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Ebola Doesn’t Disappear at Zero and Neither Will We

Senior Ebola Coordinator Denise Rollins, Associate Administrator Eric Postel, and National Security Council Senior Advisor Chris Kirchhoff listen as a staff member from the International Organization for Migration provides a tour of a mock-Ebola treatment unit in Freetown, Sierra Leone. / Kate Alexander, USAID

Senior Ebola Coordinator Denise Rollins, Associate Administrator Eric Postel, and National Security Council Senior Advisor Chris Kirchhoff listen as a staff member from the International Organization for Migration provides a tour of a mock-Ebola treatment unit in Freetown, Sierra Leone. / Kate Alexander, USAID

Imagine being in a house with 15 family members, and watching them all gradually die from Ebola.

This was Gibril Kamara’s reality.

Last month in Sierra Leone, Gibril shared his harrowing ordeal with our visiting team from Washington, D.C. As the senior coordinator of USAID’s Africa Ebola Unit, I was traveling with USAID Associate Administrator Eric Postel and others in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the three countries most affected by Ebola — to see USAID’s efforts on the ground, meet with officials, and hear from communities.

We met Gibril and three other Ebola survivors at the International Organization for Migration’s Ebola healthcare training center in Freetown. They told us their stories of resilience amid a devastating public health crisis.

Gibril recounted how at first his family members thought the symptoms they exhibited could have been caused by any number of diseases. However, Gibril knew the telltale signs of Ebola.

He pleaded with his family to go to a medical facility, but the patriarch of the family refused to allow them to leave. While the fear of stigma permeated the air, the patriarch insisted everyone stay at home and not seek outside help.

First, one sister died, then another, then uncles and aunts, and finally the patriarch himself.

Gibril decided he would not be next.

On the brink of succumbing to Ebola himself, Gibril made his way in a taxi to a hospital for medical care. With proper Ebola treatment and care, Gibril survived.

Although Liberia reached zero Ebola cases just days before my arrival in country, Sierra Leone and Guinea continue to see new cases weekly, and stories like Gibril’s are still common.

Through the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), USAID continues to work alongside partners in all three countries  to fight the spread of the disease. After hearing Gibril’s story, I stood in the middle of an Ebola command center in Freetown and was awestruck by the vast number of people, computers and teams needed to respond to the Ebola outbreak. The extensive coordination required to contain and defeat the disease is daunting.

From the surveillance teams and the social mobilization groups who go door to door identifying people with fever, to the ambulance drivers, health care workers and safe burial teams, everyone must work in lockstep.

Such a complicated effort is not easy in the best of circumstances, but in three of the poorest countries in the world, where the  people without electricity outnumber those that have it, effective coordination is a challenge. I doff my hat to the thousands of U.S. and local staff and volunteers who continue to work tirelessly.

Students of Infection Prevention and Control and Midwifery Training programs greet the USAID delegation in Kindia, Guinea.  / Kate Alexander, USAID

Students of Infection Prevention and Control and Midwifery Training programs greet the USAID delegation in Kindia, Guinea. / Kate Alexander, USAID

Since August 2014, USAID has converged an unprecedented array of people, equipment, financing and other resources to these Ebola-affected countries.

Thanks to the international community and local partners, we are easing the burdens of the citizens of these countries. As we work together to fight Ebola and lessen the secondary impacts of the outbreak, we are serving as an example of worldwide collaboration at its best.

Getting to zero Ebola cases is critical and  the  goal for USAID is helping these countries end the epidemic, get back on track, and be  better prepared to stop any future outbreaks before they become epidemics.

Weak health care systems suffered major setbacks during the Ebola outbreak, but now USAID is helping improve the ability to detect threats early, and respond rapidly and effectively to prevent the spread of Ebola and other viruses across borders.

In addition to support rebuilding and strengthening healthcare systems, we are also helping reopen schools and stimulate local food production.

Gibril’s world was turned upside down when he lost his entire family. However — like so many other Ebola survivors — Gibril was resilient.

Resilience is such an overused word, but it captures the spirit, commitment and dedication of the citizens of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to get back on their feet after this devastating public health crisis.

Many survivors, like Gibril and the others I spoke with at the National Ebola Training Academy, now volunteer their time as trainers, health care workers and social mobilizers — helping other patients recover from their battles with the virus, while spreading awareness about Ebola prevention.

In turn, USAID will continue to support the people of West Africa. Ebola doesn’t disappear at zero, and neither will our fight to keep Ebola away.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Denise Rollins is the senior coordinator of the Africa Ebola Unit at USAID.

An Inclusive Society, a Paraguay without Barriers

Fundación Saraki’s President María José Cabezudo hugs her brother Carlos Cabezudo during a recent event promoting disability rights. / Giovanna Pederzani.

