Inter Press ServiceHealth – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 22 May 2018 00:03:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 10:17:58 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155846 Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’ For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate […]

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security - Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY, May 21 2018 (IPS)

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’

For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed.

Tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food. As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security

The government’s role should be restricted to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring open trade and investment policies. In such a business-friendly environment, the private sector will thrive. Accordingly, pro-active government interventions or agricultural development policy would be a mistake, preventing markets from functioning properly, it is claimed.

The possibility of market failure is denied by this view. Social disruption, due to the dispossession of smallholders, or livelihoods being undermined in other ways, simply cannot happen.

 

Flawed recipes

This approach was imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s through structural adjustment programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs), contributing to their ‘lost decades’. In Africa, the World Bank’s influential Berg Report claimed that Africa’s supposed comparative advantage lay in agriculture, and its potential would be best realized by leaving things to the market.

If only the state would stop ‘squeezing’ agriculture through marketing boards and other price distortions, agricultural producers would achieve export-led growth spontaneously. Almost four decades later, Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential.

Examining the causes of this dismal outcome, a FAO report concluded that “arguments in support of further liberalization have tended to be based on analytical studies which either fail to recognize, or are unable to incorporate insights from the agricultural development literature”.

In fact, agricultural producers in many developing countries face widespread market failures, reducing their surpluses needed to invest in higher value activities. The FAO report also noted that “diversification into higher value added activities in cases of successful agriculture-led growth…require significant government intervention at early stages of development to alleviate the pervasive nature of market failures”.

 

Avoidable Haitian tragedy

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, former US President Bill Clinton apologized for destroying its rice production by forcing the island republic to import subsidized American rice, exacerbating greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

For nearly two centuries after independence in 1804, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice until the early 1980s. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier turned to the BWIs in the 1970s, US companies quickly pushed for agricultural trade liberalization, upending earlier food security concerns.

US companies’ influence increased after the 1986 coup d’état brought General Henri Namphy to power. When the elected ‘populist’ Aristide Government met with farmers’ associations and unions to find ways to save Haitian rice production, the International Monetary Fund opposed such policy interventions.

Thus, by the 1990s, the tariff on imported rice was cut by half. Food aid from the late 1980s to the early 1990s further drove food prices down, wreaking havoc on Haitian rice production, as more costly, unsubsidized domestic rice could not compete against cheaper US rice imports.

From being self-sufficient in rice, sugar, poultry and pork, impoverished Haiti became the world’s fourth-largest importer of US rice and the largest Caribbean importer of US produced food. Thus, by 2010, it was importing 80% of rice consumed in Haiti, and 51% of its total food needs, compared to 19% in the 1970s.

 

Agricultural subsidies

While developing countries have been urged to dismantle food security and agricultural support policies, the developed world increased subsidies for its own agriculture, including food production. For example, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supported its own farmers and food production for over half a century.

This has been crucial for ensuring food security and safety in Europe after the Second World War. For Phil Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner, “The CAP is at the root of a vibrant agri-food sector, which provides for 44 million jobs in the EU. We should use this potential more”.

Despite less support in some OECD countries, farmers still receive prices about 10% above international market levels on average. An OECD policy brief observed, “the benefits from agriculture for developing countries could be increased substantially if many OECD member countries reformed their agricultural policies. Currently, agriculture is the area on which OECD countries are creating most trade distortions, by subsidising production and exports and by imposing tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade”.

 

Double standards

If rich countries can have agricultural policies, developing countries should also be allowed to adopt appropriate policies to support agriculture, to address not only hunger and malnutrition, but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, as well as unsustainable production and consumption.

After all, tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food.

As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security.

Hence, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to agricultural development, requiring the same rules to apply to all, with no regard for different circumstances, would be grossly unfair. Worse, it would also worsen the food insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment experienced by most African and other developing countries.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.

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Research, for Whom?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/research-for-whom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=research-for-whom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/research-for-whom/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 17:20:41 +0000 Abhay Bang http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155797 Dr Abhay Bang (MD, MPH, D. Sc (Hon), D. Lit (Hon.) is a physician, an internationally recognised public health expert, and the founder director of SEARCH

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Putting people at the heart of research

Photo courtesy: Rachita Vora

By Abhay Bang
May 16 2018 (IPS)

Looking back at some 30 years of working in the social sector, I believe that the most important milestone in my journey was the point when I started recognising the importance of research in development.

As a freshly minted doctor in the late 1970s, I was so socially oriented that I did not take research seriously. When Rani [Dr Rani Bang] and I started working in the villages of Wardha district, in 1977, we had a lot of beautiful, innocent ideas: we thought we would help people in the villages, that people would change, and villages would change, too.

But we soon realised—after sincere attempts at bringing about change through medical care as well as through farmer and labour movements—that we could only achieve limited results through these approaches.  For example, although our work with landless agricultural labourers was aimed at organising them to demand a fair deal from the Employment Guarantee Scheme, we were unable to negotiate a substantial increase in their wages. That’s when I decided to investigate further into why this was so.

 

The importance of research

When I inquired with the relevant government department, I found that the Minimum Wage Act had fixed the daily minimum wage for agricultural labourers at INR 4, a figure usually determined by the money required to meet a person’s daily calorific needs.  I was curious to know how the committee deciding the minimum wage had arrived at this figure.

"We had done so much work, earned recognition, but solved nobody’s problem."

Further investigation revealed that the committee had worked out this figure by assuming the average adult’s calorie requirement at 1800 calories. When I asked the committee chairman, VS Page, how he had calculated the 1800 calorie requirement, he replied that his diabetologist had advised him to restrict his diet to 1800 calories. In other words, the committee had committed a gross scientific blunder by applying a diabetic’s calorie requirement to that of a landless labourer who does hard physical labour for eight hours daily!

So, I looked at the Indian Council of Medical Research calorie recommendation, which was 3,900 and 3,000 calories, respectively, for men and women who do hard labour. I collected all this data, identified around 20 errors—some on the economics side, others on the social side—in the committee’s report, and then calculated the minimum wage required. It worked out to INR 12.

The power of research is greater than that of seva and sangharsh. The results are always several times more than the effort.Within a year of the research getting published, and publicised by media and labour unions, the Maharashtra government raised the minimum wage to INR 12. This benefited 6 million labourers in the state—many, many times more than what we could have hoped to achieve if we had not adopted a research-based approach to the problem.

That’s when I realised that the power of research is greater than the power of seva and sangharsh. The results are always several times more than the effort. Knowledge-based, evidence-based arguments have greater impact. That is why I would encourage more and more people in the social sector to adopt ‘thinking action’ rather than just action.

 

Research, for whom?

In 1986, soon after we moved to Gadchiroli, Rani and I learnt another important aspect of using research and data to address social problems. Back then we used to give some time to the district hospital, where we once came across a 10-year-old girl whose symptoms led the medical officer to believe that she had heart disease. I suspected that she had sickle cell disease, a disease that had not been reported from that district until then. Tests established that she did indeed suffer from sickle cell disease.

We at SEARCH then organised a district sample survey—people came forward to give us a drop of blood for the survey—which revealed that there were nearly 6,000 sickle cell patients in the district, and nearly 100,000 had the sickle cell gene. We presented this finding to the health minister, who praised our work and announced that the government would set up a tribal medical research centre in Gadchiroli. Eventually, though, the centre was set up in Pune (where there are no tribals) because researchers and doctors did not want to come to Gadchiroli.

Disappointed, we approached the tribal leaders in the villages and requested them to put some pressure on the government to bring the centre to Gadchiroli. Their response took us unawares: “Doctor, this is your disease, not ours,” they said. “Did we ever tell you that we need help for this?” they gave us a drop of blood for the survey out of respect for us, but they would do no more; they were neither worried about the sickle-cell disease nor did they want to do anything about it.

We were faced with a crisis following that experience: we had done so much work, earned recognition, but solved nobody’s problem. It made me ask myself: if people did not need the research, why did I do it? And I realised that I was actually gratifying my own intellectual curiosity. In hindsight, I have the courage to say that we practically used people as guinea pigs.

That’s when I realised that, unfortunately, researchers often do research not for the community, but for their own peers. If you are an educated person working in places like this, even as you work with the people, your target audience—knowingly or unknowingly—is still your peers. Subconsciously, you are thinking, “What will I publish? What will I present at the conference? What would other nonprofits or doctors like to hear?”

Therefore, your stay here and your interaction with people merely become means to collect data as you try to write something or do something that your peers will appreciate. This attitude often misleads us.

Following the sickle cell disease experience, Rani and I took a formal decision in 1988 that we would not do any research that did not address the needs of the people. Ever since, this approach has become almost a religion at SEARCH—it is a fundamental value choice for us that what we are doing here must address the people’s need and not our need.

 

Putting people at the heart of research

Just as the formal medical process is to ask a patient, “What is troubling you?” to understand their history, at SEARCH our process of trying to form a diagnosis on a community starts by asking the community, “What are your health problems and needs?” Partly because of our medical training and research background, we have unknowingly, but successfully, applied this approach in the social sector also.

Every time we set out to do something new, we always ask ourselves: “Do the people of Gadchiroli need this?” Then we organise formal processes to get to know what people need. For example, we hold an annual tribal health assembly for representatives from various tribal villages in Gadchiroli to hear from them what their health problems and needs are. This has helped us understand health priorities from the communities themselves rather than depend on the distant external sources. The next step is to verify what people said by way of hard research data.

The importance of doing research ‘with’ the people

Photo courtesy: Rachita Vora

 

The importance of doing research ‘with’ the people

There are essentially three ways in which to conduct research:

  1. Research on the people: What we did with the sickle cell disease study is an example of this. Yes, you take informed consent from the people, but these are just precautionary measures; there is no power in the hands of the patients. You get data on the people, but the intellectual property as well as the power to interpret and publish is with you, for you.
  2. Research for the people: This is better than the first approach. The research seeks to understand a genuine problem faced by the people and to solve it, but neither do they really understand what you are doing nor do they have a say or role in it.
  3. Research with the people: This approach shares power with the people. When people provide you with questions, or questions emerge through your observations and dialogue with the people, you involve people in collecting the data, report your finding to them and then develop a solution that involves people. It enables them, it serves them.

