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Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

FWD the Facts about Famine, War, and Drought in the Horn of Africa

As many of you know, the worst drought in 60 years has devastated communities throughout the Horn of Africa, leaving more than 13 million people in a state of crisis—greater than the population of Los Angeles and New York combined.

In Somalia—where twenty years of war and violence has limited humanitarian access and destroyed the country’s ability to respond—the drought has led to an outbreak of famine. According to UNICEF, as a result of this crisis, a child is dying in Somalia every six minutes.

The millions suffering from the effects of this crisis are facing incomprehensible suffering. Left with nothing, many are walking more than 100 miles toward refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Because the crisis in the Horn is so complex and because the scale is so difficult to comprehend, we have not seen people come together to respond in the same way they did after the earthquake in Haiti. Many who do hear about the crisis are left with the impression that we can’t successfully do anything about it.

But I know for a fact that we can fight this famine.  We were fighting it before it started. Through safety net programs, we have helped 7.5 million Ethiopians withstand the worst effects of this drought without the need for humanitarian assistance.

And as a result of Feed the Future investments, we have seen more than a 300 percent increase in grain yields in Western Kenya in just one year, securing the nation’s agricultural backbone and helping lower the price of critical staples throughout the region.

But despite being the single largest donor of assistance in the region, we recognize we cannot fight the famine alone.

That’s why today, I’m announcing the launch of the FWD Campaign—in partnership with the Ad Council—to highlight the uniquely devastating nature of this crisis and to ask people to help spread awareness.

FWD—stands for Famine, War, Drought: the three major crises that have led to this perfect storm of devastation in the Horn of Africa. But it also stands for our call to action—that people get informed, get engaged and forward this information on to their friends and families.

The FWD campaign is our attempt to make our world smaller—to connect people with the clear knowledge and understanding of exactly what is happening in the Horn—and giving them a powerful way to respond.

The campaign has three components. One is an effort that’s centered on using a strong online presence and social media to raise awareness.  If you go to FWD, you’ll see a number of new ways we’re using to inform and engage with people. We’re providing infographics, interactive maps and tool kits that people can use to learn about the crisis in simple, clear ways—and more importantly share that information others.  And we’re partnering with Google, Facebook and Twitter to make sharing this information as easy as searching, updating your status or sending out a tweet.

There’s also a series of Public Service Announcements we’re filming with some key celebrities that will air in major media markets throughout the country. These PSA’s will go up on our Web site, as well as You Tube.

Finally, we’re also launching a text campaign with NGOs that are delivering critical assistance in the Horn.  If you text “GIVE” to 777444, you can donate $10 to famine relief.   To help get the campaign started, General Mills has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations that come through the FWD campaign, up to $20,000.

But beyond donations, the most powerful contribution people will make will be to share what they learn. I ask that you encourage your friends and families to do more than donate. Have them visit FWD and follow @USAID on Twitter so they can forward the facts.

Photo Gallery of USAID Administrator’s Trip to Haiti

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah traveled to Haiti on Sept. 15, 2011, to discuss USAID’s long-term strategy for helping the nation recover from its devastating January 2010 earthquake.  Check out the photo gallery.

This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (8/8/2011 – 8/12/2011)

August 9: The Associated Press reported that on Monday, Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah visited Somalis at a refugee camp in Kenya. During the visit, Administrator Shah stated the world has a unique opportunity to save tens of thousands of children’s lives by expanding humanitarian activities inside Somalia. The AP also highlighted the White House announcement of $105 million in humanitarian aid that will provide food, shelter, water, and sanitation and health services to those in need.

August 10: A feature story published in The Sheboygan Press highlighted the work of a local USAID Foreign Service Officer. Michael Eddy, a Sheboygan, Wisconsin native, recently completed working in South Sudan, helping the new country achieve independence. The story also includes a special online photo gallery.

