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How and Why USAID is Ensuring Our Development Efforts are Climate Resilient

Agriculture projects such as this rice cultivation project in Vietnam can benefit from analysis early in planning to determine how climate change could affect outcomes. / Phuong Nguyen

Agriculture projects such as this rice cultivation project in Vietnam can benefit from analysis early in planning to determine how climate change could affect outcomes. / Phuong Nguyen

In a semi-arid region of East Africa, an unforeseen lack of rain is leading to a dismal farming season, undermining development progress. In Central America, agroforestry projects are slowed by a severe drought that is making it difficult to plant and grow new crops. In South Asia, culverts constructed under rural roads are unable to handle unusually heavy rainfall, resulting in widespread damage to property and livelihoods.

With hundreds of projects and thousands of staff across the globe, USAID witnesses the effects of climate change every day. Climate change undermines development gains and future development progress. It’s not just an environmental problem, but a human problem with direct implications for hunger, poverty, conflict, water scarcity, infrastructure integrity, sanitation, disease and survival.

Though USAID has been helping our country partners become more resilient to climate change for the better part of a decade, the need for full integration of climate risk management in our development efforts has never been clearer.

I recently returned to Washington, D.C. to join USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment as Deputy Assistant Administrator. For the past four years, I was Deputy Mission Director of USAID’s Bangkok-based Regional Development Mission for Asia. In that role, I saw firsthand how the effects of climate change were going to necessitate a change in the way we do development.

A washed out road in Mozambique shows how infrastructure can benefit from awareness of future climate impacts, increasing local resilience to climate change. / Carlos Quintela

A washed out road in Mozambique shows how infrastructure can benefit from awareness of future climate impacts, increasing local resilience to climate change. / Carlos Quintela

In the Lower Mekong Delta in particular, changing precipitation patterns and rising temperatures are expected to shift the habitable zone for important crops like maize, coffee and rubber trees. And as this heavily populated region sits in the middle of two cyclone systems, the combined effects of increased precipitation, sea level rise and increased intensity of storms promise devastating consequences for coastal infrastructure, livelihoods and sensitive coastal ecosystems.

What can USAID do in the face of a changing climate? We can, and we must, incorporate climate risk management into all of our development efforts. USAID has already been doing great work to help developing countries adapt to climate change, better manage their natural resources, and develop their economies while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. USAID has also taken steps in recent years to integrate climate change considerations into much of our programming.

But prompted by the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and an executive order from President Obama, USAID is now embarking on a plan to make all of our development assistance more climate resilient – whether it’s a health program in Zambia, an agriculture project in Ethiopia, or an infrastructure investment in the Philippines.

This October, we started with integrating climate risk into all new regional and country-level strategies. And starting next October, USAID will include climate risk management at all levels, including all new projects and activities. The only exception will be emergency funding, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

We recognize that USAID is not the first development agency or multilateral development bank to begin screening its investments for climate risk, and we have learned a great deal from the World Bank, our German counterpart GIZ and others as we design our own methods of climate risk management. As the largest bilateral donor and development agency in the world, USAID has an opportunity, and a responsibility, to make sure hard-won development gains are not undermined by a changing climate.

It is clear that the populations hit hardest by climate change have been and will continue to be the poorest communities in the least developed countries. It is also clear that in order to reach our Agency’s goal – ending extreme poverty – we will need to make climate risk management a requirement in all of our development assistance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Thompson is Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment, heading up USAID’s environment work. Follow @USAIDenviro

Strong Border Management is Vital to the Fight against Ebola

Members of USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team recently met near the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone to review the progress of border management programs. / USAID/OFDA

Members of USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team recently met near the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone to review the progress of border management programs. / USAID/OFDA

Diseases don’t stop at international borders, which is why the ongoing fight against Ebola in West Africa has taken a special focus on border management.

We’ve worked vigilantly to control the spread of the disease — marking victories along the way with success stories of survivors and periods during which countries were completely Ebola-free — but we can’t let our guard down. Merchants, farmers and migrant workers continue to use formal and informal border crossings to travel between countries, leaving a real risk that Ebola can still spread across countries.

Members of USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team recently met near the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone, where thousands of travelers cross every day. We witnessed a scene that’s standard at any international border: People streamed back and forth between Forécariah, Guinea, and Kambia, Sierra Leone to sell goods, transport cargo and visit friends and family.

But one thing was different: Before making the crossing, each person lined up to have their temperature checked and to wash their hands — standard protocols now in place in the West African countries impacted by the Ebola outbreak.

Practices like handwashing and temperature checks at international borders are critical for the continued fight against Ebola. Border management has been a key part of USAID's response to the outbreak. / International Organization for Migration

Practices like handwashing and temperature checks at international borders are critical for the continued fight against Ebola. Border management has been a key part of USAID’s response to the outbreak. / International Organization for Migration

This is such a critical component to the response. Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people in the region since 2014, and the fight against the disease isn’t over. Just last week, three new cases were reported in Liberia, highlighting the importance of maintaining vigilance.

Our partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has worked with the governments of the affected countries to strengthen health screenings at this and other land border crossings, as well as the airport and seaports in Sierra Leone’s capital. IOM is helping teach travelers about the importance of handwashing, and is also collecting data about migrants crossing the border. This data can be a valuable tool for disease surveillance, contact tracing and deployment of personnel.