 

Our home-based newborn care (HBNC) solution to address the issue of high newborn and infant mortality  in Gadchiroli is an example of this approach. Knowledge was simplified and given in the hands of the village worker. And they proved that we can reduce newborn and infant mortality without having a trained pediatrician in the community.

Twenty years since we completed the HBNC trial in 1998, the programme still continues because the people had a need, and we empowered them to address that need. I would like to call it research with the people, in which people are our partners in the process. While our contribution is more intellectual in nature, their contribution is different, but no less important—they are offering their lives, their newborns and they are learning to provide the care. Their interest is that they want their newborns to receive care. They don’t care how much the IMR has decreased. When we put up a board in the village saying there have been no newborn deaths in a year, they know that their contribution to the partnership has paid off.

Most of the research at SEARCH is for the people and with the people. This culture of research for problem solving can be powerful, but only if you follow certain ethics and ask the people. Ultimately you should ensure that the solution is transferred to the hands of the people.

My dream is to get to a point where we see research by the people. When people are able to think like researchers, they will ask questions and inquire more. People already ask why and how to solve it, but they don’t use advanced scientific methods to solve these problems. But I foresee a time when ordinary people will also think in terms of research–and that will lead to research by the people. And when research by people happens, imagine the power of problem solving in India.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

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Excerpt:

Dr Abhay Bang (MD, MPH, D. Sc (Hon), D. Lit (Hon.) is a physician, an internationally recognised public health expert, and the founder director of SEARCH

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Fighting Inequality in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-inequality-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 13:46:12 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155771 Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 15 2018 (IPS)

Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s remarkable economic success story belies a widening gap between rich and poor. A gap that’s trapping people in poverty and, if not tackled urgently, could thwart our ambition to achieve sustainable development. This is the central challenge heads of state and government will be considering this week at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A strengthened regional approach to more sustainable, inclusive growth must be this Commission’s outcome.

Shamshad Akhtar

It’s imperative, because ESCAP’s Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report shows that at the current rate of progress, Asia and the Pacific will fall short of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. There has been some welcome progress, including in some of the least developed countries of our region. Healthier lives are being led and wellbeing has increased. Poverty levels are declining, albeit too slowly. But only one SDG, focused on achieving quality education and lifelong learning, is on track to be met.

In several critical areas, the region’s heading in the wrong direction. Environmental stewardship has fallen seriously short. The health of our oceans has deteriorated since 2015. On land, our ecosystems’ biodiversity is threatened. Forest conservation and the protection of natural habitats has weakened. Greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. But it’s the widening inequalities during a period of robust growth that are particularly striking.

Wealth has become increasingly concentrated. Inequalities have increased both within and between countries. Over thirty years, the Gini coefficient increased in four of our most populous countries, home to over 70 per cent of the region’s population. Human, societal and economic costs are real. Had income inequality not increased over the past decade, close to 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. More women would have had the opportunity to attend school and complete their secondary education. Access to healthcare, to basic sanitation or even bank accounts would have been denied to fewer citizens. Fewer people would have died from diseases caused by the fuels they cook with. Natural disasters would have wrought less havoc on the most vulnerable.

The uncomfortable truth is that inequality runs deep in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. There’s no silver bullet, no handy lever we can reach for to reduce it overnight. But an integrated, coordinated approach can over time return our economies and our societies to a sustainable footing. Recent ESCAP analysis provides recommendations on how to do just that.

At their heart is a call to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education.

Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can also help underpin a healthy society.

Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality. Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality. This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies.

Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important by the minute. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a rapidly expanding sector. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged. So investment in ICT infrastructure is key, to support innovative technologies and ensure no one is left behind. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. Geography can’t determine opportunity.

This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality. In response, we need investment to help people to adapt in the region’s disaster hotspots: targeted policies to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation on those most vulnerable, particularly air pollution. Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response.

The robust growth Asia and the Pacific continues to enjoy, gives us an opportunity to take decisive action across all these areas. But for this to happen, fiscal policy needs to be adjusted. More effective taxations systems would increase the tax take, and better governance would increase people’s willingness to contribute. Public expenditure could then be made more efficient and progressive, the proceeds of growth shared more widely, and inequalities reduced.

My hope is that leaders will seize the moment, strengthen our commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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United Arab Emirates: Entering into a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 20:35:53 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155763    The end of the oil age In the early 1970’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an impoverished desert, with little access to food, water and well-paying jobs. Today, this country looks nothing like it was fifty years ago. Thanks to oil, the UAE has completely transformed and now is one of the most […]

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View from the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Ravin Vimesh

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

 
 
The end of the oil age
In the early 1970’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an impoverished desert, with little access to food, water and well-paying jobs. Today, this country looks nothing like it was fifty years ago. Thanks to oil, the UAE has completely transformed and now is one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, if not the world: its per capita GDP is equal to those of highly developed European nations ($68,000 – 2017 est.).

Wealth in the UAE, as in other Gulf countries, is derived mainly from oil but the black gold will run out someday soon. For this reason, the UAE, similar to other petro-rich countries in the region, is activating a list of local and national strategies and initiatives to build a new framework for the future. This framework aims to be run only by renewable energies but keeping the same level of wealth, if not improving it. Therefore rich, but without depending on oil.

Indeed, the UAE has recently embarked on a new path of investments, to end oil dependence and turn around most of its infrastructures run by renewable energies. Launched in 2017, the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims “to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, thus saving AED 700 billion by 2050.” The Strategy also seeks to increase consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40 percent and it targets an energy mix that aims to combine renewable, nuclear and clean sources as follows: 44 percent clean energy, 38 percent gas, 12 percent clean coal and 6 percent nuclear.

For example, the city of Masdar is the first city in the world to have a zero carbon footprint and zero waste and it is a car-free city. The city is still not fully developed but it currently aims to be home to 40 to 50 thousand people in a total area of six kilometres.

Back to the future
Energy is not the only field in which the UAE is at the forefront for development and innovation. Transportation, health, education, tackling climate change, visionary architecture, tourism, cyber security and so forth: these and others are all sectors in which the UAE is showing the world its willingness to improve and possibly become the leader, shocking the planet in terms of innovation.

Today the UAE is a country where skyscrapers nearly touch the sky, streets are clean, electric and hybrid cars are gradually becoming more common than cars run on fuel and the crime rate is very low. According to Numbeo, which surveyed 50,175 people in 4,574 cities, Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world, ranking 16th and with a very low crime index (11.85) and a quite high safety index (88.15).

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Martin Adams

The UAE is also planning to build a high-speed train, named Hyperloop, which will be able to reach 1.200 kph and connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi (120 km) in 12 minutes by 2021. In addition, in 2016, the world applauded the first journey to be ever completed by a solar airplane, which, not surprisingly, was an UAE product. Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered aircraft equipped with more than 17,000 solar cells. The airplane landed in Abu Dhabi after a journey of 505 days and 26,000 miles at an average speed of about 70 kph. The UAE government is even planning to establish the first human settlements in Mars by 2117.

However, this is just a small portion of the wider picture that describes the UAE’s way to the future. In December 2016, Gulf News had launched “The Amazing Nation”, a book to celebrate UAE’s 45th anniversary that aimed to tell the story of the innovative and modern UAE while also exploring its deep cultural roots. The book shows – through 117 pages with more than 40 double-page spreads filled with highly informative vignettes and varying forms of visual illustrations, photographs and multi-dimensional renderings – how the UAE’s famed architectural prowess will be visible in intelligent and energy-efficient buildings in the coming future.

According to this book, homes of the future will be incredibly smart and capable of growing their own food in a sustainable way. 3D and 4D printing in construction will allow unique innovations in terms of sustainable architecture and homes will also be folded up and transported by drones to any location. The country is also planning to build below the waterline and make underwater living possible. If there is one country that is projecting itself into the future, that is certainly the UAE.

An attractive country: UAE aims to become a crucial business hub
The strong belief of Emirates policy makers in the importance of spending in education, innovation and development, has made the country one of the most attractive hubs for business people and corporations from all over the world. According to the Arcadis Global Infrastructure Investment Index, the UAE is the third most attractive place in the world to invest in infrastructure.

Indeed, the UAE is extremely conducive to private business and the free market. In the thirty-eight free trade zones of UAE, businesses and corporations, even those that are owned by foreigners, are exempt from all taxes. This lack of taxation is a feature of those known as “rentier States”. A “rentier State” gets most (or all) of its income from natural resources revenues. These revenues are used to modernize the economy and to finance the public sector and ultimately to guarantee a fixed income for its citizens. Due in no small part to this system, taxation is almost inexistent in rentier States and makes them the perfect place to invest.

Development in a conflict region
The UAE, like some other Gulf countries, is clearly projecting itself into the future. These countries want to diversify the portfolio of their investments and provide an alternative source of revenues away from those related to oil. This unfolding situation must be addressed and monitored in the long run. The unprecedented modernisation occurring in the Gulf region is inspired by a new and young leadership that is gradually replacing the elders. These leaders are showing a remarkable enthusiasm for innovation but, at the same time, they are the protagonists of a provocative foreign policy, which is ultimately contributing to fuel tensions and conflict across the Middle East. Therefore, this modernisation needs to be examined also assessing the constant political instability in the region.

Indeed, unless this region does not find political compromises which allows enduring peace and a reliable stability, those same people who would enjoy the remarkable technological innovations, will constantly be concerned because of the lack of security in their countries.

Economic and social development needs to be accompanied by a wise and peaceful foreign policy, particularly in the Gulf and in the broader Middle East.

