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Title: SFS Blog | Ideas from Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

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... of my time has been dedicated to monitoring and evaluation M E for Project WASH Woman fills water containers at community fountain Caboverdean women are primarily responsible for fetching and transporting water They usually do not participate in household water and sanitation decisions Source Oxford Policy Management Community Level Study on Social and Gender Issues in the Water and Santiation Sector in Cabo Verde One of the main activities under Project WASH is to transform eight financially unsustainable and independent municipal water and sanitation companies on Santiago Cabo Verde s most populous island into one corporatized multi municipal utility Through employee training legal reform that will corporatize the utilities and separate them from political interference the adoption of commercial management tools and various other activities the goal is that the multi municipal water utility will operate more efficiently and more cost effectively than the autonomous utilities currently operate In preparation for the utility transformation process MCA s M E team has been working with the water and sanitation companies to improve data collection practices and to increase evidence based planning and decision making One of my first assignments with MCA s M E team was to clean and analyze data submitted to the MCA by the municipal utility companies during the first year of the compact Working with the data helped me learn about the differences in the provision and the usage of water and sanitation services across the island However it wasn t until I met with the utility employees to discuss the findings that I really began to understand the realities of their business operations I learned about the difficult task of balancing financial sustainability with shutting off the water and eliminating the illegal water connections of the poor I also discovered that many of the companies are so wrapped up in issues like maintaining boreholes and replacing leaky pipes and broken meters that employees rarely have the opportunity to think about their company s future Meeting with the employees of the Autonomous Water and Sanitation Utility of Santa Cruz Santiago Serviço Autonomo de Água e Saneamento de Santa Cruz Aside from the lessons I took away from meeting with the employees I had the opportunity to see how one utility has really taken advantage of MCA s M E support In a presentation to stakeholders of the WASH project the director of the utility of Tarrafal a municipality of approximately 18 000 in the northern part of Santiago explained that prior to MCA s assistance the utility sporadically collected data and employees were unaware of the types of data the company should be collecting However after participating in MCA s meetings and workshops and submitting monthly data reports the director explained that the utility has gotten into the habit of using data to identify areas in which they are experiencing losses He also shared that the employees have already used this information to engineer solutions that have historically impeded the utility s success By supporting the data collection and analysis projects with the independent utilities and working on other projects with MCA s M E team to monitor the progress of the Compact as a whole my internship this summer has provided me with a broad perspective of the ways in which M E can be integrated into large scale development projects This experience has also helped me better understand that even if program managers take M E and evidence based decision making seriously it may take a very long time for programs involving significant institutional and regulatory reform to have an impact on beneficiaries at the household level Tagged GHD Blog Leave a comment When Knowledge Isn t Enough Submitted by Peach Indravudh Posted on 5 August 2014 by Indhika Jayaratnam My favorite part of the day in Ghana is the shared taxi ride home at the end of the day Contentment in this case is not derived from the excitement of my imminent post work nap or any sort of particular comfort from being one of eight people in a taxi designed for five For me it s how much you can learn about a country by using the transportation system The inflated taxi fare tells you that the price of gas has been driven up due to a national fuel shortage Yams are in season as female produce sellers stuff baskets of unsold goods into the trunk of the taxi The women are accompanied by their children who make up almost half of the passengers an indication of how children as in most developing countries are everywhere in Ghana exploring the streets equipped with unrestrained bravado wildly chasing after perplexed baby goats and staring at you curiously from your lap in an overcrowded taxi This summer I am working with Innovations for Poverty Action a non profit which designs and evaluates development programs using randomized evaluations supporting the midline evaluation of the UNICEF funded Communications for Development C4D program in northern Ghana My experience has afforded me a closer look at the challenges that underpin behavior change surrounding child and maternal health as well as the importance of research dissemination particularly to community stakeholders In Ghana one in every thirteen children dies before the age of five with malaria and diarrhea the leading killers C4D is working to reduce child mortality rates by improving awareness and behavior change around five key health behaviors using various communication strategies such as mobile voice messages and community radio programming The evaluation is designed as a randomized control trial and has been complemented by qualitative research At the staff training C4D surveyors learn to conduct computer assisted interviews in preparation for the midline survey Thus far the baseline and qualitative findings indicate that levels of knowledge and awareness of health behaviors by respondents are relatively high yet gaps in