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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.

USAID – From the Field

Submitted by Abby Sugrue

In Jordan sponsoring and supporting several Iftars throughout the country in celebration of Ramadan.  Iftars are the late dinner celebrations at the end of a long day of fasting and are a culturally relevant way to express gratitude to volunteers and partners and to celebrate the successes of the Mission’s projects.  One Iftar, hosted by USAID partner INJAZ, will be aimed at volunteers who enabled a successful high school student mentoring program.  Additional youth-focused Iftars will be held throughout the month is Amman and Aqaba. 

In Morocco a youth outreach conference for Ramadan.  Over 1,400 young people are expected to participate in a full week of activities created to connect youth to employment opportunities and grow their entrepreneurship skills so they can turn their ideas into productive projects – whether personal, social or commercial.  There will also be a closing ceremony for participants, which will be covered by area reporters and bloggers.

In Tanzania a textbook delivery ceremony.  USAID is working with Ministry of Education and Vocational Training  (MOEVT) to develop and produce textbooks and learning materials through USAID/Washington’s Textbooks and Learning Materials Program.  Over a three year period, the university will produce 2.25 million secondary science and math textbooks and other learning materials for mainland Tanzania.  SCSU has produced its first tranche of 800,000 textbooks and 37,000 teacher’s guides.  The textbooks include important messages about HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention as well as other critical life-skills and are designed in collaboration with MOEVT staff who also receive training so that they can update the content locally as needed.

USAID – From the Field

Submitted by Abby Sugrue.

In Honduras the signing of USAID’s new bilateral assistance agreement for the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).  This agreement supports youth and communities that are vulnerable to crime, violence, gangs, and drug trafficking by providing them with vocational skills, safe alternatives to gangs, better governance, and improved infrastructure.  

In Bangladesh the launch of Parliament of Bangladesh Budget Analysis and Monitoring Unit (BAMU).  The “Promoting Governance, Accountability, Transparency, and Integrity (PROGATI)” program implemented BAMU and will provide fiscal analysis and other services as required by the Members of the Parliament to facilitate their oversight of national budgets and monitoring of government expenditures.

In Senegal a graduation ceremony for an Investigative Journalism course. As part of the USAID program on Decentralization, Governance and Transparency, and in light of upcoming elections in 2012, this course is intended to strengthen the transparency and integrity with which reporters practice their profession.

A Preview of the President’s Forum With Young African Leaders

Submitted by Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
Cross-posted from the State Department’s Dipnote blog.

This year, 17 sub-Saharan African countries celebrate 50 years of independence, and the Obama Administration is ready to look forward towards greater partnerships with African nations. Acknowledging the value of engaging young leaders in the discussion of the future of Africa, President Obama has invited 115 young leaders from 47 nations of sub-Saharan Africa to the President’s Forum with Young African Leaders. The Forum is an opportunity for the participants to engage with each other, their American counterparts, and U.S. government officials on key themes of youth empowerment, good governance, and economic opportunity.

I have worked closely with my African counterparts, civil society leaders, and colleagues at the State Department on each of these themes and am looking forward to interacting with the future leaders of Africa through this unique opportunity. On numerous occasions, I have been inspired by the passion and ingenuity of Africa’s young leaders. At Kenya Polytechnic University, I learned from innovative students the value of mobile and other technology and scientific advancement for youth empowerment and social change. In Uganda, I met with young human rights advocates fighting for tolerance and inclusion. I was moved by their courage and inspired by their passion. Young women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia reminded me that glass ceilings were meant to be cracked.

Through the Forum, these young leaders will have a great opportunity to learn from one another, and we have a unique opportunity to learn from them. People to people connections like this have the power to change lives and the future of nations and are where lasting partnerships begin. As policymakers, we in the U.S. government hope to learn how best to support African youth’s vision for the future of Africa. Personally, I have seen how enhanced mutual understanding of ideas and cultures can create the foundation for long term peace, security, and prosperity.

Technology is going to connect this Forum to an even wider audience, enabling every person that has access to the internet to virtually participate in the Forum through live online streams of select segments of the conference. Stay tuned to and DipNote for updates.

Take a look at what the next few days have in store:

DAY 1: The President’s Forum with Young African Leaders opens in Washington, DC at the State Department where participants will attend a number of small discussion sessions to explore topics including transparency and accountability, job creation and entrepreneurship, rights advocacy, and the use of technology to empower individuals and communities. President Obama will then welcome the delegates and host a town-hall at the White House.

DAY 2: Participants meet with leaders of Congress on Capitol Hill, participate in leadership and empowerment discussions with Peace Corps, and share in service experiences across Washington, DC.