These steps are making a big impact. At some border crossings, health screenings have been transformed from something most travelers skipped to a comprehensive process that screens every traveler. At Guinea’s international border crossing at Gbalamuya, for example, 25 IOM staff members are now working around the clock to make this happen.

USAID and the International Organization for Migration are working with the governments of countries affected by Ebola to increase surveillance and data collection at land border crossings, airports and seaports. / International Organization for Migration

USAID and the International Organization for Migration are working with the governments of countries affected by Ebola to increase surveillance and data collection at land border crossings, airports and seaports. / International Organization for Migration

In Liberia, USAID is working with NGO partners to build screening and triage stations at the border with Sierra Leone. The stations are equipped with handwashing stations, a temperature screening booth, and holding rooms for suspected cases; there’s also a disinfection team and on-call ambulance to transport suspected cases.

Vigilance isn’t just a responsibility for governments. We are also supporting community awareness and engagement activities so that border communities — including those areas where there is no official border post but people cross informally — are better able to identify Ebola symptoms and refer suspected cases to the proper health authorities.

These border management steps, along with USAID’s continued work across West Africa, will help national governments and local communities in this region better respond to any new outbreaks and ultimately work toward a common goal: saving lives now and in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Al Dwyer is the USAID Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team leader.

16 Days: Making Schools Safe Everywhere For Students Anywhere

In 2013, this 11-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo was raped by a family friend. In the aftermath she faced social stigma, isolation and teasing in school. USAID-supported interventions like counseling and medical care helped her regain her voice and her dignity. / Morgana Wingard, USAID.

In 2013, this 11-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo was raped by a family friend. In the aftermath she faced social stigma, isolation and teasing in school. USAID-supported interventions like counseling and medical care helped her regain her voice and her dignity. / Morgana Wingard, USAID.

“He told me I couldn’t tell anyone.”

Angelina was only 14 years old when she was sexually abused by her teacher. Born into a poor family in rural Mozambique, she sold eggs on the side of the road to help cover the cost of her education and dreamed of becoming a nurse.

Teachers wield incredible power to positively influence young lives. However, they are also able to abuse that power. In this case, Angelina’s teacher promised financial support in exchange for her silence.

Scared and struggling to afford school fees, Angelina continued to suffer abuse for an entire year. It wasn’t until she participated in a school health program run by USAID partner ANDA that Angelina realized what was happening to her was wrong.

Worldwide, 246 million children experience gender-based violence at or on their way to school every year. A report released by the United Nations Human Rights Council noted that attacks on schools occurred in at least 70 countries between 2009 and 2014, and that about 3,600 attacks against schools, teachers and students were recorded in 2012 alone.

A student at the Saffa Girls School in the West Bank raises her hand in class. The school is one of 57 in the area that USAID provided teacher training to. The school now also has 28 rehabilitated classrooms, a computer and science lab, a library, resource center, and a protected playground. / Bobby Neptune for USAID.

A student at the Saffa Girls School in the West Bank raises her hand in class. The school is one of 57 in the area that USAID provided teacher training to. The school now also has 28 rehabilitated classrooms, a computer and science lab, a library, resource center, and a protected playground. / Bobby Neptune for USAID.

And those are the numbers we know. The truth is that gender-based violence in schools is happening in every country around the world right now. It is a global phenomenon depriving children, especially girls, of their right to a safe, quality education.

From kidnappings to shootings, from acid attacks to poisoning, and from discrimination to intimidation, girls are being threatened, harassed, attacked and killed while trying to learn.

With the help of her school health program, Angelina was finally able to recognize her abuse, prosecute her abuser, and pursue an education free from fear and harassment.

In Mozambique and around the world, going from the classroom to the courtroom can be incredibly challenging. It requires survivors, communities, teachers, law enforcement and governments to work together for justice. But Angelina’s counselor hopes other girls will have the courage to say no and speak out.

We at USAID believe that schools free from abuse and violence are possible. It is exhausting and difficult work. Changing mindsets, fighting stigma, and speaking up for those who’ve been silenced can sometimes feel futile.

But behind every statistic and every story is a hero like Angelina and the brave men and women who worked tirelessly to support her. We must continue to fight alongside them until schools everywhere are safe so students anywhere can reach their potential.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign begins today. The 2015 global theme is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All. This year, USAID will spotlight 16 teachers, students, leaders and activists worldwide who have triumphed over gender-based violence and/or are helping students learn and thrive.

Whether it’s creating safe spaces for students to grow and play, strengthening laws to protect the most vulnerable, or training teachers to give support when it’s needed, these individuals are working to ensure that girls and boys, and women and men, can realize their universal human right to education. Starting today and throughout the campaign, follow their stories on Instagram and Medium.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Markham is USAID’s Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. Follow her @msmarkham.

Charting a Course Toward Pacific Climate Resiliency

This post has been republished from DipNote.


Resistant to punctures and ultraviolet rays, these sturdy, multiple-ply sand bags discreetly work double time as they protect the coastline while preserving the shore’s natural look. / C-CAP

Resistant to punctures and ultraviolet rays, these sturdy, multiple-ply sand bags discreetly work double time as they protect the coastline while preserving the shore’s natural look. / C-CAP

Climate change is already impacting the people of the Pacific. In Papua New Guinea, families are struggling to access water and put food on the table because of a severe drought. In Samoa, the owner of a modest beachfront resort has watched for years as her property erodes, with storm surges and flooding battering the shore, pulling her property toward the sea.

