In this Pounds of Prevention series, we travel to South Africa where thirteen years ago, USAID took notice of a nascent first responder organization based in Johannesburg. Rescue South Africa is now an internationally recognized rescue team. Read more >>
Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa
USAID supports the Government of Mozambique with streamlining construction permitting process
Mozambique has historically struggled with the process of issuing construction permits. The slow issuing process was identified by the private sector as a major obstacle impeding businesses. However, things are starting to change for the better. The latest World Bank Doing Business 2014 report shows a substantial improvement in the country’s construction permit indicator, jumping 46 places to 77th from 123rd in the most recent rankings. The country overall improved in rank by 7 places, from 146th last year to 139th this year, out of the 189 economies in the overall Doing Business country ranking. The World Bank Doing Business report is comprised of 11 indicators that measure a country’s business regulations, property rights, tax burdens, access to credit, and the cost of exporting and importing.
The USAID Support Program for Economic and Enterprise Development played an important role in this recent success. The program began working with the municipality of Maputo in October 2011 to simplify the process of obtaining construction permits.
The program provided extensive technical assistance to map out the improved processes. This was followed by in-kind grant support comprised of technology equipment to the Department of Urbanization and Construction and two consultants to design a working business process management system and a database that supports a file tracking system. A statistics consultant was also hired to analyze the amount of time required to get a license before and after the technology was introduced.
According to the latest Doing Business estimates, these efforts contributed to a savings of approximately 247 days in the process for obtaining a license, resulting in substantial savings to the private sector, increased investment, and employment. The program estimates indicate that the private sector saved approximately $3.7 million and created nearly 2,600 jobs over the course of the year as more licenses were processed, allowing construction projects to start sooner.
“This effort shows that a dynamic, committed partner can make real change happen over a short period of time, even in a difficult environment,” said Brigit Helms, the Program’s Chief of Party. The World Bank’s recognition of Mozambique offers further encouragement to continue work with the municipality on monitoring the implementation of other recommended reforms.
Every year, heads of state and cabinet officials from across Africa gather in Addis Ababa to meet with political, civil society, and business leaders at the annual African Union Summit. Last week, I was honored to lead the USAID delegation to my first AU Summit. The AU’s role is critical to the future of Africa.
Established in 2001, the African Union’s vision is to support “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own people and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” As President Obama’s Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa indicates, the United States is committed to achieving that same goal, which is why our decade of partnership with the African Union has been indispensable to USAID’s work.
The African Union named 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security—a pillar of USAID’s strategy on the continent because of its enormous potential to lift communities out of extreme poverty. Through our Feed the Future initiative, we provide support to the AU’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, an African-owned and -led initiative to boost agricultural productivity. CAADP turns 10 this year, and so far more than 20 countries have developed collaborative investment plans. While these plans are country-specific, they have been created through the African Union’s regional leadership, and their shared principles allow for the peer review, cooperation, and shared experiences that improve the quality of the individual plans—and their results.
But agriculture is the focus of just one of USAID’s collaborations with the African Union. Together, we’ve strengthened democracy and governance by training electoral observers. We’ve joined with the African Union Commission to reduce maternal mortality and increase youth employment and volunteerism. We are also partners in supporting the UN Climate for Development in Africa program, providing data, adaptation planning, analysis, policy planning, and strategy development for climate change in Africa.
A highlight of my visit was sitting down at the AU headquarters with 50 young women from 15 African countries who were participating in the 2014 Young Women Forum. These young leaders led a high-level discussion that included topics like how to create more agribusiness, land ownership and financing opportunities for women in their countries. They also advocated for increased access to sexual and reproductive health and opportunities for higher education. Talking with these young women, I was inspired by their deep knowledge and dedication to improving their communities, their countries and their continent. Hearing about the gains we’ve made in our partnership with the AU and listening to the ideas of these young African leaders, I left the Summit with great optimism for the future of Africa.
