actors.  We have engaged with both our international implementing partners and other donors to share experiences, as well as worked with State Department colleagues to sound the alarm. Perhaps most important, we have communicated to relevant partners in the field that we will not abandon them.

Some describe the closing space phenomenon as the “new normal.” If this is indeed the case, then the consequences for achieving our development goals, as well as the ambitious new development goals presented last week by the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, will be severely compromised. However, we are convinced that with concerted international attention dedicated to the issue by both diplomats and development professionals and using innovative approaches, we can keep civil society space open and ensure that the aspirations of people around the globe for freedom and dignity will be achieved.

Larry Garber and Sarah Mendelson are, respectively, Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning and the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. 

Video of the Week: Turning the Tide on Global Hunger

In this Feed the Future video, narrator Matt Damon discusses efforts to turn the tide against global hunger and increase agricultural production around the world. The video was shown at the “Feed the Future: Partnering With Civil Society” event on September 27, 2012.

This morning, during a global nutrition-focused event co-hosted by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide, USAID announced its ongoing commitment to work with the U.S. Government’s leadership to reduce undernutrition around the world. The event followed the Nutrition for Growth event in London. During his trip and on behalf of the U.S. Government, Administrator Shah signed the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact which commits donors and private partners to scale up nutrition programs specifically targeted to reduce undernutrition in women and children.

Also last week, Administrator Rajiv Shah and Tjada McKenna, deputy coordinator for Feed the Future, participated in a Google+ Hangout on the role of nutrition in child survival and food security nutrition with representatives from the ONE Campaign, GAIN and 1,000 Days, as well as Candice Kumai, who is a chef, food writer, Iron Chef Judge and nutrition champion for Future Fortified.

Learn more about USAID’s work on improving nutrition

Follow @USAID, @USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

Winning the Battle Against Undernutrition and Stunting

Most people have never heard of stunting. It’s one of the least reported, least recognized, least understood issues facing humanity, yet tackling it should be seen as an opportunity both for personal health and national development.

Stunting, caused by chronic undernutrition in children, does not only affect a person’s growth or height. The damage that undernutrition causes to a brain’s cognitive capacity is permanent. It cannot be reversed.

As UNICEF documented in its 2013 report, ‘Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress’, chronic undernutrition scars the lives of some 165 million children around the world. Undernutrition contributes to half of all child deaths and around one fifth of maternal deaths.

Two children in Zambia. Photo credit: Nazo Kureshy, USAID

Stunting traps people into a lifelong cycle of poor nutrition, illness, poverty and inequity. Children’s poorer school performance results in future income reductions of up to 22 per cent on average. As adults, they are also at increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Despite the challenges, we can and must win the battle against stunting and other forms of undernutrition – and investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life shapes the future of nations.

Experts have consistently confirmed that taking action on undernutrition is the single most important, cost-effective means of advancing human well-being. This would accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, would save lives and should be a top global priority.

We know what works and what needs to be done to radically reduce stunting and undernutrition: from micronutrient and vitamin supplements to awareness raising, promoting exclusive breastfeeding and treating severe and acute malnutrition. Efforts should also be linked to improving access to education and safe water, promoting hygiene, preventing and treating diseases, and strengthening social safety nets.

Over the past 20 years alone, the number of stunted children under the age of five in the world has fallen by 88 million – from 40 to 26 per cent, or a one-third reduction.

However, a brand new Lancet series on nutrition from 6 June 2013 shows that progress is not fast enough. What is needed now is strong, global commitment and leadership to accelerate efforts.

UNICEF is a proud partner in the major global initiative called the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, which is bringing much needed focus and investment for nutrition in a number of countries. Through the SUN country network, government focal points from each of the 40 countries involved share experiences, seek advice and provide each other with assistance, analyses of progress and lessons learned.

Broader efforts to address child survival are also galvanizing partnerships. Governments including those of Ethiopia, India and the U.S. have thrown their weight behind the A Promise Renewed movement, which –  with supported by UNICEF – is uniting governments, civil society, faith based leaders and private sector around the clear and compelling goal: to end preventable child deaths and give every last child the best possible start in life.