practice remain underlining the structural barriers and behavioral factors that can preclude people from acting upon any existing knowledge Let s think about these challenges in an everyday setting I never exercise I know that my health and my abs could be improved if I broke into more than a light sweat every day My behaviors however are plagued by time inconsistency the idea that the way a person plans to act in the future will be different from what the person actually does and the lack of a conducive social setting i e having the pressure of everybody s doing it Now put these challenges in the context of a developing country The baseline survey reported that approximately three quarters of respondents heard about exclusive breastfeeding but almost 30 percent gave water to their less than six month old child the day before the survey potentially exposing them to water borne illnesses Focus group participants noted the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding but provided examples of infants who were given water while under the care of older family members set in unwavering habits and traditions Similarly 92 percent of baseline respondents reported that they believed that a healthcare facility was the best place to deliver However for their last pregnancy approximately 47 percent of respondents delivered at home Qualitative findings pointed to social barriers faced by women who often require permission from their husbands and in laws in order to leave the house Distance to health facilities was also a barrier compounding delays and forcing women to deliver at home A respondent points out her make shift hand washing station to the surveyor Hand washing with soap is a key health behavior targeted by C4D Though the evaluation is not yet complete these findings have already provided a useful examination of child and maternal health patterns in northern Ghana So where do we go from here The results will be circulated within IPA and to UNICEF implementing organizations and academic circles but how can these findings reach a larger audience and potentially have a wider impact Mass and effective dissemination of information is a known problem within the research community Recently the World Bank found that one third of its electronic reports have never been downloaded meaning they had never been seen by the public or frantic graduate students doing last minute reading before class The IPA Ghana office has been working to improve its communication strategies most recently holding a dissemination event for local stakeholders and releasing monthly newsletters to update them on the progress of relevant programs Funders and research organizations should place higher importance on such communication related activities as well as engagement with relevant development actors on research results This includes not only reaching policymakers and development organizations but community based stakeholders and research participants as well A surveyor conducts an interview in the compound of one of the primary respondents Respondents households are identified by the C4D tag written on the house For me this summer has brought to light the importance of getting research related information to the right people for all development actors bottom to top to have greater access to information on the successes and failures of past and ongoing projects Further the potential benefits of research respondents being equipped within this information should not be overlooked Candid discourse on project findings could provide a space for community members to discuss issues that are not normally spoken about which can act as a step forward for addressing any existing social barriers This is what local ownership is about communities taking charge of their own development equipped with the information to do so in an informed way Tagged GHD Blog Leave a comment Evidence of Institutional Change Submitted by Taylor Salisbury Posted on 1 August 2014 by Indhika Jayaratnam On July 9 th voters in the world s largest Muslim majority country third largest democracy and fourth most populous nation went to the polls to elect a new president Indonesia s electorate is far smaller than the Indian electorate that made news back in May when it voted a new party into power but the numbers are still impressive more than 130 million Indonesians exercised their right to vote out of 180 million who were eligible to do so When the winner takes office in October it will be the first time in Indonesian history that a democratically elected president has peacefully handed over power to another democratically elected president Despite the import of all of these numbers the Indonesian election barely registered in the media outside of Southeast Asia Yet the election itself was very much about the institutional evolution that is so often discussed in development literature The final result and its acceptance by the public has come about through an institutionally defined process that is transparent enough for the majority of Indonesians to trust it In a country of thousands of islands it takes time to collect all of the votes and report final results As such Indonesia relies on a group of private polling organizations and think tanks to predict the initial vote tally using subsamples of data in a process known as a quick count In this year s contest the majority of organizations called the election for Joko Widodo the current governor of Jakarta who goes by the nickname Jokowi by a margin of three to five percent A handful of organizations though called the election albeit by a slimmer margin for Prabowo Subianto an ex general and former vice presidential candidate The tentativeness of the quick counts allowed both candidates to say they had won but neither could fully declare victory Consequently Indonesians were forced to wait two weeks while the election commission KPU first tallied the votes at the provincial level and then aggregated them to the national level When the KPU certified the election for Jokowi last week Prabowo vowed to challenge it in the constitutional court and eventually did so The court will now have