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Lessons on Youth Leadership from Garissa, Kenya

Many of us youth development practitioners have been eagerly anticipating the release of USAID’s youth policy with the hope that it will increase awareness of the importance of youth issues to development. I know from EDC’s work around the world how integral youth are to economic, social and political development.

Children around a laptop in school. Photo Credit: USAID

One of the main principles in the youth policy is youth participation and youth leadership. In my work with youth in Garissa, Kenya, I see how young people have jumped at the chance to get involved in their communities, when given channels to apply their ideas and energy. Young women and men producing and broadcasting their own radio stories throughout North Eastern Province about news that matters to them is a great example. Youth led programming‐with youth in real decision‐making roles is essential, but it is far from easy and quick; it takes time and involves lots of trial and error. So it’s important for us to understand this when designing programs—we need to be ambitious but also patient and target a range of outcomes, that include building the capacity of young people not just as leaders, but as team members that are able to work together to problem solve and make decisions. I’m hopeful that we, as practitioners, and our colleagues at USAID can design programs that reflect this complex process.

The Youth Policy’s emphasis on families and communities is another principle that the Garissa experience has demonstrated. As important as ‘youth‐led’ programming is, youth still need support and encouragement to take on new roles and responsibilities. In fact, I think parents are often the best partners we have in communities because they know first‐hand how much their children are frustrated or depressed when they do not have opportunities. We hear directly from parents in Garissa how much they want to help their children do something that stimulates them or gives them inspiration, such as access to training or scholarships. Programs need to include parents consistently therefore, and not just at the launch of the project or when problems arise.

I’m also hopeful that the Youth Policy will reinforce USAID’s gender policy to continue to highlight the importance of gender within youth programs and development programs more broadly. All too often, the different needs and considerations for reaching young women and young men are not part of youth program design. We see this particularly in workforce programs in which it is rare to see specific workforce strategies for young women vs. men. As youth employment receives more attention, we can’t forget that meaningful solutions for addressing youth employment must consider the unique constraints affecting young women’s and men’s employment and livelihoods opportunities.

About the Education Development Center, Inc.: EDC designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s urgent challenges in education, health and economic opportunity. EDC has designed and managed youth and workforce development programs in over 25 developing countries. Our programs focus on changing the life trajectory of youth who have been left out and left behind. EDC offers an integrated package of education, supports and experiences to ensure young people transition to successful, productive adulthood. Our focus on earning, education, and engagement and three primary cross‐cutting strategies make EDC’s work unique.

A Welcome Call to Action: Working with Youth in Development

As an active member of the Alliance for International Youth Development (AIYD), Plan International USA applauds USAID on the launch of the Youth in Development Policy! Along with many others in the development community, Plan has been anxiously awaiting the Policy’s launch. Plan’s work focuses on empowering children and youth in 50 developing countries, and this Policy offers an important reinforcement of the need to engage this population for lasting impact. We also congratulate Maame Yankah, a Youth Ambassador for Plan, for her participation in the Policy Launch Event, but more importantly for her many contributions to communities in Ghana and the US.

Student Nana Kweku Boateng in Junior High School in Koforidua, Ghana. Photo Credit: USAID

The launch of the Youth in Development Policy marks an important shift in our conversation. Many of us as youth champions are well‐versed in answering the question, “Why work with youth?” The reasons to involve youth as partners are many, and their talents, determination, and influence on the world stage is unprecedented. Yet today, with the heightened status of youth engagement within our own government, we can now embrace youth participation as an assumed component of our programming, and focus on responding to the more difficult question, “How should we work with youth?” Plan looks forward to collaborating with USAID, peer organizations, colleagues in the field, and of course the youth themselves, to collect viable answers to this question.

Now with USAID’s new Youth in Development Policy in our hands, how do we turn it into practice? For many organizations, working with youth may require a departure from current ways of operating and a renewed reliance on the youth community. Plan has made youth a heightened priority for several years, and to truly consider them partners, we will continue working with youth through these 3 steps:

1.Put Youth in the Driver’s Seat
It’s not enough to consult youth; they must be active participants and leaders in development. Because youth have unique needs and perspectives, only they possess the information to make youth programming relevant. Plan will continue to incorporate youth in the design and implementation process by calling on their experience and technical knowledge in such fields as economic empowerment, education, transparency and governance, and health. Not only will this channel youth energy into community‐building and their own personal growth, it will also breathe new life into the work that we do by dispelling old assumptions and continually driving new approaches. From a youth‐run television station in Malawi, to a performance group raising awareness about sexual abuse in India, youth are leaders in Plan’s global programming. We will look to these and other programs to track effective ways that youth can drive the development process.

