USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

Hopes and Challenges for the World’s Newest Country

Juba, Sudan:   She sat in the shade of a transit tent at this port city on the White Nile, surrounded by her worldly possessions and eight children.  A symbol of the hope and the challenges facing south Sudan as it moves towards independence on July 9, the woman arrived a week earlier by barge from Khartoum, where she had lived for decades with her now-deceased husband.  With family roots in the south, she responded to the January referendum that overwhelmingly approved independence for the region by loading her children and furniture on a barge and heading south.  When she arrived in Juba, she kissed the ground and sang songs of praise all night.

But now, she worries about the future.  When I met her, she felt that her prospects were few: her money had run out; she had no land or job possibilities, no experience in farming, and no relatives or friends in the south; her children were unlikely to attend school, which required fees and purchase of uniforms.  She still believed she made the right move, but the lines creasing her forehead betrayed new doubts.

After decades of civil war that caused up to two million deaths, the separation of north and south Sudan will occur in July.  There are still tough negotiations underway to resolve remaining separation issues – including the exact location of the border, citizenship for southerners still in the north and northerners still in the south, distribution of revenues from oil production mostly in the south, and the status of the border area of Abyei – but most experts expect the separation to occur without significant new north-south violence.

The new country of south Sudan will have much going for it, including leaders publicly committed to democracy, transparency, human rights and socio-economic empowerment.  It also stands to benefit from revenues from oil production and, perhaps most importantly, the strong commitment and friendship of the international community.

At the same time, the challenges for south Sudan are daunting.  The new country will rank among the world’s worst on the socio-economic scale, with high rates of infant and maternal mortality, widespread illiteracy—up to 97 percent for women—and a lack of potable water and sanitation.  Despite significant oil revenues, the south lacks the most basic infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, and houses.  The government lacks trained personnel, armed militias need to be demobilized and reintegrated, and civil society organizations need to be revitalized.   There are also continuing disputes over land, as well as the risk of spill-over from conflict in northern Uganda and Darfur.

The success of the new state is of vital importance to the international community.  South Sudan will border seven states – Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and northern Sudan – and instability in south Sudan could destabilize this already fragile region.  South Sudan has been plagued by droughts and famines, and the need for humanitarian assistance will likely remain high.  South Sudan also sits astride the White Nile, and Egypt and north Sudan in particular want the life-blood of their countries to be secure.

Equally important, as a prime mover of the 2005 agreement that secured north-south peace, the United States is bound to its legacy.   USAID, the State Department and other US agencies are working with major development partners to support south Sudan’s transition by strengthening government institutions, empowering citizens and civil society, supporting the delivery of health care and education services, promoting productive sectors such as agriculture, and addressing grievances that fuel conflict.  These steps are critical to providing a visible “peace dividend” to a war-weary population with high expectations for the fruits of independence.  At the same time, we are helping build the basis for long-term economic and stability: a strong and independent central bank, a credible monetary policy and exchange rate regime, and a transparent public financial system to manage oil, tax and assistance revenue.

Working with the UN and other organizations, our government is also assisting returnees to reintegrate in their areas of origin in the south, including some 300,000 since last December alone.  We support the registration and processing of returnees at Juba’s port and elsewhere; provide relief supply to vulnerable families, such as blankets, mosquito nets, and plastic sheeting; and support communities that are absorbing high numbers of returnees with health, water, sanitation, and job opportunities.

The story of the migrant woman in Juba took a positive twist after our encounter.  Like other returnees, she is receiving a three-month food ration from the UN World Food Program.   Given her vulnerability, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will help her build a basic home, provide training and support to help her set up a small business, and visit her regularly to monitor her situation until she is fully settled.

With the combined efforts of the international community, the future has begun to look brighter for her.  Similar support and attention can also brighten the future for the rest of southern Sudan as it prepares to become the world’s newest nation.

Donald Steinberg serves as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Angola and as a member of the UN Civil Society Advisory Group for Women, Peace and Security.

Ox Plow and Other Training Help Southern Sudan Farmers Increase Agricultural Yields

Residents of southern Sudan have long relied on subsistence farming utilizing traditional methods. These practices, such as hand tilling and broad casting of seed, result in crop loss, disease, and infestation, and severely limit farmer’s yields.

USAID is working to overcome these challenges by introducing new technology and farming methods to residents of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Unity states.

Maliah Gai Luoi, a USAID beneficiary from Lingere Boma in Mayom County, Unity state, is learning firsthand the benefits of ox plow technology, proper spacing and planting techniques, and improved seed varieties.

