Inter Press ServiceHealth – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 19 Nov 2017 14:50:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:55:54 +0000 Tim Wainwright http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153067 Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive at WaterAid

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Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equality

Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Tim Wainwright
LONDON, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

This weekend marks World Toilet Day (November 19)– and the news is disheartening. One in three people are still waiting for a toilet; still having to face the indignity and often fear of relieving themselves in the open or using unsafe or unhygienic toilets.

It is frustrating that the headline statistics have not made greater progress two years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), when having a toilet is such a fundamental boost to gender equality, as well as health, education and economic opportunity.

Tim Wainwright, CEO, WaterAid UK

In ‘Out of Order: State of the World’s Toilets 2017’, WaterAid’s annual analysis based on WHO-Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) data, we show that Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.

Being denied access to safe, private toilets is particularly dangerous for women and girls, impacting on their health and education, and exposing them to an increased risk of harassment and even attack.

There have been some improvements. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of people defecating in the open globally dropped from 1.2 billion (20% of the world’s population) to 892 million (12%). India is making incredible strides with its Clean India Mission, progress that has not yet been fully captured in the JMP data. In Ethiopia, the number of people defecating in the open has dropped from nearly 80% in 2000 to 27% today – a tremendous step towards the goal of safe sanitation for all.

However, change is not happening fast enough.

The 10 worst countries for access to basic sanitation are all in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress has been abysmally slow. In 2000, 75% of people lacked access to even basic toilets; by 2015, this had only dropped to 72%.

Population growth and the huge numbers of people moving to cities where services can’t keep up means sanitation is falling behind; the number of people practising open defecation in the region has actually increased.

Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.
Nigeria is among the countries where open defecation is increasing and is No. 3 in the world’s worst countries for the number of people without toilets. This comes at a heavy price: A WaterAid survey revealed one in five women in Lagos have experienced harassment or been physically threatened or assaulted when going for open defecation or using shared latrines. Anecdotal evidence suggests the problem may be underreported.

Rahab, 20, lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Abuja, where there are no decent toilets.

She said: “We go to the toilet in the bush. It is risky as there are snakes, and I have also experienced some attacks from boys. It is not safe early in the morning or in the night as you can meet anyone. They drink alcohol and will touch you and if you don’t like it, they will force you. If I see men when I go to the toilet, I go back home and hold it in.”

Imagine every time you need the toilet you are frightened. And what scares you is not only the threats you can see – any community without decent toilets is contaminated with human waste.

Diarrhoeal diseases linked to dirty water and poor sanitation and hygiene claim the lives of 289,000 children under 5 each year, while repeated bouts of diarrhoea contribute to malnutrition and stunting, causing impaired development and weakened immune systems.

Women who have suffered stunting are more likely to experience obstructions when giving birth. Poor sanitation and hygiene also increase the risk of infection during and after childbirth, with sepsis accounting for over one in ten of maternal deaths worldwide.

Girls are more likely to miss classes while on their periods when their schools don’t have private toilets, and the same goes for female workers in factories that don’t have decent facilities. None of this is acceptable and so much is preventable.

The world promised that by 2030 everyone will have a safe toilet, but at the current rate of progress, even the moment when everyone basic provision will be decades after that. Next summer, leaders will review progress on Goal 6 to ensure universal access to water and sanitation. As countries prepare for this, there needs to be a dramatic step change in ambition and action.

It is a no-brainer. For every $1 spent on water and sanitation, $4 is returned in increased productivity as less time is lost through sickness. We need governments and donors to acknowledge the importance of sanitation and make the urgent long-term investments needed.

Girls and women should feed into the decision making process to make sure the services meet their needs whatever their age or physical ability. And the issue of sanitation must be taken out of its cubicle – the health, education and business sector must realise that providing safe, accessible toilets to all within their premises is non-negotiable.

Only then girls and women be able to fully participate in their communities, enjoying the health, education and gender equality premiums brought by just being able to use a safe toilet.

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Good to Know (Perhaps) That Food Is Being ‘Nuclearised’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:00:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153061 It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work? To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of […]

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Using nuclear sciences to feed the world. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work?

To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, and ensure food safety and authenticity, as well as increase livestock production.

This is how the UN food and agriculture organisation and the UN atomic energy agency explain this technique, highlighting that some of the most innovative ways being used to improve agricultural practices involve nuclear technology.

Both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been expanding knowledge and enhancing capacity in this area for over 50 years.

Climate Change

One reason is that the global climate is changing, altering the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and seriously impacting food security.

Rising sea levels, ecosystem stress, glacier melt and altering river systems exacerbate the vulnerability of particular social groups and economic sectors, FAO reports, adding that it is also altering the distribution, incidence and intensity of terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant pests and diseases.

“Most developing countries are already subject to an enormous disease burden, and both developing and developed countries could be affected by newly emerging diseases. Making global agricultural systems resilient to these changes is critical for efforts to achieve global food security.”

The two UN agencies have been assisting countries to develop capacity to optimise their use of nuclear techniques to confront and mitigate impacts of climate change on agricultural systems and food security – nuclear techniques that can increase crop tolerance to drought, salinity or pests; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon sequestration from agricultural systems.

They can also track and control insect pests and animal diseases; adjust livestock feed to reduce emissions and improve breeding; optimise natural resource management through isotopic tracking of soil, water and crops; and provide information essential for assessing ecosystem changes and for forecast modelling.

The results of “using nuclear sciences to feed the world” have led to some major success stories, they say.

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way. Credit: FAO

Seven Examples

FAO provides the following seven examples of how nuclear technology is improving food and agriculture:

1. Animal Productivity… and Health

Nuclear and related technologies have made a difference in improving livestock productivity, controlling and preventing trans-boundary animal diseases and protecting the environment.

For example, Cameroon uses nuclear technology effectively in its livestock reproduction, breeding, artificial insemination and disease control programmes. By crossing the Bos indicus and the Bos taurus (two local cattle breeds), farmers have tripled their milk yields – from 500 to 1 500 litres – and generated an additional 110 million dollars in farmer income per year.

Another programme has dramatically curbed the incidence of Brucellosis, a highly contagious zoonosis, or disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans who drink unpasteurised milk or eat undercooked meat from infected animals.

2. Soils and Water

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population.

For instance, in Benin, a scheme involving 5 000 rural farmers increased the maize yield by 50 per cent and lowered the amount of fertiliser used by 70 per cent with techniques that facilitate nitrogen fixation.

Similarly, nuclear techniques allow Maasai farmers in Kenya to schedule small-scale irrigation, doubling vegetable yields while applying only 55 per cent of the water that would normally be applied using traditional hand watering.

3. Pests

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilising male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas.

The technique suppresses and gradually eliminates already established pests or prevents the introduction of invasive species – and is safer for the environment and human health than conventional pesticides.

The governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States have been using the SIT for decades to prevent the northward spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) into Mexico and USA.

In addition, Guatemala sends hundreds of millions of sterile male medflies every week to the US states of California and Florida to protect valuable crops, such as citrus fruits. With the sterile male medflies unable to reproduce, it is really the perfect insect birth control.

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilizing male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas. Credit: FAO

4. Food Safety

Food safety and quality control systems need to be robust at the national level to facilitate the trade of safe food and to combat food fraud, which costs the food industry up to 15 billion dollars annually.

Nuclear techniques help national authorities in over 50 countries to improve food safety by addressing the problem of harmful residues and contaminants in food products and to improve their traceability systems with stable isotope analysis.

For example, scientific programmes in Pakistan, Angola and Mozambique now enable the testing for veterinary drug residues and contaminants in animal products.

Already some 50 Pakistani food production and export institutions benefit from the new laboratory testing capabilities, which help ensure they meet international food standards and boost the country’s reputation in the international food trade.

5. Emergency Response

Radioactivity is present in everything that surrounds us – from the sun to soil. But should a nuclear incident or emergency happen, an understanding of the movement of radioactivity through the environment becomes crucial to prevent or alleviate the impact on agricultural products.
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During the 2011 nuclear emergency in Japan, FAO and IAEA compiled an extensive and authoritative database on food contaminated with radioisotopes. This database supported the information exchange and facilitated appropriate follow-up actions to protect consumers, the agri-food sector and the world at large.

6. Climate Change

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way.

The nuclear-derived crossbreeding programme in Burkina Faso is a great example of helping farmers to breed more productive and climate-resistant animals. It is underpinned by genetic evaluations in four national laboratories, with scientists also able to use associated technology to produce a lick feed that provides the bigger, more productive livestock with the nutrients they need.

7. Seasonal Famine

Crop-breeding programmes use nuclear technology to help vulnerable countries ensure food security, adapt to climate change and even to tackle seasonal famine. New mutant crop varieties shorten the growing process, thereby allowing farmers to plant additional crops during the growing season.

In recent years, farmers in northern Bangladesh have been using a fast-maturing mutant rice variety called Binadhan-7. This variety ripens 30 days quicker than normal rice, giving farmers time to harvest other crops and vegetables within the same season.

Now that you know that food has been “nuclearised”… enjoy your meal!

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Girls in Afghanistan—and Everywhere Else—Need Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:04:55 +0000 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153051 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing are senior women’s rights researchers at Human Rights Watch.

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Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

By Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing
LONDON/WASHINGTON DC, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“I never come here, just because of boys,” Atifa says, pointing at the door of the stall. “They’re opening the door.” Atifa, a sixth grader in Kabul, Afghanistan, attends a school of 650 girls. Since they study in tents in a vacant lot, the only toilets the girls have access to are on the far side of the boys’ school next door. The school is one of a very few for girls in the area, so some students walk over an hour each way to get there.

The toilets in the boys’ school consist of two separate blocks of pit toilets with four stalls per block. Both blocks are used by the boys, none of the stalls have locking doors, and none are reserved for  the girls’ use. On the day Atifa showed Human Rights Watch around, the floors were awash with urine and feces.

The school’s only water point—for drinking, handwashing, and any other uses— is a several-minute walk down a hill. Girls using the toilets have to cope with sexual harassment from male students on the way there, and boys trying to open the stall doors while girls are using the toilet.

When we interviewed girls, parents, and experts about this situation for a new report they said  that lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. Sixty  percent of schools here do not have toilets, 85 percent of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.

Lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. 60% of schools here do not have toilets, 85% of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.
Lack of access to clean, safe, private toilets is a major barrier around the world to girls like Atifa, and it’s an issue that disproportionately affects girls. No child should have to attend a school without toilets. But put bluntly, where toilets are not available it is easier–and more socially accepted–for boys to urinate outside than for girls, even in countries with far less strict views on girls’ behavior than Afghanistan.

When girls reach puberty and begin menstruation, the problem becomes even worse. Without privacy in the toilets, somewhere to dispose of waste or clean reusable hygiene materials, and running water in close proximity to toilets, girls face great difficulty managing menstrual hygiene. This leads many girls to stay home during their periods, and as these absences accumulate, they fall behind on their studies, suffer poor academic achievement, and are at increased risk of dropping out completely.

Countries around the world have recognized the need to reach universal coverage for sanitation—put simply people should be able to use a safe, hygienic toilet wherever they are—home, work, the hospital, and, yes, at school. As part of the global sustainable development goals– the 17 goals agreed upon by the United Nations in 2015 as part of a new sustainable development agenda– governments have set ambitious targets to end open defecation and achieve universal access to basic sanitation services by 2030.

Such a clarion call is nearly herculean. Six out of every 10 people in the world lack safely managed sanitation. That is 4.5 billion people. Given these numbers, it is easy to conclude a safe toilet is a privilege of the rich and urban, not a universal right.