2.Review and Revamp Internal Policies
USAID’s Youth in Development Policy encourages organizations to embrace youth in development as a cross‐cutting issue. As such, Plan International USA will take the Policy to heart in our own internal operations. Plan will continue to involve our domestically‐based Youth Advisory Board in organizational decisions. We will rely more heavily on our Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA) members to inspire awareness raising efforts on global issues among their peers here in the US.
Through the Because I am a Girl Campaign, Plan will continue to highlight the need for gender equality, as young women and girls face additional societal barriers. Plan will also increase efforts to measure youth involvement and youth‐led impact, involving youth in the monitoring and evaluation processes and in improving the evidence base.

3.Engage in Sharing and Learning
With the Youth in Development Policy, Plan is challenged to both share and learn from examples of what works to engage youth. In order to assure the greatest return on investment with limited resources, the youth community must be committed to communicating best practices and forming a community of learning. With this new focus on youth, we are accountable to not only our donors and partners, but especially to youth around the world. We need to work together to deliver the most responsible, impactful, innovative, and youth‐led programming possible. Only together as a united force can we adequately reach the scale necessary to meet the demands of the global youth population.

As a community, we won’t have the answers on how best to engage youth overnight. But with the launch of the Youth in Development Policy, we now have a call to action on behalf of the world’s youth. Plan International USA and the AIYD members are honored to have USAID’s support with our ongoing youth programming. Going forward, we will delegate more trust and authority to our youth partners. We also hope to engage with new youth champions, inspired by youth’s heightened profile within USAID. Congratulations to USAID on this momentous occasion‐ now it’s time for development actors and youth around the world to put the policy into motion!

About Plan International USA: Plan International works in more than 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children by developing long‐term sustainable solutions. Founded in 1937, Plan’s vision is of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity. In addition, Plan International USA engages youth at an individual level through its Youth Engagement and Action (YEA) program, which involves a network of students and youth, as well as teachers and adult allies, in taking action on global issues. YEA’s mission is to build a global, youth‐led grassroots movement to help end the cycle of poverty for children and communities. YEA facilitates engagement through group meetings, school curriculum development, and advocacy reinforcing Plan’s global community development work. Within the United States, programs include educational outreach initiatives, organized retreats, and other special events and activities for youth participation, designed to help young people develop an understanding of the challenges faced by youth in the developing world.

Returning home for HIV & AIDS treatment, an Ethiopian woman finds much more

In 1992, Neima Mohammed left Ethiopia for Djibouti with hopes of building a better life for her family. Living at a refugee camp 10 years later, the family made plans to travel to Australia and applied for a visa, which required an HIV & AIDS test. While her husband and two sons tested negative, Neima tested positive. Neima’s husband immediately left her, and before long, she became ill and bed-ridden.

This story might have ended with Neima’s fateful decline in health. Fortunately, thanks to friends back home, Neima learned Ethiopia was embarking on efforts to provide free antiretroviral treatment to thousands of people living with the disease. Without hesitation, Neima returned home. She didn’t expect to survive, but simply hoped to find comfort through treatment in the mosaic city of Dire Dawa. Dire Dawa – which neighbors the city of Harar where Niema was born and raised – is an industrial center for eastern Ethiopia and a business corridor to Djibouti and Somaliland.

Back in Dire Dawa, Neima’s condition worsened as she waited to become clinically eligible for treatment. She was critically ill when admitted to Dil Chora Hospital, but CD4 machines to test her white blood cell count were only available at a few facilities in Addis Ababa – 510 kilometers from Dire Dawa. It would take a minimum of three to four months to get her results. Her physician decided to put her on treatment without waiting for the test.


Much has changed for patients since Neima was first treated. CD4 machines are now operational in more than 150 health facilities nationwide, and reagents for testing are regularly refilled. Test results can be ready in as little as 30 minutes. The national HIV & AIDS Resource Center estimates that there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of people tested for HIV each year since 2005. Currently, 36 percent of women and 38 percent of men have been tested and received their test results.

The Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), a PEPFAR-funded program and administered by USAID, works with Ethiopia’s Pharmaceutical Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA), nine regional health bureaus and more than 1,717 health facilities to improve access to HIV & AIDS treatment. SCMS procures and supports the Pharmaceutical Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA) in distributing antiretroviral medicines, other essential drugs, test kits, laboratory commodities, food-by-prescription and health system strengthening commodities, such as warehouse equipment, vehicles, generators and cold rooms. SCMS has also trained more than 2,400 health professionals and pharmaceutical logistic workers from health facilities on logistics management information systems, forecasting and quantification, warehouse operations and management. This training is instrumental in helping ensure an uninterrupted supply of HIV & AIDS commodities for health facilities, like Dil Chora Hospital, that provide life-saving services to patients like Neima.