a month to deliberate and deliver a final verdict on the election but most analysts anticipate no change in the outcome During the run up to the final certification the KPU regularly updated its website with the vote totals in each province and the final meeting to report the votes was broadcast live on most Indonesian television stations Such openness has made it more difficult for Prabowo to gain traction in the media or with the public in general which sees the process as having been on the whole a fair one The election campaign and its aftermath have been a suitable setting for my work as an intern in Jakarta The election reflects the decade long evolution of direct democracy at the national level while at the same time the country has also undergone an institutional transformation at the subnational level In the past 15 years or so the national government has devolved many of its governing responsibilities to lower levels of government It is a transformation that parallels the decentralization efforts of many other developing countries as they try to make government more responsive to the unique needs of citizens at the local level For Indonesia s education system this has meant that district as opposed to provincial governments have greater control over education expenditures and administrative decisions This devolution of power has occurred alongside a dramatic increase in education spending from around 11 percent of the government budget to a constitutionally mandated 20 percent All of this new spending and new authority at the subnational level leads to an obvious question How are these changes reflected in the data on educational outcomes The research I have done this summer has tried to answer this question by quantifying and describing the variation in subnational educational outcomes With so much attention directed toward district governments it is useful to know approximately much of the variation in educational outcomes occurs at the district level If district level variation in outcomes is a miniscule portion of the total variation then it may make less sense to focus so much on districts and instead focus on some other level of educational administration When a country of 250 million people votes in a high stakes ultimately disputed election it can seem as though progress is unique to the present and that data and events from years past are now much less relevant But the fruits of institutional change are more often the consequence of long term evolution rather than the momentary political triumph of any one politician Perhaps realizing this in the days immediately after the election Jokowi asked his supporters to avoid wearing campaign t shirts and to stop using the two fingered salute of his political rallies he was number 2 on the ballot At some point he will have to govern all of Indonesia so instead of two fingers Jokowi urged voters to use a three fingered salute of unity his number 2 ballot number plus Prabowo s number 1 Tagged GHD Blog Leave a comment Laying the framework for Water and Sanitation Sustainability Submitted by Rahul Mitra Posted on 31 July 2014 by Indhika Jayaratnam Driving through the hustle and bustle of Lusaka it is really hard to imagine that the vast majority of this country live in rural communities Bumper to bumper traffic high rises and expensive cars one can almost see the development of Zambia happening in front of one s eyes making me nostalgic about my home country of Bangladesh And then I drive a couple of hours outside of the city and come across this Dotting the vast greenery of Zambia are thousands of villages where most of this country s population live Walk into one and Lusaka almost seems otherworldly Life is different here and the pace of development less palpable Faced with limited resources and difficulty of access the government struggles to provide basic amenities to these communities Lack of access to clean water keeps children away from school and hinders performance whereas the lack of access to proper sanitation and menstrual hygiene supplies causes girls to drop out of school Nonetheless these communities strive and their schools educate the next generation of Zambians FHI360 and CARE Zambia are implementing a 4 year USAID funded initiative targeting primary schools in the Eastern Province called SPLASH Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene Working alongside local government ministries this project aims to bring clean drinking water child and gender friendly latrines hand washing stations and hygiene education to rural schools across four districts of the Eastern Province of Zambia As a WASH consultant over the summer my primary task was to work with the SPLASH staff to develop tools for the operation and maintenance of implemented infrastructure Sustaining water sanitation and hygiene WASH resources at these schools after the life of this project is a key component of this initiative My time in Zambia has been split between working out of the SPLASH offices in Lusaka and Chipata with school visits sprinkled throughout the span of two months Working with the FHI360 CARE staff and officials from the Ministry of Education has been a unique and enjoyable learning experience Effective monitoring is one of the biggest challenges in the water and sanitation sector with over 40 of infrastructure failing within five years of implementation Crucial to infrastructure sustainability is developing a mechanism for school and district level officials to routinely monitor and report on the functionality of water points and latrines constructed during the project Using a tool called TextIt I developed a mobile based survey through which schools can directly relate information about the functionality of WASH infrastructure Using any cell phone that sends text messages rural communities can access this service allowing for timely accurate and transparent monitoring of services Once this data is reported it is automatically analyzed using a tool called Water Point Mapper which produces a map displaying the various infrastructure across the area of operation and up to date information about each