Topics covering about USAID

Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan
Hardship and struggles have been reoccurring for Afghanistan and its residents for several years. Afghanistan’s civil war broke the country, but it has been attempting to rebuild. Afghans have been working to begin their lives again and be able to provide for their families. Luckily, there is some humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan helping the country get back on its feet.

Issues and Conflicts

At the close of March, the United States announced an additional $61 million in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. This assistance will work to provide for communities that have been affected the most, such as displaced persons, returning refugees and Afghan refugees located in the region. Afghans initially fled their country because of the ongoing conflict and the very frequent natural disasters. Natural disasters include landslides, flash-floods and avalanches. Afghanistan has been dealing with these humanitarian issues and natural disasters for at least 17 years. The $61 million in humanitarian aid assistance will fund emergency food assistance, nutrition services, hygiene kits, safe drinking water, access to latrines and protection.

In 2001, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began working on the stability operations project, which others know as the nation-building project. No matter the name, the goals were the same. USAID was to bring peace and stability to conflicted areas of the country, repair institutions and infrastructure, establish functioning government services and build the country to endure long-term success. For the first year of the nation-building project, the lack of security, fragility of government institutions and lack of agreement caused progress to be slow and complex. In 2002, progress took a turn for the better. USAID’s humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan included work towards the country’s poor infrastructure, lost generations, refugees, Afghanistan’s limited government and its low literacy rates.

The Progress

USAID’s progress in Afghanistan is what follows:

  1. Afghanistan children are in school today. Millions of children are receiving an education, including girls.
  2. The country has expanded primary health care. This has resulted in reduced maternal and under-five infant mortality rates.
  3. Life expectancy has improved. Life expectancy has risen from 41 years of age to 61 years of age.
  4. USAID is helping the country build new infrastructure including highways, secondary roads, irrigation systems, schools and clinics.
  5. USAID is also helping provide the country with electricity. Initially, only five percent of the country had electricity. Now, 33 percent of the country has electricity.
  6. The country now has a functioning government. Amidst all of the progress USAID and Afghans are making in Afghanistan, USAID launched the first stabilization program in 2002. The point of this program was to “support the U.S. military’s “clear, hold and build” approach to counterinsurgency in areas designated key terrain districts.” What was initially supposed to be long-term programming to aid Afghans and Afghanistan turned into quick-response, quick-impacted programs.

The Programs

USAID’s four implemented programs are as follows:

  1. Stabilization in Key Areas: USAID designed this program to promote good governance and service delivery. The projected outcomes of this program include the construction of infrastructure projects and making sub-national governments more efficient.
  2. Afghanistan Vouchers to Increase Production: This program includes a focus on agriculture in Afghanistan. USAID created the program in order to increase the incomes of Afghan farmers and expand their opportunities. As of 2018, USAID facilitated over $201.4 million in domestic and international sales of agricultural goods, supported over 190,000 households with agricultural interventions, supported more than 2,200 agricultural enterprises, created 3,365 full-time jobs and rehabilitated irrigation canals.
  3. Afghanistan Social Outreach: The country’s social outreach programs work to develop community councils. These councils will consist of 30 to 50 people and be a platform for local needs.
  4. Strategic Provincial Roads: This program focuses on infrastructure, electricity and potable water. As of 2018, USAID partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which will provide engineering services for the North East Power Systems and South East Power Systems. Also, 380 kilometers of a 220 kilowatts transmission line is being constructed so electricity can reach southern Afghanistan.

With the additional humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan from USAID, these programs and initiatives will have more support, which will lead to the opportunity to make changes and implementations when, and where, needed.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

In March 2019, President Trump announced wanting to cut U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These three countries are known as the Northern Triangle of the U.S. government’s Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P) Initiative.

This is a U.S. strategy to address the security, governance and economic prosperity of these regions. The effectiveness of the A4P initiative and the numerous benefits it presents to both the Central American region and the United States has led to bipartisan support in the U.S., and to cease the aid to the northern triangle would be counterproductive to both the interests of the United States and Central America as a whole.