 

 

Today is World Toilet Day. An odd thing to celebrate, perhaps. Yet, given those numbers it’s easy to see why we should stop and consider the humble toilet and all the benefits it provides to those who have access to it. For starters, those of us who can use the toilet and wash our hands are at reduced risk of the diarrheal diseases that claim the lives of more than 350,000 children a year.

But sanitation is more than just a privilege or a tool to prevent disease. It is a fundamental human right, one that can  enable people to realize other rights—like the right to health. For girls like Atifa, a simple, safe and private toilet can be essential to putting education within reach.

Governments will face many competing demands as they work to try to reach universal coverage by 2030. In the crush of priorities, there is a grave risk that the most marginalized and vulnerable will be left behind. In Afghanistan and in places around the world where girls have to fight and struggle to receive a basic education, toilets in school for girls should  not be lost in the shuffle.

 

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Global Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry Targets Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:36:10 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152996 A vibrant global campaign to ban the use of mercury in dentistry is shifting direction: moving from Europe to the developing world. Charlie Brown, Attorney & President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, an organization which is spearheading the campaign, told African and Asian delegates at a meeting in Geneva late September: “When you […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

A vibrant global campaign to ban the use of mercury in dentistry is shifting direction: moving from Europe to the developing world.

Charlie Brown, Attorney & President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, an organization which is spearheading the campaign, told African and Asian delegates at a meeting in Geneva late September: “When you return to your home countries, please do as the European Union has done: phase out amalgam for children now, for one simple reason: The children of your nation are equally important as the children of Europe.”

President of World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, Charlie Brown (2nd right), Dominique Bally (centre) at a meeting during Charlie Brown’s visit to West Africa.

Billed as the Conference of Parties (COP1), the Geneva meeting was a gathering of signatories and ratifiers of the Minamata Convention, a legally-binding landmark treaty aimed at protecting “human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade and which entered into force August 16, has been signed by 128 of the 193 UN member states and ratified by 84 countries, which are now legally obliged to comply with its provisions.
http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

In an interview with IPS, Brown said: “We made clear our short-term goal in the march toward mercury-free dentistry: ban amalgam for children – worldwide and quickly – as the European Union has done.”

In his opening statement to the plenary session of COP1, he cited major progress phasing down amalgam in nations across Africa and Asia.

Immediately after COP1, the World Alliance intensified its Africa campaign. “I went to five nations in West Africa and Central Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Bénin, Cameroon, and Nigeria,” Brown told IPS.

In Geneva, the World Alliance fielded a talented team from across the globe, including a coalition of environmental, dental, and consumer non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – each with a record of major achievements in its home country.

The progress in Africa was described as exceptional. Nigeria, being the economic and population colossus of Africa, got the attention it deserves, said Brown.

The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, working with the NGO SEDI of Benin City, Nigeria, held a workshop for Edo State in the South-South region.

The workshop concluded with the Edo State Stakeholder Resolution calling for amalgam use to cease in Edo State, Nigeria, on 1 July 2018—specifically for children under 16, for pregnant women, and for nursing mothers.

Tom Aneni of SEDI said: “The Edo State Stakeholder Resolution is a model for Nigeria and for the continent. For the children of Africa, we must do, as we already decided in this state in Nigeria’s South-South: No amalgam for children, no amalgam for pregnant women, no amalgam for breastfeeding women.”

Other recommendations include “updating dental schools training curriculum to emphasize mercury-free dentistry and implementation of a phase down work plan. This must also include legislative review and development of guidelines, gathering baseline data and developing the national overview”.

The participants also called for an urgent need for Nigeria to domesticate the Minamata Convention as soon as possible.

The meeting in Nigeria also declared that “mercury is a chemical of global concern owing to its long range atmospheric transport, its persistence in the environment once anthropogenically introduced and its ability to bio-accumulate in ecosystems.

Leslie Adogame of the NGO SRADev, Lagos, pointed to the paradigm shift at Nigerian dental colleges.

“The major dental schools have reversed their teaching, stressing the teaching of mercury-free fillings, which are non-polluting and tooth-friendly, in contrast to dental amalgam. The dental colleges are instructing the dental students that amalgam has no future in Africa.”

The English-language daily, the Guardian of Nigeria, reported that stakeholders from the health sector, media, civil societies, called on governments at all levels to end the use of dental amalgam, a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay in children under 16 years, regnant and breast feeding women. The chemical is said to be injurious to health.

They therefore advocated that this should become a government policy that should take effect from July 1 2018.

The decision was reached at a stakeholders workshop on phase down of dental amalgam organised by the Sustainable Environment Development Initiative (SEDl), where its Executive Director, Tom Aneni, said exposure to mercury could harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, cardiovascular and immune systems in women, unborn children and infants.

Meanwhile, Cameroon has been witnessing significant changes towards mercury-free dentistry not only in cities like Yaoundé but in more rural areas too, such as the Far North Region.

Gilbert Kuepouo of the NGO CREPD said, “Cameroon civil society – comprising dentists, consumers, hospitals, dental schools – is ready for mercury-free dentistry. Our goal is nothing less than the end of amalgam in Cameroon – a goal that is now realistic.”

Dominique Bally of the African Center for Environmental Health took Brown through three francophone West African nations: Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and Bénin, where they had meetings with top officials of the three environmental ministries, toured dental colleges, consulted with a top military dentist, and met with NGO leaders.

Bally said, “To donate, sell, or otherwise bring amalgam to Africa is not helping the people of our region – it is dumping a neurotoxin into our environment and our bodies. Africans are tired to see their continent being seen as the world dumping site”.

The World Alliance President, together with the President of the African Centre for Environmental Health, Dominique Bally, an Ivoirian, are partnering with environmental NGOs, Les Amis de la Terre in Togo and with GAPROFFA in Benin.

While delivering his opening speech at COP 1, Brown saluted the work of the Africa region and of the African governments in the march toward mercury-free dentistry.

He said, “The Abuja Declaration for Mercury-Free Dentistry for Africa sets the pace. The government of Mauritius ended amalgam use for children. Dental schools from “Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria across to Tanzania and Kenya have made major curriculum shifts to educate this generation of dentists.”

Meanwhile, the Minamata Convention holds critical obligations for all 84 State Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152989 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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Aid Groups Condemn Yemen Blockade, Warn of ‘Catastrophic’ Faminehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-condemn-yemen-blockade-warn-catastrophic-famine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-condemn-yemen-blockade-warn-catastrophic-famine http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-condemn-yemen-blockade-warn-catastrophic-famine/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 23:13:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152976 If aid deliveries are not resumed, Yemen will experience the worst famine the world has seen in recent decades. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia closed all land, air, and sea ports in Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile at Riyadh. Though the Saudi-led coalition reopened the southern port Aden, humanitarian officials have warned of […]

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Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 10 2017 (IPS)

If aid deliveries are not resumed, Yemen will experience the worst famine the world has seen in recent decades.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia closed all land, air, and sea ports in Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile at Riyadh.

Though the Saudi-led coalition reopened the southern port Aden, humanitarian officials have warned of a famine and health crisis if other entry points remain shut.

“It will not be like the famine that we saw in South Sudan earlier in the year where tens of thousands of people were affected, and it will not be like the famine that cost 250,000 people their lives in Somalia in 2011—it will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock."If access shuts off entirely, even for a single week, then disaster will be the result. This is the nightmare scenario, and children will likely die." --Yemen Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children

Yemen has long depended on imports, importing up to 90 percent of essential goods.

A previous aerial and naval blockade, instituted days after the war began in 2015, has already left 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

This includes seven million facing famine-like conditions who rely on food aid and almost 400,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition who require therapeutic treatment to stay alive.

Due to limited funding, humanitarian agencies are only able to target one-third of the population while the other two-thirds rely on commercial imports.

If ports are not reopened, food supplies will be exhausted in six weeks.

“The humanitarian situation in Yemen is extremely fragile and any disruption in the pipeline of critical supplies such as food, fuel, and medicines has the potential to bring millions of people closer to starvation and death,” said 18 humanitarian organizations in a joint statement.

“The continued closure of borders will only bring additional hardship and deprivation with deadly consequences to an entire population suffering from a conflict that it is not of their own making,” they added.

In less than a day, the blockade has already dramatically increased the price of fuel by as much as 60 percent and doubled the price of cooking gas.

Having recently visited Yemen, Lowcock told journalists of his encounter with seven-year-old Nora who weighed 11 kilograms, the average weight of a two-year-old.

In the Middle Eastern nation, approximately 2 million children younger than Nora are acutely malnourished and at risk of dying.

Save the Children’s country director for Yemen Tamer Kirolos, an organization which released the joint statement, warned of a disaster for children if aid is impeded.

“It’s already been tough enough to get help in…but if access shuts off entirely, even for a single week, then disaster will be the result. This is the nightmare scenario, and children will likely die,” Kirolos said.

The humanitarian community also warned that the current stock of vaccines in the country will last one month. If it is not restocked, there will be outbreaks of communicable diseases such as polio and measles which will particularly impact children under five and those suffering from malnutrition.

Already, there are over 800,000 cases of cholera, and children under five account for a quarter of all cases. Aid agencies expect that there will be more than one million cases, 600,000 of whom will be children, by the end of the year.

The spread of the outbreak, which is the largest and fastest-growing epidemic ever recorded, has been exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition.

However, the Red Cross reported that its shipment of chlorine tablets needed to combat the cholera epidemic had been blocked, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation.

“What kills people in famine is infections…because their bodies have consumed themselves, reducing totally the ability to fight off things which a healthy person can,” said Lowcock.

Lowcock and humanitarian agencies called on the immediate opening of all ports and unhindered humanitarian and commercial access to people in need.

Lowcock also highlighted the need for the Saudi-led coalition to give clear assurance that there will be no disruption of air services, including the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), and to scale back interference with all vessels that have passed inspection.

The aid agencies called on an end to the conflict, stating: “We reiterate that humanitarian aid is not the solution to Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe. Only a peace process will halt the horrendous suffering of millions of innocent civilians.”

More than 10,000 have been killed and over 40,000 injured since the Yemen civil war began almost three years ago.

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Nations without Nationality – An ‘Unseen’ Stark Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:00:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152964 Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations. These millions […]

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Born stateless, this baby acquired nationality in 2008 in Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/G.M.B. Akash

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 10 2017 (IPS)

Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations.

These millions of human beings are victims of continued discrimination, exclusion and persecution, states a UN refugee agency’s new report, calling for “immediate action” to secure equal nationality rights for all.

“Stateless people are just seeking the same basic rights that all citizens enjoy. But stateless minorities, like the Rohingya, often suffer from entrenched discrimination and a systematic denial of their rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on the launch of the report, This Is Our Home: Stateless minorities and their search for citizenship on the beginning of November.

Any Solution?

Ensuring equal access to nationality rights for minority groups is one of the key goals of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024.

To achieve this, UNHCR urges all States to take the following steps, in line with Actions 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 of UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to End Statelessness:

• Facilitate the naturalisation or confirmation of nationality for stateless minority groups resident on the territory provided that they were born or have resided there before a particular date, or have parents or grandparents who meet these criteria.
• Allow children to gain the nationality of the country in which they were born if they would otherwise be stateless.
• Eliminate laws and practices that deny or deprive persons of nationality on the basis of discriminatory grounds such as race, ethnicity, religion, or linguistic minority status.
• Ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.
• Eliminate procedural and practical obstacles to the issuance of nationality documentation to those entitled to it under law.

SOURCE: UNHCR

This report explains the circumstances that have led to them not being recognised as citizens, drawing on discussions with four stateless or formerly stateless minority groups. The findings in this report underscore the critical need for minorities to enjoy the right to nationality.