These are just a few of the courageous people I have met in the few months since I became USAID’s Regional Coordinator for the Pacific.

Last year at the United Nations Climate Conference in Peru, Secretary Kerry said, “Climate change is an issue that should be personal for absolutely everybody– man, woman, child, businessperson, student, grandparent…Wherever we live, whatever our calling, whatever our personal background might be, this issue affects every human on the planet.”

People living in the Pacific Islands rely on their surrounding environment for food, water, energy, and shelter. Although collectively these nations contribute less than half a percent of global greenhouse emissions, they are on the frontlines of the struggle against a changing climate.

Support for climate change adaptation is a key priority for U.S. Government assistance overseas.

In 2013, USAID launched the Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C‑CAP) which has helped more than 70 communities in nine Pacific Island countries adapt to climate change and contribute in practical ways to the region’s resilience. As Regional Coordinator, I have witnessed inspiring hope and optimism when communities pull together to save their homes and preserve their livelihoods.

C-CAP develops small-scale infrastructure projects — like building rainwater harvesting systems, which allow the families of Papua New Guinea I mentioned to access clean drinking water, and using geo-textile bags to protect the coastline, which help coastal dwellers like the resort owner in Samoa preserve their property and livelihoods.

Communities in Samoa help plant vegetation to form a natural barrier from the sea. / C-CAP

Communities in Samoa help plant vegetation to form a natural barrier from the sea. / C-CAP

Under C-CAP, local leaders, village elders, women’s groups, and other community members prioritize where our assistance goes based on an innovative process of mapping their community’s assets and deciding collectively what infrastructure projects they need most. Tamuera Loane, an Evena village elder from a Kiribati C-CAP site, spoke to the importance of the community setting its own priorities when he said, “Now that we have clean water, it is our duty to work together as a village to make sure the infrastructure is well cared for.”

This model works. But we also know that we can do more. That is why U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu Judith Cefkin just announced the creation of the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change (ISACC) initiative at the 9th Conference of the Pacific Community in Niue on November 5. A new five year partnership between USAID, the Pacific Community, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme, the initiative will strengthen the national capacity of up to 12 Pacific Island countries to effectively plan, coordinate and respond to the adverse impacts of climate change.

This new approach is a big step toward creating lasting, widespread change across the Pacific. It builds on existing multi-sector, whole-of-island national adaptation models that have been successful in places like Kiribati and the Solomon Islands by pooling the resources and expertise of partners, including U.S. Embassies and the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies.

This initiative is creating buzz in the region because it recognizes that cooperation among regional partners can accelerate progress in our common fight against climate change.

By working together, we can build a climate-secure future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Edwards is USAID’s regional coordinator for the Pacific.

Openly LGBTI and in Office: A Historic Election for Guatemala

USAID elections projects promote transgender rights with lessons learned from the region. / NDI

USAID elections projects promote transgender rights with lessons learned from the region. / NDI

In Guatemala’s recent elections, Sandra Morán became the first openly LGBTI member of the Guatemalan Congress. She hopes to use her position to advance human rights throughout the country.

“My promise is to all people,” she said. “Although most identify me as a feminist, I believe in rights for all. I am a lesbian and I live as that. I hope that the global fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights advances to a point where it transcends to the smallest towns and communities worldwide.”

Morán’s election is no light feat for Guatemala; a nationwide survey conducted by George Washington University in 2012 found that 74 percent of Guatemalans would not vote for an openly LGBTI candidate, making Morán’s win against the odds.

But the Sept. 6 elections embodied a spirit of change, reflecting a growing sentiment against problems within Guatemalan government and society. “The elections occurred in the context of a fight against corruption and traditional politics; my election to Congress is a representation of that,” Morán said.

LGBTI Inclusion in Guatemala’s 2015 Elections

Congresswoman Morán, who has participated in USAID’s Elections Project: More Inclusion, Less Violence roundtables, feels a sense of hope for the future of LGBTI community. “It is about creating visibility. I hope to be able to enact legislation that supports equal rights and creates public policy change for the LGBTI community. It is my hope that as the movement strengthens, the communities lagging behind can progress.”

A transgender woman votes in Guatemala’s 2015 elections. / Shannon Schissler, USAID

A transgender woman votes in Guatemala’s 2015 elections. / Shannon Schissler, USAID


Morán’s election to Congress, in addition to projects that foster dialogue, visibility and respect for the LGBTI community, are laying a foundation for inclusion and tolerance, promoting a more democratic future for Guatemala.

USAID’s project helped launch a “Get Out the Vote” campaign to ensure that the LGBTI community had the opportunity to vote.

In partnership with Guatemala’s Election Tribunal, the project organized an LGBTI voter registration day. More than 200 community members registered to vote, helping make this election one with the highest voter turnout in recent Guatemalan history.

The project also enlisted eight transgender women to participate as election observers – another first for Guatemala.

“It is impossible to become comfortable with what we don’t see, know or live personally,” said Eduardo Nunez, the Guatemala country director of the National Democratic Institute, as he underscored the importance of encouraging dialogue, civic engagement and participation for the LGBTI community.

Debby Linares Sandoval — a transgender woman, LGBTI activist and advisor on USAID’s project — said she was proud of the experience she shared with other LGBTI voters.