Since the 1980s, Central America has seen a decline in armed conflict and has become politically stable. Additionally, in the past decade has become a strong economic partner to the United States. While all of this implies significant progress in the region, the region remains stagnant with high crime rates and nearly half of the population currently lives in poverty.

Honduras: History, Plans, and Benefits

Honduras has received over $3 billion from USAID since 1961. The bulk of this aid impacts sustaining economic growth and establishing economic stability. Some efforts to obtaining these goals are increasing access to health services, expanding exports, improving education infrastructure and strengthening the nation’s democratic systems. In sum, these initiatives address threats to Hondura’s stability.

That being said, included are high crime and violence rates and widespread poverty and food insecurity.  Additionally, there is a presence of government corruption and ineffectiveness. According to the U.S. Department of State, Honduras reliance on foreign assistance, provided by the U.S. is crucial to there development and safety.

El Salvador: History, Plans, and Benefits

Over the past 50 years, USAID assistance in El Salvador has provided economic opportunity. It aids in improving educational and health care systems and supporting disaster relief and economic development.

Specifically, the bulk of assistance in health care is targeting infant and maternal mortality. With the assistance of USAID, the mortality rate in El Salvador has dropped from 191/1000 to 16/1000 between 1960 and  2008. Access to education and literacy rates have steadily increased over the years as well.

Again, with the assistance of USAID, two key organizations for analyzing the major problems facing El Salvador have been developed. These are the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) and the Business Foundation for Educational Development (FEPADE).

Guatemala: History, Plans, and Benefits

Guatemala is experiencing population growth and has become the most populated country in Central America. The Guatemalan government and USAID have been working together to strengthen security for citizens and stimulate economic growth. The efforts of USAID have had a significantly positive impact on addressing some of Guatemala’s security concerns.

For example, there has been an 18 percent decline in robberies, 50 percent decline in the illicit drug trade and a 50 percent decline in blackmail in communities. In order to stimulate economic growth, USAID has focused on agriculture, education, and health. This development has created 8,734 jobs and the country has seen an increase in coffee sales and implemented widespread reading programs.

Importance of Continued Support

The Northern Triangle’s future development and prosperity are heavily reliant on the continued support of the United States. Eliminating U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala would be counterproductive to both the goals of the U.S. and the Northern Triangle. U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will be able to improve the overall quality of life of Central Americans.

– Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Involvement in Latin AmericaFor decades, the U.S. government has been in charge of many anti-poverty and development programs in Latin America. One of the United States’ longest-running international aid programs has been the United States Agency for International Development or USAID. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 created this agency, which reorganized the U.S. government’s foreign aid money and mandated the creation of an independent federal agency tasked with administering economic aid to foreign countries. USAID has been a significant part of U.S. involvement in Latin America.

The U.S. started working in Latin America in 1962 when USAID began operating in the region. USAID has been one of the U.S. government’s primary methods of providing development assistance to the region. The agency currently works to help countries in Latin America develop by supporting small businesses, working to end government corruption, supporting democracy and helping the region protect its natural resources. This article will explain the history of the U.S. involvement in Latin America by focusing on three countries in particular: Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua.

USAID in Brazil

A year after its creation, USAID partnered with Brazil’s government to solve a wide range of issues in public health, education, the rights of children, human trafficking and food insecurity.

  • Throughout the 1960s and 70s, USAID helped Brazil strengthen its institutions and provided financial support for higher education within the country.
  • During this time, USAID helped solve Brazil’s food crisis by funding the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) in 1972. Embrapa transformed Brazil from a struggling food producer to becoming the third largest agricultural producers in the world. Embrapa helped increase Brazil’s beef and pork supply by four times between 1975 and 2009. At the same time, the production of milk increased up to 7.03 billion gallons per year from 2.1 billion gallons per year.
  • In the 1980s, USAID shifted its focus toward public health issues, such as child trafficking, forest conservation and biodiversity research.
  • In 2014, USAID Brazil became the agency’s first strategic partnership mission. USAID recognized that Brazil was not merely a struggling country reliant on U.S. aid money, it was also a major partner in development efforts in the region and around the world. This partnership led to the creation of the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) that same year.

