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When Violence Is Not the Exception

 Anju, before heading off to a job interview. /Amy Fowler, USAID

Anju, before heading off to a job interview. /Amy Fowler, USAID

It had been only six months into the marriage before Anju’s* dream of a “happily ever after” was shattered to pieces. Hailing from Haryana, a state known across India for its shockingly high rates of female feticide, Anju dared to believe that her husband would love and keep her well.

“In the beginning, he was very nice to me,” she says. “But it all changed when my father died.”

When her husband’s family realized that Anju may have received an inheritance, they began to demand more dowry. But Anju’s mother, try as she might, was never able to fulfill their requests. With a young son to take care of and already living in an unhappy household, Anju found her daily life worsening when her brother-in-law tried to force himself on her.

Anju turned to her husband for support and was shocked when, instead, he told her to accept the advances of his brother. It was then Anju learned her husband’s family traditionally shared women. When she refused to take part, they took away her phone, beat her, raped her, and threatened to force her into prostitution.

Worried for what her son would learn and how he would grow up, she tried to run away but was caught. As punishment, she was locked in a room, separated from her son, and starved. Her sister contacted the police, who helped rescue Anju and her son from her husband’s family.

Sadly, this sort of violence against women is not the exception. In India, rape is the fastest growing crime. According to the country’s National Crime Records Bureau, every 29 minutes, a woman is raped; and every nine minutes, a case of cruelty at the hands of a husband or relative occurs. Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread. It threatens the health, freedom and security of victims and yet remains largely hidden by a culture of silence.

USAID, however, is working to change these statistics. Take Anju, who, through an aunt, heard of a USAID-supported crisis management center where she received psychosocial and legal counseling. With a newfound confidence, she is pursuing legal action and has a court case against her husband. In her words: “The day I first came here, I was so afraid. Now I know what I have to do. I am with my child. I am independent.”

This crisis management center, which to date has dealt with 1,905 cases, is supported under USAID’s Wajood project. Wajood works to increase access to GBV services such as counseling, trainings and linkages, and to transform negative gender norms within communities.

USAID’s Wajood project works to increase access to gender-based violence services such as counseling, trainings and linkages, and to transform negative gender norms within communities. /Amy Fowler, USAID

USAID’s Wajood project works to increase access to gender-based violence services such as counseling, trainings and linkages, and to transform negative gender norms within communities. /Amy Fowler, USAID

These efforts reflect USAID’s global commitment to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. We know that sustainable and inclusive development cannot be achieved without ending gender violence.

Today, Anju has joined the many survivors who have been helped by this center and others like it. As she raises her son to respect women, she is now confident that she can “take action and live without a man.”

Her strength astounds me. When I first met Anju, she spoke hardly a word and would not look me in the eyes. Weeks later, and knowing that her story could help other women, she confidently told me and others her experience before proudly heading off to a job interview.

Her story is just one of many in the struggle against GBV, but it embodies the extraordinary courage and resilience of survivors. During these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence from Nov. 25 through Dec. 10, let us think of Anju and recognize the importance of ending GBV, not just so women like her can lead better lives, but also so the rights of everyone, everywhere, are forever protected and ensured.

*Name changed to protect identity.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Kemp recently worked as a summer hire in USAID’s Health Office in India.

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Getting from A to B Gets Easier in Tanzania with New Mapping Open Data

To help the Tanzanian Government optimize its health supply chain transport system, the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT mapped the country. / Photo Courtesy of John Snow, Inc

To help the Tanzanian Government optimize its health supply chain transport system, the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT mapped the country. / Photo Courtesy of John Snow, Inc

Pretend, for a moment, that you’re a truck driver in a developing country and tasked with making a delivery to an unfamiliar location. It’s important that you get there on time, because you’re delivering medical supplies to a community that really needs them and any delay on your part could impact treatment of patients. How would you reach your destination?

If you immediately thought you’d use your smartphone or other satellite global positioning system (GPS) device to find your way, that’s because these tools have become ubiquitous in developed countries. While mobile phone usage has exploded in recent years in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world, accurate digital maps and time estimates for travel are not always available. In many places, the data it takes to build a good road map is missing, and you may find your GPS directing you onto a rural “road” that is little more than a dirt path.

TZ Treacherous crossing

Maps Matter for Health

When it comes to medical supplies, these transit challenges can add up to serious gaps in health care for rural people. That’s why a USAID project in Tanzania took on the challenge of mapping more than 30,000 kilometers of road connecting more than 5,600 health facilities across the country.

The USAID | DELIVER PROJECT, which partners with government health ministries and other organizations to improve health in developing countries by increasing access to health supplies, was asked by the Government of Tanzania in 2014 to help improve how it delivered health care supplies. Almost half the roads in Tanzania were not online, making medical supply delivery unpredictable and unreliable.

