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Archives for Youth

Gender Equality: The Development Community’s Key Ingredient to Realizing a Positive ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is a popular metric used by organizations to determine if what they spend is adding value to their bottom line. For-profit organizations typically measure the bottom line in numerical terms; the bottom line for the U.S. Agency for International Development is measured in progress toward the betterment of the human condition.

What exactly does it mean to invest in gender equality; and how does it contribute to USAID’s bottom line?  Our programs focus on women and girls because it is a goal that has intrinsic merit and because long-term social and economic progress requires that women have the same legal protection under the law as men, especially when it comes to critical access to health services that protect them from the many health risks they face in their lifetime.

Advancing rights and providing support to women and girls is a high-yield investment that trickles down to the foundation of a strong and stable society. For example, a recent study in Zambia showed that every dollar spent in family planning saved four dollars in other development areas. This ROI was similar to that found in studies completed in another 28 countries. With smaller, more sustainable populations, governments are able to spend more money on education, maternal health, immunization, water sanitation, and a multitude of infectious diseases.

The barriers that block the road to progress for billions of women in developing countries are a key focus of development organizations like USAID.  For decades our programs have been dedicated to ending the practice of gender-based violence, sex trafficking, childhood marriage, and reducing maternal deaths which needlessly claim the life of one woman every minute.

USAID will continue to support programs that work to unlock the tremendous potential of women as economic and social catalysts. Achieving a positive ROI will allow for the recovery of billions of dollars in lost productivity and healthcare expenses around the world. USAID feels the bottom line should be a hard line against the injustices inflicted upon women. The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. The tested and undying spirit of women is transcendent—and so is this opportunity to get it right.

The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women:

From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog each day that aims to prove a single point: The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. If you are moved by what you read and want to share, we’ve made it easy for you. Click here to find out how.

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Become a fan of our USAID for Global Health Facebook page and feel free to share stories, photos, and videos that demonstrate your support for women’s rights!

Kabul National Cricket Stadium Gets a New Look

This originally appeared on DipNote.

A large crowd of cricket enthusiasts watched today as Finance Minister Mohammad Omer Zakhiwal and United States Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry laid foundation stones to inaugurate the renovation of the Kabul National Cricket Stadium.

Because of the national team’s exceptional success in many international tournaments, cricket in Afghanistan is gaining popularity. The growing number of players includes not only men, but women as well. More than 100 young women are currently playing cricket in Kabul and the Afghanistan Cricket Board is about to create a National Women’s Cricket Team for the 2011 Asian Elite Cup Tournament in February 2011.

“Cricket in Afghanistan is more than a game. It is a means for bringing Afghan youth from different backgrounds together. It has become a source of pride for ordinary Afghans and an example of their resolve and determination. It is a game that can contribute positively to peace and stability in our country. That is why, today, we are so very grateful to USAID in supporting the construction of the Kabul National Cricket Stadium,” said Minister Zakhiwal. Minister Zakhiwal is also the Chairman of the Afghan Cricket Board.

With an estimated completion in July 2011, the renovation will include a new boundary wall, pitch, sprinkler system, and seating. The renovated stadium will serve as the main hub for hosting both domestic and international events and will accommodate more than 6,000 cricket fans. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the project will employ labor-intensive construction methods to provide short-term employment for unemployed Afghans.

“I am honored and proud to be part of this project that will rehabilitate this cricket stadium and provide a safe venue in which Afghan youth and the Afghan National Team can play for years to come,” said Ambassador Eikenberry. “I am looking forward to working together on future projects that enhance the lives of Afghanistan’s young people through sport.”

This project is an excellent opportunity for the governments of Afghanistan and the United States to work closely together to meet the needs of Afghans, especially youth. This project will be implemented under USAID’s Community Development Program (CDP) with additional support from the Local Governance and Community Development (LGCD) project. These USAID projects are designed to assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to extend its reach into unstable areas, engage at-risk populations, create an environment that encourages local communities to take an active role in their own stability and development, and address the underlying causes of instability.

You can find photographs of the event here.

