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FrontLines: Foreign Aid Impact in U.S. and Abroad

A worker at the Banko Gotiti Cooperative in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region of Ethiopia holds a handful of ripe red Yirgacheffe coffee berries. Credit: Marcelo Pereira / USAID Agribus Market Develop

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn some of the ways entrepreneurs, corporations, universities, diaspora groups and others work hand-in-hand with USAID to help the Agency fulfill its mission in countries around the world—and how those efforts boomerang back to the United States. Some highlights:

  • More than 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year on this planet and Ethiopian growers are hard at work to get more of their brews in the hands of U.S. coffee drinkers
  • From farmers to disease detectives, USAID supports a wide swath of people in several Asian countries as they go about their critically important work of identifying viruses before they can become pandemics.
  • Playing matchmaker between Jamaican youth and successful Jamaicans in the U.S. is leading to a marriage of the ‘entrepreneurial’ minds.
  • She attended primary school in a refugee camp. Now this South Sudan native is earning a master’s degree in the U.S. so she can go back home for a mission close to her heart—boosting girls’ education.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Rucker is a writer at USAID.

Why You Should Still Care About Syria

Amina is an 8-year-old girl living in Syria. Like many kids, she helps her family with chores. One day, Amina was picking olives with her grandmother in the family garden when a bomb hit, killing her grandmother and sending shrapnel flying into Amina’s body. She survived, but is now paralyzed.

Amina now bears the scars of a war that has marred her childhood. But she is just one of the estimated 5.6 million children in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. While the conflict has gotten increasingly worse, the American people’s interest has begun to wane. Here’s why you should still care about Syria.

In Syria, an estimated 5.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. / Louai Beshara, AFP

In Syria, an estimated 5.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. / Louai Beshara, AFP

The Worst Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time

This month, the Syrian conflict entered its fifth year. The relentless fighting has taken a catastrophic toll, making Syria the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. More than 220,000 people have lost their lives and more than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria–3 million more than a year ago. More than half of the entire Syrian population has fled their homes due to the violence, and an entire generation of Syrians–like Amina–are losing their childhood.

Torn apart by the loss of his wife, two sons and two daughters, Yousef Abo stands on the very spot where his home once stood. / Pablo Tosco, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Torn apart by the loss of his wife, two sons and two daughters, Yousef Abo stands on the very spot where his home once stood. / Pablo Tosco, AFP

Faces Behind the Numbers

The overall numbers are important and show us the scale of humanitarian needs, but behind each number is a person, and we should never forget that. With disasters and crises, it’s easy to get caught up in statistics. This is especially true for Syria where the numbers are astronomical and continue to grow. But when you really take the time to learn the stories behind the numbers — like of Yousef Abo losing his wife, two sons and two daughters when a missile hit his home — you realize just how much people have lost. It’s this that drives humanitarians to keep striving to save lives.

No One is Immune

The violence, death, loss and everyday hardship have seeped through all parts of Syrian society and affect everyone. Mothers struggle to care for their young ones; fathers grieve the loss of children; sisters and brothers help each other learn to play again after losing limbs; and the elderly watch an entire life’s worth of memories get lost under piles of rubble. Children are out of school, adults struggle to find work, and people wonder where they will get their next meal.

More than 2 million people have received medical treatment in U.S.-supported hospitals and health centers. / Edouard Elias, AFP

More than 2 million people have received medical treatment in U.S.-supported hospitals and health centers. / Edouard Elias, AFP

Beyond Borders

A crisis of this magnitude is not contained by borders. Nearly 4 million people have fled to other countries to escape the violence in Syria. This influx of people has had massive regional impacts. In Lebanon, one in four people is a Syrian refugee. In Jordan-already one of the world’s driest countries-the addition of more than 600,000 refugees has further strained the water supply. Now some areas have less than 8 gallons of water per person per day – a tenth of what the average American uses. In Turkey, which currently hosts over 1.7 million Syrians, some communities in the southeast have seen their population double in size – creating a need for more schools and hospitals, along with upgrades to sewage systems and electric grids.

Standing with the Syrian People

These are some of the reasons why we should still care about Syria, whose people have endured unspeakable tragedy during the last four years of a brutal war that has torn their country apart. Today, in Kuwait at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, the United States announced nearly $508 million in additional humanitarian assistance – bringing our total aid to almost $3.7 billion since the crisis began.

While humanitarian aid won’t solve this conflict, it is saving lives. From the beginning of the crisis, we’ve provided water, shelter, critical relief supplies, food, and absolutely vital medical and psychosocial care to people like Amina, and we will continue to do so.