To improve the system, we partnered with Tanzania’s Medical Stores Department (MSD) to analyze delivery routes and available transport resources. Although MSD had a comprehensive list of facilities across the country, about 30 percent did not have a validated geocode, making them difficult to find unless you asked a local how to get there!

While a digital map of Tanzania’s road network existed, it was incomplete. Truck drivers trying to get supplies from MSD to faraway clinics did not know if the route they chose was reliable or how much time a route would take to navigate.

A Mapping Solution that Yielded Dividends

Fortunately, if you install a tracking device on trucks headed out for delivery, you can amass a large amount of GPS data quickly. And that’s just what we did. Using GPS data from devices recently installed on MSD trucks, our team was able to mark the unmapped secondary road network showing what routes were navigable across the entire country. We also classified all roads in terms of travel speeds. This data was then used to analyze the distribution of health supplies and determine how best to plan and route each shipment.

Given the huge variations in speeds between the wet and dry seasons, particularly on dirt roads, prior to the online mapping, drivers determined their delivery routes based on guesswork and a general perception of what routes would be fastest. Photo courtesy of the Tanzania Medical Stores Department

Given the huge variations in speeds between the wet and dry seasons, particularly on dirt roads, prior to the online mapping, drivers determined their delivery routes based on guesswork and a general perception of what routes would be fastest.
Photo courtesy of the Tanzania Medical Stores Department

And we didn’t stop there. When MSD and Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare saw the program in action, they immediately recognized its value beyond the health logistics system and asked that we expand its scope across the country. With MSD, we developed a plan to release the roads data and make it available for public use without compromising program information. We joined forces with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, a global community of mappers, and Ramani Huria, a community mapping group in Dar es Salaam, to upload the Tanzania data area-by-area, making it accessible to everyone around the globe.

Now, this digital map can be used not just by those delivering medical supplies, but also by food producers transporting crops to market, tour operators showcasing Tanzania’s spectacular wildlife, and others engaged in commerce who are driving Tanzania’s economic growth and development. With a comprehensive digital road map at their disposal, these businesses can better plan and operate. We think that’s a win for mappers, businesses, consumers and anyone else getting from point A to point B.

Before and After: Tanzania’s Road Network

Before and After: Tanzania’s Road Network

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Andrew Inglis leads the effort to use geographic information systems (GIS) in Tanzania to improve supply chain design and effectiveness at John Snow Inc. for the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT. The DELIVER PROJECT improves health outcomes in developing countries by increasing the availability of health supplies.

Marasi Mwencha is a supply chain program manager with JSI in Tanzania, overseeing engagement on the Global Health Supply Chain Technical Assistance (GHSC-TA) and inSupply projects in Tanzania. He is a technology and data enthusiast who enjoys leveraging innovative practices, including modelling to optimize and strengthen health systems.

Executive Order Prioritizes Our Shared Global Health Security

A health care worker checks on patients admitted to the Ebola Treatment Unit in the Island Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 22, 2014. /Morgana Wingard

A health care worker checks on patients admitted to the Ebola Treatment Unit in the Island Clinic, Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 22, 2014. /Morgana Wingard

Today, President Obama signed an executive order to advance the ambitious Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and ensure that this multilateral and multisectoral effort to detect and respond to new infectious disease threats such as yellow fever or highly pathogenic avian influenza is sustained.

This formal policy will further strengthen and institutionalize our ongoing work to establish the capacity that every country needs to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to epidemic threats.

The next pandemic could begin anywhere—in South Asia, the Amazon basin, Central Africa, or on the Arabian Peninsula. In countries with weak health systems, the first cases at the start of an outbreak likely will be missed in the absence of sensitive surveillance, rapid laboratory support, and good information systems. Globalization and trade mean dangerous pathogens can be transported from an isolated, rural village to any major city in as little as 36 hours.

GHSA promotes global health security as a national priority through targeted capacity building activities, such as improving laboratory systems, strengthening disease surveillance, improving biosafety and biosecurity, expanding workforce development, and improving emergency management.

Over the last three years, we have worked tirelessly with partners around the world to launch and implement the GHSA and to leverage our engagement and leadership to gain concrete commitments from others. The GHSA has now grown to include 55 countries, international organizations, NGOs, private sector stakeholders, and a next generation leaders’ initiative.

Sparked by the GHSA, G-7 leaders, Nordic countries, and key G-20 partners have stepped up with new commitments, and the World Health Organization has now adopted a mechanism to assess countries using external evaluators and specific metrics. The Joint External Evaluation, as it is called, is an open, transparent, independent process to assess and improve global protection against health threats. The JEE is a stress test that allows countries to clearly identify the most urgent needs within their public health system and establish national plans, often for the first time, to address those needs using common metrics.

