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Greenhouses Changing Lives in Gaza

USAID West Bank and Gaza recently delivered and installed the first set of greenhouses to residents in the Gaza strip. The greenhouses are helping compensate for the ongoing shortage of fresh vegetables and produce in the region. They are also helping residents by providing extra income.

Mariam Mohammed Abu Jara, a 57-year old widower who lives with her three sons and two daughters, is one of the recipients of the new greenhouses.  As the greenhouse was being installed, she said “I used to plant corn and strawberries on my land and the income was barely enough for my family’s expenses. Now, I’m going to plant all types of vegetables in the greenhouse, it will be more than enough for my family and I’m going to sell the rest of the crops in the market.”

Mariam Mohammad Abu Jarad during greenhouse installation Photo Credit: Jamila Al Za’anin, Save the Children Gaza.

Many residents like Abu Jarad have struggled to make ends meet, but with the installation of the new USAID greenhouses, she and her family will benefit from access to more regular income and better sustenance.

USAID, through the Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion project (EDIP), designed the greenhouses to suit local conditions to meet the pressing humanitarian needs.  They also identified beneficiaries to receive the greenhouses, which were selected based on plot quality, farming skills, marginalization, family size, and income

Through the EDIP project, USAID has installed 86 greenhouses in Gaza.

A Comprehensive Approach to Yemen

This originally appeared on  The White House Blog

On Friday, U.S. officials participated in a meeting of the Friends of Yemen in New York, marking an important occasion to coordinate international support for Yemen. The meeting also provides a good opportunity to discuss the United States’ comprehensive approach to assist Yemen.

Much of the press attention about U.S. efforts regarding Yemen has focused on efforts to combat Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  There is no doubt AQAP is a serious threat to Yemen, the United States, and our allies.  This was vividly demonstrated by the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, as well as by AQAP attacks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In response to this threat, in the past year the Yemeni government has conducted operations that have helped disrupt AQAP’s operations, but AQAP remains dangerous.  AQAP has conducted retaliatory attacks against Yemeni forces, and continues to plot additional attacks against the United States.  The United States strongly supports the Yemeni government’s efforts, and is providing it security assistance to increase its capacity to counter the AQAP threat.  The United States has also designated AQAP and its leaders as terrorists domestically and through the United Nations in order to prevent their travel and restrict their access to the international financial system.  At the same time, the United States and our international partners are strengthening international air travel security in order to prevent future attacks by AQAP or other terrorists.

However, support for operations against AQAP is only one piece of the United State’s strategy for Yemen.  As many commentators have noted, these efforts alone are insufficient to eliminate AQAP’s threat, because they do not address the environment that allows AQAP to exist. Nor are they sufficient to achieve our broader goal, which President Obama has defined as a unified, stable, democratic and prosperous Yemen.  Indeed, Yemen faces a staggering array of challenges that contribute to instability, including: internal conflicts; growing water scarcity; pervasive poverty; lack of access to education for a population that is growing rapidly; high unemployment with a “youth bulge” (43% of the country’s population is under 14 years of age); inadequate government and health services; corruption; and the approaching economic transition from oil being its primary export to being a net import.  These issues are challenges on their own, but they are also being exploited by AQAP.

Recognizing the seriousness of these challenges, the Obama Administration initiated a review of its Yemen policy in the spring of 2009. The result was a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of instability, and improve governance and the livelihoods of the Yemeni people. As a result, the United States has greatly expanded its economic and humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people, to approximately $110 million over the past 12 months up from $14.3 million two years before.  This includes funds for:

  • $67 million for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to work in partnership with communities to directly address local needs.  This includes health, education, and water projects; mobile health and veterinary clinics; and support for increasing the capacity of local governments to deliver essential services.
  • $42.5 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemenis displaced by the conflict in northern Yemen, as well as to refugees in the south.
  • more than $2.3 million in grants from the Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative to local Yemeni organizations to support an inclusive democratic process.

The United States is also working diplomatically to support: economic and governance development and reform; an inclusive and democratic political process, including free and fair parliamentary elections in 2011; the rule of law and the protection of human rights; an open, vibrant civil society and freedom of the press; the delivery of education, health and other essential services, and the continuation of the ceasefire in the north of Yemen. This work has involved not only U.S. Embassy Sana’a, but senior officials from the White House, the Departments of State and Treasury, USAID, and others.  We are being joined in these efforts by Jim McVerry, recently named to fill the Department of State’s newly-created Senior Coordinator for Yemen position, and Ambassador Gerald Feierstein, who will take up his position in the next few days.

