Inter Press ServiceHealth – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 22 Sep 2017 19:12:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-doctrine-hypocrisy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:38:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152169 In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations. During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times. “Our government’s first duty is […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” he told world leaders.

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But in a global world that relies on each other on issues such as economic growth and environmental protection, can a “me first” approach work?

Peace Action’s Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin says no.

“To say one country first over the other certainly is not going to deal with these issues,” he told IPS.

Though the President highlighted the need to work together to confront those who threaten the world with “chaos, turmoil, and terror,” his actions seem to imply otherwise.

Starting with withdrawing from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global emissions to threatening funding cuts to not only the UN but also to its own State Department which handles diplomacy and foreign assistance, the U.S. seems to be far from working together with the international community.

As Trump received applause upon speaking of the benefits of the U.S.’ programs in advancing global health and women’s empowerment, he has also sought to eliminate such programs including the gender equality development assistance account ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and has already withdrawn all funds to the UN’s Population Fund.

“Talk is cheap when you don’t fund the efforts you tout,” said Oxfam America’s President Abby Maxman.

“Mr. Trump continues on a path that will cost America its global influence and leadership,” she continued.

Martin echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We talk about working together but we don’t seem to do the things that you need to do to work together, which is making sure you have the right diplomacy, supporting the UN, and supporting other international fora.”

He particularly pointed the U.S.’ refusal to participate and sign the new nuclear ban treaty.

Adopted in July, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is now open for signature and will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty.

However, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states including the U.S. boycotted the negotiations and announced they do not ever intend to become party to the document.

Instead, President Trump used his address to lambast both North Korea and Iran for their alleged pursuits of nuclear weapons and make war-inciting claims.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”

Martin noted that no country would act kindly to threats of annihilation.

Such threats have instead only served to increase tensions.

Since Trump threatened “fire and fury” on 8 August, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests.

The President continued to say that the Iran Deal is the “worst” and most “one-sided” agreements, threatening to withdraw from it.

As nuclear tensions continue escalate, Trump’s threats of war and unwillingness to cooperate gives security to none, particularly not Americans.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the President for his remarks and noted the hypocrisy in using the UN stage of peace and global cooperation to threaten war.

“He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea…By suggesting he would revisit and possibly cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, he greatly escalated the danger we face from both Iran and North Korea,” she said.

“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”

Martin highlighted the importance of diplomacy rather than intimidation.

“Diplomacy is the hardest thing. It is harder to get together at a table and work on a deal but that’s what needs to be done.”

President Trump did express his support for the UN and its work, citing former President Harry Truman who helped build the UN and made the U.S. the first nation to join the organization.

He referred to Truman’s Marshall Plan which helped restore post-World War II Europe, but still went on to urge nations to “embrace their sovereignty.”

However, it was Truman that spoke of a “security for all” approach during a conference which established the UN Charter in 1945.

He urged delegates to use this “instrument for peace and security” but warned nations against using “selfishly,” stating: “If any nation would keep security for itself, it must be ready and willing to share security with all. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

“Out of this conflict have come powerful military nations, now fully trained and equipped for war. But they have no right to dominate the world. It is rather the duty of these powerful nations to assume the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.

That is why we have here resolved that power and strength shall be used not to wage war, but to keep the world at peace, and free from the fear of war.”

Truman’s collective action approach helped prevent another devastating world war.

However, President Trump’s non-cooperation and combative words signal a darker future in global affairs.

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Aung San Suu Kyi: A Leader in Denial?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/#comments Wed, 20 Sep 2017 06:23:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152150 After finally breaking silence with a much anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed the world as she refuses to acknowledge the plight of her country’s Rohingya community. In a 30-minute televised address, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

After finally breaking silence with a much anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed the world as she refuses to acknowledge the plight of her country’s Rohingya community.

Aung San Suu Kyi

In a 30-minute televised address, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her government does not fear “international scrutiny” over its management of the crisis in Rakhine.

Suu Kyi, who decided not to attend the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York, said she nevertheless wanted the international community to know what her government was doing.