During her recovery, Amina told the people helping her, “I refuse to surround myself with sadness.” If Amina can remain so determined and resilient, the least we can do is refuse to let her stand alone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Myer is the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) Leader for the Syria humanitarian crisis response.

Burgers and Business Give At-Risk Honduran Youth Hope

Editor’s note:This blog originally appeared as a longer feature story from Creative Associates International.


Chuy sells between 16 and 25 burgers each day to help support his family. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Chuy sells between 16 and 25 burgers each day to help support his family. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Tegucigalpa, Honduras — In his family’s small kitchen in one of the capital’s most at-risk neighborhoods, 23-year-old Jesus Lanza, wearing an apron and gloves, flips hamburger patties and fries potatoes. Today, he will sell from 16 to 25 burgers, enough to help support his parents and 8-year-old sister.

Jesus, known by his nickname “Chuy,” has a steady burger business. Neighbors regularly pop in for a bite in the tiny kitchen restaurant. He even rides in his father’s taxi for deliveries farther away.

But “Chuy’s Burgers” is about to go through a growth spurt thanks to a prize of $5,000 he won on Dec. 19 in the “Honduras Emprende” entrepreneurship contest, held annually by the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Honduras: Burgers & business give at-risk Honduran youth hope from Creative on Vimeo.

Chuy hasn’t always been this successful. Just a couple of years ago, he said, he was off course, involved in drugs, drinking and destructive habits. A community pastor told him this path would likely end in “either death or jail.”

“I watched my friends, one by one,” Chuy said. “The drugs were going to destroy them….I did not want this for my life and for the future of my family, so I asked God to open a door for me, a better way for my future, better welfare for my life.”

Tegucigalpa is one of the most violent cities in Honduras, considered the most dangerous country in the world outside of a war zone. Gangs and drug activity plague many of the city’s poorest barrios, like the one where Chuy and his family live.

Reintegration Through Entrepreneurship

With help from the Alianza Joven Honduras (Youth Alliance Honduras) violence prevention program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Creative Associates International, Chuy enrolled in a social reintegration through entrepreneurship and employment training program for youth at high-risk run by the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The program, “Second Opportunities for Our Youth,” has trained more than 150 18- to 29-year-olds in entrepreneurship, as well as conflict resolution, life planning and resilience skills. Participants learn how to start and sustain a business, and they are provided with small grants to get their ventures off the ground.

“The specific objective of the project is to reintegrate back into society people who in the past have been linked to criminal acts or have been imprisoned with a background in rehabilitation centers,” said Fabricio Sierra, project coordinator for the youth-at-risk reintegration program at the Chamber of Commerce.

“What we are looking for is that these young people believe in themselves and seek alternatives to their economic problems rather than the violence, drug dealing, or belonging to criminal gangs. They have the potential to find ways to generate an income that would really be favorable—to pay their studies, pay for their houses, lights, their daily meals. We have such talented people with very entrepreneurial ideas,” he said.

For many former gang members or youth like Chuy living in violent neighborhoods, the stigma associated with their communities can prevent them from getting jobs in established businesses. Self-employment can be a viable economic alternative and a means of reintegration into society.

Chuy with his mother and sister in their kitchen, where his burger business is based. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Chuy with his mother and sister in their kitchen, where his burger business is based. / David Snyder, Creative Associates International

Collaborating on Shared Problems

Since 2011, Alianza Joven Honduras, USAID, the Honduran government and the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce have collaborated to support former gang members and at-risk youth with job skills training and key tools for adapting to post-gang or post-crime life.

Karla Ruiz, general manager of the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce, said that when the Chamber saw the possibility to “teach what we know”—how to start a business—the program was born.

The Second Opportunities for Our Youth program received $30,000 in funding from Alianza Joven Honduras and another $30,000 from the government’s Security Tax Trust Committee for its 2014 and 2015 activities.

Ruiz said that by teaming up with initiatives like Alianza Joven Honduras and partners from the public and private sector, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups can work on common objectives like reducing violence and reintegrating highly at-risk youth into society.

The program has certainly had a positive effect on Chuy, who plans to use his contest award to expand Chuy’s Burgers, which will ultimately generate additional income for his family.

“If you had seen me in the past, and now what I am, there has been a totally radical change,” he said. “If my friends had this opportunity, I think they would become better human beings for Honduras.”

With reporting by Emmanuel Rodriguez

Reach, Cure, Prevent to End TB

Multidrug-resistant TB education exercise on treatment support in Nigeria. / FHI 360

Multidrug-resistant TB education exercise on treatment support in Nigeria. / FHI 360

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a curable disease, and for the first time in history, we have the opportunity to defeat this age-old killer. We have effective diagnostic tools and medicines for most forms of TB, and several new and improved medicines are likely to be rolled out in the next few years.

