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New Partnerships Build Roots that Help All Children Thrive

A female community health volunteer counsels a mother from Nepal about caring for her baby after birth. Setting children on a path to healthy physical growth and cognitive development is a priority of the All Children Thriving partnership. / Thomas Cristofoletti, USAID

A female community health volunteer counsels a mother from Nepal about caring for her baby after birth. Setting children on a path to healthy physical growth and cognitive development is a priority of the All Children Thriving partnership. / Thomas Cristofoletti, USAID

Rapid advances in neuroscience and genomics have led scientists to reach the unmistakable conclusion that the experiences and relationships we have as children exert a lasting biological influence on our learning, behavior, and health across the life course. Despite this growth in knowledge, an untold number of children are growing up in environments devoid of the experiences and relationships they need to thrive.

Equally disturbing is the fact that every year, millions of children die because they don’t get optimal nutrition during the critical period from their mother’s pregnancy through their second birthday. Children who miss out on good nutrition during this time never fully grow physically or mentally, limiting their ability to learn in school and reducing their productivity as adults.

Global challenges, as complex as those mentioned above cannot be solved by any one solution, individual, or organization.  Among many other reasons, important variables that influence the intended outcomes are not and often cannot be known or predicted in advance. Recognizing these realities, a growing number of thought leaders are setting out in search of new, innovative ways to achieve broad-scale impact.  

Family Care First Cambodia co-creation workshop / Family Care First

Family Care First Cambodia co-creation workshop / Family Care First

Take for example, the All Children Thriving partnership. Focused on developing new tools and holistic approaches to help mothers and children thrive in the developing world by ensuring a healthy birth for both mother and child and setting children on a path to healthy physical growth and cognitive development, All Children Thriving includes recent initiatives and commitments from Grand Challenges Canada (Saving Brains); the Saving Lives at Birth partnership (including the US Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the UK Department for International Development, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency); and a set of four new and interlinked initiatives, three through Grand Challenges partnerships in Brazil, India, and South Africa, and one from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Particularly exciting is how each of these initiatives not only builds on the work and learnings from past initiatives, but also frequently represents a new experiment or approach to advancing our shared work.  Another promising new initiative in this vein, Family Care First (FCF) launched last fall with leadership from USAID. Initial programming focused on Cambodia has been collaboratively co-created with the Global Alliance for Children, Save the Children, and over 20 other local and international NGOs. Because a stable, protective, and nurturing family is central to securing many of children’s developmental needs, FCF is designed to promote comprehensive and effective care systems that prioritize family care and to support scalable pathways out of adversity for children. Its primary objectives are to prevent avoidable child-family separations and to improve the lives of children who are already living outside family care.

amily Care First in Cambodia / Family Care First

amily Care First in Cambodia / Family Care First

What makes FCF so unique is that it is designed to harness the power of collective impact.  More specifically, it has set out to bring together donors, implementers, researchers and policymakers around achieving a common agenda; challenged all sectors to work together in both identifying and engaging necessary resources; and embraced shared measurement as a means to ensure the type of rapid learning that has been shown to lead to systemic change.

Central to FCF is also a strong emphasis on gathering data. Many of the challenges associated with children living outside family care have not been effectively tackled because they have not been reliably measured. Many countries, including Cambodia, do not yet know how many of their children live outside families or are at risk for separation, much less which interventions are most needed or effective to help them. Collecting and using data smartly will also help solutions adjust quickly to changing contexts and become more efficient in delivering the desired outcomes.

Innovative efforts like these represent the next generation of global development—efforts that harness the power of partnerships, collaboration, and data to drive transformational change. We are confident that taking such bold steps to help children and their families live full and productive lives will pay dividends for generations to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Ferguson, Director of the Center for Development Innovation in the U.S. Global Development Lab
Steven Buchsbaum, Deputy Director of Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

What We See in Lebanon and Jordan

USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander visits Syrian and Jordanian students in a USAID-supported elementary school science class in Jordan. / Mohammed Maghayda, USAID

USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander visits Syrian and Jordanian students in a USAID-supported elementary school science class in Jordan. / Mohammed Maghayda, USAID

On a recent trip to Lebanon, we visited with a mother who fled Syria with her husband and school-aged children. Like most Syrian refugees, they are living in a local community—not the international camps you might picture when you hear the word “refugee.”

