Examples of USAID Support for Science and Technology-Related Programs
USAID has provided the following information about its programs.
Demographic and Health Survey—HIV. For more than 30 years USAID has supported the collection, analysis, and use of data on international population and health through the MEASURE project’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and other data collection mechanisms. The first time an HIV-testing element was included in a DHS was in Mali in 2001. The Mali Ministry of Health’s objective in adding testing was to estimate the rate of HIV prevalence at both the national and the regional levels. The resulting data have provided information on nationally representative HIV seroprevalence levels that is helping guide Mali in its resource allocation and decisions on HIV/AIDS policy and programs. Since the addition of the testing element was both cost-effective and efficient, other countries have added testing to their surveys. For example, following the survey in Mali, the MEASURE DHS+ project added HIV testing in Zambia and the Dominican Republic.
Micronutrients—Zinc. USAID-supported research built the evidence base that led to WHO and UNICEF signing a 2004 agreement to revise the protocol for using zinc supplements to treat diarrhea. USAID is working with host governments to accelerate the adoption of the new recommendations for diarrhea treatment. USAID also assists with product supply, guideline development, and program planning. USAID has supported the development of zinc formulations by
manufacturers in a way that ensures thermo-stability in hot-weather environments and under poor storage conditions.
River Blindness—Onchocerciasis. USAID joined other donors and national governments to establish the Onchocerciasis Control Program that began in 1974. In contributing $75 million to the Onchocerciasis Trust Fund, USAID became its largest donor. In 1974, as many as 10 percent of the people in severely affected regions were blind, and 30 percent had severe visual handicaps. Farmers had begun leaving their fields amid a growing realization that something associated with the rivers was causing blindness. The program set out to eliminate the disease and to ensure that West African countries could continue disease monitoring after its elimination; these two goals have largely been achieved. Initially the control program focused on spraying of larvicide to kill black flies, but in 1988 it began to distribute the anti-parasite drug ivermectin, which Merck offered free of charge. WHO marked the end of the Onchocerciasis Control Program in West Africa in 2002. According to WHO, 600,000 cases of the disease have been prevented under the program, allowing 18 million people to grow up free of the threat of river blindness. Thousands of farmers are starting to reclaim 25 million hectares of fertile river land—enough to feed 17 million people—in areas where they once feared being struck blind.
Safe Water System. Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners, USAID has developed systems for providing low-cost technologies to improve household drinking water. More than a billion people lack access to clean water, and many more drink water contaminated by unsafe storage and handling, as well as by unsafe treatment and distribution systems. The safe water system involves a point-of-use treatment technology, safe storage in specially designed containers, and improved hygiene practices. Trials by CDC suggest that this approach can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by about 50 percent. The program was important during the aftermath of the recent tsunami when safe water solution and storage vessels were distributed in Indonesia, India, and Myanmar. The system has also been helpful in protecting vulnerable populations in hospitals and clinics.
SoloShot Syringe. USAID supported the development by PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) of SoloShot, the first auto-disposable syringe for use in developing countries. These syringes protect against the transmission of blood-borne diseases. While other disposable syringes had been in use around the world, in developing countries they were often reused without being adequately sterilized. The SoloShot is a single-use injection device designed to inactivate automatically after a single cycle of filling and injection. The syringe has a fixed needle that automatically becomes non-reusable after a single injection. Once filled, the plunger stops and cannot be pulled back. After the vaccine
is injected the plunger automatically locks so that neither the needle nor the syringe can be reused. The World Health Organization called for the design of such devices in 1987. These are the only such devices that UNICEF now provides. In 2004 UNICEF distributed 400 million of them.
Agriculture Extension in Armenia. USAID has supported a grassroots agriculture extension partnership in Armenia, connecting several U.S. assistance programs. The School Connectivity program, for example, provides computers to secondary schools across Armenia; these computers are used by students during the day and made available to the public in the evening for a small fee. Local farmers use this equipment to communicate with researchers at the Armenian Academy of Agriculture and obtain practical solutions to their agriculture problems. Plant diseases and remedies are described by means of e-mail messages, pests are photographed with digital cameras and sent directly to researchers for identification, and sources of needed supplies are compared and discussed. Farmers obtain quick answers to their questions, and researchers keep in touch with agricultural problems that need solutions.
