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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Avoiding Future Famines: We Have the Tools

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in 60 years, with famine now affecting parts of Somalia. It doesn’t have to be this way. Droughts are cyclical and will continue to occur. They don’t have to lead to famine. We have the tools and can lead the way to helping ensure communities are resilient and can feed themselves. This video, from the ONE campaign, shows how Ethiopia has become more resilient to drought thanks to government leadership and support from the international community.

Learn more about what the U.S. is doing to promote agricultural-led development to help prevent future famines through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. And learn how you can get involved to help the Horn of Africa:

Commemorating World Food Day 2011

Every year on October 16, we have the opportunity to reflect on the devastating and persisting realities of hunger and undernutrition in our global community. Although it is a single day, World Food Day represents our year-round efforts to end hunger, alleviate suffering and expand opportunity across the world.

But this year’s World Food Day is especially important. Today, the Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, placing 13.3 million people—predominately women and children—in need of assistance. As the single largest humanitarian and development partner in the region, the U.S. is supporting life-saving aid for millions of people, including food, water and sanitation, and medical services. We are also aggressively pursuing public health interventions, including highly nutritious, ready-to-use therapeutic food and immunizations.

And though the American people will always provide aid in times of urgent need, emergency assistance cannot solve the root causes of hunger, poverty, and undernutrition. The reality is we must do more to prevent these crises in the first place.

That is why President Obama launched a global food security initiative called Feed the Future to help countries develop their own resilient agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves over the long-term. Fundamentally, these efforts are designed to create the conditions where our assistance is no longer necessary.

Now, you can help us spread the word about the uniquely devastating nature of the crisis in the Horn and the opportunity to prevent future famines through Feed the Future. The FWD Campaign is our effort to make our world smaller—to spread awareness and give our communities a powerful way to respond.

On this World Food Day, I encourage you to visit, explore our resources—and then share them with your family and friends.

A Jewish Response to the Famine in Time for Sukkot

Faith communities have always been among the first responders to humanitarian crisis and the crisis in the Horn of Africa has been no different. The faith community was quick to pull together resources to inspire their congregations and members to act and save lives. USAID’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives has been actively reaching out to faith communities to ensure they have the most up to date information about the crisis and the tools they need to educate others.

On USAID provided NGOs, including faith organizations, with a guide to help them get involved in the campaign through an organization toolkit found at the bottom of our action page.

The faith community has responded to the crisis with powerful tools. Here is one example of what a community of faith is doing to bring attention to the crisis.

On October 12 the Jewish community begins a weeklong celebration of the holiday Sukkot. During this holiday the Jewish people remember their own 40-year exodus through the Egyptian desert. People of the Jewish faith build temporary huts and many eat and sleep in the hut as to not forget their ancestor’s journey to freedom.  Likewise today more than 700,000 Somalis have walked up to 100 miles to escape famine, war, and drought. They are walking to survive.  The ONE Campaign developed a Sukkot Guide to the Famine, which includes discussion questions about the famine and Sukkot, suggested youth/synagogue programs, prayers and actions.

We invite faith communities to send us stories, pictures, and videos of how they’re making a difference.  Stay tuned for more examples of how the faith community is getting involved. Email us at

FWD the Facts on Facebook

Two weeks ago, USAID and the Ad Council launched the FWD campaign to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in East Africa.  The campaign name stands for Famine, War, and Drought – because of the tragic and rare convergence of these three factors that are all currently affecting this region.

Today we are making it even easier for the public to “FWD” awareness through the launch of our FWD tab on the USAID Facebook page.

The FWD Facebook tab displays the campaign’s four infographics  and makes it simple to choose one to post on your own wall.

The tab has new features such as campaign-related videos. Today’s video highlights USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at the Social Good Summit in New York explaining what is needed to address the long-term humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.  Additional videos, including a series of celebrity endorsed Public Service Advertisements (PSAs), will be added to this section in the coming weeks.

Another new feature of the Facebook tab is a quiz about the situation in the Horn of Africa.  The five questions allow you to test your knowledge about the current crisis and help you learn more.

We have also included a sharable photo gallery of pictures from the Horn. Pictures from USAID and our partners will be continually added to the gallery so you can see what is happening on the ground.

Through the interactive tab, we encourage you to be a part of the campaign by sharing content, staying informed and receiving updates about USAID and our partners’ response to the famine. The U.S. Government is actively providing short and long term assistance in the region but we cannot do it alone. Join us.