“In the hour I was there, I interacted with eight gay voters and three transgender voters,” she said. “None of the transgender voters got harassed about their identity. I think that’s a big step for electoral awareness and opening to the community – for me, that is the start of something positive.”

USAID has helped Guatemala’s Election Tribunal update election manuals and provide trainings to electoral officials on how to be sensitive to people whose appearances are not congruent with the birth name on their personal identification card.

In the past, if a woman came to vote with an ID card with a male name, her ability to vote would be jeopardized. Recent efforts, through institutional changes and promoting internal dialogues, seek to extend tolerance and respect to all people.

My fight as an activist is about giving people voices that do not have one,” said Debby. “It’s to provoke civil society and the government to give us the same opportunities as any other citizen, with respect.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alana Marsili is a strategic communications advisor in USAID’s Democracy, Rights, and Governance Office working on citizen security, youth political leadership and urban municipal governance. Follow her @AlanaMarsili.

What Does Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Have to Do With Nutrition? Everything.

Children watch as a woman and child practice hand washing in Mali. / WASHplus

Children watch as a woman and child practice hand washing in Mali. / WASHplus

In Yarou Plateau, a village in Mali, people used to use any open space for bathroom needs. You can imagine the consequences.

Flies could easily find fecal matter lying around, and from there land on food, spreading diseases like diarrhea and intestinal worms. Fecal matter in open areas also contaminated the groundwater, which villagers use for drinking and preparing food. In Yarou Plateau, frequent diarrhea was much too common among mothers and children.

This created a vicious cycle. Diarrhea can worsen malnutrition, and the undernourished already have weakened immune systems — making them more susceptible to intestinal infections and more severe episodes of diarrhea.

The situation in Yarou Plateau changed two years ago when the village’s chief, Hamidou Samakan, visited the neighboring village of Gouna. Gouna had transformed since Hamidou had last visited; it looked clean, with no noticeable feces and fewer flies. But it wasn’t just the pristine environment that impressed him. Hamidou noticed the villagers there appeared much healthier.

How did this happen? The people of Gouna had started sweeping their public spaces and building affordable latrines, and as a result fewer villagers were getting diarrhea and fewer children were malnourished. It was then that Hamidou decided to bring better sanitation to Yarou Plateau, too.

Men show onlookers an open toilet in Mali. / WASHplus

Men show onlookers an open toilet in Mali. / WASHplus

Holding up the village of Gouna as an example, Hamidou motivated the people of Yarou Plateau to improve the sanitation in their village. Now, after almost a year, the village has built over 60 latrines, and rehabilitated ones that had never been used.

Yarou Plateau is one of 180 villages supported by USAID’s WASHplus project in Mali, and more than 70 percent of them have been certified as free of open defecation. With access to a covered latrine and soap and water for handwashing in every household, villagers are noticing a drop in cases of diarrhea and fewer malnourished children.

To achieve this, WASHplus took a multi-sectoral approach. The project set out to work with communities in Mali not only to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) but also to reduce diarrheal diseases and malnutrition. Beyond building latrines, WASHplus works to change behaviors. In villages like Yarou Plateau, people are now using latrines, washing their hands, treating their drinking water, and preparing and storing food safely.

What is WASH? WASH is everything from handwashing with soap, to safely disposing of adult and child feces, to preparing and storing food safely.

Today, on World Toilet Day, WHO, UNICEF and USAID are releasing a jointly-produced document with guidelines on integrating WASH into nutrition programs in order to achieve positive gains in the fight against undernutrition.

The document, called Improving Nutrition Outcomes With Better Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Practical Solutions for Policies and Programmes, details WASH practices that help improve nutrition and how they can be incorporated into programs focused solely on nutrition. This will springboard global efforts to integrate WASH intro nutrition programming, helping implementing partners and USAID achieve greater results.

By using WASH in programs that work across sectors to address malnutrition in all its forms, we can help reach the 2025 Global Nutrition Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals and work to end preventable child and maternal deaths.

Undernutrition is an underlying factor in almost half of all child deaths. Malnourishment significantly increases the risk of a child dying from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea. When an unhealthy and unsanitary environment leads to frequent diarrhea or other diseases associated with unclean water, this can lead to loss of appetite, nutrients not being absorbed properly, and anemia.

Villagers like those in Yarou Plateau know first-hand how poor WASH practices can lead to undernutrition. USAID will continue to scale up nutrition and WASH  programs to reduce maternal and child deaths in places like Mali and around the world. This document shares best practices to integrate water, sanitation and hygiene practices into nutrition programs to ultimately create a healthier future and bring a higher quality of life to the developing world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merri Weinger is the Environmental Health Team Leader in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.

Back in the Classroom: Displaced Students in Nigeria Find Education & Hope

Ikilima Shuib Chiroma teaches a class of adolescent girls on Sept. 21 in a non-formal education facility in Yola, capital of the state of Adamawa in Nigeria. Creative is implementing USAID’s Education Crisis Response program here through partner agency International Rescue Committee to assist youth displaced by Boko Haram. / David Snyder for USAID

Ikilima Shuib Chiroma teaches a class of adolescent girls on Sept. 21 in a non-formal education facility in Yola, capital of the state of Adamawa in Nigeria. Creative is implementing USAID’s Education Crisis Response program here through partner agency International Rescue Committee to assist youth displaced by Boko Haram. / David Snyder for USAID

Like most 10-year-old students, Dinah solves her math problems in the old-fashioned way—with her fingers. She counts to six and jots down the number.

