Topics covering about USAID

Sanitation in Venezuela
Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with its main exporter being oil. However, the country has suffered a water and sanitation crisis, as only 18% of the population had access to clean drinking water in 2018. Around 30% of the population that has unimproved sanitation live in rural areas, while 2.5% are in urban areas. While climate change has significantly impacted Latin America’s resources, Venezuela’s water/sanitation status has affected the lives of Venezuelan citizens. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Venezuela

  1. Blackouts and the lack of electricity pose a threat to Venezuela’s access to water. The electricity generates throughout the country’s water plants and sewage pipes. These outdated infrastructures have dealt with terrible maintenance. As a result, when these blackouts happen, the electricity and water from pipes or faucets stop, disrupting the flow of the water. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has promised to put back-up water tanks on rooftops to relieve the problem.
  2. Venezuela’s water supply is sparse throughout the country. Around 80% of the population lives in the northern region of the country; however, not even 10% of water resources are available in that region. The inconsistency of the access to water provides frustration for many citizens, as they have to travel to other areas outside of their homes to find a decent supply of water. Urban areas are near the northern region, while rural areas are near the southern region. In the country’s first-year rehabilitation plan, it stresses that efforts will focus on the northern region, to identify who needs urgent assistance.
  3. UNICEF provided access to drinking water for over 2.8 million people in 2019. The organization has worked on supplying safe drinking water through sources like water trucking and system repairs. Using these methods will be beneficial in fixing the main spots for water distribution like schools and hospitals, and cleaning main water sources to improve safe use. In 2019, UNICEF provided water and hygiene services to at least 18,300 people in the health centers and learning spaces.
  4. Multiple laws are in place for better water access. Laws like the Organic Law on the Environment protect river basins, preserving their natural soils and guarding the availability of water to sustain the water cycle. While these laws establish some framework into the conservation of water and sanitation, they have not been fully effective because they do not address the lack of maintenance in infrastructures that affects the distribution of water.
  5. The Venezuelan government is finding new means to upgrade water treatment facilities. Over the years, Venezuela’s infrastructure to transport and contain water has been aging and lacking any type of improvement. In 2013, the government asked for Electrotécnica SAQUI’s help to rebuild and restructure the water plants, removing harmful material that seeps into the water. Adding fiberglass blades to the water plants to remove large amounts of sludge helps keep the plants cleaner, which improves the water quality.
  6. The Guaire River in Caracas is Venezuela’s biggest water source. Many citizens make long travels to the Guaire River, as it is the main body of water they have access to. However, wastewater has contaminated the river. The Guaire River is near the city of Caracus, which has three water plants: La Mariposa, Caujarito and La Guaira. The plants sanitize the water, removing sludge so that it does not settle in the tanks.
  7. The average cost for a bottle of water matches the country’s minimum wage. In a Caracus supermarket, 5 liters of water is $2. Unfortunately, that makes up almost half of Venezuela’s minimum wage or approximately $6 a month.
  8. The lack of access to water and sanitation has impacted education. Because of the lack of decent water service for drinking and sanitation, multiple educational institutions have had to shut down. Around 28% of students could not attend school because of the shortage of water. Venezuela’s emergency plan’s response in its first 6 months involved an effort to provide clean water and sanitation, especially in schools, to eliminate the rate of diseases like malaria.
  9. The water supply has had a significant impact on food security. Production of Venezuela’s main crops — like rice and coffee — has fallen to 60% within the last 20 years. This dramatic decrease has caused a surge in weight loss and malnourishment for many citizens and children. To better help Venezuela’s agriculture production, USAID is using its funding to provide hot meals to food kitchens and schools and increase access to livestock and tools.
  10. Venezuela needs approximately $400 million to initiate a first-year rehabilitation plan. Damage to the water supply has been detrimental to the point that this amount of funding is necessary for effective rehabilitation and restoration of water and sanitation resources. USAID has provided more than $56 million of humanitarian aid to Venezuela for assistance in sanitation, hygiene, medicine and health care.