In May 2014, the U.S. Government and global community joined together around the vision of a world free of TB. We pledged to reduce TB deaths by 95 percent and new TB infections by 90 percent by 2035.

This is an ambitious goal, but it is achievable.

Change Through U.S. Leadership & Partnerships

The U.S. Government is a leader in the global TB care effort, having invested almost $3 billion to combat TB between 2009–14, and USAID leads this U.S. Government effort.

At USAID, we are focusing our investments on strengthening national TB strategies and programs in 26 countries with high rates of TB, multidrug-resistant TB and HIV-associated TB.

X-ray technicians in Cambodia are trained to identify characteristics that define TB. / Seak Kunrath

X-ray technicians in Cambodia are trained to identify characteristics that define TB. / Seak Kunrath

In order to achieve our goal of eliminating TB as a global health threat by 2035, we will work with partners to reach every person with TB, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections, as laid out in the U.S. Government’s 2015-2019 Global TB Strategy [pdf].

Here’s how:

Expanding our Reach

Of the estimated 9 million people who develop TB each year, 3 million never seek or receive formal diagnosis or treatment. These individuals suffer – and often die – needlessly, compounding this tragedy by transmitting TB to others.

In order to end the TB epidemic, we must do more to reach these “missing” 3 million. USAID is working with partner governments to increase TB case-finding by improving diagnostic networks and improving screening for those who are at risk of getting TB.

As part of this effort, we are supporting the global scale-up and use of new diagnostic tools such as GeneXpert, a revolutionary tool that provides faster and more accurate diagnoses and is particularly effective at diagnosing TB among children, people living with HIV, and people suffering from multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

Curing and Preventing TB

USAID supports national programs to diagnose and treat TB in the countries hardest hit by TB, MDR-TB and HIV-associated TB. In 2013, we helped support TB treatment for 2.7 million people.

We are continuing to tackle the growing threat posed by drug-resistant TB. MDR-TB has been detected in almost every country in the world and poses a serious threat to both the global community and American citizens. Left unchecked, the spread of drug-resistant TB will reverse the great progress made thus far. USAID is working with partners to scale-up MDR-TB treatment programs and to make medicines more available and affordable.

We are also expanding our efforts to detect, cure, and prevent HIV-associated TB—an urgent priority as TB kills one out of every four people living with HIV/AIDS. Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy and isoniazid preventive therapy can greatly reduce the risk of TB among people living with HIV/AIDS. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Government is working to improve TB case detection for those with HIV/AIDS and increase coverage of these therapies.

Currently, the most effective way to prevent the spread of TB is by providing life-saving treatment to those who fall ill. TB patients who are cured through appropriate treatment will no longer transmit the disease to those around them. Accordingly, we are focusing on TB treatment as a primary method of preventing new infections. We are also working to improve infection control measures in health care settings and communities to further reduce the spread of TB.

Looking to the Future with Optimism

From 2000-13, more than 37 million people were cured of TB. We’ve reduced TB deaths by almost half since 1990, and the world has achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the spread of the disease.

We stand with our partners, united in our efforts to save lives and develop healthier societies in vulnerable countries. We have the ability to rid the world of TB. And – with continued global action, investment and innovation – we will do so.

I hope that on this World TB Day, you will join us in the pledge to reach every person with TB, cure those in need of treatment, and prevent new TB infections.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ariel Pablos-Mendez is Assistant Administrator for Global Health and Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator at USAID. Follow him @ampablos

Truth, Justice and Development

Youth from the municipality of Caucasia (Bajo Cauca Antioqueño), Colombia, participating in the first intercollegiate human rights competition “Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate.” This initiative, carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with USAID’s Human Rights Program support, sought to promote a human rights culture at schools through a human rights competition that evaluates knowledge acquired during the project duration. / Jairo Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca, partner with USAID’s Human Rights Program

Youth from Caucasia, Colombia participate in the first intercollegiate human rights competition, Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate. The initiative was carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with the USAID Human Rights Program’s support. / Jairo Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca

On this day 35 years ago, a brave archbishop in El Salvador lost his life after speaking out on behalf of the poor when he witnessed human rights abuses at the hands of a repressive government.

Today also marks the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. It’s a time to recognize the commitment and sacrifices of those who fight injustice around the world in the face of great danger, like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who came to be known as the “Voice of the Voiceless.”