They left behind their home in Aleppo with just the clothes on their backs, and now rent a small two-room apartment with sparse furnishings and no heat. They are happy to be safe from the barrel bombs and fighting at home, but worry about the future—the children have been unable to attend school, and the husband’s intermittent work as an informal garbage collector does not make ends meet. As time goes on, they have had to cut back on even the most basic needs like food

These hardships and worries are inseparably shared by the generous people in Lebanon’s host communities, where water was already scarce and schools were already overcrowded. The juxtaposition of these communities’ warm reception to their limited resources is staggering.

Lebanon is currently hosting over 1.1 million refugees from Syria, and hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. Syrians represent about 40 percent of Lebanon’s public school students, yet there are still more than 300,000 Syrian refugee children out of school in the country.

However, amid the struggles and ever-increasing needs faced by refugees and host communities alike, examples of hope and unity are emerging.

USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander and former USAID/Jordan Mission Director Beth Paige visit a school in Tafileh, Jordan. / Mohammed Maghayda, USAID

USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander and former USAID/Jordan Mission Director Beth Paige visit a school in Tafileh, Jordan. / Mohammed Maghayda, USAID

The American people, through USAID, have been helping Syrians since the beginning of the conflict more than four years ago. But we have been working with Syria’s neighbors—Jordan and Lebanon—for decades. Our short-term and long-term assistance has the same goal: to make sure people in Jordan and Lebanon have access to health care, education, clean water and a decent livelihood—so the people of the region can continue to lead productive and safe lives, even in the face of crisis.

One of my first priorities when I was sworn in as USAID assistant administrator for the Middle East was to make sure we did whatever we could to support those communities in Jordan and Lebanon, which were welcoming but challenged by the influx of Syrian refugees.

USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander meets a Syrian family living in Tafileh, Jordan. / Mohammed Maghayda, USAID

USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander meets a Syrian family living in Tafileh, Jordan. / Mohammed Maghayda, USAID

We are building new schools and rehabilitating and equipping existing classrooms in Jordan and Lebanon. We are also training teachers to deal with traumatized students, and those who have been out of school for months or years. But even with more classrooms, schools in both countries have so many students they are teaching in two shifts—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. One school we recently visited is asking parents to provide their own chair rather than turn away new students.

However, the problem is not just overcrowding. Money also keeps children out of school. Some families cannot afford transportation to school or the $60 school registration fee, which does not cover textbooks and supplies. Others are sending their children to work in fields or shops—or to marry at a young age—because money is running out and Syrian refugees cannot get the work permits necessary for formal jobs.

With these issues in mind, we try to make sure our humanitarian aid isn’t just a handout but actually an investment in society.

We saw this investment firsthand during a visit to a grocery store in a crowded suburb of Beirut. Our food assistance through the U.N. World Food Program comes in the form of an electronic payment card, which was accepted at this store and more than 400 others across Lebanon. With the card, refugees are able to shop at community grocery stores, select their own food and participate in the local community and local economy. This program has empowered refugees to become contributing community members in their own right. At the same time, the owner of this market proudly told us that he had hired additional stockers and cashiers to accommodate the uptick in business. These electronic vouchers have injected $1.2 billion into the economies of Syria’s neighbors and created 1,300 jobs.

We do this work on behalf of the American people because it’s the right thing to do—but it’s also in our national interest. To see what you can do, please visit www.usaid.gov/humanity-acts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paige Alexander is the assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for the Middle East. Follow that office at @USAIDMiddleEast.

How Partnership is Combating Deforestation in the Amazon

An aerial photograph shows a tract of the Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers in Pará State. Imazon is primarily based out of Para and has worked to reduce illegal deforestation by 80 percent. / Stian Bergeland/Rainforest Foundation Norway/Reuters

An aerial photograph shows a tract of the Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers in Pará State. Imazon is primarily based out of Para and has worked to reduce illegal deforestation by 80 percent. / Stian Bergeland/Rainforest Foundation Norway/Reuters

As a nation that claims more than two thirds of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil will be a key player in the negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference this week. In fact, representatives from Brazil are expected to present a national proposal for fighting climate change—with a goal of reducing deforestation further from the 80 percent drop seen between 2004 and 2014.

About 17 percent of the Amazon has already been lost to deforestation. The loss of forest cover causes dramatic changes in rainfall distribution, disrupts the global carbon cycle and intensifies global warming effects, with grave consequences for both people and biodiversity.

For the team at Imazon, an 80 percent drop is not enough.

