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Archives for Disaster Relief

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:

A Mother’s Bond: My Visit to an Ethiopian Therapeutic Feeding Camp

I have a one-year-old little girl at home, just like Aisha, the mother I photographed during my visit to the drought-impacted region of Ethiopia. Just like this Aisha, I hope that I am nourishing my daughter’s body, mind, and spirit by providing her everything within my means. Unlike Aisha, my daughter weighs nearly three times more than her one-year-old little girl, and she has come to this therapeutic feeding camp because it is her best hope for food for her daughter and for herself.

A woman named Aisha holds her daughter at a therapeutic feeding camp in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Aysha House-Moshi/USAID

While visiting Ethiopia last week, I saw examples of how USAID is serving the entire food continuum – food aid projects for the hungry, resilience projects for those able to work for food, and food security projects to support smallholder farmers who are delivering prized harvests to markets. All of these projects are making a difference, but as I looked at the growing numbers of hungry, risking their lives to migrate to camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, I couldn’t help but to focus on my fellow mothers risking everything to feed their children and feed our future.

I visited the Bisle Nutrition Site, which serves at least 7,500 mothers and children just like Aisha and her daughter. The community, mainly pastoralists, is in dire straits. Eligible mothers stand in line, with babies in tow, patiently awaiting food and water rations; while swarms of mothers of hungry children outside of the targeted age group wait for anything that can be spared. The men sit aimless, while elders, particularly the elderly women, are left to rely on the community to care for them.

The Bisle Nutrition Site, in the Shinile Zone, is located in the northeastern part of Somali Region of Ethiopia. It borders Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the east, and Oromia to the south and west. In normal times, the Shinile Zone receives rain during March to May and July to September. But during this drought, the area i

A view of the camps. Photo Credit: Aysha House- Moshi/USAID

s bone dry and the heat so abrasive that it hits you in the face, pounding your skin with every slight movement.

As I drove away, I thought of the mothers and children at Bisle. I hoped that peace, rain, and life would fill their immediate future. I wished that the hunger would pass and the land would awaken from the drought.

USAID knows how to respond to drought, and we know how to provide for the immediate and the long-term needs of the hungry. We are poised to do more, and the United States and the international community will continue to work together to make a difference for those in need.

Mobilizing Resources to Assist East African Drought

Dr. Jill Biden and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist visit with two recently arrived refugee families at the Dagahaley refugee camp, in Dadaab, Kenya, Aug. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

On August 11, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the International Food Policy Research Institute on the drought crisis in East Africa, the U.S. response, and the efforts underway to raise funding for relief efforts. [Full transcript and video of her remarks.] She announced that the United States would provide an additional $17 million in funding—most of which is targeted to help the people of Somalia—bringing the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $580 million this year. U.S. assistance is bringing life-saving food, water, health care, and other services to more than 4.6 million people in need.

This week Dr. Jill Biden visited a Kenyan refugee camp along with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz, and Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith.

  • On the Impact Blog, Administrator Shah wrote a first-hand account of the immediate needs in the refugee camps and the agricultural innovations such as drought-resistant seeds that are addressing long-term food security.
  • Senator Bill Frist wrote on CNN about why Americans should care about famine in Africa and emphasized the importance of medical care in emergency response.
  • The White House posted a photo gallery of Dr. Biden’s trip to the refugee camp in Kenya.
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