Protecting human rights is a core development objective that goes hand in hand with USAID’s mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies. After a period of authoritarian rule or conflict, prosecuting those who commit human rights abuses can help restore the public’s trust in government institutions. For survivors and victims’ families, it can be cathartic to see justice served by domestic courts and international tribunals.

Guatemalan citizens demand justice and truth. / USAID/Guatemala

Guatemalan citizens demand justice and truth. / USAID/Guatemala

However, the grievances of survivors go beyond their right to justice. For many, it is about asserting their right to truth. This can include learning the identities of their abusers and those who planned and helped commit violence. Others want to know how the violence was allowed to happen in the first place and the fate and whereabouts of other victims

USAID’s Strategy on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance makes clear that efforts to promote national dialogue on human rights violations, encourage truth-seeking, follow through with criminal prosecution, and make reparations to victims can enable development and bring about more peaceful, prosperous, and just societies.

A rural Mayan community held a funeral ceremony for loved ones whose exhumed remains were placed in small pine caskets before being given a dignified burial. / USAID

A rural Mayan community held a funeral ceremony for loved ones whose exhumed remains were placed in small pine caskets before being given a dignified burial. / USAID

We support truth-seeking in a variety of ways, including documenting rights violations in an attempt to heal the wounds of the past. Here are some of our many efforts in countries around the world:

  • Cambodia: The Documentation Center of Cambodia has gathered and analyzed evidence of genocide and other human rights violations of the Khmer Rouge. Besides helping bring closure to the survivors and families of the disappeared, the results of this USAID-supported effort were provided to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for purposes of prosecution.
  • Colombia: USAID has supported the National Center for Historical Memory to document the tragedies of the past and conduct outreach to strengthen society’s commitment to ensuring Colombia does not return to a state of systematic violence and rights violations. With the slogan “Technology Serving the Victims,” USAID is also helping the Ministry of Justice and Rights in developing the Inter-Institutional Justice and Peace Information System, a database that serves as the clearinghouse of information for eight government agencies working on the justice and peace process.
  • Cote d’Ivoire: USAID’s support for transitional justice included sponsoring a photo exhibition by the Union of Photojournalists of Cote d’Ivoire with images capturing the rights violations that occurred during the 2011 post-election electoral violence. More than 15,000 visitors, including representatives of the Commission for Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation, viewed photos with slogans like “Never again in Cote d’Ivoire” and “The past should teach us to share our future.”
  • Guatemala: Exhuming mass graves to recover the remains of conflict victims and the disappeared is one step in a program funded by USAID to bring closure to scarred communities. This effort is contributing to the historical record and the memorialization of past violence. With our support, organizations such as the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation are also providing counseling to survivors and victims’ families.

Archbishop Romero’s voice was silenced at the hand of assassins, but his story has inspired countless human rights defenders whom USAID supports. Through documentation programs and by providing technical leadership tools, we are helping strengthen people’s right to truth around the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Solomon is a Transitional Justice Fellow in the Human Rights Division of USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.

A city in need: A case study of climate change adaptation from Mozambique

During his first visit to Pemba in January 2014, Colin Quinn visited Cariaco, a neighborhood built on a steep hill. By April, some of the houses in Cariaco had been swept away in a landslide. / Carlos Quintela, CCAP

During his first visit to Pemba in January 2014, Colin Quinn visited Cariaco, a neighborhood built on a steep hill. By April, some of the houses in Cariaco had been swept away in a landslide. / Carlos Quintela, CCAP

The first time I visited Pemba, Mozambique to begin a project that would help the port city adapt to climate change, I was not prepared for what I saw.

After a few days of severe rain last year, neighborhoods resembled wetlands, streets had turned into rivers, and a large piece of the main coastal road had fallen into the ocean. Residents of beachside villas were pumping water out of their living rooms. In Cariaco, a neighborhood built on a steep hill above the ocean, one man showed me a crack that had formed in his yard and under his house, an ominous sign.

I had flown into Pemba in January 2014 to talk with the mayor about USAID’s Coastal City Adaptation Project. Pemba is a rapidly growing coastal city of about 150,000 people with a lot of economic potential due to the recent discovery of natural gas. But like most coastal cities in Mozambique, Pemba suffers from a lack of infrastructure — making natural disasters much more destructive. City officials and residents told us that the flooding I encountered had not been seen in Pemba for decades. The silver lining? We had clearly arrived at a fitting time to discuss climate change adaptation.

The future of Pemba, and of Mozambique, depends on its residents’ ability to adapt to climate change. Mozambique is among the African countries most vulnerable to climate change, with over 1,550 miles of coastline, more than half of its population living along the ocean, and cities that function as the nation’s economic hubs. Floods, droughts and tropical cyclones are all common. In places like Pemba, floods will likely become less predictable and more severe, magnified by sea level rise.