Caption: Neima collects her ARVs from Dil Chora Hospital ART pharmacy every two months Photo Credit: Dereje Bisrat, Supply Chain Management System

Neima is now newly married to a man who also lives with HIV & AIDS. Thanks to the medicine she received at Dil Chora Hospital, she was able to give birth to a healthy boy and prevent the transmission of HIV to her son during labor. During and after her pregnancy, Neima found nourishment with ready-to-use therapeutic food through the food-by-prescription program run by Save the Children US and World Food Program and supported by PFSA and SCMS.

Currently there are 280 health facilities providing food-by-prescription services in Ethiopia. More than 81,000 people benefitted from the program between 2009 and 2011. Due to PFSA’s reliable distribution of commodities to treatment sites, Neima has been on uninterrupted antiretroviral treatment since 2006.

Neima now serves as a peer educator at Dil Chora Hospital. She never stops thanking the hospital for the commodities and services they make available to the thousands of Ethiopians infected with HIV & AIDS.

For more information about SCMS go to or follow them on Facebook.

Skills-Based Volunteering in Global Development

In case you missed it: Here’s a great piece by Amanda MacArthur, VP of CDC Development Solutions. Originally posted at CSRWire.

Skills-based volunteering is on the rise. In 2011, four times as many companies sent employees to volunteer professional skills in countries such as Ghana, India and Nigeria compared to just six years ago according to the CDS’s 2012 International Corporate Volunteer Benchmarking Survey. Volunteers – and their employers –often call the experience life changing.  NGOs, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations say expertise in areas such as technology, supply chain management and marketing allows them to advance in ways they otherwise never could.

Over the past few years, companies such as IBM, Pfizer, PepsiCo  and Dow Corning have sent employees on skills-based, pro bono, short-term volunteer assignments in emerging markets for leadership development, product innovation opportunities and to better understand emerging markets while providing much needed assistance and enabling skills transfer.  Now, companies can also send their employees on volunteer assignments that link directly to U.S. global development goals that help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues – clean water, education, food security and healthcare.

The Center of Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism (CEICV) is the result of a new partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and IBM, which operates the largest skills-based International Corporate Volunteer (ICV) program. CEICV, which is implemented by CDC Development Solutions, enables companies to learn how to create and manage International Corporate Volunteer programs and highlights the potential for these programs to support broader development goals in critical emerging markets around the world.  The aim is to help build the capacity of beneficiary organizations in emerging markets through short-term partnerships with highly-skilled corporate volunteers.

Read on for the complete article, including more details about the first USAID/IBM supported trip to Ghana

Photos: World Food Day

Handwashing Partnership Turns Five

Guest authors Katie Carroll and Patricia Mantey from the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing.

For the fifth consecutive year, on October 15, 2012, hundreds of millions of people around the world will celebrate Global Handwashing Day. This year we have much to celebrate. In 2011, 600,000 fewer children under five died than in 2008, the first year Global Handwashing Day was celebrated. In 2012, Global Handwashing Day will share its fifth birthday with more than 121 million children who are also turning five this year.
Thanks to the support of USAID and other public and private partners, Global Handwashing Day has grown from a one-day celebration in a few cities to a worldwide movement for handwashing with soap. The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW) and its partners encourage everyone to join in our fifth birthday celebration to promote handwashing with soap.

Every day, USAID promotes handwashing with soap through its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) or WASHplus program.  The project, operated by FHI 360, CARE and Winrock International, aims to increase access to and lower the cost of water and sanitation services, and improve personal hygiene habits.  The “plus” represents the project’s efforts to combat pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses caused by indoor air pollution from inefficient or misused cooking stoves

In Zambia, a new school program called SPLASH focuses its efforts on boosting child education as it relates to good hygiene practices. They do this by working with schools to improve both access to better hygiene facilities, such as latrines and hand washing stations, and by teaching students and staff how important good hygiene practices are in making them healthier, like washing hands with soap at key times (after using a latrine or before eating). By reducing the number of days students and teachers miss school due to diarrheal diseases caused by poor sanitation, unsafe water, or the inability to wash their hands with water and soap, they have more opportunities to learn.

