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Archives for Disaster Relief

A $5,000 Prize for the Best Plan to Spread Awareness About the Horn of Africa Crisis

As featured on Good

The largest humanitarian crisis in the world today is happening in the Horn of Africa, where more than 13 million people are suffering from a deadly famine caused by decades of conflict, instability and the worst drought the region has seen in 60 years.

The devastation has spread across four countries, ravaging farmlands, displacing families and killing tens of thousands in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Conditions in southern Somalia are reported to be especially severe. There, emergency assistance continues to be limited or denied, even as many families are forced to walk more than one hundred miles in search of their next meal and children are dying hourly from malnutrition and starvation.

Shockingly, only a fraction of the American public recognizes the urgency of the situation, and according to a recent national survey released by the Ad Council, 52 percent of us aren’t even aware that this catastrophe is occurring at all.  In response to these statistics, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Ad Council have launched FWD, a major multimedia and public awareness campaign that aims to connect people to the East Africa relief efforts in new and creative ways. FWD, as you might have wondered, stands for famine, war and drought. It represents a call to action to “FWD” the facts about the crisis and spark a community-wide dialogue about how to respond.

GOOD is heeding this call by teaming up with USAID and the Ad Council to offer the next challenge on GOOD Maker, our new collaborative platform connecting fresh ideas with the funds needed to make good happen. We’re asking you to tell us how you would use $5,000 to help raise awareness for the Horn of Africa crisis in your community,whether by hosting a local event or starting your own grassroots campaign. Participate in the challenge by submitting a proposal here between now and November 28. We’ll review each entry, and from November 28 to December 12, the public will vote on which idea would have the most impact. GOOD will award the winner $5,000 to implement the plan locally, and the top-voted submission will be featured in digital and social media channels by USAID and the Ad Council.

Dr. Biden Meets with ONE Mom Bloggers

As featured on the White House Blog

On Wednesday, October 25th, Mom Bloggers from the ONE campaign came to the White House to meet with Dr. Jill Biden, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Gayle Smith, Special Assistant and Senior Director for Development and Democracy in the National Security Staff.

Bonded by their experiences from their recent trips to Africa, the participants spoke about the ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa.  Dr. Biden, who had recently travelled to Kenya with Administrator Shah and Smith, listened to the Mom Bloggers as they described their encounters with women and children in the troubled region.  Dr. Shah highlighted specific issues and described what USAID has done to address some of these concerns.  Smith urged the Mom Bloggers to continue to bring attention to the issue by talking about their experiences and helping Americans recognize that there are more commonalities than differences between us and those suffering in the Horn.  For more information on the Crisis in the Horn of Africa, visit the USAID website to learn about the FWD Campaign.

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For the Hungry, Raising Awareness = Action. We are the Relief.

The sun was beaming down on us. Some were clearly starting to feel tired, hungry, and thirsty.

“Are we there yet?” joked a young man a few feet ahead of me.

“Apple cider?” asked a man standing behind a table set up along the road just for us. “We have cookies, too. Take what you’d like!”

We were less than two miles into a six-mile CROP Hunger Walk in Arlington, VA. Sponsored by Church World Service (CWS), about 2,000 CROP Hunger Walks are organized each year by local groups in communities across the United States to raise awareness about hunger at home and around the world.  I was honored to have been invited to help kick off the walk and participate with about 100 others who were taking time out of their Saturday morning to demonstrate a commitment to ending the plight of those suffering from hunger.

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USAID Recognizes Excellence in Disaster Risk Reduction

USAID/OFDA Director Mark Bartolini presents Dominic MacSorley of Concern Worldwide (U.S.) and William Canny of Catholic Relief Services with a plaque. Photo Credit: Doug Ebner/USAID

On October 17, 2011, USAID’s Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)
recognized two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for excellence in disaster risk reduction programming. USAID/OFDA Director Mark Bartolini presented the organizations with
commemorative plaques at the 2011 Annual OFDA NGO Partner Consultations. Dominic MacSorley accepted on behalf of Concern Worldwide (U.S.) for its program to help village disaster management committees in Zambia clear and maintain a complex network of canals prone to flooding. William Canny accepted for Catholic Relief Services for its work to train young people to prepare their communities for disasters in Kingston, Jamaica.