USAID in Mexico

U.S. development efforts in Mexico began 10 years before the creation of USAID with the passing of the Mutual Security Act of 1951. The United States’ efforts during this time primarily focused on housing guarantees, health programs, food security and academic exchanges between the United States and Mexican universities. USAID expanded upon these goals and added new priorities such as economic and technological development to Mexico’s development strategy with support for democratic governance.

  • USAID took a hiatus from supporting development programs in Mexico in 1965, but they resumed in 1977.
  • USAID disaster relief became crucial for rebuilding parts of the country after a devastating earthquake in 1985.
  • The U.S. and Mexico have forged successful bilateral cooperation on many issues as a result of USAID. Because the establishment of the Mexican Conservation Fund was a success, it gathered environmental experts to seek policy solutions to Mexico’s environmental problems.
  • In recent years, USAID has increased efforts to decrease gang and drug-related violent crime throughout the country. USAID’s programs have reduced the tendencies for Mexican youths in jail or on probation to repeat their criminal behavior. The national rate is 60 percent, whereas in Mexico, it is only 1.25 percent.
  • USAID has also made efforts to institutionalize the rule of the law in Mexico by reforming the country’s judicial system. Thanks to USAID-sponsored reforms, four Mexican states saw a 450 percent increase in resolutions to robbery disputes. The Justice for You platform provided information about the legal system to 32,389 people in 32 states.

USAID in Nicaragua

As was the case with Brazil, USAID began assisting Nicaragua in 1962, primarily helping Nicaragua’s government develop its infrastructure, healthcare and education.

  • USAID played a major role in helping disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in 1972 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Following the earthquake in 1972, USAID installed 4,560 connections for clean water to houses that lost access.
  • In the aftermath of a brutal civil war lasting from 1978 to 1989, USAID was instrumental in efforts to reinstate democracy in war-torn Nicaragua in 1990 by backing Violeta Chamorro of the National Opposition Union. With the help of USAID, the government of Nicaragua transitioned into democracy by providing training to civil society organizations that encouraged broader participation in government.
  • USAID helped Nicaragua embrace a market economy through its implementation of the Balance of Payment Support Program in 1990. This allowed Nicaragua to import capital goods, raw materials, agricultural inputs and oil. In 2005, USAID also helped bring Nicaragua into compliance with the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). USAID helped train more than 2,000 small to medium-sized Nicaraguan enterprises to be compliant with CAFTA.

The U.S. involvement in Latin America has had an encouraging amount of success. USAID, in particular, has facilitated political, economic and social development in Latin America on a massive scale since 1962. While Latin America still faces challenges with drug crimes, gang violence, political corruption, food security and poverty, USAID has undoubtedly played a role in fostering lasting development in the region.

Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Wastewater in India
India is not only one of the most populated countries in the world, but it is also one of the poorest. In addition to poverty, India is grappling with a lack of access to clean water and increasing pollution. This not only takes a toll on households but also affects industrial and agricultural demands. Urban runoff is an issue when domestic waste and untreated water go into storm drains, polluting lakes and rivers. Approximately only 30 percent of the wastewater in India is cleaned and filtered.

The U.S. Agency for International Development teamed up with a nongovernmental organization, Agra Municipal Corporation, to formulate a treatment plan to clean the wastewater in India.

What is Being Done?

North of the Taj Mahal runs the Yamuna River, one of the most polluted waterways in India. Agra, the city through which the river runs, is a slum community. As of 2009, this community has had no access to sanitation facilities, disposal systems or waste collection. At least 85 percent of the residents in Agra have resorted to open defecation that ultimately pollutes the Yamuna River, where residents collect drinking water. This lack of sanitation has left the community vulnerable to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

USAID-supported NGO Center for Urban and Regional Excellence decided to reverse the state of Agra and come up with a treatment plan. In 2011, they built a wastewater treatment plant to clean the water, leading to healthier community members. Instead of chemicals, the treatment plant uses natural methods to sanitize the water. Moreover, they designed the plant to be low-maintenance, thus keeping it cost-efficient. After filtering and sanitizing the water, it flows back into the community for residents to collect.

