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Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health for All

Approximately 16 million girls ages 15 to 19 (most of them already married) give birth each year. On July 11, World Population Day, we join the global community in raising awareness on the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of protecting and empowering millions of girls around the globe.

Adolescent pregnancy has dire health, social and economic consequences for girls, their communities, and nations. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 in low-and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and death are 50 per cent more likely for babies born to mothers younger than 20 than for babies born to mothers in their 20s. We know that girls who become pregnant often face discrimination within their communities, drop out of school, and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime. A World Bank study (PDF) found that the lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy in developing countries ranges from 10 percent of annual GDP in Brazil to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.

World Population Day 2013 aims to draw awareness to the issue of adolescent pregnancy. Photo credit: Netsanet Assaye, Courtesy of Photoshare

I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital to ensure future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives.  In developing countries overall, 22 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) who are married or in union use contraceptives, compared to 61 percent of married girls and women aged 15-49 (PDF). Lack of information, fear of side effects, and other barriers—geographic, social, and economic—prevent young people from obtaining and using family planning methods.

It’s appropriate that this World Population Day also marks a year since the historic London Summit on Family Planning, and the launch of Family Planning 2020. This global partnership supports the right of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. I am proud to be on the Reference Group of the Family Planning 2020 initiative (PDF) that aims to enable 120 million more women and girls to access family planning information and services by 2020.

As the largest bilateral donor for family planning, USAID is uniquely poised to accelerate progress and improve education and access to reproductive health services for youth.  We support programs and research on adolescent health and development, and we have approaches that work to improve knowledge and change behaviors. Our programs focus on gender equality, because we know that boys and men who have access to reproductive health information and services are better able to protect their own health, support their partners, and participate in planning of their future and that of their families.

USAID is committed to protecting reproductive rights for all people and especially for the world’s adolescents and youth. Young people are the future, and we want and need their valued contributions to and participation in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and join the conversation about World Population Day using the #WorldPopDay hashtag. Share our new infographic on adolescent pregnancy.

USAID’s Employee HIV Testing Campaign

“Hit early and hit hard,” advises Dr. David Ho, Director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. Referring to the importance of rapid treatment for HIV infection, this advice requires early and frequent HIV testing, so that antiretroviral treatment can be initiated as soon as possible. Early initiation of treatment has dramatic implications for the quality and length of an infected person’s life. Nowadays, if someone tests positive for HIV and initiates treatment once eligible, that person can expect to live a relatively normal and healthy life (assuming they maintain a regular treatment routine).

Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez (left) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Wade Warren (right) listen to Community Education Group counselor and tester Miriam Jones explain how to use the oral swab. Photo credit: Molly Schmalzbach, USAID

In honor of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, USAID offered free HIV screening to all USAID employees at the Federal Occupational Health Center in the Ronald Reagan Building. Community Education Group provided the health screenings, which included HIV counseling and testing and a high blood pressure screening. Even though we were fully booked, some hard work on the part of our testers enabled the accommodation of quite a few walk-ins, bringing the total number of people tested to 64!

This employee HIV testing campaign was designed to both promote HIV testing and destigmatize the act of getting tested. The Bureau for Global Health’s senior management team led by example: Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Clay, Deputy Assistant Administrator Wade Warren, and Deputy Director of the Office of HIV and AIDS Paul Mahanna each agreed to be tested and even smiled for the camera! As Mahanna said of HIV counseling and testing, “It’s critically important. Everyone should know their status and get tested frequently. I’ve been tested countless times.”

Deputy Director of the Office of HIV and AIDS Paul Mahanna (left) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Clay (right) test themselves for HIV using the oral swab. Photo credit: Molly Schmalzbach, USAID

Thanks so much to Community Education Group and the Federal Occupational Health Center for providing invaluable support and coordination for this event. Learn more about how to get tested for HIV in the DC area and across the country.

