Topics covering about USAID

USAID in Venezuela, Strengthening Local EconomiesUSAID in Venezuela aims to be a catalyst for the international response to aid impoverished communities in Venezuela. It provides more than $200 million to diminish the humanitarian crisis triggered by Nicolás Maduro’s regime. Eradicating poverty is not only a national but an international affair. The decline of democracy in Venezuela can also be seen as a consequence of the increase in national poverty. As such, USAID in Venezuela is also a matter of national security and economic stability.

United States’ Response to the Crisis

According to the Department of State, the United States is the largest donor responding to the Venezuelan crisis, with over $856 million in total assistance. However, helping does not only mean providing aid for Venezuelans living in their country. The United States also offers support for those who fled to nearby countries. The aid covers 16 Latin American nations, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

What USAID Covers in Venezuela

  1. Food: Hot meals and water.
  2. Sanitation: The organization provides hygiene and health for the affected population.
  3. Temporary shelter
  4. Educational services
  5. Protection for vulnerable children

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID began to prioritize life-saving humanitarian assistance in Venezuela. This includes basic healthcare, providing access to medicine and supplies, training healthcare workers and combating other infectious diseases like Malaria.

USAID in Venezuela, Strengthening National Security and Economy

In Maduro’s regime, U.S. efforts to sustain the Venezuelan people externalize a political decision to disapprove Maduro’s resolutions as a leader.

“We do this because our National Security Strategy prioritizes the reduction of human suffering and doing our part to respond to crisis situations make Americans safer at home,” argues the U.S. Department of State. Moreover, foreign aid triggers a better political understanding between nations.

On the other hand, a lack of governance and extreme poverty create economic conflict between countries. In January 2021, Maduro announced that the country had received 98.6% less income than 2013, the year that he took office. As unemployment and hunger grew, other nations imposed sanctions on Maduro’s government. The latter has had a domino effect on Americans as the Venezuelan government was unable to pay their debts to Americans who invested in foreign debt.

Foreign aid is not merely an external investment but a strategic and mutually beneficial deal. Nations all over the world depend on each other to safeguard their people’s basic needs. When a nation suffers, the global community is affected. By strengthening local economies, USAID in Venezuela steadily continues to alleviate poverty and protect vulnerable groups.

– Paola Arriaza Avilés
Photo: Flickr

Suaahara II ProjectIn Nepal, 36% of children who are under the age of five remain underdeveloped in terms of growth and health despite progress in recent years. Through cooperation with USAID, the Nepalese Government and local private sector groups, Hellen Keller International (HKI) has provided impactful services that have helped rectify the systematic obstacles causing these health issues. Hellen Keller International is a non-profit organization that aims to reduce malnutrition. The Suaahara II project takes a pivotal role in these efforts.

What is the Suaahara II Project?

One of HKI’s most notable services is the Suaahara II project, which started in 2016 and was initially set to end in 2021. However, it will now extend to March 2023 due to COVID-19. Operating in 42 of Nepal’s districts with a $63 million budget, HKI partnered with these six organizations for the project:

  • Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE)
  • Family Health International 360 (FHI 360)
  • Environmental and Public Health Organization (ENPHO)
  • Equal Access Nepal (EAN)
  • Nepali Technical Assistance Group (NTAG)
  • Vijaya Development Resource Center (VDRC)

Hellen Keller International’s primary role in the Suaahara II project deals with the technical assistance of child and maternal nutrition. This means that its tasks are oriented around building the skills and knowledge of health workers. This includes teaching health workers how to adequately measure and evaluate assessments; additionally, another technical facet relies on promoting governance that invests in nutrition.

A Multi-Sectoral Approach

Kenda Cunningham, a senior technical adviser for Suaahara II who works under HKI, told The Borgen Project that the Suaahara II consortium has taken a “multi-sectoral approach.” She believes in the importance of this as it pushes individuals to “learn and think beyond their sector.” The Suaahara II Project’s demonstrates its integrated strategy in the initiatives below:

  1. The WASH program focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene through WASHmarts, which are small shops dispersed across districts that sell sanitary products like soap and reusable sanitary pads. Kenda explained how this has helped “bridge a gap” so that poorer households can access hygiene enhancing products. This also allows assistance from private actors, who can expand their markets in rural areas.
  2. The Homestead Food Production program (HFP) encourages households to grow and produce micronutrient-rich foods through vegetable gardening and raising chickens, for example. As a result, 35 districts have institutionalized HFP groups.
  3. The Bhancchin Aama Radio Program is a phone-in radio program that runs twice every week. It hosts discussions among marginalized communities and demonstrations for cooking nutritious foods. It has encouraged the Nepalese to socially and behaviorally alter their health habits.