Avian influenza surveillance at Bangkok's Klongtoey Market. / Richard Nyberg, USAID

Avian influenza surveillance at Bangkok’s Klongtoey Market. / Richard Nyberg, USAID

But the JEE is just the beginning. As gaps are identified, they must be addressed. And to do that, we must continue to recognize that global health security is our national security and that this is a multisectoral effort, with health ministers working with agricultural and security ministers. And that the private sector and other NGOs are crucial to our success.

New diseases are emerging, drug resistance is rising, and more laboratories are processing dangerous microbes. This reality is the driving force for what we all want and what GHSA promises — a tighter, more sophisticated, collaborative and standardized global effort to advance both accountability and assistance and use the best science and tools to detect and defeat disease at the earliest possible moment.

To help advance GHS objectives, USAID is building on our long-running development efforts with not just ministries of health, but also ministries of agriculture, livestock, environment, rural development, and economic development — and private sector partners. USAID is actively working with our interagency partners in all 17 Phase I GHSA countries. We are actively supporting all 11 GHSA Action Packages with a special focus on zoonotic diseases, workforce development, disease surveillance, and antimicrobial resistance.

The unifying theme of our work is the so-called “One Health” approach, which brings together the sectors of animal health, human health, and the environment to address the burden of disease.  This multisectoral approach allows us to better address the full range of infectious diseases now emerging, including those that spill over from animals or result from antimicrobial resistance.

Combating zoonotic diseases is especially important because more than 70 percent of new infectious disease outbreaks originate in animals. Our work in this area involves strengthening animal health services, laboratory detection, outbreak response, and control programs.

Surveillance has been another focus for USAID, especially the detection of emerging and reemerging viral diseases emanating in animals. To date, USAID has targeted wildlife and livestock species (bats, rodents, poultry, swine and wild birds) that have historically been associated with spillover of zoonotic pathogens to people. Animals are sampled at high-risk disease transmission spots (such as mining sites, farms, markets) where there is likely exposure to humans.  The pathogens detected and their genomic signatures are used by host countries for risk assessments and for strengthening control programs. The program is actively sampling wildlife in 11 countries and has taken samples from more than 8,000 animals, proving the feasibility of mapping the global virome.

The comprehensive framework the Obama Administration is launching today will have a far-reaching impact on our ability to partner with new sectors to prevent, detect and respond to epidemic threats; leverage the full power and leadership of the U.S. Government for this effort; and move us closer to achieving the vision of a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harnessing the Power of Innovation to Save Mothers and Children

A mother and her daughter in Utter Pradesh, India. /PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

A mother and her daughter in Utter Pradesh, India. /PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

One year after the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed upon, I am optimistic about the potential to reach many of the health targets, including the goal to end preventable deaths of mothers and children. My optimism is fueled by the commitment of country leaders around the world to “finish the job” and the many promising new innovations on the horizon that have the potential to transform health for women and children.

A leader in improving health around the world, USAID has played an important role in the progress made in maternal and child health globally. I was proud to work with the agency on the Child Survival: Call to Action in 2012, and to watch the progress that has been achieved since.

New evidence for the potential of innovation

At PATH, we’re working every day with USAID and its partners to save lives and improve health through innovation that makes health care more affordable, accessible and effective. Last year, as the SDGs were launched, we crowdsourced innovations from around the globe and asked experts to prioritize 30 innovations with great potential to save lives in the next 15 years. Building on that first effort, called Innovation Countdown 2030, this year we decided to hone in on maternal, newborn and child health.

Working with researchers at Johns Hopkins University, PATH modeled 11 women- and child-focused innovations identified through the IC2030 initiative and the contribution they could make toward USAID’s targets to end preventable child and maternal deaths. We assessed how these innovations could help to increase intervention rates in USAID’s 24 high-priority countries if they were used at the scale that other high performing countries have reached.

Our analysis estimates that 6.6 million mothers and children could be saved between today and 2030 if just these 11 innovations were scaled up.

Notable innovations

The overwhelming majority of lives saved come from innovations that increase women’s access to family planning. For example, Sayana Press makes the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera more accessible by providing a lower-dose formulation in a prefilled, easy to use injection device. This enables community-level health workers to administer the contraceptive and makes it easier for women to access injectible contraceptives in their communities.

A woman in Uganda receives a dose of Sayana Press, an injectable contraceptive, from a village health worker. /PATH/Will Boase

A woman in Uganda receives a dose of Sayana Press, an injectable contraceptive, from a village health worker. /PATH/Will Boase

Other innovations with the greatest potential include new tools to monitor respiratory rates and devices to measure blood oxygen levels. These tools will save lives by improving the diagnosis and timely treatment of infants and children with pneumonia.

A mother practices kangaroo mother care in India. /Amy Fowler, USAID

A mother practices kangaroo mother care in India. /Amy Fowler, USAID

One simple, low-tech innovation that may save hundreds of thousands of lives is “kangaroo mother care,” which is prolonged skin-to-skin contact between the newborn and mother immediately after birth. This intimate physical contact improves thermal regulation of newborns. It also promotes exclusive breastfeeding, which is especially important for survival in low-resource settings. And it creates a strong psychological bond between the newborn and parent.