“Imagine being told you don’t belong because of the language you speak, the faith you follow, the customs you practice or the colour of your skin. This is the stark reality for many of the world’s stateless. Discrimination, which can be the root cause of their lack of nationality, pervades their everyday lives – often with crippling effects,” says Grandi.

The report notes that more than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. “Left unaddressed, their protracted marginalisation can build resentment, increase fear and, in the most extreme cases, lead to instability, insecurity and displacement.”

Even Before the Ongoing Rohingya Crisis

Based on research prior to late August when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya – the world’s “biggest stateless minority” – began fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh, the report reminds that their situation is nonetheless illustrative of the problems that years of discrimination, protracted exclusion and their impact on citizenship status can lead to.

“In recent years, important steps have been taken to address statelessness worldwide. However new challenges, like growing forced displacement and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, threaten this progress. States must act now and they must act decisively to end statelessness,” Grandi stressed.

The report shows that, for many minority groups, the cause of statelessness is difference itself: their histories, their looks, their language, and their faith.

“At the same time, statelessness often exacerbates the exclusion that minority groups face, profoundly affecting all aspects of their life – from freedom of movement to development opportunities, and from access to services to the right to vote.”

What Statelessness Is All About

According to the UN, statelessness can exacerbate the exclusion that minorities already face, further limiting their access to education, health care, legal employment, freedom of movement, development opportunities and the right to vote.

Fatmira Mustafa, a mother of four, collects rubbish from bins for a living. She has been anxiously waiting for the day when the owner of the plot on which her family is squatting will knock on her door to claim the land. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

“It creates a chasm between affected groups and the wider community, deepening their sense of being outsiders: of never belonging.”

In May and June 2017, UNHCR spoke with more than 120 individuals who belong to stateless or formerly stateless minority groups in three countries: the Karana of Madagascar, Roma and other ethnic minorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pemba and Makonde of Kenya. These are the key findings of UNHCR’s consultations:

Discrimination, Lack of Documentation

Discrimination and exclusion of ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups often lies at the heart of their statelessness, adds UNHCR. At the same time, their statelessness can lead to further discrimination, both in in practice and in law: at least 20 countries maintain nationality laws in which nationality can be denied or deprived in a discriminatory manner.

“Discrimination against the stateless minorities consulted manifests itself most clearly in their attempts to access documentation needed to prove their nationality or their entitlement to nationality, such as a national ID card or a birth certificate.”

Lack of such documentary proof can result in a vicious circle, where authorities refuse to recognize an otherwise valid claim to nationality.

“The authorities told me that I had to go to Kosovo to get a certificate that I was not a citizen of Kosovo. But how could I travel there without documents?” asks Sutki Sokolovski, a 28-year-old ethnic Albanian man. His mother, who abandoned him as a child was from Kosovo (S/RES/1244(1999)), but he was born in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and has lived there his entire life.


“I felt like I was a slave. Now I feel like I have been born again,” says 51-year-old Amina Kassim, a formerly stateless member of the Makonde community in Kenya. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold.

Poverty

The UN body explains that because of their statelessness and lack of documentation, the groups consulted are typically excluded from accessing legal or sustainable employment, or obtaining the kinds of loans or licenses that would allow them to make a decent living. This marginalisation can make it difficult for stateless minorities to escape an on-going cycle of poverty.

Examples among other testimonies included: “The biggest problem is the poverty caused by my statelessness. A stateless person cannot own property. I feel belittled and disgraced by the situation that I am in,” notes Shaame Hamisi, 55 from the stateless Pemba community in Kenya.

Fear

All the groups consulted spoke of their fear for their physical safety and security on account of being stateless. Being criminalized for a situation that they are unable to remedy has left psychological scars and a sense of vulnerability among many.

“They [police] know what we do, where we go. They ask for our IDs, when we say we don’t have any, we are arrested and beaten,” says Ajnur Demir, 26, from the Roma community from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Stateless Children

On this, a 3 November 2015 UN report – I am Here, I Belong: The Urgent Need to End Childhood Statelessness— had already warned in a report that stateless children across the world share the same feelings of discrimination, frustration and despair.

According to that report, urgent action is needed before statelessness “sets in stone” problems haunting their childhood.

“In the short time that children get to be children, statelessness can set in stone grave problems that will haunt them throughout their childhoods and sentence them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair,” said the by then the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres and now UN Secretary General, adding that no child should be stateless.

“Stateless young people are often denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. They face discrimination and harassment by authorities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalised for generations.”

What future for them… and for humankind?

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Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-edged Sword against Climate Change and Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:41:58 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152923 As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020. While achieving this goal requires […]

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Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.“My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed." --farmer Damiano Malambo

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

The bad season that farmer Malambo refers to was characterized by El Nino, which affected agricultural production for most African countries, especially in the Southern African region, leaving millions of people without food. But as the case was with farmer Malambo, CA farmers thrived amidst these tough conditions as the CASU project discovered in its snap assessment.

“CA has proved to be more profitable than conventional agriculture”, says Precious Nkandu Chitembwe, FAO Country Communications Officer. “In seasons when other farmers have struggled, we have seen our CA farmers emerging with excellent results”, she adds, pointing out that the promotion of legumes and a ready market has improved household nutrition and income security for the farmers involved in CA.

And farmer Malambo is a living testimony. “In the last two seasons, I have doubled my cattle herd from 30 to 60, I have bought two vehicles and my overall annual production has increased from about 150 to 350 by 50kg bags.

“I am particularly happy with the introduction of easy to grow cash crops such as cowpeas and soybeans which are not only money spinners but also nutritious for my family—see how healthy this boy is from soya-porridge,” says Malambo pointing at his eight-year-old grandchild.

While Zambia boasts a stable food security position since the introduction of government farmer input subsidies in early 2000s, the country’s record on nutrition leaves much to be desired. Hence, the recent ranking of the country in the top ten hungriest countries in the world on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) may not come as a surprise, as the most recent Zambia Demographic and Health survey shows that 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, adding that progress made since 2000 is threatened, emphasising the need to establish resilience for communities at risk of disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

It is worth noting that Zambia has recognized the challenges of nutrition and has put in place several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign—an integrated approach to address stunting by tackling both direct and indirect causes of under-nutrition. Unlike the standalone strategies of the past, the 1000 Most Critical Days campaign brings together all key Ministries and stakeholders of which the Ministry of Agriculture is a key stakeholder and entry point.

And the implementation of CA, of which crop diversification is a key principle, is one of the Ministry’s contributions to the overall objective of fighting under-nutrition. As alluded to by farmer Malambo, promotion of crops such as soy beans and cowpeas among other food legumes is critical to achieving household nutrition security.

“With a known high demand for good nutrition in the country, especially for rural populations, soybean and other food legumes offer an opportunity to meet this demand—from soybean comes soy milk which is as competitive as animal milk in terms of nutrition, use in the confectionary industry and other numerous value addition options at household level for nutritional diversity,” explains Turnbull Chama, Technical Assistant, Climate Change component at the FAO Country Office.

While CA is a proven approach to climate resilience in agricultural production for food and nutrition security, its adoption has not been without hitches. According to a study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture in Zambia are still very low.

The study, which used data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, found that only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/14 season. The report notes, however, that social factors, such as belief in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

But for the Southern Province Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Nyambe, CA adoption should not be measured in a generic manner.

“The package for conservation agriculture is huge, if you measure all components as a package, adoption is low but if you looked at the issues of tillage or land preparation, you will find that the adoption rates are very high,” he says. “So, that’s why sometimes you hear of stories of poor adoption because there are several factors that determine the adoption of various principles within the package of conservation agriculture.”

Agreeing with these sentiments, Douty Chibamba, a lecturer at the University of Zambia Department of Geography and Environmental studies, offers this advice.

“It would be thus important for future policies and donor projects to allow flexibility in CA packaging because farmers make decisions to adopt or not based on individual components of CA and not CA as a package,” says Chibamba, who is also chairperson of the Advisory and Approvals committee of the Zambia Civil Society Environment Fund phase two, funded by the Finnish Embassy and managed by Panos Institute Southern Africa under its (CBNRM) forum.

This year’s World Food Day was themed around investing in food security and rural development to change the future of migration—which has over the years been proved to be as a result of the former. And FAO Country Representative George Okechi stresses that his organization is committed to supporting Zambia in rural development and food security to reduce rural-urban drift.

“With our expertise and experience, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, we continue providing policy support to ensure that farmers get desired services for rural development,” says Okechi.

“We are also keen to help farmers cope with effects of climate change which make people make a move from rural areas to urban cities in search of opportunities,” he added, in apparent reference to Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives that FAO is implementing in Zambia, among which is CASU.

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Women and Malnutrition in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-malnutrition-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/#comments Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:55:42 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152836 Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI and PHILADELPHIA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Undernutrition is widespread and a key reason for poor child health in many developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, around 40 percent of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth, that is, severely reduced height-for-age relative to their growth potential. Stunting is a result of periods of undernutrition in early childhood, and it has been found to have a series of adverse long-term effects in those who survive childhood. It is negatively associated with mental development, human capital accumulation, adult health, and with economic productivity and income levels in adulthood.

Raghav Gaiha

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with the higher risk of morbidity and mortality, and ocular disorders such as night blindness, xerophthalmia and blindness, affecting infants, children and women during pregnancy and lactation. African regions account for the greatest number of preschool children with night blindness and for more than one-quarter of all children with subclinical vitamin A deficiency.

The central premise is that agricultural development has enormous potential to make significant contribution in reducing malnutrition and the associated ill health. With its close links to both the immediate causes of undernutrition (diets, feeding practices, and health) and its underlying determinants (such as income, education, access to WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene- and health services, and gender equity), the agriculture sector can play a strong role in improving nutrition outcomes.

Women are vitally important agents, both in their roles as producers and as custodians of household welfare. Their importance, moreover, is generally greater in the lowest-income settings and among households with high dependency ratios—in which a large proportion of household members are nonearning and often nutritionally vulnerable dependents.

The resources and income flows that women control often have positive impacts on household health and nutrition. In some countries, women tend to lack access to economic opportunities outside the domestic sphere to which traditional customs often confine them, especially in rural areas. They are also very often severely constrained by time and the multiple—often simultaneous—roles they play as producers and caregivers. Agricultural programmes and policies that empower and enable women and that involve them in decisions and activities throughout the life of the programme achieve greater nutritional impacts.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Although women comprise more than 50% of the agricultural workforce in most of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region, the productivity gap between men and women farmers persists. To illustrate how wide the gap is, in Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity has the potential of raising the gross domestic product by USD 105 million, USD 100 million, and USD 65 million, respectively (IFAD,FAO and WFP, 2015). Women farmers typically use lower levels of purchased technological inputs, such as fertilizer and high-yielding seed varieties. That women lack access to these key technological inputs explains a significant portion of the productivity gap. They are often hesitant to adopt these technologies if they do not control the benefits that accrue from adopting. Moreover, women also face unique challenges, due to their lifecycle and reproductive roles, which further influence their participation on- and off-farm.

In Kenya, new varieties of sweet potatoes rich in beta-carotene were introduced to women farmers with an end goal of improving vitamin A intake of young children, thereby preventing vitamin A deficiency. There was a significant increase in the intake of vitamin A-rich foods, among children whose mothers received both the production-focused intervention of planting materials and access to agricultural extension services, and the consumption-focused intervention of nutrition education and training in food processing and preparation. By contrast, there was a decrease in vitamin A intake among children whose mothers received only the production-focused inputs. This example suggests that: (a) women’s farm production offers an entry point for interventions that can improve nutrition; and (b) interventions that increase women’s agricultural productivity and increase their health and nutrition knowledge may yield more benefits than ones that target only productivity or only knowledge.