Advancements from Suaahara I

The Suaahara II project’s contribution to improved health and nutrition in Nepal is also illustrated in its progression from the Suaahara I project’s framework. In addition to understanding the changes made in household systems and at a policy level from Suaahara I, Cunningham told The Borgen Project that technological developments have elevated the Suaahara II Project’s impact in Nepal.

Specifically, smartphones expedite the data collection process when studying trends pertaining to the 2 million households across the districts. The development of new apps provided more households with access to smartphones and key information. This therefore allowed officers to transition from pursuing “a mother-child focus to a family focus” in terms of the Suaahara II project’s accommodations and services.

Challenges with Suaahara II

While the Suaahara II Project has led to institutional and social enhancements regarding health and nutrition, some districts had access to the project earlier. This created a dissonance in the rate of health improvements amongst the districts. Cunningham reported that “far western areas are much more remote and therefore disadvantaged and food insecure.”

This inconsistency was largely due to the “Federalism” that took place in Nepal in 2017, which was a decentralization process that created 42 municipalities for 42 districts. Since every municipality has a different political leader, some districts had the advantage of assistance from foreign NGOs while others did not because their leaders rejected involving foreign NGOs. In these cases, as Cunningham explained, it is like “you are creating your own NGOs from the ground up.”

Suaahara II Achievements

These obstacles, however, have not been pertinent enough to counter the consortium’s efforts in fulfilling the Suaahara II project’s objectives. For example, a primary objective for Suaahra II is to increase breastfeeding amongst babies under six months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding of children under six has increased from 62.9% in 2017 to 68.9% in 2019, according to data that Cunningham shared with The Borgen Project.

Expanding children’s access to diverse and nutritious foods is another objective that has been achieved under the Suaahara II project. The dietary diversity among women of reproductive age (WRA) has increased from 35.6% in 2017 to 45.3% in 2019, according to Cunningham. Given the efficient rate of improvement in women and children’s health, governance and equity in only the first two years of the Suaahara II project, it can be inferred that the consortium will continue to progress in achieving its targets among the Nepalese in the three years that remain.

Regarding how HKI has responded to challenges with the Suaahara II project, Cunningham said  “[We] don’t use a one size fits all approach.” The advancements in Nepal’s health and nutrition systems can be largely attributed to HKI’s multifaceted and integrated strategy, a model that could yield prosperity in the rest of the developing world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Biden's USAID Chief
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the U.S.’s federal agency for fighting international poverty. Now, many are interested in learning about Biden’s USAID chief candidates. USAID offers development assistance to countries to promote self-reliance. In 2019, the agency spent over $20 billion across 134 countries in 28 different service sectors including agriculture, basic healthcare and emergency response.

The actions of USAID are central to the U.S.’s actions on international poverty as a whole. President-Elect Joe Biden’s presidency is looming. Who he appoints as the head of USAID will be influential in shaping the agency’s actions for years to come. This role is particularly important as the world continues reeling from COVID-19. No formal nominee has been announced yet, but over the past few weeks, some have provided several names of who is on a shortlist to become Biden’s USAID Chief. These names include Ertharin Cousin, Liz Schrayer, Frederick Barton and Jeremy Konyndyk.

List of USAID Chief Candidates

  1. Ertharin Cousin: Ertharin Cousin served as executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) from 2012 to 2017. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Before this, in 2009, former President Barack Obama appointed her as ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. In this role, she represented the U.S. in international talks regarding humanitarian issues. She also has experience with domestic humanitarian issues, having served as CEO of Feeding America, an organization of 200 food banks across the U.S. As of now, she tops the shortlist and many presume her to be a favorite to become Biden’s USAID chief.
  2. Liz Schrayer: Currently, Liz Schrayer is president and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Commission, a coalition of hundreds of NGOs and businesses advocating for U.S. action and leadership through international development. She is also an advisor on multiple committees including USAID’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s Development Advisory Council. This prospective candidate for Biden’s USAID Chief has prior experience working with USAID and is another expert in the field of international development.
  3. Frederick Barton: Frederick Barton is the recent author of a 2018 book, “Peace Works – America’s Unifying Role in a Turbulent World.” He has experience as the U.S. Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York from 2009 to 2011. He also served as an advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 2002 to 2009. He has a long history of work in the field, having been USAID’s founding director of its Office of Transition Initiatives in 1994, serving until 1999.
  4. Jeremy Konyndyk: Jeremy Konyndyk also has prior experience with USAID, having served as director of its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance from 2013 to 2017. In this role, he oversaw a team of 600 staff. He and his staff managed responses to disasters like the West African Ebola outbreak and the ongoing Syrian civil war. Konyndyk is currently on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee. He also served in the past as an advisor to the WHO Director-General.