Maliah returned to Lingere in 2000 after years of living as an internally displaced person at a camp on the outskirts of Khartoum. At 30 years old, he is responsible for 18 dependents, whom he had been supporting with a small retail shop and cattle trading business. Maliah first saw ox plow farming during his time in Khartoum, but never considered that he would one day practice it himself. When USAID offered ox plow training in Mayom County during June 2010, Maliah was quick to sign up.

After 30 days of training on the proper commands and instructions for his bulls, BRIDGE provided Maliah and another farmer with an ox plow to share. When he began farming his fields, Maliah saw that ox plowing was an easy, quick, and effective method of cultivation. He was amazed that he was able to plow a plot of land in two days.

In addition to the ox plow training, Maliah participated in other USAID trainings on planting techniques, crop spacing, pest control, and weeding, and received a grant of improved maize seed. When harvest season arrived, Maliah experienced a record yield from his maize crop, something he attributes directly to the training and USAID assistance. “I’m so happy, imagine I have harvested 10 bags, nearly 1,000 kilograms, in just one season. This year, food will not be a problem for my family,” he said.

News of his and others’ success with ox plow technology traveled rapidly through the surrounding villages. One farmer said, “Why are we dying of hunger if we could produce so many bags of maize using our bulls?”

Our Sympathy to the World Food Programme

On behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development, I would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy for the loss of Santino Pigga Alex Wani of the World Food Programme (WFP). Our deepest condolences go to his colleagues at the World Food Programme as well as to Santino Pigga’s friends and family. We are deeply saddened by his loss of life and the tragic circumstances that led to his passing in Southern Sudan.

In Southern Sudan and throughout the world, WFP’s dedicated staff face dangerous and challenging conditions as they provide emergency food aid to people in desperate need. We applaud the staff at WFP for their bravery, dedication, and commitment to the world’s hungry.

Polio Immunization Efforts Showing Positive Results in Southern Sudan

USAID, the United Nations, the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), and other international partners launched a polio immunization campaign March 28 in southern Sudan, where the crippling disease re-emerged in 2008.

“Due to the efforts of the GOSS, development partners, and people of southern Sudan, the outbreak that re-emerged in South Sudan in 2008 has been halted,” USAID/Sudan Mission Director William Hammink explained at the Juba Nyakuron Cultural Center, where the three-day campaign was launched. “Since 2005, USAID has committed over $8 million to support polio immunization and eradication as well as routine immunization activities across the region,” he added.

GOSS Minister of Health Dr. Luka Tombekana Monoja and Minister of Information Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin GOSS said it is time to “kick it and keep it out” when referring to polio and other preventable diseases. The ministers expressed their commitment to continue campaigns that vaccinate against preventable diseases, including polio. Along with international organizations such as USAID and Rotary, the GOSS pledged to reach those in need throughout southern Sudan, particularly children in remote areas.

Mothers attending the event were invited to have their young children vaccinated with ‘just two drops’ of the polio-preventing vaccine.

USAID assisted with the last polio immunization campaign in November 2010, which reached more than 3 million children under age 5 in southern Sudan with the vaccine, achieving polio immunization coverage of 99 percent.

In Ethiopia, supply chains are a smart investment for public health

A pharmacist by training, Yodit Assefa will complete her Master Degree in Public Health this year. Her long-term goal is to contribute to the vision of an HIV-free generation in Ethiopia.

As a procurement specialist with PEPFAR’s SCMS project, I am one of a growing number of women working in supply chain management in Ethiopia.  I manage procurements of HIV/AIDS commodities – including the complex procurement of specialized medical equipment used to treat HIV/AIDS – as well as the vehicles that distribute those commodities.

Well planned, strategic procurement is a smart investment.  Our team helps save money by minimizing costly unplanned and emergency procurements and buying low-value and bulky products locally.

Yodit Assefa (center) and procurement colleagues from PEPFAR’s Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) Photo credit: SCMS

I use my skills to help scale-up Ethiopia’s aggressive HIV/AIDS program.  In just two short years, the number of people on treatment has tripled from 50,000 to over 167,000 and the number of clinics has increased more than fourfold from 170 to 843.

This type of scale-up requires a similar scale-up of supply chain systems.  A little over a year ago, we joined USAID and local partners in a public ceremony to celebrate the arrival of equipment to strengthen warehousing and distribution for public health commodities.  We now have 29 delivery vehicles, seven generators, 10 forklift trucks, 150 refrigerators, nine deep freezers, a 824-cubic meter cold room, racking for 5,400 pallets and 1,320 adjustable shelves for 12 warehouses, including six temporary warehouses leased through SCMS.

A typical day for me starts before sunrise.  I get two kids ready for school – the youngest ready for her nanny – check the car and head for work. We have lots of problems with internet connections in a developing country like Ethiopia, so I am at my desk by 6:30 a.m. to get the best available connection before the lines get busy.  I take information from the client management teams and create quotation requests to send to potential vendors.  I analyze quotations to decide which meet our specifications and offer us the best value.  Best value does not just mean lowest price – I also take into account things like product quality and timeframe for delivery.  On-time delivery is one of our key performance indicators.