Venezuela still has a long way to go in improving its water and sanitation services. Still, looking at these 10 facts about sanitation in Venezuela, the country is steadily working on the necessary progress it needs to increase clean water accessibility. By reevaluating infrastructure and establishing several laws surrounding water and sanitation access, sanitation in Venezuala should continue to improve.

– Loreal Nix
Photo: Flickr

Uganda has been noted as an African country that is on the rise out of poverty. This is partly due to foreign assistance coming from countries like the United States. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has carried out work in Uganda excelling improvements in economy, health care, education, and the state of democracy.

Economic Growth

USAID has been engaged in Uganda’s efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. Among many other goals, Uganda and USAID are working with public and private sectors to promote investment, agriculture production, food security and efficient energy usage. US based programs like Development Credit Authority, Feed the Future Youth Leadership for Agriculture and Global Development Alliances, have assisted in Uganda’s success of lowering the poverty rate. By connecting Ugandans with businesses to market their products, USAID is helping to improve household incomes as well as stabilize the country’s gross domestic product. Investments in the future are also being made by training youths for the job market and connecting farmers, refugees, and workers with agricultural resources and trade opportunities.

State of Democracy

USAID works with the Ugandan government to bring up issues regarding transparency, human rights, and justice for citizens. USAID’s democracy program in Uganda particularly focuses on women and youths as a voice to be heard. The USAID’s overall objective of promoting civil society encompasses the opportunity for citizens to part-take in the governing process while leaders are working for the people. Improving the democracy of Uganda will help build a strong and independent country, which in turn will partake in flourishing the entire region.

Education and Training

With a high number of vulnerable children, USAID is working with the Ugandan government to implement plans providing education for young children, while focusing on teaching languages and educating on health, HIV/AIDS and violence. USAID is also striving to develop the future workforce with the Better Outcomes for Children and Youth activities, which helps youths cultivate the skills needed for success, both in work and in life. There is also new training available for teachers, with improved computer technology.

Health and HIV

USAID’s effort in addressing health care issues in Uganda includes eliminating HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), reducing tuberculosis infection rates, and eradicating malaria under the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Other health care programs include child and maternal health, family health, and disease prevention, as well as educating young women on sexual violence and HIV/AID protection. Since many diseases are spread through poor sanitation, USAID’s work in Uganda also focuses on improving water sanitation and hygiene practices.

Humanitarian Transitions

Through USAID, the U.S. is helping Uganda with emergency food supplies, health care assistance, and conflict resolution in democracy to improve the country’s status and enhance people’s quality of life. The continuing basis of humanitarian aid effort has made the U.S. the “largest single honor of humanitarian assistance in Uganda,” according to Anne Ackermann, a photojournalist with USAID.

USAID’s continuing work in Uganda, along with the positive outcomes seen by the country so far, underscores the effectiveness of overseas involvement and the power of foreign aid in general. Foreign aid will always have an important role in country development and growth.

– Hung Le

Photo: Flickr

DRC'S Energy Sector
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a population of 85 million. Of this number, only 9 percent have access to electricity. Decades of corruption and war are two reasons for poor electricity access and economic development in the Central African country. More than 95 percent of the total electricity comes from 2,542 MW (megawatts) of hydroelectric power. However, a potential capacity of up to 100,000 MW of hydroelectric power is in reach thanks to the Congo River. Investors were once disinterested in updating the Inga Dams located on the river. However, some are finally attempting to make use of the DRC’s massive hydroelectric potential. British firm Bboxx and Power Africa, an initiative that USAID launched, are working to expand the DRC’s energy sector to reach millions of Congolese.

The Massive Hydroelectric Power Potential of the Congo River

The rapids and many waterfalls provide the potential for expanding the Congo River’s hydroelectric power. About two million cubic feet of water flows from the river into the Atlantic Ocean every second during rainy seasons. This makes the river’s hydroelectric power a viable option to expand the lagging energy sector. Construction on the Inga I and Inga II dams on the Congo River finished in 1972 and 1982, respectively.