Innovation must be a priority

Our impact modeling shows how just 11 innovations can help USAID accelerate progress toward its goal of ending preventable maternal and child deaths. When scaled alongside other proven interventions, new and emerging innovations can truly be game-changing for mothers and children.

Given the importance of innovations to improve access, lower costs, and ensure effectiveness, I believe, for two major reasons, that USAID should focus even more attention on supporting countries to develop, introduce and scale the highest-priority innovations. Programs such as Saving Lives at Birth and the Global Development Lab are great examples of current efforts that are having an impact at the country level.

First, many countries want to strengthen their innovation ecosystems—engaging entrepreneurs, the private sector, and academia more effectively to develop and commercialize high-value innovations. Local innovators have incredible ingenuity and capacity to drive “frugal” innovations—low-cost, lifesaving innovations tailored to local needs.

Second, governments need access to the right data and the tools to analyze that data to assess innovations and health technologies and determine which should be introduced and supported with public funding.

With increased support to harness the power of innovation, I’m optimistic that USAID, low- and middle-income country governments, partners like PATH, and other stakeholders can end preventable maternal and child deaths and build stronger health systems and communities.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amie Batson is the chief strategy officer and vice president of strategy and learning at PATH. Follow @PATHtweets.

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Why Investing in Entrepreneurs Reaps Big Rewards

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee shares coffee with a coffee farmer and supplier in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee shares coffee with a coffee farmer and supplier in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

“The biggest challenge is access to funding—it’s that simple.” I have heard this refrain from entrepreneurs for years. This time, I was listening to Vava Angwenyi—an entrepreneur who started the Kenya-based social enterprise Vava Coffee seven years ago—speak about the most difficult obstacle in growing her business.

USAID believes entrepreneurs are critical drivers of inclusive economic growth and job creation—key to ending extreme poverty. Small and medium enterprises generate 78 percent of jobs in low-income countries and are particularly important sources of livelihoods in poor and rural communities. It’s entrepreneurs like Vava—people who create jobs, drive economic growth, and innovate to improve lives through market-based solutions—who have the power to address the world’s most challenging problems.

Yet so many of these entrepreneurs in developing countries struggle to succeed—not because they don’t have good ideas or lack the drive, but because they are working in challenging ecosystems with limited access to financial resources and business development services. At the same time, impact investors—who are looking to deploy their capital for both financial and social returns—are often unable to find “investment-ready” enterprises.

Vava Coffee provides employment and sustainable revenues to various groups that make packaging for the brand, including the handmade colorful bags the coffee is sold in, made by the women of Nairobi's informal settlements. /Vava Coffee

Vava Coffee provides employment and sustainable revenues to various groups that make packaging for the brand, including the handmade colorful bags the coffee is sold in, made by the women of Nairobi’s informal settlements. /Vava Coffee

To address this gap between entrepreneurs and impact investors, USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative is bringing more private capital to early-stage entrepreneurs and making impact investing easier. We work along all stages of the investment cycle—from sourcing, vetting and due diligence, to consulting support, technical assistance, and investment—to connect entrepreneurs and investors.

Since 2013, PACE has created a network of more than 40 incubators, accelerators and investors to address the obstacles that entrepreneurs around the world face so that entrepreneurs can grow their businesses, create jobs in their communities, and provide life-changing goods and services to underserved populations.

For example, Intellecap, a PACE partner that provides business solutions to social enterprises, worked with Vava to help her grow. “We helped her articulate the business and the scale up strategy through numbers and a crisp business plan,” says Stefanie Bauer, associate vice president of Intellecap. “Vava is much more confident about explaining the economics behind her business after she has gone through the financial modeling exercise with us.”

Beyond providing technical assistance to help Vava prepare her business to become more investment ready, Intellecap also helped Vava build her network and facilitated connections with investors.

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee inspects a coffee beans processing plant in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee inspects a coffee beans processing plant in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

Today, Vava Coffee has received global recognition for both the quality of its coffee and its social impact. Vava Coffee’s fair trade model provides a sustainable livelihood for their 30,000 smallholder farmers, whose income has increased by 16 times. In addition, Vava Coffee is working to expand access to credit and financial training for smallholder coffee farmers in Kenya and beyond, with a goal of reaching 130,000 farmers by 2018.

Vava still faces challenges ahead, and so do entrepreneurs who hope to follow in her footsteps. But she hopes that initiatives like PACE continue to “break down the barriers of access to funding, and make it easier for entrepreneurs that are doing good, changing lives, and eradicating poverty.”

The PACE Initiative continues to pilot and test new approaches for supporting entrepreneurs, like using guarantees from high net worth individuals to allow impact investors like MCE Social Capital to access bank capital that can then be lent to small and growing businesses, or leveraging local talent and local capital through regional impact investing funds with I&P.