Learn more about the crisis in the Horn of Africa at the FWD campaign. You can also find information about USAID’s comprehensive efforts to address global food insecurity at Feed the Future.

50 Years of Partnership with Kenya – Part 1 of 4

Agriculture is the largest single employer in Kenya and counts for one fourth of the country’s GDP, but the current agricultural production methods in Kenya are inefficient, causing economic stagnation and poverty.  USAID and partners on the ground in Kenya have developed competitive programs for maize, dairy, passion fruit, and small hold farmers to help improve productivity.  These initiatives – like USAID’s Feed the Future – have transformed lives, promoted sustainable agricultural development, and improved the nutritional options for many of Kenya’s people.

In the coming weeks, we will highlight 4 videos celebrating USAID’s partnership with Kenya. The first video in this series shows the variety of agriculture programs and activities that have occurred over the past 50 years and the impact that they have had on the people of Kenya.

Seeking a Sustainable Solution for HIV Funding in Kenya

In March 2011, the Kenyan National AIDS Control Council prepared a Cabinet memorandum that outlines ways to raise funds for HIV programming.  Through innovative solutions, Kenya is looking for sustainable ways to combat the AIDS epidemic in country.

The memo is based on a recommendation from the USAID-funded Health Systems 20/20’s HIV/AIDS Program Sustainability Tool (HAPSAT) assessment.

Two government staff who helped prepare the memo tell us how it will help Kenya’s 1.5 million citizens living with HIV.

Regina Ombam, head of strategy for Kenya National AIDS Control Council (NACC), leads planning, implementation and evaluation of HIV programs. As part of the Cabinet memo initiative, she managed the process of gathering relevant health financing data on behalf of the director of NACC. Ms. Ombam holds master’s degrees in economics and public administration.


Irene Mukui is the antiretroviral therapy (ART) program manager for the National AIDS and STI Control Programme. She oversees the provision of ART and other associated care (i.e., nutrition, TB/HIV integration, etc.) for both children and adults in Kenya. Dr. Mukiu was a member of the technical working group that developed the Cabinet memo. She is a licensed medical doctor.


HS20/20: What does the Cabinet memorandum propose to raise funds for HIV programming?


RO: The Cabinet memo proposes that the Ministry of Finance create a HIV/AIDS Trust Fund that would support scaling up prevention, treatment, care and support in Kenya. If approved, the government would contribute 1% of its annual revenue to the fund. In addition, the fund would receive contributions from partners and the private sector through initiatives such as airtime and airline levies, levies on remittances from abroad, corporate and NGO donations, the national lottery system, and leveraging unclaimed financial assets (i.e., monies that are dormant or abandoned often as a result of death, name change, or relocation). The Ministry of State for Special Programmes, the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, and the Ministry for Medical Services would implement HIV programming supported by the fund.

IM: The Cabinet memo aims to establish long-term, sustainable financing through the existing National Health Insurance Fund and increase government funding to meet the Abuja target of allocating 15% of the annual budget to health.

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Microfinance Program Helps South Sudanese Realize Their Dreams

In order to strengthen the financial sector in South Sudan and help provide small entrepreneurs access to credit, USAID is funding the Finance Sudan Limited (FSL) Program, established in 2006 as one of the only microfinance lenders in the country.

In South Sudan, USAID microfinance programs have helped Adam and nearly 10,000 others open new businesses and provide for their families. Economic growth and sustainability will be especially important to the development and stability of the world’s newest country. Photo Credit: FSL

Adam is one of FSL’s beneficiaries in Juba.  In 2007 he earned his living as a driver. After four weeks of training on business management skills and the loan policies, he qualified for his first loan cycle of 1,000 Sudanese pounds, an equivalent of $350 and the maximum amount a new client could receive.

With the loan, he opened his own shop. He was so successful that he was able to finish paying off his first loan in six months.  Now, Mr. Abraham is finishing repayment of a second loan of 2,000 Sudanese pounds ($700) to grow his business and he will be able to access a third loan in the coming months.

“The loan of 2,000 Sudanese pounds I am currently servicing has significantly multiplied my market’s stock and, through FSL, I am also opening another business. Now I am able to feed my family well out of the increased profits of the two businesses.” Adam plans to diversify his business by investing in the transport sector.

FWD the Facts

On Saturday, September 24, 2011, I had the privilege to help organize a panel discussion at the United States Mission to the United Nations in NYC, followed by a presentation on the new USAID FWD the Facts campaign that had just been released a few days prior.  The panel consisted of civically engaged youth both domestically and globally and was moderated by Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero.  There were well over fifty young people in the audience ranging from college students to professionals.