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

The post We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 05:14:37 +0000 Doaa Abdel-Motaal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155751 Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs […]

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By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs to create employment in rural areas while protecting forests and wildlife, improving landscapes, and preventing climate change through lower food production emissions. Well-functioning food systems are also considered essential for social stability and conflict prevention. In fact many politicians today go as far as to argue that food systems need to thrive so as to stem rural-to-urban migration and the cross-border flow of desperate people fleeing food insecure nations.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal

This sounds like a tall order, sufficient to make of food and agriculture an economic sector apart. Add to this mix that some want the agricultural sector to deliver energy in the form biomass and biofuels, and not just food, and you seem to have an almost impossible set of goals.

But let us take a minute to work through all of this. Is there any economic sector of which we do not expect abundance, safety, employment generation and environmental protection? Do we not expect, for example, when our cars are manufactured that there be a sufficient number of them to meet demand, that they be safe and generate employment, and that they not pollute either during their production or use? Do we not expect when cars or other manufactured products are produced, that our economies grow while delivering greater peace and security in the process?

The food and agricultural sector requires exactly what all other economic sectors do. Beyond government intervention to impose food safety and environmental regulations, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for absolutely any economic sector to thrive. This infrastructure includes physical infrastructure such as roads and highways, but above all legal infrastructure too. By this I mean the rule of law, in the form of a functioning court system to which investors can have quick and easy recourse, and open trade and investment policies. This legal infrastructure is what allows non-governmental actors like the private sector to throw their hat into the ring.

But there is something about food that makes any discussion of it emotional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are chronically undernourished. This figure is as unacceptable as it is alarming, and is certainly cause for immediate action. However, what this number does not call for is a misdiagnosis.

An emotional response to what is a troubling reality is the last thing we need. Doubling down on government intervention to pick winners and losers in the food sector, or to create an ‘industrial policy’ for agriculture, would be a mistake. It would prevent market signals from functioning properly. In fact, the answer to current food insecurity is to double down on economic growth, pursuing it even more aggressively.

Clearly some social protection is needed as this transition occurs. While people do not die of a lack of cars, they do die of a lack of food. But social protection must be managed carefully. The safety nets must be targeted to those in need, must not create complacency and slow the pace of economic reform, and, above all, food aid must not grow into an industry of its own, with the associated vested interests that would make it impossible to dismantle.

I have worked on international trade issues for decades where I have watched some of the world’s most developed nations refuse to reduce their agricultural subsidies and escalating tariffs that inflict daily harm on the developing world’s agricultural sector. A beggar thy neighbour approach. In the same arena, I have watched many developing countries refuse to open their markets to imported food, making food more expensive for the poorest segments of their population. These are all examples of the unfortunate application of an industrial policy to food.

I have also worked extensively in the area of food aid. While I have seen this aid come to the rescue of millions of people in dire need, I have also seen it create dependence and delay desperately needed economic reforms. I now work on polar issues, where I am watching scientists in Antarctica harvest their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to cultivate fresh food where we would have previously thought impossible.

My message is this, let us apply simple economics to food and agriculture and not invent new industrial policy recipes for this sector every day. Let us also keep a watchful eye on where technology can take us. Research and development may well take this sector towards a very different future.

*Doaa Abdel-Motaal is former Executive Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, former Chief of Staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the World Trade Organization. She is the author of “Antarctica, the Battle for the Seventh Continent.”

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“Green Development Has to Be Equal for All”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-development-equal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 00:57:29 +0000 Diana Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155745 IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to […]

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Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Credit: Diana Mendoza/IPS

By Diana Mendoza
MANILA, May 14 2018 (IPS)

IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to create sustainable infrastructure and promote green growth pathways.

In this brief chat with IPS correspondent Diana Mendoza, Dr. Rijsberman noted the success of just a few countries with successful environmental protection policies, while many others have yet to adopt green growth policies.

Q: China is obviously the major player in the BRI. How does GGGI see China influencing other countries to actively take part in it and adopt green growth policies?

A: China is a huge investor. Among the countries in the BRI, China is the most important foreign direct investor, if not one of the most important. What we are particularly interested from our GGGI perspective is that China has also become, out of necessity, an important source of green technology because it implements renewable energy policies at a large scale. It is but fitting for it to have initiated the BRI. It is a leader in electric mobility, green technology and policy. It is keen on its air quality around Beijing and has very rapidly cleaned it up in just the last two years. What we’re interested in also is not just having large direct investments as part of their BRI initiative but how it will influence its government to export green technology.

Q: On one hand, China has also upset its Asian neighbors, particularly in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that claim China is exploring their islands and upsetting territorial boundaries.

A: I know basically nothing about territorial disputes but it’s clear that China is a world power, a dominant force.  It is very influential and we are hoping it will use this to bring opportunities for other countries to prosper. We’ve been seeing China for decades as having relations with countries in bringing resources such as Afghan steel or mineral resources to which China is a huge importer. That’s basically the first relationship we’re seeing in a bilateral way. It is also starting its ODA ministry to bring more support to developing countries and is willing share more environmental technology and hopefully, to also share the benefits of the equal civilization approach.

Q: What would the equal civilization approach mean to countries around the BRI?

A: There are small and relatively poor countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Growth and development should also benefit them. The impact of climate change and the unhealthy effects of modernization and urbanization affect all countries, but green development has to be equal for all.

Q: What are GGGI’s priorities in the next five years?

A: We would like to see countries adopting renewable energy policies. Many countries are not introducing renewable energy to the potential that they have. Many countries also have some policies but we see they only have something like 1 percent solar, where it could be 20 or 30 percent. Only in China do we see a very rapid transition to renewable energy and electricity generation. But I live in Korea and they only have 2 percent. The government recently increased the target for renewable energy to 20 percent, but you know even 20 percent is still modest.

Q: How much is the ideal target for renewable energy?

A: It should be 50 or 60 percent if we want to achieve what was agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. Vietnam is still planning to build 24 more coal fire-powered plants. The current paths that many governments are on are still very far away from achieving the Paris Agreement. We need to see a rapid switch to renewable energy and we think it’s much more feasible than governments are aware of. Prices have come down so quickly that you know I’ve been spending most of my week in the Philippines and the provincial governments are still talking about hydropower because that’s what they know. You go to Mindanao and they’re talking about this big project in 1953 and they know that renewable energy is hydro.

Q: So hydro is not the answer?

A: We told them that if they want more hydro they should realize there are much better opportunities now in solar energy.  Even if the potential in hydro is there, it’s complex. It takes a long time and it has a big environmental risks. It takes five years to put it in place and construction is complicated. You can have solar in six months if you have enough land. In Manila, every school, factory and shopping mall should have solar rooftops already. In Canberra, even if the central government was not all active in this movement, it adopted in 2016 the 100 percent renewable policy by 2020. It is doing just that and it looks good.

Q: What can you say about tiny efforts to protect the environment such as opting for paper bags instead of plastic bags?  

A: A plastic bag should no longer be available. We should absolutely stop using all those disposable plastic bags. We should all look at the major impact that plastics cause, that micro-plastics go into the sea and the fish eat them. It goes back to our body when we eat the fish. It goes right back in the body.

Q: So which counties have totally eradicated plastic?

A: Rwanda — they said no more plastic bags. There will be many more countries that will do that. They will say you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you didn’t bring your eco bag or there’s no available paper bag. If there is plastic, it has to be biodegradable. The cheap plastic in the supermarket lasts forever. It looks biodegradable if you leave it in the sun, but it’s more dangerous when it is thrown into the sea. But either way, there should be no more plastic bags anywhere.

Q: You live in Seoul and you mentioned about your child not going to an event because of bad air. How do you think kids understand environmental issues?  

A: The school nurse checks the air quality and informs us in the morning. My wife also does that. Our nine-year-old is totally aware of that. Even if it’s not too bad, the kids go to school wearing masks. The kids’ experiences on a daily basis will help them understand the need for clean, quality air.  This way, they will learn about the rest of the environment concerns as they grow up.

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To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

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While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS)

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

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20 Water-Stressed Countries Have Most Solar & Wind Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 15:33:54 +0000 Tianyi Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155728 Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

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Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

By Tianyi Luo
WASHINGTON DC, May 11 2018 (IPS)

Most power generation consumes water, whether to cool steam in thermoelectric plants or power turbines for hydropower. And the global demand for both water and electricity will continue to increase substantially in the coming decades.

Although growth is generally a good thing for the economy, it challenges nations—particularly ones that are water-stressed—to better manage their limited water resources and invest in the right energy systems.

Power generation from solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind is clean and requires zero or little water use. These renewable forms of energy can help countries meet their increased demand for electricity without adding carbon emissions or consuming water.

This could be particularly beneficial in countries where growing populations, farms and industries are already competing for scant water supplies. For example, a recent WRI analysis shows that India could reduce its water consumption intensity by more than 25 percent just by achieving its renewable energy targets.

Leveraging WRI’s Resource Watch, a new global data platform, we overlaid map-based data sets to identify countries that are water-stressed and have high solar and wind energy potential. These countries are places where solar PV and wind technologies are more likely to be financially attractive and provide water savings that would benefit the public greatly.

Water Stress and Solar Energy Potential

The top 20 water-stressed countries with the most average solar energy potential are in the Middle East and North African region; the rest are from Asia and Pacific, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The list includes countries at all economic stages: three are developed (Australia, Israel and Saudi Arabia), four are some of the least developed (Afghanistan, Eritrea, Timor-Leste and Yemen), and the rest are from emerging or developing markets.

Yemen has the highest average solar energy potential in terms of global horizontal irradiance (GHI), a proxy of the strength and concentration of solar energy hitting a PV panel. It’s also one of the world’s most water-stressed and least developed countries.

The World Bank just invested $50 million in solar PV projects to restore electricity to more than one million Yemenis. However, with the ongoing civil war in the country, renewables development could still be challenging.

Eritrea and Saudi Arabia have the second- and third-highest average solar energy potential, but very different economic power. It is more challenging for countries with constrained financial resources to adopt renewable technologies at a large scale.