Fundación Saraki’s President María José Cabezudo hugs her brother Carlos Cabezudo during a recent event promoting disability rights. / Giovanna Pederzani.

As an  advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities, I thought I understood the issue well.

But today I finally understand what putting myself in someone else’s shoes really means.

I recently attended an event organized by Fundación Saraki, the leading disability rights organization in Paraguay. The event was intended to raise awareness and support for their activities, but it ended up teaching people like me about the world people with disabilities live in.

After I arrived at the Hotel Guarani, I was forced to walk up the stairs to the main event room, rather than use the elevators. Organizers wanted guests to experience the inconveniences that many people with physical disabilities encounter every day. Reaching the second floor with my high heels and a loaded backpack was challenging — imagine what it must  be like for someone in a wheelchair?

At the entrance to the venue, I registered … with a tiny pen that would be too small for even my son’s small hands, and on a paper that was placed on a registration desk that was only a foot tall. Another message: This is everyday reality for people with disabilities who are significantly shorter than the average height.

To reach the event room, I had to navigated through a dark tunnel that organizers had constructed. As I meandered through the claustrophobic space, I could not see anything, and I struggled to go around obstacles with my hands and feet. Unfortunately, this is an experience all too common for someone who cannot see.

After traversing the frightening tunnel, I finally reached the event space. Twenty to 30 people in wheelchairs blocked the entrance, forcing me to apologize and suck in my stomach as I tried to get around them and into the room. Message received: This must be what it’s like for someone with a physical disability who is trying to enter a public restroom that is not accessible.

I finally reached my seat and opened an envelope with the agenda. It was in Braille. I don’t read Braille. I tried to close my eyes and imagine what it might say, but I couldn’t. This information was important, yet it was not available to someone like me who has different capabilities.

U.S. Ambassador Leslie A. Bassett and Director Of  Employment Of the Paraguayan Ministry of Labor Cesar Martinez pose with Mario Marecos, a Paraguayan human rights activist and  member of the National Commission of the Rights of People with Disabilities. / Chiara Pederzani

U.S. Ambassador Leslie A. Bassett and Director Of Employment Of the Paraguayan Ministry of Labor Cesar Martinez pose with Mario Marecos, a Paraguayan human rights activist and member of the National Commission of the Rights of People with Disabilities. / Chiara Pederzani

In the background, I could hear one of my favorite songs, Maxixe by Agustín Barrios. But this time, it was at a high pitch and too loud. Instead of being a song for the soul, it was an absolute nuisance to my ears.

When the music finally stopped, a woman took the floor and began to speak. I could not understand anything. She might have spoken in French and German, two very common languages, but incomprehensible to me.

Then a short film played on a giant screen. The film and sound were blurry and I could not understand what people were saying or what was being shown.

The whole experience lasted less than 30 minutes, but it worked. It was enough to make me feel totally excluded. I couldn’t get around. I could not understand the people around me. Everything felt narrow, too low, or too uncomfortable. I could not see well. Nothing was done to accommodate my needs.

I realized this is daily life for so many persons with disabilities.

No one should have to fight this way to live their lives. We can change it. We have to continue fighting for an accessible society, an inclusive Paraguay without barriers.

With the support of USAID, Fundación Saraki is working to make this a reality by raising awareness, influencing legislation, strengthening organizations for persons with disabilities, and promoting inclusion in work and education.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Giovanna Pederzani is a Paraguayan architect and an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities.

Q&A: How Changing Behaviors is Helping Stop Ebola’s Spread in West Africa

In a new Q&A series, we are profiling the experts who have worked tirelessly to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa and are helping societies rebuild and strengthen health systems in the aftermath of the outbreak.

Kama Garrison is a senior public health advisor for USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease Program. ​For the Ebola response effort, she has been working on social mobilization with other agencies and partners.

What is social and behavior change communication (SBCC) and what role has it played in the Ebola response?

SBCC is the use of communication strategies — mass media, community-level activities, face-to-face communication and technologies — to influence behaviors that affect people’s health.

Within the context of Ebola, SBCC is critical to ending the epidemic. Ebola is an easily preventable disease; changing a few key behaviors can stop the virus from spreading further. And while health facilities and health care workers are absolutely essential in responding to an Ebola outbreak, the behaviors of individuals, families and communities are key to stopping it entirely.

Kama Garrison holds up the silhouette of a hand, echoing the wall of handprints from Ebola survivors at the Bong County Treatment Unit in Liberia. / Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

Kama Garrison holds up the silhouette of a hand, echoing the wall of handprints from Ebola survivors at the Bong County Treatment Unit in Liberia. / Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

But SBCC isn’t just about telling people about Ebola, warning them to stop touching those who are sick or discouraging them from using traditional burial practices. It’s about carefully understanding a community’s cultural, religious and social beliefs so we can deliver meaningful, relevant and respectful messages and interventions.