“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence,” she said in her first public address since violence reignited after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security posts on 25 August.

“We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict.”

However, her speech was filled with claims considered dubious by many worldwide as she refused to address the reality on the ground in Rakhine including the military’s alleged campaign of killing and burning villages.

“Her speech was disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst,” founder of Fortify Rights Matthew Smith told IPS, adding that some of her claims were “grotesquely untrue.”

A Denial of Atrocities

Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Suu Kyi said that security forces are exercising “all due restraint” and that there have not been any “clearance operations” since 5 September.

However, Human Rights Watch released new satellite imagery showing that at least 62 villages in northern Rakhine were burned between August 25 and September 14, some of which can even be seen hundreds of kilometers away at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

Numerous global figures have reiterated the urgent scale of the crisis, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein who called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Suu Kyi that she has a “last chance” to reverse the army’s offensive and if she doesn’t, the crisis will be “absolutely horrible” and may not be reversible in the future.

The spike in refugees fleeing the conflict since 5 September indicate ongoing violence, which Suu Kyi also denied, stating that most Muslims have stayed in Rakhine and that the crisis is not as severe as the international community thinks.

“It’s incredulous,” said head of Amnesty International’s UN Office Sherine Tadros to IPS about Suu Kyi’s statement.

Rakhine State has a population of approximately three million, one million of whom are Rohingya Muslims.

The UN has estimated that over 400,000 Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh in just three weeks. They have warned 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.

“She has the responsibility to speak out, and at the very least we would expect for her to acknowledge what is going on in the ground in her own country,” Tadros said.

Balancing a Political Tightrope

Though it is unclear why she continues to support a military that placed her under house arrest for 15 years and has prevented her from becoming the President, some say Suu Kyi is walking a tightrope in protecting her own political interests.

This includes keeping the Myanmar’s powerful military, known as the Tatmadaw, happy.

After winning the 2015 elections, Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, entered a power-sharing agreement with the Tatmadaw which includes control over a quarter of all seats in parliament.

The military also retains control over its own budget and key ministries including home affairs, defense, and borders, making it the real power in northern Rakhine.

And the head of Tatmadaw General Min Aung Hlaing has explicitly and consistently spoken out against the Rohingya community, claiming that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar cannot “accept and recognize” them.

“Rakhine ethnics [Buddhists] are our indigenous people who had long been living there since the time of their forefathers,” he said in a Facebook post.

Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority population have also had little sympathy for the Rohingya since 2012, when deadly violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left at least 200 dead and displaced 90,000.

It seems that Suu Kyi may be between a rock and a hard place. However, many believe that she does not only have the responsibility, but also the power to advance human rights in the country.

“As the moral leader of the country and as the senior most political leader, she is certainly in a position to shape the way that people in the country think about human rights, the way they think about the situation in Rakhine state,” Smith told IPS.

Tadros echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Even if you don’t have much power over the military, you don’t have to be an apologist for them.”

“She has political concerns and that is a normal thing for any leader, but the fact that the political concerns are taking precedence over the killing and injuring of thousands of people…it’s just beyond words,” she continued.

Suu Kyi also reminded the international community in her speech that Myanmar is a newly democratic country that is still learning its way, stating: “After half a century or more of authoritarian rule, now we are in the process of nurturing our nation.”

“We are a young and fragile country facing many problems, but we have to cope with them all… we cannot just concentrate on the few,” she continued.

Tadros said that excuse is not good enough and that she can show leadership without the state collapsing.

“Myanmar has had decades to deal with the issue and has never done it in an effective way and the Suu Kyi administration is no different,” Smith said.

A History of Violence

Though Suu Kyi claimed that her government has made efforts in recent years to improve living conditions for Muslims living in Rakhine without discrimination, Myanmar’s government has long disputed the Rohingya people’s status as citizens.

Since 1982 when they adopted the biased citizenship law, the country has enacted a series of discriminatory policies including restrictions on movement and exclusion from healthcare, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

However, Suu Kyi has consistently remained silent on the plight of the Rohingya and has instead perpetuated their discrimination and exclusion.

