Entries in USAID (6)


USAID Ends Work in Russia After Expulsion

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- The U.S. Agency for International Development ceased operations in Russia Monday after being expelled last month, a move widely seen as part of the Kremlin’s effort to intimidate and discredit the country’s opposition.

Russia accused USAID of meddling in the country’s internal affairs, specifically its elections.

The Obama administration loudly protested the move, which will cut millions of dollars in critical funding for a number of Russian non-governmental organizations. Among those affected is Golos, the country’s only independent election monitor. Those groups were already under fire due to a new law requiring any organization that receives funding from abroad to declare themselves a foreign agent, a term tinged with hints of espionage.

The moves comes as the Kremlin appears increasingly impatient with an unprecedented protest movement that has called on President Vladimir Putin to go.

U.S. officials, however, were quick to point to USAID’s other contributions in Russia, including efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as to respond to natural disasters.

In a lengthy post Monday afternoon on his Live Journal blog, the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow Michael McFaul vigorously defended USAID’s record over two decades in Russia.

U.S. officials also noted that several unnamed members of the ruling United Russia party, which has spearheaded recent efforts to restrict freedoms in the country, attended training sessions funded by USAID.

“Representatives of the United Russia party and their affiliates regularly participate,” confirmed Cathy Gest, a spokeswoman for the National Democratic Institute, which conducted the sessions for USAID, in an email last week. United Russia officials denied the claims. Gest declined to specify which officials had attended which programs and when.

USAID began operating in Russia in 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then it has reportedly spent a total of $2.6 billion on grants.

A fact sheet about the agency’s work in Russia posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website last month, however, noted that USAID’s mission in Russia had evolved in recent years.

“As Russia has grown into a middle income country, the nature of USAID’s work has evolved beyond primarily providing technical assistance with a large focus on collaboration. By 2012, the majority of USAID’s engagement revolved around the promotion of an open and innovative society in Russia,” it said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bill Richardson in Cuba to Win American Contractor's Release

Kris Connor/Getty Images(HAVANA) -- Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson arrived in Cuba Wednesday to try to win the release of American contractor Alan Gross, who has been detained there since December 2009.

“We are a aware of Gov. Richardson’s trip to Cuba and have been in contact with him,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.  ”While Gov. Richardson is traveling as private citizen, we certainly support his efforts to obtain Alan Gross’s release.”

Nuland said there are no U.S. officials traveling with the former governor, who has also served as the American ambassador to the United Nations, a U.S. congressman, and the U.S. energy secretary, and that he is not carrying any official messages from the administration.

Gross worked as a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development and was detained in Cuba in December 2009 after distributing satellite communications equipment to the island’s Jewish population without permission from the Cuban government.  He was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this year, and Cuba’s Supreme Court upheld the decision last month.

Gross’ lawyer Peter Kahn said that he and the Gross family are hopeful the Cuban government will release him.

“We are pleased that the Cuban government invited Governor Richardson to Havana,” Kahn said in a statement on behalf of the family.  “We welcome any and all dialogue that ultimately will result in Alan’s release.  We are grateful to Governor Richardson for his continued efforts.  We hope that the Governor and Cuban authorities are able to find common ground that will allow us to be reunited as a family before the Jewish High Holy Days.”

Gross’ family has appealed for his release on humanitarian grounds.  He suffers from diabetes and is said to have lost a lot of weight in prison.  His wife and daughter have also had medical problems in the past year.

Richardson, who attempted a presidental run in 2008, has previously secured the release of several other Americans detained abroad.  In 1996, he negotiated the release of an American pilot who, along with other Red Cross workers, had been taken hostage in Sudan.  In 2008, he won the release of an American journalist detained in Sudan.  He has also secured the release of Americans in Iraq and North Korea and was involved in discussions to release Americans held in Colombia and Kashmir.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libya: Situation in Rebel City of Misrata Has US 'Very Concerned'

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images(BENGHAZI, Libya) -- The United States is "very concerned" about the situation in Libya in and around the hard-hit city of Misrata, according to the man overseeing the American humanitarian response in Libya.

The director of USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Mark Ward, told ABC News in his first interview since the agency's humanitarian experts first arrived in country on Tuesday that his teams had heard reports of severe casualties and shortages in the besieged city. Though the U.S. team has not left the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Ward said that they have found a "permissive" environment in eastern Libya that would allow more aid to be brought in.

The Disaster Assistance Response Team members arrived in Benghazi on Tuesday along with the U.S. liaison with the Libyan opposition, Chris Stevens. The small team of humanitarian experts has since set about determining what aid is needed and how to bring it in.

