Inter Press Service » Aid http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:29:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/feed/ 0 The Case for Cash in Humanitarian Emergencieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 22:23:50 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145860 Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Currently only six percent of humanitarian aid worldwide comes in the form of cash handouts, yet many aid organisations believe that cash transfers should be seen as the rule, not the exception.

Both the World Food Program (WFP) and World Vision International, who work together in Somalia, South Sudan and other crisis-ridden countries, stressed the advantages of cash instead of in kind allowances at a meeting held here Monday.

“There is no longer a question about ‘does cash work’ or ‘is cash the right tool’,” said Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, Deputy Executive director of the WFP.

George Fenton of World Vision explained:

“Digital humanitarian cash transfers are one of the most significant and most exciting innovations of today. They offer… a greater dignity, choice and flexibility for crisis-affected people.”

Due to increasingly widespread mobile phone ownership, cash transfers are now often made digitally. In some circumstances, including refugee camps, aid organisations may hand out cash directly.

The transfers are usually given unconditionally, since this is considered an effective way to provide assistance to a person in need. Whereas in-kind assistance such as food or materials, may not suit the specific needs of the recipient, cash transfers allow recipients to spend money on their most urgent needs, while also supporting local markets.

“Cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves," -- Sarah Bailey.

However, while cash transfers have been considered successful in the settings where they have so far been rolled out, humanitarian organisations, such as the World Bank now want to work out how to make wider use of the concept. As Amir Abdulla put it: “How do we take it to scale?”

In order to do this, some obstacles need to be overcome, methods of delivery have to be streamlined and there has to be a response to the “need to marry cash and technology,” as Fenton puts it.

Colin Bruce, senior advisor to the World Bank President, told the meeting about upcoming challenges: “Until we can better coordinate those processes (needs assessments and response analyses), it’s going to be very difficult to get the kind of upstream thinking, funding and programming necessary to take cash to scale.”

Secondly, a “change in mindsets” has to take place, as Sarah Bailey told IPS this week. Bailey is a Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and was on the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers which produced the report Doing Cash Differently. She explained to IPS that “cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves.”

The desired shift to cash-based aid is closely linked to the fund-raising side of humanitarian programs. Charlotte Lattimer of the non-profit research organization Development Initiatives emphasized that although funding increased in the last year, there still exists “an enormous shortfall in terms of meeting humanitarian needs”.

Donors are increasingly asking for more transparency and more precise reporting on exactly how funds are spent, which is difficult if it is spent by the recipients instead of the aid organization.

Still “cash transfers are a tangible opportunity for more aid transparency because it’s easier to track the movement of money than the movement of food and buckets. Far from cash transfers being a risk to accountability, cash can be a vehicle for it,” Bailey told IPS.

Further research may help determine whether cash transfers can provide the transparency donors ask for. With innovations in the field of digital transactions and mobile banking and payment, the infrastructure for new aid delivery concepts improves year by year.

It is this development that aid organizations hope will catch the attention of donors. Bailey explained to IPS why she is convinced that cash transfers will become more and more important. At the end of the day, financial arguments decide financial questions: “Delivering cash is cheaper than delivering in-kind aid. You do not need to rent a warehouse and hire a driver to get money to people. As aid agencies use cash more it will become even cheaper with economies of scale.”

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Biogas Brings Heat and Light to Pakistan’s Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145856 Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
FAISALABAD, Pakistan, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Nabela Zainab no longer chokes and coughs when she cooks a meal, thanks to the new biogas-fueled two-burner stove in her kitchen.

Zainab, 38, from Faisalabad, a town 360 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is among the beneficiaries of a flagship pilot biogas project to free poor households and farmers of their dependence on wood, cattle dung and diesel fuel for cooking needs and running irrigation pumps.

She got the biogas unit, worth 400 dollars, at a 50 percent subsidised rate from the NGO Rural Support Programme Network under the latter’s five-year Pakistan Domestic Biogas Programme (PDBP).

In the past, Zainab had to collect wood from a distant forest three times a week and carry it home balanced on her head.

“Getting rid of that routine is a life-changing experience,” she told IPS.

The four-cubic-meter biogas plant requires the dung of three buffalos every day to meet the energy needs of a four-member family, including cooking, heating, washing and bathing for 24 hours.

It saves nearly 160 kg of fuelwood a day, worth 20 to 25 dollars every month for a four-member family.

The wife of a smallholder vegetable farmer, Zainab says she has suffered from a cough and sore eyes for the last 20 years. “We have no access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not feasible either for us poor. However, we had no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung cakes or fuelwood,” she said.

Last January, cattle farmer Amir Nawaz installed a biogas plant of eight-cubic-meter capacity at a cost of 700 dollars under the PDBP. He got subsidy of nearly 300 dollars.

“I am now saving nearly 60 dollars a month that I used to spend on LPG,” he told IPS.

His plant is fueled by the dung of his six buffalos — enough to meet household gas needs for cooking and heating.

Nawaz also uses biogas to power wall-mounted lamps in his house at night, saving another 15 dollars a month.

“Above all, this has helped our children do schoolwork and for me to finish up the household chores in the evening hours,” Nawaz’s wife, Shaista Bano, said with a smile.

As many as 5,360 biogas plants of varying sizes have been installed in 12 districts of Punjab province over five years (2009-2015), ridding nearly 43,000 people of exposure to smoke from wood and kerosene.

Nearby, 500 large biogas plants of the 25-cubic-meter capacity each have also been introduced in all 12 districts of Punjab province under the PBDP, namely: Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara.

Such plants provide gas for a family of 10 for cooking, heating and running irrigation pumps for six hours daily.

Rab Nawaz bought one of these large plants for 1,700 dollars. PBDP provided him a subsidy of 400 dollars as part of its biogas promotion in the area.

“I use the dung of 18 buffalos to produce nearly 40 cubic meters of gas every day to run my diesel-turned-biogas-run irrigation pump for six hours and cooking stove for three times a day,” he told IPS, while shoveling out his cattle pen in Sargodha.

