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This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

Administrator Shah opens a weeklong training for over 80 USAID communications staff from USAID Missions all over the world.  These communicators are in Washington, D.C. to engage with senior officials about elevating development, particularly the first-ever national development strategy issued by a U.S. President and “USAID Forward”, the Agency’s change management agenda.  Sessions featured during the week include: a meeting with staff from the National Security Council, a joint session at the annual State Department Public Affairs Officer’s conference, and a panel discussion with leading foreign policy journalists at the Newseum.

Administrator Shah travels to Des Moines, Iowa to speak at the Borlaug Dialogue, which is held each year in conjunction with the awarding of the World Food Prize.  The theme of the conference is: smallholder agriculture, “Take it to the Farmer“.  Dr Shah will focus on how you take interest in fighting poverty to the smallholder farmer.  He will also promote progress under Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

The Congressional Black Caucus and Haiti’s Recovery

Submitted by Paul Weisenfeld, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator/LAC

Today, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on Haiti’s path to reconstruction at the 40th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, in Washington D.C.   The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was one of the champions that helped to push the Supplemental Request, which unlocked essential funding for Haiti’s reconstruction, into law, and I’m grateful for their continuing support.

I’m also pleased that African Americans and other minority groups, including the Haitian-American community, are part of Haiti’s recovery, not just in Washington but also in Haiti.  As I mentioned during a panel discussion at the 2010 Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference, the energy and creativity of the private sector — both U.S. and Haitian – will play a key role in the reconstruction effort.  In fact, we’re already tapping the talent of minority groups.  One of the first contracts that USAID awarded after the earthquake was to PHS Group, a minority-owned firm, to manage a debris dump site in Port-au-Prince.

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USAID Eases Hardships of Haiti’s Earthquake Survivors

After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 100,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau.

While the area was one of the country’s poorest regions even before the earthquake, it’s seen an influx of survivors who’ve come to live with family and friends, straining already limited resources.

To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, USAID partner Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.

With USAID/OFDA support, Mercy Corps is providing livelihood opportunities to 2,000 people per week in the Central Plateau. An additional 20,000 people are on track to benefit from the cash-for-work program.

These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation systems. Some have used their salary and tools from the programs to start more sustainable small businesses.

Under USAID’s Food Security Program in Haiti, Mercy Corps will also provide food vouchers to 100,000 in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite region. This new initiative provides grants, cash or vouchers to buy desperately needed food.

In the town of Mirebalais, Mercy Corps employs Haitians to clear debris from canals and other public spaces to mitigate flooding during hurricane season. Watch a video on this important program.

View photos of Mercy Corps’ work in Mirebalais on Facebook and Flickr.

This Week at USAID – September 7, 2010

It is education week at USAID!  We will be highlighting the Agency’s ongoing education efforts throughout the week.  Stay tuned for a joint video message from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; a blog post on education from Congresswoman Nita Lowey; guest bloggers from BBC World Service Trust, Carnegie Mellon and Brookings; and stories, video and pictures from USAID missions.  

On September 8th, David Barth, Director of USAID’s Education Office, will speak as part of the Brooking Institution’s celebration ofInternational Literacy DayRTI International will present the cutting-edge literacy report, Early Reading: Igniting Education for All, on the urgency to support, especially in developing countries, accurate and timely reading assessment and teacher preparation in reading education for K–3 age groups.  Audience discussion will follow presentation of the report.

From the Field

In Liberia, to celebrate International Literacy Day, USAID’s Core Educational Skills for Liberian Youth (CESLY) is launching a writing contest across all 266 schools they support. Students will compete to write short, original stories built around a positive, inspiring, and unifying theme, and the winning stories will be published and distributed to students across the country to show the importance of literature by Liberian authors.

This is all part of our larger effort along side the Ministry of Education to rebuild the education system after the civil conflict years in which rebel factions frequently targeted schools as places to recruit soldiers.

In the Dominican Republic, we are holding a Digital Journalism Workshop as part of our support to tourism clusters in nine different provinces in the DR.   USAID is sponsoring this workshop with the support of a group of journalists who specialize in tourism area.  The goal is to educate Dominicans on how to more effectively market their many desirable tourism destinations.

In Lebanon, we are opening the American Community School (ACS) Outdoor Education and Nature Center.  This center will enable approximately 1,000 ACS students to re-connect with nature, create awareness on ecological and environmental issues, and establish a networking/exchange program with schools in the area.  The center will be utilized throughout the year to enrich students’ knowledge, raise their respect for nature, and build their personality to become responsible and rely on themselves.

From the Field

Submitted by Abby Sugrue

In Zambia we re-launched the Safeplan Family Planning Pill through our Partnership for Integrated Social Marketing program (PRISM).  The new Safeplan pack will be available at registered outlets including clinics, pharmacies and retail shops across the country.  Oral contraceptive pills, like Safeplan, are a safe, convenient and effective way for women to accurately and reliably control their reproductive lives and thereby improve their health.  USAID is working with the Ministry of Health and the private sector to improve access to high quality, affordable modern contraceptives throughout the country.