Early on in the Ebola crisis, some fear-based messages made people feel powerless, hopeless and unable to act. Effective SBCC must be founded in the target population’s belief in their own ability to succeed; we seek to develop interventions that instill hope. Now, successful SBCC interventions have been developed to engage and better educate communities about Ebola.

Why is it critical to employ social and behavior change communication in a response like this?

Human behavior plays an important role in the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola. Therefore, understanding the influence of behavior on the spread of disease can be the key to stopping disease transmission. Even if a new medical technology such as a vaccine is developed, people still have to trust that vaccine and choose to receive it – so addressing behavior is at the core of disease prevention and outbreak response.

But the motivations behind why people do what they do are complicated. People are complicated — our behaviors reflect our personal experiences, education, cultural/religious beliefs, community etc. SBCC seeks to understand these motivations. By using methods from psychology, anthropology, marketing and behavioral economics, we collect information and data about target populations to design suitable interventions that address the specific needs, beliefs and practices of the target populations.

Ebola survivors in Liberia leave their handprints on a wall of the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit - the facility that saved their lives. / Adam Parr, USAID

Ebola survivors in Liberia leave their handprints on a wall of the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit – the facility that saved their lives. / Adam Parr, USAID

What previous experiences with social and behavior change communication informed our Ebola response? How do you think those lessons that Ebola taught us will be relevant to future crisis responses?

In the past, I worked on SBCC and risk management for crises like the Avian Influenza and the 2009 H1N1/Swine Flu pandemic.

I’ve seen that large-scale outbreaks aren’t inevitable — that by working on preventative behaviors we can minimize the emergence of diseases and by strengthening response capacity, we can quickly contain them if they do emerge. But it isn’t easy. Food preferences, economics, and cultural and religious practices all contribute to the risks associated with emerging diseases. Those are difficult behaviors to address.

If prioritized, though, we can draw from proven solutions and make the necessary investments to prevent diseases such as Ebola from turning into regional or global epidemics.

What’s the next steps with these efforts?

The three affected countries aren’t out of the woods yet; there will be a continued focus on Ebola to end the epidemic in the region. Even after the end of this Ebola crisis, there will be a great need to rebuild trust in the health system so that children are immunized, women get appropriate maternal care, malaria is addressed, etc. SBCC is key to that trust building.

The Ebola outbreak has caused much pain and suffering.  However, in the midst of the crisis many heroic stories have emerged. What has touched you the most?

Ebola has created thousands of orphans — they are the ultimate tragedy of this crisis. In that tragedy, heroes emerge every day, from families that take in extended relatives to single individuals who adopt orphaned children. Those are the stories that touch me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clara Wagner was an intern for USAID’s Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs working on content and public engagement.

South Sudan Government Expels Top UN Aid Official—Why It Matters

Internally displaced women and children sit in a tent in Ganyiel village in South Sudan. Conflict since December 2013 has left tens of thousands dead and more than 2 million displaced and dependent on food aid. / Samir Bol, AFP

Internally displaced women and children sit in a tent in Ganyiel village in South Sudan. Conflict since December 2013 has left tens of thousands dead and more than 2 million displaced and dependent on food aid. / Samir Bol, AFP

News that the Government of South Sudan expelled the United Nations’ top humanitarian official in the country on May 29 has sparked outrage.

The UN Secretary General, the UN Security Council, the U.S. government, the alliance of U.S.-based NGOs InterAction, the South Sudanese NGO Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, the European Union and many other governments voiced condemnation of the action to expel Toby Lanzer.

Why are so many so frustrated?

Because South Sudan’s leaders and warring parties have put their struggle for power before the needs of their own people.

After nearly 18 months of fighting, the man-made crisis is only worsening. Renewed fighting, displacement and economic hardships have left the country on the brink of collapse.

And now they are punishing the brave humanitarians whose mission is to help the people of South Sudan.

All humanitarian staff — from the top UN official to truck drivers who deliver lifesaving food in highly insecure conditions — must be free to carry out their work and speak openly without fear of attack or retribution from the government, opposition forces or any other party.

Punishing those who are shining a light on the catastrophe in South Sudan creates a chilling effect and an atmosphere of fear for aid workers at a time when people need them most.

South Sudan — the world’s youngest country — is one of the most food-insecure countries in the world. Up to 4.6 million people — almost half of the population — will face life-threatening hunger by next month.