Rust-Resistant Wheat Varieties: Leaf rust is the most widespread disease of spring bread wheat and is a major source of biological stress. Through a breeding program involving interacting genes from rust-resistant varieties, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), with USAID support, developed new varieties that have limited disease losses to insignificant levels in farm yields. One estimate is that the economic benefits from using these resistant varieties during the period 1973-1997 exceeded $5.3 billion based on the value of grain that farmers would have lost. From another viewpoint, there were economic, health, and environmental benefits from not having to apply fungicides on the wheat.
Prediction of Forage Conditions in East Africa. A suite of technologies have been created to predict forage conditions in arid regions of East Africa. Such early warning of impending problems are made 90 to 180 days in advance of human recognition of problems allowing for shifts in sizes of herds and other strategies to reduce livestock losses. The basis for the predictions includes simulation models that link biophysical models with satellite weather information and with data from land monitoring stations. The area of interest provides grazing for 40 million cattle, 30 million sheep, and 32 million goats.
Insect-Resistant Potato. USAID has supported research that led to a potato that resists the potato tuber moth, a pest causing significant damage to potatoes in the field and in storage. This development was achieved by engineering a novel
insect resistant gene into a variety of potatoes grown by small holder farmers in developing countries. The new variety is undergoing a complete regulatory review for initial commercial release in South Africa.
Power Pool in South Africa. USAID was instrumental in creating the South African Power Pool, the first regional power market set up outside North America and Western Europe. Established in 1995 under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the power market pools the resources of 12 countries with more than 200 million people. By importing and exporting energy within the region, individual countries have been able to reduce the need to build new generation facilities. Such savings are estimated to have reached $3 billion. USAID has worked closely with other donors, including the World Bank, NORAD, and SIDA, to assist in developing and managing the power pool. Donor assistance has helped reduce the technical, legal, institutional, and political barriers to trading. Previously all power trading was done with the use of bilateral contracts that were often difficult to administer.
Transmission System Planning in Southeast Europe. USAID introduced regional electric power transmission system planning to further the development of a regional electricity market. Transmission system planning software and related training were delivered to participating countries. Transmission systems are complex, and planning is crucial when common software is used by all parties. Also adequate training is essential. USAID has been able to couple infrastructure development investments (providing the needed software) with human capacity-building. Electric power utilities in the region are now able to conduct complicated planning studies without donor assistance.
Reducing Distribution Losses in the Philippines. Visayan Electric Company (VECO) developed a USAID-sponsored partnership with Portland General Electric (PGE) designed to share best practices on a voluntary basis. They carried out a joint review of how to reduce losses on an electric power distribution system. With the U.S. partner providing the technical expertise, VECO has reduced average outages per customer from 71 hours per year to 21 hours per year. It has also reduced the duration of the average outage by 61 percent. In doing so, VECO has dramatically reduced its emergency response time, leading to improved delivery of health care, public safety, and economic development.
Air Monitoring in the Czech Republic. USAID provided funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish an air-monitoring network and
conduct joint research with Czech counterparts on elevated air emissions and their adverse affects on human health in the heavily polluted region of northern Bohemia. This area, along with adjacent industrial areas of Poland and East Germany, were known as the “Black Triangle.” The results showed that high exposures to air pollution could affect genetic material, reproductive functions, and early childhood vulnerability to infections. The Czech government thereupon decided to accelerate its program to convert home heating from coal to gas by establishing a special allocation of 6 billion Czech crowns ($240 million at the time) to cover consumer costs of fuel conversion.
Drought-Famine Early Warning in the Sahel. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) issues alerts for 25 African countries indicating anomalies in weather or other potential climate shocks that could result in loss of production and subsequent food insecurity. Since the late 1980s, the early availability of reliable information has enabled planners in the governments, USAID, U.N. agencies, and NGOs to put into motion early decision-making to prepare food and survey teams to respond to impending famine threats. The countries themselves can field the first sets of emergency responders while modifying policies to improve access to food for their citizens.