A boy in Paquitiquete, the lowest lying neighborhood in Pemba city, walks through a wet section to reach his friend in July 2014. People in Paquitiquete are used to the flooding as a result of tidal changes. Gradual sea level rise and extreme rain keep many houses wet -- the wait for the water to retreat and for houses to dry can be long. / Cristina Miranda, USAID

A boy in Paquitiquete, the lowest lying neighborhood in Pemba city, walks through a wet section to reach his friend in July 2014. People in Paquitiquete are used to the flooding as a result of tidal changes. Gradual sea level rise and extreme rain keep many houses wet — the wait for the water to retreat and for houses to dry can be long. / Cristina Miranda, USAID

Now over a year into the project, our efforts have better prepared Pemba for climate change. Working with the local and central Mozambique government, we have developed an early warning and response system so that residents are better protected from severe floods. This system uses simple texting technology, on ‘smart’ and ‘dumb’ phones alike, to send alerts and request data that officials can use to respond to the hardest-hit areas first.

We have created maps to inform future city planning that show areas vulnerable to climate change. We have begun an ongoing, open dialogue with city officials, community leaders, local NGOs and other stakeholders about what it means to adapt to climate change. As a result, we are about to break ground on prototype climate-smart houses and rain catchment systems with local communities. We are also planning a project to stabilize dunes to help prevent flooding. We hope these activities will help Pemba prepare for an uncertain future.

In Pemba, Mozambique, many areas are vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding. Paquitiquete, a neighborhood of fishermen in Pemba, is one of the most vulnerable. This map shows houses that are most at risk there.

In Pemba, Mozambique, many areas are vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding. Paquitiquete, a neighborhood of fishermen in Pemba, is one of the most vulnerable. This map shows houses that are most at risk there.

I found myself back in Pemba in April 2014, two months after my first trip. The rains had returned–this time they were worse. A temporary camp was constructed for 66 families while they looked for places to rebuild their ruined homes. Food and drinking water were being distributed to those in need. A makeshift canal used to drain water from a neighborhood in January was now a full drainage canal covered by a permanent bridge. When I went back to Cariaco, the house over the crack in the ground was gone; it had been swept away in a landslide. There are no official numbers, but residents later told me 14 people had died in that area, with two people still missing.

We envision a city that is more resilient to extreme weather. When the rains return to Pemba in the future, our work will help families and communities be more prepared.

Through our capacity-building approach, better city planning will result in fewer people impacted, dunes will prevent floods caused by storm surge in soon-to-be-developed coastal zones, and families living in vulnerable areas will have built houses that are more suitable for extreme weather.

In the case of an emergency like last year’s flooding, the early warning response system we developed will alert people to danger so they can take necessary precautions. Over text, community leaders can inform emergency response officials about local risks and damages to ensure an appropriate response.

When I first arrived in Pemba I was not prepared for the magnitude of need I was going to see. After visiting, I know one thing for certain: We are working in the right place.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Quinn is a Climate Change Advisor and Natural Resources Officer with USAID’s mission in Mozambique.

From Hyogo to Sendai: A New Action Plan for Resilience

Ten years after the Hyogo Framework became the global blueprint for disaster risk reduction, so much has changed about the way we approach disaster risk reduction. Today, our work focuses not only on disaster preparedness, but on building resilience by helping communities mitigate the inevitable disasters they will face before, during, and after they strike.

This week, I led the U.S. delegation to the Third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan. Joined by partner agencies, including USAID, the State Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), FEMA, NASA, and USPS, we set out to renew our commitments to reduce the risk of disasters at home and abroad. The result: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.  Establishing ambitious targets, this framework includes goals of reducing mortality, minimizing economic and infrastructure losses, and getting countries to commit to disaster risk reduction strategies.

Three themes were front and center at Sendai and are critical to making the world a safer place in the next 15 years.

1. Building Resilience

Reducing disaster risk is not enough. We must build resilience by helping communities build the capacity to bounce back from the inevitable shocks they face. We must move from a preoccupation with mega-disasters — tsunamis and earthquakes — to also deal with chronic shocks and stresses — from frequent floods and droughts to rapid urbanization and chronic food insecurity — that keep communities locked in a cycle of crisis. To do so, we have to break down silos, bringing the humanitarian and development communities together to invest in long-term solutions that build resilience among the world’s most vulnerable. Many governments and donors at Sendai recognized the importance of this, and as a result, the Sendai Framework elevates resilience as a priority.