In her address, Suu Kyi refused to use the “Rohingya” by name, only referencing it when she spoke of ARSA which she said are responsible for “acts of terrorism.”

When asked if this continues to perpetuate the narrative that Rohingyas are terrorists, Smith said yes.

“She is in a position now to actually save lives, she is in a position now to stop atrocities. Not only is she failing to do that, but she is making matters worse,” he told IPS.

He added that she is contributing to a narrative that may push more civilians to attack Muslim populations in the country.

Suu Kyi said all those who have fled to Bangladesh will be able to return after a process of verification, and added that she wants to find out what the “real problems” are in Rakhine.

“We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We’d like to talk to those who have fled, as well as those who have stayed,” she said.

Though there is no end in sight to the country’s crisis, Smith expressed concern that her promised actions may coerce the population to disavow their ethnic identity.

“That is not a [verification] process to allow the population to self identify as Rohingya, it’s a process to try to systematize and document this population as Bengali and it’s not a pathway to full citizenship.”

Tadros questioned the fate of Rohingya that do return, stating: “The people who have fled have the right to return. But return to what? Return to what sort of conditions? Return to a country where they have no rights and for this cycle of violence to happen again?”

“This isn’t about being able to physically cross the border to go back to your house anymore, this is about using this moment to actually get the Rohingya the rights that they deserve,” she added.

She urged for Suu Kyi and the international community to do everything in their power to stop the violence, while Smith called on the Security Council to declare the crisis as a threat to international peace and security.

“What is needed right now is action. The Security Council needs to start preparing itself to act towards international justice,” he concluded.

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Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

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Rohingya: A Trail of Misfortunehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/rohingya-trail-misfortune/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-trail-misfortune http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/rohingya-trail-misfortune/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 12:29:28 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152121 Forsaken and driven out by their home country Myanmar, tens of thousands of Rohingyas are struggling to survive in Bangladesh’s border districts amid scarcities of food, clean water and medical care, mostly for children and elderly people. In a desperate flight to escape brutal military persecution, men, women and children in the thousands have walked […]

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Rohingya people alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Farid Ahmed
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

Forsaken and driven out by their home country Myanmar, tens of thousands of Rohingyas are struggling to survive in Bangladesh’s border districts amid scarcities of food, clean water and medical care, mostly for children and elderly people.

In a desperate flight to escape brutal military persecution, men, women and children in the thousands have walked for miles, travelled on rickety fishing boats or waded through the Naf — the river that divides Bangladesh and Myanmar.“It was a nightmare…the crackle of bullets and burning flames still haunt me.” -- Rebeka Begum

“I saw my houses being burned down and left behind all our belongings… my father was killed in front of us,” 12-year-old Nurul Islam told IPS as he reached Teknaf border in Bangladesh on Sep. 13. “In a bid to escape along with my mother and a younger brother, we walked almost a week to reach Bangladesh following a trail of people streaming out of Rakhine villages for cover.”

Islam is one of over 400,000 Rohingyas who have made the defiant and arduous journey to neighbouring Bangladesh in the past three weeks. Many of them were shot dead, drowned in the river or blown up in landmines placed in their path of escape.

Yet every hour, the number of new arrivals is rising. There seems no end to the steady flow of Rohingyas carrying sacks of belongings – whatever they could save from burning – or children on their shoulders or laps, or carrying weaker elderly people on their back or bamboo yokes. As they arrived, they were devastated, but happy to find themselves still alive – at least for the time being.

Rohingya children wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

But aid groups, both local and international, warn that this already overpopulated, impoverished South Asian nation is now overwhelmed by the sudden influx of refugees.

They said lack of food and medical aid are leading to a humanitarian catastrophe as starving or half-fed people arrive already suffering from malnutrition, and an inadequate safe water supply and poor sanitation facilities could cause breakouts of waterborne diseases.

“We’ve already detected many cases of skin or diarrhoeal diseases,” Ibrahim Molla, a physician from Dhaka Community Hospital now aiding refugees in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR and International Organization for Migration (IOM) held a joint press conference in Dhaka on Thursday where officials estimated the number of fleeing Rohingyas might reach one million as their influx continued.