For Dinah’s extended family, they are counting something entirely different—the months since the girl lost her mother during a raid by Boko Haram insurgents on her village in northern Nigeria.

After the vicious attack, the young girl eventually made it to a center for internally displaced persons. Dinah’s uncle drove from the city of Bauchi to bring her to his home.

Today, some seven months after the incident, Dinah is adjusting to a new school and a new future.

An insurgency has wreaked havoc on parts of Nigeria, forcing some 2.2 million people from their homes—one of the largest concentrations of internally displaced persons in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of school-aged children have been set adrift inside the country, ripped from their communities and their schools.

With the magnitude of the situation, USAID, state officials and NGOs stepped in with the Education Crisis Response program.

Launched in 2014, the goal of the program is to expand access to quality and protective non-formal education and alternative education opportunities for out-of-school children, ages 6 to 17, in three Nigerian states and reduce the burden on local schools already stretched thin by limited resources. It is implemented by Creative Associates International and the International Rescue Committee, along with local NGOs.

The project has established 294 non-formal learning centers that provide education, in-class meals and psycho-social services to the displaced children, says Ayo Oladini, director of the Education Crisis Response program.

Local facilitators identified and trained by the program use a government-approved curriculum to teach basic literacy, numeracy and life skills. The learning centers are housed in existing structures like schools or meeting houses that are made available by the local community.

The students attend class three days a week for at least two hours each day and are provided basic school materials.

Adolescent girls in a non-formal education class on Sept. 21 at a school in Yola, capital of the state of Adamawa in Nigeria. Creative is implementing USAID’s Education Crisis Response program here through partner agency International Rescue Committee to assist youth displaced by Boko Haram. / David Snyder for USAID

Adolescent girls in a non-formal education class on Sept. 21 at a school in Yola, capital of the state of Adamawa in Nigeria. Creative is implementing USAID’s Education Crisis Response program here through partner agency International Rescue Committee to assist youth displaced by Boko Haram. / David Snyder for USAID

Paving the way for mainstream education

State officials evaluating the non-formal learning centers say they are working.

“The type of education they do receive is a good one,” says Halilu Usman Rishi of Bauchi’s State Education Secretariat. “That is going to [pave the] way for them to mainstream to a formal system of education.”

The opportunity to return to class is life changing, especially for the many who have been displaced and out of school for years.

“For the kids who had forgotten most of what they have learned [and are] now coming back to a classroom — to say it is therapeutic is an understatement,” Oladini said. “It’s a thing of joy.”

Youth displaced by Boko Haram take part in a non-formal learning class in Gombe, Nigeria on Sept. 26 as part of USAID’s Education Crisis Response program. / David Snyder for USAID

Youth displaced by Boko Haram take part in a non-formal learning class in Gombe, Nigeria on Sept. 26 as part of USAID’s Education Crisis Response program. / David Snyder for USAID

Addressing psychosocial needs

And while education is the foundation of the program, children traumatized by conflict and upheaval can only learn when their fears are also addressed.

USAID responded to the psychological needs of the displaced children by incorporating a psychosocial approach to teaching. Facilitators are trained to teach in a student-friendly manner by incorporating group exercises and encouraging positive, interactive student-teacher relations. Working through local partner agencies, the program also encourages the local community to spread messages of peace.

“We make sure that we don’t create any more trauma, either for these children or within the community where they live,” Oladini explained. “We tell them ‘Look, the future is still there for you. You [may] have lost this, you [may] have lost that…but there is still hope for you.’”

Officials in Bauchi are embracing this strategy to help students deal with what has happened to them and their families.

“The program is, in fact, doing as much as possible to ensure that the children are associating with their friends in the learning centers,” says Bauchi’s Rishi. “Some of them used to tell us as we go around to discuss with them, that initially, they found it very difficult to associate with the other children. But as they interact so much with their friends in the learning centers, they forget thinking about such ugly happenings.”

Preparing for sustained success

Scheduled to phase out in 2017, the Education Crisis Response program is supported by Nigeria’s state and federal governments, which, Oladini said, will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.

From the outset, government education officials have been involved in every detail of program planning and worked with the program to identify communities, develop a teacher training manual and sit in on classes.

For every learning center, Education Crisis Response has also trained two local government education officials to serve as mentor teachers whose job is to work with the facilitators and provide feedback to teachers.

“From day one, we made sure [the government understood] that this is your program, it’s not our program,” Oladini said. “So from year one before the end of year two, they’ll be able to plan within their budget to see how they can scale up all these programs.”

And while government’s support of the Education Crisis Response program is essential, it is one part of an overall effort that also depends largely on the communities themselves.

“We’re letting them know that with or without parents, there is what we call ‘your own mindset’ – your own ability to move forward and persevere in a state of difficulty,” Oladini said. “This is what we are teaching them.”


Produced for USAID by Creative Associates International, with reporting by Michael J. Zamba and Ernest Akoma in Nigeria.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael J. Zamba is senior director of communications at Creative Associates International and David Snyder is a photographer and writer. Creative Associates International is implementing USAID’s Education Crisis Response program in northern Nigeria. Follow Creative @1977Creative.