Rebuilding a City, and Lessons of Post Disaster Urban Recovery

Charles A. Setchell is Senior Shelter, Settlements, and Hazard Mitigation Advisor in USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance.

In the field of disaster relief and recovery we face a growing challenge of urbanization. This was the focus of a recent panel discussion at the Brookings Institution. Urban areas account for perhaps one percent of the world’s land mass but these areas are now home to more than half of humanity — roughly 3.5 billion people. Because of their scale, complexity, and concentrations of impoverished people living in hazard-prone slums, responding to crises and natural disasters in urban areas poses significant challenges to humanitarian agencies, which often have their institutional genesis and past experience rooted in the refugee crises of rural areas.

Looking ahead, more than 90 percent of total global population growth will be in the cities of developing regions, where resources and institutional capacities are limited. This level of growth will be so significant that the equivalent of a city of Bangalore, nearly six million people, will emerge during every month of every year for the next 20 years. Cities in developing regions will be the dominant form of global human settlement, and slums may well represent the dominant form of global housing design.

An important lesson is to integrate local context in our efforts. Local resources, institutions, expertise, and wisdom exists even in severely damaged human settlements, and should help form the basis for understanding the capacities, resources, opportunities, and disaster impacts that will guide response and recovery activities. Shelter needs should be responded to with a focus on its role within a settlement, not just “four walls and a roof.” In urban areas disasters compel a change in the unit of analysis from household to neighborhood. In Haiti, for example, USAID and other agencies have embraced this “neighborhood approach” as an operational means of working through — and out of — the rubble pile, and initial results are quite promising.

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Making Progress in the Fight Against Hunger: World Food Day 2011

Jonathan Shrier serves as Acting Feed the Future Acting Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy/Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security, and Ertharin Cousin serves as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.  Originally posted on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.

Today, World Food Day, reminds us that hunger is a reality for nearly a billion people worldwide. Rising and volatile food prices since last year have pushed tens of millions of additional people into the ranks of the hungry.

This is a particularly poignant day as we have just returned from the Horn of Africa, where there more than 13 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. In Somalia, a lack of effective governance and the actions of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those in need have turned a bad drought into outright famine.

We traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya with USAID Administrator Raj Shah, where we met with our partners in the region, including government officials, civil society, and private sector representatives, to discuss improving food security over the short, medium, and long-term.

With our partners, we’re making progress.

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Avoiding Future Famines: We Have the Tools

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in 60 years, with famine now affecting parts of Somalia. It doesn’t have to be this way. Droughts are cyclical and will continue to occur. They don’t have to lead to famine. We have the tools and can lead the way to helping ensure communities are resilient and can feed themselves. This video, from the ONE campaign, shows how Ethiopia has become more resilient to drought thanks to government leadership and support from the international community.

Learn more about what the U.S. is doing to promote agricultural-led development to help prevent future famines through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. And learn how you can get involved to help the Horn of Africa:

Libya: Humanitarian and Transition Assistance

Mark Ward is Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Yesterday, at an event organized by the Middle East Institute and International Relief and Development, I made three key points about the humanitarian situation in Libya.