The latest round of Rohingya crisis unfolded as Myanmar’s army conducted a brutal crackdown on “Rohingya militants” who attacked a security outpost killing solders in the last week of August. Though not independently verified, according to eyewitness accounts of fleeing Rohingyas, the Myanmar army torched village after village, the homes of ethnic Rohingya Muslims, in reprisal, killing hundreds.

Myanmar authorities denied the allegations, but satellite images released by a number of international rights groups corroborated the claim made by the Rohingya refugees.

In addition to arson, the Myanmar soldiers were also accused of raping Rohingya women.

Local people in Teknaf also said they saw huge fires and black smoke billowing across the Naf River from the Myanmar side several times.

The UN refugee chief called the situation a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine state in Myanmar.

It was not the first time the Rohingyas, mostly Muslims, have been targeted and faced discrimination in their hometowns of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they lived for centuries. In the past few decades, they have been stripped of citizenship, denied basic rights and made stateless, leading the UN to describe them as “the most persecuted people on earth”.

As the Rohingyas crossed finally the border after their death-defying trudge to Bangladesh’s southeast districts of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban, many had no safe shelter, food or drinking water in a country of 160 million people, though Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to accommodate all on humanitarian grounds.

Though many countries started sending aid and others made promises, many Rohingya refugees were still starving or passing days half-fed. Those who were strong enough to jostle fared the best as local volunteers distributed limited amounts of food and water.

In many places when trucks carrying aid were spotted, starving people blocked them and desperately tried to grab food. The distribution process turned risky as the inexperienced volunteers threw food to the crowd of refugees from the trucks.

As they scuffled for food and water, many people were injured in stampedes or caned by the people given responsibility to discipline the refugees crowding for aid.

Thousands of Rohingyas, mostly women and children, took refuge on the sides of roads or other empty spaces under open sky. Some of those who were lucky could manage a sheet of polythene to save them from heavy monsoon rains that flooded a third of Bangladesh in August.

The Bangladesh government has already demarcated an area in Cox’s Bazar to build new refugee camps and started mandatory registration of Rohingyas before giving them official status as refugees.

Rebeka Begum, who had just alighted from a boat, was searching fruitlessly for food for her child. “We’re now paupers as we’ve left behind everything in Myanmar to save ourselves from the wrath of military,” she said, horror still sounding in her voice.

A Rohingya woman Rebeka Begum with her child poses for a photo at Shahparir Dip, Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

“It was a nightmare…the crackle of bullets and burning flames still haunt me,” Rebeka Begum said.

Amena Begum was collecting filthy water from a canal for her children to drink as she found no other options. “I urgently need water for my children… what can I do now?” she asked.

Local people said that since there were not enough toilets for so many people, thousands of refugees were defecating on the roadsides or on the banks of canals, from which they were also collecting water for drinking and other purposes.

UNICEF said over 200,000 Rohingya children were at risk and hundreds of unaccompanied Rohingya children, separated from both parents and relatives in the ongoing violence in Rakhine, were in Cox’s Bazar and looking for family members. Many of these children are traumatised by terrifying memories of murders and arson in homes and their experience on path while fleeing.

Save the Children in Bangladesh said in a statement on Sept 17 that a shortage of food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support might cause another catastrophe.

“Apart from diarrhoea and skin diseases, different types of communicable diseases might spread fast here,” warned Dr. Ibrahim Molla, adding that the shortage of space the refugees had for living and poor hygiene support was to blame.

Molla said the group was running a medical camp in Teknaf, and had obtained government permission to open a makeshift hospital for the refugees.

All local hospitals in Cox’s Bazar and the port city of Chittagong were teeming with Rohingya patients – many with bullet wounds and some with injuries from landmines.

Mohammad Alam was looking for medical support for his feverish son as he arrived on a boat crossing the Naf. He was advised by local people to walk a few kilometres more to find a hospital.

Alam, a farmer by profession, started off again in search of the hospital and a refugee camp.