The map shows deforestation and degradation in the Amazon rainforest. The State of Paráa has experienced some of the heaviest rates of deforestation in Brazil. / Imazon

The map shows deforestation and degradation in the Amazon rainforest. The State of Paráa has experienced some of the heaviest rates of deforestation in Brazil. / Imazon

Imazon, a nonprofit research institute funded by the Innovation Investment Alliance—a partnership between USAID and the Skoll Foundation, in collaboration with Mercy Corps, that helps promising social enterprises reach scale—is taking the challenge a step further, with a goal to end deforestation entirely within the next decade.

Given that Brazil is still losing around 5,000 square kilometers of forest  a year, anything less is a failure to do what is necessary, feasible and advantageous.

Based in Belém, Brazil, Imazon is at the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness about the loss of the Amazon. It uses satellite mapping technology to provide a true picture of deforestation on the ground and to monitor the situation with real-time data. The information is provided to the Brazilian government and local landowners. Imazon’s growing body of data and research is playing an ever-larger role in influencing political and land ownership decisions in favor of sustainability.

For example, Imazon’s Rural Landowner Registry, or CAR (Cadastro Ambiental Rural), is a system that requires all rural properties to be mapped and registered through the Brazilian government. In addition to providing important data regarding land use and deforestation rates, CAR allows landowners and municipalities to formalize which parcels of land are actually theirs, thus keeping in check those who may be clearing forest illegally.

The program has been a huge success. In the Paragominas municipality of Pará, a state infamous for rapid forest loss and corruption, Imazon was able to help reduce illegal deforestation by more than 80 percent.

Today, with support from the Innovation Investment Alliance, Imazon is expanding its programs to 50 municipalities throughout Pará, with a goal to reduce the rate of deforestation while supporting economic growth based on a foundation of legally held land use.

Imazon is also working to take its approach beyond Brazil’s borders, to share its pioneering maps with the global community. The launch of Google Earth Engine—an online global environmental monitoring platform with more than 40 years of historic measurements—has allowed Imazon to connect with leading organizations throughout the world that want to build on the organization’s model.

Brazil’s new environmental plan is promising, but Imazon’s team sees that more can be done. While hopeful that Brazil is moving in the right direction, the ultimate goal of ending deforestation will require solid planning from Brazil’s leaders alongside the technical know-how of organizations like Imazon. Together, they can build the connections that create positive change for people and the planet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Hunt is a Senior Partnership Advisor in Center for Transformational Partnerships in the Global Development Lab. She works on issues related to social entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment.

From the Household Hearth to Global Health: Creating a Healthier Planet Starts with a Cookstove

Each year, in the days leading up to holiday gatherings across the United States, stoves and ovens put in a lot of hours.

Many are used to cook turkeys; some roast more than one. Stovetops steam green beans, simmer gravies, and cook cranberries down to a sauce.

Now, imagine a different scene. Instead of a kitchen filled with the aromas of a holiday meal, imagine a kitchen filled with black smoke that stings the eyes and itches the back of the throat. An open fire of kindling and cow dung burns in the center of the room, and clouds of smoke billow steadily forth to hang thick, heavy and hazy in the air.

For nearly 3 billion people around the world, this is not a sign that the casserole has caught fire in the oven. Rather, it’s a daily part of life.

More than 40 percent of the world’s population relies on solid fuels such as wood, coal, dung, charcoal and crop residues for everyday cooking. And in the clouds of thick smoke that such fuels produce, threats to environmental and human health converge.

Cleaner Technologies for Safer Homes

In Uganda, biomass fuel sources are used for nearly all household cooking needs. Open biomass fires release harmful particles into the air, and household air pollution is estimated to cause 20,000 premature deaths in Uganda each year.

A community organizer in Uganda demonstrates the use of the TLUD stove to a local group. / Kendra Williams, URC

A community organizer in Uganda demonstrates the use of the TLUD stove to a local group. / Kendra Williams, URC

To address this, USAID’s Translating Research into Action (TRAction) Project is researching the drivers and barriers for the household adoption and sustained use of cleaner cooking technologies.

A Top-Lit UpDraft (TLUD) stove was selected for the TRAction behavior change initiative in Uganda. The new stove burns wood more efficiently, emitting less ash and particulate residue than open fires. Local artisans produce and repair the stoves and leaders encourage adoption of the stove, promoting community ownership of the intervention.

A Global Concern

USAID is a founding member of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The Alliance and its partners hope to disseminate 100 million cookstoves by 2020.