February 6th marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
While in Senegal, I had the opportunity to meet “village godmothers” who had endured Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as young girls. Each described the raw pain of the excisor cutting her as the worst she’s ever experienced. Today, these women are standing in solidarity to prevent their daughters from being cut and advocating for reproductive health for girls in their village. With them are other activists and the government, who are working together to eliminate FGM/C in Senegal. Since the first Senegalese village publicly rejected FGM/C in 1998, more than 5,500 communities in Senegal have stopped cutting women’s genitals.
Every year, more than three million girls in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and among diaspora communities in the West are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide currently live with the consequences of this dangerous practice.
The procedure, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, is largely performed on infants to girls as old as age 15. As the women I talked to in Senegal testified, it is extremely painful and generally carried out without anesthetics and using implements ranging from kitchen knives and razor blades to cut glass and sharp rocks. The health risks are great: in the short term, death from blood loss is not uncommon, nor is serious infection that can cause long-term problems. FGM/C may result in infertility, incontinence, pregnancy complications and increased risk of obstetrical problems like fistula and infant death.FGM/C has no basis in any religion, nor is it done for health benefits. Instead, the practice has been perpetuated for centuries through socio-cultural, psychosexual, chastity, religious and aesthetic or hygienic arguments. Almost all of these are linked to girls’ social status and marriageability and the practice is often seen as a necessary step towards womanhood. In many cultures, girls and women who are not cut are stigmatized and their families can be ostracized. The Sengalese, largely because of work done by the USAID funded non-governmental organization Tostan, created a community education program that has changed social norms. The program, the women tell me, has shown them that despite common perception that FGM/C is a good thing, it is in reality very harmful to their daughters.
USAID has supported FGM/C abandonment efforts since the 1990s, after being approached by many African women who asked why we were doing nothing about this issue. The Agency began programming and introduced an official policy that states the practice is not only a public health issue, but a violation of a woman’s right to bodily integrity. USAID assistance on this area has been a multi-faceted approach, focusing on surveillance, research, and program implementation.
The Agency has collected important information about the distribution and practice of FGM/C at the community level in 16 countries. This information is shared with all partner and donor organizations and used for decision making about program priorities and implementation approaches. A recent USAID-sponsored comparative analysis of data on FGM/C shows that although FGM/C prevalence is decreasing in many countries and among numerous communities, many girls are being cut at earlier ages and the service is increasingly performed in medical settings. To validate and improve interventions, USAID has supported important evaluations of existing programs.
When communities as a whole understand the physical and psychological trauma FGM/C causes, social transformation takes place – and this has proven to be the best way to ensure lasting support and an eventual end to the practice.
Two hundred and fifty million children in the world cannot read according to the recently released Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All; 130 million of them are in primary school. That’s equal to more than a third of the population of the United States. If these children do not learn to read they will have fewer opportunities and struggle with learning for the rest of their lives. Learning to read in the early grades is critical and hard work. It is not a skill that can be “picked up.” With the help of teachers trained specifically to teach reading, children learn to read over time by practicing and honing their skills. Strong readers perform better in all subjects, so children who learn to read in the early grades have a better chance of graduating from high school and getting a job or pursuing a college education.
At the State of the Union the other night, I was sitting in the gallery listening to President Obama say, “One of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is a world class education.” I was on my feet applauding. His words ring true here at home and in developing countries around the world.
I’m visiting Zambia and Malawi over the next two weeks where USAID is working hard with our partners to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies by investing in new, results-based reading programs that start with building capacity in the existing teacher corps and in training new teachers in the best practices of teaching reading.
In Malawi, USAID partners developed a phonics-based reading program in the Chichewa language, and provided Chichewa readers to students and accompanying scripted lesson plans to their teachers. Teachers received training on the use of the materials and extensive on-site coaching to help them use them every day in their classrooms. In 2012, after two years of the implementation of this program, the proportion of 2nd graders who could read at least one word in Chichewa had risen from 5.3 to 16.8 percent. The program is now in the process of being scaled up to all districts in the nation of Malawi.