A woman carries a sack of food aid after a food drop in a field in Nyal, near South Sudan's border with Sudan. USAID is the largest donor to the UN World Food Program in South Sudan. / Tony Karumba, AFP

A woman carries a sack of food aid after a food drop in a field in Nyal, near South Sudan’s border with Sudan. USAID is the largest donor to the UN World Food Program in South Sudan. / Tony Karumba, AFP

Parts of the country are at risk of famine for the second year in a row. Desperate to feed their families, many South Sudanese have sold or slaughtered valuable cattle — and now have nothing left.

Conflict has forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes, half a million of them as refugees in neighboring countries. Tragically, many who fled have nothing to return to. Their homes, markets, schools and hospitals have been wiped out.

The number of severely malnourished children has doubled since the start of the crisis, and many people are at risk of deadly, but preventable, diseases.

The humanitarian community has done everything possible to alleviate the suffering amid widespread violence. USAID has been working in Sudan, including present-day South Sudan, for 35 years.

The U.S. government has long been the largest donor to South Sudan, providing $1.1 billion in emergency assistance alone to affected populations in South Sudan and neighboring countries since the start of the crisis.

USAID has also provided more than $1.3 billion in long-term assistance since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, directly helping the South Sudanese people withstand the catastrophic effects of conflict and build foundations for a peaceful future through education, health, agriculture and livelihoods assistance, as well as support for media, civil society and conflict mitigation.

Last year, the U.S. government, other donors and humanitarian actors helped avert the worst-case scenario of famine — only to see the same dynamics driving communities into extreme life-threatening hunger again this year. Time and again, we have had to resort to costly air operations to deliver food and relief items.

Women in Ganyiel, South Sudan, carry home food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP). USAID is the largest donor to WFP in South Sudan, where up to 4.6 million people — almost half of the population — will face life-threatening hunger by next month. / Waakhe Simon Wudu, AFP

Women in Ganyiel, South Sudan, carry home food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP). USAID is the largest donor to WFP in South Sudan, where up to 4.6 million people — almost half of the population — will face life-threatening hunger by next month. / Waakhe Simon Wudu, AFP

Aid workers, particularly South Sudanese, risk their lives daily delivering lifesaving assistance to people in need throughout South Sudan. Several South Sudanese aid workers have disappeared while carrying out their humanitarian work. They remain unaccounted for. Others have been killed on the spot.

Renewed fighting since mid-April, including direct attacks on humanitarian workers and supplies, has severely reduced the ability of aid organizations to reach people in need.

At a time when multiple humanitarian emergencies worldwide demand international action, speaking candidly about the situation in South Sudan is critical to garner the vast support needed to keep people alive and ease suffering caused by this crisis.

Toby Lanzer advocated tirelessly on behalf of the people of South Sudan. Expelling him or silencing anyone who speaks about the dire situation in South Sudan is misguided and a grave disservice to the South Sudanese people.

The government should act responsibly, end the suffering, and move the country past this senseless cycle of violence.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Tom Staal is acting assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Linda Etim is deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Africa.

Turning Data into Action

Midwives in Timor-Leste are sharing vital health information with new mothers via mobile phones, while tracking health statistics in real time through the Mobile Moms project. / Catalpa International

Midwives in Timor-Leste are sharing vital health information with new mothers via mobile phones, while tracking health statistics in real time through the Mobile Moms project. / Catalpa International

Family farmers in Senegal are increasing their crop yields by experimenting with a new agricultural input: data.

Thousands of farmers are using technology to share information about their day-to-day operations so they can function more efficiently as a cooperative. Together, they optimize productivity by coordinating where they grow crops, negotiate bulk fertilizer purchases, share local market prices, check weather forecasts in real-time, and compare crop yields using off-the-shelf, cloud-based software.

These smallholder farmers have empowered themselves with better information to improve their standing in the national marketplace.

Like these farmers, USAID recognizes the transformative potential of data to amplify impact. Greater accessibility to mapping tools, mobile phone-based solutions, low-cost sensors, satellite imagery, and social media is opening worlds of opportunity to people across the globe.

We’re betting that development professionals, government officials and citizens around the world will take advantage of improved access to data to improve their outcomes.

In order to unlock the promise of tech-enabled, data-fueled growth, USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab launched an Agency-wide competition in 2014, the Data2Action award, to find and support exemplary innovations that use information to accelerate progress.

We received input from 80 countries through 45 USAID missions and bureaus, representing all sectors of development, including health, agriculture, water, energy, governance and disaster assistance. This response is a clear statement about the capacity and demand for data-driven development within USAID. Across the Agency, the current and continued use of high quality data is critical to achieving our mission of helping to end extreme poverty.