As of 2017, the Agra Municipal Corporation, who initially teamed up with USAID, took over operating the plant. And they made it their mission to continue working to improve the lives of the residents.

The Progress

The Center for Urban and Regional Excellence’s transformation of Agra influenced the government to also act. As a result, the government planned to cleanse the entire country by the end of 2019. On Oct. 2, 2014, the Prime Minister of India declared the Swachh Bharat Mission. At the time, only 38.7 percent of the country was clean—less than half. As of 2019, India’s government reported 98.9 percent of the country is now clean. Since the mission began, they built 9,023,034,753 household toilets and established

  • 5,054,745 open defecation-free villages,
  • 4,468 open defecation-free villages in Namami Gange,
  • 613 open defecation-free districts, and
  • 29 open defecation-free states.

Less than 2 percent away from meeting their goal, India has made big improvements to better the lives of its citizens by providing clean water for domestic and industrial purposes.

Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About U.S. Involvement in Central America
Central America consists of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. U.S. involvement in Central America has been consistent throughout history and into the present day. The U.S. provides aid to Central American countries and supports their development projects. Recently, the U.S. has placed special emphasis on providing aid to the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. These are the 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America.

10 Facts About U.S. Involvement in Central America

  1. In 2018, Guatemala received $80.6 million in U.S. aid, while Honduras received $67.8 million and El Salvador $46.3 million. These countries used the received aid to reduce crime, corruption and poverty. Some of the specific U.S. goals behind the aid included improving development in Guatemala, increasing economic growth by training workers and increasing production in El Salvador and addressing the high rates of poverty and hunger in Honduras.
  2. In the past decade, USAID has provided Guatemalan farmers with greenhouses, new irrigation systems and the machinery needed to plant new types of crops. In the past, many Guatemalans could not farm the land in their home country and migrated out of necessity. Thanks to USAID, Guatemalans can now farm their land effectively.
  3. Between 2011 and 2014, USAID worked to combat violence and crime in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama. USAID implemented new programs within communities and emphasized employment opportunities and criminal justice reform. In 2014, data showed that individuals living in neighborhoods with USAID initiatives felt safer and were more optimistic about their communities and police forces. There was a 51 percent decrease in individuals who felt aware of murder and extortion in their neighborhoods, a 14 percent decrease in the perception of gang violence and a nine percent increase in respect for law enforcement in areas impacted by USAID anti-crime initiatives. USAID reports that its efforts reduced murder rates significantly in El Salvador.
  4. USAID collaborates with Central American governments to fund programs designed to improve Central America’s living conditions. USAID programs provide job training for young Guatemalans. USAID also works to rehabilitate ex-convicts in El Salvador, teach entrepreneurship skills to young people in Honduras and financially assist Guatemalan farmers.
  5. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. aid provided to El Salvador in 2017 was used to improve its criminal justice system. Much of the aid funded training for police officers and public defenders. U.S. aid also funded anti-corruption initiatives in the Salvadoran attorney general’s office.
  6. U.S. aid provides funding for anti-corruption investigations of the Honduran government. It also funds monitoring of the Honduran electoral system and combats poverty in rural Honduras.
  7. In 2017, Honduras used over 50 percent of its aid funding to help the poor. The U.S.-funded programs implemented addressed child malnourishment and treated HIV. Honduras also used U.S. aid to assist with sustainable agriculture practices.
  8. In 2014, the U.S. collaborated with the governments of the three Northern Triangle countries to increase economic development. The U.S. provided $750 million for this project in 2014. By 2017, conditions in the Northern Triangle had improved enough to reduce rates of illegal migration to the lowest levels seen since 1971.
  9. By 2017, the positive results mentioned in these 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America were visible. There was a decrease in homicide rates in all three Northern Triangle countries and 20,000 new agricultural jobs in rural Guatemala. Meanwhile, agricultural sales in Guatemala increased by 51 percent.
  10. Since 2016, U.S. aid to Central America has decreased by about 20 percent.The State Department claims that the aid provided to Central American countries in the past did not create positive results. To protect U.S. foreign aid to the Northern Triangle and continue the positive effects discussed in these 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America, U.S. voters can contact Congress here.

