Posts Tagged 'Tanzania'

Building Resilience in the Horn of Africa

Nancy Lindborg is USAID’s Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.


The drought gripping the Horn of Africa has focused all of us on the imperative of building resilience. We know we can’t prevent drought, but we can use improved and smarter programs to create greater resilience and improve food security. We can make progress that ensures the next time a drought hits the Horn, it won’t push 13.4 million people — unimaginably more than New York City and Los Angeles combined — into crisis.

So what is resilience exactly, and what are the key methods for success? In pursuit of that answer, USAID convened last week, in partnership with IFPRI and our many partners, a two day workshop on “Enhancing Resilience in the Horn of Africa: An Evidence Workshop on Strategies for Success.” Through President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. government now has a powerful global hunger and food security initiative that connects its enduring commitment to humanitarian assistance with increased investments in agriculture and nutrition and sound policy. This workshop was designed to inform our programs with the our best lessons and strategies for tackling chronic food insecurity.

“Resilience” is quite literally the ability to jump back; to return to original form. It has become a vivid one-word way to capture the importance of providing emergency assistance in a way that helps families and communities both withstand shocks and, as importantly, become more stable and food secure. While there is not a common accepted definition of resilience, building resilience generally involves reducing the likelihood and severity of crises; building capacity to buffer or absorb shocks; creating and enhancing communities’ or families’ ability to respond; and reducing the impact of crises.

The workshop underscored how much we have already learned from previous drought and famines. In Ethiopia in 2002-2003, drought left 14 million people in need of emergency aid – more than those currently in need throughout the entire Horn region today. Out of that tragedy grew policies, programs, and approaches that have made a lasting impact. In fact, some 7.5 million fewer people in Ethiopia are not part of the emergency caseload because of the work collectively done since the last drought.

At USAID, we are committed to connecting more effectively our humanitarian and development efforts through joint planning cells that develop coherent programs to do more than meet immediate needs. Working with our UN and NGO partners, USAID has included in our emergency assistance a focus on building community infrastructure to harvest rainwater and improve irrigation, improving livelihoods for women, and repairing degraded landscapes for better grazing and agricultural production. We worked with the World Bank, other donors and the Ethiopian Government to use our food assistance to build productive safety nets that help families move from crisis toward greater food security. We are introducing improved and more nutritious food products in partnerships with USDA and the private sector. And we have become one of the global leaders in use of local and regional procurement of food aid in a way that stimulates local production. Programs such as the Productive Safety Net Program in Ethiopia and a program in Kenya connecting livestock farmers to markets have helped families and communities cope with shock and increase their incomes.

The drought and famine in the Horn remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and continues to command our attention and involvement, but it also has given the global community an opportunity to change the way we do things.

The workshop reinforced that we have a critical moment of alignment: heads of state, regional institutions, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector have all converged in their understanding that resilience is critical as we seek to reduce humanitarian suffering and increase the ability of families to survive the inevitable shocks of drought, floods and other natural disasters. We have the tools to address the challenges ahead, but it is clear that none of us can succeed alone. The workshop closed with a shared vision of change that we believe will bring a more hopeful future.

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New U.S. Embassy Compound Opens in Djibouti



Omar Cardentey serves as Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Djibouti.


On December 7, 2011, ministers of government, members of the diplomatic corps, and over 300 guests gathered outside, in the dead of winter, to inaugurate the new U.S. Embassy compound in Djibouti.

At 10 a.m, the mercury read ninety degrees.

Located in the tumultuous Horn of Africa, the U.S. Mission in Djibouti plays a vital role in promoting stability in the region. It also makes its home in one of the hottest places on Earth.

U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti Geeta Pasi and her staff welcomed guests to the new compound, a state-of-the-art facility built by the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. At the opening, OBO was represented by Managing Director Jay Hicks. Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf also attended the event.

New “green” initiatives implemented in similar compounds around the world are even more essential here, in a country that has less than 0.4 percent arable land and chronic food security concerns. The mission works in tandem with other U.S. government partners and the Djiboutian government to provide food and support to drought victims.

American and local employees teamed together to lead tours through the compound, which included stops at the multipurpose room, cabana, and art collection. Tours even gave guests an opportunity to sample freshly filtered water at the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units on the compound.

U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff worked day and night to pull off the grand opening. The hopes were that guests left not only entertained, but also with a better understanding of day to day life in a modern American Embassy.

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Gabonese Military HIV/AIDS Program

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Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs Office wrote:

The nation of Gabon in Sub-Saharan Africa straddles the equator and is one of the least densely populated countries in Africa. The nation, which is about the size of Colorado, has an estimated population of 1.54 million people, which is smaller than some U.S. cities.