Fortunately, we are not alone in prioritizing assistance to Yemen.  We are coordinating both our diplomatic and assistance efforts with our international partners – including countries from the region and abroad, and the Gulf Coordination Council, European Union, United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank.  We are coordinating both our diplomatic and assistance efforts with them.  The Friends of Yemen is a key component of the international community’s efforts.  Launched by Secretary Hilary Clinton and her international counterparts in London in January of this year, the two dozen member countries and international organizations are focusing on assisting Yemen in implementing important reforms to support its development and stability through the efforts of its Working Groups on Economy & Governance and Justice & the Rule of Law.  Friday’s meeting in New York endorsed important Yemeni political, development steps, and anti-corruption steps.  The meeting also recognized the international community’s efforts to improve assistance delivery, support the ceasefire in the north, and steps to improve employment opportunities for Yemenis.

This will not be quick or easy.  Yemen faces difficult challenges, and assistance Yemen will be a sustained project for the international community.  The Yemeni people and the international community are both confronted by real threats from AQAP, and it may take years to decisively defeat it. However, we believe that the future belongs to those who build, not to those who are focused on destruction.  And the United States stands with the people of Yemen as they seek to build a more positive future and reject AQAP’s efforts to kill innocent men, women, and children.  As President Obama recently wrote, “We are also committed to helping Yemen achieve a future that builds upon the extraordinary talents of its people and the richness of its history…I am convinced that the people of Yemen can do more than overcome the threats that they face – they can build a future of greater peace and opportunity for their children.” The United States’ comprehensive approach aims to assist Yemen in realizing that future.

Aaron W. Jost is the Director for Arabian Peninsula for the National Security Council at the White House

After-School Activity Changes a Student’s Outlook and Plan for Future

Malek Haidar, a fourteen-year old student at Zahle Public School has benefited from extracurricular activities. Photo Credit: USAID/Lebanon

Submitted by Elias Alhaddad

Lebanon Education Assistance for Development (LEAD) has inspired Malek Haidar to change his plans for the future by providing him the opportunity for after-school activity.

Malek, a fourteen-year old student at Zahle Public School, used to skip school and was nearly expelled for poor behavior and attendance.  Then he was required to improve his behavior in order to be accepted in a school play.

Taking an important role in the play, the role of a mother, helped change Malek into a disciplined hard working student, with the dream of becoming a professional actor.  “I know that to become an actor I will have to work hard and doing well in school is a large part of that,” said Malek.

The change in his attitude was noticeable to his parents, friends, and teachers, who were amazed at his discipline and new perseverance to attend all classes.  “He was no longer the same person.  There was a 180 degree change.  He was no longer a burden but a pleasure,” observes Maria Hadchiti, the school’s principal.

Implemented by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), this extra-curricular activity is one of over 160 similar programs throughout Lebanon, which foster a positive school spirit and environment and develop creativity among teachers and students.  These USAID-funded activities include sporting events, health and craft fairs, and community enriching activities.  To date, IOCC has assisted 228 public schools throughout Lebanon and  supported more than 110 school clubs and 116 parent-teacher associations under the LEAD program.

This Week at USAID – August 16, 2010

Administrator Shah will officially swear-in Alex Dickie to be the Mission Director-designate to Iraq and Mike Harvey to be the Mission Director-designate to West Bank Gaza.

Secretary Clinton gives a speech on the Global Health Initiative (GHI) at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.  The GHI is building on the Bush Administration’s successful record in global health, and taking these remarkable achievements to the next level by further accelerating progress and investing in sustainable health delivery systems.

Improving Government Services for Palestinians

Submitted by Jan Cartwright

USAID is helping the Palestinian Authority (PA) provide its constituents with more effective, efficient, and responsive services through an initiative called the PA Capacity Enhancement (PACE) project.

Watch this short video to see what a difference USAID-funded renovations to the Nablus and Hebron Licensing Bureaus and the Hebron Ministry of Interior Office of Civil Affairs have made to citizens.

“The difference is really big when you compare before to after,” said Amir Abdullah Abu Ayad, citizen of Hebron.  “Where before people were everywhere and it [Hebron Licensing Bureau] was full of smoke, now it’s excellent and civilized.”

USAID’s Mission in West Bank and Gaza helps people living there lead healthier and more productive lives.  Since 1994, the U.S. Government has provided $2.9 billion through USAID to implement a development program in the West Bank and Gaza.

