Famine Spreads in Somalia


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

Today the U.N. declared ongoing famine in the Bay Region, adding to the five areas in southern Somalia already facing famine conditions. The U.N. also increased the number of Somalis in crisis to 4 million and says that 750,000 are at risk of death in the coming months in the absence of an adequate humanitarian response.

The unfortunate reality is that Somalia is the most difficult operating environment for humanitarians in the world today. Access continues to be denied by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups, creating an indefensible situation where they would rather put hundreds of thousands of Somali lives in jeopardy than allow humanitarian aid in. The massive amount of humanitarian aid required to save tens of thousands of lives simply cannot reach those in Bay Region and other areas in southern Somalia.

You might be wondering why people don’t just leave… more »

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) mistakenly released a six-million-dollar subversive program against Cuba afer using an uncoded communication line used to send diplomatic documents to Havana.

The documents reveal that the USAID launched, last July 10 its initiative coded SOL-OAA-13- OOO110 and at least 20 non-government organizations requested funds to train alleged dissidents in Cuba over the next three years.

The program includes budget proposals, ways to follow and evaluate the progress of actions, schemes and the experience about other destabilizing projects designed against Cuba under the 1996 Helms-Burton Law, pl news agency reported. 

The US Agency for international Development proclaims itself to be a non-government organization, though actually it is one of the tentacles of the White House using the intelligence services to gather information on countries of this region and interfere with their internal and external political affairs. 

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Around the world 62 million girls are not in school. Millions more are fighting to stay there. Let Girls Learn is a new effort by the United States Government, and led by USAID, to provide the public with meaningful ways to help all girls to get a quality education. To learn more about our program and efforts, visit www.usaid.gov/letgirlslearn.

Special thanks to Alicia Keys, Amy Brenneman, Anne Hathaway, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, DeAndre Jordan, Denise Richards, Diego Boneta, James Van Der Beek, Jennifer Garner, Joe Manganiello, Josh Duhamel, Julie Bowen, Julie Delpy, Kelly Osbourne, Lance Bass, Moby, Nick Cannon, Nikki Reed, Paul Wesley, Rita Wilson, Shonda Rhimes, Soledad O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, and Tyler Perry for their participation in the video.

This video was produced by the Burkle Global Impact Initiative at UCLA and Prime Content in partnership with The Jim Henson Company. Original score by Ryan Perez-Daple (rpdmusic.com).

U.S. Increases Assistance to the Horn of Africa


Yesterday, Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, announced an increase in U.S. humanitarian assistance to East Africa. In total, the United States is now providing more than $600 million in aid that is helping more than 4.6 million people suffering from drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

"I am happy to announce over $23 million in additional U.S. funding, including nearly $10 million expressly for Somalia," said Dr. Shah at a community forum hosted by Congressman Keith Ellison at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Speaking to forum attendees, Dr. Shah reaffirmed the United States commitment to addressing today’s crisis and working toward long-term solutions in the Horn of Africa.

Other forum participants included U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Tim Walz,… more »

The Peace Corps is excited to be a partner of Saving Mothers, Giving Life. We are particularly proud of the contributions Peace Corps Volunteers have made at the community level to promote the importance of essential maternal health services, and we are thrilled to continue our collaboration to aggressively reduce maternal mortality. - Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Saving Mothers’ first Annual Report, Making Pregnancy and Childbirth Safe in Uganda and Zambia, demonstrates rapid progress towards reducing maternal mortality ratios in eight pilot districts.

In Uganda districts, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by 30%, while in facilities in Zambia, the maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 35%. The Report showcases the activities that have helped contribute to these gains, including:

  • Increasing the number of women delivering in health facilities by 62% and 35% in Uganda and Zambia, respectively
  • Enhancing women’s access to Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care, by hiring and training skilled birth attendants;
  • Strengthening transportation and communications networks among communities and facilities, in addition to strengthening the supply chain for life-saving medicines and commodities; and
  • Expanding testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS for women and their newborns.

Download the full report

Maybe their hearts were in the right place. Maybe not. Either way, these are solid contenders for the title of “worst attempts at helping others since colonialism.”

1. One million t-shirts for Africa

2. TOMS Buy-One-Give-One

 …dumping shoes in places where people might otherwise be employed to make them.

3. Machine gun preacher

Problems with Sam Childers, the machine gun preacher, are so much more straightforward.

It’s dangerous and insane.

4. 50 Cent ransoming children in Somalia

So let’s break that down.

A. If you Like Fifty’s Facebook page — without even buying the drink — a child, presumably in Somalia, gets fed.

B. We can infer that there is a pot of dollars somewhere earmarked for feeding needy children. Two million meals worth of feeding if you count the million Like-meals plus the potential million bonus.

C. Those meals, while they could be donated, and have presumably been budgeted for, willnot be, except to the extent that you give Street King props online.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called extortion.

5. Donor fund restrictions

6. Making food aid the same colour as cluster munitions.

Left is delicious. Right will kill you. You try tell the difference if you can’t read English and live out in the steppes.