Construction on Inga III, however, has halted. Inga III’s establishment could help power 40 percent of Africa. Its hydroelectric power would equate to at least 40,000 MW, with some estimating more than 100,000 MW. The Grand Inga is the name of this $14 billion project. It has had a long history of delays due to foreign investors dropping out of the project for various reasons such as a lack of transparency from former DRC President Laurent-Désiré Kabila. If the development of the Grand Inga completed, the DRC could export power as well. The country could then become a major energy exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Completed Projects in the DRC

Zongo 2 is a hydroelectric plant on the Insiki River that feeds into the Congo River. Chinese company Sinohydro completed the dam in 2018 with the help of assistance through the Howard G. Buffet Foundation. It has a capacity of generating 150 MW and will generate $47 million of income annually. Currently, the DRC’s energy sector uses only about 2,500 MW of hydropower. However, projects such as Zongo 2 have proved that hydropower could benefit the country and surrounding countries in need of power. Zongo 2 might seem to be a small-scale project compared to the Inga III project. However, 150 MW could power more than 100,000 households.

Power Africa is an initiative to provide more than 30,000 MW of clean energy to 60 million homes and businesses. As part of its goal, Power Africa teamed with power company Virunga Sarl to expand hydropower facilities in the DRC. The Virunga region has eight potential hydropower sites. Two of these, the 13.8 MW Matebe and the .38 MW Mtwanga, are operational and located in North Kivu. The Mtwanga plant supports more than 400 jobs in the region. As of 2017, more than 4,000 customers were under Virunga Sarl’s grid. This included small- and medium-sized businesses, homes and social infrastructure. Virunga Sarl is also expanding to the Nyirigonga district of Goma, which has about 20,000 households without power.

The Potential of Congo’s Power Sector

In January 2020, British firm Bboxx signed a memorandum of understanding to bring clean energy to more than 10 million Congolese by 2024. Bboxx has already provided power to more than 200,000 households in the country. Power has transformed lives, granting access to services that were previously unreachable, such as health care and schooling. President Félix Tshisekedi said that his goal is to use “decentralized and renewable energy solutions as a foundation to improve the country’s electrification rate from 9 percent to 30 percent during my presidency.” For perspective, the length of the presidency in the DRC is five years, and Tshisekedi first took office in January 2019. The DRC’s energy sector is growing slowly, but the president’s massive goal could increase growth in the near future.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

USAID’s Humanitarian Work For Haiti
Haiti has been through many economic and political turmoils. Haiti has also faced many natural disasters including hurricanes and earthquakes. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been at the forefront of providing aid to help the country continue its development. Here is some information about USAID’s humanitarian work in Haiti.

Economic Development

Haiti has been experiencing many economic challenges, including big and small businesses not getting the tools that they need to flourish, such as training and development guidance. Meanwhile, around 40 percent of Haitians do not have employment. Additionally, farmers are not producing at their fullest potential or selling their products well. Haitians are often living on less than $1.25 a day with the majority of the population relying on family farming for work. However, the growing population, droughts, flooding and lack of access to education and training have affected agriculture.

USAID’s humanitarian work in Haiti has been focusing on helping farmers. USAID’s aim has been to create better incomes by granting increased access to education and training, new and improved technology and an open segway to trade and a fair marketplace. Moreover, USAID has made three key contributions. The first contribution had to do with fostering and maintaining food security. USAID directly trained farmers on new and improved farming practices and techniques. In addition, it also trained the farmers on energy and resource conservations. The second contribution involved connecting the farmers with businesses inside and outside of Haiti to sell their products. The last contribution comprised of creating and maintaining partnerships with corporations, local businesses, government and nonprofit organizations.

The Environment

Haiti is experiencing many environmental issues including deforestation, overfishing, insufficient weather information and lack of support from the government on the issues. USAID is helping by working with communities to set up the working agenda and follow through with set working priorities. It is also providing support during a time of change. In addition, USAID is promoting novel techniques for farming and reforestation. Through its work, USAID reached an agreement to plant more trees to regenerate forests. The agreement also covered boosting cocoa production that resulted in $5.2 million in revenue.

