Devex reported with the launch of the USAID Forward reform effort, the U.S. Agency for International Development has taken steps to ensure local governments, civil society and people are not just recipients and implementers of U.S.-funded development programs but the drivers behind them. This, after all, is the only way to ensure long-term, sustainable change. But while the agency has made progress in integrating local ownership into its work, there is still room for improvement.

The AP reports that in the mountains of northeast Afghanistan, a village was recently quarantined after cholera made its presence known approximately three days ago. The disease “has infected 1,492 people, killed a young woman and left another 100 in critical condition” in Chappa. The town’s drinking water is said to be the “source of the infection.” The article also notes that just “12 percent” of Afghans in rural communities have “access to clean drinking water, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.”

The results of the American doctors' visit were given to Alan Gross's wife, Judy, seen here, and the rest of his family. Photo credit: CNN

The results of the American doctors’ visit were given to Alan Gross’s wife, Judy, seen here, and the rest of his family. Photo credit: CNN

CNN reports that an American medical team visited a former USAID subcontractor imprisoned on the island of Cuba in “early July.” According to Alan Gross’ attorney, the 64-year-old’s “family has received the results and, at least at this time, does not have any plans to release them to the public.” Meanwhile, Cuba maintains that Gross is receiving adequate care in the “military hospital” where he is serving a 15-year sentence for “bringing banned communications equipment to Cuba as part of a State Department” democratization “program to increase access to the internet.”

A piece published on the Forbes website says that despite “vast differences” between Nepal and the U.S., both nations “have a lot to learn from one another about the underserved, health and decreasing disparities in access and outcomes.” Indeed, Nepal is heavily reliant upon “foreign assistance” and continues receiving “poor health rankings,” but the “U.S. could learn a lot about a return to local or ‘community care.” With that said, the ‘Nepalese are looking to their allies from the States to help facilitate safe and fair democratic elections by the end of 2013.” In the meantime, “both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are working diligently in the capital of Kathmandu to create sustainable health care programs that foster education, improve health outcomes and promote financial independence,” the blog points out.

Radio Australia reported a research team from the University of Melbourne has been awarded a USAID grant for their work on pneumonia in Papua New Guinea. Their project will assist newly born babies with oxygen to help prevent deaths from pneumonia – the leading cause of mortality for children under five years. Dr. Bryn Sobott, a Post Doctoral Fellow in Xray and Synchrotron science, from the University of Melbourne says their electricity-free oxygen concentrator is the first of it’s kind.

In continuing coverage, Devex “caught up with agency officials and industry experts on the sidelines of the 2013 USAID Education Summit.” In his “keynote address to close the meeting, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah reminded participants what they have been tasked to overcome: dismally low records of educational performance in crisis-afflicted countries, 57 million children out of school worldwide, and the fact that a child in Africa still has a 40 percent chance of being illiterate after five years of school.” Such “conditions have led the agency, explained Shah, to focus on areas where its resources can have the most impact – in particular, leveraging technology for development.”