No child, no mother, no country should ever have to suffer the injustice of a lack of nutrition in the 21st century. We cannot stand by and allow a child to be condemned to a life of deprivation – especially when we know how to prevent it.

For updates on what the United States is doing to improve nutrition, follow the hashtags #Nutrition4Growth and #GHmatters on Twitter. 

USAID in the News

McClatchy reports on a campaign in Afghanistan that is spreading the word that under Afghan and Islamic law, women are entitled to a share of the property when their parents or husband dies. Lida Nadery, a senior official in the USAID’s Land Reform in Afghanistan program, stated: “Owning land is very important because it gives women the economic independence they need, and obviously that’s empowering. When a woman has her own money, then she can do whatever she pleases with it. She doesn’t have to ask her husband for permission, she doesn’t have to ask her father or her brother for permission, she can use it for her children’s education, she can buy a house, she can start a business, anything.”

The Tribune reported on the promotion of education through USAID’s Teacher Education Project scholarships in Pakistan.  U.S. Consul General Michael Dodman is quoted, emphasizing U.S. commitment to “building a strong Pakistan” through education. Senior Education Advisor of USAID, Muhammad Tariq Khan, said, “Until today, people became teachers in Pakistan by chance and not by choice. Those who did not find anything significant in life to do turned to teaching. We want to bring a change, making sure that those people come into the profession who are dedicated to the cause and take it up as a challenge.”

Chelsea Clinton visits a Clinton Health Access Initiative project. Photo credit: Thu Van Dinh

Chelsea Clinton published a blog in the Huffington Post about her recent trip to Southeast Asia and Burma.  She shares her experience delivering clean water as part of Procter & Gamble’s Clinton Global Initiative commitment to the country.

Dr. Jill Biden writes in The White House Blog about her recent trip with husband and Vice President, Joe, to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. Dr. Biden says, “In each country, I witnessed the good work of the United States to promote economic growth and development through education and empowerment of women entrepreneurs.” She continues to mention US partnerships such as USAID and their impact through positive, innovative programs.

Promoting Empowerment and Education in the Americas

This originally appeared on the White House Blog.

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying my husband Joe on a trip to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. In each country, I witnessed the good work of the United States to promote economic growth and development through education and empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

Dr. Biden and Colombian First Lady María Clemencia de Santos met with carpentry students at Escuela Taller in Bogota. Credit: Jenny Murcia, U.S. Embassy Bogota Public Affairs Press Assistant

Colombia: Vocational Training for At-Risk Young Adults

As an educator for more than 30 years, I enjoy meeting students wherever I go. I love to hear about their experiences and see exciting and innovative programs that are working. One of those programs is the Escuela Taller in Bogota, which I had the pleasure of touring with Colombian First Lady María Clemencia de Santos. Escuela Taller is a vocational school that serves low income and high-risk youth and provides training for jobs such as carpentry, culinary arts, construction and wood working.

Since 2006, USAID has provided funding to the Bogota, Cartagena, and Buenaventura locations of Escuela Taller, funding that, in part, supported the construction of the school’s in-house restaurant and kitchen. Through the U.S. partnership, the school is mitigating gang recruitment risk factors such as lack of education, unemployment and low-self-esteem for young adults. Alumni like Jonothan Medina who attended the culinary school are now dreaming big – he wants to study in France at the Cordon Bleu! In fact, over 90 percent of the graduates from the culinary program are employed in local restaurants.

Trinidad: Women Entrepreneurs Invigorate a Local Trade

As I travel around the US and across the globe, I always notice the important role women entrepreneurs play in local economic development. Trinidad and Tobago is known for its high-quality cocoa beans, but they only make up about 5 percent of the world’s market. Women like Isabel Brash, owner of Cocobel Chocolates, and Darril Astrida Saunders, owner of Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride, use only local products from start to finish and are trying to revive the local cocoa trade, while simultaneously promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

I toured Isabel’s kitchen and saw her turn cocoa beans into delicious bars of dark chocolate. I also heard from Darril how the U.S. State Department’s Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) and the International Visitor Leadership (IVLP) programs provided her with business training and networking opportunities. WEAmericas connects women entrepreneurs from throughout the Americas and leverages public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation.

Read the rest of this post.