In Paraguay we are collaborating with the Millenium Challenge Corporation, which is donating software to the Ministry of Health to handle distribution and logistics of medicines in the country.  For the first time, the Ministry of Health will have software that will help avoid corruption by properly tracking and distributing medicines.

In Cambodia we are collaborating closely with the Department of Defense to assist in the planning of a series of pandemic flu preparedness exercises.  This is part of a national workshop focused on refining collaborative civilian-military provincial response plans in Cambodia.

This Week at USAID – August 30, 2010

Wayne Nilsestuen will be officially sworn-in as Mission Director-Designate to Bolivia, and Jim Barnhart will be officially sworn-in as Mission Director-Designate to Lebanon.

USAID’s Mark Ward, Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, will speak at Brookings as part of a panel discussion on challenges the Pakistani government and the international community face in the flood response.

USAID’s Carol Chan, Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, will brief about key developments in the Pakistan flood response at the State Department’s daily press briefing.

Helping Shelter Haiti

The humanitarian community in Haiti has funds for the construction of more than 118,000 transitional shelters over the coming months for those who lost their homes in the country’s devastating earthquake earlier this year. Medair, an international NGO, is one of many partners receiving funding from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to build such shelters.

Last week, Medair unloaded construction materials for 800 transitional shelters — a fraction of the total they plan to build — in Jacmel, south of Port-au-Prince. Medair is planning to build 4,500 t-shelters in the Jacmel area, benefiting 27,000 people. Here’s a dispatch from Emma Le Beau, Field Communications Officer for Medair Haiti, about the excitement that this delivery brought to Jacmel and the direct impact of our work on the lives of Haitians affected by the earthquake:

“As our cargo ship approached Jacmel at dawn, local fishing boats rowed ahead of the boat to steer it clear of a treacherous sandbar. When the ship berthed, we began unloading the cargo with the aid of two 35-ton cranes, four forklifts, seven flatbed trucks, and the logistical support of shipping agent Kuehne and Nagel and Haitian partner Hogarth. The flatbed trucks made it over the mountains from Port-au-Prince with only one flat tire among them.

“The cranes operated throughout the night to unload 1,331 tons of cargo from the ship, including timber and galvanized iron sheeting. Because of widespread deforestation in Haiti, we chose to import the pre-treated timber to keep local trees in place.

“From the port, trucks loaded with the ship’s materials made nearly 200 runs to the Medair warehouse. When they arrived, Medair teams of technical officers, carpenters, logisticians, and community mobilizers, who have been in place since January, were there to greet them. Now that more materials are in place, they’ll be able to scale up the speed of their construction and build more shelters for Haitian families in need in hard-to-reach mountain villages near Jacmel.

“The shelters, designed to resist hurricane force winds, seismic risks and heavy rainfall, are solid structures with foundations of reinforced concrete. They take about three days to build and are finished with a wrapping of plastic sheeting and solid windows and doors. Many families will likely choose to upgrade this type of shelter into a permanent home by replacing the plastic sheeting with stone walls.

The Rossamund family, whose home was made dangerously unsafe by the earthquake, has already received a new shelter and is enjoying living in safer and dry housing. Monsieur Rossamund told Medair staff: “If I had not received this help, I would need to sell all my animals to pay for the materials to rebuild my home.” By keeping his animals, his family can continue to have a livelihood, food, and insurance for the future.”

USAID – From the Field

In Indonesia we are hosting the second annual Ramadan outreach program to teach Indonesian youth about America’s religious diversity. The program aims to reach out to youth between the ages of 15-25. American officers from the Jakarta mission and Indonesian student exchange alumni will speak during the 3-week program.  There will be 40 events throughout the greater Jakarta metropolitan district, including presentations and discussions at education centers such as Islamic boarding schools, high schools, universities, and religious youth communities.

In Ghana we celebrate the launch of Life Choices Family Planning Initiative to increase the use of family planning services and commodities, and to address the social and behavioral barriers to using contraceptives.  The launch of the initiative is a part of media campaign to raise public awareness and generate national and local coverage for the initiative.  The campaign will include a docudrama focusing on consequences of unintended pregnancy, male involvement, and managing side effects and interpersonal communications among peers.  This initiative is possible through a USAID partnership with the Ghana Health Service and technical assistance from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs.

World Humanitarian Day: Response Coordinator Reflects on Progress Made in Haiti

Yesterday was World Humanitarian Day, a day when we remember the millions of people experiencing conflict, natural disasters, sickness and extreme poverty and the people committed to saving their lives, relieving suffering and empowering those who are struggling make a better life.

At USAID, we have a long history of extending a helping hand to people overseas recovering from disaster and are continuing to respond to humanitarian needs. We support Pakistanis affected by the epic flooding in the country’s south and west. And since January 12, our aid workers and partners have worked hard to help the people of Haiti build back better after the earthquake.

Watch a video featuring Response Coordinator Skip Waskin and learn about humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti.

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