However, as the cost for solar and wind energy continues to decline, these options are becoming more attractive. Even oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in solar energy for domestic consumption, with a target of 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind by 2023.

Water Stress and Wind Energy Potential

Of the 20 water-stressed countries with the most wind energy potential, eight are from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), six from Europe, and the rest from Asia Pacific and North America. Eight of the countries are developed, 11 are from emerging and developing markets, and one is among the world’s least developed.

Andorra has the highest wind energy potential, followed by Belgium and Kazakhstan. However, for wind to be attractive in Andorra, the costs would need to be cheaper than its current electricity imports from Spain.

Seven water-stressed countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Yemen) in the MENA region have high average energy potentials for both solar and wind, as well as Australia. Some of these countries have plans to harness solar and wind energy, but many do not, and many goals fall short of their potential. Also, because of their oil wealth, some of these countries rely on desalination for water supply and might not have a water scarcity problem for now.

A full list of all countries with high water stress and their average wind energy potentials can be found at the bottom of this post.

Note: For countries that span large areas, there could be spatial mismatch between water stress and renewable potential and electricity demands, which is not accounted for in this analysis. Additionally, more comprehensive analysis would require looking at local governance, regulations, availability and cost of competing energy resources and economics. While local contexts may differ, these aggregate averages show which countries have the most to gain from renewables’ water savings overall. More granular data could be found and visualized on Resource Watch.

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Excerpt:

Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

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Recipe to Save 700,000 Young Children a Year: Clean Water & Decent Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 13:33:08 +0000 Savio Carvalho http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155713 Savio Carvalho is Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid

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Six-year-old Mamisoa gathers water at one of the three new fountains in his village in Mangasoavina commune, Madagascar. "I am happy as it is so easy to get water from the tap." Credit: WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

By Savio Carvalho
LONDON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

They are the foundations of a happy, healthy childhood: good nutrition, health care which includes immunisations and preventative care as well as treatment for illness, a good education.

How many among us would even think to list clean water to drink, a safe place to go to the toilet and the ability to keep hands, bodies and surroundings clean with soap and water?

Yet far too many children are deprived of these, affecting their health, education and life chances. Some 480,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoea, more than half of these directly linked to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

And 880,000 children under five die each year of pneumonia – which also has links to dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

The solutions are familiar, and close to home. New research by WaterAid and PATH’s Defeat DD initiative has found that combining clean water, decent household toilets and good hygiene with routine childhood vaccinations and nutrition support could potentially save the lives of nearly 700,000 young children and prevent billions of harmful bouts of diarrhoeal illness and pneumonia in under-fives each year.

Produced by WaterAid and PATH’s Defeat Diarrheal Disease (Defeat DD) Initiative, this new analysis is published in the report Coordinate, Integrate, Invest: how joint child health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions can deliver for your country’s future.

Our modelling shows that if every child in the world had access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene including handwashing with soap, along with routine rotavirus immunisation and other nutritional interventions such as zinc supplementation and breastfeeding, we could cut the rate of deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea by half, and reduce incidences of diarrhoea and pneumonia by two-thirds.

That is millions of episodes of illness. Imagine what that would mean for these young children, their parents, and the impact on the health care system.

Esther breastfeeding her youngest daughter, Tendry, inside her house in Amberomena village. Belavabary commune, Madagascar. She said: “My kids get diarrhoea often and during the rainy season, there is a case almost every day. I know that some of our sicknesses are caused by the dirty water we drink. “We try to avoid going to the doctor because we don’t have money to pay them. When we really need to go to the doctor then we have to sell our crops if we still have some, if not then we have to borrow money from our neighbours and pay them back later.” Credit: WaterAid/ PATH/ Ernest Randriarimalala

Specifically, ensuring 100% coverage with water, sanitation and hygiene, rotavirus vaccination and nutritional interventions such as breastfeeding promotion and zinc supplements could potentially reduce illness by nearly two thirds (63%) and almost halve the number of child deaths (49%) from diarrhoea and pneumonia.

None of this requires new technology or invention. It requires coordination, the integration of programmes for health and nutrition and for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and investment to make it happen.

It’s not just a matter of health – it’s also a matter of wealth. For every US$1 invested in water and sanitation globally, there is a US$4.3 return in the form of reduced healthcare costs.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that have not tackled child stunting are facing punishing economic losses of up to 9-10% of GDP per capita, due to the potential lost in children who are stunted. Combining actions on health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene could help to create a more productive workforce and economic growth, lifting countries out of poverty.

72-year Heng with her granddaughter, 2-year-old Chinh, who is often sick, at their home in Cambodia. “My granddaughter drank a lot of water, and became sick with diarrhoea and fever.” The family almost never use soap for handwashing. “I don’t have money for soap.” Credit: WaterAid/PATH/Philong Sovan

The report also highlights examples of where countries are making good progress with integrating health, nutrition, water and sanitation efforts. In Madagascar, for example, the government is using this kind of coordination to tackle high rates of malnutrition.

In Nepal, promoting good hygiene during health clinic visits for rotavirus vaccinations is improving parents’ knowledge and actions around food safety, handwashing and safe disposal of children’s faeces, while also improving immunisation coverage and helping to reach those families hardest to reach because of remote locations and poverty.

If children are to grow and thrive, they need clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene alongside good healthcare, vaccinations and good nutrition. Each year, nearly 300,000 young children die of diarrhoea directly linked to dirty water, poor toilets and poor hygiene, and the greatest tragedy of all is that we know how to address this.

This study adds to the evidence that the lives of hundreds of thousands of young children could be saved each year if these pillars of development were combined with other health interventions.

WaterAid and Defeat DD are calling on governments and donors to align child health and water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, policies and financing to address this unnecessary health crisis more effectively and more efficiently. These investments create a positive cycle that builds human capital, strengthens economies, reduces future healthcare costs and contributes to national development.

This July the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030 – comes under review in New York. We are calling on decision-makers to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority, because they are essential to child health, nutrition and the success of the next generation.

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Excerpt:

Savio Carvalho is Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid

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“I Wake Up Screaming”: Gaza’s Children Bear the Brunt of Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 05:33:48 +0000 Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155696 Reham Qudaih wakes up nightly to the same nightmare: her father shot, lying on the ground in a pool of blood. “In my dreams he is on the ground shot. When I have that dream – which I’ve had more than once I wake up screaming,” she told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). In a […]

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Palestinian child on donkey cart next to garbage container in Gaza City. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS

By Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2018 (IPS)

Reham Qudaih wakes up nightly to the same nightmare: her father shot, lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

“In my dreams he is on the ground shot. When I have that dream – which I’ve had more than once I wake up screaming,” she told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

In a recent study, NRC found that children living in the Gaza Strip are experiencing are showing increasing signs of psychosocial deterioration since clashes reignited in the region.

“The violence children are witnessing in Gaza comes on top of an already worsening situation negatively impacting their mental wellbeing,” said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.

“They have faced three devastating wars and have been living under occupation for the past 11. Now they are once again faced with the horrifying prospect of losing their loved ones, as they see more and more friends and relatives getting killed and injured,” he continued.

Now in their sixth week, ongoing protests at the border between Gaza and Israel have left over 40 killed and more than 5,500 injured since its inception in March.

While Palestinian demonstrators are reportedly using burning tires and wirecutters to breach the barbed-wire border fence, Israeli forces have retaliated with rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Dubbed the ‘Great Return March,’ the demonstrations are centered on Palestinian refugees’ right to return and resettle in Israel.

NRC’s study—which saw 300 school children aged 10 to 12 surveyed—found that 56 per cent reported they were suffering from nightmares.

Principals from 20 schools also reported a rise in symptoms of post-traumatic stress in children, including fears, anxiety, stress and nightmares.

The principals ranked increased psychosocial support in schools as their top need currently.

One of the many schools in Gaza damaged in Israeli attacks. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS

Qudaih is fourteen and lives in the Gaza strip. She has suffered from ongoing nightmares since the 2014 Gaza-Israeli conflict.

She was making progress in coping with her trauma, but much was unravelled after her father was shot in the leg while attending the protests.

On the day that Qudaih’s father was shot, Israeli troops killed 20 Palestinian protesters and wounded more than 700 – including children.

“We went there [to the protests] to reclaim our rights that were taken away by the occupation…we do not have electricity, rights or food. We don’t get any treatment or a chance to play,” Qudaih said.

Since 2007, Gaza has faced an economic blockade by Israel and Egypt, contributing to a persistent humanitarian crisis.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), half of the region’s children depend on humanitarian assistance and one in four needs pscyhosocial care.

The United States’ recent move to cut aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees further threatens the already very fragile community.

In addition, there is a lack of medicine and health equipment while power cuts and fuel shortages have disrupted water and sanitation services leaving nine out of 10 families without regular access to safe water.

If such trends continue, the UN has predicted that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020.

Inconsolable since the incident, Qudaih constantly worries about the safety of her family and her future.

And her nightmares keep on returning.

Sadly, her story is not a unique for the children living in the Gaza strip.

“The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere.

Apart from the symptoms of severe distress and trauma, Geert added that children are also experiencing physical injuries.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Ayoub was among the children that was killed in the protests, significantly impacting the younger members of his family and the larger community.

“Children belong in schools, homes and playgrounds – they should never be targeted or encouraged to participate in violence,” Cappelaere said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Israeli forces to curb the use of “lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” while questioning “how children…can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”

NRC highlighted the need for long-term investment in psychosocial suppor. t

“For the children we work with, the nightmares continue for months and years after the violence that causes them. For these children they don’t have a chance to recover from previous trauma before fresh layers arise. That builds up,” said Jon-Håkon Schultz, Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Tromsø in Norway.

“We need people to look seriously and invest in ways that we can counter these harmful psychological impacts,” he added.