WASH facility The use of mobile based reporting bypasses paper based surveys conducted periodically by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government and Housing Conducting paper based surveys is an expensive and time intensive process requiring staff to travel to rural communities over roads that are often impassible during the rainy season On the other hand mobile based surveys can be initiated at the instance of infrastructure failure and significantly reduces human error However the use of mobile phones to access these services requires communities to bear the cost of sending text messages These costs are considerably lower than the cost of transportation and salaries of surveyors and data entry staff Moreover cell phone credit can be transferred from the accounts of government ministries directly to these communities so as not to pass the cost onto the users There is also potential for private sector partnerships with cell service provides within Zambia Once the map of WASH infrasructure is generated it will be accessible to staff at government ministries project implementing organizations funding agencies and members of community WASH committees Engagement of all these stakeholders is vital for the sustainability of infrastructure and services Working in unison they will be able to report and address any issues that may arise with the implemented water system latrines handwashing stations menstrual hygiene facilities and drinking water points These tools will also aid organizations to efficiently allocate resources recognize trends in performance and service levels and have a visual easy to understand representation of project progress The use of WASH mapping all allow monitoring organizations to easily detect points of failure in service delivery and generate user friendly reports for funders and partners Through this structure of reciprocal monitoring where communities can directly communicate with the project implementer communities are encouraged to take ownership of their water and sanitation resources and play an active stake in operation and maintenance During my last week at SPLASH I presented these WASH monitoring tools to representatives from USAID Ministry of Education Ministry of Local Government and Housing FHI360 CARE and other NGOs working in this sector in Zambia The various entities called for adoption of these monitoring tools and increased cooperation for WASH sustainability In the coming months SPLASH will implement these tools in conjunction with the Ministry of Education in the schools in the Eastern Province where SPLASH is currently working Working with the SPLASH team in Zambia has been an incredibly fulfilling experience and has solidified my passion for working in the WASH sector I have learned a lot about the challenges that organizations face in sustaining implemented infrastructure and strategies used to overcome these challenges Working with SPLASH has allowed me the opportunity to innovate and create novel technologies to ensure WASH sustainability I am excited to see how these tools are implemented in the field over the coming months and whether they are effective over the coming years While not in office or the field I have had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Zambia at its many wildlife reserves From visiting elephant orphanages helicopter rides over the Victoria Falls and bungee jumping my time here in Zambia has been exhilarating to say the least The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of USAID or the U S Government Tagged GHD Blog Leave a comment Green Gold Bamboo and Sustainable Development in Vietnam Submitted by Wei ti Chen Posted on 21 July 2014 by Indhika Jayaratnam After a three hour drive on the bumpy road we arrived at a bamboo processing workshop in the most distant area of ThanhHoaProvince Vietnam Our company produces one ton of bamboo charcoal from residual every day and exports directly to Japan Mr Sau the owner of the business told us with pride while pouring green tea into our cups It was my second week working with the Sustainable Landscapes Team of Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program The VFD Program was funded by USAID and implemented by Winrock International SNV SRD Vietnamese NGO and Vietnam Red Cross My colleague Nguyet and I were conducting a survey of 10 bamboo enterprises in four districts within the province Bamboo forest residual and charcoal kilns Bamboo has benefits in multiple aspects On the environmental side bamboo is effective in preventing soil erosion and efficient in carbon sequestration The over exploitation of hardwood has caused rapid deforestation and environmental degradation in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia Unlike wood bamboo can be repeatedly harvested every 4 5 years after the first plantation This makes it a more sustainable alternative to hardwood timber Moreover planting bamboo as a livelihood increases the climate change resiliency for the farmers in the Central Highland of Vietnam Bamboo is also one of the best construction materials for low cost nature disaster resilient housing The market for bamboo furniture flooring and biofuel is growing rapidly in North America Europe and Japan The fact that ThanhHoa has the largest Luong bamboo Dendrocalamusbarbatus plantation area 70 000 ha in Vietnam makes it one of the best locations for the bamboo businesses Most of the processing and pre processing workshops located along the Ma River Nevertheless not all enterprises are doing as well as Mr Sau s Their main products are chopsticks and paper Most of these small scaled processors have limited access to information finance and market The profitability of the relatively unsophisticated products is low yet the costs for transportation waste treatment and labor safetyare pretty high even for exporting enterprises like Mr Sau s Workers examining the quality of bamboo chopsticks Problems also exist on the supply side local farmers often grow bamboo as a complementary livelihood in addition to rice and cassava Instead of waiting until the fourth year when bamboo reaches its mature size they