I agree with Vava that there is still room for growth. And while I am proud of what PACE has accomplished—catalyzing more than $100 million of private investment that would have otherwise not happened—impact investments still represent only 0.02 percent of the $294 trillion in global financial markets.

Imagine what could be done with just a fraction more.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Schneider is division chief, Global Partnerships, at USAID’s Center for Transformational Partnerships. Follow him at @RMHS360.

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Lighting the Career Path for Girls in the Energy Sector

A live line crew member at work for Kenya Power and Lighting Co. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

A live line crew member at work for Kenya Power and Lighting Co. /Clare Novak, Energy Markets Group

Where does a girl dream about working as an engineer and running her country’s power facility? It certainly was not the first career choice for Queen Esther, a Nigerian schoolgirl who had always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.

But after spending a day at her father’s workplace, Nigeria’s main electricity utility, EkoElectricity Distribution Co., she became excited about new job possibilities. “Now I want to become an engineer because it’s really cool!” she said.

Cynthia Wanja, a Kenyan student, hadn’t thought of working in a power station either until she visited her father’s job at the Kenya Power and Lighting Co. and thought it was “awesome.” “I never knew there is work for civil engineers at power stations,” she said. “It sounds very interesting.”

At EkoElectricty Power Distribution Co. in Nigeria, girls learn about principles of electricity. /EkoElectricity Power Distribution Co.

At EkoElectricity Power Distribution Co. in Nigeria, girls learn about principles of electricity. /EkoElectricity

And for Sarah, one of the 44 Jordanian girls visiting their parents’ company, the experience was empowering. “The future is in the girls’ hands and they will help build the country,” she said enthusiastically after touring the Electricity Distribution Co.

These three girls and dozens of others in Nigeria, Kenya, Jordan and Macedonia participated in Bring Your Daughter to Work Day events, the first of their kind at their respective countries’ power utility and, for many of the girls, the first visit to their parents’ workplace.

Girls visit a substation at Kenya Power and Lighting Co.’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

Girls visit a substation at Kenya Power and Lighting Co.’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. /Clare Novak, Energy Markets Group

The events, supported by USAID’s Engendering Utilities program, expose girls to the many job options in the power sector.

Women worldwide have traditionally been underrepresented and often excluded from employment opportunities in the energy sector. Compared to eight other global industries, the energy sector ranks last for gender diversity of corporate boards. Only 16 percent of board members at the world’s 200 largest electric utilities are women.

In Jordan, for instance, women are still a minority in the workforce, and those employed commonly choose jobs in health and education, fields perceived as more appropriate for women. The USAID program aims to better understand the challenges that women working in the energy sector face, while improving their employment opportunities at power utilities.

As part of the program, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day events were designed to enhance girls’ interest in the energy sector early on.

While Queen Esther and 35 other Nigerian girls learned about lighting and energy conservation and how energy is generated through hydropower and transmitted to light city streets, they were also encouraged to continue to study and think about their futures without gender limitations.

“Promoting gender equality is fundamental to our company,” engineer Oladele Amoda, the general manager and CEO of EkoElectricity, told the girls during their visit. “Already, women hold four out of our company’s six top management positions.” In Nigeria, where women are disadvantaged in most aspects of livelihood and well-being—including employment, income and health—the Nigerian electric utility provides a positive example for others to follow.

Girls learn about wind generators during Bring Your Daughter to Work Day at Jordan's Electricity Distribution Co. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

Girls learn about wind generators during Bring Your Daughter to Work Day at Jordan’s Electricity Distribution Co. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

Having women join the energy sector is a win for everyone. Studies in other business sectors have shown that investing in girls and women has a positive impact on productivity and sustainable growth. And including women in a company’s management team can result in a richer set of ideas and more comprehensive solutions to challenges.

Energy companies are often among the largest employers in a country. Improving women’s access to jobs in electric power companies leads to improved development outcomes beyond the energy sector, including increased economic growth and better lives for families.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ellen Dragotto is a senior energy specialist in USAID’s Office of Energy and Infrastructure and manages the Engendering Utilities program.


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Improving—and Sustaining—Food and Nutrition Security for the Most Vulnerable: A New Food for Peace Strategy

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, merchants such as Belleus Pierre, 31, used T-Cash to sell basic food staples to families benefiting from the USAID-funded food assistance program implemented by Mercy Corps. Her participation in the program meant she had a steady flow of customers to her store, providing her own family with much needed income. /Lisa Hoashi, Mercy Corps

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, merchants such as Belleus Pierre, 31, used T-Cash to sell basic food staples to families benefiting from the USAID-funded food assistance program implemented by Mercy Corps. Her participation in the program meant she had a steady flow of customers to her store, providing her own family with much needed income. /Lisa Hoashi, Mercy Corps

Next week, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP), the largest provider of food assistance in the world, is marking a milestone—we’re issuing a new 10-year food assistance and food security strategy. An office unique within USAID for its dual relief and development mandate, FFP’s new strategy focuses on getting results for millions of vulnerable people living in areas characterized by extreme poverty and deprivation.