In Ethiopia, a women-focused goat development project was expanded to include interventions to promote vitamin A intake, nutrition and health education, training in gardening and food preparation, and distribution of vegetable seeds. Goat owning households consumed all produced milk; 87% by the adults as hoja; children in the participating households had slightly more diversified diets; they were also more likely to consume milk more than 4 times a day. As substitutions occur between foods, in the absence of anthropometric indicators, nothing definitive could be inferred about improvements in child nutrition.

Women’s employment in agriculture has positive impacts on nutrition in the household when women have decision-making power over resource allocation. In Uganda, for example, evidence from randomized controlled trials showed positive impacts from biofortified crops, including orange-fleshed sweet potato, on vitamin A status among women and children. Ownership of livestock was associated with better household food security in Kampala. However, there were mixed impacts on the links between women’s empowerment, intrahousehold decision-making, and better nutrition outcomes.

Failure to understand cultural norms and the gender dynamics within the household can result in unanticipated outcomes. In the Gambia, for example, a project geared to increasing women’s rice production was so successful that the land it was grown on was reclassified internally within the household. This resulted in output from that land being sold by men as opposed to women. Women therefore lost their original income stream, but remained committed to increased labour.

Vegetables and legumes are often regarded as women’s crops. Recognizing this, a project in Togo was successful because it promoted the introduction of soybeans as a legume rather than as a cash crop. Promotion as a cash crop would have resulted in the crop switching to male control. Interventions promoting the production of animal source foods also assessed their impact on maternal income or women’s control over income. The results were quite mixed. For example, an intervention involving intensified dairy farming in Kenya showed that an important share of the additional income was controlled by women, whereas in Ethiopia men’s incomes benefited significantly more from intensified dairying than did women’s. Whether women’s income is likely to increase depends on the livestock or aquaculture production system, the nature of the intervention, and cultural beliefs and practices relating to gender. Even if the intervention is targeted to women’s livestock and aquaculture activities, women lose control over the income generated by those activities.

In conclusion, it is arguable that there are improved impacts on nutrition if agricultural interventions are targeted to women and when specific work is done around women’s empowerment (for example, through behaviour change communication), mediated through women’s time use, women’s own health and nutrition status, and women’s access to and control over resources as well as intrahousehold decision-making power. That this may be dismissed out of hand is not unlikely either, given the persistence of male dominance.

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Adolescent Health Congress Skirts Issue of Abuse, Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/adolescent-health-congress-skirts-issue-abuse-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adolescent-health-congress-skirts-issue-abuse-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/adolescent-health-congress-skirts-issue-abuse-trafficking/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 11:34:43 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152795 Twenty-year-old Gogontlejang Phaladi of Mahalapye, Botswana is grateful she was never sent to a so-called “hyena” like scores of girls in neighboring Malawi were. In a ritual approved by the community, a solo man (the hyena) would have sex with the adolescent girls of an entire village to “sexually cleanse” them so they would be […]

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Attendees at the 11th Congress on Adolescent Health in New Delhi, Oct. 27-29, 2017. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Attendees at the 11th Congress on Adolescent Health in New Delhi, Oct. 27-29, 2017. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
NEW DELHI, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Twenty-year-old Gogontlejang Phaladi of Mahalapye, Botswana is grateful she was never sent to a so-called “hyena” like scores of girls in neighboring Malawi were.

In a ritual approved by the community, a solo man (the hyena) would have sex with the adolescent girls of an entire village to “sexually cleanse” them so they would be considered fit for marriage."It makes sense to bring village and religious leaders in this conversation on violent crimes. After all, most of them are validated by the society and traditions.” --Gigi Phaladi

“I am so glad that in Botswana we do not have hyenas, but we face other forms of sexual violence such as stepfathers molesting stepdaughters and giving them HIV,” says Phaladi, founder of Pillar of Hope, a project that counsels, educates and trains local adolescents to tackle these challenges.

Violent Crimes Left Out

Last week, Phaladi attended the 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health which was held in New Delhi and focused on different health aspects of youth in the age group of 10-24. Speaking to an audience that included diplomats, bureaucrats, researchers, doctors and activists, Phaladi stressed that if the problems of adolescents were to be truly addressed, they had to be involved in the process.

Talking to IPS on the sidelines of the Congress later, Phaladi said that there were adolescents who experienced the most heinous and violent crimes across the world such as sexual assaults, trafficking, violent social norms and religious practices of violent crime.

Aside from HIV, beating, molestation, and sexual exploitation at schools by teachers – the challenges faced by adolescents were multiple. But the adolescents directly affected by the violence and crime were not included in the process to address them.

“You see, the laws in these countries are not firm enough to protect the adolescents from these crimes. So, it’s not just a health issue, but a governance deficiency and we need to talk about this at such events, from the adolescents themselves,” she said.

Unfortunately, violent crimes like sexual slavery, hyenas, molestation at schools or breast ironing – another crime reported widely from Western Africa – were missing from the Congress on Adolescent Health, as were issues of cross-border sex trafficking of adolescent boys and girls in Asia and community-backed forced prostitution of young women in India. Mental health was discussed as a generic issue, but rising cases of mental illness in militarized and conflict zones were also missing.

Lack of Studies and Data

A big reason behind this could be lack of any data, said Rajib Acharya, a researcher from Population Council of India, a New Delhi-based NGO researching population issues across India. Acharya just conducted a study of 20,000 adolescents aged 10-14 in two states of India – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Presented at the Congress, the study showed, among others, severe levels of anemia among the adolescents. According to the study, 1.2 million and 2.8 million are severely anemic, respectively, in these two States.

But it took four months and a team of 50 researchers to interview the adolescents on nutrition and sexual and reproductive health.  Three weeks were spent on training the researchers, and analyzing the data took another four to five months. To generate data on multiple issues would mean multiplying the investment of this time, effort and money, Acharya reminded.

He also said that if the issue was complicated, sensitive and involved  traveling to conflict zones, it was less likely to be taken up for research as gathering credible date would be incredibly hard.

Forums like the Congress should ideally be utilized to bring on the hard-hitting issues related to adolescents,  said Thant Aung Phyo, a young sexual and reproductive healthcare activist in Myanmar. Pointing out the severe restrictions on adolescents in accessing abortion care, Phyo said, “The rigid government policies and social traditions that restrict the rights of adolescents need to be brought up and discussed at forums like this.”

Myanmar is currently caught in a human rights  disaster where over a million Rohingyas had been forced to flee their homes, taking refuge in neighboring countries including Bangladesh, India and Thailand.  The refugees included hundreds of thousands of adolescents who are living in trauma, poverty, fear and uncertainty.

Decribing their suffering as “unfathomable” and “unprecedented”, Kate Gilmore,  Deputy High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Commission, says that refugee and migrant adolscents  across the world must be provided  free and regular healthcare as a right.

“Migrant adolescents must have access to healthcare without the fear of being reported, detained and deported,” Gilmore said.

Improving World’s Largest Adolescent Program

India, home to the world’s largest adolescent population (253 million), launched  an adolescent-specific program in 2014 – the first country in the world to do so on such a scale. Titled Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (KRSK), the program aimed at improving health and nutrition of adolescents besides protecting them against violence and injuries.

It is currently run in 230 of the country’s 707 districts,  but even after three years, there was  little data available on the program’s impact. The data presented at the event by the health ministry of India at the Congress only specified the facilities built by the government so far (700 adolescent health clinics) and services provided (training over 20,000 adolescents as peer educators).

However, the selection of the peer educators and the skills of the field workers had been questioned by experts from the non government sector.

“The peer educator component is the most controversial aspect of the program. The skill of the workforce on the ground is also questionable,” observed Sunil Mehra, one of the pioneers on adolscent health in India and head of Mamta Health Institute for Mother and Child which coorganised the Congress.

Agreed Rajib Acharya: “If we spoke with community level  health workers, we would see  that only 5 or 6 out of  every 30 or 40 knew what they were supposed to say or do to adolescent patients.”

On Saturday, however,  the ministry  announced certain changes  to improve the RKSK program and monitor certain services  Said Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner (Adolescent Health) at the minsitry, the government would “now make the program  promotion and prevention-centric and monitorable”.

The ministry would particularly monitor its  Weekly Iron Folic Supplementation (WIFS) programme  on digital platforms to tackle anemea among adolescents. A special toolkit called “Sathiya” was also launched at the World Congress on Friday for better peer education. The Toolkit—available both in print and online – focused on six broad themes of the RKSK such as integrated child health , sexual and reproductive health, injuries and violence, nutrition, substance abuse and mental health.

Leveraging the Traditional  System

There are other instituions and systems that  India and other countries could make better use of  to address the “wicked problems” faced by the adolescents, reminded  Anthony Costello, Director, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Promoting greater interaction among adolescents of different age and sex is one. Involving parents in learning of the health issues of adolescents is another. Talking of difficult and disturbing issues like breast ironing, rape, trafficking is yet another. We need to use all of these,” Costello told IPS.

Gigi Phaladi added that traditioonal and religious leaders  also must be roped in to talk about adolescents. In Botswana, she said, pastors in churches were urged to talk of gender violence, HIV and other gender-based crimes.

“People were surprised to hear their religious leaders talk about sex etc, but they also started paying attention. The general feeling among people was ‘if the pastors do not feel hesitant to talk about these issues, why should we?’ So, it makes sense to bring village and religious leaders in this conversation on violent crimes. After all, most of them are validated by the society and traditions,”she said.

The three-day (Oct. 27-29 ) 11th Congress on Adolescent Health, which had 1,200 participants from 65 countries, concluded on Sunday.

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Stopping Child Marriage Foreverhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/stopping-child-marriage-forever/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stopping-child-marriage-forever http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/stopping-child-marriage-forever/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 06:58:47 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152788 The mother moved in like a tigress to save her cub. In 2015, when her 13-year-old daughter Shumi Akhter was about to be married off, Panna Begum pleaded with her husband, Dulal Mia, to cancel the marriage he’d arranged for their daughter. Panna argued vehemently that Shumi was just a child and it was wrong […]

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Akhter and her mother, Panna Begum, who saved her from being married off at the age of 13. Credit: Shahiduzzaman/IPS

By Shahiduzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

The mother moved in like a tigress to save her cub. In 2015, when her 13-year-old daughter Shumi Akhter was about to be married off, Panna Begum pleaded with her husband, Dulal Mia, to cancel the marriage he’d arranged for their daughter.

Panna argued vehemently that Shumi was just a child and it was wrong for her to be married off at such a tender age. Dulal was adamant, countering that it was tradition and custom and his responsibility as a father to give his daughter away in marriage. He was furious with Panna for objecting, but she wouldn’t back down.

“I don’t agree with you because I know the reality, the legal age of girls’ marriage and consequences of child marriage. Please don’t try to kill the future of my daughter. If you proceed any further on this matter then I’m even ready to split from you to ensure my daughter’s future,” Panna warned her husband.

The Dulal family lives in Noler Char of Hatia UpaZilla, Noakhali, a southern coastal district of Bangladesh.

Panna never went to school and was herself a victim of child marriage. Fortunately, just a week before her daughter Shumi’s wedding, Panna participated in a sensitization meeting on women’s rights issues organized by Sagarika Samaj Unnayan Sangstha(SSUS), a local NGO. As soon as the meeting ended, she reached out for support from the participating NGO representatives and others to stop her daughter’s marriage. And she succeeded.

In the chars (accreted coastal land) of Noakhali district, where the Bangladesh government with the assistance of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Netherlands are implementing a project titled the Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP IV), the story of Panna’s efforts and success in averting a disastrous child marriage is well known and widely appreciated.