Learn more about how USAID is trying to keep on the forefront of the global AIDS crisis. 

Photo of the Week: POTUS and Administrator Shah at Agriculture Technology Marketplace in Senegal

 

During his trip to Africa, President Barack Obama, along with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, highlighted the Government of Senegal’s commitment to ensuring prosperity and trade through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. President Obama joined Administrator Shah to tour the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, a gathering of several West African private sector entities, NGO partners, and farmers demonstrating how key research and innovation can help improve the lives of smallholder farmers. Each booth at the marketplace highlighted how agricultural research and innovation helps West African farmers to increase incomes and nutrition for their families. Photo is from Pete Souza/White House.

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Follow @usaid and @usaidafrica on Twitter and learn about our global development work using #USAIDAfrica!

Quiet Heroes Save Lives Daily in Syria

An Arabic translation is available.

The U.S. government is providing nearly $815 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria. This aid is not a pledge; our aid is at work on the ground every day in some of the most affected areas, including Aleppo, Dar’a and Al Qusayr. As part of this assistance, USAID is supporting more than 144 field hospitals, medical clinics, and medical points across Syria. The doctors, nurses, and other medical staff working in these facilities are on the front lines of the brutal conflict in Syria, and every day they are risking their lives to save lives.

Last week alone, a doctor and 2 medical staff were killed and a nurse and 3 medical staff were injured when mortars were dropped near their clinics in Homs and Rif Damascus. The week before, the medical staff who survived the clashes in Al Qusayr – which killed one nurse, injured 2 staff, and left several others unaccounted for – had divided up supplies from their destroyed clinics and were already treating patients in nearby towns.

Doctors remove a bullet from the leg of an injured man. The injury required major surgery, which the makeshift field clinic was not equipped to handle. With ongoing fighting nearby and limited options, the surgeon proceeded with a minor surgery and was able to save the patient’s leg. Today, he can walk freely on it. Photo credit: USAID Partner

Along with widespread destruction and violence in Syria, health facilities are being destroyed, and medical staff are being targeted. And yet doctors, nurses, and medical staff—tireless heroes in this conflict—have been quietly working at USAID-funded health facilities across Syria since February 2012. To date, USAID-supported medical teams have performed over 85,000 surgeries, treated hundreds of thousands of patients, and saved countless lives.

The teams who help provide medical supplies to health facilities continue their heroic efforts as well. In the midst of some of the heaviest fighting in Al Qusayr, an international NGO working with USAID had to wait nearby for a week before they were able to deliver of life-saving medical supplies to a clinic on the
front lines of the battle. USAID medical programs in Syria provide medical supplies and equipment, pay doctors’ salaries, and train additional first responders and medical staff. Every day, U.S. humanitarian aid saves lives in Syria.

Learn more about USAID’s commitment to help the innocent children, women, and men affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.

A Bright Future for Agriculture in Africa

As my final tour with USAID winds down in the coming months, I can step aside with pride and confidence in the work we’re doing on the African continent to increase food security and nutrition. Having worked in Africa for much of the past 30 years, I am firmly convinced that the Agency’s new focus on modernizing and improving agricultural technologies through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, is having a demonstrable impact.

Here in Senegal, recent statistics indicate a near-doubling of yields in rain-fed rice, from about 1 ton per hectare to 1.82 tons. In some of the country’s most vulnerable areas, undernutrition has been reduced by a large margin in the last year.

What makes these and other statistics really exciting is an opportunity some USAID Mission Directors don’t get in their entire career: a chance to exhibit some of our major successes to the President of the United States himself, who made Senegal the first stop on his second trip to Africa last week.

While here, President Obama toured the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, where at each stop he was able to see how agricultural research and innovation are helping West African farmers to increase incomes and nutrition for their families.

At one booth, Anna Gaye, an entrepreneur, demonstrated how switching to a small-scale, efficient rice mill and an improved rice variety has tripled yields in her region and freed up her time for alternative activities.