U.S. aid has played an important role in reducing violence and poverty in Central America. These 10 facts about U.S. involvement in Central America show the positive results of U.S. foreign aid and enhance the idea that reducing the amount of aid provided would be detrimental to the people of Central America.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Food AssistanceFor more than 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has upheld its commitment to end global poverty, providing desperately needed refugee food assistance today. USAID works in more than 100 countries. It primarily provides humanitarian assistance, promotes global health and supports global stability. All around the world, more than 25 million people face refugee crises. And among these 25 million people, more than half are young children.

Food Assistance

USAID assists refugees by providing emergency refugee food assistance to 25 countries. In particular, USAID’s food assistance reaches Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and Bangladesh. One of the world’s biggest refugee camps lies in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar. There, an estimated 868,000 Rohingya refugees seek safe haven. In order to escape western Myanmar, refugees must travel on foot through forests and turbulent waters. Often times, refugees do not have enough food for the trip and witness the deaths of loved ones. By the end of this journey, many refugees have nowhere to live and no source of living. Fortunately, USAID’s programs offer assistance.

Furthermore, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and the United Nations’ World Food Programme partnered to assist those seeking peace, who lack a home and food. USAID and WFP provide packs of high-energy biscuits as meal replacements for arriving refugees. Moreover, USAID gives WFP resources to buy rice from Bangladesh’s national rice reserve. However, it takes time to distribute food to refugee camps. USAID even supports CARE International, which provides U.S. imported food to Cox’s Bazar.

Relief Tactics

Altogether, USAID programs lay out plans for permanent and stable recoveries using four types of relief tactics. Firstly, USAID provides locally and regionally purchased food, which is more quickly accessible than imported food. Secondly, if local food is unavailable, USAID provides U.S.-grown food. Thirdly, if imported food distorts local prices, USAID offers paper or electronic food vouchers. These vouchers allow refugees to purchase local food and support local communities. Fourthly, if more flexible solutions are required, USAID supplies cash, mobile or debit card transfers.

Beyond relief tactics, USAID helps improve global stability. Every year, USAID assists more than 40 to 50 million people worldwide with emergency food assistance. In 2018 alone, USAID gave more than $690 million to help refugees around the world. Overall, numerous countries benefit from USAID. By providing refugee food assistance, USAID plays a huge role in helping millions living in extreme poverty.

Fita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

World Water Day 2019While water might seem like a basic necessity, more than 650 million people worldwide lack easy access to clean water. Every year, the United Nations sponsors World Water Day. World Water Day raises awareness about global water crises, demonstrating the need for water in developing nations. Take a look at these interesting facts about how the U.N. celebrated World Water Day 2019.

5 Interesting Facts About World Water Day 2019

  1. “Leaving No One Behind”
    The theme for World Water Day 2019 was “Leaving No One Behind.” Technology is providing new methods to increase access to clean water. Additionally, it mobilizes programs combating water scarcity. Above all, technology connects individuals interested in making a difference, no matter where they are. However, these advances can’t only benefit privileged populations. Improvements must be available to marginalized groups, as well. World Water Day 2019 emphasized access to clean water is a human right, as recognized by the U.N. in 2010. Everyone deserves water, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or age.
  2. USAID’s Strategy
    The U.S. government is working to implement a strategy to improve global water access through the U.S. Agency for International Development. While the fight to bring access to clean water is global, USAID renewed its commitment to providing clean drinking water this World Water Day. As such, USAID supports the core objectives outlined in the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy. These objectives include promoting better stewardship of freshwater resources and expanding the availability of sanitation services. Additionally, USAID is enacting policy and programs aimed at providing 15 million people access to clean water by 2022.
  3. “Water Action Decade”
    This World Water Day marked the first completed year of the U.N.’s “Water Action Decade.” Three years ago, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously decided to make the global water crisis a top priority for 10 years straight. The “Water Action Decade” kicked off in 2018. Therefore, efforts to increase sustainable water management and access to safe water will last through World Water Day 2028. And nations around the world execute large-scale programs, addressing water scarcity stemming from pollution, drought and urbanization.
  4. Women and Water
    Women played a key role in the message of World Water Day 2019. While many suffer due to water scarcity, women disproportionately carry the burden. According to U.N. research, women and girls make up the majority of people responsible for obtaining water in areas where clean water isn’t accessible. Collectively, women devote around 200 million hours to finding and gathering clean water. Subsequently, a major goal for World Water Day 2019 was improving women’s access to water, which can lead to awesome opportunities that promote independence for women. Therefore, the U.N. sponsors women-led projects in rural areas to include women in community decisions about water as just one part of its commitment to improving universal access to clean water worldwide.
  5. U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
    In fact, World Water Day is just one example of U.N. efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6. Overall, the U.N. has agreed on 17 different goals to promote sustainable development worldwide, specifically in growing and impoverished nations. These Sustainable Development Goals must meet their goals by 2030. Particularly, the primary task of Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to make water safe, affordable and accessible universally. And World Water Day marks just one of many U.N. efforts to reach this crucial goal on target. Ultimately, the first step in achieving universal access to clean water is raising awareness.

