Impoverished children with disabilities in the capital of Niger will receive two meals a day as part of a new one-year program to reduce malnutrition and keep kids in school, the U.S. Ambassador to Niger and Counterpart International announced on June 2, 2011.
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the U.S. non-profit Counterpart, each month almost 1,600 people with disabilities – most of them blind – will benefit from the initiative.
At the launching ceremony, the US Ambassador Bisa Williams said, "This food assistance will certainly allow persons with disabilities to lead a more active and dynamic life…Such support is essential to eradicating poverty and to limiting the negative effects of begging. The American Government through USAID is proud to support this initiative in partnership with Government of Niger and Counterpart International.”
U.S. Ambassador Williams was joined by Niger’s Population Minister and the Governor of the Niamey Region at the launch of the International Food Relief Partnership program.
While most food assistance programs concentrate activities in rural areas, the International Food Relief Partnership will focus on urban poverty. Also unique to the program is the participation of two nongovernmental organizations – the National Blind People’s Union and Handicap Niger – serving and run by people with disabilities.
“This initiative is another example of how Counterpart works with communities to overcome obstacles facing the most disadvantaged,” says Joan Parker, President and CEO of Counterpart. “These children will stay in school, live healthier lives and contribute to their communities, regardless of their disabilities.”
Elsewhere in Niger, Counterpart is helping communities in the Zinder region to overcome food insecurity through nutrition, agricultural training and other activities through 2013. In the Diffa region, Counterpart has a one-year initiative that supports 24 health centers, education for pregnant and lactating women and the rehabilitation of 65 cereal banks. Both programs are funded by USAID.
“Food assistance is part of a broader strategy to get people through dire times, and while giving them the platform – in this case in the form of health and education – that will help them to withstand future food shortages on their own,” says Parker. “It is an honor to work with community leaders that recognize that each community is better off by having all citizens healthy, educated and engaged.”
© David Snyder/Counterpart International.
By David Snyder
Wrapping up a few days in Vietnam with Counterpart International, which asked me to write and photograph some of the programs they carried out.
Yesterday, I met with several local motorbike taxi drivers, known here as Xe Om. They make their living on Hanoi’s roadways, ferrying passengers on their motorbikes. But Hanoi’s roadways are dangerous – overcrowded and filled increasingly by dangerous drivers who flout existing laws, according to drivers I spoke with.
One of Counterpart’s programs in partnership with the Red Cross was educating Xe Om drivers in first aid and road safety, providing them with first aid kits so they could help with any accidents they came upon.
It was certainly much needed. One driver I spoke with said he has responded to 100 incidents since he was trained in 2006, and though many were minor, he has helped to immobilize broken bones and transport injured crash victims to hospitals as well.
Today, I stopped in on the Hanoi Emergency 115 Center. It’s a cross between a 911 call center, where people phone in emergencies, and a paramedic unit. Equipped with five ambulances, the center receives as many as 90 calls each day.
In 2001, Counterpart supported the group with three ambulances – vehicles they used to open their first satellite center. Over the following years, Counterpart provided other vehicles and most importantly training to help the center’s medical staff provide more effective emergency care. Now, Hanoi 115 has five centers around the city and reaches 30,000 patients each year with emergency services.
It’s been an interesting experience, seeing how these projects have gone on.
It’s not an opportunity I get too often so I’m glad to have been able to see it.
David Snyder is a professional freelance writer and photographer based in Maryland. www.davidsnyderphotography.com
Counterpart Country Director, Rashid Shimarov, with two World War II veterans.
In honor of Victory Day, a holiday held annually in Eastern Europe on May 9 to celebrate the former Soviet Union’s victory over Germany in World War II, Counterpart International distributed new clothing, valued at $5,000, to Kyrgyz World War II veterans and their families in Balukchy. The clothing was acquired through a U.S. military base in San Antonio, Texas, and the local transportation and distribution was coordinated in close cooperation with Counterpart’s distribution partner, DANKO Civic Fund of Youth and Women Support, located in Issyk-Kul Oblast.
“The donated new clothing positively impacted the veterans’ families as they will now be able to spend more of their money on purchasing other essential items,” said Aleksandr Sadykov, Director of DANKO Civic Fund of Youth and Women Support.
Counterpart International has been working in the Kyrgyz Republic for more than 14 years, providing assistance to vulnerable populations through the implementation of different U.S. humanitarian aid projects, valued at over $85 million.
Very few development projects in Afghanistan rely on participant and beneficiary feedback to help guide planning. As a result, many Afghans feel a lack of ownership of the work, and they see the initiatives as driven by external priorities. Given civil society’s instrumental role in providing services in and connecting government to communities, civil society organizations’ (CSOs) commitment and ownership are critical for the sustainability of any civil society development initiative.
In response, Counterpart International, through the Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society II (I-PACS II), worked to establish an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from seven leading CSOs within Counterpart’s program.
This Committee will work to strengthen Afghan civil society’s capacity to support social improvement and nation-building, through both advice for the effective implementation of Counterpart’s civil society program and enhanced civil society participation, collaboration and recognition.
With technical assistance from Counterpart, the Committee members developed a common vision, a three-year strategic framework, an operational framework and year one action plan. This group is now posed to gradually take on the role of providing direct support to other Afghan civil society organizations, to act as a “voice” and focal point of civil society to government and donors and to publicize the good works of Afghan civil society.
One Committee member, a program manager from the Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF), Dr. Tasal, shared, “I was asked to represent our organization in the workshop and I am now aware of the importance of this work and committed to actively attending these AC meetings.” He added, “I know this will be a place where I can honestly share my ideas and advice, both on how to strengthen [Counterpart’s] civil society programming and civil society in general.”
At the second meeting, the Advisory Committee members signed letters of commitment and provided feedback to Counterpart on the selection of civil society partners for I-PACS II. This project, which aims to enable Afghan citizens to effectively participate in the political process, solve problems and demand good governance by strengthening civil society, will continue through September 2013.
Learn more about I-PACS II on our Web site.
Joan C. Parker, Counterpart International's CEO, is featured on the highly rated Executive Leaders Radio. She offers an introduction to the organization and colorful anecdotes from her recent trip to Ethiopia. She shares how her personal experiences have shaped her outlook on life and prepared her to lead the organization.