For the Turning Data into Action competition, 147 USAID staff submitted their best ideas -- showcasing the incredible enthusiasm across the Agency for using data and technology. / mSTAR Project, FHI 360

For the Turning Data into Action competition, 147 USAID staff submitted their best ideas — showcasing the incredible enthusiasm across the Agency for using data and technology. / mSTAR Project, FHI 360

From this pool of applicants, we’ve identified eight USAID teams who are already “turning data into action.” They’re mapping food insecurity in Nepal; using citizen feedback to improve post-conflict reconciliation in Mali; building transparent dairy markets using mobile phones in Kosovo; and optimizing electricity distribution using sensors in Pakistan.

Beyond celebrating these current USAID innovators, we’re also supporting four new ideas for data-driven development. These four award winners are receiving support for innovations that remotely monitor rural water systems, track malaria using the cloud, crowdsource disaster preparedness mapping and allow smallholder farmers to use Earth-orbiting satellites. Our recently released Data2Action booklet showcases more details on these exciting pilot projects.

Through the Data2Action award, we’ve learned how the use of data is accelerating our development impact around the world. Innovators like the Data2Action winners are leading a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing the way we use technology and information to solve global challenges.

In Mali, a mobile phone hotline has highlighted the importance of traditional song and dance in the return to normalcy. / Yaya Bouare, AECOM International Development, Inc.

In Mali, a mobile phone hotline has highlighted the importance of traditional song and dance in the return to normalcy. / Yaya Bouare, AECOM International Development, Inc.

Do you have a passion for using data to improve lives, but don’t know how to turn your idea into action? USAID can support your passion through shared experiences, best practices and trainings. The Lab, FHI360, and TechChange recently teamed up to create a free interactive online course on Mobile Data Solutions. The two-hour course is a mix of animations, video interviews and scenario-based case studies.

In just four months, more than 1,000 people from 125 countries and representing over 600 organizations have taken the course. Admire Nyereyemhuka, who works for Catholic Relief Services in Zimbabwe, recently completed Mobile Data Solutions and is now building an SMS-based reporting system for a USAID/Food for Peace program that’s ensuring food security and improving nutrition in Zimbabwe.

“This course is so practical,” Admire said. “Whenever my friends and colleagues ask me if it will be advisable to use mobile technologies in their projects, I provide them with the course so they can make informed decisions.”

Like the data-sharing farmers in Senegal, USAID and our partners around the world are unlocking the power of real-time data to help optimize our results. Embracing new technologies allows us to turn data into action, and action into impact so that every dollar spent on development goes further.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Eric King is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on the U.S. Global Development Lab’s Digital Development team. Follow him @eric_m_king. Nick Martin is the founder and CEO of TechChange, a Washington, D.C.-based social enterprise that provides tech training for social change. Follow him @ncmart.

New Policy Guides USAID’s Cooperation with Department of Defense

Students in the village of Atome, Togo oversee the construction of a new school built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with USAID’s West Africa Regional Mission. / Jennifer Aldridge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Students in the village of Atome, Togo oversee the construction of a new school built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with USAID’s West Africa Regional Mission. / Jennifer Aldridge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Did you know that USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense work side by side on many international development projects? In fact, our collaboration is so important that we released a new policy on Cooperation with the Department of Defense today.

USAID’s partnerships with the Defense Department and other U.S. Government agencies are vital to improving the effectiveness and impact of our work around the world.

The global challenges we confront – from violent extremism to climate change and global health security – are so large and complex that no single agency can handle them all alone. By partnering, the U.S. Government can achieve development and security outcomes that exceed the capacity of a single agency.

USAID’s new policy is designed to serve as a guide for our staff on how and when to coordinate with members of the U.S. military throughout the USAID program cycle.

Dozens of USAID staff participated in the two-year process to draft this important resource – an update to the Agency’s 2008 policy on civilian-military cooperation, which recognized the increasingly important role of development in advancing national security priorities along with defense and diplomacy.

The revised policy seeks to build a mutual understanding of each agency’s roles and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to confusion, duplication of effort, and disappointing outcomes.

USAID’s West Africa mission and U.S. Africa Command worked together to host broadcast roundtables (pictured) on improving civil-military relations. More than 250,000 people listened in on these radio programs hosted by local leaders. / Rod Stubina, USAID

USAID’s West Africa mission and U.S. Africa Command worked together to host broadcast roundtables (pictured) on improving civil-military relations. More than 250,000 people listened in on these radio programs hosted by local leaders. / Rod Stubina, USAID

Providing a solid foundation at the policy and planning level ensures that strong coordination in the field is possible. USAID and the Defense Department have joined forces on several programs through the years, including building safer maternal health clinics in Timor Leste, expanding inclusive education programs in Macedonia and constructing nutrition centers in Ghana. Other programs have expanded alternative development programming in Peru, created opportunities for Jamaican youth, and fostered disaster resilience in the Philippines.

