Posts Tagged 'USAFRICOM'

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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Addressing the Impact of Lead Poisoning in Nigeria

James Moolom serves as a Cultural Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.


Lead poisoning is a preventable childhood disease, and Nigeria needs to take the necessary steps to address the situation. This was the central theme of Dr. Mary Jean Brown, the Chief of the Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during her recent visit to Nigeria. Dr. Brown’s speaking tour was organized by the U.S. Mission in Abuja, in partnership with the Miners Association of Nigeria and CDC.

Dr. Brown is an internationally recognized expert and leader in the field of childhood lead poisoning prevention. She has provided her expertise to health officials in the United States, China, Kosovo, and Nigeria, among other locations. Dr. Brown was accompanied on her trip to Nigeria by Dr. Paula Burgess, who currently serves the Deputy Associate Director for Science in the Office of the Director for the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry.

During her time in Nigeria, Dr. Brown traveled to Enugu, Abakaliki, Kaduna, Lafia, and Abuja, where she shared her expertise on lead poisoning with numerous health and environmental officials, miners, NGO activists, community leaders, and the media. Dr. Brown’s presentation, which focused on the dangers of lead contamination, significantly raised public awareness of the issue and challenged government officials, community leaders, and miners to address the problem.

Haphazard and artisanal mining activities across the country, especially in Zamfara, Ebonyi and Nasawara states, have continued to wreck havoc on the environment, and have had a deadly impact on the health of children less than five years old. In 2009, a serious lead poisoning situation was reported in Zamfara, and hundreds of deaths and severe disabilities among children were related to high-level lead exposures in many villages.

In her presentation, Dr. Brown not only highlighted key concerns about lead poisoning, but provided strategies that can help reduce lead exposures especially among children and pregnant women. She urged the Government of Nigeria to make and enforce laws on mining to ensure that ore processing is safer in Zamfara and in other parts of the country. According to Dr. Brown, Nigeria is blessed with a lot of valuable minerals, but they must be used and processed responsibly.

The impact of lead poisoning on any affected community is enormous. Apart from killing children, the disease also causes brain damage, low IQ, and miscarriages in pregnant women. Given the current lead poisoning situation in Bagega village of Zamfara State, Dr. Brown advocated for a clean-up of the village. In addition, she proposed the creation of sustainable public health programs to help identify lead-poisoned children and provide the needed medical interventions.

Dr. Brown’s visit brought attention to the lead poising situation in Nigeria. She visited Musa Mohammed Sada, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development and Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, the Minister of Environment. In their discussions, Dr. Brown urged the ministers to help promote safe mining and ore-processing activities across the country. In addition, Dr. Brown requested the ministers and other public health officials in Nigeria to work together with the World Bank, UNICEF, CDC, and other international donor agencies to provide funds for the immediate remediation of high-priority lead-contaminated villages in Zamfara.


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USAID Supports South Sudan’s First Agricultural Trade Fair


Schoolchildren examine displays at the First Agricultural Trade Fair in South Sudan, which was supported by USAID. Photo Credit: Angela Stephens/USAID

Angela Stephens is a Development Outreach and Communications Officer in the Africa Bureau.


In South Sudan, farmers, researchers, and the private sector are coming together with the help of USAID to showcase the new nation’s agricultural potential.

On November 9 to 12, USAID supported the first agricultural trade fair in Juba, South Sudan. National and international entrepreneurs came to learn about opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and forestry. Farmers from 10 different states showcased their products, including items such as cassava, bamboo, flowers, beeswax, gum arabic, fruit, vegetables, and dried fish. Among displays of tractors and farm equipment, students learned about the agricultural industry and experts demonstrated planting and irrigation techniques at interactive exhibits.

“Agriculture affects every citizen of South Sudan, a nation in which more than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry for their livelihood,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Peter Natiello at the opening of the fair.

Republic of South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny welcomed farmers and exhibitors who came from across South Sudan and the region to attend the fair. As an example of South Sudan’s enormous potential, Vice President Machar described how rich Western Equatoria state is in its agricultural production, including mangoes and pineapple, but farmers face challenges in bringing their goods to market. “This is where we need investors to come in who can buy products and preserve them, either process it locally, can it, or dry it, and then send it to the areas that do not produce these products,” he said.

USAID is working with the Government of South Sudan to help the new nation tap its great agricultural potential and reach its goal of becoming food secure, including by improving agricultural productivity and strengthening the capacity of the private and public sectors to support market-led agriculture; by helping to develop a commercial domestic seed and fertilizer industry; and by investing in infrastructure, including roads that will help farmers access markets for their products.


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