Nevertheless, on World Water Day 2019, nations joined hands to strengthen efforts toward making clean water accessible worldwide. The celebration honored organizations that provide aid, unite communities and save lives. And they celebrate innovations that revolutionize water management, along with the people dedicated to campaigning for water access without leaving anyone behind.

Emmitt Kussrow
Photo: Unsplash

Department of State
The Department of State (DOS) is an executive office that is responsible for international relations. It serves as an advisory role to the President and represents the United States at the United Nations. But, there’s much more to it than just negotiating foreign treaties and running embassies. Here are 10 cool facts about the State Department.

10 Cool Facts About the State Department

  1. The Department of State is the keeper of the Great Seal of the United States. The seal is kept securely under lock and key in a glass enclosure in the Department’s Exhibit Hall. It can be used only with the permission of the Secretary of State. Over the years, the DOS has placed the Great Seal on display for the public, the first time being in 1955.
  2. The DOS has its own Diplomatic Motor Vehicle Office for foreign missions. This office works under the 1978 Diplomatic Relations Act and can issue registrations for foreign diplomats who have immunity in the United States. It also issues license plates, insurance and driver’s licenses.
  3. The State Department sponsors the Fulbright Program. Fulbright was established in 1946 and has had more than 250,000 participants since. The program’s mission is to create opportunities for better interactions and understanding between Americans and people of other nations. This is achieved by providing scholarships to American scholars who are seeking to study, teach or conduct research abroad and to foreign scholars who want to do the same in the United States.
  4. The Department of State as a top entry-level employer. With 1,000 job openings in 2019, the Department of State also offers remote internships called eInternships through the Virtual Student Federal Service program. The positions are open to part-time and full-time undergraduate and graduate students. All majors and backgrounds are encouraged to apply. In 2019, there have already been more than 125 internships offered through many different departments of the DOS, bringing new projects each year for students to participate in. The jobs vary from data visualization and infographic design to English-Spanish translations for the National Archives. The eInternships run from September through May; they are unpaid, part-time and some offer college credit as well as a variety of other benefits.
  5. The Department of State gives Linguist of the Year awards. The recipient of this award is an employee of the Foreign or Civil Service who has achieved a high level of knowledge of one or more foreign languages and who has demonstrated the ability to use that language to further U.S. diplomacy. The award comes with a $10,000 cash prize.
  6. The Department of State houses the Diplomatic Reception Rooms in Washington, D.C. In those rooms, the Secretary of State receives important guests. One historically important and cool fact is that the John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room is home to the desk upon which the Treaty of Paris 1783 was signed, ending the Revolutionary War. The rooms also contain one of the United States’ most rare collections of fine and decorative arts, which have a value of more than $100 million.
  7. The State Department collaborates with USAID. Even though USAID is not part of the government, the DOS has provided USAID with guidance on foreign policy since 1961. The DOS makes sure that foreign aid is distributed according to U.S. policy standards.
  8. The Department of State employs diplomatic couriers. This job requires nearly constant travel in order to escort and deliver diplomatic pouches with classified material between the Department of State and its foreign missions. Diplomatic couriers are covered under the Vienna Convention as they work under international treaties. They spend more than 75 percent of their work time in international or domestic travel. Peter Parker was the first man to be commissioned as a diplomatic courier in 1776. However, it wasn’t until World War I that the DOS started hiring couriers regularly. Today it employs approximately 100 diplomatic couriers.
  9. The Department of State is leading the Global Connect Initiative. Announced at the United Nations in 2015, the initiative aims to provide 1.5 billion people with internet access by 2020. Global Connect stresses the importance of internet access in economic development because it facilitates investment and creates jobs.
  10. The Department of State provides travel advisories with the possibility to sign up for travel alerts. The Bureau of Consular Affairs monitors safety around the world and issues warnings about security levels. Upon registration, people can receive notifications via e-mail or on an app on their phones. The website offers travel advice for people from all walks of life to ensure safety and well-being.