USAID’s resilience programs in the Sahel are helping pastoralists to diversify their livelihoods so that they are not solely reliant on the land and are better prepared to cope with dry seasons. Sahra Osman Ibrahim received a loan to open up a shop through the USAID-supported Somali Microfinance Share Company. / USAID Ethiopia.

USAID’s resilience programs in the Sahel are helping pastoralists to diversify their livelihoods so that they are not solely reliant on the land and are better prepared to cope with dry seasons. Sahra Osman Ibrahim received a loan to open up a shop through the USAID-supported Somali Microfinance Share Company. / USAID Ethiopia.

Since 2012, USAID has been a leader in mobilizing a global conversation on resilience. We have brought our humanitarian and development teams together to co-design programs that help communities build adaptive capacity across a range of areas, from diversifying their livelihoods to providing access to early warning and risk insurance. Conference participants were eager to hear about USAID’s approach to resilience and our bold new Global Resilience Partnership, which will help catalyze innovations and scale up solutions to the toughest resilience challenges in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. We look forward to working with partner governments and other donors to coordinate our investments in resilience.

2. Promoting Local Solutions

The Tecpán Municipal Disaster Reduction Committee meets to discuss risk reduction priorities for the 2012 rainy season. / Auriana Koutnik, USAID.

The Tecpán Municipal Disaster Reduction Committee meets to discuss risk reduction priorities for the 2012 rainy season. / Auriana Koutnik, USAID.

Locally-driven solutions are crucial for lessening disaster risks. Many civil society organizations were present at Sendai, sharing how their communities have been affected by disasters and part of the solution to building preparedness and resilience at the local level. They will continue to play a critical role in holding governments accountable for their commitments. At USAID, we have invested heavily in community-led disaster risk reduction programs. For example, in Guatemala, we trained 27 remote communities in Tecpán to prepare for and respond to disasters. As part of our Resilience in the Sahel—Enhanced program, we are working with local women to diversify their livelihoods, so that they are not solely reliant on one source of income when disaster strikes. We expect our Global Resilience Challenge teams will unlock new ideas for fostering locally-led solutions to building resilience. USAID will continue to work in strong partnership with local communities and civil society to advance these goals.

3. Fostering Inclusion

Thomas H. Staal, acting assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, participates in the Children and Youth Forum in Sendai, Japan. / Cynthia Romero, USAID

Thomas H. Staal, acting assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, participates in the Children and Youth Forum in Sendai, Japan. / Cynthia Romero, USAID

During a disaster, women, youth, the elderly and people with disabilities have different needs and often fare worse than others. I was glad to see the inclusion of these critical stakeholders in the Sendai Framework. During the conference, I participated in the Children and Youth Forum, where I shared some highlights from USAID’s youth programs on disaster risk reduction in Jamaica and Nepal. While youth work is important, we also work with the elderly, who bring their own unique perspectives and capabilities to bear. When we invest in disaster risk reduction worldwide, we must make sure no community is left behind, and that we are taking the unique needs and strengths of each community into account.

Without a doubt, reducing the risk of disasters and building resilience is critical to protecting the gains made in sustainable development. As we look towards the post-2015 development agenda, Sendai reminded us that we must make risk-informed investments if we are to achieve our goal of ending extreme poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas H. Staal is acting assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA). Follow the DCHA Bureau @USAID_DCHA.

Water for the World: Making Every Gallon Count

For the 2.5 billion people living without access to sanitation and 748 million without safe drinking water, these challenges mean a life threatened by illness, lost income and malnourishment.

As World Water Day approaches on March 22, I want to take a moment to reflect on an important advance made this year towards improving water and sanitation in developing countries: The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act – which supports more targeted, effective and sustainable investments in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs. It passed unanimously in both houses of Congress and in December 2014 was signed into law by President Obama.

The Act underscores USAID’s commitment to improve and save lives through better WASH services. It also aligns with USAID’s Water and Development Strategy, a focused plan using water programs in developing countries to improve health and fight poverty. Both the Act and the Water Strategy recognize that WASH programs need to be sustainable, designed to have lasting impact over time and after our assistance ends.

Investing in WASH is one of the most effective and efficient choices we can make for global nutrition, child health, education, and empowerment of women. Every gallon of water we make more accessible allows a woman to spend time earning money for her family instead of walking for hours each day to fetch water. Every cup of water we make safer to drink helps another child live past his or her 5th birthday, instead of dying from waterborne illness. Each toilet we build helps another girl spend more time in school when she is menstruating and avoid the risk of sexual assault when she does not have access to safe sanitation facilities.