At a Feed the Future agricultural technology marketplace in Senegal last week, President Obama met with farmers, innovators and entrepreneurs whose new methods and technologies are improving the lives of smallholder farmers throughout West Africa. Photo credit: Kate Gage, USAID

At another booth, Pierre Ndiaye, the owner and operator of a factory producing a popular nutritious yogurt-and-millet porridge, explained how USAID helps smallholder producers create his product. We support women’s producer groups around the country to grow quality millet, providing employment to hundreds of women who produce the porridge for local schoolchildren to get a nutritious meal every day.

We were also excited to demonstrate how nutrient fortification of Senegal’s staple foods can result in a radical decrease in undernutrition. Nutrition plays a critically important role in the Feed the Future approach, and fortified food can have a profound effect on the health of children in Senegal and all over Africa.

Yet another stop showed how the technology of today can help farmers as businessmen and women.  A young woman president of a 3,000-strong maize farmers’ union explained how they use the internet and mobile devices to control product quality and organize the marketing of their crops, which allows them to collectively compete with large industrial farms across the globe.

What makes these innovations yet more exciting is the potential for scaling them up and sharing them with other nations. New technology is only as good as our ability to get it into the hands of the millions of smallholder farmers who are the foundation for agriculture-led economic growth. Through Feed the Future, we are working to make successful technologies more and more accessible to the farmers who need them the most.

Looking back on the visit and on our tremendous successes in agriculture thus far, I can’t think of a more exciting, rewarding way to end a career with USAID.

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Video of the Week: President Obama Speaks on Food Security

During his trip to Africa, President Obama delivered remarks on the importance of confronting an urgent challenge that affects nearly 900 million people around the world — chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security. During his visit to Senegal, the President toured the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, a gathering of several West African private sector entities, NGO partners and farmers who demonstrated how key research and innovation can help improve the lives of smallholder farmers and their families. At the event, and along with Administrator Shah, President Obama highlighted the Government of Senegal’s commitment to ensuring prosperity and trade through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The President also announced the release of the Feed the Future 2013 Progress Report, which outlines progress made through the initiative in fiscal year 2012. Read more about the marketplace event.

Follow @USAID, @USAIDAfrica and @rajshah for updates about the President’s trip and #USAIDAfrica about our work in Africa!

Learn more about Feed the Future

Equipping Women Teachers in South Sudan with the Skills to Succeed

Traditional gender roles in South Sudan have hindered women from improving their professional skills and limited their contributions as teachers and leaders of parent-teacher associations, school management committees and boards of governors. As a result, children lack female role models and South Sudan has a shortage of teachers.

Most of South Sudan’s teachers lack professional training, a legacy of decades of conflict. Women constitute only 12.3 percent of the teaching force in South Sudan’s primary schools and 10.5 percent of teachers in secondary schools.

USAID is helping to improve female teachers’ professional skills and retain female teachers in South Sudan’s workforce through training and providing working mothers with childcare so that they are able to focus on their professional development.

Teacher Samna Basha (middle) with colleagues. The women are benefiting from USAID-supported child care services that enable them to improve their professional development as teachers. Photo credit: Creative Associates International

Samna Basha, a third grade teacher enrolled in USAID-funded training, said that childcare helped her to concentrate and avoid inconveniencing colleagues in the classroom. “I did not expect to complete the training because I am a nursing mother and therefore unable to focus my undivided attention on the training material,” said Basha, who teaches at the Lokoloko Primary School in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal state. “I was pleased when a … staff member [told] us that child care services would be provided by a caretaker of our choice at a venue provided by the school and that the service would be paid for by the project. It was a great relief for all the mothers … this is the first time in my experience that working mothers have been supported to fulfill their professional duties while caring for their children.”

