USAID at 55: A Closer Look at Global Development and Humanitarian Assistance
By Srimal Fernando Global Editor The Diplomatic Society
USAID staff prepares to load relief supplies into a US navy Seahawk helicopter at Tacloban Airport on November 17, 2013. (Photo USAID / Mark Ralston, AFP)
The year 2016 marked a very important milestone in the history of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on its 55th anniversary. Way back in 196Os the leadership of former US President John F Kennedy transformed the first US foreign assistance organization in the intervening years to a globally impacting organization whose primary importance was on long-range economic and social development assistance efforts to developing nations.
Over the last 50 years. USAID has a global footprint with operations in over 120 countries, functions in some 30 different program areas with an annual budget of around US$ 17 billion (USAID 2016).
At the same time an organizational report published in 2013 indicates USAID provided a total sum of over US$9.5 billion in total assistance to 31 low income countries and to 46 lower middle-income economies ( Dunning, C and Leo, B. 2016, White House and the World USAID).
Al-Heba Farm, Wadi El-Natroon, from their teacher Hamdy Hamed. PHOTO COURTESY OF USAID
The US foreign assistance organization since its inception made a subnational contribution to both economic growth and social development and has been promoting peace, democratization to save lives and change lives for a better tomorrow. Access to safe drinking-water is one of the most important problems that need to be solved for millions of people worldwide. Already more than 1.3 billion people are receiving safe drinking water sources, and 750 million people are receiving sanitation for the first time as a result of USAID assistance . Impact of the organizations programs have enabled the expansion of and provided reliable access to potable water for more than a million people in Lebanon. In Egypt, for example, as a result of USAID support enabled nearly 1.5 million girls to improve their reading and comprehension skills through an early-grade reading program.
The Gigawatt Global solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda ( Photo USAID Sameer Halai for the Power Africa Photo Contest)
Vaccines are one of the most effective public health interventions. These immunization programs had saved 2 to 3 million lives every year through organisation assistance (USAID 2016). In March 2014, India was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization. The USAID played a particularly important role to support national polio eradication efforts in India. Since 1996, Nepal has cut its under-five mortality rate by almost half. In this context the USAID assistance in primary health in preventable child and maternal deaths were well recognized globally.US assistance increased accessibility in Afghanistan. Today it is estimated due to these supports around 60 percent of the population now lives within a one-hour walking distance of a health facility, up from only 9 percent in 2002.
There are however many success stories in Africa. In Sudan and South Sudan USAID provides to over 2.5 million people with emergency food assistance and humanitarian assistance. Since 1987, USAID has initiated HIV/AIDS prevention programs in 32 countries. The organization provides lifesaving antiretroviral at no cost to 160,000 Zimbabweans infected with the AIDS virus. According to reports in Ghana, the US agency has already joined in saving over 300,000 children from the misery of stunting (USAID 2016).
Rising fuel and electricity prices also continue to impact African countries. The USAID through its Connect and empower Africa programme has allocated US $376.3 million for 2017 to bolster power generation in African countries. Over 400 development innovations through the U.S. Global Development Lab to improve the lives of over 24.5 million people are among the recent success stories. Citizen participation is a very important aspect of democratic legitimacy. A recent study had shown 36 of the 57 nations that successfully made the transition to democratic government during the past fifty years due to organizations efforts to foster democracy and good governance. Natural disasters affect millions of people every year. In recent years, to reduce suffering and save lives in regions affected by natural disasters initiatives by USAID helped 46 disaster-prone countries.
Over the past 55 years, USAID had done a lot more than alleviating poverty in poorer countries, but had been a main driver of economic progress and well-being in many developing nations. Having accomplished a number of key areas the new focus of USAID will become more effective over the next 50 years.