August 10: NPR and Reuters reported that aid groups are warning Congress not to cut the foreign aid budget as the response to the drought in the Horn of Africa continues. “If we do see the kinds of cuts in food assistance that are identified in the emerging legislation in Congress, it will have a significant impact,” said Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of USAID

On the Ground in the Horn of Africa

Eighty kilometers from Kenya’s border with Somalia, the Dadaab Refugee Complex—already the world’s largest refugee camp—has seen on average 1,500 exhausted and starving men, women and children arrive each day.  Fleeing from famine that is now gripping a large portion of southern Somalia largely inaccessible to aid workers, thousands of refugees have walked days—or even weeks—to reach help.  The United Nations estimates that over 12.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, including food, water and medical care, across the drought-stricken eastern Horn of Africa.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Dr. Jill Biden talking to a UNHCR worker in Dadaab. Photo Credit: USAID/East Africa

Yesterday, I arrived in Dadaab with representatives from across the United States Government, including Dr. Jill Biden, Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith, Senator Bill Frist and Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz.  The trip underscored the commitment of the U.S. Government—the single largest donor in the region—to respond to the immediate crisis with life-saving assistance and investments in long-term solutions to hunger. Ultimately, we know that it is smarter and cheaper to invest in food security than face the consequences of famine and food riots.

In Dadaab, we visited the Dagahaley camp’s reception center, where newly arriving refugees receive a medical screening and three weeks’ worth of food to tide them over until they complete a formal registration process. The USAID-funded rations include high energy biscuits, corn meal, vegetable oil, yellow split peas, salt and sugar.  Medical staff weigh the children and measure the circumference of their small arms to determine their nutrition status.  Today, the worst-affected regions in Somalia have the highest malnutrition level in the world, with nearly half the population malnourished.

Because the high rates of acute malnutrition make children extremely susceptible to deadly diseases, we are also aggressively pursuing public health interventions, including therapeutic feeding and immunizations.

New arrival family getting initial 3 week distribution (before formal registration). Photo Credit: USAID/East Africa

The Government of Kenya is working closely with the GAVI Alliance to administer pneumococcal vaccines to protect every child from pneumonia at the point of registration.

I met one Somali woman who traveled by donkey cart with her two children for 12 days looking for food. It is hard to believe that she counted among the lucky, as many families have lost children along the way.

It does not have to be this way.  With Feed the Future, President Obama’s initiative on food security, we are working with the Kenyan government and smallholder farmers to achieve sustainable, long-term and life-saving agriculture development.

Tomorrow, I will share with you some exciting innovations in agriculture that we saw on our visit to the Kenya Institute for Agriculture—innovations that could help ensure we never face another famine again.

Our Response to the Horn of Africa Drought

This morning, the United Nations declared what has become plain to anyone who has witnessed the devastation caused by this epic drought: thousands of people in southern Somalia are currently in a state of famine.

After the announcement, I visited the Wajir and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. I saw child after child weary from their long journey to the camps, eager for their first meal in days if not weeks. Seeing a child in such a fragile state—witnessing just one child face such difficult circumstances—is heartbreaking. Knowing that millions of children face a similar fate in the coming months unleashes a sense of profound sorrow.

Dadaab is now the fourth largest city in Kenya, home to more than 370,000 people who were in such a state of need that they fled their homes, many on foot, many from hundreds of miles away, just to find food, water, and healthcare for themselves and their children.

But the other thing I witnessed in those children was a strong sense of resilience. They weren’t beaten down by their circumstances or overcome with despair. They were courageous, strong, unwilling to succumb to the tragedy that surrounded them.

Throughout the region, more than 11.5 million people are in need of emergency assistance, and there is no quick fix to that need. The United States, in cooperation with all of its international partners, is doing everything it can to help relieve that suffering with food, water, healthcare, and other critical services. Our priority is to save lives, and our experts are working day and night to find every channel possible to provide that desperately needed assistance.

For years, we’ve been working with the Ethiopian government on a safety net program that has step by step improved food security for many living in areas vulnerable to drought.

Even in this record drought, due to that long-term effort, 8.3 million people that have benefited from this program today do not need emergency assistance.
Since October 2010, the U.S. Government has provided $459 million in life-saving aid to over 4.4 million people in the eastern Horn.

But that is no comfort today to those who have no food or water for their children, or for themselves. We must implement long-term strategies that can help prevent this kind of suffering once and for all.
The President’s Feed the Future initiative is designed to partner with countries like Ethiopia and Kenya to develop their own agricultural industries, helping them break free of the need for humanitarian food aid. Only through a long-term sustained investment in their own food security can these countries escape the vicious cycle of famine of food aid we’ve once again witnessed.

Dr. Rajiv Shah is the Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Learn more about USAID’s response to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

Talking with America’s Youth

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with American youth from the White House about the importance of getting involved in international development. Kalpen Modi, the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, invited me to answer questions from a room full of young innovators and the Twitter and Facebook online communities.