After choosing the supplier, I go through a complex process to ensure my purchase orders meet all necessary US government regulations and comply with Ethiopian law.  Finally, I manage the supplier, making sure the products are delivered on time and in the right quantity.  This may not sound like a lot, but remember, each procurement specialist manages around 50 different orders at a time.

Our procurement team is the first SCMS field office to “graduate” to do international procurement—in additional to local procurement—of commodities without any supervision from the SCMS headquarters procurement office.  I’m proud of our graduation, but my greatest satisfaction comes from knowing our work contributes to restoring health to people living with HIV/AIDS. I have seen formerly bedridden patients return to work after receiving antiretroviral drugs. This is what inspired me to join SCMS. I believe helping one person really helps 5.4 people, the average family size in Ethiopia.

PEPFAR’s impact goes beyond saving lives and improving quality of life. It helps national development and economic growth by preventing people in the workforce from dying of AIDS.

World Malaria Day: Celebrating Progress Against a Preventable and Curable Disease

By Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator

Over the past four years I have had the privilege of serving as Coordinator of the President’s Malaria Initiative. The initiative is led by USAID and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Our goal is to reduce malaria illnesses and death by half for 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub Saharan Africa, and to remove the disease as a major public health threat by 2015.

Children in Ghana carry home their insecticide-treated nets, which can protect them against the dangers of malaria. Credit: Esther Hsu/ TAMTAM

I also oversee two regional malaria programs outside of Africa. The Amazon Malaria Initiative covers 7 countries making up the Amazon Basin of South America, and the Mekong Malaria Program covers 5 countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region of Southeast Asia.  In both of these areas, multi-drug resistance is a major problem.

I am fortunate to work with a talented group of technical staff and public health experts who implement U.S. global malaria programs.  The incredible progress we have made against malaria is due in large part to effective partnerships with host governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Malaria, as well as other non-governmental and private organizations too numerous to count.    Now, five years into the Initiative, we are seeing substantial reductions in deaths in children under the age of five years, and we are seeing improvements in malaria-specific indicators in all PMI-supported countries where baseline and follow-up nationwide household surveys were conducted. These reductions are due in large part to a dramatic scale-up of malaria prevention and treatment measures since 2005, thanks to the collective efforts of national governments, other international donors; and multilateral and nongovernmental organizations.

PMI relies on a four-pronged, proven approach to prevent and treat malaria:  the correct use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets above sleeping spaces; indoor spraying with insecticides; intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women; and timely use of artemisinin-based combination therapies for those who have been diagnosed with malaria.  Malaria is one of today’s best investments in global health; globally, these interventions are saving the lives of 485 children each day.

Each year, World Malaria Day is observed on April 25 to call attention to the disease and to mobilize action to combat it. It’s heartening to see the progress that has been made in delivering malaria prevention tools to those at risk of malaria and providing treatment to those with confirmed malaria. Progress against malaria is one of development’s most impressive stories.  On this occasion, PMI releases its fifth annual report, which describes the role and contributions of the U.S. Government in the effort to reduce the burden of malaria in Africa.

Despite considerable progress, malaria remains a major public health problem on the African continent, with about 80 percent of malaria deaths occurring in African children under five years of age.  However, over the past 50 years the U.S Government has been a major player in coordinated global efforts to beat back major killers like smallpox, polio and measles.  So, with sufficient and sustained international commitment, we can continue to achieve sustainable progress in our fight against malaria.

To learn more about PMI, visit

Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer is the U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator. He grew up in Asia, attended the missionary boarding school in Dalat, Vietnam, graduated from Wheaton College, served as a Naval aviator with the U.S. Navy, and was Executive Director of World Relief prior to being asked to lead the President’s Malaria Initiative.

Providing the Advantage of Literacy to Family Farmers in Burundi

Marie Habonimana is a thirtyish Burundian farmer and livestock herder who was illiterate until several months ago when USAID provided her with an opportunity of a lifetime.

Marie lives in the hilly north-central Muramvya Province known for its tea plantations and eucalyptus trees.  When USAID’s Burundi Agribusiness Program introduced literacy training in her community in 2010, Marie seized the opportunity to learn to read and write.

Today Marie is proud of her new skills. She is especially pleased because now she can register the daily sales of her milk volumes, the price she negotiates, and the monthly value of her milk.  Because Marie writes everything down, no milk collector can fool her by suggesting that she gave them a different volume or sold the milk at other than the negotiated and registered price.