Pasqulina Jackino is a mother of six and has been a teacher of mathematics, science, and religion in Primary 1, 2, and 3 at Ezo Community Girls School in Western Equatoria State for nearly seven years. She had received no formal teacher training until she was offered the opportunity to participate in a USAID-funded in-service training course. “I quickly packed a bag for me and my baby and set out to attend the training because I knew this was an opportunity to make me a better teacher,” she said.  “I am now able to plan my lessons and make them more lively and interesting. Through interactions with fellow teachers and tutors from other counties, my English has improved. I am now able to explain the subject matter of the lesson to my pupils in English.”

Pasqulina can now effectively manage her classroom and encourage pupils to learn. As she explains, “to be a mother and teacher at the same time is a challenge but I am ready to take it up. This is the only way I can come out as a better person and contribute to the growth and development of my community and the entire nation.”

USAID in the News

President Obama delivers remarks during a visit to the Feed the Future Agricultural Technologies Marketplace in Senegal. Photo credit: Kate Gage, USAID

Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal published an article in Reuters about the POTUS trip to Africa. The article mentions food security and public aid as two of the issues the Obama team believes are success stories. USAID administrator, Raj Shah told reporters that Africa had seen a steady increase in resources under Obama’s administration despite a tough budget environment.

In its “Well” blog, the New York Times takes a look at “a chronic and serious public health obstacle: Most men do not like condoms.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation urge developers to develop ‘a next-generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure.’ Jeff Spieler, a senior technical adviser on population and reproductive health at USAID is quoted in the blog.

A recent press release from USAID issues a statement by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah in regards to LGBTI pride month. He says in the statement, “At USAID, equality is not only a matter of human rights but also critical to sustainable, comprehensive and inclusive development.”

Partnering to Control and Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola

In October 2010, the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population announced the detection of cholera in the Artibonite Department, located north of Port-Au-Prince. After enduring a devastating earthquake in January 2010, the cholera epidemic hit like a knock-out punch.

Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by a bacteria that spreads rapidly through contaminated water. When people get cholera, they get very sick, very fast, and the risk of death is high if left untreated. A matter of hours can make a difference.

Personnel distribute USAID hygiene kits at a Cholera Treatment Center in Verrettes in the Artibonite department of Haiti. Photo by Kendra Helmer/USAID

In Haiti, cholera attacked a population with no previous exposure and therefore no immunity against the bacteria. Before this outbreak, Haiti had not been affected by cholera in over a century. Over the last two and half years, 658,053 people have contracted cholera in Haiti, and 8,120 have died.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people are at risk of getting cholera every year, and annually 2.8 million cases of cholera occur globally. Since cholera spreads via contaminated water, it thrives in post-disaster environments. Even in the United States, post Hurricane Katrina, emergency personnel attended to many people infected with a bacteria closely related to cholera.

The increased risk of infectious diseases is a recurrent public health concern in post-disaster situations. In the U.S., we have the infrastructure needed to detect and respond to outbreaks, to stop their spread. In Haiti, USAID is working to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s capacity to detect and control infectious diseases and provide timely life-saving care. USAID is committed to assisting the Government of Haiti to combat this epidemic.

When tackling an outbreak of this magnitude, it is essential to work with key partners to leverage each other’s strengths. Today, USAID became an official member of the Coalition on Water and Sanitation for the Elimination of Cholera in Hispaniola. To add to the ongoing efforts of the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and other strategic partners, USAID has pledged to support the Government of Haiti’s plan to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.

USAID’s current work already contributes to this goal through many different avenues that focus on cholera prevention as well as treatment and control. Since contaminated water is the source of cholera, USAID works via its implementing partners to ensure that Haitians have access to safe drinking water at their homes, health centers and schools and makes safe water products available for water decontamination. Since the beginning of the outbreak, USAID programs have mobilized thousands of community workers throughout Haiti to conduct awareness activities that focus on hygiene and sanitation practices that help prevent cholera.

