USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Youth

Youth Empowerment is Key to President Obama’s Vision for Africa’s Future

Throughout his recent trip to Africa, President Obama returned again and again to the theme of economic opportunity and empowerment: building the capacity of people and institutions to lead their countries forward. Central to his vision is the critical role that African youth must play in the region’s social and economic transformation. The USAID-funded Youth:Work program is already at work to make this a reality.

In partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Youth:Work project is working in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to assess the needs and aspirations of young people, the hurdles they face in seeking employment, and the opportunities that can help them improve their lives and prospects. This holistic mapping exercise, called Youth:Map, is developed through interviews with business, community, government, and youth leaders. The resulting assessments consolidate critical evidence and expand our knowledge about youth issues in Africa that will help the private sector and governments alike to make smart, targeted investments in the years ahead.

Group of African young adults. Photo credit: USAID

In fact, this comprehensive information gathering has already become the basis for designing and implementing innovative pilot programs to specifically address the issues raised through the studies. One consistent theme from all Youth:Map studies is that Africa’s young people do not have access to the life skills and vocational training they need to get good jobs or start their own businesses. USAID and IYF are addressing this deficit in a number of ways.

In Uganda, for example, a 6-month internship program has been launched to help young people join the labor market and contribute to the country’s broader economic development. “This is the kind of program that we need to ensure that Uganda’s youth have real opportunities to achieve their dreams and build their futures,” said Commissioner Kyateka F. Mondo of Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, at the program’s launch.

In Tanzania, orphans and vulnerable youth are gaining access to education and job training opportunities through the Tanzania Youth Scholars program, which offers educational scholarships and livelihood training.

Passport to Success®, a global life and employability skills curricula that has been translated into 18 different languages, is improving the employment prospects of young people in Senegal, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Build Your Business, an entry-level curricula for young people interested in starting their own micro-businesses, developed by IYF in collaboration with Microsoft, is being used to teach entrepreneurship and life skills to young people in Liberia and Uganda.

USAID and IYF are also joining forces to respond to another significant assessment finding – that young people feel marginalized and seek a greater voice in society. Two regional youth leadership institutes are opening in Senegal and Uganda to ensure more African youth become strong, innovative, and confident leaders in their communities.

In his speech in Johannesburg, President Obama declared that Africa’s young people “are going to determine the future” of their countries. While significant challenges lie ahead, USAID is working with IYF and many others to help build the kind of infrastructure and enabling environment needed to ensure Africa’s youth can fully realize this vision of hope.

About the International Youth Foundation
The International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of businesses, governments, and civil-society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. To learn more visit www.iyfnet.org

Building a Future in Tanzania – Brick by Brick

Rajabu faced many troubles in his young life growing up in a poor family in rural Tanzania. But now he is building a better life for himself and his family. Back in 2010, Rajabu finished primary school, but could not continue his studies due to his family’s low level of income. The death of Rajabu’s father led to even greater distress, leaving his mother and siblings struggling to survive. To help support his family, Rajabu began taking small jobs in the community.

Rajabu (far right) hones his bricklaying skills through the Tanzania Youth Scholars Program. Photo credit: International Youth Foundation

Life took a more positive direction last year, however, when Rajabu joined the Kiwanda Folk Development College in Tanga, thanks to a scholarship he received from the Tanzania Youth Scholars (TYS) project funded by USAID. TYS aims to reduce the vulnerability of the country’s youth, ages 15-24, by equipping them with job and professional skills to help them improve their employment prospects and become productive and active members of the community. Participants can choose courses that include tailoring, hotel management/food production, vehicle mechanics, carpentry, masonry and bricklaying, agriculture, driving, and computer and office services. At the College, Rajabu chose to study masonry and bricklaying – a three year course that includes full boarding.

“I never realized that the soil that is available everywhere can be made into bricks to build houses,” he said. Today, he knows how to make bricks and has starting setting and building a wall. His plans for the future? To go back to his community and sell his bricks to generate income that will help him provide much needed financial support for his family. “I am very glad to have this opportunity,” says Rajabu. “My dream was to be an entrepreneur. May it come true!”

Yes, Youth Can: Empowering the Voices of Youth in Kenya

Young adults huddle around laptops scattered about the room at a hotel near Nairobi. Seeing this brings to mind the words “energy” and “focus”. They hardly notice a contingent of USAID visitors looking over their shoulders. They near the end of a busy day of preparing “trial balances” and they’re taking the work seriously, as they should. As leaders in a movement in Kenya called “Yes, Youth Can”, they are legally responsible for the accounts of their Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies(SACCOs). Today they practice balancing budgets for these small credit unions they have created to help their members start small businesses.