The State Department is responsible for the United States’ foreign policy and international relations. It operates in the United States and in its missions based in other countries. Despite its serious and global role, the State Department does some cool things. These 10 cool facts about the State Department show that it is about more than just policies; it offers adventurous careers, scholarships and awards and even lessons on the United State’s art history.

– Ewa Devaux
Photo: Google

The West Bank and Gaza
The West Bank and Gaza are considered Palestinian territories that have struggled with political power since the Six-Day War in 1967. This dispute has been between Israel and Palestine and the end result of the war has left the country in political turmoil. This devastated economic opportunities, local livelihood, sanitation conditions and household food consumption. In 2017, the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation and the 10th anniversary of the Gaza blockade were marked. This has been affecting all job opportunities and proper food aid from entering the region. All of these factors have only made it more difficult to live in already precarious conditions and more risk for the already struggling population.

Work of USAID

The U.S. government works closely with the authorities in Palestine to address the economic and humanitarian needs of the country. To improve economic growth, USAID has donated roughly $400 billion to improve in-house situations for companies and impoverished families in West Bank and Gaza. Providing basic needs like clean sanitation systems and safe work environments is essential to maximize productivity within the company and keep the workers healthy. Many companies suffer from a lack of resources and expertise for their products, so the project Compete will help business owners learn more about their product, how to maximize value for those products and increase employment within the surrounding areas. The goal is to increase competitiveness and revitalize the private sector, bringing to the table full-time jobs, part-time jobs, seasonal jobs and paid internships.

Food Sovereignty of West Bank and Gaza

Food insecurity is a huge issue in the West Bank and Gaza territory as over 70 percent of people in this area suffer from lack of food and proper nourishment. Some of the causes for this are also a global phenomenon, environmental degradation, rising food prices and Palestinian food sovereignty. With food sovereignty, a state can control its own food resources, though that state has to have a self-sufficient food source with the help of government-controlled policies.

Since the occupation in 1967, Israel has confiscated thousands of acres of farming land and then separated it with the West Bank wall. With the separation of land, farmers are struggling to keep up the health with crops due to vandalism and destruction from settlers and the military. In Gaza, 25 percent of fertile land has been destroyed by the buffer zone, a zone that borders Israel. Patrol boats in the area only allow fishermen 15 percent of their territorial waters, further reducing the areas self-sufficient food sources. With the limitations on trade, environmental issues, confiscation of land and destruction of land, food sovereignty is unachievable. This has hindered economic growth and social conditions to reduce the levels of food insecurity.

Clean Water Access

Access to clean, potable water is limited by the wall between the West Bank and Gaza. Beaches, rivers and lakes are polluted and overcrowded refugee camps create health hazards for the sanitation systems. About 26 percent of diseases in West Bank and Gaza are related to filthy water. During the winter months, household septic tanks overflow and mix with rainwater, flooding homes and streets in the area. During the summer, the heat dries the streets from the flood and the smell coming off the streets is so bad that families keep their windows shut. Mothers refuse to let their children out to play because of the rancid smell and infected water.