 

Contraception: Not to be left to serendipity

A couple of years ago, I was in Abuja, Nigeria, working to integrate family planning within a health systems strengthening project. It was a Sunday; the day Goodluck Jonathan was being sworn in as president and the entire city was shut down because of the inauguration.

My colleague, a physician ob/gyn wanted me to see firsthand, the different service points in the health system. We drove about an hour or so out of Abuja and arrived at the maternity ward of a referral hospital. The delivery room was bustling, but supplies were minimal and facilities were bare boned.

The two midwives on duty had their hands full. They had already delivered four to five babies and were struggling to help a young woman through a difficult delivery. The woman showed up at the hospital that morning and as far as the midwives knew, she had not received any prenatal care. My colleague quickly jumped in to assist.

Kenyan women learning about IUDs. Photo credit: MSI

I remember sitting on a wooden bench with one of the midwives. We were separated from the delivery room by only a flimsy, green colored curtain. On the floor in front of us sat a young girl with orange ribbons in her hair, drawing continuous circles on the ward’s floor.

About 20 minutes passed and my colleague emerged asking for a sterile plastic clip to tie off the umbilical cord. He chastised the midwives for not using them and relying on string instead. They shrugged and told him the clips didn’t work; a conclusion he reached after trying five times. The midwife smiled and leaned against me to whisper – “That’s why we use the string- at least we can be sure the umbilical cord is tied off, even if it is not sterile.”

A few moments later, he appeared again, this time he was holding up a healthy, bawling, baby boy.

This experience crystallized in one powerful moment the challenges of getting health services to work for the people who depend on them. Mostly, I was struck by the sense of serendipity. If it hadn’t been for the presidential inauguration and for a random visit by a caring physician, this woman and her child may have died, or at minimum, had a long and painful labor.

Instead, we were able to celebrate the birth of her son, and her safe recovery from labor.

I sat back down and looked at the little girl on the floor and wondered…what choices would make the difference for this child? What health care and services could she count on in her lifetime? What opportunities would change her future prospects?  And I was convinced once again of the simple truth that access to contraception is pivotal in determining the equation of future opportunities – hers, mine, all of ours. If this young girl had the information and means to make choices about her sexual health and childbearing, she would have a better chance to determine her own future.

Contraception matters. It not only changes lives, it saves lives. If an additional 120 million women who want contraception could get it by 2020, we could have 100 million fewer unintended pregnancies, 3 million fewer children dying in their first year of life, and 200,000 fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth.

And now, we have an opportunity before us to truly level the playing field for all women and girls. A global community is recommitted and reenergized and we as individuals have the power to ensure that women’s autonomy over health-related decisions is a fundamental right, not a privilege.

The effort to make contraception available is part of our commitment to reduce poverty, enhance human rights, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty and share the wealth we have with those who need it. Each of these pieces needs the other, and is integrally connected to each other in order to thrive. And without family planning – without support for women and girls’ lives and dignity – our vision for real, lasting change in this world is simply not whole.

If we act now and keep our promises, we can circle back to the little girl with the orange ribbons and assure her that she will not have to rely on the vagaries of chance appearances, if and when she is ready to give birth.

We can’t leave women’s lives up to chance. When we get the choices right for women, we get it right for development. And in the next seven years, with the lives, dreams and opportunities of millions of the world’s women at stake… we simply have no choice but to get it right.

Learn more about Family Planning 2020.

Announcing the National Impact Initiative at the UK’s G8 Social Impact Investing Forum

This originally appeared on the White House Blog.

Yesterday, at the UK’s G8 Social Impact Investing Forum in London, the Administration launched the National Impact Initiative (NII) to expand the use of impact investing as an element of the Administration’s strategies for economic growth and global development. In London, 150 top government officials, business executives, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and academics who have been leaders in the burgeoning field of impact investing will discuss how to increase impact investing in order to both accelerate economic growth and job creation in G8 nations as well as leverage new capital flows toward the Millennium Development Goals. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this field.

Impact Investing is the practice of channeling capital toward businesses that intentionally generate economic return and public benefit. Such businesses openly track and measure social, environmental, and governance (ESG) considerations alongside their financial returns. These firms often are described as creating models of shared value or sometimes referred to as social enterprises. Impact investing often encompasses support for firms operating in target geographies, specific sectors, or employing specific populations.