Cote d’Ivoire Election to Mark Turning Point After Years of Healing From Conflict

Women sell their goods at a market in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire, on Sept. 30. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives helped strengthen dialogue and positive interaction between the market women after tensions between their different ethnic communities led them to minimally engage with each other. Read more here. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

Women sell their goods at a market in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire, on Sept. 30. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives helped strengthen dialogue and positive interaction between the market women after tensions between their different ethnic communities led them to minimally engage with each other. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

Today in Côte d’Ivoire, three in four people are under 35 years old, and many can’t find work.

After the last presidential election in 2010, violence erupted across this West African country. An estimated 3,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands were displaced. The youth were largely the instigators and victims of the violence, frustrated that neither presidential candidate would concede defeat.

For the young, the unemployed and discontent, elections matter.

Their vote in the upcoming presidential election Oct. 25 represents a new opportunity to participate peacefully in choosing the next leader. And a peaceful election can help ensure that economic growth and the promise of more jobs is realized.

I moved to Côte d’Ivoire to support post-conflict reconciliation through a program with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives. Over the past three years, I’ve seen how communities have addressed the trauma and reconciliation has begun to take hold.

The dark years

Côte d’Ivoire has a history of military coups, counter coups and political assassinations. For many years, the government provided few public services. In many areas, administrative clerks did not issue birth certificates or national identification cards, courts failed to punish criminals, and police officers could not guarantee safety and security on the streets.

After the 2010 post-election violence, President Gbagbo was captured and transferred to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for war crimes. His challenger, Alassane Ouattara, became the new president.

A stronger community

Ethnic and political division and fighting had torn neighborhoods apart, destroyed people’s sense of togetherness and instilled distrust and hatred. In response, USAID organized hundreds of activities, inviting every political, ethnic and social group in the targeted community to participate in sports tournaments, cultural festivals, community service events and public forums.

There was a strong emphasis on engaging youth, who took part in information campaigns with community leaders and in public discussions  to confront sources of recent community conflict and identify ways to overcome them.

As people began interacting together regularly and in positive ways, they recognized that conflict had affected every person at some level, which connected them to each other. People began confronting their collective suffering and loss. The healing process was set in motion.

A local elections official in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire, explains the tabulation of votes from a previous election. Ahead of next week's presidential election, USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives has implemented activities focused on capacity-building of electoral institutions, improved access to credible information, increased inter-community dialogue, and widespread community mobilization and engagement in the electoral process. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

A local elections official in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire, explains the tabulation of votes from a previous election. Ahead of next week’s presidential election, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives has implemented activities focused on capacity-building of electoral institutions, improved access to credible information, increased inter-community dialogue, and widespread community mobilization and engagement in the electoral process. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

A stronger government

During the crisis, the government had a limited presence across the country and provided few public services. To strengthen government services to marginalized communities, USAID has supported renovations of government buildings and facilitated roundtables to encourage community involvement. USAID’s support helped the new government demonstrate that it was helping Côte d’Ivoire recover from years of stagnation. The new government’s improved public image helped increase trust for Ivorians to move beyond the conflict.

The infrastructure has improved, as well. It used to take 30 minutes to travel 2 miles — due to restrictive security measures, traffic jams and crumbling infrastructure. Today, noticeable investments in roads and bridges and increased commercial activity from new boutiques and restaurants now creates a perception that Côte d’Ivoire is finally healing from the conflict.

A view of Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire. The country, which accounts for 40 percent of West Africa’s economic activity, is a leading producer of cocoa, rubber, coffee, cashew and palm oil and serves as the home of the African Development Bank and many international companies. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

A view of Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire. The country, which accounts for 40 percent of West Africa’s economic activity, is a leading producer of cocoa, rubber, coffee, cashew and palm oil and serves as the home of the African Development Bank and many international companies. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

A stronger economy

As the country moved beyond the conflict, the economy quickly rebounded from economic decline. It now ranks among the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world — with 9 percent annual growth.

As a leading producer of cocoa, rubber, coffee, cashew and palm oil, as well as serving as the home of the African Development Bank and many international companies, Côte d’Ivoire accounts for 40 percent of West Africa’s economic activity.

The potential here is enormous, and there is no better place than Abidjan to observe the economic explosion. Towering modern hotels, luxury shopping centers and shiny banks are mushrooming throughout the pulsating metropolis. New roads and an expansive bridge spanning the lagoon have opened to provide vital links across the city.

Women in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire, ask the mayor about the upcoming elections and other issues during a meeting Sept. 30. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives is supporting social cohesion activities, including the coalition of area women to strengthen dialogue and positive interaction between women from different ethnic communities. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

Women in Duékoué, Côte d’Ivoire, ask the mayor about the upcoming elections and other issues during a meeting Sept. 30. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives is supporting social cohesion activities, including the coalition of area women to strengthen dialogue and positive interaction between women from different ethnic communities. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

Stronger security

Security reforms and increased community resilience have helped Côte d’Ivoire build a protective buffer. Using its community-based approach, USAID partnered with opposing groups, including ex-combatants, at-risk youth, women’s associations, and administrative and traditional leaders to overcome their differences and work together to re-establish social and political ties.

In a region increasingly threatened by terrorism, the country offers a strong contrast. Terrorist organizations like Boko Haram and the Islamic State are not gaining ground in Côte d’Ivoire. Strong community networks in addition to the nationally-focused security measures will help reduce the outside influence of violent extremist organizations.