The CDSP IV aims to reduce poverty and hunger among poor people living on newly accreted coastal chars by providing more secure livelihoods.

Shumi Akhter runs her sewing machine. Credit: Shahiduzzaman/IPS


Sagarika Samaj Unnayan Sangstha (SSUS) is one of the four partner NGOs working with the CSDP IV to promote understanding of the social issues in the project areas. SSUS took responsibility to help the young Shumi learn skills that would eventually help her to earn money.

Within a couple of days following Panna’s appeal for help, the NGO admitted her into a CDSP IV month-long training on tailoring. She did well and she received a sewing machine free of cost. The training helped build her confidence. Within a short period Shumi became a popular tailor for the villages in the neighbourhood. Now she is earning between 50 and 70 dollars per month.

Her father Dulal Mia now says, “My decision was wrong. God saved us. I am sorry for causing such tension in my family. Like my wife, now I am also campaigning against child marriage.”

Today, at 16, Shumi is a major contributor to the family income. “I am dreaming of a better life. My parents and the villagers are with me. I will make my own decision about my future,” she stated confidently.

The other partners of CDSP IV are BRAC, Dwip Unnayan Songstha(DUS) and the Society for Development Initiatives (SDI).

Some 25 years ago, this correspondent visited the same char lands to report on the ‘Life of Char People’. At that time poor and marginal people who were victims of river erosion and natural disasters in various costal districts were trying to settle in this area. None of them aware of their basic rights, simply struggling for survival each day.

Those people were highly influenced in their outlook and were entrenched in taboos. Attitudes toward women and girl children were critically narrow. Over 95 percent of the girls were victims of child marriage. Women were strictly restricted in their movement outside their homes. They were bound by rules set by their husbands. In fact, the situation of women and girls was the worst in char areas compared to other parts of the country.

Then-local government officials and NGOs activists said low literacy rates and social insecurity of the families were the principal causes of the high rate of child marriage. Another important cause was that girls and young women in remote areas were vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse. To avoid incidents of abuse and rape and to ensure safety and security of their daughters, parents took the initiative to give away girls in marriage as early as possible.

Those days are now in the past. Md. Hanan Mollah of SSUS said, “All credit goes to CDSP IV. It has broken the barrier and women are more socially secure and empowered, and their rights on assets have been established. They are now the major mainstream workforce in the area. Their contribution makes our rural economy vibrant.”

Although child marriage has been reduced drastically, many families continue the practice by producing fake birth certificates.

In fact, Bangladesh has many successes in social sectors, but sadly it has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world. According to UNICEF, “52 percent of country’s girls are married before the age of 18. Early marriage causes girls to drop out of education and limits their opportunities for social interaction.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently reported that child marriage in Bangladesh is deeply destructive to the lives of married girls and their families; it pushes girls out of school, leaves them mired in poverty, heightens the risk of domestic violence, and carries grave health risks for girls and their babies due to early pregnancy.

Marriage of girls before the age of 18 and men before 21 is treated as child marriage, which is strictly prohibited by law in Bangladesh. It is a punishable offence for the organisers of child marriage including parents, registering entities and related persons.

“I can say confidently that child marriage in the area has reduced more than 90 percent after the CDSP IV project was launched. Often, when we receive information, our local officials including myself rush immediately to stop such marriages at any cost. A couple of months ago we intervened and stopped a child marriage when the couple were about to sign the marriage contract,” said Khondaka Rezauil Karim, Hatiya Upazila Nirbahi (sub-district Executive Officer).

“It is true some child marriages are still happening but within the next 12 months that will be stopped forever because by this time 100 percent birth registration will be completed, which is important for any marriage registrar to check the age of both male and female before registering the marriage.

“Several police camps and investigative centers and ground communication have been established in the areas to ensure peace and security. Now, police can rush within 30 minutes to any part of the chars to tackle the situation. Combating violence against women, promoting women’s empowerment and their rights based issues are our priority tasks,” Rezaul Karim said.

Deputy Team Leader of CDSPIV Md. Bazlul Karim said, “We have introduced multiple social programmes and support to stop child marriage effectively and promoting empowerment of women. ‘Legal and Human Rights’ programme is one of them, where an initiative has been taken to sensitize and raise awareness of the people by educating them on the country’s seven basic laws including Muslim and Hindu family laws, land law, inheritance law and constitutional rights. It also includes legal literacy classes, raising awareness about legal rights, and empowering the poor, especially women, both legally and socially by encouraging them to take legal action.”

“Around the project area, 984 groups are working on these issues. They are also acting like defenders on rights based issues. Now we are receiving complete information on the violation of rights and intolerance against women. And nothing is overlooked. So since the project started we were able to stop 93 child marriages,” he said.

The project is also providing life skill training and various kinds of support to young women, widows and destitute women. Tailoring training is one. So far the project has trained up 125 women and distributed 125 sewing machines free of cost. Each of the recipients are now earning a decent wage and helping their families. Credit is also being made available for small businesses, agro-based farming and livestock.

Achieving gender equality and empowerment of women are the most important goals of the project. Women’s position in their communities has improved remarkably. They are participating in all sorts of developing activities, including constructing roads, cultivating lands and agro-based farming.

The project officials and the NGO activists said that at the beginning it was very difficult to reach women. Their husbands were not cooperative at all, but with time they realized that empowering women only strengthened their own welfare.

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Developing World Faces Challenge of Large Ageing Populationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/developing-world-faces-challenge-large-ageing-population/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=developing-world-faces-challenge-large-ageing-population http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/developing-world-faces-challenge-large-ageing-population/#respond Sat, 28 Oct 2017 15:23:22 +0000 Amna Khaishgi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152778 Experts on population ageing converged in Seoul this week to discuss how to make reaching one’s “golden years” a happy and sustainable process across the world. They gathered at the Global Symposium on Ageing 2017. The two-day symposium on Oct. 23-24 was aimed at “Promoting Resilience and Sustainability in an Ageing World”. Organized by the […]

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Over the next decade, China will be home to the world's largest elderly population, while India -- because of its demographic dividend – will require jobs for the world's largest workforce. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Over the next decade, China will be home to the world's largest elderly population, while India -- because of its demographic dividend – will require jobs for the world's largest workforce. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Amna Khaishgi
SEOUL/NEW DELHI, Oct 28 2017 (IPS)

Experts on population ageing converged in Seoul this week to discuss how to make reaching one’s “golden years” a happy and sustainable process across the world.

They gathered at the Global Symposium on Ageing 2017. The two-day symposium on Oct. 23-24 was aimed at “Promoting Resilience and Sustainability in an Ageing World”.“Having never encountered ageing on a global scale before, humanity is still grappling with this issue through a trial and error approach." --Yasuo Fukuda, Chair of APDA

Organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Statistics Korea (KOSTAT), it brought together thought leaders in the field of ageing, including policy makers, academics, civil society, the private sector, and representatives of international agencies, to review past developments, current challenges, and future actions.

“Population ageing is no longer a phenomenon of developed countries. The pace of population ageing is progressing most quickly in developing countries. By 2050, around 80 percent of people aged 60 or older will live in what are now low- or middle-income countries,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of UNFPA.

“Ageing is the outcome of great achievements in health and nutrition, in social and economic development, and it reflects a better quality of life around the globe. It is a triumph of development. We must now turn our focus from merely helping people reach old age to helping them reach a happy old age,” she added.

Countries like Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Manoglia, Nepal, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam participated in the symposium and shared their experiences. UNFPA also announced the establishment of its permanent liaison office in Seoul to work on population ageing.

During the two-day symposium, participants reviewed the progress of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (MIPAA), which was adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing by government representatives from all over the globe in 2002.

MIPAA continues to serve as one of the main guiding frameworks for UNFPA’s work of stock-taking on global ageing. It recognizes ageing as a global trend and relates this to social and economic development and human rights. MIPAA promotes a “society of all ages” and assures the wellbeing of a large and growing number of older persons.

The symposium also debated how population aging might affect social and economic development, and discussed whether government policies regarding education, health, and woman’s empowerment are really supporting their ageing population.

One in nine persons across the world is aged 60 or older. This is projected to increase to one in five by 2050.

On the eve of the conference, the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) also issued a ‘Policy brief on Ageing in Asia’.

“We live in a world in which globally the population is ageing, and a demographic transition taking place,” said Yasuo Fukuda, a former Prime Minister of Japan and Chair of APDA, in his introduction.

“Having never encountered ageing on a global scale before, humanity is still grappling with this issue through a trial and error approach, and despite multitudinous research on the topic, a one-size-fits-all solution has yet to be found,” he said.

“This report too is limited in its scope, and is by no means a compendium of the vast amount of research that has been done on ageing and social security, and does not offer definitive solutions,” Fukuda added. “What it does aim to do is to clearly set out issues surrounding this topic and present critical views that can help Asian countries develop better policies for population ageing.”

While sharing the details and findings of the policy brief, Fukuda said that it is necessary to strengthen the gathering of statistics, in particular the census system, and to establish family registration systems in order to identify the paid subscribers and beneficiaries of social security, and to avoid a breakdown in the system resulting from the so-called tragedy of the commons. He also emphasized that there need to promote research and implement policies to stem very low fertility and so avoid too rapid a decline in population.

According to the Policy Brief, issued by APDA, the world’s ratio of population ageing will increase from 9.3 percent to 16.0 percent from 2020 to 2050. In Asia, the ratio will more than double, from 8.8 percent to 18.2 percent. In more developed regions and less developed regions, the ratios will rise from 19.4 percent to 26.5 percent and from 7.4 percent to 14.4 percent respectively.

“Asia’s population, however, is estimated to age rapidly thereafter so that by 2050, the ratio in six countries and areas will be 30 percent or over, which is considered the ratio at which point a country can be described as a super-ageing society, 20-30 percent in 11 countries and areas, 10-20 percent in 25 countries and areas, and less than 10 percent in nine countries and areas (and less than 7 percent in five of these nine),” the brief said.

“The projections show that around 90 percent of Asian countries will be either ageing or super-ageing societies by 2050. Ageing in Asia is particularly characterized by the rapid pace of ageing in East Asian countries,” the report said.

“Whereas it took more than 40 years for the ratio of population ageing to double from 7 percent to 14 percent in Western countries, it took less than 25 years in countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and Japan.”

According to the report, the projections of the ratio of population ageing in 51 countries and areas in Asia in 2020, the ratio is estimated to be 15 percent or over in five countries and areas (including Japan, South Korea, and Singapore), 10-15 percent in eight countries and areas (including Thailand, China, and Sri Lanka), 7-10 percent in seven countries (including North Korea, Vietnam, and Malaysia), 5-7 percent in 11 countries and areas (including India, Iran, and Indonesia), and less than 5 percent in 20 countries and areas (including Cambodia, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Iraq).

The data show that in 2020, 20 countries and areas will reach the 7 percent mark, which is considered the benchmark indicator of an ageing population, while 31 countries and areas will fall short of the 7 percent mark. Countries and areas with a young population structure will make up about 60 percent of all countries and areas in this region.

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Who is Really Responsible for Collapse of Zimbabwe’s Health Services?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:29:05 +0000 Frederic Mousseau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152765 Frédéric Mousseau* is Policy Director at the Oakland Institute

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Many children under 15 in Zimbabwe discover their HIV status only when they fall critically ill later in life. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/ IPS

By Frederic Mousseau
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 27 2017 (IPS)

On October 22, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had removed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following outrage and concerns raised by his appointment just two days before.

A Guardian article cited WHO member states and activists “who noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime.” Another article explained “Mugabe, 93, is blamed in the West for destroying Zimbabwe’s economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister.”