Furthermore, USAID’s work on marine life encompasses the Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Program with a pact of Three Bays National Marine Protected Area and the National Conservation Trust Fund. The Program created an agreement with local fishermen to conserve the environment with provided training. At the same time, USAID hired staff to look over the protected areas.

Finally, USAID has implemented the Climate Smart Solutions program. USAID sets up weather stations for researchers, agriculturalists and environmentalists. This way USAID can monitor the weather and collect accurate data. Additionally, the collected data can help farmers monitor rainfalls and climate change. As a result, the farmers can customize their farming according to their current temperatures.

Health

Haiti’s health system faces many challenges, including that it has a weak health care delivery system in that more than 40 percent of the Haitian population has no access to health care. There is also a lack of qualified health care professionals. As a result, USAID has been working to secure a functional health care delivery system by implementing the U.S. President’s Emergency Program for AIDs Relief (PEPFAR) to address HIV treatment and prevention, maternal and child health and nutrition and reproductive health outside of PEPFAR.

Part of USAID’s care plan involved setting up 164 primary care centers around Haiti to carry out all the necessary care services. USAID’s WASH program collaborates with the Haitian Water and Sanitation Department. The two organizations provide clean water and sanitation to prevent transmitted diseases such as cholera. Hundreds of thousands of children and women are receiving the necessary nutrition that they need. Over 200,000 HIV patients are obtaining testing, prevention and counseling services. Moreover, USAID has allowed the staffing of over 1,400 workers at the 164 health care facilities. As a result, the number of maternal and child deaths have reduced.

Education

Haiti has low school enrollment, poor literacy rates, a lack of government support and limited qualified teachers in the education system. USAID has been involved in upgrading the Haitian education system. USAID invests in reading and teaching programs and helping students with visual impairments to learn. The early-grade reading and writing program trains young children to read and write in Haitian and French. Furthermore, the teaching program trains teachers with new and innovative materials and techniques. USAID has successfully provided thousands of teachers and children with training on children’s reading development. It has supplied teaching and learning materials, including books and other published materials. In addition, USAID enhanced services at the Ministry of Education. USAID also helped schools bounce back from Hurricane Matthew by purchasing furniture for schools and paying for cleaning services.

Other USAID Humanitarian Work

With the political unrest in Haiti, USAID committed to eradicating hunger in the country. USAID has provided the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) with $1 million. The funding will go towards transporting emergency supplies to war-torn regions, maintaining WFP’s operations, information management and supply storage. USAID is working with WFP to give out a total of 4.4 metric tons of food to the people of Haiti. Thus far, USAID has funded a total of $20 million for food emergencies and activities to upgrade the quality of life. For example, USAID funded activities that promote healthy eating and general assistance of water, sanitation, personal hygiene and shelter.

USAID’s humanitarian work in Haiti is particularly notable since the country has suffered heavily from natural disasters and their socio-economic impact. Additionally, USAID has been trying to address the root cause of issues such as health care reforms and food security. It is encouraging to see that the U.S. has been continually helping to improve lives around the world through the work and accomplishments of USAID.

Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Vietnam
Vietnam’s economy has grown remarkably over the last two decades. However, this growth would not have been possible without foreign aid to Vietnam. USAID’s work in supporting Vietnam’s economic growth and development is an excellent example of foreign aid at work. Here are five exceptional foreign aid projects in Vietnam that foster hope for positive results around the world.