Malawi and Zambia aren’t the only countries where we’re making an impact. In Kenya, USAID is sponsoring an initiative to improve reading outcomes in Kiswahili and English in 500 primary schools. The program has introduced innovative teaching methods, new, phonics-based reading materials for mother tongue instruction, and professional development to build the skills of educators and improve student literacy outcomes. In a recent study we found that children enrolled in schools using the USAID-funded program were up to 27 times more likely to read than students in schools outside the program. This program, too, is in the process of being scaled up to reach more schools in the future so that more children in Kenya will have access to a high quality education.
In the Philippines, USAID is supporting a program known as the Improved Collection and Use of Student Reading Performance Data. Each time a teacher participating in the program conducts a reading test (in either Tagalog or English), he/she submits the test results via SMS to a Department-of-Education administered database. Teacher supervisors from the department then use this information to provide timely feedback to the teachers on their reading instruction, based on the student results. This USAID program is heightening transparency about student outcomes and tightening the feedback between teachers and their coaches, leading to an increased likelihood that teachers will identify and assist children who are not meeting grade-level expectations in reading.
Through these programs children are learning to read and will have better lives thanks to the support of the American people, and USAID will continue to do more to get all children reading and access to quality education.
This blog post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
My heart smiled the moment the four women entered the meeting room where I had been waiting. I stood to greet them and the babies they carried, eager to hear their stories. The young mothers sat in the chairs across from us and soon the babies were all up on the table, their proud moms making certain that we could see their precious little ones. The youngest baby was 4½ months old, the oldest 14 months. They were all adorable.
The conversation was lively. One young mother, Letty, described her pregnancy. Living in Johannesburg, she was far from her home country, Zimbabwe, and far from her mother,aunts,grandmother or anyone she trusted to give her the advice and information she craved.The cost of phoning these trusted relatives was prohibitive, so Letty found support when she enrolled to receive text messages via her mobile phone from MAMA, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. “I’m here. I’m alone. The SMS messages helped me a lot. They helped me feel that someone is there,” Letty told me.
MAMA South Africa was launched with the support of global partners USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation, the mHealth Alliance, and BabyCenter. In addition, Vodacom joined the South Africa partnership, offering MAMA’s mobile website, askmama.mobi, free-of-charge to its 25 million customers. The goal of MAMA is to deliver health messages that moms need at specific milestones during pregnancy and during the first year of their baby’s development.
An existing South African mHealth partnership helped bring MAMA South Africa to life: Cell-Life, Praekelt Foundation and WRHI at the University of the Witwatersrand. Through MAMA, new and expectant mothers receive messages that address important topics such as nutrition during pregnancy, how to prepare for childbirth and recognizing signs of trouble which, if unheeded, can lead to difficulties in labor and delivery.
I sat across from these four women who had benefited from the MAMA partnership and listened carefully as they described their experiences. For these mothers, the SMS messages calmed their fears. One of the women, Faith, said that she had enrolled in the program when she was five months pregnant and had found reassurance in the MAMA texts. “The messages sometimes tell you, ‘This is normal’ and then you don’t worry,” she said. Letty added that when her baby was up all night, she received a message that said “Your baby may be teething” and this convinced her that nothing was wrong with her baby.
Another mom, Ntando was seven months pregnant and already had one child when she enrolled in the MAMA program. On the day of our meeting, her baby boy was already five months old. “The way we raised the first one is different from the way we raise this one.” She looked at her son and then added a comment about MAMA. “They’ll help me raise this one,” she said.
The third woman, Memory, signed up to receive MAMA messages when her baby was five months old. She said that she appreciated the help in “how to say ‘no’ to my son.” Memory also told us that she found the messages so helpful that she shares them with a friend who does not have a phone.
Faith visits the MAMA website with her husband and they learn together. Her praise for MAMA struck a particular chord for me – “I like them because they don’t just take care of the baby, they also take care of the moms.”