Conclusion

Each of the above candidates is well qualified to become Biden’s USAID chief. Although no nominee has received an announcement yet, the future of the U.S.’s largest organization fighting international poverty seems to be in good hands.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

USAID is Aiding the Dominican Republic 
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dominican Republic has suffered a tremendous amount of loss. The impact of the virus has caused medical centers to max out, full to their capacity with very little resources for patients. The strain of providing enough medical care, hospital and ICU beds has put the healthcare system in the Dominican Republic in an exhausting position, needing much aid and support to get back on its feet. With this country running out of resources to help patients battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has stepped in with support, donating ventilators to medical centers. Here is some additional information about how USAID is aiding the Dominican Republic.

USAID and COVID-19

The Dominican Republic has had 131,131 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2,269 confirmed deaths. COVID-19 has hit the Dominican Republic hardest in the West Indies, as it has been struggling to stay afloat with the large amounts of COVID-19 cases. USAID is aiding the Dominican Republic by donating 50 ventilators and two hospital beds in response to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to give relief to disaster operations. With both of those donations in combination, USAID has supported the Dominican Republic with around $1.85 million in resources thus far. With this amount of resources going toward healthcare systems in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican Republic’s government is now able to extend medical resources and expand medical care within its healthcare facilities.

USAID’s History with the Dominican Republic

USAID is aiding the Dominican Republic government faithfully and has been supporting it for over 50 years, financially and assisting it with poverty reduction. It is continuously providing humanitarian assistance to many developing countries around the globe, creating partnerships with governments, multilateral organizations and private sectors, along with other organizations. USAID not only assists with the disasters of the COVID-19 pandemic but has also been aiding the Dominican Republic in providing basic needs to the community such as sanitation, access to clean water and shelter for the most vulnerable.

Within the last decade, USAID has helped the Dominican Republic, improving the quality of life for those living along the poverty lines. It has invested around $80 million within the last decade to provide clean water access, health services and proper sanitation, reaching the most vulnerable communities. With the COVID-19 outbreak, providing sanitation and access to clean water has been more essential than ever, a top priority for USAID. It has been working right alongside local communities and private sectors, establishing plans and solutions within the country.

Responses to Developing Countries During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The United States continues to support countries globally, funding several humanitarian services. USAID has helped in strengthening clinical care, building clinical capacity, improving disease surveillance and more.

Along with USAID providing services and aid to the Dominican Republic, the World Bank Group, an institution that provides loans and grants to governments of low-income countries in support, has rolled out around $14 billion to support systems to strengthen the response efforts to COVID-19 in developing countries. With these institutions continuing to provide rapid financing and support, the Dominican Republic can implement more effective and rapid response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

USAID has and continues to meet critical needs in the social protection arena, providing psychological support and water and sanitation assistance, along with food and security. The donation of the ventilators is only a small way that USAID is supporting developing countries in response to the fight against COVID-19.

– Kendra Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Global LEAD InitiativeAs a demographic, over one-sixth of the global population are between the ages of 15 and 24. Because of its sheer size, this group plays a critical role in forging the next steps for global development. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced the Global Leadership and Education Advancing Development (Global LEAD) Initiative in August of 2020 in order to support and empower the world’s youth. Youth help shape the future of their respective nations. As a result, USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative aims to increase youth participation in building resilient and self-supporting communities. The Initiative serves as an umbrella project, with several programs branching out.

