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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Mapping the Famine with Open Data and Open Source Tools

Check out USAID’s new FWD campaign and you will find something that you haven’t seen a lot of on in the past—a suite of interactive maps designed to tell the story of the crisis and the response.

The six maps available now show food insecurity, drought, affected populations, refugee and IDP movements and USAID’s response- all with interactive layers that let you see the details of the crisis. And we are developing more to be released over coming weeks.

The FWD campaign—which stands for Famine, War and Drought—was launched Monday to increase awareness about the devastating drought that has taken hold of the Horn of Africa and is pushing over 13.3 million people into crisis.

This campaign is different than anything USAID has done in the past. With its launch comes a shift in the way that USAID communicates with the American public, and the way we share information.

Through this campaign we are using data as a communications tool—using interactive maps and infographics to visualize the story behind the data. Explaining the crisis in easy to understand ways brings further meaning to the powerful information the humanitarian community collects every day.

But this isn’t just about making maps. It’s also about making data social and making data open.

Which is why we are working to unlock the underlying data sets we used to build the maps and release them in accessible formats, some of which you can find featured on It’s also why we built these maps using open source tools and made them as easy to share or embed.

Our challenge now is to enable as many people as possible to leverage this information as we come together to solve these global challenges.

As Administrator Shah said at the Social Good Summit, “By making this story and making the all the data we have accessible, live, and real time that we will unlock a great deal of ingenuity and enterprise in trying to address these problems…. to solve this problem we need more of you engaged. We need you to make this visible.”

Stay tuned as we release more maps and data sets on in coming weeks. Feel free to embed these on your blog or website. And if you have feedback on stories you would like to see told or data you would like to see shared, email us at

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Scaling Up Nutrition: Supporting country-led efforts to promote healthier lives

Through Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. Government supports the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, which helps children in countries like Mozambique maximize their potential by staying healthy. Photo Credit: Kelly Ramundo/USAID.

Back in June, I posted here about the negative impacts of global undernutrition as my colleagues and I prepared for Feed the Future’s agriculture and food security Research Forum in Washington, D.C. This week, as I attend two meetings for the international Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement during U.N. General Assembly week in New York, I’m moved to reflect once again on the issue because, quite frankly, we can’t give it enough attention.

The numbers haven’t changed since my last post, nor should our sense of urgency. The fact remains that two billion people in the world do not consume enough nutrients to live healthy, productive lives; and nearly 200 million children under age 5 suffer from chronic undernutrition. To put that last number into perspective, that’s about 24 times the population of the densely inhabited city where these U.N. meetings are currently taking place. That’s 24 New York Cities full of little children who deserve a better future.

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FWD the Facts about Famine, War, and Drought in the Horn of Africa

As many of you know, the worst drought in 60 years has devastated communities throughout the Horn of Africa, leaving more than 13 million people in a state of crisis—greater than the population of Los Angeles and New York combined.

In Somalia—where twenty years of war and violence has limited humanitarian access and destroyed the country’s ability to respond—the drought has led to an outbreak of famine. According to UNICEF, as a result of this crisis, a child is dying in Somalia every six minutes.

The millions suffering from the effects of this crisis are facing incomprehensible suffering. Left with nothing, many are walking more than 100 miles toward refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Because the crisis in the Horn is so complex and because the scale is so difficult to comprehend, we have not seen people come together to respond in the same way they did after the earthquake in Haiti. Many who do hear about the crisis are left with the impression that we can’t successfully do anything about it.

But I know for a fact that we can fight this famine.  We were fighting it before it started. Through safety net programs, we have helped 7.5 million Ethiopians withstand the worst effects of this drought without the need for humanitarian assistance.

And as a result of Feed the Future investments, we have seen more than a 300 percent increase in grain yields in Western Kenya in just one year, securing the nation’s agricultural backbone and helping lower the price of critical staples throughout the region.

But despite being the single largest donor of assistance in the region, we recognize we cannot fight the famine alone.

That’s why today, I’m announcing the launch of the FWD Campaign—in partnership with the Ad Council—to highlight the uniquely devastating nature of this crisis and to ask people to help spread awareness.

FWD—stands for Famine, War, Drought: the three major crises that have led to this perfect storm of devastation in the Horn of Africa. But it also stands for our call to action—that people get informed, get engaged and forward this information on to their friends and families.