“I’m lucky, as I’ve survived along with all my family members,” Amam said. But his pale and weary face denoted a grim and uncertain future, like his fellow Rohingyas who had no idea when or if they would ever be able to return home despite the global pressure on Myanmar to bring an end to Rohingyas’ persecution.

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Civilians ‘Direct Targets’ as Conflict Spreads in Central African Republichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/civilians-direct-targets-conflict-spreads-central-african-republic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-direct-targets-conflict-spreads-central-african-republic http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/civilians-direct-targets-conflict-spreads-central-african-republic/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:18:08 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152066 Rape, torture, pillage, murder and forced displacement by the Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) rebel forces are the new horrifying realities faced by communities in Basse-Kotto, Central African Republic, according to the prominent London-based human rights group Amnesty International. The UN peacekeeping force in the region, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission […]

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A UN peacekeeper on patrol in Bria, Central African Republic. Credit: UN Photo/Nektarios Markogiannis

A UN peacekeeper on patrol in Bria, Central African Republic. Credit: UN Photo/Nektarios Markogiannis

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 2017 (IPS)

Rape, torture, pillage, murder and forced displacement by the Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) rebel forces are the new horrifying realities faced by communities in Basse-Kotto, Central African Republic, according to the prominent London-based human rights group Amnesty International.

The UN peacekeeping force in the region, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), tasked with civilian protection, has been unable to curb these systematic abuses, Amnesty says.

“Civilians are not accidental victims in this conflict, they are direct targets…if the UN’s mandate in the Central African Republic is to mean anything, civilians must be better protected,” said Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser, Joanne Mariner.

Many Central Africans are increasingly cynical about MINUSCA’s capacity to conform to even a limited civilian protection mandate, according to Mariner.

Referring to MINUSCA’s mandate, Mariner told IPS that the UN should review troop capacity, training, resource allocation and use of rapid reaction forces in hot-spots all over the country.

Notably, MINUSCA has saved the lives of many Central Africans, according to Amnesty International. However, with troops stretched thin and public confidence in the mission thinning, “MINUSCA’s failures are putting thousands of people in danger,” said Mariner.

The Basse-Kotto prefecture, one of the 14 prefectures in the landlocked African nation, has witnessed a surge in atrocities since early May 2017, when the UPC brutally attacked civilians in Alindao town resulting in at least 130 suspected dead.

In the four months since, the death toll is estimated to have climbed to several hundred, according to credible sources, says Amnesty International.

With tens of thousands having fled the violence and more than 100,000 displaced since the conflict exploded in April 2017, Basse-Kotto is reportedly characterized by ghost towns and nearly empty villages.

Significantly, the Basse-Kotto region had remained largely unaffected by the country’s fragile security situation up until the string of attacks in May in the towns of Alindao, Nzangba and Mobaye.

Asked about the spread of major fighting into this region of the country, Mariner told IPS, “The government maintains little to no control in most areas outside Bangui, the country’s capital, giving rival de facto armed groups leeway to expand their power and territory.”

Skirmishes between the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance and predominantly Christian anti-balaka militias plunged the nation into a civil war when Séléka forces overthrew former President François Bozizé in March 2013. His successor, Michel Djotodia, the country’s first ever Muslim president, assumed power for a year before stepping down in January 2014.

As a result, the Séléka rebel alliance split into various factions, such as the UPC, and each faction began a de facto terror campaign in different regions of the country- targeting civilians.

Successive ceasefire agreements since 2014 have failed to stabilize the country, which has a population of about 4.5 million people.

Muslim UPC forces target Christian civilians perceived of supporting opposing armed groups, while Christian anti-balaka militias target Muslim civilians under the guise of ‘self-defense’, according to Amnesty.

Mariner told IPS that both Muslim and Christian communities are “lumping together the atrocities committed by armed groups with the civilian population.”

“The problem is now the Muslim population versus the Christian population…we don’t want a religious conflict; we absolutely refuse it, but there’s very clearly an inter-communal conflict,” one of Alindao town’s religious figures told Amnesty.

Asked about the religious nature of the conflict, Mariner told IPS that the conflict is sectarian-based rather than religious-based.