Key Subgroups of Global LEAD

  • New Partnerships Initiative (NPI): A fundamental goal of USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative is to make connections between young people, the communities they serve and other related groups and organizations. The NPI is a separate initiative led by USAID that removes access barriers to various USAID resources and funding. NPI impacts USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative by allowing for diversification of available partnerships, helping youth connect with the organizations that serve them.
  • YouthPower2 (YP2): Part of the process for USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative is to proactively support young people, providing them with training and resources to give them the skills they need to foster healthier communities at the start. YP2 uses what is known as a “positive youth approach,” meaning that adolescents are empowered to participate and play active roles in societal endeavors. Under this model, YP2 works with groups and organizations that are run by youth, or that serve youth. Another program that emerged from YP2 is YouthLead, which puts a strong emphasis on building leadership abilities among youth. YouthLead connects youth with opportunities to engage in service and advocacy projects within their communities. The program also provides information on funding, grants and scholarships so that young people have the financial resources to make positive changes for their futures.
  • HELIX: Higher Education for Leadership, Innovation and Exchange, or HELIX, is another mechanism of USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative that supports its mission to encourage nations and communities to prepare themselves on the “Journey to Self-Reliance.” Under this program, the focus is on bettering the capacity of higher education institutions and systems to find innovative solutions to cultivating increased development within communities. Various partners of the HELIX program aim to provide opportunities for global youth to access higher education, such as through scholarships, internships, research and fellowships. USAID believes that having better access to higher education is fundamental for a nation’s development, where a nation can experience sustainable progress by nurturing the cognitive and creative capacities of its youth.

Leaders of Tomorrow

The youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow so it is vital that they are included in the process of bettering communities. USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative is taking steps to ensure that the world’s youth have access to the necessary resources to be able to innovate and lead further international development.

– Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

African AgribusinessesOn November 30, 2020, USAID announced a joint operation with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute $30 million to Aceli Africa to help bridge the financing gap experienced by many African agribusinesses. The grant is estimated to have a tremendous impact and will unlock $700 million in financing for up to 750 African agribusinesses in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Agri-SMEs Lack Financing

Much of Aceli Africa’s work focuses on a data-driven approach to incentivizing financial institutions to provide loans for small and medium-sized African agribusinesses or “agri-SMEs”, as Aceli Africa calls them.

According to Aceli Africa’s research, agri-SMEs represent a golden opportunity to solve hunger and poverty throughout Africa and help fulfill key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as gender equality and climate action.

This is because smallholder farmers consist of both men and women and provide direct access to food sources that are responsibly raised in accordance with the needs of the local environment. Furthermore, the expansion of the agricultural sector in Africa is two to three times more effective in eliminating poverty than growth in any other sector.

Despite the great potential of African smallholder farms, banks are largely unwilling to loan them much-needed financing to power additional growth. Banks do not have the risk appetite for small farms in Africa due to price volatility, the seasonality of farming, pest invasions and a weak regulatory environment.

The result of this is an investment shortfall of $65 billion per year for agri-SMEs in Africa. Initiatives focused on microfinancing do not provide enough financial injection for agri-SMEs, which are larger than the microenterprises that are the usual recipients of microloans. Agri-SMEs are thus left out of financing. However, the work of Aceli Africa aims to change these circumstances.

Aceli Africa Incentivizes Banks to Loan to Agri-SMEs

To bridge this gap in financing, Aceli Africa partners with numerous organizations such as USAID, the IKEA Foundation, Feed the Future and the International Growth Center to incentivize banks to loan and provide technical assistance to agri-SMEs.

This is where the aforementioned $30 million contribution has the potential to positively impact agriculture and African agribusinesses. One of the incentive programs that Aceli Africa employs is to cover the losses of the first loan that a financial institution gives to an African agri-SME.

This works by depositing 2-8% of the loan’s value in a reserve account that the lender can access when losses are experienced. This boosts risk appetite among lenders and makes banks and other institutions more willing to invest in agri-SMEs in Africa.

Aceli Africa also provides technical assistance for financial management for African agri-SMEs through online tools and other in-person approaches to help smallholder farmers optimize growth using the loans they receive. These approaches have the potential to put U.S. taxpayer dollars to effective use by addressing poverty and hunger abroad.

United States Outreach is Key in Combatting Poverty

USAID’s decision to partner with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute to the work of Aceli Africa symbolizes the value and power of international partnership in the fight against global poverty. When the United States decides to lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. Key international partnerships are essential for the United States to take the lead and garner international support to address key global issues.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Innovative Projects Empowering WomenIn our booming technological world, the gender digital divide continues to suppress women’s access to technology and the global economy. In low- and middle-income countries, women are 10% less likely to own a mobile device than men, and 23% less likely to use the internet. A 2019 report from the GSMA highlights four main reasons for the divide, including affordability, literacy and tech-literacy rates, safety and security, and relevance to daily life. The report also estimates that closing the digital divide in just mobile internet usage by 2023 could increase GDP growth by $700 billion in low- and middle-income countries over the next five years.

