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USAID Committed To Early Action On Sahel Drought, Drawing From Lessons From Horn Response

“A year after the worst drought in 60 years sent 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa into crisis, we are now facing a rising threat of crisis in the Sahel — an arid belt that stretches from Senegal through Niger and Burkina Faso to Chad,” Nancy Lindborg, head of democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance at USAID, writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “The Blog.” She notes, “Today, rising food prices, another failed rain, and conflict in Mali and Libya, means that between seven and 10 million people are at risk of sliding into crisis as we enter the lean season of the months ahead,” and writes, “As we focus on the rising crisis in the Sahel, we are committed to responding immediately and acting on the most important lessons learned from the Horn response.”

AIDS Advocacy Groups Ask Obama To Reconsider FY13 Budget Request For PEPFAR

“Nine global HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations sent a letter [.pdf] to President Obama Thursday asking him to rethink his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget recommendation to slash $546 million in funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The groups, which include AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, the HIV Medicine Association, and POZ Magazine, noted the request “recommended funding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at $1.65 billion — keeping the U.S. on track to reach its three-year commitment of $4 billion by 2013,” but in the letter stated, “[W]e must and we do strongly object to the apparent shoring up of the Global Fund budget request at the expense of the PEPFAR program. … These two programs are synergistic and often provide complementary services to the same communities,” the blog notes (Mazzotta, 3/2).

Blog Summarizes Clinton’s Congressional Testimony On Administration’s FY13 Budget Request

Will McKitterick, a research assistant with the Center for Global Development (CGD), in this “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog post summarizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “grueling marathon of Congressional committee hearings in defense of the FY2013 international affairs budget request.” The nine hours of hearings “ran the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy,” McKitterick writes, adding, “Congressional leaders seemed alarmed by reductions in global health spending and raised specific concerns over the administration’s ability to meet its commitments to its PEPFAR goal of placing six million people on life-sustaining treatment by 2013. Secretary Clinton assured the committees that cuts would be balanced by consolidating programs, finding efficiencies, improving partners’ capacity, and shifting more responsibilities to host countries” (3/2).

NGOs Welcome Announcement Of U.S., North Korean Nuclear Arms Agreement That Could Bring Food Aid To Nation

“The State Department’s announcement that North Korea would halt nuclear activities in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid was welcomed by aid groups that have long struggled to raise money to feed hungry people under an unpopular regime,” the Los Angeles Times’ “World Now” blog reports. Marcus Prior, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Asia said the group is “encouraged” by the development but it “remain[s] concerned about the level of nutrition, especially for children in poorer areas,” according to the blog. More than 90 percent of U.S. food aid has been delivered through the WFP since 1996, with the remainder channeled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a 2011 Congressional Research Service report (.pdf) says, the blog notes.

USAID Unveils New Policy To Promote Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment

USAID on Thursday unveiled a new policy that aims to ensure gender equality and empower the world’s women and girls, Deseret News reports. “While USAID has addressed gender issues in the past, results have been mixed, according to a report [.pdf] released Thursday in conjunction with the policy launch,” the news service writes. “‘We know that long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential,’ said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah during a White House event,” Deseret notes (Stuart, 3/1).

U.S. To Send Food Aid To North Korea After It Agrees To Suspend Nuclear Weapons Tests

“North Korea announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests and uranium enrichment and allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex,” a move “signal[ing] that North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to consider a return to negotiations and to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation,” the New York Times reports. Some “analysts said the agreement allowed Mr. Kim to demonstrate his command and to use his early months in power to improve people’s lives after years of food shortages and a devastating famine,” the newspaper writes (Myers/Choe, 2/29).

Millions At Risk Of Malnutrition As Horn Of Africa, Sahel Face Dry Seasons

Only weeks after the U.N. declared an end to the famine in Somalia, regional climate scientists meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 30th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum have said preventive measures should be taken to stem the effects of drought that likely will return to Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa over the next three months, IRIN reports. USAID’s “FEWS NET said people should expect erratic rain in southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya” and will “be releasing a detailed outlook in the coming weeks,” the news service notes. But “[o]ne of the problems highlighted was the lack of linkage between early warning and early action. ‘There is no framework that allows the trigger of funds when the early warning bell is sounded,’ said one aid worker,” IRIN writes (2/29).

Republican Presidential Candidate Santorum Could Be Beneficial To Global Health Programs If Elected President

In the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), “the most religiously conservative candidate, surprisingly, is the most fervent advocate for U.S. global health diplomacy,” Jack Chow, former U.S. ambassador on global HIV/AIDS and former assistant director-general of WHO on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Santorum has staked out global health as one of his preferred instruments of asserting American power abroad” and “seems determined to lay the groundwork for a global health agenda that is not only far more extensive than his competitors’, but would surpass both [George W.] Bush and Barack Obama in advancing U.S. interests abroad through fighting disease,” Chow writes.

‘Global Leadership’ Through Foreign Assistance Is ‘Strategic Imperative’ For U.S.

“[T]oday, with the national debt approaching $14.7 trillion, Americans rightly demand fiscal responsibility. Yet efforts in Congress to cut billions from the president’s proposed budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are short-sighted,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. He adds that “all of our foreign aid programs and foreign policy initiatives — from sending diplomats to Afghanistan to helping reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa — cost less than one-tenth of our annual military expenditures” and “comprises a mere 1.5 percent” of President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request.

Clinton Discusses GHI In Testimony On FY13 USAID, State Department Budget Request

“People look to [the U.S.] to protect our allies; stand by our principles; serve as an honest broker in making peace; to fight hunger, poverty, and disease; to stand up to bullies and tyrants everywhere,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Tuesday in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and she added that to do so “takes more than just resolve. It takes resources,” ABS-CBNnews.com reports (Jaleco, 2/29).