This month’s vote is a critical turning point. Peaceful elections will show the world that Ivorians, young and old, have moved beyond the conflict and division of the previous decades. They will also serve as a reminder across Africa that international support for peaceful transitions is important for development and prosperity.

As for the youth, they understand that they are powerful change agents among their peers and the wider general public. With USAID support, they are becoming actively engaged in a peaceful electoral process to ensure their prominent place in their country’s future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark David Emmert is the country representative for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire.

Q&A: How Power Africa is Investing in a Brighter Planet

The energy sector is the world’s largest source of carbon pollution – yet two out of three people in sub Saharan Africa lack access to electricity.  Power Africa – a partnership among African governments, the U.S. Government, the private sector, and the donor community – aims to double access to electricity in sub Saharan Africa.  Building cleaner, more climate-resilient power sectors that serve all people will require the inclusion and participation of all stakeholders – including those that have traditionally been sidelined from the energy industry.

In Africa alone, about 60 million homes and businesses are poised to access power for the first time in the coming years. President Obama launched Power Africa in 2013 to meet this need. On World Energy Day and every day, Power Africa is working to bring more affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern forms of energy to users once reliant on kerosene, diesel and disposable batteries.

In working toward the newly established Sustainable Development Goal on energy, Power Africa and USAID are ahead of the curve by pushing forward new models of development for clean energy. Our teams of experts on the ground are working to establish a better “enabling environment” where the legal, regulatory and financial frameworks clear the path for the energy sector to meet the demands of all customers.

In an interview, Power Africa Coordinator Andrew M. Herscowitz shares some insight into how we’re empowering the next generation of energy consumers.

 

Herscowitz_IMG_3295C_PAdams EWhat have been Power Africa’s greatest accomplishments since President Obama established the initiative two years ago?
Power Africa has become a global effort and has helped over 4,100 megawatts (MWs) of transactions reach financial close since 2013.

In a two-year period that’s an important accomplishment. Around the world, and even in the United States, it can take up to a decade for an energy project to be completed. With our African partners leading the way, we’re helping to reduce the legal, financial, and regulatory barriers that for too long have stood in the way of projects moving forward.

In August of 2014 President Obama tripled Power Africa’s goals 10,000 MW and 20 million connections to 30,000 MW and 60 million connections. More importantly though, the collaboration now includes more than 100 private sector partners.

How does Power Africa promote our mission of ending extreme poverty? How does this way of doing business reflect USAID’s new model of development?
Access to electricity is a critical part of ending extreme poverty around the world. The 600 million people in Africa who are “off-grid” spend a significant portion of their household income on kerosene for lighting, batteries for radios and paying someone to charge their mobile phone. This expenditure traps them in poverty by limiting their ability to invest in education and economic opportunities.

Power Africa is working with the private sector to deploy large scale electricity projects that will help expand grid connections, as well as with our Beyond the Grid partners, who are using innovative technologies and business models to provide electricity services in areas that are far from the grid. Instead of directly financing these projects and businesses, Power Africa encourages investment by offering loans, insurance and technical support.

Can you talk about a community that you visited that has been impacted by Power Africa?
A few months ago I visited East Africa’s largest grid-connected solar project east of Kigali, Rwanda. Built by Gigawatt Global, the 8.5 MW solar project was built on the same land as the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, a home for orphans of Rwanda’s genocide. In addition to producing clean energy, the project also provides employment opportunities. Not only is this new model adding vibrancy to the local community, but also increasing Rwanda’s power generation capacity by 6 percent.

Partnerships play an important role in the success of Power Africa. Can you speak to the role of partnerships in development more generally?
To tackle the world’s biggest challenges, the world’s leading problem solvers need to work together. As the world addresses global challenges, partnerships across all sectors will be required to pull together in new ways. Our partners bring their expertise, capital, and the commitment to solving Africa’s energy crisis.

In addition to carrying the collective resources of the U.S. Government, Power Africa is achieving success by partnering public partners including the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Government of Sweden, the European Union, the African Union, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy. These public sector partners bring an additional $11.8 billion in resources to support Power Africa’s goals; this includes the African Development Bank ($3B), the World Bank Group ($5B), the Swedish Government ($1B) and the European Union ($2.8B).

With nearly $31 billion in private-sector commitments from more than 100 Power Africa private sector stakeholders, the program is making a visible difference in the lives of people who are on and off the grid.

Looking towards 2030, the target date for achieving the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, how do you think financing for development will evolve?
Over the next 15 years we hope that the private sector’s investment in emerging and developing markets will become even more commonplace.”Development financing” may not even be required. With that hope in mind, Power Africa is focused on not only supporting private companies, but also working with governments to create an enabling environment that will encourage sustained investment and growth.

Pooja Singhi, an intern with USAID’s Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs, contributed to this blog.

Andrew M. Herscowitz is the Coordinator of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.  Follow him @aherscowitz and use #PowerAfrica to join the conversation.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life

The Chikomeni Rural Health Centre in eastern Zambia offers Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care services to its clients. / Anne Jennings, Rabin Martin.

The Chikomeni Rural Health Centre in eastern Zambia offers Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care services to its clients. / Anne Jennings, Rabin Martin.

For the staff at the Matanda Rural Health Center in northern Zambia, help during emergencies was hard to find. The nearest hospital is 60 kilometers away—40 of them over a rough gravel road. Lacking a cell tower, health center staff would walk or ride 27 kilometers in order to call for an ambulance. Until recently, nurse Esther Kabaye was the center’s only clinician; she treated women in the region when complications arose during pregnancy.