DAY 3: Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale and I co-host “The Way Forward Plenary” at the Newseum where delegates will share their ideas from the forum. Participants will also have an opportunity to network with American civil society leaders and resource organizations at an “unconference” following the plenary. The Forum will close with a featured speaker.

Each night, participants will have the opportunity for peer to peer exchange at partner events hosted by the Aspen Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, McKinsey, and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

Science and Technology an Indispensible Part of U.S. Development Policy Worldwide

Dr. Shah listens to a conference attendee's suggestion regarding "grand challenges" that science, technology, and innovation can be used to solve. Credit: Bethany Egan/USAID

The following post from Dr. Shah is re-posted from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy blog:

In January, on the same day I took my oath of office to be Administrator of USAID, I met with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Together we discussed President Obama’s strong support of science, technology, and innovation as an indispensible component of U.S. development policy as we seek to support developing communities worldwide.

Last week marked a major milestone in the Administration’s efforts to advance this goal. Together with the President’s science and technology advisor Dr. John P. Holdren and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID co-hosted a conference entitled Transforming Development through Science, Technology, and Innovation. We welcomed more than sixty of the top thought leaders in science and development, from within and outside the Federal government, to help us identify a set of “grand challenges” and explore how science and technology can be used to help solve them. These challenges include such acute development needs as installing piped drinking water for households, deploying high-quality irrigation systems with locally-accessible replacement parts, and using the latest mobile technologies for banking, sharing vital health data, paying salaries, and checking commodity prices.

At the conference’s closing event, Secretary Clinton made note of the many development-related “quantum leaps” that science has already enabled, such as the smallpox vaccine that within just a few years turned the tide in global health, mobile banking programs that have helped local economies in Kenya and the Philippines, and updated “green revolution” farming techniques that have boosted productivity in marginal environments. Science, technology, and innovation, she said, can be great equalizers that increase opportunity and prosperity for all.

Last Friday, after the conference had concluded, I again met with PCAST to discuss our findings and how USAID can continue to deliver the transformational promise that science and technology hold for poor communities around the world. We also talked about how these advancements will allow specific key development priorities, such as Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, to become more scalable and sustainable.

New technologies alone won’t be a silver bullet for development; we also need to ensure that our implementation, distribution, and communication networks with partner countries are strategically coordinated at all levels. But science, technology, and innovation can help us leapfrog development problems that can otherwise take generations to tackle. They can bridge the divide between the public and private sectors and help us bypass obstacles previously considered insurmountable. And they can help USAID change the way we do business with the more than 80 nations in which we work.

The President’s leadership on this issue has been remarkable and I am tremendously optimistic about our opportunity to increase the impact of USAID’s work with developing communities worldwide in the coming years.

USAID – From the Field

In Kenya the Finals of Laikipia and Beyond Unity Cup, a culmination of 32-team youth soccer tournament designed to promote environmental awareness and unity among youth. USAID partnered with the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) to organize.

In Pakistan, an event organized by USAID’s Economic Growth Program for Ambassador Patterson to hand over assistance checks to traders who lost their businesses in the flood created by the January landslide. USAID assistance will also help generate alternative livelihoods and jobs in the area as people have lost their cultivable land.

In Mozambique, the 50th anniversary of Gorongosa National Park and celebration of the opening of Community Education Center. USAID/Mozambique supports a Gorongosa Restoration Project, which funds scientific study to guide restoration efforts.

USAID Helps Haiti’s Schoolchildren Return to their Classrooms after the Earthquake

Schoolchildren enjoy recess at Ecole Marie Dominique Mazzarello in Port-au-Prince on June 18. The students returned to temporary classrooms built as part of the USAID-funded PHARE program. Photo by Kendra Helmer/USAID

The school bell rings, triggering a flood of happy faces running out of class.  Girls and boys from ages 4 to 19 walk with their friends, giggling and chatting. They form groups and begin playing jump rope and other games. Nearly 1,500 students attend school at Ecole Marie Dominique Mazzarello in the Delmas 95 neighborhood in Port-au-Prince.  On January 12, the school was destroyed.

“I heard a noise and at first, I thought one of the students had a bad accident in the laboratory,” said Sister Aline Nicolas, a teacher at the school.  “We looked out and saw the buildings were crumbling.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Sec. Clinton Stresses Importance of Science, Tech, Innovation in Development at USAID Conference

Secretary Clinton’s superb remarks from tonight’s closing conference dinner are included below:

Secretary Clinton co-hosted Transforming Development through Science, Technology, and Innovation with Administrator Shah and Dr. Holdren, the Director of the White House Offiece of Science and Technology Policy.

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