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Liberia’s Government Takes the Helm to Protect Vulnerable Children

March 1st, 2013
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See below for a guest blog from Geoffrey Oyat, Child Protection Manager in Liberia. This is the ninth post in our field feedback series and the fifth in Save’s “Aid Reform Stories from the Field” series. Click the links to read posts from Save the Children in Guatemala, Malawi, Ethiopia, and NicaraguaWomen Thrive in Ghana; Oxfam America in Uganda; Management Sciences for Health in Bolivia; and PATH in Kenya.


Monrovia, Liberia

Geoffrey OyatMr. Mulbah, a farmer in Gleegbar Town in northwest Liberia, was persuaded by a distant family member to send his four older children to a boarding school in Monrovia in 2007.  This school, Aunt Musu said, would provide a better life for his two sons and two daughters since there was no good school in Gleegbar Town. Four years later, Mr. Mulbah was notified that his children were living in an orphanage, where they had been beaten, starved, and forced to beg for money on the streets. Mr. Mulbah’s children were returned to him in July 2011 and he is now caring for a family of nine and sending all his children to the local school in Gleegbar Town. Although Mr. Mulbah is now reunited with his children, many other parents in the region still face uncertainty about their kids’ whereabouts.

Poor services and poverty in rural areas compel parents to send their children to the capital city Monrovia with hopes for a better life for their children. Parents enroll their kids in orphanages with false promises of funding for their education. An assessment done by Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in 2008 found that a majority of the 5,000 children living in orphanages in Liberia are not orphaned but wrongly placed.

The Government of Liberia is faced with the daunting task of supervising orphanages and ensuring the protection of Liberia’s two million children. Moreover, the country is still recovering from a 16-year civil war and its institutional capacity remains weak.

Over the past decade, Save the Children has been assisting Liberia’s Department of Social Welfare, the government ministry responsible for child protection on measures and structures to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence affecting children.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Displaced Children and Orphan’s Fund, and administered by World Learning, Save the Children Liberia has been removing children from the streets, unsafe orphanages, and other risky circumstances, and reintegrating them with their parents when possible. We have also helped parents to improve their skills and economic opportunities to prevent family separations in the first place.

With its latest package of reforms called “USAID Forward”, USAID is investing more resources in building the capacity of Liberia’s institutions to take over essential functions such as child protection and health services that were primarily led by international NGOs and private contractors in the years immediately following the war. By shifting these responsibilities –from US entities to the Liberian public sector – USAID is fostering sustainable development and reducing the need for U.S. development assistance over time.

Aid reform LIBOver the past several years, Save the Children’s role has expanded beyond providing child protection services alongside Liberia’s Department of Social Welfare. We are now working to help improve the government’s tracking and protection system for vulnerable children. In the USAID-funded project called, “Educating and Protecting Vulnerable Children in Family Settings” project, we are setting up a case management system for the Department of Social Welfare, in partnership with World Learning, to enhance the government’s ability to prevent vulnerable children from being separated from their families and reintegrate those that have been separated. World Learning has also been working to build the capacity of the Department of Social Welfare in child protection and other priority areas. Since the project began, we have prevented 457 separations and returned 221 children, ages 4 to 18, to safe homes.

Once the project is over in 2014, the Department of Social Welfare will take leadership over the protection and unification of children in Liberia. They will have quality baseline information on vulnerable families in six counties and an active county-level database of families linked to the national record. Moreover, members of Liberia’s judiciary and police will be able to work with 36 community groups and local leaders trained by Save the Children to identify child protection risks, relevant laws, and local services provided by the Department of Social Welfare.

Building stronger and more responsive government institutions is a challenging task, particularly in a country like Liberia that has been so deeply impacted by war. Efforts by Save the Children, however, help to ensure that U.S. development assistance not only improves the lives of vulnerable children in Liberia now but also strengthens the country’s public institutions to lead and drive effective service delivery for at-risk kids in Liberia in the future.


Groups Welcome the Release of Administration Proposal for International Food Aid Reform

February 26th, 2013
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Below is a joint statement, which was released earlier today on the rumored changes to the U.S. approach to food aid in President Obama’s FY14 budget request. The statement welcomes reports that these changes may include useful reforms and is endorsed by 12 organizations, including MFAN.

food aid groups

Washington, DC, February 26, 2013 – The above groups welcome reports that the Administration may propose helpful reforms to the U.S. food assistance program in its FY2014 budget submission to Congress. We urge the Obama Administration to include a bold reform proposal that builds upon the United States’ historic leadership as the world’s most generous donor of food aid.

When 870 million people around the world go hungry every day, making every food aid dollar count is not only a responsible use of taxpayer money, it is a moral imperative. For that reason, it is critical that any reforms seek efficiencies rather than cuts, and do not alter the basic programmatic focus of the U.S. food aid program. These programs help to feed 55 million people in need around the world, supporting both emergency responses and addressing chronic hunger.

Our organizations strongly support effective foreign assistance to address humanitarian crises and development challenges. We know from our work on the ground that this aid saves lives.  That is why we have advocated for common sense reforms to our outdated food aid system that would allow the United States to continue providing life-saving assistance for millions of people around the world, even in this period of a constrained federal budget.

Making every dollar count for hungry people means adding flexibility to our overseas food assistance so that proven methods such as local and regional purchase (LRP) are part of the food aid toolbox. The recent release of an independent evaluation report of the USDA LRP Pilot Program, established under a provision of the 2008 farm bill, confirms that this approach is a triple win: providing considerable cost savings, faster humanitarian response, and support for the local farmers and agricultural markets that are the key to providing long-term global food security.