An investment in clean cookstoves is an investment in human health. Exposure to household air pollution accounts for 4.3 million deaths worldwide each year. Exposure to household air pollution is the leading risk factor for pneumonia, the second-leading cause of child mortality.

The linkages to the environment are also well-established. Solid fuel dependency for household fires contributes to climate change through the emission of gases and particles such as carbon dioxide, methane, and black and brown carbon. Unsustainable wood harvesting can lead to deforestation, reducing the uptake of carbon by plant matter and exacerbating soil erosion, waterway pollution, and altered vector-borne disease patterns.

Teresia Oloitai of Tanzania installs a chimney stove in her home to reduce the intake of smoke and carbon dioxide during household cooking. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Teresia Oloitai of Tanzania installs a chimney stove in her home to reduce the intake of smoke and carbon dioxide during household cooking. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Clean cookstoves are also an investment in women’s empowerment, as the burden of collecting biomass fuel often falls on women and girls — at the expense of other productive opportunities. New cookstoves also improve the health of women and children, who spend much of their time at home near the hearth.

Improving the health of communities through the expansion of sustainable fuel sources is one of the many ways in which climate change considerations both affect and are affected by efforts to improve global health. And as our understanding of the full impacts of climate change on the planet come to light, the connections to global health continue to grow.

The Talks in Paris: Envisioning a Healthy World

Recently, the WHO concluded that climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Its effects on human health are myriad. Air pollution accounts for 7 million deaths each year, and outbreaks of infectious diseases are expected to increase as weather patterns shift. Natural disasters and political instability — both linked to climate change — disrupt primary health services, and displaced populations are put at a heightened risk of illness and infection due to poor nutrition and a lack of vaccinations, medications, clean water and sanitation.

When each of these effects of climate change on human health, both direct and indirect, are taken into account, the number of people affected reaches into the billions.

Through a variety of efforts, USAID and others have contributed to the significant global progress over the past half century in reducing mortality rates and improving health and quality of life. There is undoubtedly much work left to be done — yet neglecting the issue of climate change could undermine the past 50 years of progress in global health.

The conversations at this week and next’s COP21 conference in Paris must take into account the full implications of our changing climate — not only for the health of our planet, but for the health of our fellow human beings. And as world leaders gather round the conference tables in Paris, our team will continue to help families gather round cleaner, safer cookstoves. Global health depends on both.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Rost works on communications within the Global Health Bureau.

Acting on Climate, Reducing Poverty, Powering Africa

This 500-watt solar system, installed by SolarNow and financed by Power Africa partner SunFunder, provides clean power for a home, a public broadcasting system, a barbershop and a video hall in a rural village in Uganda. / Sameer Halai, SunFunder

This 500-watt solar system, installed by SolarNow and financed by Power Africa partner SunFunder, provides clean power for a home, a public broadcasting system, a barbershop and a video hall in a rural village in Uganda. / Sameer Halai, SunFunder

This month’s meeting of world leaders, NGOs, civil society groups and other advocates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris comes at a time when upwards of a billion people on our planet lack access to reliable electricity. Nearly half live in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, only a third have access, which means severe limits on health care, education and economic opportunities for more than 600 million men, women and children.

Addressing this challenge will require an intensive effort to build and upgrade energy infrastructure, as well as add additional energy to the grid and increase the number of people that have access to energy — and to do this in a way that reduces or eliminates the typical energy-related drivers of climate change.

Power Africa and USAID are taking action on climate–and tackling extreme poverty–by working with our partners in African governments and the private sector to stimulate investment in clean energy solutions.

The Gigawatt Global solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda helps the long-term sustainability of the village, is good for the environment, generates local employment and education, and empowers the country with access to electricity. / Sameer Halai for the Power Africa Photo Contest

The Gigawatt Global solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda helps the long-term sustainability of the village, is good for the environment, generates local employment and education, and empowers the country with access to electricity. / Sameer Halai for the Power Africa Photo Contest

Clean Power for Africa

Africa boasts incredible clean energy opportunities, and the potential for growth in the African renewable energy sector is tremendous. According to the new Climatescope report, sub-Saharan countries have attracted over $25 billion for renewable energy projects, doubling their renewable energy capacity in 2014 to over 4 gigawatts.

Since our launch, Power Africa has successfully mobilized significant investments in renewable technologies throughout the continent, helping to diversify energy portfolios and accelerate Africa’s transition toward thriving, low-carbon economies.