I found this experience especially meaningful because I believe that young people today have a deeper and more thoughtful understanding of global development and its ties to our nation’s prosperity, security and values than at any time in our history. Through the power of social media and political advocacy, as well their ground efforts, they have gained a profound appreciation of the difficulties developing countries face and the interests our nation has in alleviating them.

A few weeks ago in Southern Sudan, I met a group of kids who are learning English and math in a USAID-supported primary education program.  The students ranged in ages from four to fourteen years old. Many of the older students have lived through a period of violence and suffering and have not yet had the opportunity for even a basic education. When you see American taxpayer money being effectively used to provide education in a way that improves the lives of these children and contributes to the peaceful founding of a new nation—the 196th country in the world—you get a genuine sense for the significance of this work.

More than ever before, young people recognize the importance of sustainable, long-term development and are getting directly involved in issues like education, hunger, climate change, and global health. They understand that a world in which hunger is beaten, diseases are eradicated, the planet is protected, markets are free and people are equal is a world that makes us safer, enhances our prosperity and reflects our values as Americans.

Today, the opportunities exist for young people to steer their talents towards serving those in greatest need, no matter what professions or degrees they choose. Whether you’re a teacher, investment banker, or engineer, you have valuable skills that can help drive meaningful change around the world. Visit our website to learn more, stay connected and tell us about the global development issues that concern you.

Stay tuned for more blog posts with additional answers to your specific development questions.

30 Years of HIV/AIDS: A USAID Historical Perspective

On June 5, 1981, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reported that five seemingly healthy young gay men were diagnosed with an infection that would typically affect only individuals with substantial damage to their immune system. As similar cases cropped up, national and international attention soared, and the scientific and public health community mobilized to ascertain the scope and root of this anomaly. Eventually, the causal factor was given the name AIDS.

This month marks 30 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States. After scientists identified and isolated HIV, and confirmed it caused AIDS, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began its HIV/AIDS development program. Starting in 1986, USAID’s work in this field has been ambitious and cutting edge, showcasing the best of American scientific ingenuity and demonstrating core American values.

In the 1980s and 1990s, we launched prevention, care and treatment programs through our missions around the world using approaches that fit within the social context of each country and targeted the most vulnerable populations. The proliferation of the disease across sub-Saharan Africa prompted us to intensify our focus on this region. In 2000, USAID convened the first agency-sponsored international meeting on male circumcision and HIV prevention. We also began some of the first prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

We quickly realized fighting this disease would require more than just new medication and care. In 2001, we forged a partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to invest in research and development for an effective vaccine. To date, IAVI has made a number of groundbreaking discoveries, including several potent new antibodies to HIV, adding more vitality to this game-changing effort. In the same year, USAID commenced three pilot trials of antiretroviral treatment in Kenya, Rwanda, and Ghana.

In 2003, President Bush announced an unprecedented initiative to ramp up the U.S. Government’s commitment to HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Today, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continues to be the largest bilateral AIDS program in the world, touching millions of lives through prevention, care, and treatment. Through our global network of missions and partners, USAID currently implements more than half of all PEPFAR programs.

Through PEPFAR, USAID has contributed to saving lives through a variety of voluntary prevention interventions, counseling, testing and care programs. Today, more than 3.2 million people receive lifesaving treatment through the support of the American people.

Building on the strength of PEPFAR  and other successful US global health initiatives, USAID is working at an interagency level to ensure President Obama’s Global Health Initiative replicates and amplifies the success of our HIV/AIDS programs through a continued focus on health system strengthening and investments in innovation. Our award-winning Supply Chain Management System project has provided more than $750 million in HIV/AIDS commodities and saved $700 million by pooling procurements of generic AIDS drugs. We also funded the CAPRISA 004 Trial, which was completed last summer and provided the first-ever proof of concept that a microbicide can reduce risk of transmission from men to women.

Our work is far from done. We have a shared responsibility as a global partner to save lives by focusing on smart investments. The generosity of the American people has made sustained progress against this deadly disease possible. Closing the chapter on HIV/AIDS will require a steadfast focus on remaining gaps and challenges as we chart the way forward.