First, the humanitarian crisis has eased considerably since the beginning of the conflict, with life normalizing in key parts of the country, and credit for that goes first and foremost to the tremendous resilience of the Libyan people.  Local city councils, community leaders, and members of what I hope is the start to a vibrant civil society have stepped up to coordinate and deliver humanitarian assistance, saving lives in difficult and dangerous conditions.  This has truly been their achievement, but one to which the U.S. Government has made its own important contribution.  In early March the U.S. deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, to multiple locations in the region, and later into Benghazi, Libya as well.  We did not wait for conflict to subside, but instead, working with truly heroic NGO partners, we helped send medical personnel and emergency health kits into cities still under siege and rocket attack by Qadhafi’s forces.  We supported health facilities, distributed blankets and emergency goods, helped fund early warning monitoring for epidemic-prone diseases, pre-positioned food for those most vulnerable inside Libya, and helped feed those who fled the conflict.  Overall, the U.S. Government has provided over $90 million in humanitarian assistance, and has played a vital role in supporting the evacuation and repatriation of third country nationals, especially migrant workers, who fled from Libya to neighboring countries.

Second, we are pleased to see a strong Libyan counterpart taking the lead.  The Transitional National Council (TNC) is now coordinating assistance with the international community.  A good example on the ground — when Tripoli was short of drinking water over the past two weeks, UNICEF and others sent in emergency supplies, but it was the TNC which got engineers to the distant southern water wells in Jebel Hassouna, traveling through still insecure regions, to restart the municipal water supply.  International team work, led by the Libyans, makes our job much easier.

Third, our role is changing from humanitarian relief to transition and stabilization, and we will help the Libyan people and the TNC as they set their key priorities.  Our transition assistance will strengthen emergent media outlets and civil society organizations.  We can provide expertise and help fill gaps, particularly in building a free media and organizing elections.  But this is Libyan-led, a fact underscored in a recent donor meeting when the TNC official responsible for reconstruction said “We don’t need your money, we just need your expertise, now, to help us rebuild our country.”  This Libyan determination to help themselves, so evident throughout their struggle, is truly inspiring.

This Week at USAID – September 6, 2011

After a hiatus, we will be continuing the “This Week at USAID” series on the first day of the work week.

Thursday, September 8th is International Literacy Day. The Center for Universal Education at Brookings, the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative, and USAID will mark the day by hosting a series of panel discussions on how a range of education stakeholders are addressing the challenge of improving literacy, particularly at lower primary levels, to help fulfill the promise of quality education for all.

Stephen Haykin will be sworn-in as USAID Mission Director to Georgia.

Raja Jandhyala, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, will testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on the long-term needs in East Africa.

Alex Their, USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator and Director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, will testify before U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on development programs in Afghanistan.

Smart Compassion: How Donating Cash Helps More People

When disaster strikes overseas, people who want to help may begin collecting items intended for use in relief operations. It is not unusual for community and civic groups to have collected thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know to whom to send the collection, what their transportation options are, or whether the items are actually needed.

There is good news for people with big hearts and lean wallets who want to give meaningful support to relief efforts overseas. The most effective donations are also the least expensive – you can actually help more people by contributing smartly.

Here’s an example of how it works: 100,000 liters of clean water hydrate 40,000 people for a day.  That amount of water purchased in-country costs about $500.  The same amount of water purchased in the US costs about $50,000.  But here’s the kicker – transportation expenses, customs fees and delivery charges add anywhere from $150,000 to $700,000 to the cost. In this case, the cost of providing the in-kind donations is up to 1500 times higher than the cost of a locally-procured alternative.

All unsolicited material donations incur steep transportation and other costs that far exceed the value of what is sent.  These donations – including clothing, canned food and bottled water, also clog supply chains, take space needed to stage life-saving relief supplies and divert relief workers’ time.  “Stuff” is expensive to send, adds costs once delivered and frequently is disposed of at further expense.

In contrast, cash contributions to established relief agencies in affected areas purchase exactly what is needed when it’s needed.  They support local merchants and local economies, and ensure that survivors receive supplies that are fresh, familiar, and culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate.  More benefits to more people at lower cost and with less hassle – now that’s a bargain!

Save money – send cash.

For more information on effective donations, visit the Center for International Disaster Information.

For information on USAID’s response to the drought in east Africa, visit:

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