For example, Google is investing in what will be Africa’s largest wind farm, a renewable energy project Power Africa helped enable. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) signed a $400 million agreement with Power Africa partner SolarReserve to help develop a 100-megawatt clean solar energy facility in South Africa. And one of Power Africa’s newest partners, Nova-Lumos, with financing from OPIC, is scaling up its business to bring renewable and reliable power to millions of Nigerians who live and work beyond the grid.

The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm in South Africa has an installed capacity of 138 megawatts, supplying enough clean renewable electrical energy to power more than 100,000 average South African households. / Dirk Moggee, Work at Play Photography, for the Power Africa Photo Contest

The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm in South Africa has an installed capacity of 138 megawatts, supplying enough clean renewable electrical energy to power more than 100,000 average South African households. / Dirk Moggee, Work at Play Photography, for the Power Africa Photo Contest

Our aim is to build cleaner, more climate-resilient power sectors that serve all people —  including women, who play key decision-making roles in the household but have traditionally been sidelined from the energy industry.

Reaching Beyond the Grid

Among the most exciting ways that USAID and Power Africa are connecting homes and businesses to clean energy is through off-grid and small-scale renewable power projects. Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid sub-initiative, launched in June 2014, is working to unlock investment and growth in off-grid energy and electricity access projects across the African continent. To date, Power Africa has funded off-grid companies and projects expected to provide over 1 million new connections.

Beyond the Grid’s current portfolio includes over 100 projects that range from solar lanterns to solar rooftop systems, mini-hydro to micro-grids, and everything in between. For example, several mini-hydropower projects are in development in Tanzania, and our team at the U.S.-Africa Development Foundation (USADF) is supporting solar mini-grids and a solar lantern franchise that is accessible to Tanzanian women entrepreneurs.

An M-POWER installation agent places a solar panel on a roof in Tanzania. / Mathieu Young, Off.Grid:Electric, for the Power Africa Photo Contest

An M-POWER installation agent places a solar panel on a roof in Tanzania. / Mathieu Young, Off.Grid:Electric, for the Power Africa Photo Contest

In Ethiopia, USADF is working on an innovative financing scheme for solar home systems. In Rwanda, an incredible 8.5 megawatt, grid-connected solar PV system has been installed at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, which is home to children orphaned by genocide.

Plus, Power Africa’s off-grid partners are providing more than light and power — they’re stimulating an entire market and creating thousands of jobs through their distribution and servicing networks. It’s proof that positive climate action can be positive economic action.

Improving Lives, Protecting the Planet

President Obama’s vision for Power Africa is to apply a new model of development to improve lives and energize economies. This approach is focused not just on aid, but also on trade through connections and partnerships with businesses and investors.

In fact, Power Africa now has more than 100 private sector partners, as well as commitments from over a dozen U.S. Government agencies, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Government of Sweden, the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All.

With the help of our partners, we are achieving our goals. We’ve already helped advance projects that are expecting to generate over 4,100 megawatts of new and cleaner electricity, and we’re tracking and often facilitating projects that could bring another 20,000 megawatts for people and communities across sub-Saharan Africa.

Power Africa exemplifies how critical partnership is to lead by example on climate change. We hope for positive outcomes from the conference in Paris, and look forward to a more sustainable and prosperous future for Africa and the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Herscowitz is Coordinator for Power Africa. Follow him @aherscowitz

When Cities Help Each Other to Address Climate Change

Representatives of Durban, South Africa, and Broward County, Florida, gather to celebrate “Durban Appreciation Days” in March 2014. / CityLinks

Representatives of Durban, South Africa, and Broward County, Florida, gather to celebrate “Durban Appreciation Days” in March 2014. / CityLinks

As more and more people move from rural to urban areas, cities are now on the front lines in the battle against climate change. Today, just over half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, this figure is expected to jump to 70 percent.

Cities in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they are often unprepared for climate-induced events like flooding, strong storms, and periods of extreme heat and cold.

These cities are starting to join forces across the globe to cope with climate change, share strategies and multiply results.

In 2013, local leaders of Durban, South Africa, visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to learn how Florida was using regional collaboration to address climate change. They never expected that the impact of their partnership would be felt as far away as Tanzania or Paris.