7. Making USAID a foreign policy tool

In 1990, on the eve of the first Gulf War, Yemeni Ambassador Abdullah Saleh al-Ashtal voted no to using force against Iraq in a security council session. US Ambassador Thomas Pickering walked to the Yemeni Ambassador’s seat and retorted, “That was the most expensive No vote you ever cast.” Immediately afterwards, USAID ceased operations and funding in Yemen.

Nazis are taking over Ukraine. If you’re not scared by that, I don’t really know what kind of wake up call you require.
— 

Dylan Garcia via Facebook

… and if you’re not furious that the U.S. government (Republicans & Democrats) deliberately made it happen — then fuck you.

Help Wanted: Unlikely Geniuses To Solve Public Health Problems

Sometimes a fetus can’t make it into the birth canal. Both mother and child are at risk. If you were looking to fix the problem, you probably wouldn’t call up an Argentine car mechanic.

But maybe you should.

In 2011, mechanic Jorge Odon came up with an invention using a folded plastic sleeve pumped up with air to pop the baby out — an idea inspired by a party trick Odon saw on YouTube for getting a cork out of an empty wine bottle with a plastic bag.

Odon is a star in the Grand Challenge universe. That’s the program that offers grants to people who come up with innovative solutions, often in the field of health care.

And now there’s a Grand Challenge that aims to help medical workers fighting Ebola: Design an improved protective suit. Current models are suffocating and can heat up to well over 100 degrees inside. That means they can only be worn 30 to 40 minutes at a time in the tropical heat of West Africa.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a $5 million contest, asking innovators to develop cooler, more breathable protective gear. Proposals are welcome immediately; USAID head Dr. Rajiv Shah expects the first funding to come as early as December.

Anyone can enter, from a technology whiz to a small business owner. And, of course, auto mechanics.

And therein lies the power of the Grand Challenge — finding great ideas from perhaps surprising sources, says Wendy Taylor, director of USAID’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact.

To date, the challenges have resulted in more than 1,600 grants of up to $100,000 each in 80 countries.

Continue reading.

Photo: Astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka has a radical idea: Use light as a barrier between mosquitoes and humans. He was awarded a $100,000 Grand Challenge grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to see if the idea really works. (Courtesy of the Gates Foundation)

On World Humanitarian Day, 100 Ways You Can Help Victims of the East Africa Drought


About the Author: Nancy Lindborg serves as Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Today is World Humanitarian Day. Reaching out to those suffering from crisis and disaster is a fundamental human impulse and a deeply enshrined American value. It is a value we share with people around the globe. It is the silver lining of any crisis, when the best of who we are as people emerges just when things are the bleakest.

Today is an opportunity to honor the humanitarian impulse in all of us and to applaud all the ways in which people mobilize to help others, even when they have little to spare. I saw it in Tunisia in March, when people, already reeling from an economic plunge, spontaneously organized to take in Libyan refugees who needed help. We are seeing it with the Kenyans for Kenya… more »

Chris Funk, scientist for the Famine Early Warning Systems Network of USAID:

Not since a million people died in Ethiopia and Sudan in 1984 and 1985 has the world seen such a potential for famine as it does now, with food emergencies occurring in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. But although the ongoing disaster in East Africa is dire, it was not unexpected. In fact, I am part of a group of scientists that successfully forecast the droughts behind the present crisis.

I work with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which was set up by the US Agency for International Development to help policy-makers prevent such humanitarian disasters. The network identifies where food aid is needed by the most food-insecure populations of the developing world, whose livelihoods are tied to rain-fed subsistence agriculture and pastoralism.

Last summer, our group was meeting when a La Niña weather system was forecast. We knew that such an event could bring trouble, and we issued an alert that East Africa might experience severe droughts.

Sure enough, the autumn 2010 rains were poor, or failed completely. The outlook for famine or survival then rested on the spring rains. April came without rain. May came without rain. And we feared the worst.

So why weren’t the alarm bells set off by these forecasts enough to help avoid perhaps the greatest famine of our time?

Ten Things You Should Know About the State Department and USAID

About the Author: Thomas R. Nides serves as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

Do you ever wonder what the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) do every day and what it means for you?

In the eight months since I joined the State Department, I’ve learned firsthand about the important and wide ranging work done by the women and men who work here and around the world to enhance our national and economic security. We help train the Mexican National Police forces who battle violent drug gangs just south of our border, and we serve alongside our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. We negotiate trade agreements and promote U.S. exports by reducing barriers to commerce.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used to say that the Department… more »

The Republicans also attach conditions on aid to Pakistan, Egypt and the Palestinians, suspending the latter entirely if the Palestinians succeed in winning recognition of statehood at the United Nations. However, one of the largest portions of foreign aid — more than $3 billion for Israel — is left untouched in both the House and Senate versions, showing that, even in times of austerity, some spending is inviolable.
—  NYT