These successful programs illustrate the real, measurable development outcomes that result when the USAID and the Defense Department work in partnership with one another.

So what does USAID cooperation with the Defense Department look like? This relationship can take on many forms, but joint collaboration and planning are at the heart of the policy we’ve crafted.

USAID and the Defense Department work together to ensure perspectives from both partners are incorporated into our respective policies and strategies. For example, when the Defense Department carries out humanitarian assistance activities, it follows the guidance of a policy document that ensures USAID — the lead U.S. Government agency for development and humanitarian assistance — is involved in the process, so that the humanitarian work is well coordinated, mutually reinforcing and transparent.

The next level of cooperation focuses on planning. Through USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, the Agency has a strong network of experienced Foreign Service officers located within the Defense Department’s Combatant Commands and the Pentagon to help coordinate USAID and Defense Department regional, country and contingency plans.

These development advisors serve as USAID’s voice in the Defense Department planning process, and reciprocally ensure that the voice of the Defense Department is included when developing five-year, country-based strategies that illustrate how USAID’s assistance is synchronized with other agencies’ efforts.

USAID and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) are partnering with Bangladesh agencies to protect the Sunderbans mangrove forest (pictured), the largest remaining habitat for endangered tigers in the world. / Karl Wurster, USAID

USAID and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) are partnering with Bangladesh agencies to protect the Sunderbans mangrove forest (pictured), the largest remaining habitat for endangered tigers in the world. / Karl Wurster, USAID

Moving forward, USAID hopes to share its best practices with the Defense Department. The USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation is continuing to build interagency learning through Development in Vulnerable Environments trainings for members of the U.S. military. This course helps the Defense Department employees learn about the USAID’s field capabilities and understand the critical role of development in supporting national security and prosperity.

As we work to end extreme poverty by 2030 and continue to create resilient, democratic societies, this new framework for interagency collaboration helps USAID strengthen its efforts with one of its strongest partners – the U.S. Department of Defense.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Beth Cole is the director of the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, and Sergio Guzman is the policy team lead at the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation.

FrontLines: Science, Technology, Innovation and Partnerships

Frontlines banner

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn some of the ways the Agency is tackling the world’s toughest challenges—like poverty, disease and climate change—by applying science, technology, innovation and partnerships. Some highlights:

  • Mobile banking is slowly spreading across sub-Saharan Africa—a region where banks are scarce, but cell phones are plentiful.
  • Three Egyptian girls show their smarts in an international competition after attending USAID-supported schools that specialize in new ways to teach science, technology, engineering and math.
  • With a hackathon, Ukrainians show the world how they can pool their ideas and resources to come up with solutions to help 1 million displaced countrymen.
  • Don’t judge the looks of this contraption that resembles a diver’s wetsuit until you see how it is saving new mothers’ lives in Timor-Leste.
  • If you think tropical storms are the biggest threat to Caribbean nations like Jamaica, think again. USAID is helping Jamaica’s farmers prepare for an equally devastating and recurring menace—drought.

Don’t miss an issue of FrontLines. To receive an email reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

Fighting Ebola with Information

Youth-turned-social mobilizers in Liberia learn how to use social media tools on their cell phones to stay connected while spreading awareness about Ebola prevention in communities. / Eric King, USAID

Youth-turned-social mobilizers in Liberia learn how to use social media tools on their cell phones to stay connected while spreading awareness about Ebola prevention in communities. / Eric King, USAID

A room full of young people with heads buried in their phones is not an unfamiliar sight. In fact, this was the scene in rural Margibi County, Liberia, during a training of youth-turned-social mobilizers in late February.

The audience members weren’t distracted, though — they were following the trainer’s instructions. To foster culturally adaptive community engagement in the fight against Ebola, USAID-funded training events like these are teaching social mobilizers how to use social media tools like WhatsApp and SMS-based U-report to stay connected while they’re out in the communities, educating people about how to protect themselves from the disease.

“This is enhancing coordination, it’s cost effective, and the young people find it exciting to work with,” said Jzohn Alexander Nyahn, Jr., executive director of nongovernmental organization (NGO) CHESS Liberia.

Outsmarting the deadly Ebola virus requires that communities and response organizations work together. A key component of the USAID-led U.S. Ebola response strategy in Liberia — where they have now reached zero cases — has been arming community members and responders with the information they need to prevent Ebola transmission.

For example, at-risk communities need to know the facts about Ebola and how to prevent its spread. Rapid response teams need to know where to find suspected cases as soon as they show symptoms. Health ministries need to know which public health facilities are not yet equipped to isolate and treat infected individuals.