Through the U.S. government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), presidential advisor Ivanka Trump and USAID Administrator Mark Green launched the WomenConnect Challenge. With this funding, initiatives seek to shrink the barriers of digital illiteracy and “technophobia” fueled by a lack of complex resources, such as Internet access or formal education. That these barriers unequally limit women and girls leaves entire populations further and further behind in an increasingly digital world. In the first round of the challenge in 2018, USAID awarded more than $2 million to an initial nine projects working to close gender-based digital divides. The W-GDP initiative hopes to connect 50 million women in developing nations by 2025.

The First Projects that Received Funding

  1. Mali Health – Launched in 2019, the Mali Health application’s trial run proved useful in the lives of 65 women, most of whom live under the poverty line. The women were provided with a smartphone as well as training on the app’s features. The app allows users to search for medical information, advertise their small businesses and connect with larger markets using voice navigation in their native language. An upcoming feature will allow users to voice-record their medical questions and receive a recording back from a doctor. Surveys from the trial run indicate that innovative projects empowering women with knowledge and information boost women’s views on gender equality.
  2. GAPI and Bluetown – GAPI-SI and technology partner Bluetown established the Women in the Network program in Ribaue, Mozambique in late 2019. The project created content “clouds” for locals to access at lower costs than traditional network access, as well as a rent-to-own cell phone program. Additionally, they are training a team of Ribaue women in technology and internet use so that they may bring this knowledge to their peers and promote widespread connectivity.
  3. GramVaani – Meri Awaz Meri Pehchan, or “My Voice My Identity”, is an app from GramVaani enabling women to connect with other women and spread important information securely in Bihar, India. The application is voice-based, removing the literacy barrier from the equation. Women are trained as “reporters” and sent to rural communities to play informational recordings. They gather voiced comments on topics ranging from government programs and water availability to women’s rights. Innovative projects empowering women such as GramVaani make an impact through the dissemination of knowledge, a resource that cannot be taken for granted.
  4. Viamo – The Calling all Women program from Viamo makes use of a voice-based informational platform called the 3-2-1 Service, which allows for individuals to share valuable information for free on topics like health, hygiene, and financial literacy. The information has reached over 150,000 people in Tanzania and Pakistan. Additionally, Viamo’s program includes recorded lessons for women on mobile technology and the internet to help bridge the gender digital divide.
  5. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) – HOT’s project #LetGirlsMap trains women and male allies to map data from Tanzanian villages and report significant issues via mapping platforms. The program has reached 78 villages and has partnered with schools to gather and disseminate knowledge on gender-based violence and economic literacy. Such innovative projects empowering women and girls help them to confront gender norms and inequality while learning about technology and the economy.
  6. Evidence for policy design (EPoD) India at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) – EPoD’s project Mor Awaaz utilizes a preexisting government program that is distributing 2 million mobile phones to women in rural India. Mor Awaaz offers training and voice-recordings for women on technological literacy and has reached 11,000 women so far, eliminating barriers like caste, mobility, and affordability.
  7. AFCHIX – Innovative projects empowering women like AFCHIX are addressing inadequate internet access in poor communities. AFCHIX created four women-led “community networks” in Kenya, Namibia, Morocco and Senegal. In these countries, women in community networks lead development projects to bring internet access to their communities and learn the skills needed to upkeep the hardware. They serve as both technicians and role models.
  8. Equal Access International – Based in Northern Nigeria, Equal Access International created the Tech4Families program to address the cultural norms that prevent women from accessing technology. Tech4Families launched a radio production in August consisting of twelve episodes that teach listeners about the benefits of technology and justify women’s use of technology via religion and social concepts. They will be meeting with families to discuss the show’s impact and the next steps toward destigmatizing the idea of women in tech.
  9. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) – Low-income women in the Dominican Republic are often unable to access credit from financial institutions because they do not have a credit score. IPA, along with the World Bank, a couple of American universities, and other institutions use machine learning and specialized algorithms to redo the credit-earning criteria for women, separately from men. This will allow more women to gain financial credit, and many have reported that they will use the money for entrepreneurial endeavors, to feed their families, and to invest in education.