When someone falls ill of cholera, it is important to recognize signs of dehydration and have swift access to treatment. USAID trains mothers and caregivers to recognize these dangerous signs and use oral rehydration products. If medical attention is needed, USAID’s extensive network of health facilities, present throughout the country, has the necessary resources and training to manage this disease.

USAID will continue to work in partnership with the Government of Haiti to improve the health of all Haitians and will coordinate extensively with members of the Coalition to leverage our efforts to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.

A Quick Guide to Feed the Future’s New Progress Report

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

We just published our second progress report, highlighting results our modern approach to development achieved in fiscal year 2012.

You’ll probably want to peruse the entire report to get the full experience. But for now, here it is in five brief points.

1. Feed the Future was born of the belief that global hunger is solvable. And it is! We have the tools, knowledge and technology today to end it. Hunger and poverty are inextricably linked, so we support countries in achieving their own objectives to tackle extreme poverty by the roots. And we integrate agriculture and nutrition programs to save lives and promote better nutrition while boosting economic growth. We’re implementing a modern, rigorous approach; identifying and making transformative, proven technologies more accessible to more smallholder farmers; promoting favorable policy environments; supporting open and transparent access to data; and embracing innovative partnerships to build resilience and improve food security and nutrition, from farms to markets to tables.

Woman in Liberia tends to her plants. Photo credit: Morgana Wingard/ONE

2. Our efforts are paying off. Feed the Future is focused and selective about where we work to strengthen our impact. We’re working to accelerate positive trends in poverty and stunting reduction in these focus countries. Last year, we reached 9 million households, 12 million children, and 7.5 million farmers. We also helped increase sales for smallholder farmers by $100 million. You’ll have to read our report to get more specifics, but improved nutrition, the use of practices that support local capacity, women’s empowerment, and economic growth are translating into clear returns on investment.

3. Our partners are also rising to the challenge. We forged more than 660 public-private partnerships last year, catalyzing the private sector to invest more than $115 million in agriculture. Through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, more than 70 African and global companies have pledged to invest more than $3.75 billion so far. U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations pledged to invest more than $1 billion in private funding in support of food security and nutrition too. As part of the New Alliance, African countries are embracing policy reforms and better transparency and building investor confidence. Many of our focus countries have put more resources toward agricultural development, signaling its prominence as a national priority. That’s not all—we also work with the research community and others to develop local capacity and maximize our impact.

4. We’ve come a long way in a short time. President Obama’s pledge to support global food security at the G8 Summit just four years ago set the foundation for Feed the Future. World leaders joined him in increasing investments in agriculture to help ensure that a growing global population, facing challenges like climate change, can sustainably grow and access nutritious foods. Since then, our 19 focus countries have finalized national food security plans and begun to execute on priorities to reduce poverty and hunger and improve nutrition. The New Alliance, launched just a year ago, has grown from three member countries to nine (and counting), with partners from local-level and multinational companies committed to responsible agricultural investment.

5. We need to keep the effort up. There are still almost 870 million hungry people in the world. President Obama challenged us all to end extreme poverty in the next two decades. To meet these challenges, we’re learning what works best in agricultural development and holding ourselves accountable to do more, more efficiently. The U.S. Government is committed to this, but we can’t do it alone. Beating hunger, poverty and undernutrition takes leadership and collective action, not just resources. Countries must take ownership and take on accountability, and we must work alongside our partners, including civil society and the private sector, in support of a common vision of shared progress and prosperity. Feed the Future and the New Alliance embody this approach. We’ll continue to improve the effectiveness of our efforts, pioneering this new model of development that focuses on results, evidence and innovation to solve some of the greatest, and yet surmountable, challenges of our time.

We encourage you to read the report for detailed information. We even have a scorecard to track results and how we’re changing the way we work to be more effective. Take a look and let us know what you think. Click over to Facebook and Twitter to share your reactions.

While you’re at it, let us know what you’re doing to help feed the future too. Just add the hashtag#FeedtheFuture to your social media post.

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