Ward would not say how many American experts were in country other than to say it was a "small" team, but suggested more could soon be on the way. Those experts already in Libya have no plans to push farther west, but are authorized to do so if they see the need.

So far, Ward said, the team has found the situation in the eastern third of Libya to be "pretty good" and he said there are few concerns about security.

Further west, where the fighting has been more intense, is another story. Ward said the U.S. is "very concerned" about the situation in and around Misrata, where forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have bombarded rebel forces for weeks. Though aid groups are pre-positioned just outside the city they have not been able to enter, except for a few quick trips to drop off supplies, due to ongoing fighting. From those groups, Ward said, they hear the situation there is "dire."

In addition to heavy casualties, Ward says they've been told there are severe shortages of water, food, electricity, and medical supplies. He said the current strategy for NGOs is to pre-position the aid so that it can be sent in as quickly as possible if there is a lull in the fighting.

To that end, USAID has sent into eastern Libya 4-5 "health kits," which each contain medical supplies to stock a clinic capable of treating 10,000 people for three months. Each kit is about three-fourths the size of an SUV. Additionally the U.S. has provided several "trauma kits," which contain specialized supplies needed to perform 100 surgical operations.

The shortage goes beyond supplies, Ward warned. He said there are also not enough adequate medical professionals, particularly nurses. Most who were in the country when the fighting erupted were foreigners who have since fled. The U.S. has provided funds to the United Nation's World Health Organization to train personnel farther east so that they can contribute.

These American efforts are being made in close coordination with Turkey and Great Britain, as the three countries that have taken the lead in humanitarian operations so far. Ward said that Turkey, whose consulate in Benghazi has remained open throughout the crisis, has been a "terrific partner" and they've worked closely with the Turkish Red Crescent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


USAID Administrator: GOP Bill Could Kill 70,000 Kids

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- At least 70,000 children around the world could die if funding for global health programs is cut under the Republican budget proposal, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah warned Congress Thursday.

"What I worry about is that with the H.R. 1 budget [the proposed spending bill], if that becomes a baseline reality for fiscal year '12, that would be very problematic for some of our most important programs," Administrator Shah testified before the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee.

"We estimate, and I believe these are very conservative estimates, that H.R. 1 would lead to 70,000 kids dying," he said.

Shah said that 30,000 of those deaths would come if malaria control programs have to be scaled back, 24,000 would die from lack of support for immunizations, and another 16,000 would die at birth.

Shah's comments come as the Obama administration is fighting Congressional Republicans over how to fund the government this year. The impasse has led to the threat of a government shutdown.

Republicans have proposed significant cuts to the international affairs budget, 19 percent below 2010 enacted base levels, as part of an effort to reduce deficit spending.

"I believe there are ways to find the efficiencies we're all seeking, through being more businesslike in how we do our work, reining in contract partners and doing better program oversight. There's a way to do this that does not have to cost lives," Shah testified.

In her testimony before Congress last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the cuts, which would also hamper expanded efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, "would be devastating for our national security."

According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which lobbies to increase funding for international affairs, the Republican budget proposal would cut funding for global health programs by 11 percent, including a reduction in money for the Global fund for HIV/AIDS by 43 percent. The group says that would mean five million children would not receive malaria treatments and about 43,000 would not receive tuberculosis treatments.

The proposed budget would also decrease food aid programs by 30 percent and slash U.S. funding for disaster relief by 41 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


USAID Awards $5.8 Million to Aid Haiti’s Cholera Fight

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – USAID has announced they would provide $5.8 million to fight the cholera outbreak in Haiti.

On Thursday, the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance said they would provide the grant to the International Medical Corps (IMC) to aid in the treatment and prevention of nearly 1.3 million people and address areas where there are existing gaps in coverage.

IMC will use the funds to open eight treatment centers, seven mobile medical units and several rehydration points.

The grant will also go toward prevention through health education. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US to Provide Additional $90 Million to Aid Pakistani Flood Victims

Photo Courtesy - United States Army(ROME) -- The U.S. government on Monday announced that it will give an additional $90 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Pakistan to help the millions of flood-affected people living there.  The government plans to make the contribution through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The United States has been able to use both in-kind food assistance and local procurement in this response demonstrating how our new flexibility allow us to ensure aid is delivered in a way that supports a faster recovery,” explained USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg at the WFP Executive Board Meeting in Rome.

To date, more than $227 million in emergency food assistance has been contributed by the United States to Pakistanis affected by floods.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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