But that’s exactly what is happening. Representatives from Durban and Southeast Florida are now preparing to share their experiences during the historic 2015 Paris Climate Conference, or COP 21 (check the links below the story to find out more). Two years of collaboration have resulted in transformational changes in Durban and beyond, including the launch of Durban’s own regional compact on climate change, as well as the development of a hub and compact model that may be replicated by other local governments committed to the Durban Adaptation Charter.

Debra Roberts and Sean O'Donoghue of Durban, South Africa, examine South Broward's water pumping station as part of a knowledge-sharing trip to Florida. / CityLinks

Debra Roberts and Sean O’Donoghue of Durban, South Africa, examine South Broward’s water pumping station as part of a knowledge-sharing trip to Florida. / CityLinks

This unlikely pairing was made possible through CityLinks, a USAID-sponsored program implemented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) that helps cities in developing countries prepare for climate change by connecting them with cities in the United States and other countries in the global north.

“Honestly, our expectations weren’t that high,” said Sean O’Donoghue, a climate protection expert in the Durban Government. “Fort Lauderdale is a highly developed city, operating very
differently from cities in developing countries. We didn’t know what to expect, but we went in with an open mind.”

Just a few years ago, Durban was grappling with how to collaborate with neighboring regions on climate change. Although the city can be considered relatively progressive on climate protection, other municipalities in the surrounding area often lacked the financial resources or the capacity to do the same.

While Durban’s population is just under 600,000, its larger metropolitan area is more than four times that, with over 3.4 million people. Without full cooperation of the entire municipality,
millions of people could remain vulnerable to the effects of climate change like rising sea levels.

Representatives of Durban, South Africa, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, consult on flooding issues as part of a CityLinks knowledge-sharing partnership. / CityLinks

Representatives of Durban, South Africa, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, consult on flooding issues as part of a CityLinks knowledge-sharing partnership. / CityLinks

Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, Florida, on the other hand, have been innovators in forming regional compacts on climate change. As part of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact formed in 2009, Broward County collaborates with three other counties on a common
strategy on climate change, and the four counties share knowledge and resources to meet targets.

Through CityLinks, Durban has worked with local officials from Florida and representatives from neighboring municipalities to develop its own regional compact, the Central KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Compact. Just last month, the compact was officially launched, and the partners are working together to plan the next steps of their collaboration.

The idea has taken off outside of Durban as well, attracting the attention of the federal government. Eight other municipalities in South Africa have signed on to launch similar programs in the near future. Cities in Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana are also learning from Durban’s example. Last year, Durban formed its own knowledge-sharing partnership with Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and today Durban is compiling a practical toolkit for other cities aspiring to benefit from the same model.

“One thing I’ve taken away from this experience is the realization of how well peer-to-peer learning works,” said O’Donoghue. “In city-to-city communication, there is an open sense of trust, and learning outcomes are so much better. Seeing is believing. This was a really powerful realization that we used with the rest of our exchanges.”

CityLinks has also recently helped developing cities in Indonesia, Philippines, Jamaica, Georgia, India and Honduras to connect and share knowledge on the topic of climate change. Partnerships have focused on various areas, including disaster preparedness, water management, and sustainable waste management.

Such partnerships are needed now more than ever. As the leaders of hundreds of cities gather in Paris this week for the COP 21, the message is clear: Cities face the greatest risks as the planet’s climate changes, but they are also in a position to make the greatest impact when they work together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liza Lenz is an intern in USAID’s Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs and a master’s student at the University of Denver.

A Time of Unparalleled Need

A young boy smiles as he walks out of his local bakery, arms full of freshly baked bread. Families such as this boy’s family rely on local bakeries to get their daily bread.

A young boy smiles as he walks out of his local bakery, arms full of freshly baked bread. Families such as this boy’s family rely on local bakeries to get their daily bread.

It’s hard to believe that what began as a simple cry for opportunity and human rights has become the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.

Five years ago, at the height of the Arab Spring, the Syrian people took to the streets to peacefully protest for fundamental freedoms from an increasingly authoritarian leader. The response from the Syrian regime was unequivocal force and brutality that has left half of all Syrians dead or displaced, and spawned a breeding ground for extremists like the so-called Islamic State or Daesh.

If you want to know how this crisis feels, talk to some of the more than 17 million Syrians directly impacted by the violence—their homes bombed, their schools destroyed, their relatives and friends killed. That’s like upending the lives of everyone living in the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. And lives have certainly been shattered.

Ayyush is 80 years old. She recently lost her son in the conflict in Syria. She now only wishes for more years ahead to raise her grandchildren. Ayyush and her family live in the Islahiye refugee camp in Turkey where they receive monthly food assistance through an e-food card program.