Members of Yes, Youth Can, work with tin and recycled materials to make jewelry and boxes. Photo credit: Christie Vilsack

Seventy-seven percent of employed youth in Kenya work in the informal sector, which means they are not in salaried positions. They may be selling flowers or furniture by the side of the road or, like these young people, they may be using $20-$60 dollar Coca Cola grants to start a Coke kiosk or a fishing business. If they are saving money in their accounts, they may borrow from the SACCO.

Some of these young adults have completed high school. Others have attended college, but there are few jobs for young adults, so they are taking matters into their own hands with the help of USAID and its implementing partners. Susan Mugabe is one of them. She has two children. She is very proud that she employs six people at her hair salon. Her parents helped her with a loan.

After their presentations some of the youth stay to talk about the effect they think they will have on their country. They say what they are doing is “an opportunity for youth to get a chance at saving money and getting a loan so they can start a business.” They want to take advantage of the opportunity to make Kenya a more productive country. They are also proud that recent elections were peaceful and many credit their organization for using the peacebuilding skills they’re learning to help make this happen.

Over 1 million youth in Kenya belong to Yes, Youth Can, which was started with the help of USAID. Kenyan youth made it clear that they wanted control over their own programs. They elect representatives to local bunges (parliaments) and representatives are elected from the local groups to regional and national councils.

On the other side of the country, in Kisumu, a young woman named Katherine gives an impassioned speech at a meeting of her local bunge. “It’s not that hard to save 20 shillings a day!” she says to her audience. “I want to help you utilize what you have to create what you don’t have. Think big, start small, start now!”

Duncan, the president of the group, explains how one SACCO started a motorbike taxi business. At first they got a loan from the SACCO to buy four motorbikes, now they have eighteen. Their spouses are involved in the business as well. They now have two accounts, one for development and the other for welfare, so if one of them gets hurt, they can help pay the medical bills. Next they want to offer small loans to first-time home-buyers.

As young leaders take the microphone, others sit at tables cutting recycled tin to make earrings and small boxes, which they sell at their gift shop, which also sells furniture and handmade greeting cards. They are taking action to help improve their lives and create a more prosperous country for more youth.

Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health for All

Approximately 16 million girls ages 15 to 19 (most of them already married) give birth each year. On July 11, World Population Day, we join the global community in raising awareness on the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of protecting and empowering millions of girls around the globe.

Adolescent pregnancy has dire health, social and economic consequences for girls, their communities, and nations. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 in low-and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and death are 50 per cent more likely for babies born to mothers younger than 20 than for babies born to mothers in their 20s. We know that girls who become pregnant often face discrimination within their communities, drop out of school, and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime. A World Bank study (PDF) found that the lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy in developing countries ranges from 10 percent of annual GDP in Brazil to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.

World Population Day 2013 aims to draw awareness to the issue of adolescent pregnancy. Photo credit: Netsanet Assaye, Courtesy of Photoshare

I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital to ensure future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives.  In developing countries overall, 22 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) who are married or in union use contraceptives, compared to 61 percent of married girls and women aged 15-49 (PDF). Lack of information, fear of side effects, and other barriers—geographic, social, and economic—prevent young people from obtaining and using family planning methods.

It’s appropriate that this World Population Day also marks a year since the historic London Summit on Family Planning, and the launch of Family Planning 2020. This global partnership supports the right of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. I am proud to be on the Reference Group of the Family Planning 2020 initiative (PDF) that aims to enable 120 million more women and girls to access family planning information and services by 2020.

As the largest bilateral donor for family planning, USAID is uniquely poised to accelerate progress and improve education and access to reproductive health services for youth.  We support programs and research on adolescent health and development, and we have approaches that work to improve knowledge and change behaviors. Our programs focus on gender equality, because we know that boys and men who have access to reproductive health information and services are better able to protect their own health, support their partners, and participate in planning of their future and that of their families.

USAID is committed to protecting reproductive rights for all people and especially for the world’s adolescents and youth. Young people are the future, and we want and need their valued contributions to and participation in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and join the conversation about World Population Day using the #WorldPopDay hashtag. Share our new infographic on adolescent pregnancy.

USAID in the News

A publication in the Middle East’s AmeInfo, writes of a dialogue hosted by USAID’s Youth for Future Project. This session showcased success stories and firsthand experiences from several Youth Entrepreneurship Project beneficiaries, and concluded with a Q & A segment and the dissemination of the final report on the Project.

Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo Credit: Pat Adams, USAID

The New York Times mentioned “a new loan-guarantee program by [USAID] intended to generate…$100 million in private financing to develop clean-energy technologies” in a piece on President Obama’s speech on climate change at Georgetown University in late June. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement  during a recent visit to New Delhi. “The good news is that if we do this right, it’s not going to hurt our economies,” Mr. Kerry said. “It actually helps them. It won’t deny our children opportunity; it will actually create new ones.”

USAID’s Investment in Africa

As President Obama embarks on his trip to Africa, USAID is proud to take this opportunity to highlight the important work we are doing to partner with Africans in new and innovative ways to build a peaceful and prosperous future. For the first time in over a generation, sub-Saharan Africa is seeing steady progress toward ending extreme poverty, fueled by robust economic growth and better governance and service delivery in many countries. These gains have been supported by USAID’s investments in improved agriculture, health care, and democratic institutions, and our increased focus on women and a new generation of African thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each of which are delivering transformational results. In concert with partners throughout Africa, we are working toward ending poverty and providing millions a foothold in the global economy—and helping to realize the promise of the world’s most youthful region.

Women in Senegal. Photo credit: USAID

The President will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania–some of USAID’s most important development partners–but his messages are relevant for the entire continent. USAID with thousands of grassroots organizations, communities and local businesses in 42 African countries to achieve these shared goals. Some examples of these partnerships are featured in this collection of stories about our work in Africa.

Throughout the President’s trip, our teams on the ground will provide regular social media updates. Be sure to follow Administrator Shah on Twitter (@rajshah) as he accompanies the President and join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica! Follow us also on Facebook and our Impact Blog for real-time stories from our missions in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you throughout this trip and beyond.

Making a Fifth Birthday Within Reach

It’s been a year since the United States joined UNICEF and the governments of Ethiopia and India in a bold pledge to end preventable child deaths within a generation. Last week marked the first anniversary of the Child Survival Call to Action, which has since spurred a rejuvenated global movement under the banner “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.” In the past year, 174 governments pledged to redouble efforts for children. More than 200 civil-society organizations, 91 faith-based organizations, and 290 faith leaders from 52 countries signed their own pledges of support.

June 14 marked the 1 year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action. Photo credit: John Snow, Inc.

In the Rayburn House Office Building yesterday, members of Congress, PATH, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, the US Fund for UNICEF, and partner organizations celebrated the global commitment and the progress made so far. We also reminded ourselves of how critical it is to sustain this momentum because, to borrow the words of Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director, “The story of child survival over the past two decades is one of significant progress and unfinished business.”

Progress: dramatic drop in child deaths

The number of children under age five who die each year has dropped from nearly 12 million in 1990 to less than 7 million in 2011. Translated another way, every day 14,000 children who would have otherwise died now live to see their fifth birthdays.

Particularly heartening is the progress made in countries that have carried some of the heaviest burden of child mortality. Nine countries, from Bangladesh to Cambodia to Rwanda, reduced their under-five mortality rate by 60 percent or more.

How far these countries have come is a testament to the unwavering commitment and sustained efforts of governments, the public and private sector, donors and nonprofits, civil-society groups, and communities. Other factors underpinning this global progress are impressive gains made in the research and development of medical technologies, improved ways of delivering health services, and bold new thinking in how we overcome roadblocks and speed up innovation for health equity.

Unfinished business: 7 million children

Today, almost two-thirds of child deaths are caused by diseases and conditions that rarely take a child’s life in wealthy countries, including diarrhea, malaria, tetanus, and measles. These deaths are also concentrated in a small number of countries—more than four-fifths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This health inequity is deepened by poverty, violence, political fragility, and social disparity.

As the tremendous progress to date has shown, these are not insurmountable factors—but overcoming them requires ongoing cross-sector collaboration, multi-intervention solutions, and investment in innovative approaches.

Innovating health technologies

I joined PATH as head of its Drug Development program just under a year ago because I saw how global health organizations are driving many of the transformative innovations needed to achieve big goals like the Child Survival Call to Action. For more than 30 years, PATH and our partners have advanced innovative health technologies to protect children from devastating illnesses, make childbirth safer, and provide families with tools for a healthy life. Tools like a vaccine against meningitis A developed specifically for Africa, which has been introduced in ten countries and protected more than 103 million people from epidemic meningitis. Or tools like vaccines for rotavirus and pneumonia, which have been introduced in 14 GAVI-eligible countries, or a feeding technology that ensures that premature babies and those with a cleft palate can access lifesaving breast milk.