Diseases continue to spread as garbage continues to pile up in refugee camps. The Anera organization is working on building proper waste management systems across Palestine, improving sanitation systems in the process. In 2014, Anera reconstructed sewage lines damaged by bombs. In refugee camps, they are taking an approach where the youth take the lead. Through campaigns designed to clean and recycle, they have developed a staff to train on proper waste management and a new sorting facility. They are creating a cleaner environment for 13,000 members of their community so far and will continue to reach out and help their people.

Health System in West Bank and Gaza

The health system in West Bank and Gaza has been shaped by years of occupation, political stalemate, violence and human rights violations. The barrier placed between the two territories limits access to East Jerusalem, the closest area that has specialized hospitals. The placement of these hospitals is scattered due to the many health care providers in the country. With the blockade in place, Gaza’s health care locations are experiencing unstable power supply and recurring power cuts.

The medical equipment has been deteriorating because of inadequate maintenance and spare parts cannot reach them. The barrier has also made it difficult to transport proper medicines to treat patients. All of these factors are crushing the health care system in West Bank and Gaza, making people seek treatment elsewhere though traveling in and out of Gaza is heavily restricted. Even with these limitations, health care in these areas still thrives. With the help of the World Health Organization, technical support will be provided to health technicians and fund projects created for diseases affecting the population.

Even with all of these issues, West Bank and Gaza still work out solutions to everyday and past problems. If these areas can continue to receive the funding from developed countries and nongovernmental organizations, they can grow back into the self-sufficient economy they once had.
– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Changes in Transcontinental Trade Look to Lift African Economies
Despite being home to many rapidly growing economies and an abundance of essential natural resources, Africa also contains numerous countries with some of the highest poverty and food insecurity rates in the world. However, new legislation and foreign support hope to ease the flow of domestic trade in Africa, allowing broader access to necessities and helping to build a strong continental economy.

The High Cost of Shipping

While Africa regularly exports goods to places such as the U.S. and Europe, only 13 percent of traded goods remain in Africa. Underdeveloped road and highway systems between neighboring countries translate to high costs in transcontinental shipments, ultimately raising the cost of transported goods to the point of unaffordability for most impoverished Africans.

For example, while the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that East Africa produces enough food to support everyone living in the region, the high cost of transportation has halted trade in the area, resulting in food insecurity for 27 percent of the people living on the continent. However, recent legislative changes and foreign support signal that trade in Africa is beginning to take on a new shape that allows for transcontinental trade and a collective African economy.

The Transcontinental Trade in Africa

The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), which was proposed at a meeting of the African Union in 2012, set forth goals of enhancing trade among the eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs), made up of geographic subdivisions with interconnected economies, and creating a continental trading system that would encourage foreign investment and a competitive marketplace.

While the CFTA has yet to be fully implemented, ongoing discussions, including the December 2017 meeting in Niger of 54 countries in Africa, emphasize that an economic overhaul of this magnitude is a long-term goal with results that will not be immediately apparent despite the progress being made.

In addition to internal policy changes by African governmental leaders, foreign investors seeking to take early advantage of the promising African markets have expedited growth with contributions to urban development. In Ethiopia alone, Chinese investors funded the construction of the African Union’s headquarters in the capital city of Addis Ababa in the amount of $100 million. Road and highway systems, an airport and various energy and rail transportation programs are underway with the intent of modernizing Africa’s infrastructure and turning its economy into a thriving market with a high return rate.

Improving Agriculture and Trade

USAID has been working to improve trade in Africa through the creation of Trade and Investment hubs. Furthermore, through their Feed the Future initiative, USAID is working to educate various African countries on how to improve agricultural production and how to create trading systems that both improve the economy in the trading region’s while giving others access to goods not ordinarily available in their own region.

To complement the interests from investors abroad, foreign government organizations have worked from afar and on the ground to improve trade in Africa to create a flourishing, self-sufficient set of nations and to improve living conditions for the impoverished and the food insecure people throughout the continent.

Due to the large scale of growing trade in Africa to a place of higher economic security, progress may not be readily apparent or may not appear to be moving quickly enough. However, African government officials are hopeful that, by improving trade and economic conditions at the regional level and working outwards toward an efficient continental market, Africa may soon achieve its ultimate goal and find itself in a competitive position in the world market.

Rob Lee

Photo: Flickr