As our time together drew to a close, I thanked Letty, Memory, Faith and Ntando for taking the time to meet with us. Many of their comments have stayed with me, but none more than this one: “You feel like you are alone, and these SMS messages make you feel loved.”
The MAMA partnership is based on the power and promise of mobile phones in empowering mothers to make healthy decisions for themselves and their babies. What a wonderful added – and unexpected — benefit that MAMA also makes moms feel loved.
It invades the farmlands in the Kelafe district of the Somali Region of Ethiopia, and it has been identified as the single most important factor contributing to livelihood vulnerability of local communities. What is it? This invader is the Prosopis juliflora weed. Prosopis juliflora forms impenetrable thickets of low branches and thorns that prevent cattle from accessing watering holes. The weed uses scarce water, causes soil erosion and loss of the grasslands that form important habitats for native plants and animals.
The weed had taken over the community’s farmland to the extent that it displaced many households who relied on the farmland for their living. Due to frequent occurrence of natural shocks such as drought and floods, coupled with huge weed encroachment, the community had lost the ability to clear up its farmland without external support. USAID, through Save the Children, is now implementing a project to build resilience in the drought-affected districts of Gode, Adadle and Kelafe in the Somali Region. The project addresses rehabilitation and protection of productive farmland and diversification of livelihoods. One of the key interventions in this project is cash-for-work.
Cash-for-work helps local communities meet their basic needs and also revitalize communal resources such as farmland, rangelands, and communal ponds. Following a participatory planning process, the community in Kelafe district identified clearing the invasive plants from the farmlands as its top priority. Through cash-for-work interventions, the community successfully cleared more than 420 hectares. As a result, about 1,000 households gained access to farmland occupied by the weed for more than a decade. Each household was given the opportunity to cultivate a quarter-hectare of the cleared land, including Abdi Farole.
Abdi, the father of seven children (three boys and four girls), lost his farmland to the weed like many other members of his community and supported his family mainly on relief food assistance. “I was surviving by burning charcoal, collecting firewood or working for others on farm weeding. Most of the time, I was away from my family because I was out doing labour,” he said.
After the land was cleared, he planted maize and sesame in his quarter-hectare using intercropping and, in 2013, had his first harvest from this field in more than a decade. He kept some of his harvest for his family’s consumption, loaned some to relatives, and sold the remainder. Since the harvest, Abdi’s family’s living condition has considerably improved. “My family’s life has significantly changed after my first harvest. I am now able to feed my children three times a day with diversity of diet that I was not able to do before. My children go to school dressed in uniforms and having their own books, pens and other learning materials, which they were lacking before,” said Abdi.
But Abdi’s story doesn’t end with the first harvest. He has already started irrigating his farm for the second season, planting sesame with the seed from his first production. While irrigating his plot, he enthusiastically expressed his interest in keeping his land cultivated as he knows that keeping the land cultivated prevents the invasive shrub from reappearing.
The cash-for-work scheme has also helped the local community to meet their basic needs and, at the same time, regain their key source of livelihood from the invasive plant. Moreover, the project is reducing the community’s vulnerability to future shocks. Abdi’s success demonstrates how community livelihood recovery can revitalize a traditional economic social support system, leading to improved community resilience.
The next installment in the USAID Pounds of Prevention series (PDF) takes us to Namibia, considered one of the driest countries in the world. By promoting four interlocking principles—known as conservation agriculture—USAID is helping to improve people’s ability to weather and recover from drought. In fact, some crop yields for farmers using conservation agriculture have increased five times over yields for farmers using traditional methods. Read on to learn more.
USAID is observing World AIDS Day this year by celebrating ten years of ourHIV and AIDS work under PEPFAR.
More than 85,000 infants in Nigeria are at risk of HIV transmission from their mothers every year. While the number of HIV-positive pregnant women who receive antiretroviral treatment (ART) is increasing, robust efforts to improve coverage are needed if national targets (PDF) for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) are to be met in 2015.