5 Foreign Aid Projects in Vietnam

  1. Economy Foreign Aid Projects: USAID collaborates with Vietnam’s legal and regulatory affairs to expand foreign investment and economic growth. It works with the nation’s government and private sectors to move Vietnam into an internationally regulated and globalized market economy. For instance, USAID works to promote transparency in the governance of trade. The USAID Trade Facilitation Program intends to facilitate trade and communication between national and local customs officials. Lastly, USAID Linkages for Small and Medium Enterprises (LinkSME) facilitates relationships and streamline trading processes between buyers (SMEs) and suppliers. LinkSME ensures the presence of key policies and regulations in place to carry out business transactions and trade.
  2. Education Foreign Aid Projects: Through USAID, the Building University-Industry Learning and Development through Innovation and Technology (BUILD-IT) Alliance and the Improving Access, Curriculum and Teaching In Medical Education and Emerging Diseases (IMPACT-MED) Alliance gather up efforts and resources from Vietnam and partner governments as well as leaders and educators in the field to enhance education on medicine, technology and engineering. The ongoing reform efforts aim for better instructional and educational experiences with modern technology and maintaining accreditation standards. Additionally, they strive for more intense faculty training, contemporary curriculum designs and positive relationships with academic partners. The outcomes from such reform efforts produce graduates with the preparation to join the workforce and maintain the high standards of the fields.
  3. Environment Foreign Aid Projects: There are many foreign aid programs and activities that USAID coordinated that help address climate change in Vietnam such as the Vietnam Low Emission Energy Program (V-LEEP), the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program (VFD), the USAID Green Annamites Project and the Climate Resilient and Sustainable Urban Development Program. V-LEEP works to promote and sustain efficiency in renewable energy generation and usage as well as monetary investment into the work. The VFD helps to minimize deforestation in a joint effort with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The USAID Green Annamites Project supports land use in an eco-friendly fashion, conserves biodiversity and helps struggling communities bounce back from hardships in the Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue provinces. The Climate Resilient and Sustainable Urban Development Program work with the Asian Development Bank to support Vietnam’s urban development by participating in policy making and setting operation guidelines.
  4. Global Health Foreign Aid Projects: Public health concerns such as HIV, tuberculosis and influenza can have negative impacts on Vietnam’s economy. Through USAID, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) organizes events and treatment for patients. USAID also funds the Vietnamese government and provides technical support to health organizations across the country to address avian and other influenzas, as well as overlooked tropical diseases and pandemics. Vietnam has made accomplishments with a nationwide methadone distribution program that reached 50,000 patients, resulting in a reduction of avian-influenza cases from 2000 to less than 50 cases in just six years (2005-2011) while containing the potential pandemic.
  5. Disabled People Foreign Aid Projects: USAID has supported more than 30,000 persons with disabilities for more than 30 years with more than $125 million in U.S. government aid. USAID works to establish disability laws and regulations at the national level as well as the local level. The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is one example of USAID’s contributing efforts. USAID also supports eight disability projects that focus on rehabilitation and disability awareness as well as policies and regulations. Lastly, USAID also supports local disability awareness organizations.

USAID development projects foster hope around the globe. Like in Vietnam, these projects convey the message that foreign aids are constantly working toward positive change for many.

– Hung M Le
Photo: USAID

Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis
Venezuela has been marred by a humanitarian crisis for several years, and the situation persists. As policy forum the Wilson Center explains, more than four million Venezuelans have left the country, most since 2015. This makes Venezuela the second most common country of origin for displaced people worldwide, behind only Syria.

In breaking down the crisis, the Wilson Center says Venezuela has “widespread poverty and chronic shortages of food, medicine, and other basic necessities,” and as The Borgen Project reported last year, cases of malnutrition and disease are rampant. These issues come as a consequence of economic mismanagement, official corruption and decreasing oil prices between 2013 and 2016.

An example of that purported corruption — and perhaps the most public element of Venezuela’s overall state — is that Venezuela’s current President Nicolás Maduro won a second term in the 2018 election, despite being largely blamed for helping further the once-wealthy nation’s free fall that began under Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez. Much of the world believes Maduro’s re-election was falsely won through corrupt tactics, and instead back key opposition entity the Lima Group’s leader Juan Guaido. The group seeks to install Guaido in Maduro’s place, but has as yet been unsuccessful.