Making every dollar count for hungry people also means reducing the inefficient and potentially market distorting practice of selling U.S. commodities to fund non-food components of programs designed to support agriculture, nutrition and food security. It would be far more efficient to fund these activities directly, instead of through circuitous and inefficient route of monetizing food aid.

In a June 2011 report, the Government Accountability Office found that the use of monetization resulted in at least a 30 percent loss of resources to non-emergency food aid projects conducted from 2008-2010.

In the current budgetary climate, policymakers cannot afford to ignore any credible proposal to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars while maintaining and even increasing program reach and impact. Our organizations stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to reform our international food aid system so that we can continue to respond to the scourge of global hunger today and build toward a hunger-free future tomorrow.


Tweet Stream: Panel Explores Future of U.S. Development Efforts

February 20th, 2013
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Yesterday, the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion on the U.S. global development reform agenda, with participants noting opportunities and challenges for future reform efforts. The event, “The United States and Global Development: An Approach in Transition,” was moderated by MFAN co-chair and Brookings senior fellow George Ingram. Panelists included: Sheila Herrling, vice president in the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Steven Radelet, distinguished professor in the practice of development at Georgetown University; Susan Reichle, assistant to the administrator at the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Connie Veillette, consultant and MFAN principal.

Watch a video or listen to audio of the event here.

In case you missed the event, take a look at MFAN’s live tweet stream (@ModernizeAid) in reverse chronological order:

  • Reichle @USAID hopes that we strengthen a constituency for US development over the next four years #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette’s 1 wish is a well-written foreign assistance authorization bill #USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID asks how do we connect youth around the world and help them to focus to achieve big results together #USDevReform
  • Radelet: challenge is to move from model where traditional development funders are the risk-sharers. #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette makes call for coalition to support more effective & efficient food aid, and not give in to special interests #USDevReform
  • Conversation switches gears briefly to address food aid reform #USDevReform
  • Herrling says President’s state of the union speech was huge moment for development #USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID says the agency will move 11 missions into new engagement strategy in FY14 budget #USDevReform
  • Veillette: unless experts make decisions about what should/should not be cut, the non-experts will make those decisions #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette: admin has not made great strides in being more selective with development programs #USDevReform
  • Radelet: (2/2) and have these agencies, USAID & MCC, be seen as stronger, more effective in the eyes of taxpayers & the Hill #USDevReform
  • Radelet: (1/2) model for change is to focus on a set of key reforms…#USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID says reform efforts are really taking hold in the field and they are institutionalizing core competencies #USDevReform
  • @GMIngramIV asks for a preview of the upcoming USAID Forward progress report — coming mid-March! #USDevReform
  • Herrling: we see a real focus on monitoring and evaluation and being transparent about this, even when it comes with risks. #USDevReform
  • Sheila Herrling @MCCtweets talks about partnership for growth initiative and figuring out “how” to implement reform #USDevReform
  • Veillette: need more clarification about how development is distinct from diplomacy and defense, esp for Congress #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette: I don’t think reforms are spreading beyond USAID to other agencies #USDevReform
  • Radelet @georgetownsfs says to stop calling for USAID admin to have seat on natl security council; have strong representation #USDevReform
  • Radelet: final issue is transparency and openness #USDevReform
  • Radelet: second issue is procurement reform. If done right, this could fundamentally help our partners in developing countries #USDevReform
  • Steve Radelet: most important thing is to ensure strong implementation of reform agenda already in place #USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID: we elevated development by focusing on results, take Feed the Future for ex #USDevReform
  • Susan Reichle @USAID says we need to strengthen core capacities incl budget and policy shops #USDevReform
  • First question: what further can be achieved to elevate development in the US? #USDevReform

MFAN Statement: Food Aid Reform Necessary; Administration Urged to Release Proposal

February 19th, 2013
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February 19, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network is intrigued by reports that the Obama Administration may propose changes to the U.S. approach to providing overseas food assistance, including reforms that could make this assistance more cost effective and allow us to reach more people around the world in need of help.  While we don’t yet have details of these proposed changes, we believe strongly that improving the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid is long overdue and could provide millions more people with life-saving assistance—all without increasing the budget for these programs.

The current approach to delivering food aid is outdated and in need of reform.  In an era of decreasing budgets, policymakers simply can’t afford not to consider any credible proposal to maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars.  We urge the Administration to make its proposal public and include it in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, and we urge Congress to give it careful and complete consideration.

EVENT – The United States and Global Development: An Approach in Transition

February 13th, 2013
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The United State and Global Development: An Approach in Transition 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 2:00 — 3:30 pm

The Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC

As President Barack Obama begins his second term, the U.S. global development community is taking stock of the reform efforts that began in 2010 to elevate development—joining defense and diplomacy—as a core pillar of U.S. national security and foreign policy, while advancing proposals for what the administration should focus on going forward. In January 2013, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a reform-minded coalition that is focused on advancing the effectiveness and impact of U.S. global development efforts, submitted its recommendations to President Obama.

On February 19, the Development Assistance and Governance Initiative at Brookings and MFAN will co-host a discussion on the current status and future of the U.S. global development reform agenda. Panelists will include: Sheila Herrling, vice president in the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Steven Radelet, distinguished professor in the practice of development at Georgetown University; Susan Reichle, assistant to the administrator at the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Connie Veillette, former director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development. Brookings Senior Fellow George Ingram will moderate the discussion.

After the program, the panelists will take audience questions.


George Ingram, Senior Fellow

The Brookings Institution



Sheila Herrling, Vice President

Department of Policy and Evaluation, Millennium Challenge Corporation


Steven Radelet, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Development

School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University


Susan Reichle, Assistant to the Administrator

Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, U.S. Agency for International Development


Connie Veillette, Consultant 


To RSVP for this event, please call the Office of Communications at 202.797.6105 or click here.