Regardless of Robert Mugabe’s fitness for the position, these commentaries do call for a clarification around who and what exactly destroyed the Zimbabwean economy and its health system.

Zimbabwe’s economic collapse started after the land reform initiated in 2000. The reform intended to remedy the skewed land repartition that was inherited from the British colonial era, during which 5,000 white farmers took possession of around half of the country’s land, leaving several million black Zimbabweans on overcrowded, less fertile land.

For many observers, it became clear in the 1990s that giving land back to black farmers was necessary to fight hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe. As stated by the World Bank “land redistribution was critical for poverty alleviation, essential for political sustainability, and imperative for increasing economic efficiency.” However, rich countries rejected the government’s requests for support for a smooth reform.

In a letter to the Zimbabwean government in November 1997, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development, Ms Claire Short bluntly stated: “I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.”

It is largely this flat rejection that resulted in the radical and violent implementation of the land reform in 2000 through which the white farms were confiscated and transferred to black farmers. Lacking resources, technical skills, and adequate support, the black farmers who resettled in these farms were initially often not able to restore the previous levels of production.

The drop in production and export earnings contributed to the economic crisis faced by the country in the early 2000s. However, ten years later, development experts recognized the reform as a success, having transferred the land occupied by some 4,000 white farmers to over one million black Zimbabweans who had restored agricultural production and improved their livelihoods.

The reform was met with anger by several Western governments, who took punitive measures including economic sanctions and cutting down development aid to the country. In the years following the reform, aid from the UK and the US went through a major shift that prioritized emergency food aid distributed by Western NGOs over public funding to health and agriculture assistance.

In the following years, despite a prevalence of HIV/Aids exceeding 20% – one of the highest in the world- Zimbabwe was excluded from the Global Fund against HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis. The disease claimed 3,000 lives every week – 170,000 per year by the mid-2000s. The number of orphans reached over 910,000 in 2005 – 20 percent of the country’s children.

Life expectancy dropped to 34 years in 2005 compared to 61 in the 1990s. The anti-retroviral drugs remained inaccessible to the majority of HIV/Aids infected people – out of 295,000 persons needing treatment, only 9,000 received it in 2004.

In May 2005, a grant of USD 10 million was provided through the Global Funds against a request for help of more than USD 300 million made by the government. Even with this grant, Zimbabwe remained the least assisted country with just over USD 1 per capita provided by the Global Fund.

A comparison with other countries in the region shows the extent of the punishment: South Africa received five times more per capita funding; Namibia, 58 times; and Swaziland, 112 times. Furthermore, Zimbabwe was also excluded from other aid packages such as the US President Initiative on HIV/Aids and the PEPFAR program.


In March 2005, the Director of UNICEF warned that “despite the world’s fourth highest rate of HIV infection and the greatest rise in child mortality in any nation, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in the region” and appealed to donors “to look beyond politics and to differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe.”

The extent of Western outrage created by the nomination of Robert Mugabe as WHO Ambassador is an indication that the so-called donors still don’t look beyond politics. They have never been able to digest the land reform –the threatening precedent that Zimbabwe created in the region, where land and agriculture are still much dominated by white farmers and agribusiness corporations (in South Africa, 80 percent of the agricultural land is still controlled by white farmers today).

It is quite ironic that the WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, comes from Ethiopia, a close ally of the US and the UK. Both countries largely subsidize Ethiopia’s economy and don’t miss an occasion to praise its economic policy despite the government-led land grabbing and forced evictions of local farmers and pastoralists for the establishment of large-scale plantations.

Interesting food for thought for the new generation of African leaders.

* Frédéric Mousseau has conduccted numerous reviews and studies for international development agencies, including several research missions to investigate the crisis in Zimbabwe in the 2000s.

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Deliberate Famine Should Be a War Crime, UN Expert Sayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/deliberate-famine-war-crime-un-expert-says/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deliberate-famine-war-crime-un-expert-says http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/deliberate-famine-war-crime-un-expert-says/#comments Wed, 25 Oct 2017 16:39:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152706 The deliberate starvation of civilians could amount to a war crime and should be prosecuted, said an independent UN human rights expert. In a new report, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver examined the right to food in conflict situations and found a grim picture depicting the most severe humanitarian crisis […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 25 2017 (IPS)

The deliberate starvation of civilians could amount to a war crime and should be prosecuted, said an independent UN human rights expert.

In a new report, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver examined the right to food in conflict situations and found a grim picture depicting the most severe humanitarian crisis since the UN was established.

Hilal Elver. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

“Contrary to popular belief, causalities resulting directly from combat usually make up only a small proportion of deaths in conflict zones, with most individuals in fact perishing from hunger and disease,” she said.

Conflicts have proliferated around the world and with them has come a rise in food insecurity.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the proportion of undernourished people living in countries in conflict and protracted crises is almost three times higher than that in other developing countries.

In five conflict-stricken countries alone, approximately 20 million are facing famine and starvation.

Another estimated 70 million people in 45 countries currently require emergency food assistance, a 40 percent increase from 2015.

Since the human right to food is a universal one, Elver noted that countries and other parties to conflicts must act and avoid using food as a weapon of war.

“If the famine [occurs] from deliberate action by state or other players, using food as a weapon of war is an international crime and there is an individual responsibility to that,” she said.

“The international community should make it clear that this is a war crime or a crime against humanity, otherwise we will give a certain permission [to it],” Elver continued.

In Yemen, rates of acute malnutrition have increased dramatically since the beginning of the civil war in 2015, making it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Approximately 60 percent of the population are food insecure while 7 million are at risk of famine and acute food insecurity, a situation that is expected to worsen without an increase in emergency food assistance.

According to the World Food Programme, over 3 million children and pregnant or nursing women are acutely malnourished, making them susceptible to communicable diseases such as cholera.

Already, a severe cholera outbreak that began in April has killed over 2,000 people and has exacerbated the nutrition crisis.

Parties to the ongoing conflict have played a significant and deliberate role in the decreased access to food, including a Saudi Arabia-imposed aerial and naval blockade on a country which previously imported 90 percent of its food.

Airstrikes carried out by the coalition have also targeted the country’s agricultural sector including farms, further limiting access to food, while sieges by Houthi fighters in numerous cities have prevented staple items from reaching civilians.

Ta’izz, the Middle Eastern country’s second-largest city, was besieged by Houthi fighters for over a year, causing blockages in supply routes and dire food shortages.

Elver said that Yemen is a “clear situation” where famine constitutes a crime against humanity in which both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis are responsible.

She noted however that there is still widespread impunity in situations when famine is deliberately caused and pointed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as an example which has not prosecuted individuals responsible for such crises.

Though UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has included the Saudi-led coalition in his annual shame list for violations against children, Elver called for the creation of legal mandates to prevent famine and protect people’s right to food.

This includes the development of international legal standards to reinforce the norm that deliberate starvation is a war crime or a crime against humanity and the referral of the most serious cases to the ICC for investigation and potential prosecution.

The formal recognition of famine as a crime can prevent the tendency of governments “to hide behind a curtain of natural disasters and state sovereignty to use hunger as a genocidal weapon,” the report states.

“We can see the famine coming, it doesn’t just happen in one day,” Elver said.

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Let’s Harness the Egalitarian Spirit of Sport for Global Cohesionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lets-harness-egalitarian-spirit-sport-global-cohesion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-harness-egalitarian-spirit-sport-global-cohesion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lets-harness-egalitarian-spirit-sport-global-cohesion/#respond Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:19:25 +0000 Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152658 Ann Therese Ndong Jatta is Director UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Football match to raise awareness on environmental issues in Watamu, Kenya jointly organized by UNESCO, UN Environment and UN Information Center. Credit: @UNESCO

By Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 24 2017 (IPS)

24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948.

In his message to the world the UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres remarked, “When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world”.

Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives

Consider this. On assuming the presidency, one political masterstroke by the late Nelson Mandela was his use of sports to foster the country’s healing process. As hosts of the 2010 World Cup, white and black fans stood and cheered the country’s team together, forgetting past antagonisms.

Mandela said, “Sport can create hope where there was once only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. Sport has power to change the world.”

Sport eliminates barriers and stereotypes in a way few other human endeavors do, rendering innocuous differences in gender, religion, and cultures, and uplifting the importance of team work, discipline and rules of the game for a team to score and win. It is the ideal opportunity to teach team-building, peace and appreciation of the other person’s qualities and abilities.

A team implies a group of people linked to a common purpose. Though human beings learn and work together various professional and personal settings, sports and games strengthen human ties most, endearing most effectively the pain or joy of losing or winning.

That team spirit and a belief in promoting peace, justice, happiness for the whole of humanity are what define us at the United Nations. That is what drives what we do to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The values of sports are universal. Olympism is a philosophy that combines the qualities of body, mind and spirit. Blending sports with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational values of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

This is especially relevant today in a world where values are increasingly under threat, with wars, violent extremism, especially gender-based violence and civil conflicts becoming the order of the day.

Research has provided evidence of the benefits and outcomes of physical education and sports in schools, for both children and for educational systems, which include children’s physical, lifestyle, affective, social and cognitive development.

According to data from the Education for all Global Monitoring Report 2015, the number of children enrolled in primary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa rose by 75 % to 144 million between 1999 and 2012, and this is attributed partly to the abolition of school fees in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, as well as to an increase in the number of teachers.

This is a population that is a potentially powerful force for cohesion if all these schools have compulsory physical education class.

At UNESCO, Values Education contributes to the development of self-confidence, healthy lifestyle choices, life skills, and an understanding of rules and rights. Values-based education is at the heart of the Kenya Curriculum Reform, supported jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF.

Sport is often seen as of secondary importance to the traditional or ‘legacy’ subjects. However, sensitizing young people to the universal values of sport, such as fairness, inclusion, equality and respect, can equip them with the knowledge and skills needed for the SDG 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

In East Africa, UNESCO together with members of the UN family is working tirelessly to build a culture of peace, human rights, gender equality and to tackle the social and human dimensions of climate change among other initiatives seeking social transformations for human dignity. Towards these values, we work with youth through sports and cultural activities to unleash their potential and make their dreams possible to achieve.

As enablers of youth growth and development, sport and social actions can lead to raising of awareness of other topics, like gender, domestic violence, drug abuse, breaking stereotypes, religion, race and identity.

Our imagination is the only limit to what sports can achieve for humanity. In a remarkable feat, during the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, a team of Refugees, comprising of 10 members from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria, used sports to break the cycle of poverty, hopelessness and to give courage to millions of people around the world about the power of will, discipline, excellence, solidarity and hard work. Through Sport, the team became the heroes, powerful and inspirational stories of triumph over adversity.

As we celebrate UN day today, our shoulders are squared for the task of giving our youth the tools they need to live happy, fulfilled lives, thus cascade their inner and outer healthy state of beings to a greater human and global cause.

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Lack of International Action on Rohingya Crisis Called a “Disgrace”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace/#respond Mon, 23 Oct 2017 22:29:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152655 As the crisis in Myanmar reaches unprecedented levels, frustration is at its peak as the international community remains slow to respond and act cohesively. Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since the renewal of violence on August 25, making it the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world. The UN warns that up to […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

As the crisis in Myanmar reaches unprecedented levels, frustration is at its peak as the international community remains slow to respond and act cohesively.

Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since the renewal of violence on August 25, making it the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The UN warns that up to one million—representing the entire Muslim population of Rakhine state—could flee to the neighboring nation by the end of the year if the crisis continues.

Rohingya refugees have provided the outside world with glimpses of their horrific experiences, from villages being burned and attacked to women being raped by Burmese soldiers.