Through Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a public-private partnership launched in 2012, Kabaye began a mentorship program in which she met once a month with a district mentor, developing the necessary skills and knowledge for emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

These efforts were rewarded after only a few months, when Helen, a 35-year-old woman from a nearby village, was brought to the health center in labor. She successfully delivered a healthy baby, but afterwards began bleeding heavily. Kabaye identified the emergency as a postpartum hemorrhage, and promptly performed a bimanual compression of the uterus, saving Helen’s life.

“I am so happy that I am able to effectively handle emergencies and save lives that would have been lost,” Kabaye said. She now teaches other nurses, amplifying the lifesaving impact that she has had on her own community and others nearby.

Stories like Kabaye’s are not uncommon within Saving Mothers, Giving Life districts. USAID is a founding member of the partnership, launched in 2012 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as an innovative, integrated approach to health systems. Saving Mothers, Giving Life seeks to reduce maternal and newborn mortality by increasing the demand for services, facilitating access to lifesaving care, and strengthening health systems at the district level.

The initiative is supported by a range of partners, including the governments of Uganda, Zambia, the United States and Norway; Merck for Mothers; Every Mother Counts; Project C.U.R.E.; and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Target districts in Uganda (left) and Zambia. High levels of success during Phase 1 (June 2012-June 2013) led to the expansion of the program during Phase 2. Mid-Initiative results show even greater improvements in maternal mortality during Phase 2. / Saving Mothers, Giving Life

Target districts in Uganda (left) and Zambia. High levels of success during Phase 1 (June 2012-June 2013) led to the expansion of the program during Phase 2. Mid-Initiative results show even greater improvements in maternal mortality during Phase 2. / Saving Mothers, Giving Life

Initially implemented in four districts each in Uganda and Zambia, Saving Mothers, Giving Life emphasizes adequate and timely care for pregnant women and new mothers. The initiative focuses on three primary delays to lifesaving maternal care: the delay in seeking services, reaching services, and receiving high-quality care. The initiative generated astounding results: The target facilities in both Uganda and Zambia saw a 35 percent drop in maternal mortality in a single year.

Based on such astonishing success, the program was expanded in 2014 to an additional 12 districts in Zambia, and another 6 districts in Uganda. This week, I am excited to share the continued success of the initiative with our 2015 Mid-Initiative Report.

In Uganda, the institutional maternal mortality rate has fallen by 45 percent since the beginning of the initiative. This reflects a 30 percent increase in the rate of delivery in facilities that provide emergency obstetric and newborn care. Such inspiring results are not limited to health facilities, however: Across the target districts as a whole, maternal deaths have decreased by 41 percent—not just among women who delivered in a facility, but among the districts’ entire population

Women queue up for health services at the Chikomeni Rural Health Centre in eastern Zambia. / Anne Jennings, Rabin Martin.

Women queue up for health services at the Chikomeni Rural Health Centre in eastern Zambia. / Anne Jennings, Rabin Martin.

In Uganda’s Kabarole District, District Health Officer Dr. Richard Mugahi faced a challenge. “We had enough midwives and equipment, but mothers were not delivering in facilities,” he says. “They preferred delivering with the support of traditional birth attendants.”

With the support of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, the Kabarole District established a Demand Creation Committee to encourage women to take advantage of family planning services, prenatal care visits, and health facility deliveries. The Kabarole District has also used radio broadcasts to educate communities about the risks of giving birth at home and encourage them to give birth in a facility. The initiative is community-owned, sustainable in the long term, and—most importantly—effective.

The results from Zambia are equally as encouraging. Since the launch of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, institutional maternal mortality has fallen by 53 percent in the target districts. Nearly 90 percent of women are now giving birth in a facility, compared to 63 percent at the outset of the initiative. And the number of women who have received treatment to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to their infants has increased by 81 percent.

Mwasemphangwe Zonal Rural Health Centre in Zambia offers Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care services to its clients. / Anne Jennings, Rabin Martin.

Mwasemphangwe Zonal Rural Health Centre in Zambia offers Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care services to its clients. / Anne Jennings, Rabin Martin.

These results are heartening. They speak to the success of the approach employed through Saving Mothers, Giving Life that revolves around localized, evidence-based interventions. Efforts at the district level strengthen districts’ health systems as a whole, while community-level interventions generate demand for services among women and their families by changing social norms. The initiative is active in two dozen districts across Uganda and Zambia, with expansions underway in additional districts, as well as in Nigeria.

Yet perhaps even more encouraging is the potential that Saving Mothers, Giving Life has to extend far beyond the borders of Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria. The approach has proven to be successful, and is continuously fine-tuned and developed through extensive monitoring and feedback. The organizing principles employed by Saving Mothers, Giving Life can serve as an example to countries across the globe, who can adapt the model for use in their own communities.

The partnership has brought together the diverse strengths of a variety of organizations, contributing substantially to the mission to end preventable child and maternal deaths within a generation. Saving Mothers, Giving Life has amazed and inspired me over the past two and a half years that I have directed the Secretariat, and I am excited to see what we are able to accomplish in two and a half more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claudia Morrissey Conlon is USAID’s Senior Maternal and Newborn Health Advisor and the U.S. Government lead for Saving Mothers, Giving Life.
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