Posted on February 15, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
In the State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama highlighted the urgent need to make progress in the world’s most impoverished countries. He spoke about empowering women and youth, helping communities feed and educate themselves and connecting more of the world’s poor to the opportunities of a thriving global economy. The President’s eloquent statement that “progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all” is what motivates much of MCC’s work as we partner with developing countries to reduce poverty through economic growth. Take for example the enormous strides MCC continues to make in advancing gender integration and food security for the world’s poor so that economic growth can be as inclusive and sustainable as possible.
I am also proud of the ways MCC supports the President’s agenda to boost American exports and create opportunity for American businesses. Our own economic prosperity is linked inextricably to economic prosperity around the world. MCC's goal is not only to lift poor countries out of poverty but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States over the long term. By making investments targeted at unlocking the constraints to growth in developing markets, MCC serves as a gateway to opportunity for local and American companies eager to invest, tap new consumers and grow. The day after the President’s State of the Union address, MCC hosted a number of private sector companies for a comprehensive discussion on finance, investment, trade, and collaboration opportunities throughout MCC partner countries.
The President also spoke about the need to “stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.” MCC is already a strong catalyst for incentivizing policy reforms that help create an enabling environment for trade and investment. In addition, our focus on sound democratic governance and on standing up to corruption highlights MCC’s most distinctive approach to development: We only partner with those poor countries that have objectively demonstrated their commitment to sound policies focused on ruling justly, investing in their people and pursuing economic freedom.
The President’s vision for creating economic opportunity and well-being at home is furthered as we open markets and reduce poverty around the world. In pursuit of this vision, MCC will continue to contribute in tangible ways to advancing our common prosperity. By creating real change in the lives of the world’s poorest, focusing on markets of opportunity for trade, investment and job creation and supporting policy reforms that promote fundamental rights and values, we are doing our part at MCC to deliver on the President’s vision to “remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities.”
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Alice Riedel, Lesotho Deputy Resident Country Director
I had the honor of taking part in handing over the newly constructed Lesotho Blood Transfusion Services Center last month. MCC invested in the new center—which is expected to collect 5,000 blood units in 2013, compared to 3,381 in 2008—to help improve health services in Lesotho.
The country’s former blood transfusion center was too small; it lacked proper equipment and operated from a rented property in Maseru that was not designed to provide transfusion services. The new center, part of MCC’s five-year, $363 million compact with Lesotho, provides a dedicated central facility for collecting and processing blood to supply nearby hospitals.
MCC also invested in a mobile blood collection vehicle that will collect and transfer blood to the new center for screening.
“The new center is a huge achievement for the Ministry of Health,” said Maleqhoa Nyopa, manager of the Lesotho Blood Transfusion Service.“We have been struggling to implement our activities effectively,” Nyopa said. “Now that we have been given this new building, which is bigger than the one we have been using, our work is going to improve tremendously. The building is large enough to allow us to store as much blood as possible, which will help save lives.”
In addition to this center, the compact’s Health Sector Project is designed to mitigate the negative economic impacts of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases. MCC is strengthening Lesotho’s health care system through the construction of up to 138 health centers spread across the country, hospital outpatient departments, staff housing, and a central laboratory and residences to accommodate National Health Training College students.
The infrastructure investments are so numerous and complex and cover such a vast geographic area, that it can be difficult to remember the real impact in the lives of individual Basotho. A colleague’s friend who works in a hospital in Lesotho recently shared with me some of the challenges of managing the blood supply here. He told me that having enough blood to serve all patients is extremely challenging because of the testing required, given the 24 percent rate of HIV prevalence. He is confident that the new blood center, along with blood drives, will alleviate some of these challenges.
I am proud to be part of an initiative that is helping improve health care in Lesotho in practical ways like making sure that there is adequate blood supply when a woman needs an emergency operation while giving birth. We are leaving behind tangible results.
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Tim Clary , Director, Division of Technical Services
For decades, most international health projects have focused on addressing communicable diseases that were major causes of morbidity and mortality in developing countries.
But now, many countries are facing a double burden as non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDIs) have become more prevalent. More than five years ago, when the Government of Mongolia chose to focus on NCDIs as part of its MCC compact, it probably did not foresee that it would become a leader in providing lessons for other countries seeking to address NCDI issues.
The compact’s $39 million Health Project, geographically covers the entire country and 95 percent of the Mongolian population. It addresses the issue of NCDIs through a multi-pronged approach and on several different technical levels.
Last month, I visited Clinical Hospital No. 3 in Ulaanbaatar, where compact funds will be used to refurbish and provide equipment to help the hospital become the nation’s primary center for diagnosing, caring for and treating Mongolians suffering from strokes and acute myocardial infarctions. In Khentii aimag, I visited hospitals that typically provide primary care services and that now provide both secondary and tertiary health care, such as diagnosing cervical cancer and providing ongoing treatment for diabetes and hypertension. At both levels, health care providers have received extensive training on NCDIs, ranging from emergency care to counseling patients on healthy lifestyles and behaviors. This helps the community by preventing diseases which will help them live longer and healthier lives.
Compact funds have also been used to sponsor a small grants program in the community so NGOs, private clinics and non-health organizations (such as elementary and secondary schools) can receive funding for innovative ideas to support the reduction in NCDIs.
Fundamental to the support for health care workers and their patients have been policy changes within the public and private sectors. Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia has worked with the Government of Mongolia to revise tobacco and alcohol laws, as well as establishing a health promotion fund to address NCDIs.
Within the private sector, MCA-Mongolia has worked with organizations such as Talkh-Chikher bakery to reduce the salt content within its Atar bread, Mongolia’s leading brand of bread.
The main lesson from my site visit to the Talkh-Chikher bakery in Ulaanbaatar is that advocacy is bringing change.