Still, as dire as the situation remains for Venezuela, several efforts have been launched and entities mobilized to help the Venezuelan people. Here are seven organizations or initiatives aimed at assuaging the long-standing and growing Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

7 Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis Aid Efforts

  1. Future of Venezuela Initiative (FVI): Created by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, this initiative aims to “shed light on the unprecedented humanitarian, economic, and political crisis in Venezuela, and its impact in the Americas,” with an emphasis on the role of the United States and the international community in limiting Venezuelan suffering. FVI will leverage research to generate awareness and ideas on challenges facing Venezuelans and solutions to those challenges.
  2. BetterTogether Challenge: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank partnered to launch this initiative in October 2019. The initiative aims to crowdsource, fund and scale innovative solutions from Venezuelans and other innovators worldwide to support individuals displaced by the crisis in the country. It also calls on people to help elevate Venezuelan voices, develop solutions for the problems facing Venezuela and grow a network to host and support displaced Venezuelans.
  3. United States government: Since 2017, the United States has provided over $656 million in aid to the Venezuelan crisis, according to a report from the U.S. Department of State. Of that amount, nearly $473 million went toward humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans forced to flee the country.
  4. Giving Children Hope: The California-based faith-driven nonprofit Giving Children Hope, which provides wellness programs and disaster response services locally, domestically and abroad, established a program specifically to address the Venezuela crisis. With the help of various partnerships, it feeds more than 8,000 Venezuelans every week. Last year it launched a campaign with a goal of serving 1 million meals to Venezuelans in need.
  5. The European Commission: The European Commission (EC) has been sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela since 2016. The EC announced last year a new commitment of 50 million euros, bringing the total amount the European Union has contributed to alleviating the crisis since 2018 to 117.6 million euros.
  6. The United Nations: The U.N. has distributed funds and a variety of health, food and other supplies and services to Venezuela. In the first half of 2019 alone, the UN sent 55 tons of health supplies to the country, distributing them across 25 hospitals in five states. Contributions include nine million doses of the diphtheria vaccine, 176,000 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and 260 education kits for 150,000 children in public schools. The UN also provided 400,000 people with access to safe drinking water.
  7. Action Against Hunger: This France-founded, globally-operating organization set up boots-on-the-ground teams in Venezuela in 2018 to help aid those impacted by the humanitarian crisis. Its work has focused on providing nutritional and related support for schoolchildren across six Venezuelan states. The organization has helped 3,685 Venezuelans to date.

There is much that must be done to end the crisis that has resulted in many citizens fleeing the country. However, the situation has not gone completely ignored. Entities big and small, public and private across the globe are working to make a difference.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

Yemen is located in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula between Oman and Saudi Arabia. Getting access to education has been one of the major challenges children in Yemen face in recent years, especially girls. Here are eight facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

8 facts about girls’ education in Yemen

  1. In Yemen, about 32 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 with 9 percent being married before turning 15. Due to poverty, girls in Yemen are being married off as a source of income. Marriage will reduce the cost of looking after girls and is believed to offer girls the safety a husband can provide. However, Girls Not Brides is an organization dedicated to ending child marriage. This organization aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of child marriages through open discussions with communities. It mobilizes policy to bring child marriages to an end and works to empower girls and offer them a support network.
  2. According to UNICEF, there is a significant gender gap in education in Yemen’s youth with males enrolled in primary school at 79 percent and females at 66 percent. However, UNICEF is working with the government of Yemen on decreasing this gap and improving the quality of education. The goal is to increase the number of girls enrolled in school. It is also working with other organizations to improve conditions for teachers in Yemen, which will increase access to education overall.
  3. The goal of the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project is to improve gender equity and quality of secondary education with a specific focus on girls in rural areas. This project works on improving and furnishing school facilities, providing learning equipment and resources and offering schools community grants. The project also aims to improve teaching and learning practices in classrooms and increasing girls’ participation. The project helped increase enrollment from 0.43 to 0.63 and increased the retention rate of 10 to 12-year-old girls to 85 percent from 78 percent.
  4. In Yemen, public schools are co-ed until grade four though girls and boys are usually seated apart from each other. Due to cultural and traditional beliefs, co-ed classrooms are not acceptable. Some families decide not to enroll their daughters in school because of the lack of separate classrooms.
  5. In Yemen, about 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. In rural areas, school accessibility is a challenge. Some students must walk for more than an hour to get to the nearest school. The distance becomes longer in higher grade levels because some schools do not offer both primary and secondary education. For girls, schools must be at a culturally acceptable distance and location in order to attend classes.
  6. Due to violence and closed schools that began in 2015, more than 350,000 children couldn’t go to school that first year. A total of about 2.2 million children have been left out of school. However, in 2016, UNICEF was able to provide about 575,000 children with educational resources and psychological encouragement.
  7. Save the Children is an organization that protects children’s rights. It has programs such as education, protection, health and more. Save the Children was the first worldwide aid group in Yemen. This organization has set up temporary learning spaces for children, trained teachers and provided equipment. It runs learning programs for children who did not attend school to help them catch up. In addition, the organization runs educational programs for displaced children in camps.
  8. USAID is working with the government of Yemen to improve school attendance by make schools cleaner and safer. USAID is working to rebuild schools, improve curriculum and provide “safe and equitable access to education” through Yemen’s Transition Education Plan. USAID is dedicating $36 million to education in Yemen.