But these types of data originate in thousands of different places with thousands of different people, and we must get the right information into the hands of thousands more who can take action. Fast moving collective action on such a massive scale is a serious challenge.

By weaving well-placed feedback loops into human response networks, USAID, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the governments of the affected countries, and private and NGO partners have coordinated efforts to prevent, detect and treat the disease. And, in many cases, mobile phones provide the key link to connect those who have life-saving information with those who need it.

The growing ubiquity of mobile phones in the developing world is unlocking tremendous opportunities to amplify humanitarian response efforts. Liberia, for example, which is one of the world’s poorest countries, has seen an explosion in its mobile market in recent years; phone ownership rates skyrocketed from 4 percent to 60 percent in just the last decade.

In the Ebola response, information and communication technologies like mobile phones empower local and international humanitarian responders to save lives by tightening the feedback loops between those who need help and those who can offer it.

Here are a few examples of how:
Adaptive Media Crowdsourced Community Engagement Ebola Hotlines Connected Healthcare Real-time Risk Mapping
This Ebola outbreak has mobilized one of the largest public health crisis responses in history. Although it is the hard work and sacrifices of frontline responders and the people of West Africa, and not technology, that will ultimately defeat the disease, transformative technologies like mobile phones empower us to act together to get to zero cases.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric King is an Innovation Specialist with the U.S. Global Development Lab’s Digital Development Team, who joined the USG DART in Liberia for several weeks. Follow him @eric_m_king.

In Sierra Leone, Care Kits Deliver Assistance and Hope to Families

When a call comes in to report a suspected Ebola case, Sierra Leone’s national Ebola response system kicks into high gear immediately.

An ambulance and team of health care workers are dispatched to the site to transport the sick person to an Ebola treatment unit. As a precautionary measure, the patient’s family members are isolated in their home and monitored over 21 days — the period of time when an infected person is most likely to show symptoms of Ebola.

Even when this response system works perfectly, it can take a few hours or sometimes a day due to the remote area for the ambulance to arrive with a team of health care workers appropriately clad in personal protective equipment. Without protective suits, gloves and other equipment, it is dangerous to care for an Ebola-infected person.

Untrained and inadequately protected caregivers risk exposure to the Ebola virus when they come into contact with a sick person’s vomit, diarrhea and other bodily fluids. If caregivers clean or even hug a loved one who has fallen ill, they could be contracting this life-threatening disease themselves.

A man receives an interim care kit and is now able to better protect himself from Ebola. / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

A man receives an interim care kit and is now able to better protect himself from Ebola. / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

To ensure that no well-meaning caregiver falls victim to Ebola, USAID is collaborating with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Medair and Lifeline to deliver life-saving interim care kits to families across Sierra Leone.

USAID’s DART Deputy Team Leader Sonia Walia has been working on the Ebola response in Sierra Leone for almost a year. / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

USAID’s DART Deputy Team Leader Sonia Walia has been working on the Ebola response in Sierra Leone for almost a year. / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

The kits contain critical supplies like bleach, oral rehydration salts, chlorine, soap, and gloves. Although this kit is simple, it can make the difference between life and death for caregivers.

“These kits can save lives,” says the USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) Deputy Team Leader Sonia Walia. “Family members want to help their loved ones when they’re sick, so we need to give them the tools to do so safely. These kits are able to keep loved ones from getting sicker while also making sure caregivers are protected.”

Because people infected by Ebola lose large amounts of body fluids, extreme dehydration quickly deteriorates their health. Oral rehydration salts in USAID’s interim kits stabilize sick patients and offer victims the best chance of survival while they wait for an ambulance and health workers to arrive.

As the rainy season approaches, some remote areas of Sierra Leone will be almost impossible to access by road and air traffic. Reaching these remote communities to deliver interim care kits is more critical now than ever.

In Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, USAID is working alongside our partners to deliver these interim kits — along with fresh produce and other food items — to families that are quarantined in their homes.

USAID and its partners deliver produce to quarantined homes. From left to right: Mandewa Momoh (Lifeline), Samantha Johnson (Medair), Nicholas Bishop (IOM), and Philemon Kamara (Lifeline) / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

USAID and its partners deliver produce to quarantined homes. From left to right: Mandewa Momoh (Lifeline), Samantha Johnson (Medair), Nicholas Bishop (IOM), and Philemon Kamara (Lifeline) / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

A day out for delivery

As part of USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team, I recently joined IOM, Medair and Lifeline to deliver kits to homes in the Moa Wharf neighborhood of Freetown. After reviewing the plan for the day, the Lifeline teams led us downhill into the Moa Wharf neighborhood — a dense community with narrow alleys locatable only with a local guide.