The NRC provides psychosocial support to children living in Gaza and provide training for teachers through their Better Learning Programme (BLP) developed in partnership with University of Tromsø in Norway.

One of the features of the program involved screening children for nightmares and helping them work through their re-occurring ones through breathing and drawing exercises.

Qudaih is among the 250,000 children supported by NRC.

“We want to have dignified lives,” she said, urging the need for peaceful demonstrations.

The ‘Great Return March’ began on 30 March and will end on 15 May to mark what Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba”, a day that commemorates Palestinians’ displacement after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Marchers have also pointed to the relocation fo the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as a driver for the demonstration, a move that will take place on 15 May.

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:04:47 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155665 “My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies […]

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

“My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies while enabling economic and regional cooperation among countries in the Belt and Road route during the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that concluded over the weekend.The initiative covers more than 65 countries -- or more than 60% of the world's population -- that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years.

The forum took cues from Rijsberman’s story of living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, one of the poorest countries that in 50 years became an example for many developing countries to demonstrate the importance of economic growth while being mindful of air quality and the overall livability of the environment.

The “Green Growth and Regional Cooperation” forum was a side event hosted by GGGI with an expert panel that discussed China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, with many references to “green growth,” “green policies” and “green investments,” looked at putting in place policies to accelerate green investments and green technology while exploring ways to create opportunities that address poverty across countries.

“Climate change is already exacting its toll, particularly in the Asian region, so rapidly that technological and economic growth (that may have worsened issues like air quality) should also be our most immediate driver of action to do something,” said Rijsberman.

He said there is a need for countries to have “green growth,” a new development approach that delivers environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth that is low-carbon and climate resilient; prevents or remediates pollution; maintains healthy and productive ecosystems and creates green jobs, reduce poverty and enhance social inclusion.

Rijsberman said the GGGI will join the Green Belt and Road Coalition and currently cooperates with the China Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the ASEAN Center for Environmental Cooperation on regional cooperation and integration that facilitates sustainable urban development and supports high-level policies and impactful knowledge sharing on the adoption of sustainable growth in the Belt and Road countries.

Prof. Dongmei Guo, China state council expert of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said the BRI brings together two regional trade corridors: the Silk Road Economic Belt that will link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea though Central Asia and West Asia with three routes:  China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe through the Baltic Sea; China-Central Asia-West Asia-Persian Gulf through the Mediterranean Sea and China- Southeast Asia-South Asia through the Indian Ocean; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretches from the South Pacific Sea to Europe with two roads — Coastal China-South China Sea-Indian Ocean-Europe and Coastal China-South China Sea and South Pacific.

The initiative covers more than 65 countries — or more than 60% of the world’s population — that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years. Initiated in 2013, the BRI aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.

“The BRI provides great opportunities for promoting green transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030,” said Guo, mentioning environmental-related SGDs 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 as the same targets envisioned in the initiative.  “The global sustainable development process has entered a new stage through the BRI and it must be green.”

Goals 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 enjoin countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation and sustainable consumption and production patterns, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Guo said among some of the concerns in the countries along the route are water shortages, water pollution, agricultural pollution, tailings, industrial wastes, and nuclear waste for Central Asia, biodiversity loss, water pollution and urbanization-led pollution in South Asia, and biodiversity, forest fire and haze brought by conventional pollution in Southeast Asia.

Winston Chow, GGGI country representative for China, said the program is still in its initial phase but is seeing an estimated investment of 500 billion dollars through 2030 that will be invested in the developing world along the BRI route, with 300 billion of that being carbon-related.

“What that means is that we have to consider the impacts of these economies in the long term and a major opportunity to decarbonize, which is a big step as we enhance global development,” he said. “We have to look at 2030 development goals and align our efforts at helping member countries contribute as they implement development projects.”

Organized under five guiding tasks of policy coordination, unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity financial integration, and people-to-people bond, Chow said the BRI aims to utilize Chinese government policy, financing and technology in enhancing strong projects in the developing world. The GGGI will facilitate the work with member states on how to deploy green projects and we have talked to a number of country governments such as those in Mongolia, Jordan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He cited the strong collaboration with Mongolia after its policy makers were introduced to energy efficiency with air quality restrictions and environmental impact reductions through the introduction of the electric vehicles tariff in the capital Ulaanbaatar that successfully reduced bad air from 2016 to 2017.

Jordan, Indonesia and Ethiopia are also underway in their ecological restoration and water treatment practices. Transformative projects among Chinese technologies in solar energy use, e-transportation and e-mobility technology, land restoration, water and solid waste treatment and solar, wind and energy building efficiency projects will also be shared as well with participating countries.

But with BRI being recently introduced, Chow mentioned a few challenges in financing schemes such as gaps between what China wants to invest in and what developing countries are ready to do but have financial needs that are complex to underwrite. For instance, he said “the debate is still out on countries that have electricity grids not quite ready for global energy integration that may not necessarily yield benefits financially or socially.”

The gap is also shown in Chinese investments in green projects that can be worth 100 million dollars but some countries can only do projects in the 20 or 30 million range. He cited BRI large scale projects such as airports in Cambodia or Vietnam’s hydropower plants and dams.

In his press conference prior to the GGGI side event, ADB President Takehiko Nakao lauded China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a key program to connect countries and regions and to broaden integration and cooperation across Asia, and that the ADB will participate in this initiative when needed. He enjoined countries along the route to be careful not to take out excessive loans when they get involved in the initiative to finance their projects and to look closely at the benefits the projects can give to their citizens.

“If countries borrow too much for certain projects without seriously looking at the feasibility, it might bring more trouble in repayment,” he said, stressing the need to “look at debt sustainability issues very seriously.”

Ayumi Konishi, special senior adviser to the president of ADB, told the side event “the ADB intends to cooperate with BRI because of its strong preference for green projects such as renewable energy or sustaining transport projects.”

Since the BRI initiative was announced in September 2013 advocating for improved connectivity for shared prosperity and after China signed an agreement with six multilateral development banks, he said the ADB is in agreement as “we share the same vision; we need the entire portfolio of cooperation projects to make them greener and make them less vulnerable to potential bad impacts of climate change.”

Rijsberman, GGGI’s director-general, said the GGGI, a treaty-based international organization headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is seeing good examples of green efforts such as the Pacific greening in Vanuatu, the eco-towns in the Philippines, the business models in Indonesia that prevent fires and rehabilitate forests, the efforts in Rwanda to eradicate plastics and the biodiversity protection efforts in the Greater Mekong area.

“Efforts go beyond protecting environment but more on promoting it,” he said, stressing that such initiatives are all anchored on landmark agreements such as the UN SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 ADB Annual Meeting, themed “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” was held on May 3-6 2018 in Manila, its headquarters. It gathered more than 4,000 delegates and brought together experts of different disciplines who discussed framing global economic shifts, re-examined governance structures, explored governments and development institutions’ adapting new opportunities while addressing challenges presented by an increasingly digital future.

The ADB estimates Asia’s infrastructure needs could reach 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion annually. If climate change adaptation measures are adopted, the cost would rise to over 26 trillion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled 32.2 billion dollars, including 11.9 billion in co-financing.

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FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:09:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155621 Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat.  FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A […]

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Soil pollution poses a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and to our health, says new report by FAO

Untreated urban waste is amongst those human activities that contaminate our soils. Credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat. 

FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” at the start of a global symposium which has been taking place 2-4 May, 2018 at FAO headquarters, participated by experts and policymakers to discuss the threat of soil pollution in order to build an effective framework for a cohesive international response.

 

Background: What is soil pollution?

“Soil pollution refers to the presence of a chemical or substance out of place and/or present at a higher than normal concentration that has adverse effects on any non-targeted organism. Soil pollution often cannot be directly assessed or visually perceived, making it a hidden danger” states the FAO report. As a “hidden danger” right below our feet, soil pollution turns out to be underestimated affecting everyone – humans and animals.

The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans


The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans.

The Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18), aims to be a step to build a common platform to discuss the latest data on the status, trends and actions on soil pollution and its threatening consequences on human health, food safety and the environment.

The report prepared by FAO shows how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are deeply linked with the issue of addressing soil pollution. SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Wealth and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) have all targets which have direct refernceto soil resources, particularly soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Furthermore, the widespread consensus that was achieved on the Declaration on soil pollution during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3, December 2017) is an obvious sign of global determination to tackle pollution and its causes, which mainly originate from human activities. Unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices are amongst the main causes of soil pollution, highlights FAO’s report.

 

Facts and figures to note

The FAO report is an updated benchmark of scientific research on soil pollution and it can be a critical tool to identify and plug global information gaps and therefore advance a cohesive international response to soil pollution.

According to findings of the report, the current situation is of high concern. For example, the amount of chemicals produced by the European chemical industry in 2015 was 319 million tonnes. Of that, 117 million tonnes were deemed hazardous to the environment.

Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012 and it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025. Some developing countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, Bangladesh by four times and Sudan by ten times.

The report also highlights that “the total number of contaminated sites is estimated at 80,000 across Australia; in China, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, estimated that 16 per cent of all Chinese soils and 19 per cent of its agricultural soils are categorized as polluted”.

“In the European Economic Area and cooperating countries in the West Balkans” adding, “there are approximately 3 million potentially polluted sites”. While in the United States of America (USA) there are “more than 1,300 polluted or contaminated sites”. These facts are stunning and the international community needs to turn its urgent attention to preserve the state of our soils and to remediate polluted soils into concrete action.

The report also warns that studies which have been conducted, have largely been limited to developed economies because of the inadequacy of available information in developing countries and because of the differences in registering polluted sites across geographic regions.

This means that there are clearly massive information gaps regarding the nature and extent of soil pollution. Despite that, the limited information available, is enough for deep concern, the report adds.

 

A growing concern

“The more we learn, the more we know we need cleaner dirt,” said FAO’s Director of Communication, Enrique Yeves, confirming the urgency of the UN agency to address the issue of soil pollution as soon as possible.