Education for girls still remains an unsettled issue today. However, through the efforts and determination of the government of Yemen and organizations such as USAID and Save the children, there is hope that all girls may get an education in the near future.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

End Neglected Tropical Diseases ActApproximately one billion people are affected every year by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in an estimated 149 countries. In tropical and subtropical areas, NTDs abound in a variety of 17 communicable diseases, including Chagas disease, dengue fever, leprosy, river blindness, rabies, worms (round, whip and hook) and trachoma to name a few. This is why the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act was created.

Rep. Christopher Smith introduced the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 28, 2019. The proposed bill addresses international development regarding NTDs as well as provides funding for those who strive to help end NTDs. The bill also states that it will expand the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Diseases program and the Global Fund. Here are five facts that explain the primary objectives of the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act.

Five Facts About the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

  1. The bill proposes that USAID help individuals suffering from or at risk for contracting NTDs by providing drug treatment packages. Rep. Smith also urges beginning similar programs that target large at-risk communities, particularly children five and up. These programs will have a high impact with relatively low costs.
  2. These programs will also attempt to coordinate with USAID and its development sectors. Specifically, the program aims to organize with USAID regarding aspects such as “education (including primary and pre-primary education), food and nutrition security, maternal and child health and water, sanitation and hygiene.”
  3. The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act addresses the need for the Global Fund to start recognizing and working with NTDs. The Global Fund is a public-private entity that focuses on assisting people with AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The bill urges the Global Fund to focus on female genital schistosomiasis in addition to providing treatment for HIV/AIDS.
  4. Rep. Smith’s proposed bill also addresses the need for a center of excellence. This section of the bill addresses the provisions for obtaining a cooperative agreement or a grant. The grant can be given to either a public or private nonprofit organization. It will fund the basics costs needed to create the centers in order to “conduct research into, training in and development of diagnosis, prevention, control and treatment methods for neglected tropical diseases.” These funds can be used for basic operating costs such as staffing and administrative duties as well as patient care costs. The grant funds may also be used for the training and continued education of health professionals as well as for establishing programs to educate the public on NTDs.
  5. The bill would create a panel for worm infections. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would use this panel to research worm infections and deworming solutions and medicines. It will also develop five strategies for preventing recurrent infections, providing sanitation solutions, developing safer, better medicines and improving the cost-efficiency of the existing programs regarding worm infections.

The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act aims to produce programs that will help eliminate tropical diseases that are rampant in developing countries. If it passes, it could bring much-needed hope for approximately one billion people in developing countries around the world.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Policy in Botswana
The Republic of Botswana, a Southern African nation of nearly three million people, is an incredibly stable country with one of the strongest democratic traditions on the continent. Multi-party elections every five years compound a booming economy that has grown by 5 percent annually, according to the World Bank. Today, it is an upper-middle-income nation. Despite these successes, Botswana faces a litany of challenges. Poverty remains high at 16 percent and an 18 percent unemployment rate harms growth. The 2018 USAID “Have It All” documentary states that HIV/AIDS is still a public health crisis that affects one in five people and infects 14,000 new individuals each year. U.S. foreign policy in Botswana focuses on safeguarding stability by tackling these challenges.