The FWD campaign is our attempt to make our world smaller—to connect people with the clear knowledge and understanding of exactly what is happening in the Horn—and giving them a powerful way to respond.

The campaign has three components. One is an effort that’s centered on using a strong online presence and social media to raise awareness.  If you go to FWD, you’ll see a number of new ways we’re using to inform and engage with people. We’re providing infographics, interactive maps and tool kits that people can use to learn about the crisis in simple, clear ways—and more importantly share that information others.  And we’re partnering with Google, Facebook and Twitter to make sharing this information as easy as searching, updating your status or sending out a tweet.

There’s also a series of Public Service Announcements we’re filming with some key celebrities that will air in major media markets throughout the country. These PSA’s will go up on our Web site, as well as You Tube.

Finally, we’re also launching a text campaign with NGOs that are delivering critical assistance in the Horn.  If you text “GIVE” to 777444, you can donate $10 to famine relief.   To help get the campaign started, General Mills has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations that come through the FWD campaign, up to $20,000.

But beyond donations, the most powerful contribution people will make will be to share what they learn. I ask that you encourage your friends and families to do more than donate. Have them visit FWD and follow @USAID on Twitter so they can forward the facts.

Horn of Africa Update

Each week USAID produces a fact sheet with updates on the drought in the Horn of Africa.  These fact sheets provide background information about the crisis, key recent developments, data on U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region, and public donation information.

We’ll now be featuring the key developments of the week on our blog as well.   We encourage you to follow along for the latest updates and information relating to the ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Key developments

  • The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the Horn of Africa currently stands at 13.3 million—up from 12.4 million at the end of July, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Approximately 750,000 Somalis—including 490,000 in rural areas, primarily in Bay, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, and Bakool regions, and 260,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu and the Afgooye corridor—are reportedly at risk of death during the next four months without sufficient relief, according to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit–Somalia (FSNAU). Insecurity and lack of humanitarian access continue to significantly constrain relief efforts in southern Somalia. For example, on September 8, armed militia reportedly shut down feeding centers in Lower Shabelle and Gedo regions, denying life-saving assistance to drought-affected populations, according to the U.N.
  • Humanitarian assistance to Somalia in August and September to date has increased significantly since July. In August, humanitarian aid—including assistance sent by many Gulf and Arab countries—arrived in Mogadishu and other parts of southern Somalia by air and sea, according to OCHA. However, the humanitarian community remains particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Bay, Bakool, and Middle Shabelle regions, where access and coverage of humanitarian needs remain the lowest.
  • Despite ongoing relief efforts, food security conditions are expected to deteriorate further in some areas of Somalia over the coming four months. By December, famine may extend to some areas of Gedo, Juba, Middle Shabelle, and Hiran regions, according to USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

Picture of the Week

As universal access to primary education takes shape in South Sudan, families are eager to send their children to school as long as qualified teachers are present. School girls in Nagagwu, Western Equatoria State of South Sudan on September 8, 2011. Photo Credit: Ezra Simon/USAID

On the Road with SCMS, Part 3: In South Africa, a provincial depot’s dream team mobilizes to support scale up of HIV/AIDS care and treatment

In this three part series, Jay Heavner, Director of Knowledge Sharing and Communication at Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), highlights his experiences visiting three countries in Africa to observe SCMS project sites.

In March, Diane Reynolds, Supply Chain Management System (SCMS)’s country director in South Africa,wrote about President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID’s partnership with the government of South Africa to help bring down the price of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in that country. ThisBridging Fund program has been a game-changer for South Africa as it rapidly scales up HIV/AIDS treatment, so I jumped at the opportunity to visit the country and see first-hand the impact of this innovative initiative.

One of the most memorable experiences of my recent trip was a site visit to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Pharmaceutical Supply Depot near Durban. Although one of ten provincial depots, it stores and distributes an impressive 32 percent of the country’s lifesaving ARVs to 28 hospitals and 600 clinics in the province.  Before arriving, I heard about the depot’s dream team who worked wonders to accommodate a large influx of ARVs in a warehouse that was already stretched to capacity.