Concern and awareness over soil pollution are increasing worldwide. The report highlights the positive increase in research conducted on soil pollution around the world and fortunately, determination is turning into action at international and national levels.

Soil pollution was at the centre of discussion during the Fifth Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly (GSP, 2017) and not long ago, the UNE3 adopted a resolution calling for accelerated actions and collaboration to address and manage soil pollution. “This consensus” highlights FAO’s report, “achieved by more than 170 countries, is a clear sign of the global relevance of pollution and of the willingness of these countries to develop concrete solutions to address pollution problems”.

FAO’s World Soil Charter recommends that “national governments implement regulations on soil pollution and limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established levels in order to guarantee human health and wellbeing. Governments are also urged to facilitate remediation of contaminated soils”.

“It is also essential to limit pollution from agricultural sources by the global implementation of sustainable soil management practices”. These recommendations need to be adequately addressed both at international and national levels, in line with the 2030 agenda.

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In South Sudan, Denial of Humanitarian Aid is a War Tactichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/south-sudan-denial-humanitarian-aid-war-tactic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-denial-humanitarian-aid-war-tactic http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/south-sudan-denial-humanitarian-aid-war-tactic/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 09:08:40 +0000 Christine Monaghan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155615 Christine Monaghan is research officer, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict

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In South Sudan, Denial of Humanitarian Aid is a War Tactic

Credit: Watchlist

By Christine Monaghan
May 4 2018 (IPS)

When I visited South Sudan last year, I heard story after story about health professionals and humanitarian workers being prevented from doing critical work. Government officials regularly increased fees for nonprofits trying to alleviate the effects of conflict, stopped humanitarian convoys from delivering life-saving supplies, and erected bureaucratic obstacles designed to impede access to civilians in need.

“There are ‘sitting fees’ you need to pay to government and the opposition when negotiating access to deliver aid,” one aid worker told me. “There are ‘airport fees’ for landing at the airstrip; to carry cash into the field – anything more than $100 requires an authorization from at least five different ministries. You line everything up and then they will say something is missing or something has changed.”

These are just some examples of obstacles the South Sudanese government has created to prevent humanitarian workers from doing their vital work in a conflict zone. Government officials – and the opposition – have blatantly denied humanitarian aid, preventing civilians from accessing essential services and NGOs from functioning. This strategy is being used as a war tactic, and contributing to the spread of disease, injury and death.

The government has succeeded in shrinking humanitarian space and making a harrowing situation for civilians even more miserable. Humanitarian organizations always do important work, but in South Sudan, their work is indispensable, as it has gone well beyond the traditional mandate of providing emergency health assistance.

In a new report, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict found that in 2016 and 2017, there were at least 750 incidents involving denial of humanitarian access, many of them committed by government authorities. In dozens of interviews with health, humanitarian and NGO workers I conducted in South Sudan and neighboring Uganda, I heard about many disturbing steps the government has taken to block access for humanitarian workers and NGOs.

In recent years, I have investigated denials of humanitarian access in many conflict zones, including Afghanistan and Yemen. But the extent to which this is happening in South Sudan is far beyond anything I have seen.

In March 2017, for example, the government increased work permits for foreigners from $100 to a staggering $10,000. Two months later, it increased registration fees for international NGOs, from $2,000 to $3,500. Government officials have also interfered in the recruitment of NGO staff by reviewing candidate lists and even sitting in on interviews and vetoing choices.  They have frequently changed license and registration requirements, making it difficult for NGO staff to travel for work.

“The government has required new license plates at least three times, which also requires new driver’s licenses and new registrations,” a humanitarian worker told me. “They announce the new procedure on Thursday and then pull you over on Friday if you haven’t complied and make you pay a fee.”

All this is taking place in a country that is in desperate need of humanitarian aid. As of December, at least 20 percent of South Sudan’s 1,900 hospitals had closed, and about half were functioning with extremely limited capacity, according to the UN Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Warring parties were responsible for at least 50 attacks on medical facilities in 2016 and 2017 – another part of the war strategy and a vicious way to prevent civilians from accessing care. As a result, malnutrition, cholera and famine are gripping parts of the country.

The strategy behind these actions is clear – it is part of the war arsenal. The government has succeeded in shrinking humanitarian space and making a harrowing situation for civilians even more miserable. Humanitarian organizations always do important work, but in South Sudan, their work is indispensable, as it has gone well beyond the traditional mandate of providing emergency health assistance. Since 2013, humanitarian organizations have provided up to 80 percent of all health care services in the country, according to OCHA.

As is often the case in conflict zones, children and women are disproportionately affected by these war tactics. Of the four million people who have been displaced, children and women make up to 85 percent of this number, according to OCHA.

At Watchlist, we are calling on South Sudanese government to uphold its obligations to allow for unimpeded humanitarian access. A dedicated independent body should be established to investigate incidents of denials of humanitarian access, and all procedures for humanitarian and NGO workers should be made consistent and transparent.

Even in wartime, there are rules to be followed. They are designed to limit the impact of conflict on children, women and civilians at large, and allow the most vulnerable to access humanitarian assistance. The government of South Sudan has shamelessly violated these rules and gone out of its way to endanger the lives of its own citizens.

The international community must take immediate action to end this insidious tactic of war that has had devastating consequences for the children of South Sudan.

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict is a New York-based global coalition that serves to end violations against children in armed conflict and guarantee their rights. For more information: https://watchlist.org/

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Excerpt:

Christine Monaghan is research officer, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict

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Human Trafficking for Organs: Ending abuse of the Pooresthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 17:42:38 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155547 Organ transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Globally about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of […]

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By Maged Srour
ROME, Apr 30 2018 (IPS)

Organ transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Dr. Francis Delmonico, is a transplant surgeon with a long career, serving also as an Adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO). Credit: Harvard Health Policy Review

Globally about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of demand for organs widely outstripping supply and consequently creating an underground market for organs that are illicitly obtained from the poor. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “human organs for transplants have two sources, deceased donors and living donors; ultimately, human organs can only be derived from a human body, and thus any action in the field of organ transplantation must be carried out in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards”. The reality is that in several countries such as India, Pakistan, Egypt or Mexico, organ trafficking has been peaking in recent years. Organ transplantation is a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient, replacing a damaged or missing organ. Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Worldwide, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart.

“People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs” says Delmonico. “You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive”.
Organ trafficking, also defined as ‘illegal organ trade’, ‘transplant tourism’ or ‘organ purchase’ describes the phenomenon of trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, a grim reality even in the 21st century.

This IPS correspondent interviewed Dr. Francis Delmonico, a transplant surgeon who is an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) on organ donation and transplantation. In 2016, Delmonico was appointed by Pope Francis as an academician of the Pontifical Academy of Science, a benchmark in the field of organ transplantation worldwide.

Delmonico has traversed the world to learn about transplantation practices and how these are carried out by his colleagues across the globe. He states that there is a grim reality around this medical practice. “People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs” says Delmonico. “You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive”.

An example of abuses of this kind is a story reported by world media in February 2018 about a man in India who sold his wife’s kidneys without her knowing about it. The man was eventually arrested, but the woman has been suffering a lot, since her left kidney was infected. Malevolence permeates the practice of organ transplantation in a despicable way.

Delmonico adds that there is yet another aspect about this social injustice. According to him, many rich people come to the United States and simply ‘skip the line’. “These people” says the surgeon, “come mainly from the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the Emirates. Some others come from Japan, looking for a new heart, but not as many as from the Middle East. They come to the US and supplant somebody who had been on the waiting list for a long time to get a “deceased organ”. “This simply means that if you have money you can buy an organ anywhere in the world” stated Delmonico.

 

Best practice: China

A few years ago, China was under the radar of the transplantation community for suspected unethical and illegal behaviour in this field. For decades, donor organs were taken from executed convicts – a controversial practice which was greatly restricted by the government and eventually banned in 2015.

Delmonico explained the ‘rationale’ behind this Chinese reversal. “China has great ambition to be a leader in the world. It wants to make scientific contribution, presentations at congresses, write reports in the medical literature and so forth. The transplantation community, seeing widespread organ trafficking in China, urged the country’s leaders to make changes otherwise they will not be given opportunities to make any presentations or appear in any medical literature reports. Considering China’s interest in a global leadership role in all aspects of medicine, especially in organ transplantation, convinced them to make changes prohibiting that shameful behaviour”. The practice was banned in 2015 and, in 2016, the number of voluntary organ donors increased to 4,080. This was a great leap in numbers, compared to the 37 voluntary donors in 2010, the year the practice was introduced. The proportion of donors in China, still remains low compared with that of many developed countries but, according to Delmonico, China’s current commitment must be appreciated.


Worst practice: Iran

Delmonico is highly critical of Iran that has a legal market for organs and it is the only country in the world to do so. Delmonico warns that even when authorized by governments, the sale of organs often means exploitation of the poorest. “It’s the same problem. In Iran the government encourages money as the basis for donors but then there is often a negotiation that takes place between a donor and a recipient in which the former stresses the need for more money and the latter is able to meet that need”.

According to the surgeon, Iran is trying to change this practice and to do more on “deceased donation” that is happening in Shiraz and Tehran but Iran is still far from being a positive example. “Even if it starts on legal basis, it quickly becomes a corrupt situation. I’m definitely not in favour of this Iranian approach.”

