Although several countries in Asia have experienced rapid economic growth within the past several years, a vast majority of people in Asia have yet to benefit from these gains. The World Bank estimates that 14 percent of people in East Asia and the Pacific, and 36 percent of people in South Asia, live on less than $1.25 a day. 

Economic integration is expected to spur the movement of goods and services and promote more broad-based economic growth, including through the increased use of mobile and other technologies.  USAID fosters such economic integration in a region that encompasses economies at significantly different stages of development. USAID supports the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Lower Mekong Initiative and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in their efforts to enhance trade and economic growth. USAID also strengthens regional competitiveness through supply chain integration, legal reform, good governance efforts, and support for micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses. In addition, USAID promotes private sector engagement and regulatory harmonization within ASEAN, as well as regional learning exchanges with South Asia, to improve conditions for food security and agricultural sector growth. USAID’s engagement in regional food security, including technical and other support for food security priority countries, will accelerate the rate at which novel agricultural technologies and improved crop varieties are adopted throughout the region.


Environmental concerns are among the chief impediments to Asia’s long-term development success. Rapid economic growth has led to dramatic increases in the use of natural resources and wrought unprecedented damage on Asia’s forests, fisheries, wildlife and vulnerable ecosystems. Asia’s developing countries are among the world’s leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the Asia-Pacific region is also greatly affected by climate change due to the high concentrations of vulnerable populations living along coastal areas and river basins.

Working under the President’s Global Climate Change Initiative, USAID supports regional partnerships to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, catalyzing adoption of clean energy technologies and reducing deforestation and emissions from the land use sector. USAID promotes climate-resilient agriculture and infrastructure development through the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), establishes climate-resilient food security boosting fisheries and coastal communities, enhances urban planning to prepare for climate change impacts, and builds governments’ capacity to access climate information and adaptation financing.

To minimize threats to biodiversity and regional security, USAID’s regional wildlife trafficking efforts reduce consumer demand for illegal products and increase law enforcement capacities. Through the LMI, USAID uses science and technology to better inform policies that address large-scale hydropower and irrigation, and to properly value ecosystem services.


Countries in Asia continue to suffer from the damaging impacts of infectious disease, including HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, malaria and tuberculosis (TB), which cross national boundaries. Southeast Asia in particular is susceptible to new diseases and drug resistant strains of tuberculosis and malaria.  Hunger and vulnerability to hunger also persist in Asia, which is home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s poor. For example, there are approximately 536 million undernourished individuals in Asia, including close to 20% of children under age 5 in Southeast Asia and 40% in South Asia.

USAID helps countries stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by implementing replicable prevention, care and treatment model programs that target most-at-risk populations in Burma, Laos and Thailand. USAID helps Asia-Pacific countries address the spread of TB and multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB by scaling up new diagnostic tools; providing technical assistance for lab systems strengthening; training national and non-governmental staff in MDR-TB and TB case management; and advancing operational research on the implementation of new approaches and tools, especially in border areas. Through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), USAID implements programs to control the development and spread of drug-resistant malaria, through personal protection, rapid and high quality case management, drug quality control and disease surveillance.  USAID and the Thai Government have also launched their first ‘trilateral aid’ effort, combining expertise and other resources to reduce multidrug resistant malaria along the Thai/Burma border.  Through PMI, six countries in the region have an established surveillance network to monitor anti-malarial drug resistance. USAID builds on accomplishments in the effort to combat avian influenza by strengthening the ability of countries to detect and contain emerging infectious disease—at their source in animal reservoirs—before such pathogens threaten global public health. USAID has also partnered with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to identify and mitigate emerging infectious disease risk throughout the Mekong region.


The issue of human trafficking has become a global concern, and most directly affects Asia. About 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked annually in the region, of which an estimated 250,000 are from Southeast Asia and an additional 150,000 from South Asia.  USAID and the MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) Foundation work together to raise awareness about—and increase prevention of—human trafficking and exploitation across Asia.  This public-private partnership harnesses the power of local and international musicians and celebrities through on-air, online and on-the-ground actions designed to reach young adults who are at risk of becoming victims of the trafficking chain.

The MTV EXIT campaign has organized 30 concert events across Asia coupled with National Youth Sessions, youth roadshows, documentaries and more than 100 multimedia products produced for television and the internet.  Combined, these have reached an estimated 300 million people in Asia with messages aimed at increasing awareness of the threat of human trafficking.  Live events and multi-media products draw on important financial and other support from the private sector, non-governmental organizations and local governments. The campaign in Asia is funded in partnership with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the international non-governmental organization, WalkFree, and is endorsed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Last updated: January 12, 2015

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