Over the past year, the Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project helped support the PLAN-Health Nigeria project, funded by PEPFAR through USAID and managed by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), to pilot Leadership Development Program Plus (LDP+), which focuses on empowering teams to improve PMTCT results. The program also emphasizes new approaches tied in to country ownership, national health priorities, and specific health indicators.
LDP+ was piloted in the town of Gwagwalada, Nigeria. The Gwagwalada Council is one of the five Local Government Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria. LMG and PLAN-Health worked with the Gwagwalada Council, which selected 20 participants—two from each of the 10 facilities providing PMTCT services in the area—to form 10 teams to participate in the LDP+. Together, the teams decided to address PMTCT and focused on improving some standard indicators such as number of new antenatal care (ANC) clients; number of pregnant women tested for HIV, counseled and received their results; and the number of HIV-positive women. The program ran from October 2012 to May 2013. During this time, the teams worked within their facilities to create a vision of improved results around PMTCT, align stakeholders around this vision, implement their action plans, and share learning with other teams to identify the most useful local interventions and activities. The teams also received coaching in the areas of monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.
Most of the facilities reported encouraging results for their key indicators after participating in LDP+. For example, the Old Kutunku Health Center reported an increase from 17 to 61 new ANC clients per month. At the Gwako health center, the percentage of ANC clients who delivered in a health facility increased from 18 to 42 percent. Prior to LDP+, the Township clinic counseled and tested the partners of only three percent of pregnant women, compared with 20 percent after the program.
The Gwagwalada Council’s oversight committee plans to continue the program with its own resources, expanding it to another eight facilities in the area. Through these efforts, this local government agency is furthering Nigeria’s national efforts to ultimately eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter through World AIDS Day, observed on December 2, for key facts, resources, and photos from our programs and partners and join the conversation using the hashtag #WAD2013.
This originally appeared on MCHIP in recognition of World Pneumonia Day.
Pneumonia is the deadliest disease among children under the age of five, killing an estimated 1.2 million children annually. Fortunately, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) can protect susceptible children, preventing against severe forms of pneumococcal diseases—mainly pneumonia, meningitis, bacteremia and sepsis.
Today, on World Pneumonia Day, MCHIP celebrates that this disease is preventable with safe, effective and affordable tools. Our team has played a key technical role in nine African countries to assist the introduction of this lifesaving vaccine, including in Senegal, where we introduced the vaccine most recently.
On November 5th, the Government of Senegal celebrated the launch of PCV13, which protects children against the 13 most virulent strains of pneumonia, a welcome innovation in a country where an estimated 13% of deaths under the age of five are attributed to pneumonia. The launch ceremony featured speeches by dignitaries—including Senegal’s President and its Minster of Health—as well as representatives from the GAVI Alliance.
The President emphasized the importance of reducing child mortality in Senegal by providing free health care for children under five, and strengthening partnerships. According to the November 6th edition of Le Soleil newspaper: “The introduction of this new vaccine as a preventative measure will strengthen and streamline all initiatives that support the well-being of the child.”
MCHIP in Senegal has been working with the National Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) and partners to prepare the country’s immunization system for the introduction of new vaccines including (including PCV13, Meningitis A, and Measles-Rubella) while also strengthening the routine immunization system in poor performing districts to deliver these and traditional vaccines. In collaboration with partners, MCHIP has played a key technical role in the Senegal PCV13 preparation and rollout through national level technical assistance and as a member of the Interagency Coordinating Committee.
As part of a multi-partner collaboration, MCHIP has provided technical assistance to the EPI/Ministries of Health to prepare, plan and implement the introduction of new vaccines in 12 countries in the last five years. This assistance includes preparations of applications to GAVI for these new vaccines, immunization program readiness, post-introduction evaluation, and capacity building for health professionals.
Globally, MCHIP has now supported the introduction of PCV in Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Moreover, the Program has ensured that, once introduced, these new vaccines are incorporated into a routine immunization system that can provide safe, timely, equitable and affordable protection against some of the major contributors to child death, such as pneumonia.