The week after Thanksgiving I had a chance to visit Gabon while supporting a senior leader visit by Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command’s deputy to the commander for civil-military activities. The visit’s main focus was maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and regional cooperation, but we got an opportunity to visit the Gabonese military’s HIV/AIDS program at Camp Baraka in Libreville.

The HIV prevalence rate in Gabon is estimated at 5.9 percent, with approximately 49,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. In the Gabonese Armed Forces, roughly 5,000 members, the HIV/AIDS prevalence is estimated at 4.3 percent.

We were told by staff at the U.S. Embassy that HIV/AIDS prevalence in Gabon is notably higher among young people and military personnel, which makes programs like Gabon’s Anti-AIDS Military Program (PMLS), established in 2002, very important. PMLS provides training, medical care and support, and outreach and educational activities targeted at vulnerable kids, orphans, widows and the military.

The U.S. Government has been supporting Gabon’s Anti-AIDS Military Program since 2003 through the DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP). Support has included funding for the acquisition of laboratory equipment, reagents and supplies related to the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS. In fiscal year 2011, DHAPP provided $300,000 in funding support to Gabon.

Our visit to Camp Baraka included a ceremony where Ambassador Eric Benjaminson, the U.S. Ambassador to Gabon, joined by Ambassador Holmes, presented a $5,600 donation in equipment for the center. The donation included a refrigerator for medical supplies, printers and a computer.

During his remarks, Ambassador Benjaminson said that the office equipment was meant to assist the Gabonese military’s HIV/AIDS program as it works to create “new, progressive messages to promote HIV/AIDS awareness” and support activities “that will change any stigma or discrimination related to HIV/AIDS among military troops or civilians.”

The program also included a tour of the center and two special presentations. Members of the Gabonese military sang an original song that incorporates anti-HIV/AIDS messages that highlight the importance of knowing your HIV/AIDS status, getting tested, practicing abstinence, being faithful and using condoms. The song was followed by the Camp’s HIV/AIDS drama troupe performing a skit that put HIV/AIDS on trial.

The effects of HIV/AIDS extend beyond health, family and social impacts. The epidemic also threatens a nation’s security by reducing military readiness, limiting deployments, and hindering a military’s ability to support regional response and peacekeeping activities.

Reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS is a priority for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) because of the disease’s destabilizing effects on a nation and the readiness of its military.

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FWD Campaign and MTV Announce Celebrity Auction for the Horn of Africa

Today [December 12], MTV Act, in partnership with USAID and the Ad Council, has launched the “MTV Fights Hunger Auction,” an online holiday auction that features garb from celebrities and favorite MTV stars such as the cast of the Jersey Shore.  All proceeds go to a group of eight NGO’s working on the ground in the Horn of Africa to help victims.

This is the next action of USAID’s FWD Campaign to raise awareness about the crisis, where millions are living without access to regular food and water.

Auctioned items include a signed guitar strap from Nick Jonas, a signed copy of Kelly Clarkson’s new album, an autographed skateboard and deck from champion skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, a signed t-shirt from Trey Songz, and lots of memorabilia from Jersey Shore stars.

Two items are expected to generate a lot of buzz:  tickets to a taping of the Jersey Shore after-show in Los Angeles and tickets to MTV’s New Year’s party in Times Square.

The auction will run through December 18th.

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World AIDS Day – “Getting to Zero”

Lieutenant Colonel Susie G. Lewis,  AFRICOM Commandant wrote:

Many at US AFRICA COMMAND may not realize that our HIV/AIDS program is the largest health program executed on the continent. At approximately $114M this program touches the lives of thousands of members of African militaries and their families. The HIV/AIDS program sponsors testing, education, prevention and construction of laboratories in 43 partner nations.

AFRICOM is proud to work and engage with our African partners and support them in conquering this disease. World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1st each year around the world. It has become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

UNAIDS took the lead on World AIDS Day campaigning from its creation until 2004. From 2004 onwards the World AIDS Campaign’s Global Steering Committee began selecting a theme for World AIDS Day in consultation with civil society, non-governmental organizations and government agencies involved in the AIDS response.

Themes run for one or two years and are not just specific to World AIDS Day. Campaigning slogans such as ‘Stop AIDS and Keep the Promise’ have been used year round to hold governments accountable for their HIV and AIDS related commitments.

This year’s theme “Getting to Zero” reinforces the need to become educated about HIV/AIDS prevention and explains how we can make a difference.