Robert Sauers serves at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

USAID Commends Major Advance in HIV Prevention Research

Results released today from the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative (iPrEx) study confirmed that daily oral use of a combination antiretroviral (ARV), Truvada, reduced the risk of HIV infection by 44 percent among men who have sex with men. This historic iPrEx trial provides the first proof of concept that oral PrEP of an ARV can prevent HIV transmission.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) congratulates the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology-UCSF, and most importantly, the 2,499 pioneering participants who volunteered for this important clinical trial on the promising results from iPrEx.  Global iPrEx is the first large efficacy study to evaluate the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men in Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

These promising results also encourage other research partners to continue working on more PrEP and microbicide options which may lead to new tools for HIV prevention.  The AIDS pandemic calls for a dynamic variety of HIV prevention methods to ensure those at risk have choices to use the one that best suits the needs of their lifestyle.

According to new UNAIDS estimates, women worldwide account for more than half of all HIV infections, and in sub-Saharan Africa continue to bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic, USAID will continue critical research and development work in PrEP for women at high risk.  The FemPrEP clinical trial—led by FHI with support from USAID—is designed to test the safety and effectiveness of a daily dose of Truvada for HIV prevention.  Close to 4,000 HIV-negative women who are at higher risk of HIV are being enrolled in five sites in four countries: Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe; results are expected 2012.

Based on the positive results from the CAPRISA 004 trial which were released in July, USAID will continue to support the regulatory approval of 1% tenofovir gel after further confirmation of its effectiveness.  USAID is committed to ensuring the launch of a new generation of products designed expressly for women and capable of preventing the transmission of HIV.

Finding a woman-controlled method of prevention is critical in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  In line with President Obama’s Global Health Initiative, USAID is committed to focusing on the needs of women and girls in its health programming worldwide.

USAID continues to build on a solid foundation of robust science and new technologies, enabling innovation to redefine and strengthen U.S. development assistance globally.

Mapping Effort Will Paint Picture of African Youth

How does Africa’s growing youth population spend its time? How do they interact with society? What services do they use—and what services do they need? These are just a few of the questions a new USAID-funded assessment hopes to answer in the coming years.

A peer educator talks with Tanzanian youth about HIV/AIDS prevention.Photo Credit: IYF

The population of Africa is ballooning, expected to double to two billion people by 2050. This phenomenal trend is going to drive much of everything else in Africa over the next two generations in Africa—conflict, demand for school, healthcare, food, and water, and the ability of these countries to develop responsive democratic institutions.

With support from USAID, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) is launching a major assessment that will capture a comprehensive picture of the lives of young people in eight African countries—Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. “This is a terrific opportunity for us to dig deeper into how young people across Africa view their lives and what kinds of skills or opportunities they think they need to be successful,” said IYF President and CEO William S. Reese.

The $10-million YouthMap program will survey both in- and out-of-school, employed and unemployed youth, and investigate opportunities and challenges related to youth development in areas like education, livelihoods, economic growth, health, democracy, and governance. Complementing the assessment, the YouthMap Innovation Fund will support pilot activities based on the findings, test promising practices, support the transfer of results and experiences to stakeholders across participating countries, and scale up interventions in education and employability.

YouthMap is part of a larger USAID-funded program that is operating in Jordan, Latin America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Morocco, and the Palestinian

Ethiopia Partners with the U.S. to Put Girls’ Education First

First Lady Azeb Mesfin has been steadfast in her determination to collaborate with USAID on the award of scholarships to meritorious girls who would otherwise have to drop out of school. So it gives me great pleasure to participate in the signing of this agreement on behalf of the American people, to provide FreAddis the means to benefit over 1,000 female students.

USAID Ethiopia Mission Director Thomas Staal, First Lady Azeb Mesfin, and US Ambassador Donald Booth participate in an event sponsored by FreAddis. Photo credit: USAID

Education is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and all its trappings: hunger, disease, resource degradation, exploitation, and despair. Women are the caretakers and economic catalysts in our communities. No country can afford to ignore their potential. We all know women whose lives were transformed through education and who in turn transformed the lives of those around them.