One 26-year-old Rohingya woman recounted her story to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) rapid response team, deployed to Bangladesh to assess the situation on the ground, stating:

“I woke up at 3 a.m. and my house was on fire. There was chaos, everyone was running everywhere, they were shooting to kill us, they took women and dragged them away to rape them. They did not spare anyone—even children were beaten and tortured…I have tried for a long time to live in peace, even during difficult times, but this attack was horrible.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the government’s campaign against the minority a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” while others have said that the violations may amount to crimes against humanity.

Those that are able to reach Bangladesh often arrive to no food or shelter and are at risk of disease outbreaks as the resource-strained South Asian nation struggles to cope with the influx.

Despite the evidence for the scale of violence and suffering, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has largely remained silent on the crisis while divisions in Security Council (UNSC) have prevented decisive progress towards any measure.

With no end in sight, IPS spoke to the Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures and the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Idriss Jazairy about the crisis in Myanmar, as well as his frustrations and appeals for action.

Q: What is your response to the crisis in Myanmar and what is the Geneva Centre doing to help end the crisis?

I have sent, to all members of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a letter appealing to them to organize a special session on the desperate situation of the Rohingyas that have been pushed back from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

I have not received one single answer.

About 650,000 people have been pushed out mercilessly—all of their property has been burned or destroyed, many have disappeared in large numbers, women have been raped, children have been killed—and nothing happens.

I know in terms of politics there are all sorts of elements that need to be taken into account, but there comes a time when a situation of a violation of human rights exceeds certain proportion, whatever the politics, we should speak up.

Otherwise it shows that, in the UNHRC, politics have definitely taken precedence over values and this would be the beginning of the end of this Council.

It would be enough to have 16 states taking the initiative for a special session to take place.

Can’t we find, in the whole of the membership, a few others that claim they are sensitive to human rights to respond and take this initiative?

In 2007, the UNHRC held a special session on Myanmar because there were some peaceful demonstrations that had been exposed to violent responses by the military.

The situation today is 100 times worse, so I cannot imagine why there isn’t a similar reaction.

Q: Do the atrocities in Myanmar amount to crimes against humanity or even genocide?

I am not qualified to say but I believe that some more qualified than myself have talked at least about ethnic cleansing.

It is a case of ethnic cleansing but no one has responded to my appeal for a special session which would in fact have had a dual purpose—first, to impose, under UN control, a return of these people that have been brutally thrown out of a country in which they were born and lived for generations and secondly, to come to the help of Bangladesh which is one of the poorest countries that finds it difficult to face these financial consequences of the mass arrival of refugees.

We therefore have a double moral obligation.

The lives of all 650,000 people who have lost their homes—doesn’t that justify just a one-day special session when we have special sessions about every other country, every other crisis in the world?

I do not understand that. My multilateral faith in human rights is being undermined.

Q: If such a special session were to happen, what are you hoping would result from that?

A recognition of the right of the Rohingyas to go back to their land, including a recognition of their status of citizens.

I am aware that this [crisis] is the consequence to a great extent of British colonizers who would take some labor from what was then India and bring them over to Myanmar to work.

The source of the problem goes back centuries but you can’t redo history. These people have been there for generations, sometimes hundreds of years.

There must be a proper law that gives them the right to citizenship—citizenship should not be based on race.

Bangladesh should also be given compensation and people or victims themselves must be given compensation for what they have undergone.

It is true that there has been a group of violent protestors that have carried out some unacceptable violent actions like attacking police stations and we would not condone these actions.

But let us have a commission of inquiry that looks into all the issues and submit an official report, including to determine the nature of the crimes in this awful situation.

Q: If the crisis continues, should the international community take more drastic measures? Some are pushing for an arms embargo or targeted financial sanctions, what are your thoughts on that?

I have always been hesitant about sanctions.

Myanmar was exposed to sanctions and then the sanctions were removed. Neither did they improve their performance when the sanctions were on nor obviously since the sanctions have been removed and it has now become even worse.

So for me, this is not a question of just sanctions.

It is a grave issue—I understand the Secretary-General raised the issue four times in the Security Council (UNSC)—and I hope that the international community and UN system can join forces in addressing every aspect of this situation.

But the UNHRC not having a special session on this now is a disgrace.

Q: What is your response to the current divisions within the Security Council on the crisis as both Russia and China cite issues of sovereignty and ask to exercise “patience”?

This is why I say: I understand the politics behind these issues but I do feel that the situation has reached such a peak that there must be action.

The UNSC provides the politics, and the UNHRC provides the ethics. But where are the ethics now?

Idriss Jazairy is the former Algerian Ambassador and has long worked with the UN and other organizations.

Among other high-level positions, he has been the President of UN agency IFAD and the Chief Executive of a consortium of international organizations ACORD.

In 2015, Jazairy was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

A ministerial-level pledging conference is set to be held in Geneva on 23 October to help meet the most urgent needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

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Innovation for Climate-Smart Agriculture Key to Ending Hunger in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/#comments Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:15:32 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152645 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Vaccination of live stock in Samburu County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/LUIS TATO

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya , Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

Some parts of Kenya are reeling from the effects of probably the worst drought in the last 20 years. With nearly 3.4 million people food insecure, Kenya’s food security prognosis looks gloomy, with climate change and natural resource depletion set to pose even greater risks in the long term.

Rising temperatures and unpredicatble rainy seasons could destroy crop yield gains made in the recent past, and the threats of extreme weather such as flooding, drought and pests becoming more real. These will make production more difficult and spike food prices, hurting the prospects of reaching SDG 2 on ending hunger.

Already, many countries in Africa have seen a decline in food security, with other key factors contributing to this deterioration being urban growth, greater household expenditures on food and decrease in international food aid programmes.

The recent drought across Eastern and Southern Africa has slowed down programmes for adaptation and resilience-building, forcing a shift towards alleviating hunger and malnutrition-related crises.

Now observing 40 years since opening operations in Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that in the first quarter of 2017, 2.6 million Kenyans were already classified as severely food insecure. Up to three consecutive years of poor rains have led to diminished food production and exhausted people’s coping capacities particularly in the North Eastern, Eastern and Coastal areas of Kenya.

FAO is at the centre of response initiatives that require significant collaboration by the national and county governments, the private sector, non-profit organisations and other stakeholders, whose objectives include developing structurally-sound food systems and fixing dysfunctional markets.

One example is an agreement between FAO and Kenya signed in early 2017 to provide immediate assistance for affected pastoral households in the country. So far, it has provided animal feed and water, animal health programmes and purchase of animals for slaughter (de-stocking).

A return on investment study carried out by FAO in Kenya in July 2017 revealed that providing animal feed for key breeding stock – at a cost of USD 92 per household – ensured their survival and increased milk production. As a result, there was a return of almost USD 3.5 on every USD 1 spent.

FAO’s highly committed and passionate Kenya Representative, Dr. Gabriel Rugalemasays, “given the long-term threats, sustainable agriculture as envisaged under SDG 2 calls for innovation towards climate-smart agriculture. Some of the goals must be better seeds, better storage, more water-efficient crops and technologies that put agricultural data into the hands of farmers”.

FAO Representative Gabriel Rugalema visits Nadzua Zuma in Kilifi. Nadzua lost 36 of her 40 cattle during Kenya’s 2016-2017 drought. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


It also requires looking into areas with untapped potential. This is what the FAO-led Blue Growth initiative aims to achieve towards building resilience of coastal communities and restoring the productive potential of fisheries and aquaculture.

Kenya has a large aquatic biodiversity, with estimates of sustainable yield of between 150,000 and 300,000 metric tonnes, while the current production level is only about 9,000 metric tonnes per year. Optimal harnessing of resources is often hindered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and gear.

Targeted improvements include regulatory changes, research and development, and access to markets, all aimed at empowering the small fish farmers who contribute consistently to the seafood supply chain.

As Africa’s population continues to grow, the continent can only harness the demographic dividend by creating a huge working-class youth base. Agriculture is undoubtedly the one sector that can absorb most of the unemployed young people in Kenya as well as semi-skilled to highly skilled labour.

FAO is part of the efforts by the government of Kenya to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture.

Through National Youth in Agribusiness Strategy (2017-2021), Kenya seeks to enable access by youth to friendly financial services for agricultural entrepreneurship, improve access to markets, promote climate-smart agricultural technologies and address cross-cutting challenges including gender disparities, cultural barriers, alcohol and substance abuse and HIV & AIDS.

A young man, inspecting and packaging fingerlings for sale – Kakamega County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


FAO together with the United Nations family in Kenya is determined to work with the government and people of Kenya to turn the country’s youthful population into an agricultural asset, because agriculture presents the best opportunity for attaining Vision 2030 and achieve SDG 2.

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Global Interfaith LGBTIQ Leaders Convene at UN for Expert-level Dialoguehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:43:14 +0000 Patricia Ackerman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152638 Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

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Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

By Rev. Patricia Ackerman
NEW YORK, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

On September 29, 2017, Yvette Abrahams, an indigenous religious leader from Cape Town, South Africa who served as the country’s Commissioner For Gender Equality for five years, gasped when she learned that South Africa had just voted in favor of United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. She could not believe that the United States had not.

Rev. Patricia Ackerman

Just the month before, waves of concern arose in her as she read the text of the Nashville Statement, an anti-LGBTIQ document authored by the conservative Christian Right in the US, with the aim of equipping pastors with a consolidated justification for excluding LGBTIQ people in both spiritual and civic life.

Abrahams herself has lived through the effects of US based anti-LGBTIQ efforts that are are exported to Africa, leading to deaths, rapes, and beatings. Working against anti-LGBTIQ violence in South Africa and across the continent has been her life’s work, so Abrahams immediately noted that many of the Nashville Statement signers had also funded anti-gay legislation across Africa.

This is why she plans to travel to the UN Headquarters in New York on October 26th for the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue, to begin a meaningful and healing conversation with her religious opponents.

Abrahams is joined by LGBTIQ faith leaders around the world – including supporters of the Nashville Statement – for the first expert-level international discussion by interfaith LGBTIQ religious leaders at the UN about how to work together to end abuses, violence, beatings, and murders of LGBTIQ people, often because of religiously sanctioned beliefs.

Yvette Abrahams knows that this dialogue can save lives. She was a key player during End Hate Campaign in the South African West Cape, working to highlight hate violence against LBGTIQ people.

“As late as 2008 there were no monitoring mechanisms or reporting systems for such crimes, and political leaders did not even recognize this as a problem”. She recalls a conversation she had with a Ugandan activist:

“We realized we were both dealing with criminalization, and then police abuse, which made reporting almost impossible. In Uganda, the arrests of LBT/Kuchu people weren’t always recorded because the police were using sexuality to extort money instead of pressing charges – making it difficult to track police abuse.

She explained to me how if you’re arrested in Uganda, the police lock you up and intimidate you, and because they steal your money, they won’t report the arrest. This violence has been made invisible.

Abrahams is joined by an LGBTIQ Baptist minister from Uganda named Brian Byamukama, a Baptist minister from Uganda, who has seen first-hand how the efforts of the Christian Right at the UN have rippled out to his community. In Uganda, same-sex acts are punishable by death.

Abrahams and Byamukama recount the story of a Ugandan lesbian woman who was raped: “So many people – church people and members of my own family – told me that this was God’s way of punishing me for being a lesbian. Because I was unwilling to ‘change’, they said, God was using this method to teach me a very hard lesson…I was hurt in two ways; firstly I was dealing with the pain and humiliation of the rape, and secondly I suffered because of my people’s judgement.”

Both leaders say that rape as an ‘instrument of God’ is common in South Africa and Uganda. A number of conservative, moderate, and progressive religious organizations such as C-Fam, The Salvation Army, The Lutheran Church, numerous Catholic religious orders in consultation with the UN including Sisters of Mercy, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Big Ocean Women, many other are attending.

Noticeably absent from the consultation will be the Office of the Holy See at the UN, the Vatican. Father Roger Landry, Attaché, has stated he “doubts they will attend.” About their participation in the UN event, Byamukama said: “This is where we stand together or fall apart. We cannot afford to waste energy fighting each other. The UN is the closest thing we have to a world government. It is where conversations about love and justice should happen on a planetary scale.”

Religious leaders participating at the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue hail from Uganda, Malawi, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Ghana, and Brazil. This is the first time LGBTIQ faith leaders will be formally addressing communities at the UN, where international leaders will hear these stories from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Indigenous, and Buddhist faith traditions.

There was also the US’s recent affirmative vote in the UN resolution on a ban on the death penalty for homosexuality as a renewed call for religious leaders to commit to end to criminalization and violence of LGBTIQ people. “The death penalty for consensual same-sex acts currently exists in 13 countries, but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear that all of us are born free and equal. It’s time for faith leaders to come together where we agree, which is to treat others the way we would like to be treated – free from violence. The golden rule of do unto others is something we can all agree on.”

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Global Campaign to Smoke Out Tobacco Firms from UN Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-campaign-smoke-tobacco-firms-un-body/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 19:44:24 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152603 The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO). A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of […]

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A cigarette vendor in Manila sells a pack of 20 sticks for less than a dollar. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

The world’s tobacco companies – which have been widely ostracized in the UN system – may be ousted from one of their last fortified strongholds in the United Nations: the International Labour Organization (ILO).

A letter signed by nearly 200 public health organizations and labour rights groups worldwide is calling on the Governing Body of the Geneva-based UN agency to expel tobacco companies from its subsidiary membership.

“Tobacco companies victimize farmers and other workers through practices including unfair pricing strategies, abusive contracts and child labour. They have no place in a UN agency concerned with fair labour practices and human rights,” says the coalition.

The Governing Body – which will hold its upcoming 331st sessions beginning October 26 through November 9 —is expected to decide whether to sever tobacco companies from its partnership with ILO.

“If the ILO is to live up to its promise of promoting rights at work, encouraging decent employment opportunities and enhancing social protection, the decision should be an easy one: the Governing Body must prohibit all members of the tobacco industry from participation in the ILO,” says the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK).

Asked whether the world’s poorer nations — where “big tobacco” still has a heavy presence — are losing the battle in the war against smoking, Mark Hurley, International Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns at CTFK, told IPS that for tobacco companies, “low- and middle-income countries represent the new frontier for a deadly industry”.

Tobacco companies, he pointed out, are increasingly targeting low- and middle-income countries that often lack the regulations and resources to protect themselves against manipulative industry practices.

“Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries and if current trends continue, they will account for 80 percent of the world’s tobacco-related deaths by 2030,” said Hurley.

Any action taken by the ILO against tobacco companies would bring the agency in line with the Geneva-based World Health Organization’s (WHO) international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Last month, the UN Global Compact in New York also took action to cut ties with tobacco companies, CTFK said.

Asked about the Global Compact, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters last week
companies that are part of the Global Compact have to report on the activities they carry out.
If there are concerns about different transactions by those companies, he pointed out, “that can affect their membership in the Compact as well as the sort of nature of their participation with the Global Compact”.

And so the Global Compact will need to be in dialogue with all the various companies, (including tobacco-related companies), in terms of what they’re doing and in terms of “socially responsible business practices”, he added.
The letter, addressed to members of the Governing Body, says tobacco companies use membership in respected organizations like the ILO to portray themselves as responsible corporate citizens when in fact they are the root cause of a global tobacco epidemic that is projected to kill one billion people worldwide this century.

Tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, to mislead the public about the health risks of their products and to attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives, the letter added.

“Tobacco companies that spread death and disease across the globe should have no place in a UN agency, or any responsible organization”, the letter adds.

The signatories to the letter include the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the Voluntary Health Association of India, Action on Smoking and Health and Corporate Accountability International, the African Tobacco Control Alliance, the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention, the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, the Austrian Council on Smoking and Health, the Dutch Alliance for Smoke-Free Society and the French Alliance Against Tobacco, among others.

Hurley told IPS “the good news is we know how to reduce tobacco use”.

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obligates its 181 signatory Parties to implement proven, effective measures in their countries, such as increasing tobacco taxes, placing graphic, picture-based health warnings on tobacco packs, and banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

And countries around the world, including those that are low- and middle-income, are taking bold action to implement these life-saving policies, he added.

This includes Nepal, where graphic health warnings cover 90 percent of tobacco packs – the biggest in the world, Uruguay, where public places are 100 percent free of secondhand smoke and in the Philippines where steadily increasing tobacco taxes contributed to a nearly 20 percent decline in tobacco use in six years.

Other countries must take note of these success stories and move to fully implement the FCTC to protect their own populations from the death and disease of tobacco use, he added.

Hurley also said the WHO already states that the tobacco industry’s interests are in clear conflict with public health goals in its international treaty, the FCTC, as agreed to by the 181 signatory nations.

However, other UN agencies like the ILO continue to work with these companies despite public knowledge that tobacco companies aggressively market their deadly products to children and other vulnerable populations around the world, mislead the public about the health risks of their products and attack every effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

“We urge the ILO to join other international organizations and agencies acting to cut ties with tobacco companies,” he declared.

Meanwhile, a report titled “ILO Cooperation with the Tobacco Industry in the Pursuit of the Organization’s Social Mandate”, submitted to the last meeting of the Governing Body in February 2017, provides background information on the ILO’s current activities in the tobacco sector, as well as on the role and responsibilities of the ILO within the broader framework of the WHO’s FCTC, to help the tripartite members of the Governing Body to make an informed policy decision regarding the ILO’s future engagement with the tobacco industry in pursuit of its mandate.

The study said tobacco is produced in 124 countries, and some 60 million people are involved in tobacco growing and leaf processing worldwide.

In pursuit of its mandate, the Office has engaged with member States and social partners, including the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and its affiliates, globally and in a number of member States, to support the realization of fundamental principles and rights at work in tobacco growing communities.

Globally, reduced smoking rates in some industrialized economies have been generally offset by increased rates in developing and middle-income countries.

Tobacco cultivation is labour intensive, involving field preparation, making nursery beds, transplanting seedlings, continual care as the plants grow, harvesting and curing. As with many agricultural crops, most tasks involved in tobacco growing are hazardous, the report continued.

“Tobacco harvesting presents a unique hazard for children and adults – green tobacco sickness – which is nicotine poisoning caused by dermal contact with green tobacco. Given the need to handle leaves with care to avoid damage, manual harvesting predominates. This holds true despite the growth of the market for e-cigarettes, for which tobacco can be harvested mechanically,” the study noted.

There has been a significant geographical shift in tobacco leaf growing in recent years, with important consequences for employment in the sector.

And there have been substantial drops in employment in tobacco leaf growing between 2000 and 2013 in several countries, including Turkey (from 583,500 in 2000 to 66,500 in 2013), Brazil (from 462,800 in 2002 to 342,200 in 2013) and the United States (from 51,700 in 2002 to 14,100 in 2013). In contrast, increases were seen in Argentina (32,300 in 2000 to 58,400 in 2010), India (62,800 in 2001 to 89,300 in 2013) and Zimbabwe (8,500 in 2000 to 56,900 in 2011).

Characterizing the nature of the workforce, the report said that for many countries “tobacco growing, in contrast to manufacturing, still functions as a safety valve which safeguards livelihoods for millions of people who for the most part belong to vulnerable social groups”.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:54:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152578 While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health. In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls […]

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A mother and her child from West Point, a low-income neighbourhood of Monrovia, Liberia. The 10-worst countries to be a mother in are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls from a productive and prosperous future.

“It’s not just about money,” Editor of UNFPA’s report Richard Kollodge told IPS.

“Economic inequality reinforces sexual and reproductive health inequality and vice versa,” he continued.

Despite its recognition as a right, access to sexual and reproductive health is far from universally realized and it is the poorest, less educated, and rural women that continue to bear the brunt of such inequalities.

Globally, women and girls in the poorest 20 percent of households have little or no access to contraception and skilled birth attendants, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or child birth.

In the developing world, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and this is more prevalent among rural, poor, and less educated women.

These inequalities are particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa.

In Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Nigeria, use of skilled birth care is at less than 20 percent among the poorest women compared to at least 70 percent among the wealthiest.

The lack of power to choose whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit
girls’ education, delay their entry into the paid labour force, and reduce earnings, trapping women in poverty and marginalization.

“The absence of these services in these women’s lives leads them to be poor or makes them even poorer,” said Kollodge.

A woman with no access to family planning may be unable to join the labor force because she has more children than intended.

In high-fertility developing countries, women’s participation in the labor force remains low, from 20 percent in South Asia to 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once in the paid labor force, underlying gender inequalities lead to women earning less than men for the same types of work.

Though the gender wage gap has decreased in recent year, women still earn 77 percent of what men earn globally.

At the current pace, it will take more than 70 years before the gender wage gap is closed.

Further gaps can be seen for women who have children—a “motherhood penalty,” Kollodge said—as well as for women of color and those with less education.

Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less than their literate counterparts and a majority of the world’s estimated 758 million illiterate adults are women.

This can also be traced to harmful gender norms that keep girls from school, and creates a vicious cycle that keeps women in the bottom rung of the economic ladder and without access to sexual and reproductive health services.

If all girls stayed in and received secondary education, it’s estimated that child marriages would decrease by 64 percent, early births by 59 percent, and births per woman by 42 percent.

Among the countries that have made most progress is Rwanda, which has effectively closed the gap between poor and rich households in access to contraception.

Kollodge told IPS that Rwanda’s achievement shows that a low-income country can advance access to sexual and reproductive health.

“The policies that [countries] adopt really make a difference. There are things you can do, regardless of your GDP, to improve well-being and reduce inequality in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he said.

Rwanda’s success is partly due to the expanded availability and integration of family planning services in each of the country’s villages and health centers.

But inequality in sexual and reproductive health is not just a developing country issue, Kollodge noted.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American woman.

Meanwhile, the government is working to repeal health coverage which risks returning to a time where many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

Already, the Donald Trump administration has rolled back access to contraception, affecting up to 60 million women.

Elsewhere, the U.S.’ decision to cut funding to UNFPA is affecting the health and lives of thousands of women.

In 2016, the government provided 69 million to UNFPA programs, helping avert almost one million unintended pregnancies and prevent 2,300 maternal deaths.

“Any reduction to UNFPA has a direct impact on women and adolescent girls in developing countries,” said Kollodge.

The report calls to make information and services more available and accessible and recommends a number of actions including increasing access to child care which can help women join the labor force and climb out of poverty.

This will lead to not only better reproductive health outcomes, but also a healthier economy and society as a whole.

“If you eliminate these inequalities in accessing sexual and reproductive health and thus give women control over their own lives, you are going to make a lot of headway in economic inequality,” Kollodge told IPS.

He said that though eliminating inequalities in sexual and reproductive health alone will not be enough, countries will never achieve economic inequality if half of the world’s population lacks access to health services and rights.

“And if you continue to have extreme economic inequality, it drags down whole economies and prohibits countries from rising out of poverty fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Kollodge continued, pointing to SDG 1 which aims to end poverty by 2030.

The internationally adopted SDGs also include a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries by accelerating income growth of the poorest 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.

“If you don’t do that, you are never going to achieve shared prosperity,” Kollodge said.

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