“The armed groups attack civilians because they see them as supporters of a rival armed group and not based on any religious doctrine or ideology…religion is merely a dividing line between the different groups,” said Mariner to IPS.

The increasingly sectarian nature of the violence is perhaps the most worrying aspect of the current crisis, according to Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher- Balkissa Ide Siddo.

The level of anger and hatred as well as the desire to humiliate and degrade has reached unprecedented levels in the country, as witnessed by the UPC’s use of rape as a systematic weapon of war in Basse-Kotto.

At least 600,000 people are currently displaced within the country, the highest number since August 2014, and another 438,700 are refugees in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to Amnesty.

Emergency action is needed in Central African Republic to prevent further imminent atrocities, Mariner told IPS.

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Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/floods-hurricanes-droughts-climate-sets-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=floods-hurricanes-droughts-climate-sets-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/floods-hurricanes-droughts-climate-sets-agenda/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 12:19:56 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152014 When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, […]

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A group of women in Mogadishu, Somalia, after leaving Toro-Toro, 100 kilometres away, because of a lack of water and food. Credit: OCHA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 11 2017 (IPS)

When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.“Hunger crises will escalate unless we invest more in addressing root causes”

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

Consecutive climate shocks have resulted in back-to-back droughts, leaving scarce pasture for livestock and more than 8.5 million people in need of food assistance. Credit: FAO

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

A mother gives her daughter a drink of rehydrating salts at a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. The country is currently experiencing a severe drought and UN humanitarian response has been upped to prevent the situation from worsening. March 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Drought Does Not Need to Become an Emergency

The three UN food agencies chiefs made their plea after they visited projects that treat dwindling herds to limit further livestock deaths and met drought-affected people receiving food rations.

“It is essential to invest in preparedness and provide farmers and rural communities with knowledge and tools to safeguard themselves and their livelihoods. We’ve witnessed here that saving livelihoods means saving lives – it is people’s best defense against drought,” said Graziano da Silva.

“A drought does not need to become an emergency,” said Houngbo, president of IFAD. “We know what works.” In the Somali region, where there is investment in irrigation systems, water points, rural financial institutions, health and veterinary services and other long-term development projects, the communities can better sustain themselves and their livestock through this devastating drought. “This is what we need to build on,” he added.

“We have seen clearly here that working together the three UN food agencies can achieve much more than alone,” said Beasley, head of WFP.

‘Hunger Knife-Edge’

In Ethiopia, it is estimated that 9,5 million are hungry. There, drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions. In the specific case of Somalia, the United Nations reports that 3,3 million people—that’s one third of its estimated 11 million inhabitants—are now on a ‘hunger knife-edge.’

In Somalia more than six million people are affected, of whom only about three million have been reached with food rations. See: Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edge

Africa is prey to a steady process of advancing droughts and desertification, posing one of the most pressing challenges facing the 54 African countries, home to more than 1.2 billion people.

Right now, it is estimated that as much as two-thirds of Africa is already desert or dry lands.

While this land is vital for agriculture and food production, nearly three-fourths of it is estimated to be degraded.

The Killing Drought

According to the United Nations, droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe, and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.

The consequences are there: widespread poverty, hard socio-economic conditions, and many people dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

In such a dire situation, the choice is either to fight or flee. In fact, UNCCD estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification. See: Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

Drought is among the most devastating of natural hazards – crippling food production, depleting pastures, disrupting markets, and, at its most extreme, causing widespread human and animal deaths, according to FAO.

In recent years, droughts have resulted in some of the most high-profile humanitarian disasters – including the recent crises in the Horn of Africa (2011) and the Sahel (2012) regions, which threatened the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

A Chinese Case

Meanwhile in China, participants in the Ordos summit are expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

For now, the Asian giant, China, has set a target: to reduce by 50 per cent all of its desertified areas by 2020, said Zhang Jianlong, Chinese Minister of State Forestry Administration. “A fire burns harder when we all add some tinder.”

China has developed industrial models to combat desertification, and reported “the area affected by desertification has declined for three inventory periods in a row, since 2004.”