In Madagascar, USAID is working with communities in urban areas to provide public-private solutions that provide more options for households who can’t afford or aren’t able to build their own latrines and hand washing stations.  A growing number of communities run WASH blocks that provide latrines with sinks and soap for handwashing, as well as showers and in some cases laundry areas for anyone to use for a small fee.  Some of these blocks get as many as 200 users per day. Claudine, who is the chair of the WASH committee in her neighborhood, welcomed the construction of a WASH block for her community. “Our neighborhood is poor and our living environment is dirty, and we do not have enough water,” she said. “So the WASH block was something that the community really needed.”

Because of their weakened immune systems, people living with HIV and AIDS have an especially high need for clean water to wash their hands and safely drink, as well as access to a clean and safe latrine.  In Kenya, USAID is training partners on the ground to train their community health workers on ways that people living with HIV and their families can improve water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, including hand washing with soap to reduce their chances of getting diarrhea.  Community health workers use pictoral cards (available in both English and Kswahili) to show HIV positive clients and their caregivers or family members how to wash hands correctly, build a water saving device called a tippy tap to wash hands, and other healthy hygiene practices.

There are many examples of how Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has progressed with its mission of encouraging proper handwashing.  But the more people we can get to the spread the message, the fewer people will get sick or die from diarrheal disease.

Feed the Future: Partnering with Civil Society

New video from last month’s Feed the Future: Partnering with Civil Society event featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and journalist Nicholas Kristof.

USAID’s Commitment to Transparency

At USAID, transparency is an important part of our commitment to achieving sustainable development results and to doing business well. It is a core tenet of who we are as an Agency rather than a set of actions and ensures that we are good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.

Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss this Administration’s commitment to transparency on a panel with Gayle Smith, special assistant to the President and senior director at the National Security Council; Robert Goldberg, director of Foreign Assistance at the State Department; Sheila Herrling, vice president for Policy and Evaluation; David Hall-Matthews, managing director of Publish What You Fund; and Paul O’Brien, vice president of Oxfam America. The event, hosted by Publish What You Fund and ONE, featured the launch of Publish What You Fund’s informative and authoritative Aid Transparency Index 2012. The Administration welcomes civil society efforts to monitor foreign aid progress on transparency and hopes that the index will continue to expand as more non-governmental organizations make their aid data available.

Along with our inter-agency partners, USAID has been pursuing innovative ways to increase transparency, and I highlighted some of the steps we’re taking:

  • A completely redesigned website, including an interactive map that allows you to navigate around the world to view projects and programs;
  • Detailed program information on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, which shows in a visual, easy-to-understand way USAID and other  U.S. Government agencies’ foreign assistance information;
  • Crowdsourcing and hackathon efforts, like  the Food Security Open Data Challenge, that make open data accessible to technology developers, decision makers and citizens so they can make better informed decisions and inspire entrepreneurial innovation;
  • Our Evaluation Policy that helps us all understand what we have done well and what we need to improve, and is made available within 90 days of completion on the Development Experience Clearinghouse; and
  • USAID’s posting of U.S. Overseas Loan and Grants to that has been viewed 63,500 times, and is currently the second most popular data set on that site.

USAID also represents the U.S. Government in international negotiations on transparency principles and standards in venues like the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, the OECD-DAC and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). With the publication of last week’s OMB Bulletin, a document that sets policy and institutionalizes the collection and management of foreign assistance data, we’re moving forward to complete and publish a U.S. IATI Implementation Plan by December.

President Obama has made transparency a key priority of this Administration – one that goes beyond just making data available but making data useful. At USAID, we know that transparency is vital to achieving the development impacts that we and our partners seek, and we will continue to take a leadership role in working with our partners inside and outside of government to make our information more transparent, accessible and useful for development work. I encourage you to read more about USAID’s activities to promote transparency.

USAID Book Club: The Alchemy of Air

Fall semester @USAID banner image

Book: The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager

Synopsis: The publisher of “The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler” calls this 2008 book by Thomas Hager a story of “tragic genius, cutting-edge science, and the discovery that changed billions of lives.” Who knew there could be so much drama surrounding fertilizer?

Hager tells how two men – “brilliant, self-important Fritz Haber and reclusive, alcoholic Carl Bosch” – answered a call at the start of the 20th Century for the world’s scientists to address what was then a looming global disaster of starvation. Though the personal stories of the scientists prove tragic, the overarching narrative is an account the publisher describes as “a discovery that changed the way we grow food and the way we make war–and that promises to continue shaping our lives in fundamental and dramatic ways.”

Administrator Shah:

This book reminds us of the serendipity of scientific inquiry. It’s about the invention of fixed nitrogen fertilizer, a single invention that dramatically improved food production and helped support the massive population growth that took place over the last 70 years.

