USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Youth

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.

After-School Activity Changes a Student’s Outlook and Plan for Future

Malek Haidar, a fourteen-year old student at Zahle Public School has benefited from extracurricular activities. Photo Credit: USAID/Lebanon

Submitted by Elias Alhaddad

Lebanon Education Assistance for Development (LEAD) has inspired Malek Haidar to change his plans for the future by providing him the opportunity for after-school activity.

Malek, a fourteen-year old student at Zahle Public School, used to skip school and was nearly expelled for poor behavior and attendance.  Then he was required to improve his behavior in order to be accepted in a school play.

Taking an important role in the play, the role of a mother, helped change Malek into a disciplined hard working student, with the dream of becoming a professional actor.  “I know that to become an actor I will have to work hard and doing well in school is a large part of that,” said Malek.

The change in his attitude was noticeable to his parents, friends, and teachers, who were amazed at his discipline and new perseverance to attend all classes.  “He was no longer the same person.  There was a 180 degree change.  He was no longer a burden but a pleasure,” observes Maria Hadchiti, the school’s principal.

Implemented by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), this extra-curricular activity is one of over 160 similar programs throughout Lebanon, which foster a positive school spirit and environment and develop creativity among teachers and students.  These USAID-funded activities include sporting events, health and craft fairs, and community enriching activities.  To date, IOCC has assisted 228 public schools throughout Lebanon and  supported more than 110 school clubs and 116 parent-teacher associations under the LEAD program.

The Reading Crisis among the World’s Poorest Schoolchildren

Crossposted from The Brookings Institution.

Written by: David Barth, Director of the Office of Education for the United States Agency for International Development, and Rebecca Winthrop, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Universal Education, The Brookings Institution

Editor’s note: On September 8, the Brookings Institution and International Reading Association co-sponsored an event entitled, “Early Reading: Igniting Education for All.”  Panelist David Barth and host and moderator Rebecca Winthrop offer comments on considerations going forward.

The International Literacy Day event at Brookings on the crisis in early reading should be a wake-up call to all who are concerned about the future of education in the developing world. Recent data on the literacy skills of students in the early grades are stark. Children around the world may be going to school, but many of them are not acquiring even the most basic of reading and writing skills. Many children find themselves passing through two, three, four or more years of education and are still unable to read even a single word in their native languages. These alarming findings are softened, if only a bit, by the potential range of solutions. Between special assessments, targeted teacher training, relevant and appropriate materials, and support for students, teachers and parents, this trend can be reversed. As a matter of fact, we can achieve dramatic gains in literacy when the proper package of interventions is implemented.

Among the most interesting findings discussed yesterday was the fact that transparency and accountability seem to have a powerful effect on learning outcomes. Rapid reading assessments in the early grades generate the kinds of data that can be highly influential in community and national policy level dialogue. The development of persuasive data sets is most valuable when that data is placed in the hands of demanding consumers (parents and care-givers), as well as concerned service providers (government, teachers unions and sometimes the private sector).

When the permanent secretary of education in the Gambia became aware of the low level of reading attained by students in his system, he was provoked to action. He partnered with international donors and NGOs to train teachers and to ensure that the right materials were made available to his students. In Liberia, the simple act of releasing assessment data to teachers, parents and administrators seems to have been the catalyst behind a 29 percent gain in words per minute over baseline in literacy after only three and half months. One interesting effect of a similar experiment in Kenya is that teachers who were part of the control group not being provided additional training sought out independently to learn “the tricks” of teaching reading that was being provided in other schools. Their hunger to excel at work and their desire to get the most current and effective methodologies in the classroom moved those teachers to extend themselves to acquire new tools. That’s a powerful thing.

Rapid assessments of reading and math in the early grades provide direct and nearly immediate measures of education quality. Results can be easily reported and interpreted by teachers, parents and school administrators — people who are in a position to change their behavior to achieve better results. This raised awareness and changed behavior in turn will contribute to improving institutional effectiveness and opportunities for multitudes of learners. Linking this type of information about school-level learning outcomes with how schools and education systems are financed through national education accounts would be one possible strategy for how to use education resources more effectively to ensure the children are learning.

Another important conclusion from yesterday’s event on early reading was that there is still more to learn. USAID will be looking to work with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings and other concerned actors to delve more deeply into the connection between transparency, accountability and educational achievement. For many years, educators have repeated the mantra, “knowledge is power.” In the case of the crisis in early grade reading, wide-spread knowledge of the quality of performance of a school system may be the most powerful tool for reform.

USAID Provides New Schools to Earthquake Affected Communities in Haiti

School children at the Leogane School Opening.

School children at the Leogane School opening. Photo credit: Janice Laurente

In Léogâne, the town that was the epicenter of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, you see signs of recovery and life resuming.  People have returned to markets to sell their crops and wares, rubble is being removed from key thorough fares, and schools are being rebuilt.

On August 25, USAID and the Digicel Foundation inaugurated École Louis de Borno, the first school built under a new public-private partnership to construct new schools for people affected by the earthquake.  Approximately 50 schools are planned that benefit up to 30,000 children.

“Immediately after the earthquake, 4,800 schools were damaged or destroyed.  USAID is proud to play a role in helping children return to school through a number of our projects,” said USAID Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei.  “This new partnership with Digicel illustrates USAID’s commitment of exploring new and innovative approaches meet the educational, economic development and job-training needs of Haitian communities.”

Under the USAID partnership, some of the schools will be constructed with U.S. military shipping containers which are being converted into school campuses.  USAID procured about 100 shipping containers that had been used as part of the Joint Task Force-Haiti’s humanitarian mission in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The project is also employing youth for the construction of the schools through the USAID-funded IDEJEN livelihood initiative.  IDEJEN provides out-of-school youth ages 15-24 with basic, non-formal education and vocational training.  This effort, which will employ up to 100 people at a pre-fabrication plan in addition to those on site assembly will serve to get money to Haitian families in need, stimulate the economy and help develop a workforce able to participate in upcoming reconstruction efforts.

Water Education for African Youth

John Etgen, Senior Vice President of the Project WET Foundation, wrote a great piece this week for Johns Hopkins University’s Global Water Magazine on the booming youth population and the benefits of educating students about water. Here’s a bit of what he had to say…

In the 16 African countries where the Project WET Foundation has trained teachers and localized water science education materials in cooperation with educators and education ministries, teaching about water has led to real change that has improved lives—not only for schoolchildren but also for the community at large.

At the Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe, Uganda; for example, students who had been taught about water quality as well as sanitation and hygiene formed an after-school environment club to tackle some of the issues the lessons raised for them.

Their first action was to resurrect an old rain barrel that had fallen into disuse and connect it with new gutters on the school to collect rain water for use in hand washing and other school water needs.

For the full story, be sure to visit the Global Water Program.

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