SUWASA focuses on regulatory reform, better pricing and billing, and creating access to commercial finance. / USAID/SUWASA

SUWASA focuses on regulatory reform, better pricing and billing, and creating access to commercial finance. / USAID/SUWASA

Already, progress is being made through programs like Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA), a project that strengthens WASH in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan, Senegal, Zambia, Uganda and Liberia. SUWASA focuses on building financial sustainability of water utilities in each country through activities like regulatory reform, better pricing and billing, and creating access to commercial financing.

The IUWASH project focuses on providing water, sanitation and hygiene for the urban poor in Indonesia. / USAID/IUWASH
The IUWASH project focuses on providing water, sanitation and hygiene for the urban poor in Indonesia. / USAID/IUWASH

In Asia, the USAID Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH) program  has helped 1.47 million people gain access to safe water supplies and made improved sanitation facilities available to nearly 100,000 more people by supporting local governments. Partnerships have been key to IUWASH’s success. The Government of Indonesia and the private sector have been working together towards getting safe water to those who need it.

Our work to increase access to water and sanitation will reduce enormous suffering. It will protect the dignity of the poorest of the poor. In the 2013 Fiscal Year alone, USAID’s programs around the world helped make sanitation facilities available to nearly 1.3 million people and  improved access to drinking water for more than 3.5 million people.

On World Water Day, we are grateful for Congress’s support to scale our programs and change millions more lives. These efforts are delivering more than just water – they’re delivering health, financial stability, relief, dignity and hope.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Holmes is USAID’s Global Water Coordinator and Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment.

How 3D Printing Can Help Save Lives

It takes just 6 inches of moving water to knock a person to the ground. Flash floods, as their name suggests, come on quickly. But given the proper tools, experts can make flood predictions using real-time measurements and give warnings to get people out of harm’s way.

The problem is, many flood-prone countries cannot afford enough of these expensive weather systems to properly monitor the weather.

Floods were the most deadly natural disaster in 2013, accounting for nearly half of the natural disaster-related deaths. / Ben Hemingway, USAID/OFDA

Floods were the most deadly natural disaster in 2013, accounting for nearly half of the natural disaster-related deaths. / Ben Hemingway, USAID/OFDA

Since 1997, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) has been partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to find an affordable way to help developing countries predict and prepare for bad weather. Recently, they’ve been looking for ways to improve weather observation.

Commercial weather stations can have a price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars, with maintenance and repairs piling on additional costs. Repairs also require expensive technicians, if replacement parts are even available. To make matters worse, critical pieces often become discontinued, forcing countries to purchase a completely new weather station

New technology is providing a solution. As it turns out, 3D printers are able to produce almost all the parts needed to manufacture reliable, accurate weather stations. Add in low-cost electronic sensors, and you’ve got a station–all for around $200.

Kelly Sponberg, a program manager with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Joint Office of Science Support (JOSS) working with NOAA, spearheaded the Micro-Manufacturing and Assembly project to develop a range of affordable meteorological tools.

“In the U.S., weather is very accessible,” Sponberg said. “You can turn on the news, look online, or use an app on your phone. It’s easy to take for granted the ability to check the weather. But in many developing countries, weather forecasting has been limited because of the high cost of weather systems. I wanted to change that by finding an affordable way for countries to predict and prepare for weather.”

The 3D printing technology will be showcased this week at the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, where thousands have gathered to discuss the best ways to reduce the catastrophic toll of disasters.

Don’t let its humble looks fool you - this 3D-printed weather station will help developing countries forecast weather-related disasters and save lives. / Kelly Sponberg, NOAA

Don’t let its humble looks fool you – this 3D-printed weather station will help developing countries forecast weather-related disasters and save lives. / Kelly Sponberg, NOAA

Here’s how it works. First, Martin Steinson, a UCAR JOSS project manager and mechanical engineer, creates 3D computer designs for every part of a weather station. Then, a microwave-sized 3D printer turns these designs into reality–melting thick coils of plastic into thin threads that layer on top of one another to form the components of a fully functional, sophisticated weather station. The printing is so precise that once all the pieces are printed, they can be assembled by hand and the new weather station finally brought online.

In the field, the station collects measurements related to temperature, pressure, humidity, rainfall and wind that are stored in a tiny computer about the size of an iPhone. From here, the data can be transmitted to weather experts, who will use it for their forecasts. As the program evolves, additional sensors may be added, like ones to take soil measurements, which could be used to help farmers increase their yields.

 Raspberry Pi, a computer the size of an iPhone, can hold a year’s worth of weather information collected from a 3D-printed station. / Heather Freitag, USAID/OFDA.

Raspberry Pi, a computer the size of an iPhone, can hold a year’s worth of weather information collected from a 3D-printed station. / Heather Freitag, USAID/OFDA.