Jordan Celebrates International Youth Day

More than 650 youth from across the Kingdom of Jordan gathered at a mountain top over looking Petra last week to celebrate International Youth Day.  The day long celebration included Jordanian music and folk dances, contests, sketches, and workshops.

During his remarks to the participants, USAID|Jordan Mission Director Jay Knott quoted King Abdullah II saying that “youth of Jordan are the hope of the future.”

The event was hosted with the support of Chairman Mr. Ahmad Al-Masarwah of the Higher Council for Youth and eight of USAID’s partners.

In a joint press conference at closing ceremony, Al-Masarwah and Knott called for establishing a youth television and radio station, saying that it is essential in giving the youth a voice.

This is the third consecutive year that USAID|Jordan has hosted an International Youth Day event.

USAID – From the Field

In Egypt USAID is supporting the Ministry of Health (MOH) by providing full, two-year scholarships for a total of 25 ministry employees to attend U.S. – based MBA programs. This program targets a small number of employees who have leadership potential to be change agents to implement Egypt’s health sector reform program; and it responds to the country’s need to develop a cadre of business-minded professionals. In addition to their academic studies, the students are expected to participate in an internship activity during their two years to practically apply the skills they are learning.  Past participants returned to Egypt and are now serving in critical positions in the Ministry of Health, contributing new knowledge and experiences to improve health programs, policies and procedures.  Through this successful partnership USAID is significantly contributing towards improving health coverage of underserved populations and strengthening the technical and managerial capacity of the Egyptian health sector.

In Lebanon the Opening of the “Live Akkar” trade fair that will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  This four-day trade fair will open its doors again to visitors from Akkar, the North and all of Lebanon.  This trade fair will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  It will also stimulate local enterprises, agriculture, and tourism.  “Live Akkar” will feature around seventy enterprises from Akkar exhibiting agricultural products, local foods, handicrafts, garments, and other items.   Presentations on local production of commodities such as dairy, olive oil and mushrooms will be provided  by experts on a daily basis.  In addition, the trade fair will have cultural and family attractions including  daily performances by popular local artists, puppet shows and traditional music concerts.

In Dominican Republic a press trip to The Salto de Jimenoa, which was recently declared as National Protected Area. The Ministry of Environment and the USAID Environment Protection Program will lead a discussion with media attending the importance of this area and the benefits it provides to surrounding communities. The main highlight is protecting the environment and biodiversity of the area and the importance of hydraulic resources that the Salto de Jimenoa provides.

This Week at USAID – July 26, 2010

Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Management Drew Luten will testify before the Commission on Wartime Contracting on Subcontracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Administrator Shah and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations for an oversight hearing on corruption in Afghanistan.

Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill will participate in a briefing entitled: Innovation to Catalyze Development: Leveraging Research in Foreign Assistance, which is organized by the Global Health Technologies Coalition and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Administrator Shah will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere about: The Crisis in Haiti: Are We Moving Fast Enough?  He will also brief the Congressional Black Caucus about efforts in Haiti.

Dr. Raj. Shah Attends Launch of Pakistan’s Birthspacing Initiative

Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. ” We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

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From the Field

In Lebanon Haigazian University will be presented with $450,081 to directly support its student financial aid program. 356 Haigazian University students with demonstrable financial need from all over Lebanon will be given scholarships with these U.S. funds, made available through USAID. Without this assistance, these students would not be able to study at Haigazian University. Lebanese American University (LAU) will be presented with $1,178,122 to support its Financial Aid & Scholarships Fund for both campuses in Jbeil and Beirut. 249 qualified Lebanese students benefit from this program.

In Albania USAID will open a Public Information Office in one of Albania’s District Courts. To tackle corruption in Albania’s judicial system, USAID’s Rule of Law program works with a set of pilot courts to improve their performance and accountability to citizens. One of several accountability measures introduced by USAID, public information offices serve as one-stop shops where citizens have quick and easy access to information on court proceedings and their legal rights.

In El Salvador a signing ceremony for the Global Development Alliance (GDA) with the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development (FUSAL). USAID will help expand FUSAL’s Libras de Amor program to two additional municipalities in Sonsonate to combat poor eating habits and malnutrition.

In Jakarta a forum will present eight finalists – that represent the finest – of more than 75 projects which entered a competition in Asia, organized by Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), and sponsored by USAID. Eight clean energy competition finalists, reps from more than 150 energy professionals, entrepreneurs, donors, banks, partners, project developers from Indonesia and Asia. The forum is a means to bridge the financial gap between creative innovators in clean energy with private investors who are willing to fund these opportunities.

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