A hand-operated fork lift helps navigate tight warehouse spaces.Photo Credit: Desiree Swart

To understand their achievement, consider the following:

  • The depot was designed 27 years ago to serve a population a fraction of the current one and before the first case of AIDS was reported in South Africa.
  • Most ARV regimens in South Africa still use three separate pills in combination rather than have patients take one pill containing three different medicines (fixed-dose combination).
  • More than 500 pallets of ARVs were occupying 27 percent of the total space in the depot the day I visited, meaning that the staff are managing all other public health commodities in roughly three quarters of the space they used to have available.
  • The ARV stock turns at the hub are almost weekly; monthly stock turns at any warehouse would be considered an accomplishment.

The team who runs the depot is a passionate bunch.  When I asked how they pulled off such an amazing feat, one replied, “Each person here is a perfectionist. We are the people who have to do it. The implications of not doing it are too great.”

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This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

USAID and Rotary Bring Drinking Water to Ghana’s Volta Region

Laurel Fain is the Health Office Chief for the USAID Mission in Ghana.

On August 21 I joined Rotary International’s President Kaylan Banerjee as he led a delegation of American and Ghanaian Rotarians to meet Government of Ghana officials and local chiefs in a ceremony in Ghana’s Volta Region. The occasion was the handover of ownership and management of three mechanized water schemes to the Government of Ghana and the local communities of Abutia-Teti, Takla Gborgame and Nyive in Ho. The U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Rotary Foundation each contributed $1 million to a Global Development Alliance (GDA) to provide safe drinking water and improved sanitation facilities in 114 communities in the Volta Region, Central Region and Greater Accra. According to Banerjee, this represents the largest investment the Rotary Foundation has made in any single project to date.

As the director of USAID/Ghana’s Health program I appreciate how participating in a GDA helps USAID leverage non-governmental funding to achieve US Government program objectives. Participating in the Abutia-Teti ceremony with the Rotarians gave me a new perspective on how GDAs enable non-governmental organizations like Rotary to leverage the experience and technical expertise of USAID.

Rotary Clubs are very popular in Ghana. Most of the Rotarians in the delegation to Ho were Ghanaian. The pride that they displayed in having helped bring safe drinking water to 10,000 of their countrymen was inspiring. It makes me proud to have been able to provide a cost-effective and efficient program through which their caring and their financial assistance could be channeled.

Be sure to check out Rotary’s blog and website, which are carrying the USAID story to an even wider international audience of Rotarians.

New Program Educates Health Sector Executives in Kenya

Kate Steger, MA, MPH is a Communications and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for the Kenya Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program at Management Sciences for Health

Earlier this year, USAID supported the launch of the Leading High-Performing Healthcare Organizations program (LeHHO) for senior health leaders in Kenya.  Offered at Nairobi’s Strathmore Business School, the program is the result of a successful partnership between Strathmore and USAID’s Leadership, Management and Sustainability (LMS) project in Kenya.

Kenyatta National Hospital Chief Nurse Philomena Maina (center) receives her LeHHO certificate from Strathmore Business School Dean Edward Mungai (left) and Academic Director Joan Mansour of MSH (right). Photo Credit: MSH

A leadership development specialist from Management Sciences for Health, which implements the LMS project, worked with Strathmore Business School faculty to integrate key components of leadership development for the health sector with Strathmore’s business education model. The result: an ongoing six-month course that combines executive health systems education with applied leadership training, offered exclusively to the health sector’s most senior leaders.

Program participants expand the depth and breadth of their knowledge with modules on the healthcare environment, improving organizational performance, healthcare systems management, and managing change. At the same time, they are asked to choose a specific current challenge in their organization and set a goal for overcoming that challenge. At the recent graduation ceremony for the first cohort, participants boasted accomplishments that promise to have widespread and lasting effects on the health of Kenyans.

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This Week at USAID – September 6, 2011

After a hiatus, we will be continuing the “This Week at USAID” series on the first day of the work week.

Thursday, September 8th is International Literacy Day. The Center for Universal Education at Brookings, the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative, and USAID will mark the day by hosting a series of panel discussions on how a range of education stakeholders are addressing the challenge of improving literacy, particularly at lower primary levels, to help fulfill the promise of quality education for all.

Stephen Haykin will be sworn-in as USAID Mission Director to Georgia.

Raja Jandhyala, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, will testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on the long-term needs in East Africa.

Alex Their, USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator and Director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, will testify before U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on development programs in Afghanistan.

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