I am pleased to welcome FreAddis as our newest partner in the education sector where we are working with the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of teaching and classroom materials for the greatly expanded numbers of children in primary schools all over the country. FreAddis hopes to eventually expand its reach and support to girls nationwide through funds donated by Ethiopians here and throughout the Diaspora.

In the future we hope to collaborate with more local institutions enabling them to carry out their missions and to make best use of the opportunities provided by the U.S. Government.

Millions Soap Up to Commemorate Global Handwashing Day

Water is everywhere — covering almost three-quarters of the earth’s surface — yet nearly one billion people in the world do not have safe water. In addition, inadequate sanitation destroys lives, increases disease and infections, undermines economic growth, and prevents children from attending school.

On October 15th,  we celebrate Global Handwashing Day with the great hope of a healthier future for children and families.

Children washing their hands in celebration of Global Handwashing Day. Photo Credit: USAID/Indonesia

Studies have shown that handwashing with soap can cut deaths from diarrhea by almost 50 percent and deaths from acute respiratory infections by 25 percent – saving more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. Washing ones hands with soap could reduce world-wide rates of diarrhea by almost half and save at least one million lives.

People all over the world wash their hands with water. But washing hands with water alone is significantly less effective than washing hands with soap in terms of removing germs, and handwashing with soap is seldom practiced.

Handwashing with soap works by interrupting the transmission of disease. Hands often act as vectors that carry disease-causing pathogens from person to person, either through direct contact or indirectly via surfaces. When not washed with soap, hands that have been in contact with human or animal feces, bodily fluids like nasal excretions, and contaminated foods or water can transport bacteria, viruses and parasites to unwitting hosts.

USAID works in partnership with host countries to reduce diarrheal disease prevalence and improve child survival through sustainable improvements in three key hygiene behaviors: hand washing with soap, safe feces disposal, and safe storage and treatment of drinking water at the household level. These health-focused interventions complement community and municipal water supply infrastructure programs by empowering households with the tools to protect their own health.

For the greatest impact, hands should be scrubbed with soap for at least 20 seconds. Hands should always be washed with soap after using the toilet, cleaning a child’s bottom, and before eating or handling food.

On December 1, 2005, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act made access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of U.S. foreign assistance programs. As a result, the U.S. has strengthened our response to water, sanitation and hygiene challenges in developing countries.  Promoting Global Handwashing Day is essential to advancing the goals of the Act.

Last year, the United States invested about $774 million for all water sector and sanitation-related activities in developing countries, and as a result, some 5.7 million people received improved access to safe drinking water and 1.3 million received improved access to sanitation. We want to continue to build on these efforts and those of our partner countries.

How We Can Save Over 4 Million Children

This originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Childhood vaccines are one of the great triumphs of modern medicine. Indeed, parents whose children are vaccinated no longer have to worry about their child’s death or disability from whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis, or a host of other infections. Vaccines are the most cost-effective health care interventions there are. A dollar spent on a childhood vaccination not only helps save a life, but greatly reduces spending on future healthcare.

Fortunately, the global effort to date has resulted in 80 percent of children or more being reached worldwide and many deaths are averted each year because of that. Unfortunately, thousands of children still die every day from vaccine-preventable diseases in developing countries. Life-saving vaccines we take for granted haven’t yet reached them. But the good news is that there is a solution, and we are helping to solve that problem. Over the past decade, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), founded and supported in part by the U.S., has immunized more than 250 million children, preventing the deaths of over 5 million…[cont.]

Click here to read more.

New Partnership to Support Child Welfare Reform Launched in Russia

During my recent trip to Russia, I was presented with USAID/Russia’s exciting new child welfare project implemented by a first-time Russian grantee, the National Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NFPCC). This project, which was officially launched September 9, is very timely, as preventing child abandonment and supporting the development of family-based services for orphans are priorities for the Russian government.