The Lifeline team members knew the area well because of their ongoing work in the neighborhood. Every day, they visit the area so they can rapidly identify and isolate suspected Ebola cases.

Moa Wharf neighborhood, a hard-hit area where many families have been under quarantine. / Nicholas Bishop, IOM

Moa Wharf neighborhood, a hard-hit area where many families have been under quarantine. / Nicholas Bishop, IOM

We soon reached the edge of a wide, muddy, trash-covered shore that stretched out towards the Atlantic Ocean. In a little while, we would make a delivery to a home that reported a suspected case of Ebola in their household.

After pausing outside the home, a group of young men and one young woman shuffled out. We offered a round of warm greetings to one another, which the Lifeline team translated from Krio to English and back again.

The Lifeline team gave them a care kit — delivered in a set of bright red buckets — and explained how to use the contents if Ebola symptoms appeared. As we moved on to the next quarantined home, one of the young men raised the two red buckets over his head like a trophy as we departed ways for another delivery.

Since March, we distributed nearly 1,300 kits and pre-positioned an additional 1,500. / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

Since March, we distributed nearly 1,300 kits and pre-positioned an additional 1,500. / Paloma Clohossey, USAID/OFDA

The spread of the Ebola virus is due in large part to a uniquely human tendency: the desire to care for sick loved ones.

By equipping communities with the tools they need to protect themselves against contracting Ebola, we are not only stopping the spread of the outbreak, but encouraging communities to support each other in difficult times.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paloma Clohossey is an Information Officer with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Meet the Next Generation of Disaster Responders

It only takes one bad storm to kill or injure thousands, inflict billions of dollars in damage, and wreak havoc on communities in its path. As part of Hurricane Preparedness Week, USAID joins other response organizations in raising public awareness and preparedness efforts for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

While this national effort happens once a year, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) works year-round with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce the impacts of hurricanes by helping them prepare for storms before they happen.

In Kingston, Jamaica, people take notice when the St. Patrick’s Rangers come to their neighborhood. The Rangers wear matching shirts, and have a certain swagger to their walk. And they always seem to make a beeline for the worst house on the block.

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is partnering with Catholic Relief Services to support the St. Patrick’s Rangers, a program to empower at-risk youth to become the next generation of disaster responders. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is partnering with Catholic Relief Services to support the St. Patrick’s Rangers, a program to empower at-risk youth to become the next generation of disaster responders. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

These organized and enthusiastic teens represent the next generation of disaster responders.

For years, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has supported the work of Catholic Relief Services to transform at-risk youth into disaster preparedness leaders. By joining the St. Patrick’s Rangers, young people learn how to help communities plan for and respond to hurricanes, administer first aid, map out evacuation routes and set up emergency shelters. They also help people repair their homes after storms hit.

Jamaica is no stranger to extreme weather, having been slammed by some 50 hurricanes and tropical storms since modern-day record keeping began in the late 1880s. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

Jamaica is no stranger to extreme weather, having been slammed by some 50 hurricanes and tropical storms since modern-day record keeping began in the late 1880s. / Carol Han, USAID/OFDA

“People normally think that it’s older persons that are part of disaster risk reduction … who can [be] a leader,” said Tovia Rankine, a member of the St. Patrick’s Rangers. “And we, the young persons are taking on this mantle.”

Jamaica is no stranger to extreme weather. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan slammed into Jamaica, damaging the homes of more than 19,000 people — including the Kingston home of 64-year-old Lincoln “Bull” Parks.

“Ivan just took everything. Put everything on the ground flat and left me outside under the sun,” Bull said.

Lincoln “Bull” Parks lost his home when Hurricane Ivan hit Jamaica. It wasn’t until the St. Patrick’s Rangers came calling that he got help to start over. / USAID/OFDA

Lincoln “Bull” Parks lost his home when Hurricane Ivan hit Jamaica. It wasn’t until the St. Patrick’s Rangers came calling that he got help to start over. / USAID/OFDA

With his home leveled, Bull lived in a little hut made out of scavenged materials. It was so small that he had to crawl on his hands and knees to get inside. Having lost hope that help would come, he retreated from the community and only came out to “charge” at those entering his property, thereby earning his nickname Bull.

Then the St. Patrick’s Rangers came calling. Not only did they help rebuild Bull’s home, they also gained skills to build themselves a better future.

“Many of these kids weren’t aware of what they can do before,” said Dwayne Francis, a St. Patrick’s Rangers group leader. “And now they’re doing stuff that’s to their wildest dreams.”

What’s more, Bull now has a home.

“I said, ‘I thank everyone from the top to the bottom.’ Everyone involved. Grateful,” Bull said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Kimbrough is the Regional Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
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