tend to harvest it early for quick cash Apart from the local processing more than 70 of the bamboo culms are transported to other provinces unprocessed or used for local construction The low value added activities provide little incentive for sustainable plantation Consequently the quality of bamboo has been degrading over time The market is one of the most powerful divers of change Previous efforts focused on planting technology and product development Problems came when enterprises designed new handicrafts but could not find a market farmers grew good bamboo but could not find buyers Some enterprise owners were sent to China to learn about the latest processing technologies but few were applicable as the investment size is huge and the demand is uncertain A clear marketing strategy for both international and domestic markets is essential for ThanhHoa s bamboo sector And only by creating enough demand for bamboo with quality the farmers would have a good reason to apply sustainable forest management Handmade bamboo furniture The inclusive business model also provides a potential solution to the current situation In addition to capacity building for the existing enterprise partnership with enterprises which have a clear business plan and are willing to follow the guideline of triple bottom line financial social and environmental can stimulate innovation and create wide impacts to the low income population as well as sustainable land use Various impact investment funds have shown strong interest in climate change related businesses and bamboo stands a good chance And the design of an inclusive harvesting scheme would ensure the farmers benefit from the business Last but not least the government should provide a more favorable business environment by reducing red tapes and improving infrastructure The good news is that the government of ThanhHoa Province is very eager to work with the stakeholders to develop the bamboo sector Last week VFD program and the provincial government co hosted a workshop on a five year provincial bamboo sector development strategy I presented findings from the enterprise survey and my recommendations on the strategy Representatives from the enterprises expressed their interests and their concerns Within a week the recommendations and the conclusion from the discussion were largely included in the new strategic plan and the enterprises are forming a bamboo association Waiting for the harvest takes patience but the green gold has started to take root in the land of Vietnam Workshop on provincial bamboo sector development strategy Tagged GHD Blog Leave a comment From Humanitarian Relief to Human Development in Post Conflict Sri Lanka Submitted by Helen Moser Posted on 14 July 2014 by Indhika Jayaratnam During my first week in Sri Lanka I found myself racing down the country s Southern Expressway with two Save the Children colleagues The reason for our speed was a national disaster heavy monsoon rains after a long drought caused flooding and landslides There were ultimately 26 deaths and over 17 000 Sri Lankans displaced from their homes Children paddle over a flooded rice paddy Heavy monsoon rains caused flooding and landslides deaths and the displacement of thousands of Sri Lankans in June It was not an emergency that got much international coverage but a devastating one all the same Our job was to conduct a rapid needs assessment of the situation to have the knowledge to target our response Save the Children not only provides humanitarian relief during such emergencies but also is looked upon to lead the education response for children Schools are often closed for extended periods of time meaning that children miss instruction and tests In this disaster the Ministry of Education asked us to provide kits to replace lost school materials That day we visited local government offices overseeing the distribution of dry goods a shelter in a Buddhist temple for displaced families and a town that had been separated by a flooded rice paddy We saw children dogs and adults taking small boats across the paddy and we took a ride as well to survey the extent of the flooding We interacted with numerous people who spoke of the hardships they were facing flooded wells that meant they did not have clean drinking water lost crops that will yield extended economic shocks to their families and destroyed possessions In some communities homes and schools sat precariously on hillsides where there was still risk of landslide Last Thursday one month later I returned to one of the same locations to oversee the child led distribution of replacement school materials 2 500 students in Sri Lanka s Western and Southern Provinces would receive a bookbag containing notebooks pens a water bottle a lunch box and other items that would enable them to continue their educations with dignity This distribution had an important distinction from others that have happened before in Sri Lanka the children were in charge Representatives of children s clubs in the affected areas formed committees and volunteered to set criteria for who would receive the items verify the beneficiaries organize and pack the bags and distribute them to their peers With a group of student leaders in Save the Children s distribution of school materials to flood affected children So instead of local government officials at the microphone I saw Roshika 16 and her sister Srimali 15 instead The girls explained to me that they do not often have the opportunity to be leaders in their community They said it was a privilege to be in a position to help their peers especially as they were also affected by the flooding And according to my colleagues child led distribution has led to fewer complaints by parents and officials and stronger community understanding and support of decisions Following the devastating tsunami that hit Sri Lanka s coast in 2004 and the end of the country s violent thirty year civil war in 2009 Save the Children and other INGOs here have found themselves at a crossroads While there is still much internal conflict and inequality within its borders Sri Lanka is now a middle income country Where the