– McKenna Black
Photo: USAID

Support the Keeping Girls in School
Congresswoman Jeanne Shaheen first introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act. The bill claims to “support empowerment, economic security, and educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world.” Specifically, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations will both work and engage in the implementation of providing opportunities for adolescent girls to obtain a secondary education. This is why support for the Keeping Girls in School Act is so crucial.

Assistance Needed

Congress will also need the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in managing and assisting international matters, such as providing global security for adolescent girls in vulnerable countries. Every five years, these federal committees will meet to monitor the progress of the bill and provide input on the upcoming protocols in improving the status of the situation.

As for quantitative costs, to support the Keeping Girls in School Act requires a large financial budget to be most effective in serving those countries at-risk. Cost estimates are about $340 billion, which is a substantial amount in providing lower-income countries access to secondary education, primarily for younger girls. However, with the economic benefits of this bill, it will prove to be a fulfilling investment.

The Problem At Hand

Every year, more than 130 million girls go unenrolled in school. The U.N. predicts that this rate will increase by up to 150 million girls by 2030. For example, in Yemen, 66% of women are illiterate. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls complete secondary school.

One factor is how many girls enter into child marriages and are not able to obtain an education. In fact, in Ethiopia, 40% of girls are likely to marry under the age of 18. Similarly, in Bangladesh, at least 42% of girls marry younger than age 18 and 22% marry younger than age 15.

Many other external factors contribute to this global crisis. For example, girls with disabilities are less likely to enroll in school and only 1% of girls from the disabled community are literate.

Infections have also proven to hinder access to secondary education for girls under the age of 18. Especially through child marriage, girls are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. More than 380,000 girls, primarily from Africa, contract HIV or develop AIDS every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least 80% of HIV victims among adolescents are girls. A Harvard study noted that if an extra year of secondary education was available for adolescent girls, the risk of contracting HIV would decrease by 12%.

The Economic Benefits

Although it is a large investment, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. For example, if every girl attends school for 12 years, free of cost, estimates have determined that it will generate between $15 trillion to $30 trillion globally by 2030. Moreover, each year a girl attends school, the government saves approximately 5% of its educational budget. When girls have an educational background, they are more likely to obtain jobs and careers and thus, stimulate the economy.

What Now?

It is imperative to lobby support from local, congressional leaders to support the Keeping Girls in School Act, as it can help millions of girls obtain an education. Furthermore, the bill will substantially stimulate the economy in the future. A quick method to accumulate support is to email local representatives about endorsing the bill. With this template by The Borgen Project, emailing local congressional leaders will take less than one minute and benefit more than 130 million girls that do not have access to secondary education.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Maternal Health in Yemen
The Yemen civil war, which began in early 2015 and still devastates the nation today, has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A total of 24 million people require assistance. This crisis affects all aspects of life in Yemen, including healthcare. Millions are without access to life-saving medical treatment and supplies, leading them to die of preventable diseases, such as cholera, diabetes and diphtheria. Pregnant women and infants are particularly vulnerable during this health crisis as adequate medical care throughout pregnancy and birth is essential. Maternal health in Yemen is of the utmost concern now.

Yemen has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with 17% of the female deaths in the reproductive age caused by childbirth complications. Maternal health in Yemen has never been accessible to all women. This crisis has escalated even further during the Yemeni civil war. However, global organizations are acting to save the lives of these pregnant women and infants who desperately need medical care.

Yemen’s Maternal Health Crisis: Before the Civil War

Even before the war began in 2015, pregnant women were struggling to get the help they needed. Yemen is one of the most impoverished countries in the world — ranking at 177 on the Human Development Index (HDI). Poverty is a large factor in the insufficiency of maternal health in Yemen as impoverished women lack the finances, nutrition, healthcare access and education to deliver their babies safely.

Many Yemeni women are unaware of the importance of a trained midwife during childbirth. Of all the births in rural areas, 70% happen at home rather than at a healthcare facility. Home births increase the risk of death in childbirth as the resources necessary to deal with complications are not available.

The Yemeni Civil War Increased the Maternal Health Crisis

Since the civil war began, the maternal mortality rate in Yemen has spiked from five women a day in 2013 to 12 women a day in 2019. A variety of factors caused this spike. The war has further limited access to nearly every resource, including food and water. This, in turn, depletes the health of millions of women and thus their newborns.