Ayyush is 80 years old. She recently lost her son in the conflict in Syria. She now only wishes for more years ahead to raise her grandchildren. Ayyush and her family live in the Islahiye refugee camp in Turkey where they receive monthly food assistance through an e-food card program.

Today, 4 million Syrian refugees are living in neighboring countries—Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt—in donated apartments, relatives’ spare rooms and tents. Another 6.5 million are displaced internally, trapped in a living hell that includes daily indiscriminate barrel bombing by the Assad regime on the one hand and Daesh’s murderous reign of terror on the other.

Behind the figures are children and the parents who would do anything and risk everything to keep them safe. For families inside Syria, the choice is agonizing: Stay and risk your child being killed on the way to school, or risk their safety on a treacherous journey across borders.

What are these Syrians facing every day?

Hunger for one. Since this crisis began nearly five years ago, USAID has provided $1.55 billion in food assistance, more than all other donors combined. Since 2013, we have given bakeries still operating inside the country 122,000 metric tons of flour and yeast, which comes out to more than 300 million daily bread rations. USAID has also helped distribute food vouchers—essentially preloaded debit cards—so refugees can shop for the familiar foods they yearn for and, at the same time, boost the local economies of Syria’s neighbors.

These two Syrian sisters now live as refugees in Mafraq, Jordan. / Peter Bussian for USAID

These two Syrian sisters now live as refugees in Mafraq, Jordan. / Peter Bussian for USAID

Nearly 2 million children in Syria and another 700,000 Syrian refugees are out of school because of the conflict. As Secretary of State John Kerry said recently: “The burden of the conflict falls most heavily on the smallest shoulders.” Without that daily stability in their lives, children are at risk of being exploited as laborers and young girls in particular may face the pressures of early marriage.

Our teams on the ground are helping refurbish and modernize public school buildings in Lebanon and Jordan so they can accommodate the extra load of new learners. Some of the schools have doubled or tripled shifts to ensure everyone gets a chance to learn and thrive.

USAID is also providing health care to people in need across 14 governorates in Syria—2.4 million this year alone—as well as clean water to 1.3 million.

We are also supporting women to be change agents for peace inside Syria, and assisting moderate civilian actors inside Syria to keep schools open, repair public services and literally keep the lights on for communities under siege.

We are proud to say that we reach 5 million people every month in spite of the often dangerous conditions to make those connections happen.

Our assistance inside Syria and the region is not only keeping people alive, but keeping their aspirations alive, too. A future Middle East needs peace and opportunity, not spirals of retribution.

“Our dreams are very simple,” said Mohamad, a former bus driver in Syria who is now a refugee living in a cramped apartment in Jordan with what is left of his family. He lost three sons in the conflict.

Bags of wheat flour inside a storage room at a Syrian bakery wait to be turned into bread. Bakeries such as this one are vital to providing food to Syrians in need.

Bags of wheat flour inside a storage room at a Syrian bakery wait to be turned into bread. Bakeries such as this one are vital to providing food to Syrians in need.

What he wants now is what any person would want: “To have a decent living so that we can be self-sufficient and not put out a hand to beg. We want people to look at us as humans because we are just like them.”

Though the United States has been generous—$4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance over nearly five years in addition to other aid—our funding that supports the heroic organizations working with Syrians on the ground throughout the region is simply not enough. Additional support is sorely needed.

The United Nations’ appeals for humanitarian aid to address the crisis in Syria are still only 48 percent funded for this year. This is a shortfall of over $4.4 billion in life-saving services.

We must support those suffering inside Syria as well as those fleeing across the border.

As President Barack Obama reminded the world at the G20 Summit in Turkey, Syrian refugees are leaving their country to escape violence and terrorism. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”

This conflict has spiraled out of control for too long. And while we are undertaking herculean efforts to help the Syrian people and Syria’s neighbors, we cannot alleviate this crisis without more help. If we do not continue to work with our partners to address the Syrian crisis and its impacts now, the problem will only get worse.

That is why we are asking you to stand in solidarity with USAID, our partners and, most critically, the people of Syria. Visit Humanity Acts to learn more about the humanitarian crisis that directly impacts the majority of Syrian people and how you can join us in supporting them.