On the first anniversary of the Call to Action, I feel even more convinced of the importance of research and development of innovative health technologies to fight against the leading causes of child death. This is why at PATH we are currently working on solutions to tackle the top child killers, like diarrhea, on many fronts. We are developing new drugs to shorten the severity and duration of diarrhea before it becomes fatal, while also working to improve the effectiveness of proven diarrhea therapies like oral rehydration solution. PATH is also working on new vaccines against the leading causes of diarrheal disease, helping countries increase access to existing vaccines for both rotavirus and pneumonia, developing and delivering safe water treatment and storage products, and advancing health devices, such as a user-friendly product design for amoxicillin dispersible tablets to treat pneumonia.

The road ahead

Yesterday’s briefing is a reminder of the critical value of sustained commitment to our children. It is an opportunity to emphasize the power of innovation for child health and get inspired by the momentum behind the current efforts to create effective health solutions.

Among other factors, development of innovative health technologies and new methods to deliver these solutions to the people who need them will continue to drive the current momentum forward toward our common goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths. Because access to necessary vaccines, drugs, basic medical and maternal care, clean water, and adequate nutrition should not be marked by a line of health inequity.

June 14 marked the 1 year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action. One year ago, leaders committed to ending preventable child deaths. Learn more about A Promise Renewed.

 

A Promise Renewed: A Great Global Ambition and Every Father’s Dream

This originally appeared on the Huffington Post Blog

What will you be doing this Father’s Day?

Reading homemade cards? Playing catch with your kids? Grilling in the back yard with the family?

We often take such simple pleasures for granted. But, elsewhere, millions of fathers around the world will struggle to help their children survive and thrive.

In our respective roles, we meet these fathers — in remote villages, bustling cities, and refugee camps. They tell us inspiring stories of their fight to care for their families, but also the heartbreaking accounts of much-loved sons and daughters who have lost their lives to preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV.

A mother plays with her infant as she waits outside a health post in Ethiopia. Photo credit: USAID

Every year, 6.9 million children under five die from these and other causes. 19,000 every day. That is equivalent to a stadium like Madison Square Garden filled to capacity.

Even crueler is the geography of fate. A child in sub-Saharan Africa is over 14 times more likely to die before reaching her or his 5th birthday than a child in the United States.

These deaths are more than a tragedy for individual children. They shatter families, diminish communities and hold nations back from progress and prosperity.

But amidst these sad statistics, there is cause for hope. Increasingly, innovations — new products, new technology and new applications of existing technology — help us reach the most disadvantaged communities and the most vulnerable children quickly and inexpensively.

For example, there are groundbreaking long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that drastically reduce the number of children who die from malaria.

Or the three-drug regimen in one pill daily for pregnant women living with HIV. It protects their own health and helps prevent their babies and partners from HIV infection.

Or new vaccines to prevent pneumonia, diarrhea and cholera.

Thanks to innovations like these, we have an unprecedented opportunity to virtually end preventable child death. And we can do it in a generation.

To reach this goal — one year ago — the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the U.S., with UNICEF’s support, rallied the world behind the Child Survival Call to Action. It inspired a global movement — Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. Momentum continues to build and, today, 174 countries and over 400 civil society and faith-based organizations have taken up the charge in their own commitments.

In Zambia, First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba is helping to roll out a plan focused on nutrition and immunization that will save more than 26,000 children each year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ministry of Health is implementing a plan to save half a million children by 2015. This includes distributing pre-packaged family kits that contain medicines and other supplies to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Similar initiatives are underway in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Yemen and beyond, where governments, civil society and the private sector are mobilizing to fulfill the promise to give every child the best possible start in life.

In today’s world, great global ambitions require strong partnerships between the public and private sector. In India, a small pharmaceutical company is developing a new zinc syrup to help get a life-saving treatment for diarrhea into rural communities. Through the Helping Babies Breathe Alliance, private sector entrepreneurs and medical professionals are training and equipping over 100,000 health workers in 54 countries with life-saving tools such as affordable resuscitation equipment. The results are impressive. A study from Tanzania showed that these tools led to a 47 per cent drop in newborn deaths during the first 24 hours of life.

For the first time in history, we have the tools to end preventable child deaths. Now, we need to build the momentum.

Through new partnerships and a relentless focus on results, we can give fathers everywhere the same opportunity that so many of us will have today: to watch our children grow and thrive; to cheer them at a ball game; to nurture their curiosity; to support their dreams and take pride in their achievements. Isn’t that what every father wants for his child?

Co-authored by Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Follow Anthony Lake on Twitter @UNICEF.
Follow Raj Shah on Twitter @rajshah.