Marie calculates that by writing down all of her transactions she has recovered at least 10 liters of milk, worth about four dollars, that would have been lost to the collectors. Marie will invest this recovered revenue in improved animal forage for her cow in order to increase the animal’s milk and manure production.

USAID’s Burundi Agribusiness program is helping to expand and diversify rural economic opportunities in Burundi through technical, trading and marketing support to Burundi’s coffee, horticulture and dairy sectors.  Since 2008, USAID has provided livelihood-enhancing assistance to approximately 61,607 farming households in Burundi.  Fully 17% of these households are headed by women.  Since April, 2010, USAID has provided literacy training to approximately 2,171 farmers, 92% of whom are women.

Fashion Show Highlights Africa’s Cotton, Textile, and Apparel Industry

One of the highlights of being at USAID is seeing the faces of the people who are helped by our work.  Our staff in Africa regularly send photos that show refugees receiving much-needed food aid, farmers applying modern technologies to grow better crops, and HIV-positive individuals who have a second shot at life thanks to anti-retroviral medicine.

Today’s photos from East Africa are a little different.  These photos show cotton, sleek styles, bright patterns, and even a wedding dress.


In Mauritius, a small island off the eastern coast of Madagascar, USAID supported the Origin Africa Fiber to Fashion Event as part of an ongoing effort to encourage trade, support sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty in the region.  The event featured a runway show of collections from African fashion designers, while also providing a platform for improving trade opportunities for the hundreds of producers, traders and buyers who attended.

Africa’s colorful prints and textures were on display.  The competition asked designers to create collections with commercial appeal using local fabrics and facilities.  Twelve designers representing countries from sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean as well as three fashion students from Mauritius showed their collections before a panel of international judges.  The winning designer was Fikirte Addis, whose designs are intended to reflect the everyday lives of her fellow Ethiopians and her vibrant culture.  She will be featured at Africa Fashion Week New York in July 2011.

Related events included a business symposium on eco-friendly manufacturing practices, new product development related to cotton fabric, and the integration of design and marketing. An advisory board of business leaders from the U.S. apparel sector also participated in activities to boost commercial activity, generating business deals worth over $7.8 million.

The event was part of USAID’s Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program to address barriers and promote opportunities for African businesses in over 15 countries in east and central Africa.  Currently, Africa contributes a small portion of the goods traded globally.  By building the capacity and increasing the competitiveness of African goods, USAID promotes broad-based, sustainable economic growth that is necessary to accelerate development and eradicate poverty in Africa.

Deputy Administrator Announces Initiative to Include Women in Peace Processes and Meets Returnees in Southern Sudan

In a speech at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, Sudan, on April 9, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg announced a new USAID global grant initiative to increase women’s participation in peace processes.  Grants of up to $2 million each, totaling up to $14 million, may be made available for projects that support UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women’s involvement in all aspects of peace and security, recognizing their leadership in peacemaking, and ending sexual violence in conflict.

“We all know that when social order breaks down, it is women who suffer most,” said Steinberg, who visited the university during a three-day visit to northern and southern Sudan.  “But we have to reject the vision of women as victims.  Women are not victims.  Women are the key to building just and lasting peace, stable and prosperous economies, and vibrant civil societies.”

The new program provides funding for female negotiators and mediators to fully participate in peace processes, taking into account their potential need for assistance with child care, transportation, accommodations, and security.

Steinberg said USAID will continue to assist people throughout Sudan, as the largest country in Africa prepares to divide into two nations July 9, following the overwhelming vote of southern Sudanese in January to secede and form an independent country.

In Juba, Steinberg visited Juba Port, where thousands of Sudanese have returned from the North to their areas of origin in the South.  Since October 30, more than 307,000 Sudanese have returned from northern to southern Sudan and the “Three Areas” along the north-south border (Abyei, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile).  Steinberg learned about the challenges returnees face, including scarcity of livelihood opportunities and access to basic services such as water, education, and health care.

One widow with eight children told Steinberg she has no family members living in the south and didn’t know where she and her children would go or who would help them.  Staff with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicated that returnees in such situations qualify for UNHCR’s vulnerable assistance program that provides help with immediate needs such as transport and emergency shelter.  USAID staff in Juba planned to follow up with UNHCR on her case as an example of how returnees are assisted.

Worth a Thousand Words

USAID 50th anniversary banner

This image captured top honors in the latest FrontLines photo contest. These rural schoolchildren participate in the USAID-funded Southern Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction project, which uses radio to broadcast interactive student lessons. The lessons, based on Southern Sudan’s primary school syllabus, complement classroom instruction in literacy, English, mathematics, and life skills for grades one through four. July 2010. Photo Credit: Karl Grobl, Education Development Center Inc.

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