When people think about fertilizer, “world changing” may not be the first phrase that comes to mind. But fertilizer has made modern life possible. In retrospect, it’s one of the most important technological innovations of the 20th century.

How countries apply nitrogen-based fertilizer varies. Where it is overused it can have significant negative consequences for local ecosystems. In some countries, like China, they use almost 160 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare. While in the United States, the number was 60 or 70 kilograms per hectare a few years ago.

And then there are the countries that use virtually no fertilizer. In sub-Saharan Africa or dry-land South Asia – where most of the world’s poor farmers struggle to produce enough food to feed their families – they use about 8 kilograms per hectare.

Where fertilizer is not used, you see children going to bed hungry every night and an increase in the number of children who are stunted over 30 or 40 years ago. If children don’t get adequate nutrition, their brains don’t develop; and they can’t learn and contribute to society to the extent of their capacity. So the story of the application of fertilizer and the disparities of that application tell the story of both environmental and human consequences.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What about this scientific discovery surprised or impacted you the most?
  2. What lessons can developing countries striving to build their agriculture sectors take away from this book?
  3. How can countries balance the immediate need to increase food production and the long-term need to be good stewards of the soil in which the food is grown?
  4. Is it more cost effective for international development organizations to risk their limited funds on backing potential scientific discoveries or to spend those resources on strategies with proven track records that help people survive today?

Get Involved: Use the comments section of this blog post to share your answers, or tweet them to us at #fallsemester

Moving USAID Forward in Haiti

Gary Juste is the Office Chief of USAID/Haiti’s Office of Acquisition and Assistance.

There is a myth that when USAID enters into an agreement with a U.S.-based non-governmental organization or contractor, most of the money stays in the United States.

The reality is much different.  A significant amount of resources is spent locally.

  • A case in point: one of our health partners in Haiti employs 963 people; 950 are national staff and only 14 are international staff; this means that Haitians represent 98.5 percent of the staff. Also, international staff contributes to Haiti’s economy through routine purchases from local markets for food, fuel, clothing and electricity.
  • U.S.-based organizations working in Haiti purchase items from the local economy. For example, a democracy and governance project spent nearly $500,000 on the local market for computer rentals, printers, Internet service, office rental, equipment and supplies during start-up.

At the same time, we understand the importance of partnering more directly with a variety of organizations, including local entities.  However, U.S. law demands that grantees meet strict U.S. Government criteria to be fully accountable and liable for spending U.S. taxpayer dollars. It would be irresponsible of me as a USAID employee—and also unfair to me as a U.S. taxpayer—to make awards to organizations unable to track funds.

Immediately after the January 2010 earthquake, we worked with existing partners to quickly provide life-saving assistance. Following the emergency phase, we have continued to increase contracting to local partners and build the capacity of Haitian organizations to receive direct funding—in line with USAID Forward procurement reforms.  Since the earthquake, we have worked directly or through sub-awards with over 400 Haitian non-governmental organizations and firms.

To increase the number of new firms who compete, we have reached out to local entities and made them aware of U.S. government contracting opportunities and requirements.

  • Since the earthquake, the U.S. government has hosted or participated in more than 30 Haitian diaspora-focused events.  I have personally participated in 10 or more of these events in areas with significant Haitian Diaspora populations, such as Miami, New York, Chicago, Houston, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
  • In Haiti, we regularly conduct “How to Do Business with USAID” seminars. When we host pre-award conferences, on average more than 50 individuals from various organizations attend, including Government of Haiti representatives.

Many of our prime contractors use a variety of local sub-grantees.  Sub-recipients of contracts make great implementers and it affords the prime contractor the opportunity to build the financial tracking capacity of the sub-grantee.  We are making very deliberate efforts to build the capacity of these sub-awardees to receive U.S. funds directly in the future.

  • A solicitation for a new, large procurement recently closed; the awardee is required to identify five local organizations to qualify as primary implementers by the third year and be eligible to receive direct awards from USAID, or face financial consequences (making them “walk the talk”).
  • We have agreements in place with Haitian certified public accounting firms to provide financial services to our partners and work with local organizations to build their financial capacity to receive direct awards.

And we are making progress. Between March 2011 and April 2012, more than 40 percent of our funding went to non-traditional USAID partners—or partners which had never before received funding from USAID. Among them are two Haitian-American firms that were previous sub-awardees and which are now managing multi-million dollar contracts. One of the best ways to become a direct recipient of USAID funding is to begin as a sub-awardee.

Although this new way of doing business is much more time intensive, we also realize this is the best way to build local capacity and move USAID Forward.

Visit our FAQ Page for additional information on how we do business with local firms.


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