need before was humanitarian response it is now human development Child led distribution is an example of Save the Children s desire to shift its mandate in this direction But it is not a transition that has come without growing pains especially as the national government here is increasingly skeptical of INGO activities principally those that deal with human rights promotion and democratization An order issued last week seeks to curtail INGOs from holding press conferences and workshops and training journalists It is certainly an interesting time to be living and working on this tropical teardrop and a difficult one in which to get a visa to do so In addition to my involvement with the flood response much of my time in Colombo has been spent researching for and preparing a civil society strengthening project proposal Its aim is to build civil society s capacity in promoting reconciliation among ethnic and religious groups here and advocating the government to implement human rights recommendations My work on the proposal has taken me to the conflict affected districts of Jaffna and Batticaloa where I sat down with civil society organizations local NGOs women s development societies and government officials Most interesting for me was meeting with war widows women whose husbands were killed or went missing in the civil war and hearing about their experiences with microcredit The models of microfinance we learned in Professor Joshi s economics class were running through my mind as the women spoke of predatory lending practices and their challenges in repayment Discussing microfinance with a group of war widows in Jaffna When not in the office or in the field I have taken advantage of Sri Lanka s natural and cultural beauty I ve frolicked with elephants in Minneriya National Park climbed the heights of Sigriya rock sighted pods of blue whales on a very rocky ocean journey donned a Kandyan sari as a bridesmaid in a friend s Buddhist wedding and reveled in the peace of warm sea waters and undeveloped beaches in Trincomalee Plus I ve had some great food the heat brought by the ubiquitous rice and curry dish here is much to this southern girl s liking The heat and unrelenting humidity brought by the outside is more of a challenge Within three weeks I ll wrap up my summer in Sri Lanka and take with me new on the ground experiences to complement my GHD coursework From my vantage point in the Colombo country headquarters as well as from interactions in the field I ve learned a great deal about what it means to be a development practitioner in a challenging government and funding context I ll return to DC ready to compare notes with my world traveling classmates on the ornate mechanics of proposal writing and how country offices approach both humanitarian response and human development I also imagine I ll soon be making a trip to the Georgetown Safeway to pick up the ingredients for a rice and curry party Tagged GHD Blog Leave a comment Lessons from Jordan The Crossroads Between a Refugee Crisis Natural Resource Shortage and Regional Instability Submitted by Lena Alfi Posted on 10 July 2014 by Indhika Jayaratnam During my first week interning with Mercy Corps in Amman I dove right into the field I arrived at the end of a series of campaigns Mercy Corps was conducting all around Jordan predominantly near the Syrian border in primary schools where Syrian refugee children were present The estimates of Syrian refugees in Jordan range between 1 2 million In a country of only 7 million the number of Syrian refugees has become somewhat of a touchy subject In response the campaign aimed to bring together Syrian and Jordanian children around an issue facing the entire country severe water scarcity The campaign consisted of a series of performances and art activities pertaining to water I couldn t have been more excited to see various parts of the country and conduct fun and educational activities with children I soon realized that the picture wasn t so rosy The majority of the Syrian children who attend schools in these remote villages come from very poor families who can t afford uniforms have lost family members in the war and are still trying to integrate into areas where they likely don t know anyone The children were shy and afraid of mingling with foreigners Once I told them that my mother was Syrian some of them became excited wanted to learn more about my family and even asked if I could take them with me to America Soon after the campaign I started participating in other components of Mercy Corps water initiative The team spent a couple weeks preparing for a large ceremony where the USAID Mission Director and the Minister of Water and Irrigation were scheduled to attend The purpose of the ceremony was to award grants to community based organizations so they could establish revolving loan programs to promote water use efficiency I have slowly become accustomed to using terms like water catchment systems small scale drip irrigation and photovoltaic systems Fortunately field visits are quite common We have driven across miles of desert to reach villages where community based organizations or schools with Syrian children are located During these drives through expanses of sandy hills and even in Amman itself it is quite common to see a UNHCR tent randomly situated in the middle of nowhere Apparently in addition to selling blankets and food that have been donated to them many Syrian refugees sell the tents they live in because they are in need of cash Locals buy the tents and typically use them to shelter their camels As result of these scattered tent placements The UNHCR logo is more widely recognized in this country than even the most advertised brands My coworkers find it odd that I am constantly taking pictures of solo tents housing camels in the middle of the desert The most touching and rewarding day thus far was World Refugee Day Mercy Corps hosted a day of activities at Zaatari Refugee Camp the second largest refugee camp in the world and Jordan s fourth largest city It was definitely an experience unlike any other...

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