The strategy draws on the full range of tools available to us, from much needed American food commodities and specialized nutrition products, to market-based interventions that allow populations affected by conflict and natural disaster to select healthful foods available locally. Its programmatic theory of change is steeped in evidence-based learning about what works to protect and enhance the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

A woman receives USAID commodities at Bambasi refugee camp in Ethiopia. /Kiyori Ueno, WFP

A woman receives USAID commodities at Bambasi refugee camp in Ethiopia. /Kiyori Ueno, WFP

Building on our 2006-2010 strategy, this one focuses more deeply on strengthening systems and institutions to sustain success, elevating governance, social cohesion and conflict sensitivity. It places a central emphasis on understanding local context and adapting to changing circumstances to remain relevant and effective. It re-embraces our long commitment to gender equity and acknowledges the importance of engaging youth to advance sustained food and nutrition security.

The new strategy captures the best of what we currently do, but challenges FFP and our partners to strive for greater impact with greater efficiency and sustainability. It also embraces “nutrition security”—deliberately signaling the importance of a wide range of nutrition, sanitation and health factors that contribute to improved food security outcomes.

The need for our work has never been more important, whether we consider the growing impact of humanitarian crises that have displaced more people than any time on record, or the more subtle but equally intractable issue of chronic poverty and recurrent crisis which today preclude millions of people from achieving their potential.

Armed with new health, agriculture and nutrition practices she learned from USAID, Monjuara can continue to dream of a better life for her family and is paying it forward in her community. In Bangladesh, where over 60 million people survive on less than $1.25 per day, USAID is arming millions of parents like Monjuara with the skills to break the cycle of poverty. /Josh Estey for USAID

Armed with new health, agriculture and nutrition practices she learned from USAID, Monjuara can continue to dream of a better life for her family and is paying it forward in her community. In Bangladesh, where over 60 million people survive on less than $1.25 per day, USAID is arming millions of parents like Monjuara with the skills to break the cycle of poverty. /Josh Estey for USAID

While the challenge is great, so too is our commitment. There is unprecedented consensus that building the resilience of vulnerable communities, including their food and nutrition security, is key to our larger goals of ending extreme poverty, enhancing stability and spurring economic growth. The communities we work with, driven to improve their lives—as well as the committed governments, NGOs, United Nations agencies, and private sector actors that support them—agree on the urgency of this agenda.

Since its establishment in 1954, Food for Peace has reached more than 4 billion people. And today, with an annual budget that tops $2 billion, we and our partners have an outsized role to play in the global development community’s goal to end hunger in our time.

We extend our thanks to the U.S. Congress and the American people for their sustained support of our global efforts. And to all of our partners, whose expertise and tireless efforts in some of the most challenging environments in the world shaped this forward-looking strategy.

Despite the challenging times in which we live, we look to the future with a positive vision and a passion to make that vision a reality.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dina Esposito is the director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. Follow her on @DEsposito_FFP.

RELATED LINKS

Check out more on USAID’s food assistance programs.
Read more on how we can #endhunger by looking beyond food.
Learn more about the new Food for Peace food assistance and food security strategy.
Follow @USAIDFFP; @DEsposito_FFP

Tracking Rumors to Contain Disease: The Case of DeySay in Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak

Ambulances at the site of an Ebola flare-up in Margibi County, Liberia. /Kate Thomas

Ambulances at the site of an Ebola flare-up in Margibi County, Liberia. /Kate Thomas

Rumors spread misinformation, fuel mistrust, cause panic and sometimes even prompt irrational behaviors. This is particularly true in the context of a health emergency when accurate information about a disease—how to prevent, detect, contain and treat it—can mean the difference between staying healthy or becoming infected and, in the worst case scenario, dying from it.

When the Ebola epidemic began to rapidly spread in West Africa, some people thought that the bleach sprayed by health workers to sanitize the environment was the actual cause of the disease. Others believed Ebola was the result of black magic. Suspicion and fear grew fast across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries, sometimes leading to horrible incidents like the murder of a group of health workers, local officials and journalists in Guinea in September 2014.

Responders who were on the frontlines in the three hardest hit Ebola countries soon became aware that the epidemic was driven as much by misinformation as it was by weak health systems.

To address the rumors and lack of accurate information, USAID’s Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) initiative was designed to bring in-depth expertise in social and behavior change communication to manage the epidemic.

A sign informs people about the dangers of Ebola. /Ida Jooste, Internews

A sign informs people about the dangers of Ebola. /Ida Jooste, Internews

“Rumors often started far away from the capital and would grow out of control very quickly, generally through word of mouth, SMS and social media,” says Anahi Ayala Iacucci, former team leader for Internews in Liberia, an HC3 implementing partner.

