Help­ing South Asia

De­spite its mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in South Asia, the U.S. is mak­ing valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to de­vel­op­ment of so­cial sec­tors in the re­gion.

Southasia - - Cover Story - By Si­jal Fawad

Thanks to its strate­gic lo­ca­tion and a his­tory of diplo­matic re­la­tions, the South Asian re­gion holds im­mense sig­nif­i­cance on the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic as­sis­tance map of the United States. In fact, the U.S. has played a prom­i­nent role in as­sist­ing coun­tries in the re­gion in the do­mains of gov­er­nance, in­fra­struc­ture and in de­vel­op­men­tal spheres cov­er­ing health, ed­u­ca­tion and gen­der equal­ity.

For a coun­try like Pak­istan that lags be­hind quite ap­par­ently in the pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion for all, U.S. as­sis­tance is help­ing 900,000 schoolaged chil­dren ac­quire ed­u­ca­tion. Ce­ment­ing these ef­forts fur­ther is the con­tri­bu­tion to­wards teach­ers’ skill de­vel­op­ment and equip­ping li­braries with com­ple­men­tary learn­ing ma­te­ri­als, thus pro­vid­ing an in­clu­sive pack­age for ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ment in Pak­istan.

The ef­forts of the U.S. have not been tilted more to­wards the younger lot of Pak­ista­nis only as de­vel­op­men­tal as­sis­tance has been di­rected to­wards en­hanc­ing adult lit­er­acy as well, with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on fe­males. The USAID adult lit­er­acy pro­gram that sup­ported the ed­u­ca­tion of 2500 women helped prop up Pak­istan’s adult lit­er­acy rate by 10 per­cent. Women are also helped to­wards eco­nomic pros­per­ity through pro­grams such as the ‘En­trepreneurs.’

With ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tance near­ing $250 mil­lion worth in the last fis­cal year and with pro­grams such as the Ful­bright Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram, Fi­nan­cial Aid De­vel­op­ment pro­grams in co­op­er­a­tion with the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan, sup­port for science and tech­nol­ogy and the Strength­en­ing Teacher Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram (STEP), the ef­forts of the U.S. to­wards up­lift­ing ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ment in Pak­istan are quite laud­able.

The U.S. has also ex­tended sup­port to­wards the im­prove­ment of health fa­cil­i­ties, upgra­da­tion of wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion, de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral and com­mu­nity health cen­ters and im­prov­ing ma­ter­nal and child care such as the Fam­ily Ad­vance­ment for Life and Health (FALAH) pro­gram. Other pro­grams ad­dress po­lio erad­i­ca­tion and treat­ment of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and pub­lic health train­ing.

De­vel­op­men­tal ini­tia­tives of the U.S. are also vis­i­ble in other coun­tries such as In­dia, which has wit­nessed phe­nom­e­nal growth in the past few years. With the help of the U.S., In­dia has seen no­tice­able im­prove­ment in HIV preven­tion and treat­ment, child and ma­ter­nal health and po­lio erad­i­ca­tion.

The U.S. is also work­ing to help women claim their rights by sup­port­ing the ac­cess of women to law through pro­grams fo­cused on legal coun­sel­ing and gen­der ad­vo­cacy. Steps have been taken by the U.S. to help re­ju­ve­nate ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in slums and ru­ral ar­eas, such as trans­form­ing madres­sah ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia through teacher train­ing and mod­ern teach­ing tech­niques.

Sri Lanka too has had its share of U.S. as­sis­tance through hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­grams. With over $135 mil­lion spent be­tween 2005 and 2009, the U.S. sup­ported the Tsunami-af­fected ar­eas of Sri Lanka through vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion, com­mu­nity in­volve­ment and in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment.

The U.S. has also sup­ported the Sri Lankan con­flict-af­fected ar­eas through health ser­vices, such as preven­tion of Avian in­fluenza, as­sis­tance for vic­tims of traf­fick­ing and for peo­ple with dis­abil­ity and other hu­man­i­tar­ian ser­vices.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. has un­der­taken a num­ber of health pro­grams in part­ner­ship with renowned or such as the WHO and the John Hop­kins Univer­sity. These in­clude projects for psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port for Afghan chil­dren, strength­en­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sys­tems, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis con­trol and sup­port of var­i­ous health ser­vices.

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