 

Organ donation and religion

When it comes to religion, the debate on organ donation sometimes turns out to be controversial, as many religious leaders tend to criticize this medical practice saying it is forbidden by their faith. This happens in all the main religions – Islam, Catholicism or Judaism. At the same time, many religious leaders across the world tend to be in favour of organ donation “When it comes to religion” says Delmonico “we can say that practically no religion stops anybody from going to a “deceased donor” for transplant as a recipient. In Israel for example, sometimes the Rabbi would object to having someone being a donor but certainly no one objects to having someone being a recipient”. In the end, considering that all religions agree with deceased organ donation for recipients, it means that, as a consequence, no religion stops you from being a donor.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, one of the lead initiators of the Global Sustainability Network (GSN) stated “according to Pope Francis’ new ideas in this field, even though it’s not easy to reach an agreement on the notion of God, who is an infinite being with many names and attributes, it is necessary to reach an agreement to act together to defend human dignity and freedom, health, climate and peace. All of the major religious leaders agree on this. Nevertheless, not all religions have a hierarchical structure like the Catholic faith, so it sometimes happens that minor leaders are harder to convince. However, it is necessary to arrive at a consensus, so that all religious leaders act to protect human dignity and health, including the health of our planet. This is one of the tasks of the GSN.”

The GSN is a community and platform that is strongly committed to delivering Goal 8 of the 17 Global Goals. The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to illegal drug trade. According to EnditAlabama, it is a very lucrative business estimated to be a $32 billion industry annually and it would be only a matter of short time until it surpasses the drug trade and becomes the largest criminal industry in the world, both in terms of business that has moved and in terms of people who are involved.

According to Delmonico what is needed is transparency through which every donor and every recipient is identified and that this information is accessible to the evaluation of the Ministry of Health. The oversight by the Ministry of Health can guarantee the protection of the living donor not be exploited, not have complications, not die and above all it should guarantee that the practice of transplantation in the medical centres is carried out with a satisfactory outcome.

Some other transplant surgeons such as Ignazio Marino, a former Mayor of Rome, Italy had suggested few years ago that “the only way to tackle organ trafficking and organ sale, is by cutting down the demand of organs themselves”. The key, according to Marino, would be to “propose hard legal punishments for those people who buy organs. If they would know that buying an organ would save their lives but also bring them to jail for fifteen years, maybe those people would think about it twice”.

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Occupational Safety Improves in Latin America, Except Among Young Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/occupational-safety-grows-latin-america-except-among-young-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=occupational-safety-grows-latin-america-except-among-young-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/occupational-safety-grows-latin-america-except-among-young-people/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 18:46:37 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155522 Despite progress achieved in occupational safety in Latin America, the rates of work-related accidents and diseases are still worrying, especially among young people, more vulnerable in a context of labour flexibility and unemployment. In 1971, a young labourer, Mário Carlini, died when he fell from the scaffolding during the construction of a building in Rio […]

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Young municipal workers wear uniforms and other protective equipment while cutting the grass in the Praça Paris park in the Gloria neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The lack of training and the breach of safety requirements by their employers make young Latin Americans the most vulnerable to accidents at work. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Young municipal workers wear uniforms and other protective equipment while cutting the grass in the Praça Paris park in the Gloria neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The lack of training and the breach of safety requirements by their employers make young Latin Americans the most vulnerable to accidents at work. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RIO DE JANEIRO, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

Despite progress achieved in occupational safety in Latin America, the rates of work-related accidents and diseases are still worrying, especially among young people, more vulnerable in a context of labour flexibility and unemployment.

In 1971, a young labourer, Mário Carlini, died when he fell from the scaffolding during the construction of a building in Rio de Janeiro.

“He tied some boards and when he was going up, the steel sling opened because he had not put it on right. It was not his job, he was filling in for another worker one Saturday,” his widow Laurinda Meneghini, who was left to raise their six children on her own, told IPS.

Almost half a century later in Latin America “there has been a significant improvement in the protection of the safety and health of workers,” especially during this century, according to Nilton Freitas, regional representative of the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers (IFBWW).

Freitas, one of the authors of the book “The Dictionary on Workers’ Health and Safety,” attributes the improvement to better integration among the ministries concerned, such as Labour, Health and Social Security.

“This brought greater visibility to diseases and accidents and led to an increase in punishment for employers,” he told IPS from Panama City, where the Federation has its regional headquarters.

But the regional situation is still critical in terms of job security, according to Julio Fuentes, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Public Sector Workers (CLATE) and deputy secretary general of the Argentine Association of State Workers (ATE).

In his country, according to official data on registered workers, there is one work-related death every eight hours.

“The situation in Latin America in general is really tricky,” he said in an interview with IPS from Buenos Aires. “In the case of Argentina, there are no laws, regulations, or government agencies carrying out prevention efforts. There is no policy for that.”

“What there is, which is only partial and deficient,” according to Fuentes, are laws for reparations and compensation, a situation that is “aggravated” because the agency for workplace risk “is in the hands of private, mainly financial, entities.”

“There is no prevention and the business is to earn as much as possible and pay as little as possible,” he said.

The situation in numbers

According to the International Labor Organisation (ILO), 2.78 million workers die every year around the world due to occupational accidents and diseases. About 2.4 million of these deaths are due to occupational diseases, while just over 380,000 are due to workplace accidents.

Partial figures available indicate that in Latin America there are 11.1 fatal accidents per 100,000 workers in industry, 10.7 in agriculture, and 6.9 in the service sector. Some of the most important sectors for regional economies such as mining, construction, agriculture and fishing are also among the most risky.

It is worse in the case of workers between 15 and 24 years of age, according to the ILO.

April 28 is the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which is focusing this year on “improving the safety and health of young workers.”

The 541 million workers between 15 and 24 years old (including 37 million children engaged in hazardous work), who represent more than 15 percent of the world’s workforce, suffer up to 40 percent more non-fatal occupational injuries than adults over 25, according to the ILO.

For Carmen Bueno, an expert from the ILO, that is due “in the first place, to their physical, psychological and emotional development which is still incomplete, generally leading to a lower perception of the dangers and risks at work. And in second place, young workers have fewer professional skills and less work experience, and lack adequate training in safety and health.”

In addition, “they have less knowledge of their labour rights and obligations. We cannot forget that there is a high incidence of young workers in precarious and/or informal jobs, which results in their exposure to greater risks,” the Occupational Safety and Health specialist from the ILO office for the Southern Cone of Latin America, based in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

“Finally, other factors such as gender, disability and immigration status also contribute to this special vulnerability,” said Bueno.

According to Freitas, “young workers suffer the most serious accidents, at least in the construction and chemical industries.”

He attributes it to “exogenous factors” such as low educational level and professional qualification.

But “internal factors in the companies” also contribute to this situation, such as a lack of prior training and information on risks, mainly in informal activities and in small or medium-sized enterprises in service sectors such as commerce and transport.

And occupational diseases could be under-reported among young people because many ailments only become apparent when the workers get older, says the ILO.

That is the case of Saul Barrera, a Colombian mining worker for a company in Yumbo, a municipality in the western department of Valle de Cauca, who at the age of 56 suffers, among other effects, a “bilateral sensorineural hearing loss” caused by exposure from a young age to the deafening noises of the workshops and heavy machinery.

“I worked as a mechanic until 2005. Then I started operating a tractor that was very old and too noisy. That’s when I began with that health problem in my ears, which affected the rest of me,” he told IPS from his hometown.

“The machines damaged my shoulders, which in turn caused other medical conditions (rotator cuff, carpal tunnel and epicondylitis injuries), which since 2017 have been bothering me and causing most of my health problems today,” he added.

Barrera said everyone is exposed to the risks. But he said there are additional reasons among young people, as in the case of a co-worker who lost a finger in December.

“They are sent to fill in for other workers without experience or knowledge. They tell them ‘go in there’, and because they’re scared of the bosses, they go in,” he said, to illustrate.

The situation could get worse as a result of the labour reforms underway.

“The factor that most increases vulnerability and risk is the process that has been steadily taking place in Argentina and in the region, of outsourcing of production in factories,” said Fuentes.

In his opinion, “the greatest number of accidents, the least trained workforce, and the youngest workers are found in outsourced companies.”

In addition, “under neoliberal governments, the state reduces controls and inspections, including of work-related diseases and accidents,” he added.

In Brazil, where a labour reform has been implemented since 2017 making labour rights more flexible, Freitas sees “a rapid weakening of the (work safety) system,” because the government of Michel Temer “is undermining the political and institutional power of the Ministry of Labour, mainly with regard to its authority to carry out specialised audits.”

On the other hand, rising unemployment “represents in itself a threat to health. The lack of opportunities throws many young people into the informal sector and a social lifestyle quite dangerous to health and safety, associated with the growing consumption of antidepressants or alcohol and illegal drugs,” he said.

According to Freitas, other social protection systems are in “growing deterioration” in countries such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru, and “despite the strong resistance of the workers.”

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From Declaration to Action: Improving Immunization in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:04:40 +0000 Joyce Nganga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155459 Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, got her granddaughter immunized using a mix of private and public clinics. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

By Joyce Nganga
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, is certain that her grand-daughter needs to get all her vaccines for her to grow up healthy and strong. She uses a mix of private and public clinics in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlement in Nairobi, to get the 15-month-old the shots she needs.

Mary Awour, mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi, also believes immunization is important to protect her child against infectious diseases. She got all the required vaccines for him at the public Kibera South Hospital.

But many children in Africa are not as fortunate as these two children. Instead, they are faced with health threats like diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella, tetanus, diarrhea, pneumonia and other childhood disease.

While immunization is a critical intervention for preventing these diseases, millions of children do not have access to them because of state fragility or conflict, lack of parental education, religious practices–and too often—inability to access the vaccines because of cost or geographic location. Children in remote rural or mountainous areas face greater barriers to vaccine access.

As recently as 2000, slightly under 10 million children died globally from vaccine preventable deaths before their fifth birthday. The numbers declined to 6.3 million by 2013 but sub -Saharan Africa accounted for 50 percent of the under-five deaths worldwide.

Mary Awour mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi said she got all the required vaccines for him at the Kibera South Hospital which is government facility. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

While Africa has made significant gains in immunization in the last 15 years, one in five children still do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Of the more than 19 million children worldwide who did not get the three doses of Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in 2013, 40 percent or 7.6 million were from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a UNICEF report, in 2016, more than half of all children unvaccinated for DTP3 lived in just six countries, three of them in Africa: Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That same year, African leaders signed the Addis Declaration of Immunization (ADI), pledging to ensure that everyone receives the full benefits of available vaccines to inoculate them against infectious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

The Declaration, which was ratified in January 2017, contains ten commitments including: increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, attaining and maintaining high quality surveillance for targeted vaccine preventable diseases, developing an African research sector to enhance immunization implementation, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development effort in Africa.