The father of three says that after eliminating diesel — which is damaging to the environment and health, as well as expensive — he saves 10-12 dollars daily.

As a part of sustainability of the biogas programme, 50 local biogas construction companies have been set up. International technical experts trained nearly 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of the biogas units.

Initiated in 2009 by the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Programme – Pakistan (NRSP-Pakistan), PBDP was financed by the Netherlands Embassy in Pakistan and technical support was extended by Winrock International and SNV (Netherlands-based nongovernmental development organisations).

“The biogas programme aimed to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. To that extent, the main actors at the supply side of the sector are private Biogas Construction Enterprises (BCEs) providing biogas construction and after sales services to households. At the demand side of the sector, Rural Support Programmes organized under the RSPN will be the main implementing partners, but will also include NGOs, farmers’ organizations and dairy organizations,” NRSP CEO Shandana Khan told IPS.

“The 5,600 biogas plants are now saving nearly 13,000 tons of fuelwood burning worth two million dollars and 169,600 liters of kerosene oil for night lamp use,” she said.

“Implemented at a total cost of around 3.3 million dollars, the biogas plants have helped reduce the average three to four hours a woman spent collecting fuel-wood and cooking daily. These women now get enough time for socialization, economic activity and health is returning to households thanks to the biogas plants… which provide instant gas for cooking, healing and dishwashing,” she said.

More significantly, the programme is helping avoid nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, she calculated.

At present around 18 percent of households in Pakistan, mostly in urban areas, have access to natural gas. Over 80 percent of rural people rely on biomass (wood, cattle dung, dried straw, etc) for cooking, heating and other household chores, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

Chairman of the AEDB Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “It is unviable for the large number of rural households to have access to piped natural gas. However, biogas offer a promising and viable solution to meet energy needs of the households in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of over 180 million cattle heads.”

He argued that some 80 million cattle and buffaloes and an estimated 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million poultry birds in the country can also provide sufficient raw material for substantial production of biogas.

“This way, the biogas can be tapped to cope with a range of health, environmental and health and economic benefits,” he stressed.

Pakistan is home to over 160 million head of cattle (buffalo, cow, camel, donkey, goat and lamb). The dung of these livestock can feed five million biogas plants of varying sizes, according to energy experts at the National University of Science and Technology (Islamabad) and Faisalabad Agriculture University (Punjab province).

This can help plug the yawning gas supply gap. According to government figures, 73 percent of 200 million people (a majority of them in rural areas) have no access to piped natural gas. Such people rely on LPG gas cylinders and fuelwood.

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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Women’s Cooperatives Ease Burden of HIV in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-cooperatives-ease-burden-of-hiv-in-kenya/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 10:52:16 +0000 Charles Karis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145829 Dorcus Auma weaving sisal fronds into a basket. Her Kenyan women's group has helped provide income to care for her grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Credit: Charles Karis/IPS

Dorcus Auma weaving sisal fronds into a basket. Her Kenyan women's group has helped provide income to care for her grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Credit: Charles Karis/IPS

By Charles Karis
NAIROBI, Jun 27 2016 (IPS)

Seventy-three-year-old Dorcus Auma effortlessly weaves sisal fronds into a beautiful basket as she walks the tiny path that snakes up a hill. She wound up her farm work early because today, Thursday, she is required to attend her women’s group gathering at the secretary’s homestead.

Except for their eye-catching light blue dresses and silky head scarfs, they would pass for ordinary village women. They are part of the Kagwa Women’s Group in the remotest part of Homa Bay County in Kenya’s lake region.

A recent county profile of HIV/AIDS prevalence by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) revealed that Homa Bay County leads Kenya in HIV prevalence, standing at 25.7 percent.

Auma joined the group in 2008 when the care of her three grandchildren was thrust upon her shoulders.

“HIV/AIDS robbed me of my three children, leaving me with the burden of having to take care of three children left in a vulnerable condition,” says Auma.

With no steady income to provide for their basic needs, she joined other women who shared the same predicament.

UNAIDS says that microfinance can play a big role in helping households affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the women’s group at Homa Bay has proved this to be true.

Composed of 28 members, it started as a merry-go-round, which is a self-help group that helps women to save money. The group is supported by World Vision through an initiative to enhance target households through cooperatives.

“Within economic strengthening we are trying to help the families to get economically empowered through the locally available resources. This is a group of old women, they are all grandmas, and they had already started doing their own merry go-rounds. We came in with training on village savings and loaning, which is a simplified model of the savings at the rural level – it’s like a rural bank,” says Jedidah Mwendwa, a technical specialist with APHIA II Plus (pdf), one of the implementing organizations.

Most of the members are grandmothers whose children died from HIV/AIDS, and hence were left to fend for their grandchildren.

“Since the grannies cannot engage in vigorous economic activities, they were introduced into saving and loaning at their own level. They agreed to raise monies for saving and loaning among themselves through locally available resources like making ropes, baskets and mats,” says Mwendwa.

“When they meet on Thursdays, they collect all their material contributions. One of their members is sent to the nearby market, which is Oyugis, a distance of 61km, to go sell their products and the following week, the money that came from the market is what is saved for each specific member,” says Mwendwa.

The savings are rotated to individual members on an annual basis, and since they do not have a secure place to keep the money, they usually loan out the entire collected amount to members who return it with one percent interest.

“Since I joined this group, my life has changed. I have been able to engage in sustainable farming. My grandchildren have a reason to smile as they have nutritious food on the table,” says Auma, as she gives instructions to her eldest grandchild, a 16-year-old girl, on how to separate the sisal strands.

Initially, local people were a bit reluctant to attend the HIV caretaker training sessions because of the real stigma associated with the illness, but most have come around, and their efforts are paying off.

“We offer to the group and school clubs sensitization on adherence and nutrition,” says Rose Anyango, a social worker in the county. “The women and the children are responding well and the stigma no longer exists. Through village savings and loaning they are able to feed their children as well as educate them.”