Around 130 people participated last week in the official launch of USAID/Russia’s “Compass for Childhood” project.  They included representatives of the Russian government, professional community, leading NGOs in child welfare and journalists writing about child welfare issues.  Opened by the Russian government, the event focused on the presentation of the project’s goals and objectives to help Russian regions strengthen the system of care for vulnerable children and families.  Although there has been substantial economic growth in Russia over the past decade, there were still over 126,000 children newly registered without parental care in 2009 alone.  Although reforms are underway in several regions, there is still much to be done to improve the system of care nationwide and establish services to ensure children get the proper care they need and a family-based environment.

During my visit to Moscow, I was pleased to meet with NFPCC representatives, UNICEF, and representatives from other Embassies to discuss how we can work together with Russian government counterparts and civil society to support this priority area. Although we’ve worked with NFPCC for several years as a sub-grantee, I am thrilled that we’re a part of this new partnership, working directly with a Russian organization. This is a good example of the long-term work we are trying to do in Russia to build the capacity of civil society organizations such as NFPCC.

Maternal Health Matters to Everyone

The maternal mortality rate in northern Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. In Bauchi State, women bear an average of eight children in their lifetimes, yet only 45 percent of them receive prenatal care. Less than 1 percent of Bauchi’s children under age one are fully immunized. Bauchi is one of the last places where the wild polio virus is still a threat. And the average person living in Bauchi experiences two malaria episodes a year—with pregnant women and small children affected the most.

Traditonal and religious leaders in Bauchi State meet with officials to explore how leaders can work with government to improve community health care. Photo Credit: USAID/ Nigeria

Overcoming the extraordinary health challenges for women and children requires commitment and partnership at all levels, particularly with traditional and religious leaders, who can use their trust and authority to change health behavior.

USAID’s Targeted States High Impact Project (TSHIP), a five-year maternal, child, reproductive health and family planning initiative, is engaging traditional and religious leaders to change community behaviors and perceptions about health care. TSHIP strengthens community-based organizations, making them more responsive to the basic health requirements of members of their communities, especially women and children. TSHIP collaborated with the Bauchi government to host a two-day meeting to enable these leaders to discuss with health officials how they can improve health outcomes in their communities. The group explored issues such as the health status of girls and women, birth spacing options, and the importance of children receiving immunizations on schedule.

Change is never quick or easy; but because traditional and religious leaders have longstanding relationships with their communities based on trust, they are in a strong position to help overcome the cultural barriers preventing health-seeking behavior.

Traditional and religious leaders are now engaged in improving community health through advocacy. Interestingly, the meeting also illuminated that the concept of safe motherhood is entrenched in Islamic tradition that states that the shortest period between the births of two babies should be two years, and women are advised to breastfeed for two years. This changed many attendees’ perceptions, and leaders acknowledged that women should be empowered to seek medical services when needed.

Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia

Submitted by Justin Prud’homme

In 2008, at the start of the Early Grade Reading Assessment program, a study was conducted in Liberia to assess the reading fluency of students in grades 2 and 3. The study was conducted in 47 randomly chosen schools throughout the country.

What the study showed was that Liberian students in Grade 2, on average, read 18 correct words per minute and students in Grade 3 read an average of 28 words per minute. By contrast, a student in the US in Grade 2 is usually able to read about 90 words per minute, and a third Grader about 110 words per minute.

Clearly something in Liberian schools needed to change.

USAID’s EGRA program, in conjunction with Ministry of Education efforts, aimed to improve the quality of the primary education on offer in Liberian schools by focusing on improving early grade reading. EGRA employed a variety of best practices culled from around the world, ranging from simple interventions like increasing reading time in schools and increasing the number of textbooks and other reading materials available to the students, to more complex interventions such as providing teachers with training, supervision, and year-long lesson plans, and community participation and mobilization. The video seen below is one of the tools used to educate communities on the value of learning to read, and engage them in encouraging their students.

In addition EGRA employed a rigorous and scientific assessment method to determine the success of their methods relative to previously chosen ‘control’ schools. While final assessment results of the program success are still being compiled, an assessment done just four months after interventions began showed that students benefiting from the EGRA program outperformed students in control schools, in reading, by 50%. Following the announcement of the final results it is hoped that the EGRA methods will be adopted by the Ministry of Education on a nation-wide scale.

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