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Kibera’s Wonder Woman, Jane Akinyi

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Nairobi, November 16, 2011.  Today we visited Jane, a woman we’d met three years ago.  A single mother of two, Jane is HIV positive and lives in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa located in Nairobi, Kenya.  In 2006 she fell seriously ill and was so close to death that her parents sold her slum dwelling to pay for a coffin.  Somehow, she survived. But she had nothing.

A USAID project (called HEART) which helps women like Jane, found her, got her on anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), and started teaching her and 10 other women business enterprise skills.  In 2010 Jane graduated from the program and set out to start her business.

“At first I learned from market women who were farther ahead of me,” Jane reminds us.  Slowly, she was mentored and eventually started selling dried fish in quantities measured by an old coffee can, 20 cents worth.

Today, she is healthy and sells omena – small fish from Lake Victoria – wholesale to Kenya’s largest grocery store chain, Nakumatt.  Managing impressive transactions, she’s now considering taking on a partner. Her two children are in good schools, the eldest in her first year of university studying, what else, commerce.  Last month Jane bought a piece of land where she’ll eventually build a home for her family. As the chairperson of a women’s cooperative, Jane’s group is saving to buy a truck to better transport their fish to market 500 miles away in Nairobi.

The Jane we meet today is a successful working woman and an inspiration to other women who find themselves in the dark days of HIV.  Speaking as a HEART alumnae, Jane inspired this year’s class of 34 small business graduates – women who are facing poverty, discrimination, and poor health, as Jane once did.

Jane is not defined by her HIV status.  As we chat, her cell phone rings. “You don’t mind if I take this?” she asks politely.  Of course not, we reply.  After all, she has a business to run.

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Sports Diplomacy: Lessons for the Basketball Court and Life



Wesley Jeffers is a public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Congo.


Teamwork. Determination. Hard work. These are some of the many qualities that sports teach us. These values and skills not only help us to win a match, but also to succeed in life. Luckily for us, these are qualities that are not defined by a common language, but rather by a common attitude. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’s SportsUnited program understands this belief and works extremely hard to teach young people around the world how to translate these skills into work ethic and academic achievement. SportsUnited is an international sports programming initiative designed to help start a dialogue at the grassroots level with young people.

For the first time in its history, U.S. Embassy Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo took part in the SportsUnited Sports Envoy program. Former NBA player Bo Outlaw, former WNBA player Edna Campbell, and NBA representative Chris Clunie spent August 25-31 teaching over 250 Congolese youth basketball skills, as well as the importance of working together, open communication, and building a sense of self and community-awareness.

Over the past several years, the Republic of Congo has battled with its own identity issues as the result of a painful civil war and problems with food security, limited electricity, poverty, and low levels of political engagement. These obstacles have left much of the youth of Congo somewhat apathetic to their surroundings.

Bo, Edna, and Chris communicated their passion for basketball and teamwork in the course of multiple sports clinics using their actions and passion for basketball. They worked closely with each young person, gave them high-fives, and would not allow anyone to give up or even put forth a fifty percent effort.

When players wouldn’t ask each other for the ball, the Sports Envoys showed them through example how the ball will never end up with your teammate in the right place, unless you talk to each other.

When players stopped running because they were too tired, the Sports Envoys ran beside them and encouraged them to push themselves for the team.

When players let balls roll away, the Sports Envoys explained that it was the players’ responsibility to look after that ball, as if it were a treasure.

By the end of each one of our five clinics, the players were working harder than they had ever worked at a sport in their lives. No matter how they felt when they began the clinic, the players always ended with smiles and were eager to practice as much English as they could with the Sports Envoys. They eagerly asked for pictures and sought out tips for future practices. On several occasions, players approached me and my staff to tell us that no coach had ever spent as much time with them or been so concerned about their progress. It was truly incredible to see a transformation in every single young person that participated in the clinics. By the end of the week, almost all of the participants returned to watch the clinics wind down and offer encouragement and constructive feedback to the players on the court.

Of course, the Sports Envoy program did not just benefit the youth of the Congo. Bo, Edna, and Chris were able to reach an even greater number of Congolese through speaking at the U.S. Embassy’s English Language Club, painting a local orphanage, and distributing water to an area that has not had access to clean drinking water since 1984. The changes were most noticeable in Bo and Edna — who had never been to Africa. They stepped off the plane to learn that, yes, there are two Congos. By the end of the week, they were able to articulate issues important to the country that I, as a newly minted public affairs officer, was still learning.

What happened in Brazzaville was much more than a basketball camp or even an international exchange — it was the melding of two cultures, where both learn from each other while realizing that we are all, at our core, the same. This is public diplomacy at its finest.


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