Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

For years, 400,000 residents breathed air highly polluted by emissions from the 50-year-old coal-fired power plant operated by Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) - the largest private thermal power company in Eastern India. Before USAID helped revamp the plant, the city of Kolkata’s air pollution levels were among the highest in the world.

For villagers in the arid Marwar region of Rajasthan, India, decreasing groundwater levels and repeated droughts have destroyed traditional livelihoods. During the long dry season, farmers and herders get most of their water from wells. In recent years, some groundwater levels have dropped as much as 400 feet. One of the world's most densely populated arid regions, Marwar's droughts starve cattle and cause mass migration of people and their livestock. Farmers are forced to pay a high price for drinking water transported great distances by tankers, and many fall into debt taking out loans from local moneylenders.

Most of India's poorest people are subsistence farmers who have little or no access to new technology and markets for their produce. Access to water for irrigation is one of the most critical constraints that small farmers face, and in semi-arid regions like Maharashtra, small farmers struggle with scarce water resources and no access to irrigation technology that would allow them to enter high-value crop markets. Effective drip-irrigation systems have a high initial cost that most small farmers could not afford, leaving many unable to grow enough produce even to feed themselves and their families.

Saroja, a woman farmer from Sadrana village in the north Indian state of Haryana, grows fruits and vegetables. During harvest, she was forced either to sell the excess produce at low prices or let it spoil. Other farmers in the region and in the neighboring country of Nepal faced the same problem.

As many as 100,000 children in India are infected with HIV/AIDS, which not only threatens their health but can also debilitate their families, depriving them of parental love and protection. HIV-associated stigma and discrimination can lead to isolation and reduce their chances of receiving basic education. Children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS also undergo severe psychological stress.

Today, Indonesia is recognized as an international leader in family planning and reproductive health. It has one of the world’s most successful programs. As a result, women like Rubeha Purwanto are now able to space the births of their children, improving the health of both mother and child.

In the late 1990s, when the last independent magazine in Indonesia was closed down, journalists reacted by forming an underground society to promote uncensored dissemination of news. After political changes brought greater press freedoms in 1999, the journalists continued honoring their commitment to a free and independent media, this time out in the open. With help from a USAID grant, they launched an independent radio station: Radio 68H. Today, the station promotes free speech and a free press through trusted news coverage.

The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Rising Sun are some of the 3,000-plus novels and textbooks that the Indonesian Mitra Netra—or “Friends of the Eye”—Foundation has in stock. What makes the library so impressive is that the books are in Braille or on tape. “We’ve been developing audio books since 1992,” says the deputy director, Irwan Dwi Kusnanto, who is visually impaired. With help from USAID, the foundation distributes 100 cassettes per month to 15 special schools where they are enjoyed by visually impaired adults and children.

Mothers and pregnant women in Wonokromo, a town in northeastern Java, worried that when time for delivery came, they could not get to the hospital. They also worried there was no guaranteed supply of blood in the event of an emergency requiring a transfusion. Now, thanks to a USAID-supported health initiative, Wonokromo mothers can stop worrying.


Last updated: January 05, 2015