Ross Seidman is a member of Youth Service America’s National Youth Council and Board of Directors, and the Youth Working Group to the U.S. National Commission to UNESCO. Photo Credit:Nicole Goldin/USAID

After the panel ended, we regrouped for a presentation and workshop led by Nicole Goldin of USAID (with collaborating representatives from the Ad Council and RGA) to educate the audience on the new FWD the Facts campaign.  It is a new effort that hopes to educate and engage the American public on the crisis affecting over 13 million people in the Horn of Africa.  After being presented with the facts and goals of the campaign the audience split up into three groups to discuss both the strengths and opportunities we saw.

We loved that the website is so simple and that it is so easy to become engaged in the initiative through the “ACTION” tab, specifically the “FWD Knowledge” download.  Many people also brought up the campaign’s opportunity to build connections through personal experiences of those living in the Horn of Africa.  This would motivate people to get involved as we want to see both the macro and micro dynamics of the situation.  Much of the conversation also centered around what college students could do on campus to bring awareness and action to the cause.  Ideas that floated around ranged from creating a network of “interns” on different campuses that could work with preexisting campus groups and administrators to finding corporate sponsorship to create an online interactive platform that could include a direct action piece via the web.  People also suggested an App and serious gaming.

It was an empowering opportunity to be a focus group for such a large initiative and have the ability to provide direct input and ideas to representatives from USAID, RGA, and the Ad Council.  Programs like this are exactly the types of things that make us feel directly involved in the process in a meaningful way.  These occasions are the motivation that many young people need to become involved in initiatives and some of the ideas from those in attendance have the potential to empower even more young people in meaningful leadership experiences through service-learning.  I know this was the beginning of the conversation, not the end, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue.

Ross Seidman is a freshman at the University of Maryland, a member of Youth Service America’s National Youth Council and Board of Directors and the Youth Working Group to the U.S. National Commission to UNESCO.

Remembering A Green Revolutionary: Wangari Maathai

KENYA, Nairobi : Then-Senator Barack Obama plants a tree with Wangari Maathai during a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 28, 2006. AFP Photo: Simon Maina

Wangari Maathai was a pioneer. The first female African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, her Green Belt Movement, launched in 1977, was ahead of its time in integrating sustainable development with women’s rights. The organization now has branches in 30 countries, promoting action on climate change, community regeneration, and equal opportunity. To date, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 45 million trees across Kenya to combat deforestation, stop soil erosion, and generate income for women and their families.

Wangari Maathai was a humanitarian. She fought the vicious cycle of environmental degradation and poverty. Poor families struggling to meet their own needs often have to strip their own environment for resources, but when those resources disappear, families have an even harder time making a living—and even fewer chances to create a better future. Maathai understood this and worked to ensure that her efforts to conserve the land also led to employment and empowerment among the most vulnerable people.

Wangari Maathai was a peacemaker. The Nobel Committee awarded her its 2004 Peace Prize in recognition of the fact that proper management of natural resources reduces conflict and is critical to peace and stability. Her Nobel citation does not even mention the word “environment,” instead crediting “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.”

While today we mourn Wangari Maathai’s passing, we also celebrate her life and her indelible impact on the world. We too can make a difference if we follow in her footsteps to never give up on protecting our future.

Photo Essay: Community Volunteers Help Women Suffering from Fistula in Guinea

The volunteers make their way to the next family in Faloboa village. Sometimes the volunteers encounter village women who have suffered with fistulas for many years without any access to medical help. USAID’s program is able to support these women with diagnosis and treatment. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fakan, USAID/Guinea

The average Guinean woman will have six children during her lifetime, but due to the lack of obstetric care, many develop fistula, a painful injury that is especially traumatic due to the stigma associated with it. During obstructed labor, a baby’s head may be pressed against his mother’s pelvic bone, cutting off circulation to tissue in the area and literally creating a hole or “fistula” in her bladder or rectum. Aside from the physical pain, many also suffer psychological trauma, as they are often shunned by their families and communities due to the foul smell resulting from their injuries. The internationally renowned Hamlin Fistula Foundation says that although this condition was eradicated in the United States over a century ago, more than 2 million women in developing countries still suffer from it today.

USAID is helping more than 1,500 women in Guinea access treatment for fistula and working with communities-women and men, secular and religious leaders-to understand, prevent, and treat fistula while better supporting those who have suffered from it. In addition, USAID is strengthening the national health system by training doctors, nurses, and midwives in fistula prevention and care.

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