Renewed Commitment to Global Vaccines and Immunizations Will Save Lives

Originally posted on the White House Blog

During a time when we all – including the federal government – need to live within our means and find places to cut spending, any investments made by your government need to meet the test of whether it is an effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Immunizing children from preventable diseases meets that test. As USAID Administrator Raj Shah announced in London on Monday, by making a multi-year commitment to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), the US is able to get the most from our investment – leveraging a pledge of $450 million over three years more than eight-fold into billions of dollars in commitments from other donors, including the UK, the Gates Foundation, Norway and others.

Together, these commitments will help save the lives of 4 million children over the next five years, by getting more vaccines to more children and by helping to ensure the quantities of vaccines needed to lower the prices for new vaccines such as those that protect against pneumonia and diarrhea, the world’s two most potent childhood killers. All in all, we will be able to immunize more than 250 million children and prevent more than four million premature deaths.

Investments in vaccines are one of the best and most cost-effective life-saving investments for the world’s children, which is why we’ve made tough choices and trade-offs within our current global health portfolio to make this commitment.  As Administrator Shah said: “In this fiscal climate, a multi-year pledge is an extremely difficult commitment to make. But we have made tough reallocations across our portfolio in order to make that commitment because only a multi-year pledge will ensure the highest possible return for every taxpayer dollar.

Not only will our commitment inspire the generosity of other donors, it will help drive economies of scale that lower the cost of vaccines, allowing us to save even more lives. Just last week, GAVI reached an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline to cut the cost of the rotavirus vaccine by 67%. That kind of reduction is only possible with the guaranteed demand a multi-year pledge provides.”

In the lead up to GAVI’s conference, the White House received thousands of phone calls, emails, and signed petitions calling for continued U.S. support for GAVI.  The ONE Campaign issued a statement of support following our announcement, including praise from Bono who noted the President was “in it to win it.”

The U.S. has played a lead role in GAVI since its inception, and is a world leader in support of every aspect of the vaccines value chain, including research, development, vaccine affordability, delivery systems, and policy coordination.

Gayle Smith is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy for the National Security Staff

Making the Grade: U.S. Government Progress in Global Agricultural Development

Originally posted on DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State.
Ambassador Ertharin Cousin serves as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

I am inspired by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ gathering of America’s most committed leaders from several professions to focus on global agriculture and food security. This Administration’s progress stems from bi-partisan support for results-driven, country-led, multi-stakeholder collaboration. When leaders such as Congresswoman Kay Granger, Bill Gates, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman put their minds together, there’s no limit to the ingenuity applied to the substantial challenges we face in global agriculture and food security today.

There is no doubt that food security is vital to national security. In 2009, President Obama announced food security as a priority for the United States, and we are on track to meet our commitment of $3.5 billion over three years through the flagship U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. To do so, we take a multi-sectoral approach and build on areas where Americans have a comparative advantage. For example, we have tripled investment in agricultural research since 2008. At the Chicago Council event, Administrator Shah cited a two-thirds increase in funding for Title XII academic institutions to leverage expertise in capacity building, agricultural research and extension services, along with an intent to work through multidonor platforms seeking to strengthen lasting agricultural institutions. We invest in high impact solutions such as proven nutrition interventions that focus on women and children from pregnancy until the child’s second year — a critical 1,000 day window for cognitive and physical development.

We leverage our investments through multilateralism. Through my travel to Bangkok, I witnessed firsthand the impact of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization regional meetings on food price volatility to shift focus to knowledge-based solutions that discourage protectionist responses, such as hoarding and imposing export restrictions. We are working through the International Fund for Agricultural Development to boost investment for small holder farmer (including women) in developing countries. We are changing the way we address humanitarian assistance as well. By striving to best address of the needs of the most vulnerable and those in crisis, we have become the world’s fastest responder to food emergency through partnership with the World Food Program and civil society organizations. The World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress project demonstrates how markets can be created and augmented by sharing upfront knowledge and training and then stepping aside for private sector engagement. We continue to hear of new success stories around the world — from Ethiopia to Bangladesh.

While we strive for improved policy, strengthened institutions, and stronger partnerships, this Administration has succeeded in changing the playing field in agricultural development and food security. From farmers to policymakers, there is greater global coordination and collaboration to support country-led agricultural development plans. U.S. agricultural development investment now flows through a rigorous planning and evaluation process that will provide greater transparency and accountability to American taxpayers. We are also pioneering a women’s agricultural empowerment index to better track the impact of our work on women and girls. Never before have members from civil society, the private sector and government officials worked so intently to address global food security and deservedly so — the stakes are high and will continue to rise.

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