These steps to scale up immunization rates on the content in line with the rest of the world and achieving the targeted Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) rate of 90 percent national coverage, and 80 percent coverage in every district or administrative by 2020. To date, representatives from 50 African countries have signed, and three statements of support were signed by civil society organizations, religious leaders and parliamentarians to support implementation of the ADI.

At only 80 percent coverage in Africa, routine immunization is the lowest of any region in the world. This is unsatisfactory since immunizations have long been proven as a cost-effective way to improve global health—and in the current age, a critical pathway to attaining the sustainable development goals.

Worldwide, more than three million deaths are prevented annually as a result of vaccinations. In the case of debilitating diseases like polio and meningitis, vaccines prevent permanent disabilities as well. Effective immunization programs are being heralded now for the impending eradication of the polio virus. One of the most lethal childhood infections, only eight cases were recorded in the world last year—in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, universal access to immunization is central to enabling individuals lead productive lives and for the continent to reach its full potential. Increasingly, we recognize that good health is a major driver of economic growth and must be at the center of all development plans. The cornerstone of this is strong immunization programs and sustainable systems.

As the world and Africa commemorates this year’s immunization week, in the full glare of GAVI transition, a challenge to universal access to immunization for poor and middle-income countries, our call to government is to re-examine their commitments and contributions towards domestic resources to ensure all children access immunization and that the gains made, will be sustained and even surpassed.

Women like Inviolate and Mary demonstrate the commitment of mothers to protect their children. It is up to government to remove the barriers, create the policy environment and make the resources available to fund routine immunization for every child.

The post From Declaration to Action: Improving Immunization in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 18:21:40 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A protest march in New Delhi against the rape a a child in Kathua. Credit: PTI

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

Grotesque and barbaric, is the only way to describe the rape and murder of an 8 year old child, in a country where women and girls are traditionally revered as Goddesses.

There have been numerous cases of rape across the country, however, the story of little Asifa, who was sedated, gang raped, tortured and then murdered in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir has haunted us all. While Asifa was killed in January 2018, the details of the case only grabbed national headlines in April, this was partly due to the heinous nature of the crime, and disturbing allegations that the child’s treatment, was the result of a concerted plan of action to drive out the nomadic Muslim community which her family belongs to.

Since then, the media in India has been awash with case after case of babies and girls being raped across India, with little to no action taking place to prevent this deluge of sexual assault and violence. From an 8-month old baby girl in Indore, to a 9-year in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, to a 10-year old girl in Chhattisgarh, to the rape of a 16-year old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh (allegedly by a leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party), there is seemingly a new atrocious daily headline which exposes the rape and murder of yet another child.

All the while, elected officials have either been shockingly silent, or have spoken out too late, and some have even shown their active support for the accused perpetrators of such crimes.

Have we become so numbed in India, that such revelations no longer hold any shock value for us? Has the simple humanity of protecting our innocent and helpless children from harm, the most important duty of every adult in India, forsaken us?

Consider this. In 2016, over 19000 cases of rape were registered in India. In 2017, in India’s capital Delhi, an average of 5 rapes was reported every day.

In response, through an executive order and cabinet approval, the Indian government introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 12.

Globally death sentences are coming to an end. It is my personal belief that the death penalty will have little or no effect, however heinous the crime is. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “when fighting a monster, be careful not to become a monster yourself”.

The issue that India is grappling with at present is an endemic, societal problem and no quick fixes are likely to solve it. Harsh penalties alone will not be a deterrent. As the malaise is systemic, so too should be the cure.

So here is a four-tier approach

Firstly, it is important to increase the reporting of rape and assault. Across the world rape is a generally underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign.

Secondly, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children are another vital need and must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There must be a “shock and awe” campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts must ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to ignite values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those that perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

So the biggest question remains: how exactly to engage the entire populace to initiate a change in mindset? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

The post The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Child Soldiers Released, But Risk Remainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-soldiers-released-risk-remains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:22:15 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155369 More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency. The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed. Both releases are part […]

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Child soldiers released by armed groups in Yambio, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency.

The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed.

Both releases are part of a series, supported by the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF), that will see 1,000 children freed from armed groups.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

“For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future,” he said.

Laying Down of the Guns

During a ceremony, known as the ‘laying down of the guns,’ the released children were formally disarmed and given civilian clothes.

The 112 boys and 95 girls that were disarmed were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children. But the work does not stop here.” Mdoe said.

“The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

Counselling and Psychological Services

UNCIEF says that the priority will now be medical screenings, counseling and psychosocial services.

Recent research from Child Soldiers International, a rights group that aims to stop and end all child recruitment, illuminated some of the horrific realities that children face when they fall in with armed groups.

The report, based on interviews with ex-child soldiers, detailed everything form forced murders, spying on neighbors and family members, denial of education and healthcare to forced cannibalism.

For girls, the trauma can be even deeper. It was found that a majority suffered sexual abuse and violence. Rapes, forced marriages and pregnancy are all common for girls caught in armed groups.

Such experiences for girls, CSI reported, are compounded when they return home, as many are ostracized by their families and labelled ‘prostitutes’ by their communities.

“Every effort will be made to ensure the correct psychological services. There will be immense trauma to overcome.” Mdoe said.

Families will also need support in order to facilitate reintegration.

Other reintegration services

The children involved in this release will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centers.

Their families will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support reintegration.

The South Sudanese Government has committed to halt child recruitment by armed groups in the country.

Child recruitment ‘far from over’ in South Sudan

Yet despite their commitment and the U.N’s tally of releasing 2,000 children in the country, advocacy groups say that some 19,000 children remain caught in South Sudan’s armed forces and groups.

As peace talks resume, the UNICEF has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

But with conflict lingering into its sixth year in the world’s youngest nation, the risk that children will be used in fighting remains.

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Solving Japan’s Fertility Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solving-japans-fertility-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2018 16:42:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155122 While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan. Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating […]

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Japan: aging population needs more than short-term solutions. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan.

Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating economic and social consequences.

One such group is the Asian Population Development Association (APDA), that serves as the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) and is dedicated to research and studying population-related issues in countries such as Japan where limited work and research has been done around the issue.

“While population increase has been the overriding global concern, the risks of low fertility and ensuing population decline were not foreseen until recently. Thus it is understandable that no research has been done, nor has any thought been given from the government,” said Chair of the APDA Research Committee on Ageing Kei Takeuchi during a meeting.

The Young, the Old, and the Restless

Though the decline in fertility rates is not a new phenomenon, the East Asian nation has seen its population rapidly diminish in recent years.

According to the United Nations, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.75 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman leading to the population declining by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which dispels families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

“As the population aged 18 years old is decreasing, the number of universities needs to be reduced, which will limit the number of new academic posts, lack the opportunity to cultivate researchers, and diminish Japan’s competitiveness in the international arena,”

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

Chair of the Asian Population and Development Association Yasuo Fukuda, a former Prime Minister of Japan noted that a dwindling population is not bad in and of itself but rather its rapid decline.

“The true problem is that when the population decreases too drastically, the social systems will become unsustainable and incapable of responding to problems associated with it, which will make it harder for young people to develop concrete visions for their future,” he said.

Are the Kids Alright?

One of the factors that is often considered to be a driving force of lowering fertility is urbanization, APDA said, as urban fertility rates are often lower than those in rural areas.

This is often because urban areas tend to boast better access to services such as education and employment as well as gender equality, all of which affect people’s decisions whether or not to have children.

Japan is one the most densely urbanized countries in the world.

In 1950, 53 percent of the population lived in urban areas; by 2014, the figure shot up to 93 percent.

Japanese rural towns are disappearing at a rapid rate as young adults move to cities for work and the ageing population either moves out or dies out. Wild boars are now found to be taking over the abandoned areas.

However, the correlation between urbanization and fertility is still unclear due to different contexts and data limitations.

Many have also pointed to the lack of opportunities for young people in the country.

Though the unemployment rate is below 3 percent, the rise in unstable employment may be leaving young men and women unable or unwilling to have children.

Approximately 40 percent of Japan’s labor force is “irregular,” or have temporary or part-time jobs with low salaries. According to the Labor Ministry, irregular employees earn 53 percent less than those with stable jobs.

Men, who are still considered breadwinners for the family unit, may therefore be less likely to consider getting married or having children because they can’t afford to do so.

On the other end of the spectrum, Japan’s culture of overwork may also be impacting birth rates as young people find themselves with no time for a social life or even basic needs like sleeping or eating.

Such conditions have even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork, across the country.

Most recently, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work in June 2013 alone, one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

Both deaths were ruled as “karoshi.”

Research, Action Needed

Due to the lack of data around the issue, APDA highlighted the need to promote research in order to help create and implement policies to ensure sustainable development and a stable, healthy population.

Shinzo Abe’s government has begun working on the issue in recent years, promising to raise the fertility rate to 1.8 by 2025.

They have also taken steps to make it easier for people to raise children by providing free education, expanding nursery care, and allowing fathers to take paternity leave. Local governments have even set up speed-dating services across the country.

However, Abe’s administration has been criticized for not doing enough, particularly around labor reform.

“Measures for low fertility, gender-equal society, and work-life balance are three important pillars,” said Chief Research Advisor APDA Project Research Committee on Ageing Makoto Atoh.

The APDA team also pointed to the need to invest in and revitalize regional areas and communities.

“This is a serious situation. We must come to grips with the issue of low fertility, but there is little research on it,” Takeuchi said.

APDA plans to hold several meetings and events in order to raise awareness and widen coverage on the issue of low fertility.

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