The group has seen immediate successes in behavior, attitudes and practices regarding cultural dictates and inclusion of people living with HIV/AIDS in development activities. Women are now actively taking the lead in economic empowerment, enabling them to support their families.

The group now plans to increase to increase its impact by involving more members from the surrounding community, which will go a long way in not only empowering of locals but also reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

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Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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Cotton Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cotton-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 21:09:30 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145805 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 24 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistan’s economy is in grave trouble. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, it failed to meet the growth target of 5.5pc in FY2016. GDP grew by 4.7 pc. This was mainly due to the ‘major setback’ (to use the finance minister’s words) in agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

www.zubeidamustafa.com

At the heart of the crisis was a massive decline of 27.8pc in cotton production. It should be remembered that cotton is the mainstay of our agriculture and textile industry. The cotton crisis has emerged as a very controversial issue. Well-informed farmers attribute this disaster to the widespread use of genetically modified seeds that were formally introduced in the country in 2010 but were being smuggled since 2005. Now BT cotton (a genetically modified variety) is grown in 88pc of the cotton-cultivated area.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been challenged all over the world as some giant seed multinationals have grown phenomenally thanks to their aggressive marketing. If unchecked, they could dominate global agriculture. GM seeds will undermine biodiversity as the manufacturers ensure their monopoly in the seed sector. Being vulnerable to pest attacks, GM crops need pesticides in large quantities that poor farmers cannot afford. It is no coincidence that the manufacturers of these seeds also produce pesticides which account for a big chunk of their revenues.

Farmers are predicting another year of difficulties

Some facts are indisputable. Cotton production has not increased as promised since BT cotton was introduced. The decline is not fully reflected in the data released by the government because it has changed the measure used to determine the output, which is counted in the number of bales. Previously, each cotton bale weighed 176 kilogrammes. Since 2011 it has been reduced to 150kg. Using the old measure we know that cotton production had hit a record figure of 14.6 million bales in 2004. That figure has never been reached again and last year it was less than 9m bales (by the old measure).

The per hectare yield as well as the area of cotton cultivation have been erratic. In FY2012, 2.8m hectares (about seven acres) were cultivated and the yield was 815kg per hectare. In FY2016, these figures were 2.91 hectares with a yield of 587kg per hectare respectively, which means the slight increase in acreage was offset by the lower yield.

The government blames the weather (frequent and excessive rains) and pest attack, mainly bollworms, for the fall in cotton output. In a recent notification, the Punjab government advised farmers to delay planting.

The farmers have another story to tell. They say it is the poor quality of seeds that has led to pest attacks and caused the decline in production. They are predicting another year of crisis. According to one media report this year, many farmers have switched to other crops and the area of cotton cultivation is considerably lower.

In spite of poor results, the government insists on approving GM cotton seeds. Thus in a meeting in February, the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) hastily approved the applications for nearly 100 GM seeds without following prescribed procedures. That is how Monsanto and Dupont were allowed commercialisation of GM corn without large-scale testing and biosafety risk assessment in open fields in Pakistan.

This was reconfirmed by the NBC in another meeting in April on the written orders of the prime minister. This is shocking to say the least. There has been a concerted effort to increase the private sector’s role and space in the seed market. Monsanto, an American biotechnology company, has been a big beneficiary of the changes in the government’s policies. In 2015, the Seeds Act 1976 was changed to “meet the requirements of the modern seed industry”.

Not surprisingly the pressure for change came from the US which wants Pakistan to meet its ‘obligations’ under WTO regulations and create a larger market for private seed producers. Previously, seed manufacturing and its price regulation was in the public sector. Now the private sector — mainly giant biotech companies — has entered the seed market in Pakistan.

WikiLeaks which brought into the open routine exchanges between US diplomatic missions in Pakistan and the State Department in Washington apparently revealed how Monsanto was in the picture in the formulation of cotton policies in the country.

To reject new technologies in a knee-jerk reaction is unwise. But it is worse to accept them indiscriminately without testing them rigorously under local conditions.

The Kissan Board has gone to court to get justice for the farmers. It filed a petition in 2014 challenging the NBC meeting that allowed the commercialisation of BT cotton that year. Its plea was accepted but the government went into appeal and the matter was put on hold. The government has proceeded as usual. Now another case has been filed challenging the government on constitutional grounds and for violation of the Cartagena Protocol. BT’s fate now hinges on the court’s decision.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards   http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145796 By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.

“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.

Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.

In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.

On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.

She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”

At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.

He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”

Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”

Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation

Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.

A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.

Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.

Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.

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Disagreement Continues Over Global Drug Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:44:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145793 A Libyan drug and alcohol trafficking police squad. Credit: Maryline Dumas/IPS

A Libyan drug and alcohol trafficking police squad. Credit: Maryline Dumas/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

A new report has found that global drug use largely remains the same, but perspectives on how to address the issue still vary drastically.

The new World Drug Report, released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), provides a review on drug production and use and its impact on communities around the world.

UNODC has estimated that 1 in 20 adults, or quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, used at least one drug in 2014. Though the figure has not changed over the past four years, the number of people classified as suffering from drug use disorders has increased for the first time in six years to over 29 million people.

Of those, 12 million are people who inject drugs and 14 percent of this population lives with HIV.

UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted the significance of such a comprehensive review, stating: “The 2016 World Drug Report highlights support for the comprehensive, balanced and integrated rights-based approaches.”

However, Kasia Malinowska, Director of Open Society Foundation’s (OSF) Global Drug Policy Program, expressed her disappointment in the document.

“It is really important that we stop thinking of it as a drug problem but that we look at it as a problem of severe underdevelopment in some regions." -- Kasia Malinowska.

“It’s a little bit of business as usual,” she told IPS.

She particularly pointed to the lack of recognition of drug prohibition policies.

For instance, in the report, UNODC notes that drug-associated violence is higher in Latin America than in Asia. Malinowska told IPS that this overlooks a history of militarised narcotics interventions in Latin America that did not exist in Asia.

In the 1990s, the United States funded anti-narcotics police operations in Colombia which contributed to a spike in drug-fuelled violence as well as the longest war in the Western hemisphere which killed over 220,000 civilians.

Although the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP signed a historic ceasefire agreement this week, Colombia continues to be a major coca and cocaine producing country.

“My question is how have external actors contributed to violence…and there is no recognition of that bigger context, and that’s the problem with the report,” Malinowska told IPS.

“It does not take responsibility of how much current prohibitionist policies have contributed to that problem,” she continued.

Malinowska highlighted the need to recognize that prohibition is not the only way to address drugs, and that policies must be contextualised according to the wellbeing of countries’ own citizens rather than international conventions.

UNODC’s Director of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs Jean-Luc Lemahieu echoed similar sentiments during a briefing, stating that “not one shoe fits all.”

He pointed to Netherlands and Sweden as two examples.

In the Netherlands, the government implemented a “separation of markets” approach, which separated cannabis from other hard drugs. Its aim was to limit exposure and access to harder drugs.

This proved to be a success for the country as cannabis use remained low. The Dutch government also invested in treatment, prevention and harm reduction approaches which helped it to maintain low rates of HIV among people who use drugs and low rate of problem drug use.

Sweden, on the other hand, implemented more restrictive drug policies that punish drug use and curb drug supply. UNODC noted that the country’s approach is a “success” as it has low rates of drug abuse and needle-associated HIV transmission.

Both Lemahieu and Malinowska also stressed the need to integrate sustainable development with global drug policy.

In the report, UNODC recognized the contribution of poverty and lack of sustainable livelihoods to the cultivation of crops such as coca leaves.

“Illicit drug cultivation and manufacturing can be eradicated only if policies aimed at the overall social, economic and environmental development communities,” the report states.

Malinowska, however, told IPS of the need to offer “proper” choices and opportunities to poor smallholder farmers engaged in the drug economy. Though not everyone may choose other economic activities, she remarked that no one has tried the approach.

“What we need is thoughtful, sustainable development…we are using the same matrix, the same paradigm, the same language and that really needs to dramatically change,” she said.

“It is really important that we stop thinking of it as a drug problem but that we look at it as a problem of severe underdevelopment in some regions,” Malinowska concluded.

The World Drug Report 2016 has been published following the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in April.

During the launch of the report, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson described it as an issue of “common global concern” that affects all nations and sectors of society.

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Let 5-year-old Sherry Tell You How Handwashing with Soap Saves Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-5-year-old-sherry-tell-you-how-handwashing-with-soap-saves-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-5-year-old-sherry-tell-you-how-handwashing-with-soap-saves-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-5-year-old-sherry-tell-you-how-handwashing-with-soap-saves-lives/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:59:11 +0000 Myriam Sidibe and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145787 Dr Myriam Sidibe is the Social Mission Director for Africa at Unilever. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and the UN Resident Coordinator a.i.]]> Eunice, an expectant mother in Migori County in Kenya.  Photo Credit: Lifebuoy

Eunice, an expectant mother in Migori County in Kenya. Photo Credit: Lifebuoy

By Dr Myriam Sidibe and Siddharth Chatterjee
Migori County, Kenya, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

For twenty-six year old Eunice from Migori County,Kenya, celebrating her daughter Sherry’s fifth birthday is a milestone that few of her friends have enjoyed. As with many areas of Africa, a child born in Migori is seven times more likely to die before the age of five, compared to a child in Europe.

Despite recent gains in improving maternal and child survival rates in Africa, the continent still rates the lowest in the world. In Kenya, child mortality stands at 52 per 1000 live births and more than 6000 mothers die every year giving birth

For many mothers like Eunice, the survival of a baby is often a hit or miss , four in ten newborn babies die within the first 28 days of life. These first days are when newborns are highly susceptible to infections such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and septicaemia, which require hospital treatment or intensive care in severe cases.

With almost one third of women in Kenya giving birth away from health facilities, it is easy to see how the odds of survival are poor. Due to different factors such as infrastructure and culture, many mothers opt to deliver their babies in less than hygienic conditions.

The same factors that drive child deaths around the country are similarly keeping maternal mortality rates high in counties like Migori. A recent survey by The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners showed that Migori is one of only six counties responsible for about half of Kenya’s maternal mortality burden.

A remarkably sad fact is that many of these deaths could be prevented by the simple intervention of providing proper hygiene facilities. According to statistics, nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.

Just getting a child to reach five years has been associated with overall improved child survival rates, and this is why corporates like Lifebuoy have moved to inspire the simple life-saving habit of handwashing with soap.

Lifebuoy has released their latest Help a Child Reach 5 film which will be broadcast in Migori as part of the campaign to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing with soap, a habit that experts have called ‘the world’s best vaccine’.

The data on this highly affordable habit cannot be more astounding. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), only three in ten households in the country have a place for hand washing. In western Kenya where Migori County is located, this figure is even lower.

Combining this practice with low cost interventions such as immunisation, family planning, delivery under skilled care, early initiation of and exclusive breastfeeding and umbilical cord care are promising solutions that can reduce up to 70 percent of newborn deaths.

A report by several partners including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and UNFPA recently called for better coordination between those promoting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and the maternal health sector. It is a message that must continue to be advocated not only to mothers, but also to those in health care who handle mothers and infants.

More than 150 years ago, a Swiss doctor Ignasz Semmelweiss found that poor hand hygiene of healthcare providers correlated with an increase in postpartum infections among mothers. Studies that are more recent have shown that simply handwashing with soap during critical occasions in new born care can reduce new born deaths by up to 44 percent.

Handwashing with soap offers protection against pandemic flu, SARS, trachoma and parasitic worm infections. It keeps children in school and reduces infections that mothers and babies may contract during delivery and postnatal care. AIDS patients who wash their hands with soap regularly report significantly less cases of diarrhoea.

Access to good hygiene, including handwashing with soap, is an important indicator in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fact is that there is a lot of ground to be covered, not only in households but also in our health facilities. A WHO report last year for instance found that 38% of healthcare facilities in 54 low-income countries are without a decent water source.

It is time to begin seeing the provision of clean water and sanitation not only as delivery of hygiene infrastructure, but also as an essential part of infection prevention and therefore a simple way to improve quality of care for mothers and newborns.

The First Lady of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, launched the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies in Kenya. UNFPA Kenya called on government officials, donors and civil society partners to commit resources towards improving maternal and newborn care in the country. However, the challenge remains: how do counties in Kenya implement measures on a large scale?

It therefore calls for effective partnerships between central governments, local governments NGOs and the private sector. Such strategic public-private partnerships will enable the governments to tap into the expertise and efficiencies offered by the private sector.

There are numerous collateral gains from improved maternal and child survival rates, not least being the confidence for parents that pregnancy and childbirth is not a gamble with the life of the mother or baby.

It will mean that girls like Sherry can be joined by many of their peers in celebrating their fifth birthdays, looking forward to joining school, to making many friends, and to growing up healthy and happy.

After all, this is what all parents would wish for their children.

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Bringing Back Our Girls Is Not The End of The Storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:08:13 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145779 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/feed/ 0 Worldwide Displacement At Levels Never Seen Beforehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:35:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145762 A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Displacement has increased to unprecedented levels due to war and persecution, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has found.

In a new report, entitled Global Trends which tracks forced displacement globally, UNHCR found that 65.3 million were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time in the organisation’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

Globally, 1 in every 113 people is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. This represents a population greater than the United Kingdom and would be the 21st largest country in the world.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during the launch of the report.

Though the Syrian conflict continues to generate a large proportion of refugees in the world and garners significant international attention, other reignited conflicts have been contributing to the unprecedented rise in displacement including Iraq.

Iraq currently has the third-largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and alongside Yemen and Syria, the Middle Eastern nation accounts for more than half of all new internal displacements.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too.” -- Filippo Grandi.

By the end of 2015, there were 4.4 million Iraqi IDPs, compared to 3.6 million at the end of 2014. At least one million of these IDPs have been displaced since conflicts in the mid-2000s.

Displacement has increased even further following a government military offensive against the Islamic State in May with more than 85,000 Iraqis fleeing from the Iraqi city of Falluja and its surrounding areas. Approximately 60,000 of these fled over a period of just three days between 15 to 18 June.

Despite the figures, UNHCR continues to struggle to secure funding to meet the needs of Iraqis.

Halfway through the year, the agency has so far only received 21 percent of funds needed for Iraq and the surrounding region.

“Funds are desperately needed to expand the number of camps and to provide urgently needed relief supplies for displaced people who have already endured months of deprivation and hardship without enough food or medicine,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery.

Though six camps have already been built and the construction of three more are underway, UNHCR estimates that 20 additional camps will be needed in the coming weeks.

In the Debaga camp in northern Iraq, newly displaced civilians are staying in a severely overcrowded reception centre which is currently seven times above its capacity.

Along with the lack of shelter, insufficient hygiene facilities and clean drinking water is creating a “desperate situation,” Rummery said.

And displacement may only get worse, she added.

“It is estimated that more than a million people still live in Mosul and any large offensive against the city could result in the displacement of up to 600,000 more people,” Rummery stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Iraq is classified as a level-three emergency, which signifies the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis.

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Latin America and the Caribbean: What does it take to prevent people from falling back into povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 18:06:56 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145748 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/feed/ 0 Aquaculture Meets Agriculture on Bangladesh’s Low-Lying Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:25:31 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145746 Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

A continuous influx of sea water is threatening agriculture and food security in vast coastal areas of Bangladesh, but farmers are finding ways to adapt, like cultivating fish and crops at the same time.

The coastal and offshore areas of this low-lying, densely populated country include tidal estuaries and river floodplains in the south along the Bay of Bengal. Here the arable land is about 30 percent of the total available in the country.

In a recent study, experts observed that salinity intrusion due to reduction of freshwater flow from upstream, salinization of groundwater and fluctuation of soil salinity are major concerns and could seriously hamper country’s food production.

According to salinity survey findings, salinity monitoring information, and interpretation of Land and Soil Resource Utilization Guides, about one million hectares, or about 70 percent of cultivated lands of the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh, are affected by various degrees of soil salinity.

It is already predicted that if the current trend of climate change continues, rice production could fall by 10 percent and wheat by 30 percent.

Dr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury, principal scientific officer of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute or BARI, told IPS, “We are indeed greatly concerned by the loss of arable land in the coastal areas that is already happening and the future from the past trends looks bleak.”

Dr. Chowdhury explained that salinity in the coastal regions has a direct relation with temperature. If the temperature rises, the soil loses moisture and the salt from tidal or storm surges becomes concentrated, which results in crops wilting or dying – a phenomenon that is is already widely evident.

Dr. Chowdhury stressed adaptation measures and crop management, since at this point, climate change “cannot be avoided, but we have to live with it.”

Salinity in Bangladesh, one of the countries worst affected by decades of sea level rise, causes an unfavorable environment that restricts normal crop production throughout the year. The freshly deposited alluviums from upstream in the coastal areas of Bangladesh become saline as it comes in contact with the sea water and continues to be inundated during high tides and ingress of sea water through creeks.

A study found that the affected area increased from 8,330 square km in 1973 to 10,560 square km in 2009, according to the Soil Resource Development Institute in 2010.

Despite efforts to increase resilience, climate challenges continue to result in large economic losses, retarding economic growth and slowing progress in reducing poverty.

To confront the challenges, farming communities in the coastal areas that always relied on traditional agricultural practices are now shifting to research-based farming technology that promises better and safer food production.

The chief of BARI, Dr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Mondal, who describes climate change as a tragedy, told IPS, “At BARI, we are concentrating on developing agriculture practices towards adaptation to the extreme weathers, particularly in the coastal regions.”

Recognizing the adaptation strategies, BARI, blessed with years of research, has successfully introduced best farming practices in coastal regions. One is called the Sarjan model and is now very popular.

A leading NGO in Bangladesh, the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), which has over 35 years of experience working mostly in coastal areas, has played a key role in supporting farmers with adaptive measures.

During a recent visit to an island district of Bhola, this correspondent witnessed how COAST in collaboration with the local agriculture department has introduced the farming model that is making huge positive impacts.

Mohammad Jahirul Islam, a senior COAST official in Char Fasson, a remote coastal region barely 30 cms above sea level, told IPS, “The traditional agricultural practices are threatened, largely due to salt water intrusion. High salt concentration is toxic to plants and we are now forced to seek alternative ways of growing crops.”

The Coastal Integrated Technology Extension Programme (CITEP) being implemented by COAST in Char Fasson has been helping farmers since 2003 with alternative farming practices to improve crop production in the face of climate change.

As part of its capacity-building programmes, CITEP encourages farmers to use the Sarjan model of long raised rows of soil about one metre wide and 90 cm high for cultivating varieties of vegetables. The trenches between the rows are filled with water into which various types of fish are released for maturing. The water for irrigating the plants comes from nearby lakes filled with freshwater drawn from the Meghna River.

The advantage of using Sarjan model is that it protects cropland from inundation during storm surges, tidal waves and flash flooding and avoids high salinity.

CITEP project coordinator in Char Fasson, Mizanur Rahman, told IPS, “These lowlands, hardly 25 kms from the sea at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, are prone to tidal waves and storm surges during the seasons. So the recent farming models introduced here have been designed to protect the crops.”

According to Sadek Hossain, a veteran farmer who is already benefitting from the Sarjan model, said it “is safer and gives risk-free crops as the spaces between the crops allow more sunlight exposure and also has far less pest attacks.”

The new farming practice has turned out to be very popular in Char Fasson, where over 9,000 farmers are now using the model. Many farmers have also formed self-help groups where members benefit from sharing each others’ experiences.

Manzurul Islam, a local official of the government’s agriculture department in Char Fasson, told IPS, “At the beginning, the challenges were huge because farmers refused to adapt to the new model. Realising the benefits farmers are now convinced.”

Losses of crops on flat lands are disastrous. Mohammad Joynal recalls how tidal waves three years ago destroyed huge crops. “We were helpless when the crops were inundated on about 5,500 hectares of flat land. The sea water inundation for four months caused all crops to wilt and eventually rot,” said a dishearten face of Joynal.

Hundreds of farmers have been trained using demonstration crop fields on the adaptation techniques. “We have many different models developed to grow crops at different levels of salinity which are already proven successes,” said BARI Director General Dr. Mondol.

Sea level rise is already evident in coastal Bangladesh. Projections show that 97 percent of coastal areas and over 40 million people living in coastal Bangladesh are vulnerable to multiple climate change hazards.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) for 2014, which evaluated the sensitivity of populations, the physical exposure of countries, and governmental capacity to adapt to climate change over the following 30 years, ranks Bangladesh as the number one economy in the world at risk to climate change.

Globally, emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere are growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, according to a joint publication by COAST and the Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) on ‘Climate Change Impact and Disaster Vulnerabilities in the Coastal Areas of Bangladesh’.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Trust and one of the authors of the joint publication, told IPS, “The impacts of climate change with time would become more acute hitting right at the core of our economy – agriculture on which over 70 percent of our rural population rely on.”

Rezaul, well known for his contributions to development in the coastal regions, added, “We acted early considering the harsh realities of extreme weathers. Introducing the Sarjan model is one of many which we have successfully implemented, building capacities of the local farmers.”

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What is Missing on the Global Health Front?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:54:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145722 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The last World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva (23-28 May) discussed the manifold global health crises that require urgent attention, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues. We are currently facing many global health related challenges, and as such multiple actions must be taken urgently to prevent these crises from boiling over.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event and this year 3,500 delegates from 194 countries took part, including Health Ministers of most countries. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan gave an overview of some of the successes and further work needed on the global health front.

The good news includes 19,000 fewer children dying every day, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured, and the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, with over 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000. As a result, aid for health is now far more effective, and the issue of health has become an investment for stable and equitable societies, not just a drain on resources.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can develop very quickly. There is a dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, which the world is currently not prepared to cope with. Dr. Chan gave three examples of the emerging global health emergencies: climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and the rise of chronic-communicable diseases as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Many of the issues addressed are largely anthropogenic, created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power economies, medicines for treating chronic conditions are more profitable than a short course of antibiotics, and highly processed foods provide longer term profit than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Unchecked, these emergencies will eventually reach a tipping point and become irreversible and as regards antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill.” On moving ahead, Dr. Chan highlighted universal health coverage as an essential aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the ultimate expression of fairness that ensures no one is left behind, and to provide comprehensive care for all.

A question however, was not covered by Dr Chan in her speech; how can some governments- especially in underdeveloped countries, obtain enough funds to finance the idealistic goal of providing healthcare for their citizens?

The Assembly agreed that WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling it to provide rapid, consistent, and comprehensive support to countries and communities facing or recovering from various emergencies, disease outbreaks, disasters or conflicts.

The WHO has produced a new paper to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools to counter the threat of a global increase in antimicrobial resistance. The Secretariat has made quite a lot of progress, but action on the ground is still slow, in the Asia-Pacific region so far, only six countries have completed their national plans and another five have plans that are being developed.

WHO assistant Director-General, Keiji Fukuda said that focus in the upcoming year will include: making progress on the Global Action Plan (established in 2015), further developing the global stewardship framework, and involving political leaders by meeting in the United Nations headquarters in New York in September.

There were two issues on childhood nutrition that highlighted the need to put health concerns above corporate interests. The first of these issues was childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under 5 years were affected by being overweight or obese, and 48% of them lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended the promotion of healthier foods, reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. It proposed more effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.

On the second issue, the Assembly welcomed WHO guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. According to the guidelines, to support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks” targeted for babies aged 6 months to 3 years should be regulated in the same manner as infant formula for babies below 6 months.

On access to medicines and vaccines, the WHA agreed on measures to address the global shortage of medicines and vaccines, including monitoring supply and demand, improving procurement systems and improving affordability through voluntary or compulsory licensing of high-priced medicines.

An interesting and well-attended side event was organised by India on behalf of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines. After remarks from the health ministers of these, the main speaker, American law professor Frederick Abbott, spoke about why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could make it very difficult for the TPPA members to have access to affordable medicines.

His warning was complemented by the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé who estimated that the annual cost of treating 15 million AIDS patients could increase from US$2 to US$150 billion without the availability of generic drugs, costing about US$10,000 per patient annually.

Air pollution and the use of chemicals were other important environmental issues highlighted by the Assembly. Every year, 8 million deaths are attributed to air pollution – 4.3 million indoor and 3.7 million due to outdoor air pollution. The Assembly has also welcomed a new WHO roadmap to respond to the adverse health effects of increasing air pollution.

Since 1.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by exposure to extremely harmful chemicals, among them lead and various pesticides. WHA would like to ensure that the use and production of chemicals is regulated to minimize adverse health and environmental effects by 2020. Some agreed actions include the transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data, and exchanging good practices to manage chemicals and waste between cooperating countries. WHO will develop a roadmap to meet the 2020 goals and the associated SDG targets.

A controversial issue that has taken two years of negotiations was how WHO should cooperate with non-state actors. The WHA finally adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which provides WHO with policies and procedures to engage with NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

On the one hand, there is the aim to strengthen WHO’s engagement with non-state stakeholders. On the other hand, there is the need for WHO to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise when corporations and their foundations, associations and lobbies wield large and undue influence if they are allowed to get too close to WHO. Many NGOs and several developing countries are concerned about how this corporate influence is undermining WHO’s public health responsibilities, and that FENSA will worsen rather than reverse this trend.

On the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, the Assembly agreed to prioritize universal health coverage; to work with actors outside the health sector to address the social, economic and environmental causes of health problems, including antimicrobial resistance; to expand efforts to address poor maternal and child health, infectious diseases in developing countries; and to put a greater focus on equity within and between countries.

The WHA also adopted many other resolutions on international health regulations including; tobacco control, road traffic deaths and injuries, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, Mycetoma, integrated health services, the health workforce, the Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and healthy ageing.

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Mixed Progress at UN on Rights of Persons with Disabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 04:25:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145715 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/feed/ 0 Fences and Walls: A Short-sighted Response to Migration Fears?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:16:09 +0000 Andrew MacMillan and Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145688 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Andrew MacMillan, former Director of Field Operations. ]]> Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Andrew MacMillan and José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

European nations from which millions once left to escape hardship and hunger – Greece, Ireland, Italy – are today destinations for others doing the same.

Many people are on the move. The really big numbers relate to rural-urban migration in developing countries. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).

By comparison, about 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007.(*) And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population.

Conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, along with the breakdown of law or of freedom in Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan, have catalyzed a surge in asylum seekers – whose numbers climbed to 800,000 in OECD countries alone in 2014 and who, under international law, must be protected.

Growing apprehension in some recipient countries has led to calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Barriers, however, are costly, can be circumvented, and are all too reminiscent of the restrictions on liberty from which many migrants are seeking refuge.

The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international. People are “pulled” by the belief that better prospects exist elsewhere. As mobile phones and internet access have reached the remotest corners of the world, such beliefs have proliferated.

For those countries wishing to reduce cross-border migratory pressures, the best option is probably to address the root causes. This entails actions that foster peace and security where there is conflict and oppression. It also implies closing the widening gaps in living standards, both between nations and between rich and poor in the countries that economic migrants are leaving.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals in a bid to reduce their attraction. But more fundamental policy shifts in wealthier societies towards deterring their own people’s most conspicuous consumption behavior are needed. This will not be easy. It could involve having consumers meet the full costs of the environmental and social damage incurred in the production and use of what they buy.

Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food.

Urbanization seems bound to further widen these gaps. Cash remittances sent by first-generation local and international migrants to their relations back home help, but are usually modest in scale.

Policies to eliminate rural poverty must respond to locally expressed priorities for improved access to infrastructure and public services, including competent and honest local government institutions. They also need to include social protection programmes, ideally based on regular and predictable cash transfers to the poorest households, ensuring that all people are, at the very least, able to eat healthily and cope with periods of shortages.

The European Union has endorsed the principle of addressing the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe and, at a November 2015 summit in Malta, declared that investing in rural development is a priority. However, the EU’s nearly 30 members approved only EUR1.8 billion in extra resources. This is trivial, given the scale of poverty. It is about a quarter of what they offered Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Andrew MacMillan

Andrew MacMillan

Much greater funding is warranted. This is explicitly acknowledged in last September’s unanimous endorsement by all governments of the UN-brokered Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030. Apart from being morally correct, this will reduce the conflicts that often drive international migration in the first place.

The link between the reduction of extreme deprivation and peace was acknowledged by FAO’s founders in 1945 when they wrote:
“Progress towards freedom from want is essential to lasting peace, for it is a condition of freedom from the tensions, arising out of economic maladjustment, profound discontent, and a sense of injustice which are so dangerous in the close community of modern nations.” (**) FAO today is guided by these principles in its ongoing work in rebuilding food security and creating greater resilience in countries torn apart by conflict.

Remittances and aid can help reduce inequalities but a more sustainable way of closing the urban-rural gap is offered by fairer trading in food, the main saleable output of most rural communities. When consumers begin to pay food prices that reward producers fairly for their investments, skills, risk exposure and labour, and for their responsible stewardship of natural resources, the market can become the main vehicle for eradicating the extreme deprivation and hunger that “push” migration. (***)

This move towards fairer food prices would be a first step towards harnessing the great power offered by the processes of globalization to create a world in which all people know they can, through their work, lead a decent life even when they choose to live where they were born.

 

(*) See OECD (2015), International Migration Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris

(**) See United Nations Interim Committee on Food and Agriculture, The Work of FAO, Washington DC, 1945

(***) Contrary to most predictions, the food price rises of 2008 and 2011 reduced extreme poverty in the long term in both rural and urban communities. See Headey, D., Food Prices and Poverty Reduction in the Long Run, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01331, Washington DC, 2014

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Children of a Lesser God: Trafficking Soars in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 11:57:59 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145678 Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

Sunita Pal, a frail 17-year-old, lies in a tiny bed in the women’s ward of New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Her face and head swathed in bandages, with only a bruised eye and swollen lips visible, the girl recounts her ordeal to a TV channel propped up by a pillow. She talks of her employers beating her with a stick every day, depriving her of food and threatening to kill her if she dared report her misery to anybody.

“I worked from 6am until midnight. I had to cook, clean, take care of the children and massage the legs of my employers,” Sunita recounts to the journalist, pain writ large on her face. “In exchange, I got only two meals and wasn’t even paid for the six months I worked at the house. When I expressed a desire to leave, I was beaten up.”

Sunita is one of the fortunate few who got rescued from her hell by an anti-slavery activist and is now being rehabilitated at a woman’s home in Delhi. But there are millions of Sunitas across India who continue to toil in Dickensian misery for years without any succour. Trafficked from remote villages to large cities, they are and sold as domestic workers to placement agencies or worse, at brothels. Their crime? Extreme poverty and illiteracy.

The Global Slavery Index released recently by the human rights organisation Walk Free Foundation states that globally, India has the largest population of modern slaves. Over 18 million people are trapped as bonded labourers, forced beggars, sex workers and child soldiers across the country. They constitute 1.4 percent of India’s total population, the fourth highest among 167 countries with the largest proportion of slaves. The survey estimates that 45.8 million people are living in modern slavery globally, of which 58 percent are concentrated in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.Between 2011 and 2013, over 10,500 children were registered as missing from Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest tribal states.

Grace Forrest, co-founder of the Australia-based foundation, told an Indian newspaper that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including inter-generational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into non-state armed groups and forced marriage.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), trafficking of minor girls — the second-most prevalent trafficking crime in India – has surged 14 times over the last decade. It increased 65 percent in 2014 alone. Girls and women are the primary targets of immoral trafficking in India, comprising 76 percent of all human trafficking cases nationwide over a decade, reveals NCRB.

As many as 8,099 people were reported to be trafficked across India in 2014. Selling or buying girls for prostitution, importing them from a foreign country are the most common forms of trafficking in India, say experts. Sexual exploitation of women and children for commercial purposes takes place in various forms including brothel-based prostitution, sex-tourism, and pornography.

Last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation unearthed a pan-India human trafficking racket that had transported around 8,000 Indian women to Dubai. Another report about a man who trafficked 5,000 tribal kids from the poor tribal state of Jharkhand also caught the public eye.

Equally disconcerting are thousands of children which go missing from some of India’s hinterlands. Between 2011 and 2013, over 10,500 children were registered as missing from Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest tribal states. They were trafficked into domestic work or other forms of child labour in cities. Overall , an estimated 135,000 children are believed to be trafficked in India every year.

Experts point to the exponentially growing demand for domestic servants in burgeoning Indian cities as the main catalyst for trafficking. A 2013 report by Geneva-based International Labour Organization found that India hosts anywhere from 2.5 million to 90 million domestic workers. Yet, despite being the largest workforce in the country, these workers remain unrecognized and unprotected by law.

This is a lacuna that a national policy in the pipeline hopes to address. Experts say the idea is to give domestic workers the benefits of regulated hours of work with weekly rest, paid annual and sick leave, and maternity benefits as well entitlement of minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act of 1948.

“Once these workers come under the ambit of law,” explains New Delhi-based human rights lawyer Kirit Patel, “it will be a big deterrent for criminals. But till then, domestic workers remain easy targets for exploitation.”

Despite growing awareness and media sensitization, however, registered human trafficking cases have spiralled up by 38.3 percent over five years from 2,848 in 2009 to 3,940 in 2013 as per NCRB. Worse, the conviction rate for such cases has plummeted 45 percent, from 1,279 in 2009 to 702 in 2013.

Not that human trafficking is a uniquely Indian phenomenon. The menace is the third-largest source of profit for organised crime, after arms and drugs trafficking involving billions of dollars annually worldwide, say surveys. Every year, thousands of children go missing in South Asia, the second-largest and fastest-growing region in the world for human trafficking after East Asia, according to the UN Office for Drugs & Crime.

To address the issue of this modern-day slavery, South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation recently held a conference on child protection in New Delhi. Ministers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and the Maldives agreed to jointly combat child exploitation, share best practices and common, uniform standards to address all forms of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

One of the pioneering strategies adopted at the conference was to set up a toll-free helpline and online platform to report and track missing children. “We need to spread the message to support rescue efforts and rehabilitate victims. With the rapid advance of technology and a fast-changing, globalized economy, new threats to children’s safety are emerging every day,” said India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the conference.

Rishi Kant, one of India’s leading anti-trafficking activists, says it all boils down to prioritizing the issue. “For poor Indian states, providing food, shelter and housing assume far greater importance than chasing traffickers. Besides, many people don’t even see trafficking as a crime. They feel it’s an opportunity for impoverished children to migrate to cities, live in rich homes and better their lives!”

Initiatives like anti-trafficking nodal cells — like the one under the Ministry of Home Affairs — can be effective deterrents, say experts. The ministry has also launched a web portal on anti-human trafficking, while the Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing a programme that focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of victims.

But the best antidote to the menace of human trafficking, say experts, is a stringent law. India’s first anti-trafficking law — whose draft was unveiled by the Centre recently — recommends tough action against domestic servant placement agencies who hustle poor children into bonded labour and prostitution. It also suggests the formation of an anti-trafficking fund.

The bill also makes giving hormone shots such as oxytocin to trafficked girls (to accelerate their sexual maturity) and pushing them into prostitution a crime punishable with 10 years in jail and a fine of about 1,500 dollars. Addressing new forms of bondage — such as organised begging rings, forced prostitution and child labour — are also part of the bill’s suggestions.

Once the law is passed, hopefully, girls like Sunita will be able to breathe a little easier.

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