Infection prevention and control, isolation of patients, contact tracing, and safe burials were critical practices for stopping the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Yet most of these required people to change their behaviors significantly when caring for sick family members.

“This chaotic information landscape consisted mainly of information ‘going out,’ with little opportunity for community dialogue,” says Iacucci.

Not surprisingly, local people struggled to understand why they needed to stop doing what they were used to doing and started to question information they were receiving. Information dissemination thus resulted in a plethora of poorly targeted and coordinated messages. The lack of dialogue fueled rumors and increased suspicion toward all first responders, including local and national governments.

“This chaotic information landscape consisted mainly of information ‘going out,’ with little opportunity for community dialogue.”

That is when the USAID-funded Information Saves Lives program in Liberia took off. Its goals were to investigate and respond to public rumors about Ebola, train and empower journalists to report accurately about health issues, and stimulate the exchange of information during the Ebola crisis. With technical support from UNICEF, HC3 developed the DeySay SMS system, which used text messages to monitor, track and report rumors about Ebola across different counties in Liberia.

“The DeySay rumor tracker was successful in responding to the information gaps that fed the rumors circulating, providing an opportunity to determine more localized communication responses,” says Anna Helland, HC3 country director in Liberia. “This, along with an increased emphasis on community engagement and community-led responses, provided needed vehicles for two-way rather than one-way communication as the situation continued to change and evolve.”

A radio host prepares to go live on an Ebola-related talk show. /Ida Jooste, Internews

A radio host prepares to go live on an Ebola-related talk show. /Ida Jooste, Internews

Another important aspect of this program was working with those who were already trusted sources of information like journalists, community leaders, and local health workers as a more effective way to foster dialogue and two-way conversations.

Rumors mapped through the tracker were addressed through a variety of outreach channels, including local radio stations where audiences had a chance to call in and share their concerns.

“Tracking rumors is pretty central to understanding public concern around these flare-ups and all health issues,” says Kate Thomas, an Information Saves Lives adviser with HC3 in Liberia.

With the goal of building long-term capacity for quality health reporting, this activity also provided small grants, training and mentoring opportunities to the most committed journalists. While the first phase of the project focused on delivering accurate information by identifying information gaps, the second phase will focus on capacity strengthening, according to Helland.

Although the DeySay Ebola rumor tracker is no longer in use, it has paved the way for innovative tools in a post-Ebola scenario.

Community engagement and social mobilization have been included as core components of USAID’s response strategy to Zika in Latin America. Because if there is one thing the Ebola outbreak taught us, it is that two-way engagement with affected communities is essential for sustainable behavior change. And blasting messages out without engaging in an ongoing dialogue will invariably fail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beatrice M. Spadacini is a senior communications adviser in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.


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How Vocational Training Is Changing the Destinies of Morocco’s Youth

Youth participate in a morning sewing class at the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. /USAID

Youth participate in a morning sewing class at the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. /USAID

Moroccan youth, who make up a third of their country’s population, represent a massive pool of untapped talent and potential. However, with 40 percent of Morocco’s youth out of school or out of work, many feel lost and unsupported by their communities. These youth can become susceptible to the world of crime, drugs and radicalization.

To help provide them with an alternative, USAID and its partners in Morocco are working together to provide sustainable opportunities for youth. I recently had the chance to visit USAID activities in Morocco that provide young people with the skills they need to enter the workforce, and connect them to jobs in high-demand sectors.

USAID’s Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth activity works with at-risk youth in underprivileged neighborhoods in the north of Morocco. Since 2012, the activity has improved the lives of over 12,000 at-risk youth in the cities of Tangiers and Tetouan by increasing confidence and community engagement, and providing professional skills training, academic support and tutoring.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Maria Longi witnesses the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association to increase youth employability. / USAID Morocco

Deputy Assistant Administrator Maria Longi witnesses the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association to increase youth employability. /USAID

Working with local civil society organizations, this USAID project addresses the challenges that push young Moroccans down hazardous paths. It improves their access to quality education and job opportunities and increases their community involvement through vocational training and career services—giving young people more positive options for their future.

I saw this firsthand when I visited the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. I had the opportunity to observe a morning sewing class, where young men and women sat at rows of sewing machines testing stitches on colorful fabric scraps.

The students I spoke to at the Chifae Association told me how the USAID project is helping them find themselves. I was moved by their sense of ambition as we talked about their personal challenges and aspirations. They are learning new skills that will help them get a job and become excited about their future. One student told me that if it wasn’t for this program, he would most certainly be on the street selling drugs.

From the Chifae Association, we headed straight to Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many of the graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. Nova Moda 2 provides these graduates with good salaries that allow them to support themselves and their families. With this new sense of purpose, Moroccan youth gain self-esteem and feel more respected in their neighborhoods.

Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. /USAID

Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. /USAID

I also attended the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association. This agreement made official what was already apparent: Everyone participating in this program—students, teachers and company managers—is committed to working toward a common goal of youth employability.

Through dedicated partnerships like this, students who complete the vocational training program have a clear vision of how their newly acquired skills can be applied in a viable profession, and with that, a hope for their future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Longi is the deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Middle East Bureau.


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How USAID and the Military Are Building Resilience in the Asia-Pacific

As part of the Groundwater Modeling Workshop, participants visited the Batheay district of Kampong Cham province in Cambodia, where they examined groundwater pumping wells, like the one pictured, and discussed methods for determining groundwater flow direction. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

As part of the Groundwater Modeling Workshop, participants visited the Batheay district of Kampong Cham province in Cambodia, where they examined groundwater pumping wells, like the one pictured, and discussed methods for determining groundwater flow direction. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

‘A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia. (No task is too big when done together by all.)—Hawaiian saying

As members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress gather in Hawaii this week to shape the direction of conservation and sustainable development, USAID celebrates its partnership with U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the livelihoods of families in the Asia-Pacific.

Collaboration between USAID and the Department of Defense (DOD) is decades strong. While both organizations have very different missions, we often find ourselves in the same spaces, in places where the most vulnerable live, and during times of complex crises that require a “whole-of-government” approach to save more lives, end extreme poverty around the globe, and build resilient democratic societies.

Richard Byess, program officer at USAID/Cambodia; Natalie Freeman, USAID senior development adviser at U.S. Pacific Command; and John Daley, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liaison officer in USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, offer their on-the-ground perspectives on what can be achieved when a spirit of civilian-military cooperation thrives in places like Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Q: Why is the Asia-Pacific region a natural space for cooperation and collaboration between USAID and the Department of Defense?

Freeman: The Asia-Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population and composed of countries and thousands of islands that take up half of the earth’s surface. For the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Asia is an exciting and pivotal time for U.S. policy in the region. In the past 30 years, we’ve seen a boost in prosperity, propelling hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty, and a growing middle class.

But despite this, there is a possibility that the region’s prosperity may be derailed because we have yet to address complex development challenges, such as governance in certain countries that inhibit marginalized societies from reaching their full potential, which impact not only our partner nations, but also PACOM, and U.S. national security. This is why USAID is working with PACOM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to ensure that the progress we gain together will be sustained for the long term.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cambodian Ministry of Environment study tools that could be used to evaluate the effects of climate change on groundwater resources in Cambodia, August 2016. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cambodian Ministry of Environment study tools that could be used to evaluate the effects of climate change on groundwater resources in Cambodia, August 2016. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

Q: What does civilian-military cooperation look like “on the ground”?

Byess: In the past five years in Cambodia, USAID has worked with the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) on some 58 civilian-military activities, most of which have improved learning conditions for children and have provided access to health services for local residents. Together, USAID and ODC have also rehabilitated schools and health clinics, much of which was possible through the State Partnership Program with the Idaho National Guard.

There are also numerous water programs that USAID, PACOM and USACE have collaborated on throughout the Asia-Pacific that have helped people adopt more resourceful and efficient ways of accessing and managing groundwater resources.

 

Q: How is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working with USAID to help families in the Asia-Pacific, especially in the face of climate change?

Daley: A recent example of collaborative USAID/DOD programs in the Asia-Pacific is the Groundwater Modeling Workshop, held in August 2016 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for multiple ministries and local civil society organizations. The workshop was requested by the Cambodian Ministry of Environment to explore the effects of climate change on the depletion of groundwater sources in Cambodia. USACE provided groundwater modeling instruction, and at the workshop’s end, participants walked away with tools and concepts to better understand the impacts of climate change, and other influences, on Cambodia’s rivers and waterways. The workshop was funded by PACOM and supported by USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation.

Freeman: Climate change is one of those areas that make sense to work together on because it impacts all of us. In Bangladesh, for example, USAID and USACE have been working together since 2011 as partners in a $40.5 million multipurpose cyclone shelter project to help prepare Bangladeshis for future tropical cyclones. So far, 60 to 70 cyclone shelters have been constructed, and the project is anticipated to be completed in December 2017, with a goal of constructing 100 safe havens for up to 180,000 people.

Q: What advice would you give to other USAID mission staff when working with the military?

Byess: It is USAID’s policy to cooperate with DOD in order to support the Agency’s mission and advance development objectives. Our interagency partners can be most effectively brought in when we avoid duplication of effort and resources.

Freeman: Cooperation is necessary at the policy level. At USAID, we are working to institutionalize the sharing of USAID country development cooperation strategies with DOD while in draft. We also encourage DOD to welcome USAID input into DOD policies, strategies and plans that impact our shared space. This exchange is critical for our partnership and allows it to have lasting impact.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristen Byrne is a strategic communications and outreach specialist with USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation.

 

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