We’re on social media using the hashtag #HumanityActs and we invite you to use it as well. Together we can help put an end to the biggest humanitarian emergency of our time. It starts here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Staal is the senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Follow that office at @USAID_DCHA

Why Right Now is the Right Time to Act Faster to Stop Unnecessary HIV/AIDS Deaths

Emily with two employees of Project Concern International (PCI) and her youth group members, celebrating the youths' graduation from PCI's Entrepreneurial and Business Skills Training in Botswana. / Project Concern International

Emily with two employees of Project Concern International (PCI) and her youth group members, celebrating the youths’ graduation from PCI’s Entrepreneurial and Business Skills Training in Botswana. / Project Concern International

“Dineo! DINEO! Diiiiiny!”

I hear my Setswana name being called, but I can’t concentrate on that right now. I’m busy biting my tongue as I begin the familiar routine of mentally reminding myself to relax.

This is not a new experience for me as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana—closing my eyes and counting to 10 as I wait in line in a cramped grocery store while a cashier, in a comically unhurried manner, takes her sweet time ringing up customers’ items, moving at the speed of a sleepy-eyed cat that’s spent its day dozing in the sun. This seems to be the default speed in my village.

Thankfully, my lack of response did not deter my caller. I’m shaken out of my irritability by Masego, a shining star in the youth group that I manage. Before I can greet her, she’s excitedly speaking in a hushed tone:

“Dineo! I was calling! I want to tell you! Mpho got tested. She’s positive.”

Mpho is another member of my youth group. Masego should absolutely not be telling people, including me, Mpho’s* status. Before I can even speak on this, though, Masego nonchalantly adds:

“She says she won’t take the drugs when they ask.”

What? “Why?”

Masego shrugs. “Ga ke itse.” I don’t know. “She says she’ll take muthi.”

Muthi. Traditional medicine.

Well. That did not improve my mood.

Not only is that one of the last things an HIV/AIDS volunteer wants to hear, but it also scared me. Five weeks before, another youth that I had worked with, Pako, passed away. He was born with HIV and had been living with the virus until he was 21—the age he stopped his antiretroviral therapy because he didn’t want his new roommates to see and deduce that he was HIV positive.

Emily distributing condoms to youth group members after a lively condom demonstration in Botswana. / Thabo Lentswe

Emily distributing condoms to youth group members after a lively condom demonstration in Botswana. / Thabo Lentswe

This once healthy young man deteriorated before us, eventually dying, unnecessarily, all the while denying that he was HIV positive to his friends and denying that he had stopped taking his treatment to his family.

Twenty years ago, in Botswana and in many other parts of the world, an end like Pako’s was often inevitable for people diagnosed with HIV. That is no longer the case. More people than ever before are living with HIV. And by living, I mean living; they’re healthy—working, studying, caring for their children, playing soccer, hanging with friends, living.

How you ask? Antiretroviral therapy.

Now, more people than ever before have access to lifesaving medication. This monumental achievement is the direct result of the work of USAID, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), international partners, partner countries and civil society.

But here’s the thing: In order for antiretroviral therapy to work, people have to actually start taking it. And once they start taking it, they must adhere to it. Completely.

Emily with four youth group members in Botswana. / Project Concern International

Emily with four youth group members in Botswana. / Project Concern International

This is why the Joint United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS, as part of its 90-90-90 targets, is striving to get 90 percent of all people living with HIV on sustained antiretroviral therapy by 2020 in order to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. USAID and PEPFAR have established new targets to aggressively scale up treatment in order to reach this goal.

This goal cannot be accomplished, though, if people, like Mpho, do not start the treatment.

Right now.

This goal cannot be accomplished if people, like Pako, do not stay on the treatment.

Right now.

This goal cannot be accomplished if the international community, including beneficiaries, does not act urgently.

Right now.

We are closer than we have ever been to reaching an AIDS-free generation. This can’t be done, though, if international agencies, civil society, partner countries and beneficiaries move at the same languid pace as the cashier in that cramped, scorching grocery store in my village in Botswana.

In order to control the HIV epidemic, save lives and get people on sustained treatment, we need to move now, together, with a sense of urgency and purpose. This is the time to push. This is the time to work. The time to act is now.

*Names have been changed throughout to protect individuals’ identities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Reitenauer is a program assistant on the Gender Team for the Technical Leadership and Research Division in the Office of HIV/AIDS in USAID’s Global Health Bureau. She spent three years (2012-2015) serving as a Peace Corps volunteer performing HIV/AIDS work in Botswana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

Strong Border Management is Vital to the Fight against Ebola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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