“The bottom line is that 3D printing will help to save lives,” said Sezin Tokar, a hydrometeorologist with USAID/OFDA. “Not only can they provide countries with the ability to more accurately monitor for weather-related disasters, the data they produce can also help reduce the economic impact of disasters.”

The 3D-printed weather stations are undergoing testing to make sure they are durable and will meet international standards. Once testing is complete, pilot projects will be established in one or two countries.

The hope is that Zambia will become the first country to work with the Micro-Manufacturing and Assembly project. This summer, after receiving extensive training, Zambia’s National Weather Service will be provided with laptops loaded with the 3D designs for each individual part, along with several 3D printers and all the tools and materials required. Countries will have the flexibility to print additional weather stations whenever their budget allows. And if any piece breaks, partners will be able to print a new one. Then, Sponberg said, it’s “as simple as switching out a lightbulb.”

From March 14 to 18, USAID staff have joined thousands at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan to discuss the best ways to reduce the catastrophic toll of disasters. In 2013 alone, natural disasters took the lives of more than 22,000 people, affected nearly 97 million others, and caused almost $118 billion in economic damages.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Freitag is an Online Communications Specialist with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance

New Steps in Disaster Risk Reduction

In 2013 alone, natural disasters took the lives of more than 22,000 people, affected nearly 97 million others, and caused almost $118 billion worth of economic damages.

To tackle this problem, I’ve joined the thousands of people gathering in Sendai, Japan this week for the Third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. As a member of the U.S. delegation–led by USAID’s Thomas H. Staal–I’ll be taking part in discussions on the best ways to reduce the catastrophic toll of natural disasters.

Heavy rains fell over nearly all of Cambodia in the fall of 2011. Floodwaters spread across 18 of 24 provinces, affecting 1.5 million people, and destroying nearly 10 percent of the nation’s crops. / Brian Heidel, USAID

Heavy rains fell over nearly all of Cambodia in the fall of 2011. Floodwaters spread across 18 of 24 provinces, affecting 1.5 million people, and destroying nearly 10 percent of the nation’s crops. / Brian Heidel, USAID

What is Disaster Risk Reduction?

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is everything that we do to prevent or reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and storms. Recognizing the need to increase DRR efforts, nearly 170 countries adopted a 10-year framework in 2005 to make the world safer from natural hazards called the Hyogo Framework for Action.

That framework expired in 2014. The conference this week is an opportunity for world leaders, government agencies, NGOs and international organizations to come together and reflect on the progress made over the last decade. However, our most important agenda is in looking forward to what remains to be done and assessing how we can address shifting needs.

In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, destroying entire towns across the country. Thanks to disaster risk reduction and preparedness efforts, when Super Typhoon Hagupit hit the Philippines just a year later, damage was minimal. / Chuck Setchell, USAID
In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, destroying entire towns across the country. Thanks to disaster risk reduction and preparedness efforts, when Super Typhoon Hagupit hit the Philippines just a year later, damage was minimal. / Chuck Setchell, USAID

Building Resilience

Through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), USAID responds to an average of 70 disasters in 50 countries each year. In just the past 10 years, we’ve responded to the massive 2010 Haiti earthquake, super typhoons in the Philippines, earthquakes and hurricanes across Latin America, and large-scale floods and an earthquake in Pakistan.

But we don’t just respond. USAID also works to build resilience by helping vulnerable communities prepare for disasters before they strike.

We do this by strengthening early warning systems and preparedness, like in Latin America; integrating DRR with disaster response, as we did in Bangladesh; providing training such as improved farming methods in Afghanistan to help people withstand future disasters; and helping build resilience to the effects of climate change, as in Vietnam and Mozambique. In the last decade, OFDA has provided nearly $1.2 billion in DRR funding to 91 countries and 162 partners.

What’s Next?

The goal of the conference is to build on the foundation of the previous framework and establish a new way forward to encourage everyone to take further steps toward reducing risks. Given the trends of increasingly devastating natural disasters, focusing on DRR has never been more important.

In the coming years, disasters are expected to become more numerous and take greater tolls due to climate change, a growing world population and more people settling in hazard-prone areas.

With each disaster, development gains are threatened as infrastructure is destroyed, poverty increases, and economic opportunities are interrupted or lost. But we are not resigned to this fate. OFDA’s mission is to save lives, alleviate human suffering, and reduce the social and economic impacts of disasters. As long as disasters threaten lives and livelihoods, DRR must play a key role moving forward.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sezin Tokar is a Hydrometeorological Hazards Adviser with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
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