History of Cooperation

Botswana gained independence from the U.K. in 1966, but America did not become involved in the country until the 1980s. With the help of USAID, U.S.-Botswana relations developed into an amicable, bilateral partnership. A Department of Defense report indicates military cooperation characterized this partnership in the 1990s. The Botswana Defense Force worked with American forces in Operation Restore Hope, which sought to provide famine relief to starving people in Somalia in 1993.

In 2004, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) started operating in the country. Botswana also signed a Trade, Investment and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) with the U.S. in 2008 to encourage free trade between the countries. Current U.S. foreign policy in Botswana intends to bolster past programs with these focuses:

1. Increase economic development with USAID’s Southern Africa Mission.
2. Sustain law enforcement cooperation with training at the ILEA.
3. Continue fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic with PEPFAR.

The Southern Africa Mission

The Southern Africa Mission is a regional program USAID runs that involves the Development Credit Authority (DCA) and the Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (SATIH). It works to solve issues with investment, business growth, agricultural development and trade in Southern Africa. Botswana is one of the six countries it actively works in.

Its mission is a vital part of U.S. foreign policy in Botswana. According to a USAID official, Botswana desperately requires business development in order to recover from years of dependency on government services. Banks’ unwillingness to grant credit to fledgling businesses poses problems for sustainable growth. The DCA remedies this problem by providing U.S. Treasury-backed loans to local businesses. With a financially grounded business, banks become less risk-averse and allow credit access.

The SATIH promotes necessary business growth as well. As of 2019, it has assisted 650 African firms with overcoming trade barriers and has brought about $129 million in investment. USAID told The Borgen Project that SATIH expands prospects for Botswana’s firms, particularly agricultural firms, by occasionally bringing them to trade shows in New York. These films and accompanying improvements in beef quality have helped grow Botswana’s U.S. market by 10 percent. More economic growth will speed Botswana’s progress against poverty.

The ILEA

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) started in the capital of Gaborone in 2000 and trains officials to combat transnational crime. In correspondence with The Borgen Project, a State Department spokesperson stated that over 9,000 African officials had trained there under instructors from more than 20 American federal agencies. Botswana obtains special relationships with these instructors by hosting the ILEA.

The aforementioned relationships provide a wealth of information to Botswana’s law enforcement officials. A 2019 training schedule showed various courses on human trafficking, crisis leadership, anti-terrorism and anti-corruption offered throughout the year. The ILEA’s anti-corruption training has a definite effect on the country’s well-being. Transparency International ranked Botswana as 34 out of 180 nations on its 2018 Corruption Perception Index, making it the least corrupt nation in Africa.

PEPFAR

PEPFAR provides funding to a variety of federal organizations that respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Programs work to increase testing for HIV, treat infected individuals immediately and reduce the stigma of infection. The U.S. has allocated $67.88 million for these purposes in FY 2020 according to the State Department.

With PEPFAR’s help, HIV testing reached 708,102 individuals in FY 2017 alone. A government report stated that it also covered 60 percent of the HIV testing kits used between April 2017 and 2018. This financial support can save lives since Botswana treats HIV-positive patients with antiretroviral medications (ARVs) immediately under the Treat All Program. USAID officials told The Borgen Project that these programs emphasize community engagement and encourage Botswana’s citizens receive testing and ARVs.

ARVs are powerful, suppressing the viral load to such an extent that they stop transmission. Maria and Edwin, an HIV-positive couple in USAID’s “Have It All” film, received immediate treatment and stopped the virus from passing to their three children. USAID even stated that ARVs stop transmission between sexual partners. Now, U.S. foreign policy in Botswana is shifting to normalizing AIDS treatment. “The [‘Have It All’] documentary,” one official said, “has been shown to social workers and adolescents . . . and now we are really moving into stigma reduction.”

U.S. foreign policy in Botswana continues building on the progress the nation has made since 1966. Despite the immense challenges, bilateral cooperation can assist in defeating economic stagnation, corruption and AIDS. There is more work to do, but American aid ensures Botswana’s renowned stability will continue into the future.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr