Ms. Zema Semunegus is a Senior Foreign Service Officer and is the Mission Director for USAID/Pacific Islands.
Prior to arriving in Suva, Ms. Semunegus served as Mission Director for USAID/Timor-Leste for two years. Over the last 25 years, Ms. Semunegus has led and contributed to USAID and NGO efforts to save lives and promote resilience, food security, health, economic growth, human rights, and stability in various settings. From July 2020 to June 2021, Ms. Semunegus supported USAID disaster response efforts as head of the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance’s Office of Technical and Program Quality. Prior to that, Ms. Semunegus served as the Program Office Backstop Coordinator in the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning. From 2016 to 2017, she served as head of the USAID/Ethiopia Democracy and Governance office where she integrated human rights, good governance, and peacebuilding efforts.
Previous to that, Ms. Semunegus served as USAID/South Sudan Deputy Mission Director. In this role she co-led a complex portfolio of conflict mitigation, health, good governance, education, humanitarian assistance, food security, and economic growth investments.
As head of the USAID/West Bank and Gaza Program Office from 2013 to 2015, she provided strategic and programmatic leadership and coordinated humanitarian programming efforts in the aftermath of the devastating 2014 Gaza War. Prior to that, she supported USAID/Sudan and East African limited presence country programs remotely from Nairobi during a year-long ordered departure from Khartoum. From 2008 to 2012, Ms. Semunegus led a regional Food for Peace/BHA team based in Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. From 2002 to 2008, she served in Pretoria as a Project Development Officer, and, from 1995 to 2001, she supported various USAID and Save the Children Alliance disaster response efforts, primarily in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Europe.
Ms. Semunegus graduated from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, with a Master of Arts degree in Policy Studies (focusing on food security and health). Fluent in Amharic, she has studied Spanish and French and is proficient in Tigrigna. She is also proficient in Tetun, one of the two official languages in Timor-Leste.