Also, the civil war has dramatically decreased access to healthcare across the nation. An estimated 50% of the health facilities in the country are not functional as a result of the conflict. Those that are operational are understaffed, underfunded and unable to access the medical equipment desperately needed to help the people of Yemen. This especially affects pregnant women — who require medical care to give birth safely.

Organizational Aid

Though the situation in Yemen remains dire, various global organizations are acting to assist pregnant women and newborns. The United Nations Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is taking the initiative to help millions across Yemen, including pregnant women. The organization has sent health workers and midwives into the country’s rural areas to screen and treat pregnant women for complications.

Similarly, USAID trained more than 260 midwives and plans to send them into Yemeni communities to help pregnant women and infants. USAID is partnering with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population and other organizations to ensure that maternal health in Yemen, as well as all types of healthcare, are adequate and accessible for all affected by the civil war.

Maternal health in Yemen, while never having been accessible for many, is now in crisis as a result of the Yemeni civil war. While the situation is still urgent, organizations such as USAID and UNICEF are fighting to ensure that all pregnant women and infants in Yemen have access to the medical care they desperately need.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

The Rohingya Refugees: What to Know and International Response
According to the U.N., the country bordering Laos to the east and Bangladesh to the west is called Myanmar, but to the U.S. and U.K., it is Burma. Its name is just one source of the conflict that has plagued the country for years; another is regarding relations between the government and the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group living in the Rakhine region. After Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya people in the Rakhine region became stateless and the Myanmar government refused to give them citizenship. The animosity between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s government continued to grow until the group experienced exclusion altogether from the national census in 2014. In 2017, the Rohingya faced a crisis that forced them to seek help from other nations and become refugees.

Background Information on Rohingya Refugees

In August 2017, the perpetuated institutional discrimination against the Rohingya hit its limits when the Burmese military launched a campaign of targeted violence. In the first month after violence broke out, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed and 300 Rohingya villages were burned. As a result, an estimated 740,000 Rohingya were displaced out of Myanmar’s Rakhine region and into Bangladesh. Today, more than 900,000 Rohingya still live in Bangladesh.

Upon arriving in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees found shelter in refugee camps that are now some of the largest in the world. Due to the pace at which mass numbers of Rohingya became refugees. Camps did not have adequate resources including shelter, food, clean water and medical facilities. Many refugees have also become traumatized after witnessing the acts of violence in the Burmese military campaigns. The U.S. State Department now deems the actions as ethnic cleansing.

US Humanitarian Assistance

Since the outbreak of violence in 2017, the U.S. has contributed $669 million in humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees. According to USAID, this funding goes toward addressing the needs of Rohingya refugees including emergency shelter, food, health services, psychological support, education, water and sanitation. Additionally, the U.S. funding aims to support programs that will improve disaster preparedness and education for Rohingya in Bangladesh.

With this assistance, the U.S. also aims to augment existing systems and programs that provide relief to refugees. For instance, the increased number of vouchers that are going to Rohingya refugees should allow them to buy food in local markets. Furthermore, the U.S.’s push for educational programs for refugees should yield more access to better economic opportunities in Bangladesh.

US Diplomatic Stance

The U.S. State Department has consistently and publicly condemned the actions of the Burmese military against the Rohingya. It also stated a commitment to justice and accountability on behalf of the Rohingya people. Furthermore, the State Department urges Myanmar to formally acknowledge the acts of injustice and violence. It calls on other nations to support this stance as well. In 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on four Myanmar military and police commanders and two army units for their human rights abuses against the Rohingya. The Myanmar government did not respond to this stance. As a result, the U.S. imposed more sanctions on a high-ranking general and three senior officers in 2019. The U.S. State Department is also working with international organizations to encourage Myanmar to adopt conditions that would eventually allow Rohingya refugees to return to their homes.

After the outbreak of violence in Myanmar, the U.N. Human Rights Council established the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in March 2017 to investigate and make conclusions concerning the extent of human rights abuses committed. Its findings conclude that Myanmar committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against the Rohingya.

With Myanmar’s lack of indication that the country will acknowledge the violence the government committed against the Rohingya, almost 1 million Rohingya remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The international response has strongly condemned Myanmar’s government and offered humanitarian assistance. However, more permanent plans for the Rohingya refugees will likely need to occur soon. The U.S.’s push for more education in camps is one example of a positive step in the direction toward relief for the Rohingya. In addition, the U.S. along with other nations and international organizations should continue to develop these programs with further humanitarian assistance.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr