Inter Press Service » Development & Aid http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:00:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.16 Sri Lanka’s Small Tea Farmers Turn Sustainable Land Managershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sri-lankas-small-tea-farmers-turn-sustainable-land-managers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lankas-small-tea-farmers-turn-sustainable-land-managers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sri-lankas-small-tea-farmers-turn-sustainable-land-managers/#comments Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:00:01 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149681 Small tea farmer Kamakandalagi Leelavathi harvests leaves in the Uda Haupe tea estate in Kahawatte, Sri Lanka. She is one of hundreds of farmers who are shunning herbicides and other chemicals. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Small tea farmer Kamakandalagi Leelavathi harvests leaves in the Uda Haupe tea estate in Kahawatte, Sri Lanka. She is one of hundreds of farmers who are shunning herbicides and other chemicals. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
RATNAPURA, Sri Lanka, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

As the mercury rises higher, Kamakandalagi Leelavathi delves deeper into the lush green mass of the tea bushes. The past few afternoons there have been thunderstorms. So the 55-year-old tea picker in Uda Houpe tea garden of Sri Lanka’s Hatton region is rushing to complete her day’s task before the rain comes: harvesting 22 kgs of tea leaves.

“The rain is very unpredictible. Now there are downpours but it has been very dry the past few months,” says the daily wager who owns a one-acre marginal farm.

Yet at the Uda Houpe tea garden, the situation is much better, says Daurkarlagi Taranga, Leelavathi’s daughter and fellow tea farmer. “We have not been affected as badly as others. Here, the bushes are still full (of leaves) and the ground is moist thanks to the techniques we use,” she says.

These techniques are assorted green actions taken by small tea planters to manage their farmland in an eco-friendly way, explains Alluth Wattage Saman, manager of the Uda Houpe estate. The most important of these actions is minimising use of synthetic weed killer (herbicide), widely viewed as the main reason behind the degrading health of soil and tea plants in the region.

A tea picker in the Bearwell tea estate of Sri Lanka, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A tea picker in the Bearwell tea estate of Sri Lanka, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Climate threat to a lucrative sector

The tea sector of Sri Lanka is 153 years old and remain the largest industry today, providing employment to 2.5 million people. According to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board, the industry counts for 62 percent of all agricultural exports and brings home 1.6 billion dollars in foreign currency each year. Contributing to this huge business is a 400,000-strong small tea farmer community.

However, the lucrative tea economy of the island nation has been witnessing growing environmental challenges – the biggest of them being severe land degradation.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), there is high rate of land degradation across the tea growing region in Sri Lanka. The biggest reason is that farmers here have used synthetic weed killer on the plantations for several decades.

They also paid little attention to protecting the water sources and biodiversity around the plantations. This has gradually affected the health of the soil, decreasing its fertility level, making it more acidic and also causing soil erosion.

While the degradation has affected the entire industry, the livelihoods and food security of the small tea growers are particularly threatened, says Lalith Kumar, project manager at the Tea Small Holding Development Authority (TSHDA) in Ratnapura, a region that produces over 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s tea.

Harvesters in Sri Lanka’s Bearwell tea estate, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Harvesters in Sri Lanka’s Bearwell tea estate, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Greening the Small Farms

The TSHDA is a government agency working with small tea growers in the country. According to Kumar, there are 150 small tea farms (less than 10 acres of land) in the Ratnapura region alone which provide livelihood to about 100,000 farmers. Climate change has worsened the situation with recurring droughts, erratic rainfall, and increasing soil erosion and acidification.

As a result, tea bushes are withering and moisture from the topsoil is evaporating, leaving the soil hardened and plant roots weak and damaged.

To help the tea farmers deal with this, TSHDA is currently working with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on a project to minimise herbicide use in the small tea farms and reverse the processes of degradation by sustainably managing the land.

According to a document by Global Environment Facility (GEF), the funder of the 2.9 million project, the goal is to “improve farm management practices, so that existing production land becomes more productive and forests, rivers, streams and other biologically important land situated on or adjacent to tea production areas are protected from negative impacts.”

A major step taken by the TSHDA is to train the farmers to manage their land in a sustainable way with minimum or no herbicides.

“We have started to train small farm managers in sustainable land management techniques that are simple, yet effective,” Kumar said. A lot of weeds grow around the tea bush, but only some of them are harmful.

“We train them in identifying the weeds and removing the harmful ones either by uprooting or cutting them at the roots. The weeds are then used as a bed of mulch, applied in between the two rows of tea plants. This helps retain the moisture on the land,“ he explained.

Training the Community

Saman, the manager of the Uda Haupe, is one of the 300 small tea growers who have been trained by TSHDA so far. It was an informal, hands-on training, reveals Saman, which included a day-long visit to a progressive and sustainably managed farm – the Hapugastenne tea estate.

There Saman saw small farmers like him managing their land without any synthetic weed killer or pesticides. He also learned to use organic manure, protect the water sources like natural springs within the plantation, as well the shedy trees, so birds and other animals can also survive. Finally, he learnt that the yield of the farm had increased almost by 60 percent since they adopted those techniques.

The visit, says the tea planter, helped him realize “small steps can bring bring big changes in a farm”.

The result has been encouraging: “I earlier spent 35,000 on herbicide every year, now I am saving that amount. My overall profit has gone up to 75,000 rupees,” says Saman, who has shared the newfound knowledge with his workers.

Some Unplugged Gaps

Saman and other small tea farmers in the area like Leelavathi sell their harvest to Kahawatte Plantation, a tea estate owned by corporate tea giant Dilmah. Early this month, the plantation received a Rainforest Alliance certificcation which recognizes that the estate maintains sustainability standards all along its supply chain, including the farms from where it buys the tea. This has already boosted the price of the estate’s produce, but suppliers like Saman are not aware of either the certification or its economic benefits such as higher market value.

“Nobody has told us about this,” Saman says.

Others want the government to help them with monetary incentives to better deal with climatic challenges.

At present, TSHDA offers a 50 percent subsidy to farmers who want to do a replantation on their farm – a complex and costly process that involves complete uprooting of all the tea plants, re-preparing the soil and replanting the saplings.

This is done when the yield in the farm drops dramatically due to either age (normally 30 years) or severe degradation of the land that cripples productivity. However, there are no other subsidies or incentives provided to the farmers right now for adopting sustainable land management – a policy that small tea growers like Leelavathi would like to see change.

“Since the use of the mulch, I began to save 700 rupees every month on herbicide and my total income rose to 15,000. But because of the growing droughts, I have to use most of it on fertilizer. If the government gives a subsidy, it will be very helpful. Or else I may have to migrate to another estate to earn more,” she says.

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Costa Rican Town Fears That the Sea Will Steal Its Shiny New Facehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/costa-rican-town-fears-that-the-sea-will-steal-its-shiny-new-face/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rican-town-fears-that-the-sea-will-steal-its-shiny-new-face http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/costa-rican-town-fears-that-the-sea-will-steal-its-shiny-new-face/#comments Tue, 28 Mar 2017 01:03:15 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149674 Reynaldo Charles and Ezequiel Hudson talk with Eliécer Quesada (left to right) about the state of the breakwater on which they are standing. This is the part where the waves reach closest to the houses, and at high tide the water crosses over the new bicycle lane and the street and reaches the homes, in the town of Cienaguita on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

Reynaldo Charles and Ezequiel Hudson talk with Eliécer Quesada (left to right) about the state of the breakwater on which they are standing. This is the part where the waves reach closest to the houses, and at high tide the water crosses over the new bicycle lane and the street and reaches the homes, in the town of Cienaguita on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
CIENEGUITA, Costa Rica, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

Two years have gone by since the new government initiative which subsidises community works changed the face with which the coastal town of Cienaguita, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, looks out to the sea.

In place of a battered path between the beach and the first houses, the investment allowed the construction of a paved coastal street with a bicycle lane, playgrounds for children and a sports space where groups of young people exercise around mid-morning, since March 2015.

“The boulevard has brought about a 180-degree change in this part of the community,” 67-year-old community leader Ezequiel Hudson told IPS about the new recreational spaces available to the 5,400 inhabitants of this town next to the city of Puerto Limón, in the centre of the country’s Caribbean coast.

However, the 2.5 million-dollar investment is threatened by coastal erosion and the rise in the level of water in the sea, which occasionally floods the new street.

Local residents of Cienaguita are worried about the effects that climate change may have on their town.“We have documented a rise in the sea level and in wind and wave speeds.” -- Omar Lizano

The most conservative estimates put the sea level rise between 20 and 60 centimetres by 2100, but new studies point to a still higher increase, which would irremediably damage the life of the whole town, whose inhabitants make a living fishing or working on the docks of Puerto Limón.

“A few days ago the sea rose, and covered the whole street,” said Reynaldo Charles, head of the town’s Association for Integral Development, on a mid-March tour through the area with IPS.

Community leaders and local residents are afraid that the waves will erode the foundations of the road and bicycle lane and end up destroying the new streeet, which everyone is so proud of. Charles and Hudson report that most of the almond trees that adorned the avenue have already disappeared.

The impact is uneven. In some places, the beach is full of sticks that the tide has washed up, and in the most critical areas, the waves have completely devoured the sand and stop just a dozen metres from the first houses.

It was not always like this. Local residents say that until a few years ago, the beach was 50 metres wide and children used to play there and adults would fish, in this town located 160 kilometres east of the capital, which is reached by a long, steep road which winds its way across the Cordillera Central mountains.

But now, the waves reach the doors of the houses at high tide and residents have to protect their homes with sandbags.

“This has to be solved now or in a matter of a few years, because this is a question of prevention,” 68-year-old retiree Eliécer Quesada told IPS, while looking at the breakwater that stops the Caribbean sea just a few steps from his house.

In front of him there is practically no beach, just the constant breaking of waves against the rocks placed there a few years ago by the state power utility, ICE, to protect underground cables.

However, ICE has moved the internet cables inland to protect them and local residents worry that they will receive no more help from the power company in the future.

“Go see what it’s like in the Netherlands or Belgium, with huge breakwaters and dikes which even have roads running along them,” said Quesada, who worked as a sailor his whole life and visited ports around the world.

The rest of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline has similar problems with erosion, said oceanographer Omar Lizano, of the University of Costa Rica’s Centre for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR).

“This phenomenon is happening all along our Caribbean coast and I suppose that the same thing will happen in Nicaragua, Panama and in the entire Caribbean region,” the expert in waves and ocean currents told IPS.

For several years, Lizano has been monitoring the beaches on the Caribbean and observing how the waves have gained metres and metres of sand.

This Central American country of 4.7 million people has coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean sea to the east.

“We have documented a rise in the sea level and in wind and wave speeds,” said the CIMAR expert.

In Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coastal region, for example, the Cahuita National Park has lost dozens of metres of turtle nesting beach, which poses a threat to the turtle populations that spawn in the area.

A study published in 2014 by the Climate Change and Basins Programme of the Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Education (CATIE) determined that the sea rises on average two millimetres per year along the coast of the eastern province of Limón, which covers the country’s entire Caribbean coast, and whose capital is Puerto Limón.

The report analysed the climate vulnerability of the coastal areas of Central America’s Caribbean region and concluded that the Costa Rican districts overlooking the sea have a high to very high adaptation capacity.

This is partly thanks to the level of community organisation, with groups such as the one headed by Charles, and the institutional support which translates into concrete actions, like the breakwater built by ICE and another one built nearby by the Council of Port Administration and Economic Development of the Atlantic Coast.

The people of Cienaguita are asking for more resources to design new protective structures, which could even be transformed into a seaside promenade for the community. Quesada advocates mitigating the erosion with tetrapods, a very stable tetrahedral concrete structure used as armour unit on breakwaters.

Lizano said the situation is not sustainable for much longer. Other countries can invest in infrastructure to protect their people, such as breakwaters or seawalls, or fill in the beaches to buy time, but this is not feasible for Costa Rica because of the high costs.

“If we can’t afford to do this, the only thing we can do is move to higher ground. This is our adaptation measure,” said the oceanographer.

Community leader Charles said he has asked for help from Puerto Limón municipal authorities and from national agencies, but they all claim that they do not have the necessary funds.

Costa Rica is in the initial stages of its National Adaptation Plan, a broad document that will define the path that the country will take to protect itself from the worst impacts of climate change, and urban settlements and coastal areas shall be priorities.

“I think we need to start to talk very seriously about the vulnerability of coastal communities like Cienaguita or Chacarita (on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast),” Pascal Girot, the head of climate change in the Ministry of Environment and Energy, told IPS.

This can lead to more concrete actions, he said. “They will be badly affected by the rise in the sea level,” said Girot, who will lead the national climate adaptation process.

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Caribbean Faces Forecast for Prolonged Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-faces-forecast-for-prolonged-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-faces-forecast-for-prolonged-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-faces-forecast-for-prolonged-drought/#comments Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:02:24 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149670 A manmade rainwater catchment on a farm in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A manmade rainwater catchment on a farm in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

The Caribbean Drought & Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPMN) is warning countries in the region that the same abnormal climate conditions they have experienced over the last few years, which resulted in some of the worst drought in two decades, could continue this year.

Several Caribbean countries, particularly in the eastern Caribbean, experienced a drier than normal February, and in some cases both February and January were relatively dry, CDPMN said."In my view for agriculture, drought is a more serious threat to us than in fact hurricanes.” --Donovan Stanberry

The Barbados-based network also said that although there is some uncertainty over rainfall during the March to May period in some parts of the Caribbean, concerns remain for the western Caribbean/Greater Antilles for both short and long term drought, and in the southern portion of the eastern Caribbean for long term drought.

“Some models also suggest the possibility for the return of El Niño, and drier than normal conditions late in 2017,” Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), Adrian Trotman told IPS. “The CDPMN will continue to monitor this situation.”

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the eastern tropical Pacific every two to seven years. When the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken, sea surface temperatures start rising, setting off a chain of weather impacts.

In 2015 and 2016, a powerful El Niño drove up global temperatures and played a role in droughts in many parts of the world.

The so-called “Super El Niño” is said by experts to have had a role in driving global temperatures to record highs.

CDPMN said apart from portions of Barbados and Dominica that were slightly wet, the islands of the eastern Caribbean were normal to below normal regarding rainfall for the month.

It said Trinidad and Tobago was normal to slightly dry; Grenada, Guadeloupe, Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Thomas normal; while Barbados was normal to slightly wet with St. Vincent extremely dry and St. Lucia moderate to extremely dry.

The French island of Martinique was reported to be moderate to severely dry, while Dominica was slightly wet in the southwest to severely dry in the northeast.

Antigua was exceptionally dry and St. Kitts moderately dry. The CDPMN said that the Guianas ranged from normal to very wet, with greatest relative wetness in interior areas.

Beginning in 1997-1998, drought forced water restrictions across the Caribbean, and resulted in significant losses in the agriculture sector.

Caribbean countries have been implementing water rationing to deal with shortages of the resource, with St. Kitts being the latest country to implement the measure.

On Jan. 25, the Water Services Department announced the resumption of water rationing in the capital Basseterre, Bird Rock, Half Moon and the South East Peninsula. Daily rationing occurs during the hours of 10 pm to 5 am.

The Water Services Department said although rainfall for 2016 was more than in 2015, it was still significantly below average, and therefore the country is still in drought.

“We are approaching the Dry Season and are already experiencing reduced inflows from our surface water sources and storage in our wells. The recent showers only improved the situation slightly,” acting general manager Dennison Paul said.

“We are also experiencing technical difficulties with one of our wells in the Basseterre Valley Aquifer, which has compounded the problem. Our drilling programme is ongoing and should bring relief to consumers when commissioned.”

In 2015, St. Kitts experienced island-wide water rationing as a result of drought conditions. Coming off traditional rainfall levels of around 20.63 inches per year, the island saw an average 9.87 inches in 2015.

Officials have implemented several water-saving measures to help mitigate the upcoming dry period.

These include asking all residents, government and private institutions to make the repair of leaks a priority; asking residents without cisterns to explore purchasing large storage containers  of 500 gallons or more; businesses implementing a water management contingency plan which should involve daily monitoring of water meter; government ensuring that critical institutions such as hospitals and schools, have onsite standby water storage receptacles, based on vulnerability; there should be no washing of vehicles with water hoses; mandatory no watering of grass; no water delivery to cruise vessels; and fines or disconnection of service for violation, where applicable

In addition to other measures taken to improve the supply of water to consumers, Public Works Minister Ian Liburd indicated in July 2016 that a company, Ocean Earth Technologies, had been contracted to locate and bring on-stream new wells in the Basseterre area.

He said they had identified seven sites north of the airport where wells were to be drilled.

Barbados has also been grappling with chronic water shortages while the St Lucia government, in 2015, declared a “water-related emergency” as some communities, particularly in the north, continue to deal with dry weather conditions affecting water supplies across the Caribbean.

At the fifth Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Montreal earlier this month, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry called for greater focus to be given to the impact of drought on agriculture in the Caribbean.

“I think that for a long time we have been focusing on hurricanes in the Caribbean and really we have taken our eyes off drought mitigation. And in my view for agriculture, drought is a more serious threat to us than in fact hurricanes,” Stanberry said. “After a hurricane, you can get up the next morning and start producing again; the drought tends to be prolonged.

“The overwhelming majority of our farmers, particularly our smaller ones, really depend on rainfall; and with climate change we are seeing wide variation in rainfall patterns. We are seeing extremes; in some months we have too much rain and for the last three four years, you can almost bet your bottom dollar, that there is going to be a drought and the drought tends to be prolonged,” Stanberry added.

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Food Security in the Middle East Sharply Deterioratedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:41:26 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149663 An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/CAIRO, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

Food security and nutrition levels in the Near East and North Africa have sharply deteriorated over the last five years, undermining the steady improvement achieved before 2010 when the prevalence of undernourishment, stunting, anaemia and poverty were decreasing, a new UN report warns.

According to the FAO Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in the Near East and North Africa, issued on March 27, the deterioration is largely driven by the spreading and intensity of conflicts and protracted crises.

The assessment made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) shows that the prevalence of severe food insecurity in the adult population of the Near East and North Africa was close to 9.5 per cent in 2014-2015, representing approximately 30 million people.

“The region is facing unprecedented challenges to its food security due to multiple risks arising from conflicts, water scarcity and climate change,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa. “War and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security, ” Graziano da Silva

Countries of the region need to implement long-term and comprehensive sustainable water management to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030, he added. “A peaceful and stable environment is an absolute pre-condition for farmers to respond to the challenges of water scarcity and climate change.”

“Wars, Conflicts, Worst Enemies of Food Security”

José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, said in a recent visit to Lebanon, “We are reminded once again that war and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security.

“Our own reports and other have described, sometimes in rather horrible detail, the unrelenting process through which the conflicts in the region are destroying people’s lives and livelihoods, disrupting agriculture production, increasing food prices, stoking fears and insecurity and triggering large-scale displacement of people and alarming flows of refugees.”
Lebanon, a small country that has itself suffered the misfortunes of war and internal conflict, has courageously and generously hosted more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, da Silva added.

“To put that in perspective, that’s the third of the country’s population, the proportional equivalent of the European Union taking in more than 170 million people… The unprecedented influx of refugees has put extraordinary pressure on Lebanon’s economic and social infrastructure, its food security and its social cohesion.”

According to FAO, the Syria crisis in particular has deepened during the period 2015-2016, leaving more than half of the population in need of food assistance and 4.8 million refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries. The numbers of food insecure and the internally displaced are also rising in Iraq and Yemen.

The Water Factor

Beyond conflicts and crises, the report argues that water scarcity and climate change are the most fundamental challenges to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Water scarcity is the binding factor to agricultural production in the Near East and North Africa region and the driver of the region’s dependency on food imports.

Building on the evidence accumulated in the framework of FAO’s Regional Water Scarcity Initiative in the Near East and North Africa, the report shows that climate change is expected to affect food security in terms of availability, access, stability and utilisation. Most of the impacts of climate change will affect water availability.

The FAO Regional Overview underlines the urgency to develop and implement strategies for sustainable management of water resources and to adapt to the impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture.

It documents several positive experiences in sustainable management of water resources and climate change adaptation in the region and highlights the importance of accelerating investments aimed at improving water efficiency and water productivity as well as the need for a shift in cropping patterns towards less water-consuming crops.

The report explores other major options for the adaptation to climate change impacts on water and agriculture, including the need for designing and implementing social protection measures for building resilience of farmers to extreme events, cutting food losses and improving trade policies.

The report stresses the importance of building a strong evidence base for assessing the impact of climate change on food security and for the formulation of sound and flexible water adaptation measures and agricultural policies.

It calls for strengthened regional collaboration to face the massive challenge of water scarcity and climate change, building on the strong political will expressed by the leaders of the region and building on the positive experiences in many countries.

Ould Ahmed noted that, “sustainable agriculture and water management should include strategies and policies to improve irrigation efficiency, establish sustainable ground water management, promote incentives for farmers to shift to crops with higher economic returns per drop, cut food losses and waste, and enhance resilience of vulnerable population and farmers to climate-induced shocks.”

“Achieving food security is still at hand, provided we take concerted efforts and make the right moves now.”

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Slaveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:33:55 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149659 Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history. Slavery is, nevertheless, far from being just a chapter of the past—it still there, with estimated 21 million victims of forced labour and extreme exploitation around the world–nearly the equivalent to of the combined population of Scandinavian countries.

According to the UN report 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, issued in late-December, victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries. Many of these are in conflict areas, where the crimes are not prosecuted. Women and children are among the main victims.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour.

Add to all the above, the crime of human trafficking, which once more affects millions of women, and girls, who fall prey to sexual exploitation, another form of slavery.“79 per cent of all detected human trafficking victims are women and children,” UN

In fact, millions of women and girls are sold for sexual exploitation and slavery, according to this new report elaborated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Just as tragically, 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children.

From 2012-2014, UNODC estimates that more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships.

These figures recount a story of human trafficking occurring almost everywhere.

In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent.

The report also shows that trafficking can have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

The United Nations estimates the total market value of illicit human trafficking amounted to 32 billion dollars in 2005, a figure that most likely has doubled, or even tripled, in view of the massive waves of persons who have been forced to either migrating due to the growing poverty caused by climate change or the deepening inequality, or fleeing brutal armed conflicts.

Human Rights First, a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organisation based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles, says that human trafficking is a “big business”.

In a detailed report, Human Rights First informs that human trafficking earns profits of roughly 150 billion dollars a year for traffickers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:
– 99 billion dollars from commercial sexual exploitation
– 34 billion dollars in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
– 9 billion dollars in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
– 8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour

While only 22 per cent of victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66 per cent of the global profits of human trafficking, reminds Human Rights First.

And adds that the average annual profits generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude (100,000 dollars) is estimated to be six times more than the average profits generated by each trafficking victim worldwide (21,800 dollars), according to the Organization for Security and Co operation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100 per cent to 1,000 per cent, while an enslaved labourer can produce more than 50 per cent profit even in less profitable markets (e.g., agricultural labour in India).

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Meanwhile, the United Nations marks every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade that, it says, offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system.

The Day also aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.

“We must never forget this dark chapter of human history,” UN secretary general António Guterres on March 24 told a General Assembly meeting to commemorate the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, ahead of the Day.

“We must always remember the role played by many of our countries – including my own country of Portugal – in carrying out the largest forced migration in history and in robbing so many millions of people of their dignity and often also of their lives,” Guterres said.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour, he stressed.

And Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly, called for the protection of human rights and an end to racism, xenophobia and modern forms of slavery, including human trafficking, forced labour and child labour.

The consequences of slavery had not ended with emancipation, but continued to this day, he emphasised. Some were negative, but others positive, he said, underscoring the contributions made by descendants of slavery to shaping multicultural societies.

Shortly before, on March 21, the UN marked the InternationalDay for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination, the UN reminds, while adding that the rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law.

“Yet in many parts of the world, discriminatory practices are still widespread, including racial, ethnic, religious and nationality based profiling, and incitement to hatred.”

Racial and ethnic profiling is defined as “a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity,” according to a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

“Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred.”

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016, United Nations member states strongly condemned “acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.”

This and so many other Declarations, treaties, conventions, etc., are systematically signed by most of world’s countries—not least the US and Europe. Are these countries seriously committed to honour them? When?

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Trinidad Pushes for Shift to Cleaner Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/#comments Sun, 26 Mar 2017 16:20:43 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149643 CNG fuel signs at the NP Ramco service station, on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

CNG fuel signs at the NP Ramco service station, on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Mar 26 2017 (IPS)

The Trinidad and Tobago government has invested about 74 million dollars in the first phase of a 295-million-dollar project to encourage more drivers to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), described by experts here as a preliminary step in the country’s transition to using more sustainable forms of energy.

Use of CNG would represent a major behavioural shift for Trinidadians and Tobagonians whose country’s economy has relied heavily on exports of major fossil fuel reserves, giving it one of the highest per capita incomes in Caricom as well as placing it among the top ten emitters of carbon per capita in the world.The economic downturn has made maintaining generous fossil fuel subsidies an unsustainable proposition.

The shift to CNG “starts a certain behaviour because [CNG] is the cleanest fuel Trinidad and Tobago has which is affordable,” said the president of NGC-CNG, Curtis Mohammed.

In 2013, the government mandated the National Gas Company (NGC) to promote the sale and use of CNG. NGC formed NGC-CNG in January 2014 to carry out the mandate. In keeping with its mandate NGC-CNG has offered substantial incentives to both public and private vehicle owners to retrofit their vehicles for the use of CNG, including thousands of dollars in free CNG to school buses and taxis. The government has also given substantial tax incentives to buyers of CNG-fuelled vehicles.

Mohammed said the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC), which is Trinidad and Tobago’s government-run bus service, has plans to eventually convert its entire fleet to CNG vehicles. The country’s Finance Minister Colm Imbert in his 2016-2017 Budget report also said that the association representing the privately owned public service vehicles, known as maxi taxis, has committed to introducing approximately 1,200 OEM CNG vehicles over the next three years.

However, “while CNG offers a cheaper and cleaner option for transportation fuel, it is to be recognized that it is a transitionary fuel and the deployment of renewable energy sources are more sustainable…the 10% renewable energy target signals Government’s intention to gradually move away from traditional fuels to more sustainable sources,” explained head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, in Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Planning and Development, Kishan Kumarsingh, in an e-mail interview.

Though CNG has been an option under consideration for many years, a combination of factors over the past couple of years has increased interest among citizens in shifting from heavy domestic use of fossil fuels to the use of CNG for transport and eventually to renewables.

The government had for decades provided generous fuel subsidies that made owning and driving a vehicle in the country affordable for a large portion of its population. However, the government saw its revenues decline by 35 per cent between 2014 and 2016, that is, from 8.4 billion dollars in 2014 to 5.5 billion in 2016.

“Because of the collapse in oil and gas prices, we have lost 20 billion in annual revenue since 2014,” Minister Imbert was reported as saying in his 2016-2017 budget speech.

Thus, the economic downturn has made maintaining the generous fuel subsidies an unsustainable proposition and the government has gradually removed most of them.

Retrofitting to use CNG is a cheaper alternative for drivers who travel substantial distances. CNG retails at 15 cents per litre, compared to 46 cents per litre for super gasoline, 85 cents per litre for premium and 25 cents per litre for diesel. The government still subsidises the price of diesel which is used by public transport.

Another factor is Trinidad and Tobago’s active engagement over the years in initiatives to combat climate change, with the country being a signatory to the 2015 COP21 Paris agreement.

“The country has adopted a National Climate Change Policy and is currently implementing a range of projects aimed at addressing climate change nationally such as reducing emissions and assessing climate vulnerability. Trinidad and Tobago has taken a proactive approach and was the first Caribbean country to submit its NDC [Nationally Determined Contributions] to the UN as well as among the first countries to formulate and adopt a National Climate Change Policy,” Kumarsingh said in an e-mail.

Included in government’s plans are “a feed-in-tariff to allow for renewable energy to be generated and to be fed into the national power grid,” he said. However, “the current legislative and policy structure limits the wide deployment of renewable energy mainly due to very old legislation.”

Kumarsingh said, “As a first step, the enabling environment from a policy and legislative perspective has to be in place. Once that policy and legislative framework is established, opportunities for installation of generation capacity from renewable energy sources, and therefore opportunities for job creation and income generation, can be more fully explored.”

The members of the Energy Chamber, representing more than 400 gas and petrochemical industry companies in Trinidad and Tobago, also see opportunities opening up with the removal of the fuel subsidy. Dr. Thackwray Driver, CEO of the Energy Chamber said, “You would see opportunities for electric vehicles as well. Trinidad’s electricity is very cheap…Because of the decreasing price of renewable energy we might reach a point where…electricity vehicles would be more attractive.”

He said there was “a lot of interest” in energy efficiency and renewable energy among Energy Chamber members.

Dr Driver said the Chamber had always advocated for the removal of subsidies because they encouraged “wasteful use of valuable resources which could be sold on international markets…In other countries you see people are less wasteful in using fuel. When there are higher prices to pay for it, they buy cars that are more fuel efficient, they tend to make more fuel-efficient decisions. People in Trinidad do not worry about fuel efficiency.”

With regard to renewables becoming a major source of energy locally, Dr Driver said, “I think given the structure of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, it will remain relatively small for the next decade:” He added that the domestic sector was likely to see a 10-15 per cent uptake of renewables in the next decade or two.

Meanwhile, “I think right now the biggest interest is in energy efficiency, because there is a huge opportunity in the electricity sector to improve energy efficiency…Once we get energy efficiency up that is where we will see the deployment of grid-scale renewable energy,” Dr. Driver said.

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Ending Gender-Based Violence Key to Health and Well-Beinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/ending-gender-based-violence-key-to-health-and-well-being/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-gender-based-violence-key-to-health-and-well-being http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/ending-gender-based-violence-key-to-health-and-well-being/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:54:39 +0000 Natalia Linou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149640 Survivors of gender-based violence need dignity for themselves and their families. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS.

Survivors of gender-based violence need dignity for themselves and their families. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS.

By Natalia Linou
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

Physical injuries are some of the more visible, and at times most deadly, consequences of gender-based violence (GBV). But the long-term mental health consequences are often invisible and left untreated. Similarly, the reproductive and sexual health needs of survivors from rape and sexual violence – to reduce the risk of HIV and STIs, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe terminations, and long-term reproductive complications – are often unmet, stigmatised and under-reported.

But it is not only health needs which must be met. GBV is a consequence and reflection of structural inequalities that threaten sustainable development, undermine democratic governance, deepen social fragmentation and threaten peace and security. This week, UNDP and the Republic of Korea hosted an event at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women on “Gender-based violence, health and well-being: Addressing the needs of women and girls living in crisis affected context” bringing together government officials, practitioners, and academics.

A common message emerged: survivors need dignity for themselves and their families, they need immediate health services and legal services, livelihood support and economic empowerment. Multi-sectoral approaches which can meet these distinct, but inter-connected, needs are often the most effective. Research has demonstrated co-benefits of combining economic and health interventions, including for the reduction of intimate partner violence. However, even where services are available, serious barriers to accessing them exist. As Ambassador Oh Youngju of Korea stressed: “survivors of violence are often deterred from seeking help or reporting the incidents due to stigma and a lack of accessible services or ways to report safely, receive help and be treated with dignity”.

A common message emerged: survivors need dignity for themselves and their families, they need immediate health services and legal services, livelihood support and economic empowerment.

And the data can be daunting. Deputy Minister Wardak of Afghanistan shared some sobering statistics from her country: almost one in two women age 15-49 reporting physical violence in the last 12 months, with the majority who have experienced physical or sexual violence (61%) not seeking help or telling anyone about the violence.

So is there any room for optimism?

Kelly, director of the Women and War program of Harvard’s Humanitarian Initiative, stressed that while conflict is a time of trauma, it is also a time of potential transformation. Changing social norms which perpetuate violence can be linked to peace and recovery processes. And successful initiatives can be scaled up. UNDP’s Dhaliwal, shared some good practices. In South Sudan, UNDP is working in partnership with the Government, the Global Fund and the International Organization for Migration to address gender-based violence as part of mental health and psychosocial support programmes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNDP supported the establishment of multipurpose community centres, where survivors of GBV are provided with legal assistance and offered livelihoods training, after medical and psychosocial treatment is given by other partners. And in Afghanistan, efforts to increase the number of female healthcare workers, while not directly focused on survivors of violence, can offer culturally appropriate services and safe-spaces.

Tatsi, Executive Director in the Office for the Development of Women in Papua New Guinea shared both successes – strong alignment across civil society and government in bringing about a coherent strategy to end GBV, and challenges – the need for additional financial and technical support and called on donors to work with government for long-term, sustainable, and transformational change. And Devi of UNFPA stressed how a “continuum approach” is necessary across prevention and response efforts, as well as across the humanitarian-development nexus.

Ending GBV, and particularly violence against women and girls is an important end itself. It is also critical for the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 3 -Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and the commitment to ‘leave no one behind.’ While more evidence on preventing violence and supporting survivors is needed, the time for action is now.

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A Carbon Law to Protect the Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/a-carbon-law-to-protect-the-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-carbon-law-to-protect-the-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/a-carbon-law-to-protect-the-climate/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 14:48:17 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149628 The immediate must-do “no-brainer” actions to be completed by 2020 include the elimination of an estimated 600 billion dollars in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Credit: Bigstock

The immediate must-do “no-brainer” actions to be completed by 2020 include the elimination of an estimated 600 billion dollars in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Credit: Bigstock

By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

The Carbon Law says human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must be reduced by half each decade starting in 2020. By following this “law” humanity can achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century to protect the global climate for current and future generations.

A “carbon law” is a new concept unveiled March 23 in the journal Science. It is part of a decarbonization roadmap that shows how the global economy can rapidly reduce carbon emissions, said co-author Owen Gaffney of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, one of international team of climate experts.“Coal power plants under construction and proposed in India alone would account for roughly half of the remaining carbon budget.” --Steven Davis

To keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, emissions from burning fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) must peak by 2020 at the latest and fall to around zero by 2050. This is what the world’s nations agreed to at the UN’s Paris Agreement in 2015. Global temperatures have already increased 1.1 degrees C.

“After the Paris agreement we began to work on a science-based roadmap to stay well below 2C,” Gaffney told IPS.

The “carbon law” is modelled on Moore’s Law, a prediction that computer processing power doubles every 24 months. Like Moore’s, the carbon law isn’t a scientific or legal law but a projection of what could happen. Gordon Moore’s 1965 prediction ended up becoming the tech industry’s biannual goal.

A “carbon law” approach ensures that the greatest efforts to reduce emissions happen sooner not later, which reduces the risk of blowing the remaining global carbon budget, Gaffney said.

This means global CO2 emissions must peak by 2020 and then be cut in half by 2030. Emissions in 2016 were 38 billion tonnes (Gt), about the same as the previous two years. If emissions peak at 40 Gt by 2020, they need to fall to 20 Gt by 2030 under the carbon law. And then halve again in 2040 and 2050.

“Global emissions have stalled the last three years, but it’s too soon to say if they have peaked due largely to China’s incredible efforts,” he said.

Source: N. CARY/SCIENCE

Source: N. CARY/SCIENCE

The Science paper, “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization”, notes that China’s coal use swung from a 3.7 percent increase in 2013 to a 3.7 percent decline in 2015. Although not noted in the paper, China’s wind energy capacity went from 400 megawatts (Mw) in 2004 to an astonishing 145,000 Mw in 2016.

“In the last decade, the share of renewables in the energy sector has doubled every 5.5 years. If doubling continues at this pace fossil fuels will exit the energy sector well before 2050,” says lead author Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The authors pinpoint the end of coal in 2030-2035 and oil between 2040-2045 according to their “carbon law”. They propose that to remain on this trajectory, all sectors of the economy need decadal carbon roadmaps that follow this rule of thumb.

“We identify concrete steps towards full decarbonization by 2050. Businesses who try to avoid those steps and keep on tiptoeing will miss the next industrial revolution and thereby their best opportunity for a profitable future,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Elements of these roadmaps include doubling renewables in the energy sector every 5-7 years, ramping up technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and rapidly reducing emissions from agriculture and deforestation.

The immediate must-do “no-brainer” actions to be completed by 2020 include the elimination of an estimated 600 billion dollars in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industries and a moratorium on investments in coal. Decarbonization plans must be in place for all cities and major corporations in the industrialized world.

Rapidly growing economies in India, Indonesia and elsewhere should receive help to take a green path to prosperity. They cannot use coal as China did because CO2 emissions are cumulative and there is little room left in the global carbon budget, said Gaffney.

This is an extremely urgent issue. India is already on the brink of taking the dirty carbon path.

“Coal power plants under construction and proposed in India alone would account for roughly half of the remaining carbon budget,” said Steven Davis of the University of California, Irvine about his new study that will be published shortly.

Davis, who was not involved in the carbon law paper, agrees that rapid decarbonization to near-zero emissions is possible. Cost breakthroughs in electrolysis, batteries, carbon capture, alternative processes for cement and steel manufacture and more will be needed, he told IPS.

All of this will require “herculean efforts” from all sectors, including the political realm, where a cost on carbon must soon be in place. Failure to succeed opens the door to decades of climate catastrophe.

“Humanity must embark on a decisive transformation towards complete decarbonization. The ‘Carbon law’ is a powerful strategy and roadmap for ramping down emissions to zero,” said Nebojsa Nakicenovic of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.

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New Tuberculosis Drugs May Become Ineffective: Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-tuberculosis-drugs-may-become-ineffective-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-tuberculosis-drugs-may-become-ineffective-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-tuberculosis-drugs-may-become-ineffective-study/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 03:47:41 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149614 A doctor examines the x-ray of a TB patient in New Delhi. Credit: Bijoyeta Das/IPS.

A doctor examines the x-ray of a TB patient in New Delhi. Credit: Bijoyeta Das/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

New antibiotics that could treat tuberculosis may rapidly become ineffective, according to new research published by the Lancet ahead of World Tuberculosis Day.

The rise in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which affected 480,000 people in 2015, could mean that even newly discovered drugs will soon be useless, the study found.

In total both drug resistant and non-drug resistant Tuberculosis (TB) killed an estimated 1.8 million people in 2015, making it the world’s deadliest infectious disease. The five countries where TB is most predominant are India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis reflects the meeting of an ancient and under-addressed disease – tuberculosis – with an emerging modern threat – antimicrobial resistance. The inappropriate use of antibiotics, including taking them without prescription or not following doctor’s orders closely is slowly rendering many antibiotics useless.

“Resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs is a global problem that threatens to derail efforts to eradicate the disease,” said lead author of the Lancet report Professor Keertan Dheda from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

“People with drug resistant TB who don’t have access to the two new drugs continue to be treated with older, more toxic regimens that cure only 50 percent of people treated and cause severe side effects ranging from severe nausea to deafness to psychosis,” -- MSF Access.

“Even when the drugs work, TB is difficult to cure and requires months of treatment with a cocktail of drugs. When resistance occurs the treatment can take years and the drugs used have unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects,” said Dheda.

Dheda added that it is important for improved diagnostic tests, which are currently being developed, to be made available in low-income countries “so as to inform treatment decisions and preserve the efficacy of any new antibiotic drugs for TB.”

The report was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine on World TB Day – 24 March.

Meanwhile, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Access Campaign fewer than five percent of people with multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis have access to new medicines, four years after these medications were released.

“It’s downright disheartening that, with hundreds of thousands of people living with deadly drug-resistant tuberculosis, only 4,800 people last year received the two new drugs that could dramatically increase the number of lives saved,” said Dr. Isaac Chikwanha, TB advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign.

“Our first major problem is that pharmaceutical corporations are not even registering important new drugs in some of the countries hardest hit by TB; The next major problem is their high price,” said Dr. Chikwanha.

“People with drug resistant TB who don’t have access to the two new drugs continue to be treated with older, more toxic regimens that cure only 50 percent of people treated and cause severe side effects ranging from severe nausea to deafness to psychosis,” said MSF Access.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization recently told IPS at a press conference on antimicrobial resistance that “there is no denying the fact that TB is a top priority for the world.”

She says that there are two high level meetings planned in 2017 and 2018 to “shine a light on TB” and give it “the political attention and the investment in research and development that it deserves.”

However according to both MSF Access and the new Lancet study, research and development alone, though needed, is not enough to address the shortcomings in the global response to TB and Antimicrobial Resistance without a matching political response.

In a comment article published alongside the new Lancet study David W Dowdy from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said that the difference between “a drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic of unprecedented global scale” or “an unprecedented reversal of the global drug-resistant tuberculosis burden,” falls largely to whether there is “political will to prioritise a specific response to the disease.”

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Free Education Helps Combat Child Labour in Fijihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/free-education-helps-combat-child-labour-in-fiji/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-education-helps-combat-child-labour-in-fiji http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/free-education-helps-combat-child-labour-in-fiji/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 00:02:51 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149603 Many Pacific Island states, including Papua New Guinea, have introduced free education policies resulting in primary school enrolments surging. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Many Pacific Island states, including Papua New Guinea, have introduced free education policies resulting in primary school enrolments surging. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

In the South Pacific nation of Fiji, free and compulsory education, introduced three years ago, in association with better awareness and child protection measures, is helping to reduce children’s vulnerability to harmful and hazardous forms of work.

But eliminating child labour, which is also prevalent in other Pacific Island states, such as Papua New Guinea and Samoa, is dependent on growing decent remunerated work and reducing inequality as well.“Because of the level of poverty, particularly in settlement areas, there are a ton of children on the streets who are not engaged in education, they are not in school.” --Reverend Ronald Brown

“The introduction of free education in Fiji has dramatically reduced the problem of child labour,” a spokesperson for Fiji’s Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, told IPS, with the number of reported child labour cases falling from 64 in 2011 to five last year.

The government’s education initiative is supported by other measures, such as increased staff capacity in the Ministry of Employment to carry out thousands of inspections for child labour and enforce labour regulation compliance. And in 2015 a toll free helpline was set up for members of the public, including children, to report any form of child labour, abuse or neglect.

However, Fay Volatabu, General Secretary of Fiji’s National Council of Women, told IPS that, while she recognized the government’s good initiatives, “children still sell pastries and doormats when we go shopping at night and that should be rest or homework time. Yet no-one is sending them home or checking up on their parents and taking them to task for still making their children work.”

Studies conducted in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) by the International Labour Organization (ILO) during the past decade identified poverty and financial difficulties as the major driving factors of child labour with children engaged in street vending, begging and scavenging and young girls vulnerable to prostitution and domestic servitude.

More than 60 percent of children surveyed on the streets in both countries were involved in hazardous work, such as carrying heavy loads and handling scrap metal, while 6.8 percent in Fiji and 43 percent in Port Moresby, PNG’s capital, were trapped in commercial sexual exploitation. A study of 1,611 children in Fiji in 2009 drew a correlation between students dropping out of school and the prevalence of child workers, with 65 percent of the latter not in education.

Lack of economic growth, high unemployment and low wages are major factors contributing to poverty in the region with only two of 14 Pacific Island Forum countries, Cook Islands and Niue, achieving MDG 1, the reduction of poverty. The size of households is also a factor with the hardship rate rising in Fiji from zero for a family with one child to 44 percent for a family of three or more children, reports the World Bank. For many poorer families the costs of schooling are prohibitive and sending children out to work is a way of surviving and meeting basic needs.

The value of education to human and economic development, well understood by Pacific Island governments, has been the impetus for free education being implemented in numerous countries, such as Fiji, PNG, Tonga, Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands, and compulsory education in some.

In 2012 the PNG Government removed tuition fees for students in Elementary Prep to Grade 10 and subsidized education for those in late secondary years 11-12. However, while enrolment figures have surged, Reverend Ronald Brown, Chief Executive Officer of City Mission PNG, a Christian non-profit social welfare organization, told IPS that children were still highly visible in the capital selling small goods, such as betelnut and cigarettes, particularly near informal settlements.

“Because of the level of poverty, particularly in settlement areas, there are a ton of children on the streets who are not engaged in education, they are not in school,” Reverend Brown said.

He continued that “the issue is also that there are hidden costs in every school. Many schools charge project fees, which can amount to K50 (15 dollars) per child and up. There is also the purchase of uniforms, which are extremely expensive.”

Both PNG and Fiji have ratified the ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182). Yet City Mission PNG is seeing increasing numbers of trafficked minors.

“We are dealing with more and more children, young girls who are being internally trafficked into prostitution. In 2012, we had about 20-25 women and children in our Crisis Support Centre, now there are 50,” Reverend Brown said. Although he acknowledged it was unclear if the rise in statistics was due to a real increase in cases or wider awareness of the issue.

Fiji, which, together with PNG, participated in the TACKLE project, a joint program by the European Union, ACP Secretariat and ILO to combat child labour through education-related initiatives from 2008-2013, has been rolling out awareness in urban and rural communities in a bid to grapple with the issue at the grassroots.

“So far a total of 200 teachers and 50 police officers together with 150 community leaders and farmers have been trained in the area of child labour and the importance of sending children to school through the free education program,” the Ministry of Employment spokesperson said.

But, even with increased numbers of children accessing primary education, the retention of students to the completion of secondary school remains low in some Pacific Island countries, while many are unable to provide adequate jobs for those who graduate.

An estimated 57 percent of enrolled primary students in PNG complete the last grade, while only 12.5 percent of the estimated 80,000 annual school leavers secure formal employment. In Fiji up to 94 percent of primary level students make the transition to secondary level, but unemployment among youth remains a challenge at 18.2 percent in 2015, according to ILO data.

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New Recipe for School Meals Programmes in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-recipe-for-school-meals-programmes-in-latin-america/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:51:52 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149606 Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Sunita Daniel remembers what the school lunch programmes were like in her Caribbean island nation, Saint Lucía, until a couple of years ago: meals made of processed foods and imported products, and little integration with the surrounding communities.

This changed after Daniel, then head of planning in the Agriculture Ministry, visited Brazil in 2014 and learned about that country’s school meals system, which prioritises a balanced, healthy diet and the participation of family famers in each town.

“I went back to the government and said: This is a good example of what we can do,” said Daniel.

Today, the small island state puts a priority on purchasing from local producers, especially family farmers, and is working on improving the diet offered to schoolchildren.

Saint Lucia is not unique. A new generation of school meals programme that combine healthy diets, public purchases of products from local farmers, and social integration with local communities is transforming school lunchrooms and communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The model followed by these projects is Brazil’s National School Feeding Programme, which has taken shape over recent years and is now at the heart of a regional project, supported by the Brazilian government.

Currently, the regional initiative is seeking to strengthen school meal programmes in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, through triangular South-South cooperation that receives the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Delegates from the countries participating in the project, and representatives of the FAO and the Brazilian government, met Mar. 20-22 in the Costa Rican capital to take part in the “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, and share their experiences.

“This kind of workshop strengthens everyone – the Brazilian programme itself, countries and governments,” said Najla Veloso, regional coordinator of the project for Strengthening School Feeding Programmes in Latin American and the Caribbean. “It works as a feedback system, to inspire change.”

Brazil’s system focuses on guaranteeing continuous school feeding coverage with quality food. The menus are based on food produced by local farmers and school gardens.

In Brazil, “we’re talking about offering healthy food every day of the school year, in combination with dietary and nutritional education and purchases from family farmers,” Veloso told IPS during the three-day meeting.

In Brazil, a country of 208 million people, more than 41 million students eat at least one meal a day at school, said Veloso, thanks to coordination between the federal government and state and municipal authorities.

“This does not exist in any other country in the world,” said the Brazilian expert.

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Taking Brazil’s successful programme as a model, the regional technical cooperation project was launched in 2009 in five countries, a number that climbed to 17. At the present time, 13 new-generation projects are receiving support as part of the regional initiative, which is to end this year.

According to Veloso, more than 68 million schoolchildren in the region, besides the children in Brazil, have benefited from the innovative feeding programmes, which have also boosted ties between communities and local farmers.

Today, the project is operating in Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucía, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The project has had varied results and has followed different formats in each country, as shown by the delegates who shared their experiences in San José.

In the case of Saint Lucía, for example, the authorities forged an alliance with the private sector to raise funds and provide food to between 8,000 and 9,000 schoolchildren aged five to 12, said Daniel.

In Honduras, grassroots participation enabled cooperation between the communities, the municipal authorities and the schools, Joselino Pacheco, the head of the School Lunch programme, described during the meeting.

“We didn’t have a law on school feeding until last year, but that didn’t stop us because our work comes from the grassroots,” the Honduran delegate said.

The law, which went into effect in September 2016, built on the experience of a government programme founded in 1998, and is backed up by social organisations that support the process and which are in turn supported by the regional project, Pacheco told IPS.

Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, like Honduras, have specific laws to regulate school feeding programmes.

In the case of Costa Rica, the country already had a broad school meals programme, so the authorities decided to focus on expanding its capacities by including innovative elements of the new generation of initiatives aimed at achieving food security.

“A programme has been in place since 2015 to open school lunchrooms during the mid-term break and at the beginning and the end of the school year,” said Costa Rica’s first lady, Mercedes Peñas, a renowned expert in municipal development.

A pilot plan in 2015 was carried out in 121 school lunchrooms in the 75 most vulnerable districts. By 2016 the number of participating schools had expanded and 200,000 meals were served in the first 40 days of the school year.

This is spending that not only produces short-term results, improving nutrition among schoolchildren, but also has an impact on public health for decades, said Ricardo Rapallo, technical coordinator of FAO’s Hunger-Free Mesoamérica programme.

“If we don’t work on creating healthy eating habits among children, it is more difficult to change them later,” said Rapallo.

School meals programmes are essential in achieving economic, social and environmental development in Latin America, the speakers agreed, describing school feeding as a fundamental component for achieving several of the 17 SDGs, which have a 2030 deadline.

“The experience of a school feeding programme, together with a programme for public purchases from family farmers, makes the 2030 agenda possible,” said Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, during one of the meeting’s panels.

Daniel described one inspirational case. In Belle Vue, a town in southwestern Saint Lucía, the school lunchroom inspired women in the community to start their own garden.

“They came and said, what can we provide. And a lot of their children went to the school,” said Daniel, who is now director of the school meals programme in Saint Lucía and a liaison on the issue between FAO and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The school set up a daycare center for toddlers and preschoolers so the local mothers could work in the garden. As a result, some 30 mothers now earn a fixed income.

Veloso explained that although the programme is due to close this year, they are studying what needs and opportunities exist, to decide whether to launch a second phase.

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1 in 4 Children Worldwide Facing Extremely Scarce Water by 2040http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/1-in-4-children-worldwide-facing-extremely-scarce-water-by-2040/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=1-in-4-children-worldwide-facing-extremely-scarce-water-by-2040 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/1-in-4-children-worldwide-facing-extremely-scarce-water-by-2040/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:30:33 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149588 Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Credit: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Credit: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scarce water by 2040, the United Nations children’s agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children.

In its report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explores the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.

“This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake announcing the report, which was launched on World Water Day on March 22.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures.”

According to the UN agency, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress.

Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems, warns the report.

According to a recent UN-Water report, about two-thirds of the world's population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. Credit: World Water Development Report 2017

According to a recent UN-Water report, about two-thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. Credit: World Water Development Report 2017


These combined with increasing populations, higher demand of water primarily due to industrialization and urbanization are draining water resources worldwide.

“On top of these, conflicts in many parts of the world are also threatening access to safe water.”

According to a UN-Water: World Water Development Report, about two-thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year.

All of these factors force children to use unsafe water, exposing them to deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea, UNICEF’s report reminds.

“Many children in drought-affected areas spend hours every day collecting water, missing out on a chance to go to school. Girls are especially vulnerable to attack and sexual violence during these times.”

However, the impact of climate change on water sources is not inevitable, noted the report, recommending actions to help curb the impact of climate change on the lives of children.

One of the points it raised is for governments to plan for changes in water availability and demand in the coming years and to prioritize the most vulnerable children’s access to safe water above other water needs to maximize social and health outcomes.

It also called on businesses to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of safe water sources as well as on communities to diversify water sources and to increase their capacity to store water safely.

“Water is elemental – without it, nothing can grow,” said Lake, urging for efforts to safeguard children’s access to water. “One of the most effective ways we can do that is safeguarding their access to safe water.”

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Menstrual Hygiene Project Keeps Girls in Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/menstrual-hygiene-project-keeps-girls-in-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=menstrual-hygiene-project-keeps-girls-in-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/menstrual-hygiene-project-keeps-girls-in-school/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:06:09 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149583 Girls walk across an embankment in the Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Girls walk across an embankment in the Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Breaking taboos surrounding menstruation, a project to distribute sanitary napkins to girls in one district of Bangladesh has had a positive impact on school dropout rates – and should be replicated in other parts of the country, experts say.

“In Bangladesh, girls neither get enough support from their families nor their teachers in school during this difficult time, and their problems intensify and multiply as they cannot share anything out of shame,” Dr. Safura Khatun, a consultant at Mithapukur Health Complex in Bangladesh’s northern district of Rangpur, told the IPS on the sidelines of a five-day workshop.“There’s no reason to be sad when you reach puberty with some physical changes. Don’t be sad …it’s time to celebrate.” --Dr Dilara Begum

Inter Press Service (IPS), an international news agency, in collaboration with News Network, a non-profit media support organisation of Bangladesh, organised the workshop titled ‘Empowering Girls and Young Women Through Healthcare and Hygiene Support’ in Mithapukur sub-district on March 12-16, 2017.

Fifty teachers and students from 50 schools, colleges and madrasahs in Mithapukur joined the workshop.

“This is simply indescribable what a traumatic situation girls in Bangladesh society undergo for lack of understanding and care by families and schools. A small support during their monthly period may make a big difference in their everyday life, including education. But sharing of this still prevails as a taboo in our society, affecting the girls’ natural flourishing of their bodies and minds,” said Dr. Safura.

She stressed the importance of incorporating healthcare and hygiene issues in school curricula so that girl students may be aware of the necessary actions at the right time and overcome the shyness in sharing those with parents.

“Girls are definitely reluctant to share their physical issues and problems with their parents …this has to be changed,” she said.

Echoing Dr. Safura, another consultant, Dr. Sabiha Nazneen Poppy of Badarganj Health Complex, also in Mithapukur, said prejudice and family-level restrictions complicate girls’ physical problems, which ultimately hamper their education. “So, we need to give  serious attention to the problems girls face during their menstruation.”

If the girls are left on their own at this stage, Dr Sabiha said, they might complicate their physical problems, causing infections and inviting diseases using unhygienic homemade sanitary pads. “Spreading awareness is essential. So is the support.”

Thus was born the organisation ‘Labonya’, which means ‘beautiful’. Launched in 1998, Labonya has been distributing free sanitary napkins among secondary school students in Mithapukur, an initiative that has proven very effective, thanks to Mithapukur parliament member HN Ashequr Rahman.

“I’ve been noticing since the early 1990s that many girls in Mithapukur skip their classes for nearly a week every month during their menstruation,” Rahman said. “This hampers their academic activities and leads to dropout in many cases.”

“In 1998, I collected data about girl students of the schools in my constituency and found an alarming picture that 90 percent female students have virtually no idea about menstrual hygiene and this is the underlying reason why so many girls drop out,” he told IPS.

The lawmaker said they were not only dropping out but also suffering from various diseases stemming from using dirty clothes and other unhealthy means to manage their menstruation.

Rahman said they started providing sanitary napkins among 25,000 students – from 7th to 12th grade – in all schools of Mithapukur. “Though we couldn’t provide the sanitary napkins every month for lack of funds, the project continued intermittently until 2001. It was suspended after the change of government following the national election in that year,” he explained.

When the current government took office in 2009, he said, he put the project back in place again, changing the scenario in Mithapukur, a sub-district which has about 500 educational institutions.

According to Rahman, the dropout rate of female students has been substantially reduced in the area with the growing awareness among students about the menstrual hygiene. “They now don’t skip classes during their menstruation. They’re also doing well in examinations.”

He said they will continue the project for another three years to make female students aware of how to manage menstrual hygiene with dignity.

Currently, ‘Labonno’ is providing around 28,500 students with a packet containing five sanitary napkins every month.

Rehana Ashequr Rahman, the head of ‘Labonya’ project, said, “If women remain sick, they cannot properly carry on their studies and they don’t have confidence to stand on their own feet. To help overcome lack of knowledge and awareness and change poor sanitary conditions prompted us to launch the project.

“Today’s girls are tomorrow’s mothers. If we can’t ensure their good health, the future generation will be at stake,” said Rehana, also the Vice-Chair of the Red Crescent Society. “This hands on and practical project should be scaled up all over Bangladesh.”

Mahmuda Nasrin, 40, a teacher of Balua High School in Mithapukur, impressed by the project, said, “It’s a very good project as it makes girls aware about their health and hygiene and explain how to share things overcoming all the prejudices.”

Mishrat Jahan Mim, 16, a tenth grader of Shalaipur High School, Nur-e-Jannat, 18, a twelfth grader of Balar Haat Adarsha Degree College and Irene Akhter, an eighth grader of Shalaipur High School said the project has changed their mindset about some taboos surrounding girl’s health and hygiene.

Speaking at one session of the workshop on March 15, Dr Dilara Begum, the librarian of East West University in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, told the girls: “There’s no reason to be sad when you reach puberty with some physical changes. Don’t be sad …it’s time to celebrate.”

She urged the teachers to work together to break prejudices that a wife cannot sleep with her husband during her menstruation and touch anyone while praying. “We need to make people aware and share the realities of life and its cycle to build a beautiful society taking women along,” she told the audience.

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Local Solutions to Rebuild Oldest Cuban City in Hurricane Matthew’s Wakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/local-solutions-to-rebuild-oldest-cuban-city-in-hurricane-matthews-wake/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:43:47 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149577 The veranda of a house which has been used to provide shelter for four families, including the family of retiree Dania de la Cruz. In the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa, 167 people are still living in shelters after Hurricane Matthew destroyed their homes in October 2016. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The veranda of a house which has been used to provide shelter for four families, including the family of retiree Dania de la Cruz. In the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa, 167 people are still living in shelters after Hurricane Matthew destroyed their homes in October 2016. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
BARACOA, Cuba, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Clearings with fallen trees in the surrounding forests, houses still covered with tarpaulins and workers repairing the damage on the steep La Farola highway are lingering evidence of the impact of Hurricane Matthew four months ago, in the first city built by the Spanish conquistadors in Cuba.

Baracoa, a 505-year-old world heritage city in eastern Cuba, located in a vulnerable area between the coast, mountains and the rivers that run across it, is showing signs of fast recovery of its infrastructure, thanks in part to the application of its own formulas to overcome the effects of the Oct. 4-5, 2016 natural disaster.

“The ways sought to deal with the situation have been different, innovative. Necessity led us to involve the local population in addressing a phenomenon which affected more than 90 per cent of the homes,” said Esmeralda Cuza, head of the office in charge of the recovery effort in the people’s council of Majubabo, an outlying neighborhood along the coast.

Standing next to a mural announcing the delivery of bottles of water donated to the families affected by the hurricane, the 64-year-old public official, with experience in dealing with disasters since 1982, told IPS that “more local solutions were sought” before, during and after Hurricane Matthew hit the province of Guantánamo.

Internationally renowned for its effectiveness in protecting human lives during climate disasters, Cuba’s disaster management model is also undergoing changes within the current reforms carried out by the government of Raúl Castro, which includes local responses during the evacuation of local residents and the rebuilding process.

“We had some experience in this, but never with the magnitude and organisational level of this one,” said Cuza, referring to what the strongest hurricane in the history of Guantánamo meant for this city.

Workers unload materials for the reconstruction of a building damaged by Hurricane Matthew, on the seaside promenade of the historic city of Baracoa, in the eastern province of Guantánamo,  Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Workers unload materials for the reconstruction of a building damaged by Hurricane Matthew, on the seaside promenade of the historic city of Baracoa, in the eastern province of Guantánamo, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

In a city where most houses have lightweight roofs, the hurricane wreaked havoc in 24,104 of the 27,000 houses in the municipality of Baracoa, population of 81,700.

The local government reports that 3,529 homes were totally destroyed, 3,764 were partially destroyed, 10,126 lost their roofs, and 6,685 suffered partial damage to the roofs.

This figure does not include multi-family buildings that were also damaged. One of these, located on the seafront, is waiting to be demolished. In addition, 525 government buildings were affected, as well as the power and communication networks, water pies, roads and bridges.

Authorities say 85 per cent of the city has been restored, including 17, 391 houses that have been repaired.

“At least here all the houses have roofs,” said Cuza, talking about the restoration of the 1,153 damaged houses in Majubabo. In the rest of Baracoa, 90 per cent of the damaged roofs were fixed, and you can still see some houses with no roofs or covered with tarpaulins on a drive through the city.

Like everyone else, the office headed by Cuza is waiting for more materials to finish restoring the damaged interior of the houses.

In the case of homes that were completely destroyed, authorities provided the so-called “temporary housing facility“, which consists of basic construction materials. With this support and salvaged materials, 3,466 families rebuilt part of their homes to be able to leave the shelters and shared houses where they were initially placed.

The remains of boats and bushes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew scattered on a beach in Baracoa bear witness to the violence of the biggest climate disaster ever to hit the province of Guantánamo, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The remains of boats and bushes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew scattered on a beach in Baracoa bear witness to the violence of the biggest climate disaster ever to hit the province of Guantánamo, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

This set of measures seems to be the reason for the rapid improvement in the city´s landscape, through which foreign tourists stroll. With painted facades and big signboards, the 283 rental houses and state-run tourist facilities have been operating since early November, when high season started.

International aid

Contributions from the rest of the Cuban provinces, Cubans abroad and international cooperation have been arriving since October for the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew in the east of the country.

For example, the United Nations is carrying out a plan that aims to mobilise 26.5 million dollars to address the urgent needs of 637,608 people in Guantánamo and the neighbouring province of Holguín. This UN programme has received contributions from the governments of Canada, Switzerland, Italy and South Korea.

The Cuban government has also received assistance from Japan, Pakistan and Venezuela, as well as from companies in China and the United States and from international cooperation organisations, such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Some parts of the seafront promenade are still impassable while workers fix the two-kilometre wall, which barely defended the city from the waves. Because of their vulnerability to the sea, 21 coastal communities are to be relocated before 2030, including Baracoa.

“The construction materials programme was launched to respond to the demand,“ said Rodolfo Frómeta, who is in charge of the state-run company that groups 12 small factories of natural rock materials and blocks, which plans to produce earthquake-resistant concrete slabs for roofs this month.

Baracoa has the largest number of these factories, which also operate in the affected neighbouring municipalities of Imías and Maisí. Up to February, the 22 factories in the area had produced 227,500 blocks, using artisanal moulds and rocks collected from the surrounding land and surface quarries.

“We only import the cement and steel,” said Frómeta, referring to the factories, of which three are state-run and the rest are private. “But all of them receive government support, like these mills that grind stones,“ he told IPS in Áridos Viera, a company in Mabujabo.

A psychologist by profession, Amaury Viera founded in 2015 this private enterprise, with the aim of turning it into a cooperative. Eight workers obtain sand, granite, gravel and stone powder. “Our main activity now is making blocks, some 800 a day, although we want to increase that to 1,200,“ said Viera.

With his bag full of tools, the young bricklayer and carpenter Diolnis Silot is heading home for lunch. “I have worked in the construction of 35 houses since Matthew, two were fully rebuilt and the rest involved replacing lightweight roofs. Most of them received state subsidies,” he told IPS.

Rodolfo Frómeta, in charge of the local company that groups 12 small local factories of natural rocky materials and blocks, next to a stone mill, near the city of Baracoa in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Rodolfo Frómeta, in charge of the state company that groups 12 small local factories of natural rocky materials and blocks, next to a stone mill, near the city of Baracoa in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A few metres away, the owner of a private cafeteria, Yudelmis Navarro, is installing a new window and making other improvements to his house. “The hurricane carried away the roof and some things from indoors. The government replaced the roof for free and now I am doing the smaller-scale repairs at my own expense,“ he said.

“People who expect everything for free will not solve very much,“ Navarro said.

On crutches, retiree Dania de la Cruz, one of the 167 people still living in shelters in the municipality, watches people going home for lunch, from the doorway of the large house where she lives with her daughter and three other families. “I used to live with my daughter along the Duaba river, on a farm, where I lost almost everything. I won’t go back there. We don’t know when or where we will have our new house,” she said.

“The longest-lasting damages were in agriculture and housing,” said Luis Sánchez, the mayor of Baracoa. He stressed that the recovery strategy included modernising the new infrastructure and making it more resistant, for example in communications.

So far, he said, 3,900 low-interest bank loans were approved for people to rebuild their homes, in addition to 700 subsidies, and more than 10,000 allowances for low-income families. Some families paid for the rebuilding out of their own pocket.

“And we have gained experience in evacuation,“ said Sánchez, who mentioned the use of traditional shelters in caves and rural buildings known as “varas en tierra” made of wood and thatched roofs that reach all the way to the ground.

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Disabled Caribbeans Find Freedom in Technologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/disabled-caribbeans-find-freedom-in-technology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disabled-caribbeans-find-freedom-in-technology http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/disabled-caribbeans-find-freedom-in-technology/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:02:03 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149574 There is still need for better educational opportunities, housing, medical care, and everything that is extended to other citizens in the Caribbean. Credit: Bigstock

There is still need for better educational opportunities, housing, medical care, and everything that is extended to other citizens in the Caribbean. Credit: Bigstock

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Visually impaired Kerryn Gunness is excited about the possibilities offered by a new free app that would serve as his eyes and enable people like him to enjoy greater independence.

The Personal Universal Communicator (PUC) app is part of a new generation of cheaper assistive technologies making their way onto the market which allow people with disabilities to use technology that was formerly too expensive, but provided them with greater independence."We want to ensure that our citizens are able to make effective use of technology to transform their lives. People with disabilities are part of that." --CTU Secretary General Bernadette Lewis.

Gunness had the opportunity to do a test run of the app with its accompanying Internet-based Video Assistance Service (VAS) as part of a pilot project being launched by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), under the umbrella of its ICT for People with Disabilities initiative. Regional statistics suggest that about five per cent of the populations in the Caribbean have a disability.

With this app, Gunness said, “I am able to be independent, manage my affairs, feel comfortable just like my sighted peers.”

Consultant to the CTU, Trevor Prevatt, explained to IPS, “The service is a VAS. It is built on the capability of your smart phone. You have medication to take, you can call [the service’s] agent who will tell you ‘Okay, hold up the bottle’. You put your phone on it and the agent will be the eyes for the person.”

“If a hearing person wants to communicate with a deaf person, she calls the agent who will sign or text or transcribe what you are saying to the deaf person.”

Assistive technologies definitely make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities, who would otherwise enjoy almost no independence, says Roseanna Tudor, Operations Manager at the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD). She described the cost of those technologies as “prohibitive”.

However, as communications technology continues to evolve, the CTU is seeking to harness the opportunities presented by this new generation of technology to increase the independence of people with disabilities.

“The technical revolution has precipitated convergence of formally distinct disciplines…if we are going to exploit the full potential of technology, we have to deal with all sectors of our national community….We want to ensure that our citizens are able to make effective use of technology to transform their lives. People with disabilities are part of that,” said CTU Secretary General, Bernadette Lewis.

For this reason, the CTU launched its series of ICT for People with Disabilities workshops, beginning in Jamaica in 2013, “to raise awareness of the ICT tools that are readily available for people with disabilities.”

Prevatt said, “The basis of the Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS) is really a video relay service that has existed abroad for quite some time but it has been an expensive proposition; you needed proprietary equipment. The technology has changed so radically that you just download an app now and you access the service.”

Lewis explained that a pilot project will be conducted by the CTU “to collect as much data as we can. Based on the information from the pilot we will determine the best way to roll out the CVAS.” She explained that there is a lot of data available on the service which is based on proprietary equipment, but very little for the free service based on the app.

Among the information the pilot project would seek to capture is whether an agent from one country would be able to interpret correctly what a deaf person from another country is saying so as to relay it correctly, given differences in local vernacular in each island. Because of resource limitations, the service would start with an agent in Trinidad and Tobago, the home base of the CTU.

The cost of the service to the visually or hearing impaired would be the cost of using the Internet, Prevatt said.

However, the CTU is in negotiations with network operators to route the calls from other islands to the VAS centre in such a way that they do not incur international charges, Lewis said. “The network operators are very enthusiastic about the service,” she added.

She described regional governments as being “gung-ho” about the service and expressing an interest in having it implemented in their countries.

The CTU’s members are regional governments. “And governments have obligations to all of their citizens, so we are helping our members to fulfil their obligations to their citizens,” Lewis said.

Barbados, like Trinidad and Tobago, has signed the convention on the rights of the disabled. However, equality in all areas of life remains a work in progress for the disabled community in both countries.

Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, states that: “States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and
their full inclusion and participation in the community…”

Forty-eight-year-old Rose-Ann Foster-Vaughan, Administrative Project Officer with the BCD, said while Barbados is making strides towards those objectives, there was still need for “better educational opportunities, housing, medical care; everything that is extended to other citizens.”

Foster-Vaughan, who lives with cerebral palsy, drew attention to the BCD’s efforts to have legislation passed that would ensure designated parking areas for the disabled. “We had a petition of over 12,000 signatures to take to the Parliament to legislate it. We have not heard anything in over a year.”

Tudor explained that the parking legislation has been awaiting approval by the Barbados Parliament for more than 10 years.

Employment continues to present particular challenges for people with disabilities. The 2012 Social Panorama report, by Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean, states that while “The census data available for 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries show that type of disability has a considerable impact on the economic activity undertaken by persons with disabilities.”

Nevertheless, “In all cases, the percentage of persons aged 15 and over with one or more forms of disability who are economically active is much lower than the percentage for persons without any disabilities.”

Gunness thinks the CVAS would greatly enhance the job prospects of people with disabilities. “The service would put you on a par with your sighted counterparts. It would add and enhance what we are hoping for,” he said.

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New Approach Needed for Peace in Afghanistanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-approach-needed-for-peace-in-afghanistan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-approach-needed-for-peace-in-afghanistan http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-approach-needed-for-peace-in-afghanistan/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:41:07 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149570 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organisation which partners with front-line women's groups around the world. ]]> Afghan women. Credit: IPS

Afghan women. Credit: IPS

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

When the United States went to war in Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban’s despicable treatment of women was cited by First Lady Laura Bush as one of the main reasons for going to war. Yet, since that regime fell 15 years ago, the Afghan government has neither included women in the peacebuilding process, nor has it stemmed the endemic rate of violence against them.

2016 was the bloodiest year since the year of the US invasion. While the Taliban has lost power, it continues to operate and other terrorist groups including Daesh have gotten bigger. Afghan women continue to endure “parallel justice” for supposedly “immoral activities”.

Rape, acid attacks, cutting of body parts, stoning, sexual assault, domestic battery, killings and sex trafficking are becoming more common – a situation which Donor Direct Action’s front-line partner, the Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children (HAWCA), deals with on a daily basis.

Afghanistan, the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman educates only 15% of its girls. 60% are married off by age 16. Fatwas have been issued for girls not to attend school and even the small handful of women who managed to enter politics has been targeted. Assassination attempts have been made on women in public service. Political leaders, directors of women’s affairs and police chiefs have been killed in recent years.

The fallacy of liberating women as part of the war cry has turned out to be yet another illegitimate reason for this seemingly never-ending conflict. Afghan women are now dealing with not only an epidemic of violence inside their homes – but also in society in general. The prolonged war has exacerbated this. Overall deaths and injuries of women in conflict have increased over 400% from 285 in 2009 to 1,218 last year.

There was a road less travelled, which may have ensured a different outcome, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Five weeks after 9/11, Jan Goodwin and I wrote an opinion editorial for the New York Times on how the Taliban’s repression of women in Afghanistan was a political tool for achieving and consolidating power (i.e. much more political than violence which they needed to be liberated from).

We concluded the piece with a warning that “any political process that moves forward without the representation and participation of women will undermine any chances that the principles of democracy and human rights will take hold in Afghanistan. It will be the first clue that little has changed.”

Sadly, women were left out of almost all political participation and little has changed. Their calls for disarmament were ignored, and the efforts of brave women such as Malalai Joya to prevent warlords from taking power were unsuccessful. She was instead removed from her governmental position. This exclusion of women has taken place despite the UN passing Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 and much research including that from the International Peace Institute, which showed that when women were included in peace-building, there was a 35% increase in the probability of it lasting for more than 15 years.

In 2001, we had hoped that the international community would listen to the voices of Afghan women, but the failure to do so and the dire situation of Afghanistan today shows that few lessons have been learned. Discussions on including women in decision-making related to ending conflict and ensuring peace have not been acted upon. Transitional governments supported by the UN were almost entirely male in Afghanistan. And a decade later, exactly the same mistake was made in Libya.

Both countries are now in a virtually impossible positions of political stalemate. In Libya, on the day of elections, a brilliant constitutional lawyer and political activist Salwa Bugaighis was murdered – her political platform was simply to build peace. The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP), which she co-founded, carries on her work, with major obstacles to overcome. More recently still, while pledges were made to ensure that women in Syria were part of the peace-building process, a secondary “advisory” role has been given to them instead.

Meaningfully including women in rebuilding peace in war-torn countries seems like an obvious solution to all of this. Enabling women to be part of processes which secure their future and those of their families and the societies they live in is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the most effective thing to do politically and economically.

As long as the same failed approach is used over and over again, but different results are expected, it is unlikely that we will see any lasting peace in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, or anywhere else, anytime soon. In the meanwhile, women will continue to lose their lives for daring to follow a path of political leadership, or even of personal freedom.

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Civil Society Representatives: “Water is the Foundation of our Life”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/civil-society-representatives-water-is-the-foundation-of-our-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-representatives-water-is-the-foundation-of-our-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/civil-society-representatives-water-is-the-foundation-of-our-life/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:14:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149566 By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

“Water is life”—a slogan that arose from the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement is one that resonates not only in the U.S., but around the world as millions still lack access to clean, safe water.

At the UN, representatives across sectors gathered to discuss and raise awareness of such issues for World Water Day.

“Water is the foundation of our life…if we don’t have clean water, we will not be healthy,” said Founder of Water for South Sudan Salva Dut to IPS.

According to the UN, approximately 1.8 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and instead use contaminated water sources. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.

Dut created his organisation after his father became ill from unclean drinking water. Upon drilling the first well in his father’s village, Dut found a trickle down effect.

“I put a well down—now we have a school, a clinic, a market,” he said.

Dut particularly noted its impact on women and girls who are often tasked with collecting and carrying water over long distances.

“Seeing these young girls whose jobs are to go long distances to collect water, now they have the opportunity to go to school,” he told IPS.

Oyun Sanjaasuren

Oyun Sanjaasuren

Global Water Partnership (GWP) Chair Oyun Sanjaasuren echoed similar sentiments, telling IPS of the interconnectedness between population growth, food, and water.

“With population growth, people will need more food. With needing more food, one will need more agricultural products, and 70 percent of all the freshwater used is used for making food,” she told IPS.

Sanjaasuren and Dut both highlighted the need to recycle and save water.

“There is probably enough water resources in the world, but only if it is managed well,” Sanjaasuren said.

She pointed to the need to not only develop innovative, modern technologies to address the issue, but also to identify “simple” places to implement small interventions that can lead to change including food loss and waste.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the U.S. and China. Due to the significant amount of water used in food production, food loss also leads to a loss of one-fourth of all water used to produce food.

Sanjaasuren said the loss of such precious resources must be addressed, and reducing food loss and waste is one path to good water governance and sustainable development.

“The most important thing is to not take water for granted as an unreplenishable resource,” she continued.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, governments committed to achieving goals on various water issues including universal and equitable access to safe water; access to adequate sanitation and hygiene; and expanding international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries.

Dut stressed the need for the international community to continue supporting South Sudan despite its ongoing conflict.

“South Sudan today is the youngest nation in the world—it is a baby. And when you see your baby walk into the fire, you always run and stop it so it doesn’t get hurt. Whatever is going on in South Sudan today, we still need to support them,” he told IPS.

Half of the population in South Sudan does not have access to safe drinking water while more than 70 percent lack access to sanitary latrines. In displacement camps, hygiene and sanitation are inadequate. Mercy Corps found that flooding has collapsed latrines in some camps, forcing people to walk through knee-high, contaminated water.

Dut said that the international community must continue to provide aid not only for relief, but for development as well.

“In some parts of the country, they are stable. We don’t pay enough attention to what part we should support with development [aid] and what part we should support with relief,” he told IPS.

“If we support these people, they will be able to stand up by themselves,” Dut continued.

Sanjaasuren and Dut particularly pointed to the need to stop water contamination and to reduce or reuse waterwaste, the theme for this year’s World Water Day.

Globally, over 80% of generated wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Polluted environments, including unsafe water, cause one-fourth of the global burden of disease, particularly affecting children under the age of five.

Most recently, Bangalore’s Bellandur Lake caught on fire due to illegal waste dumping and mass untreated sewage. The pollution has threatened residents’ health and caused a chronic shortage of clean water. Experts have predicted that the health and water crisis may make Bangalore uninhabitable by 2025.

“It is a very crucial time to change the way we deal with things and how we solve problems,” Sanjaasuren told IPS. The use of treated wastewater in agriculture is one such solution, contributing to water, food, health and environmental security.

In order to achieve this, Sanjaasuren called for an integrated water resource management in which actors at all levels gather at the discussion table. Dut highlighted the role that World Water Day plays in bringing such discussions.

“Thanks to the UN for this World Water Day to really pay attention and let the world to be aware that water is very important in our lives,” Dut told IPS.

World Water Day, which is held on 22 March every year, aims to raise awareness and take action on water issues.

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Climate Breaks All Records: Hottest Year, Lowest Ice, Highest Sea Levelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/climate-breaks-all-records-hottest-year-lowest-ice-highest-sea-level/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-breaks-all-records-hottest-year-lowest-ice-highest-sea-level http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/climate-breaks-all-records-hottest-year-lowest-ice-highest-sea-level/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:30:13 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149563 Extreme and unusual trends continue in 2017. Credit: WMO

Extreme and unusual trends continue in 2017. Credit: WMO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

Climate has, once more, broken all records, with the year 2016 making history-highest-ever global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, unabated sea level rise and ocean heat. And what is even worse– extreme and unusual trends continue in 2017.

In its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate, issued ahead of World Meteorological Day on 23 March, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial periood, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015.

“This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year.”

With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident, said Taalas.

“The increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heat-waves.”

Each of the 16 years since 2001 has been at least 0.4 °C above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by WMO as a reference for climate change monitoring. Global temperatures continue to be consistent with a warming trend of 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C per decade, according to the WMO’s report.

The powerful 2015/2016 El Niño event boosted warming in 2016, on top of long-term climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Temperatures in strong El Niño years, such as 1973, 1983 and 1998, are typically 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C warmer than background levels, and 2016’s temperatures are consistent with that pattern.

Global sea levels rose very strongly during the El Niño event, with the early 2016 values reaching new record highs, informs WMO, adding that global sea ice extent dropped more than 4 million square kilometres below average in November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

“The very warm ocean temperatures contributed to significant coral bleaching and mortality was reported in many tropical waters, with important impacts on marine food chains, ecosystems and fisheries.”

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO globbal figures are available – and will not fall below that level for many generattions to come because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

Noteworthy extreme events in 2016 included severe droughts that brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America, according to the report.

Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti as the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963, and inflicted significant economic losses in the United States of America, while heavy rains and floods affected eastern and southern Asia.

WMO has issued annual climate reports for more than 20 years and submits them to the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The annual statements complement the assessments reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces every six to seven years.

It is presented to UN member states and climate experts at a high-level action event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda in New York on 23 March.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark. It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the Agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies,” said Taalas.

“Continued investment in climate research and observations is vital if our scientific knowledge is to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change.”

Extremes Continue in 2017

Newly released studies, which are not included in WMO’s report, indicate that ocean heat content may have increased even more than previously reported. Provisional data also indicates that there has been no easing in the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson.

At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic has witnessed the Polar equivalent of a heat-wave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air.

“This meant that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point. Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years.”

According to WMO, scientific research indicates that changes in the Arctic and melting sea ice is leading to a shift in wider oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns. This is affecting weather in other parts of the world because of waves in the jet stream – the fast moving band of air whhich helps regulate temperatures.

Thus, some areas, including Canada and much of the USA, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.

In the US alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Sanitation ‘Revolution': A New Pay-Monthly Poop Removal Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sanitation-revolution-a-new-pay-monthly-poop-removal-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sanitation-revolution-a-new-pay-monthly-poop-removal-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sanitation-revolution-a-new-pay-monthly-poop-removal-system/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:50:44 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149561 By IPS World Desk
ROME/COLOMBO, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

Developing countries struggling to cope with huge volumes of human waste may finally get some relief, and a new business opportunity.

Dhaka grew into a metropolitan area with a population of more than 15 million and the world's 3rd most densely populated city. Credit: Ahnaf Saber. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Dhaka grew into a metropolitan area with a population of more than 15 million and the world’s 3rd most densely populated city. Credit: Ahnaf Saber. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A new Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) study has found that spreading the cost of waste removal over a series of monthly payments could make costs more affordable for poor households and also help kick-start the conversion of this waste, or fecal sludge, into profitable by-products, like fertilisers and bioenergy.

Published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, the study focuses on the rural sub-district Bhaluka in Bangladesh, where the government is looking to pilot an innovative local service for sludge management.

Currently, households struggle to pay a large lump sum of 13 dollars every 3-4 years to empty their pit latrines, which is approximately 14 per cent of their monthly income.

Instead, the study has found that they could pay small monthly payments of as little as 0.31 dollars per month, or about what they spend monthly on a mobile phone service, over the same period.

“The way that sludge is currently collected is both inefficient and unsafe,” says the study’s first author Soumya Balasubramanya, a scientist with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), which leads the CGIAR ResearchProgram on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

“Our study reimagines the economics of waste collection, disposal and reuse from the ground up. Rather than collecting waste on an ad hoc basis, our system would build a strong, guaranteed consumer base and a steady flow of capital, which would allow waste collection businesses to invest in improving their equipment and services.”

Despite Bangladesh making rapid progress in rural sanitation, having built about 40 million pit latrines, a financially viable solution for emptying these pits, and transporting the sludge to a central location for treatment has not yet been found, adds Balasubramanya.

“When pits fill up, households currently hire someone to empty them, but this service creates health and environmental problems by dumping the sludge close by, as no central treatment plants exist yet,” comments Rizwan Ahmed, a co-author of the study with Bangladesh’s NGO Forum for Public Health.

“If sludge removal could be offered on a subscription basis, the cost would be more manageable for households, and critically it would help streamline the logistics of taking the sludge safely away for treatment, preventing contamination of groundwater and the spread of infections.”

The study concludes that households are willing to cover at least half the costs of the proposed system, while the remainder may initially need to be funded by the government.

However, revenue from the sale of waste by-products like fertiliser and energy may offer another potential source of funds in the future.

Early experiments into producing compost is already showing promise, especially for large-scale plantations growing non-edible commodities like rubber or cotton.

The study’s results have already helped bring this issue to the attention of top policymakers and influenced the development of Bangladesh’s first regulatory framework for fecal sludge management.

“It’s very encouraging to see the government now turning its attention to the challenge of managing the fecal sludge that on-site sanitation generates” said Jeremy Bird, director general of IWMI.

“Our research has shown that a very simple concept like cost-spreading can put the critical transportation link in the sanitation chain on a firm financial footing.”

“Until this study, we knew next to nothing about those costs and people’s willingness to pay them in rural areas,” said Balasubramanya.

“This information will help governments and entrepreneurs design financially viable systems to manage sludge from on-site latrines, not only in Bangladesh but elsewhere around the world.”

“The proposed system would offer clear benefits for individuals – convennience, privacy and better health – and that’s why they’re willing to pay,” explains Ahmed. “But the benefits to society – reduced health risks and less environmental pollution – would be even greater.”

The release of the study coincided with World Water Day on 22nd March, which this year will focus on the pressing issue of wastewater management.

According to UN-Water 80 per cent of all wastewater, including fecal sludge, gets dumped without treatment, leading to a range of health and environmental risks.

The problem is especially grave in the expanding cities and overpopulated rural areas of low-income countries, where only 8 per cent of wastewater is treated.

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Don’t Understand Clouds? But You Should!http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/dont-understand-clouds-but-you-should/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-understand-clouds-but-you-should http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/dont-understand-clouds-but-you-should/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:40:15 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149554 Credit: World Meteorological Organization

Credit: World Meteorological Organization

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

Obviously, there are so many issues and phenomena that have been brought up by growing impact of climate change that one would likely not think about. Some of them, however, are essential and would be good to learn about. For instance, the fact that clouds play a “pivotal role” in weather forecasts and warnings.

Today scientists understand that clouds play a vital role in regulating the Earth’s energy balance, climate and weather, says the leading UN organisation dealing with meteorology.

They help to drive the water cycle and the entire climate system, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) tells. And assures that understanding clouds is essential for forecasting weather conditions, modelling the impacts of future climate change and predicting the availability of water resources.

Throughout history, clouds have inspired artists, poets, musicians, photographers and countless other enthusiasts, WMO rightly says. However, they are much more than that: clouds help to drive the water cycle and the entire climate system, it explains ahead of the World Meteorological Day on March 23.

On this, the WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas, emphasise that clouds play a vital role in regulating the Earth’s energy balance, climate and weather. They help to drive the water cycle and the entire climate system.

In short, understanding clouds is essential for forecasting weather conditions, modelling the impacts of future climate change and predicting the availability of water resources, he adds while reminding that throughout the centuries, few natural phenomena have inspired as much scientific thought and artistic reflection as clouds.

Consequently, the international body has opted for “Understanding Clouds” as the theme of this year’s World Meteorological Day. The purpose is to highlight the enormous importance of clouds for weather climate and water.

See what it says: “Clouds are central to weather observations and forecasts. Clouds are one of the key uncertainties in the study of climate change: we need to better understand how clouds affect the climate and how a changing climate will affect clouds. Clouds play a critical role in the water cycle and shaping the global distribution of water resources.”

Anyway, on the lighter side, the World Meteorological Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the inherent beauty and aesthetic appeal of clouds, which has inspired artists, poets, musicians, photographers and countless other enthusiasts throughout history.

Credit: World Meteorological Organization

Credit: World Meteorological Organization

An International Clouds Atlas

Most notably: the Day marks the launch of a new edition of the International Cloud Atlas after the most thorough and far-reaching revision in its long and distinguished history.

The new Atlas is “a treasure trove of hundreds of images of clouds, including a few newly classified cloud types. It also features other meteorological phenomena such as rainbows, halos, snow devils and hailstones.”

For the first time ever, the Atlas has been produced in a digital format and is accessible via both computers and mobile devices.

The International Cloud Atlas is the single authoritative and most comprehensive reference for identifying clouds, WMO continues. “It is an essential training tool for professionals in the meteorological community and those working in aviation and shipping. Its reputation is legendary among cloud enthusiasts.”

The Atlas has its roots in the late 19th century, and it was revised on several occasions in the 20th century, most recently in 1987, as a hard copy book, before the advent of the Internet.

Advances in science, technology and photography prompted WMO to undertake the ambitious and exhaustive task of revising and updating the Atlas with images contributed by meteorologists, cloud watchers and photographers from around the world.

Classifying Clouds

The present international system of Latin-based cloud classification dates back to 1803, when amateur meteorologist Luc Howard wrote The Essay on the Modification of Clouds.

Credit: World Meteorological Organization

Credit: World Meteorological Organization

The International Cloud Atlas currently recognises ten basic cloud “genera,” which are defined according to where in the sky they form and their approximate appearance. Read more about Classifying clouds

As one of the main modulators of heating in the atmosphere, WMO informs, clouds control many other aspects of the climate system. “Limited understanding of clouds is the major source of uncertainty in climate sensitivity, but it also contributes substantially to persistent biases in modelled circulation systems.”

“Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity” is one of seven Grand Challenges of the WMO World Climate Research Programme. Read more about Clouds, circulation and climate sensitivity

Learn how to identify cloud types by using this flow chart from the International Cloud Atlas. Clouds are divided into 10 fundamental types known as genera, depending on their general form.

The genera are then further subdivided based on a cloud’s particular shape, structure and transparency; the arrangement of its elements; the presence of any accessory or dependent clouds; and how it was formed. Read more about Resources.

Convinced? Then watch the sky… read the clouds!

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