Over the past four years, President Obama has worked to support impact investing with a series of domestic and international policies and programs including:

  • The Regional Innovation Clusters funded by the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to spur innovation and job creation. In addition, as part of Start-Up America, the SBA also launched a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund and a $1 billion Early Stage Fund through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program;
  • The Freshworks Fund invested in by the Treasury Department in 2011 as part of a strategy to invest in market-based models to tackle food deserts;
  • The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has a long history of transforming private capital into solutions for common social and environmental challenges around the world and today is a leading impact investor in the U.S. Government, with $333 million committed to impact investing in 2012 in sectors including healthcare, education, renewable resources and water; and
  • The Accelerating Market-Driven Partnerships initiative launched by the State Department in 2012, a public-private partnership that mobilizes innovation and investment around critical global challenges.

These efforts and dozens of others are part of the NII and will help the government to partner with business and to drive better results for citizens in the U.S. and around the world. Such a coordinated approach will create good jobs, drive sound financial returns and support positive societal outcomes.

As part of the NII, we announced important new initiatives at this week’s meeting in London:

  • Global Development Innovation Ventures (GDIV): A joint initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK’s Department for International Development that will strengthen the impact investment pipeline by piloting, rigorously testing, and scaling cost-effective development solutions with the potential to reach millions of people without long-term donor support. GDIV builds on the cutting-edge Development Innovation Ventures program launched by USAID in 2010, adding even greater funding, flexibility, and reach.  You can learn more here.
  • Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Early Stage Fund: Today, the SBA announced a new round of solicitation for the SBIC Early Stage Investment Fund that will increase the amount available for investment from $150 million to $200 million annually. In addition, the SBA announced that it has raised the amount of SBIC leverage from $80 million to $150 million that Impact Investing Funds can receive and recently expanded the definition of impact investing to include rural communities. You can learn more here.

Looking ahead, the Obama Administration will continue to expand the NII by advocating policies that support the continued growth of impact investment and social enterprises. Such efforts will be guided by a clear set of principles that combine a market-oriented approach with a strong focus on the public interest:

  • Align incentives to catalyze impact investing;
  • Create enabling regulatory frameworks for impact investing;
  • Engage private institutions and stakeholders in active dialog around impact investing issues;
  • Promote impact investing standards, transparency, and learning; and
  • Allow impact investing to complement policy objectives.

Elizabeth Littlefield is President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); Karen G. Mills is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA); and Rajiv Shah is the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

FrontLines Releases May/June 2013 Issue

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to get updates about how the Agency is implementing the Feed the Future initiative. Some highlights:

  • Convincing poachers to leave behind that life for farming is winning converts in Zambia.

    Paul Jean Marc, a member of one of Haiti’s flower growers associations, shows one of the association’s greenhouses filled with chrysanthemums. Photo credit: Feed the Future

  • One of Tajikistan’s newest land rights activists says that she “can’t sit around and watch women being disrespected and mistreated because they don’t know their legal rights or are afraid to fight.” When her farm was nearly stolen from her, USAID helped her fight back.
  • Good grains are translating into good health and good business for a growing number of Senegalese women’s groups.
  • With the recent introduction of greenhouses in Haiti, harvests of broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, leeks, beets, carrots and flowers stand a fighting chance against the region’s punishing weather.

If you want an e-mail reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on South Asia Monsoon Flooding

As South Asia approaches the start of monsoon season, let’s take a moment to learn more about these seasonal winds and the rains they bring. In this installment of USAID’s Pounds of Prevention series (PDF), we explore how monsoon rains are both a vital part of life and a potential source of floods. When the hazards a community faces and the underlying causes of disasters are understood and addressed, a community can better withstand negative events. To this end, USAID is supporting a range of activities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka that help keep people safe and minimize damage from potential flooding.

Benjamin Franklin is famous for the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Today, we are faced with great challenges brought about by increasing population and urbanization, a changing climate, and a demonstrated increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters. To continue to tackle these challenges, what has become clear is this: We need more than an ounce of prevention; we need pounds of prevention!

Photo from Robert Friedman, USAID.

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