It’s The Silent Killer: Undernutrition

Shivani Cotter is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Shivani Cotter

This morning, my daughters ate a hearty breakfast. They had eggs, toast and a yogurt each. What do you think women and children in poverty-stricken regions throughout the world ate (or did they)?

I remember reading an article by Anap Shah a few years ago that I have never been able to get out of my head. The heading read, “Today, around 21,000 children died around the world.”

I was shocked! Living in a bubble, I rarely paid attention to how devastating the numbers were (about 1 child dying every 4 seconds)! Although written a few years ago, that article was the catalyst for my quest to learn more about global nutrition and it’s effect on women and children.

Anap Shah caused two conflicting emotions: First, relief that my children didn’t fall into one of those statistics. Second, sick to my stomach that I even felt that way!

Did you know that nearly 165 million children under 5-years-old suffer from undernutrition today? According to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million under-five child deaths annually. The numbers are stunning but don’t have to be. The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to reducing them. It’s working towards building a better future for mothers and children.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, has already improved nutrition and helped people lead healthier lives in Zambia, Guatemala, Tanzania and more. Through Feed the Future in the past year alone, 12 million children have been positively affected — and that is just the beginning. Feed the Future shares their knowledge with the people in poverty-stricken locations and support country-owned programs addressing undernutrition. Their monthly newsletter is filled with information regarding their latest goals and progress.

USAID believes in integrating their approach on dealing with global health and nutrition by forging the right partnerships through initiatives like Feed the Future. USAID, on behalf of the U.S. Government, signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, and supports the Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, which is chock filled with information about the importance of improving nutrition globally. Their goal is to ensure every child is given the best start possible in life.

The first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are the most critical for a child’s development. By focusing on maternal health and young children, the U.S. Government through USAID and the Feed the Future initiative are striving to cut the death toll for children under 5 years old. Find out more about their goal and ways to help here.

Shivani Cotter is a writer, blogger and social media activist. Through her blog, TrendingMom.com, Shivani is dedicated to teaching others how to live positive and fulfilling lives as well as leaving a lovely legacy for her daughters. Shivani is part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of 1000+ mom bloggers, in seventeen countries, who spread good news about the amazing work non-profit organizations and NGOs are doing around the world.

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

A Good Place to Start to Improve Schools

It could have been small town Iowa. Dignitaries arrived. The local sports team stood at attention in orange t-shirts. The drummers set the pace, and the musicians played. The town fathers presided in a ceremony in front of the church next to the school. Young mothers with babies and young children sat near the back. Students stood in rows by class. The parent organization sat together as did the teachers. The children sang. Mooing cattle provided background for a speech by a special boy, the school’s brightest. And they gave us gifts made locally.

But this scene played out in rural Congo (DRC). It was a soccer team with only one ball, and the children wore hand-me-down school uniforms faded from over-washing. The band didn’t march.

After the ceremony the “school board” showed us binders filled with budgetary detail. A capacity-building program sponsored by USAID is helping local leaders, both men and women, take responsibility for their school. They showed us the new latrines that the community had built with a side for girls and a side for boys. Now they need a new school to replace the one washed away by seasonal rains. In the makeshift school children sit on red bricks because there are no desks. Worse, there are no textbooks.

Click for more photos on the OPEQ program.

The problem is sometimes where to start. Should donors like USAID help with infrastructure? Research tells us that if we build more schools closer to where children live, they will feel safer coming to school, especially girls who are at risk of sexual violence. Do we train teachers,especially women, so that parents will feel more comfortable sending their girls to school? Or do we help find a way to alleviate school fees assessed to supplement the meager salaries paid to teachers. Can we do both?

In much the same way we value local control of our schools, local people, especially parents, are learning to have a say in the solutions to these problems. The International Rescue Committee through USAID’s Opportunities for Equitable Access to Basic Education (OPEQ) program is working with parent groups in targeted schools in Katanga province to teach civic involvement. These parents are creating and implementing a school improvement plan. The skills they are learning will carry over into many other aspects of community life.

OPEQ is also training the teachers. Armed with a piece of chalk, a chalk board, and newly acquired skills, these teachers are starting to teach reading by teaching the children of Katanga province in their mother tongue, then transitioning to French, the national language. This is a hard-sell for parents who need convincing that research shows starting with the language children speak is the best way to give them the tools to read in other languages.

A new latrine, teachers eager to show off their skills: small steps by western standards, but as anyone on Main Street knows, the key ingredient is always the parents. It’s a good place to start.

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