The world’s most populated country has managed to avert the desert in some areas. In fact, only 20 years ago, the summit’s venue, Ordos, the city and burial place of Ghengis Khan was an empty desert. Today it is a green, modern city.

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Refugee Camps “bursting at the seams” in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/refugee-camps-bursting-seams-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-camps-bursting-seams-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/refugee-camps-bursting-seams-bangladesh/#respond Sat, 09 Sep 2017 06:26:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152002 A dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing Myanmar is placing a huge strain on already very limited resources in Bangladesh, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said. In the last two weeks alone, an estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees had sought safety in Bangladesh amid escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. “The situation is very […]

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New arrivals struggle to find space in the already-overcrowded Kutupalong camp, which saw over 16,000 new arrivals within a week of the outbreak of violence in Myanmar on 25 August 2017. Credit: UNHCR/Vivian Tan

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2017 (IPS)

A dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing Myanmar is placing a huge strain on already very limited resources in Bangladesh, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

In the last two weeks alone, an estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees had sought safety in Bangladesh amid escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

“The situation is very grave,” said UNCHR Bangladesh’s spokesperson Joseph Tripura to IPS.

“There are people everywhere and refugees are scattered…[the camps] are at a point of saturation,” he continued.

Two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in south-east Bangladesh has seen its population more than double, from nearly 34,000 to over 70,000 Rohingya refugees.

“These are people that have been walking for days, many of them are tired and hungry and many are traumatized,” Tripura said.

Though many arrive on foot, refugees are now seeking alternative and risky routes including a five-hour boat ride across the Bay of Bengal.

One family of seven, one of whom was born just nine days ago, told UNHCR that they walked three days through the jungle to Myanmar’s border before taking a fishing boat to neighboring Bangladesh.

At least 300 boats carrying refugees arrived at Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration reported.

“There are many more waiting for boats,” another family told UNHCR.

“It would take a month to bring them all.”

Though both families reached Bangladesh’s shores safely, others are not so lucky.

A boat carrying at least five children sank on Wednesday and Bangladeshi border guards have reportedly pulled out the bodies of up to 40 Rohingya Muslims last week.

Humanitarian agencies have also reported that many refugees are arriving with serious medical needs including some that have been injured by gunshots and bomb blasts.

Myanmar’s military has repeatedly denied targeting Rohingya Muslims.

With refugee camps already “bursting at the seams”, many new arrivals have no shelter, food or water and limited access to health services.

UNHCR said that refugees are now squatting in makeshift shelters along the road and on available land in the border areas of Ukhiya and Teknaf.

The agency estimated that up to 300,000 Rohingya Muslims may cross the border into Bangladesh.

Tripura told IPS that there is an urgent need for more life-saving resources including more land and shelters. “We are not able to reach everyone and it is growing faster,” he said.

The agency also called for swift action to end the conflict in Myanmar.

“[The Government of Myanmar] needs to understand the underlying root causes of this problem and they should create a conducive environment so these refugees can feel safe to go back—it is a political decision that needs to be made as early as possible,” Tripura said.

“We have been dealing with this situation for a long time, but we are not seeing any improvement…it is getting worse,” he concluded.

The Rohingya Muslim community has faced a long history of repression in Myanmar where their status as citizens is disputed and their movement and access to social services is restricted, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

Prior to the most recent exodus, Bangladesh had already been hosting an estimated 500,000 Rohingya Muslims for over three decades.

The influx began after Myanmar’s military launched “clearance operations” following attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 by an armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Many have appealed to Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi including the Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu who fought apartheid in his home country of South Africa.

“For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people,” Tutu wrote in a letter.

He added that it was “incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country” that “is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people.”

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Deadly Asbestos Still Widely Used Around the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/deadly-asbestos-still-used-around-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deadly-asbestos-still-used-around-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/deadly-asbestos-still-used-around-world/#respond Fri, 08 Sep 2017 18:15:38 +0000 Brook Spencer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151994 Brook Spencer is the Community Outreach Director with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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Asbestos is a toxic material that is known to cause mesothelioma, a form of cancer. The material is still used across the globe exposing people to the resulting mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a toxic material that is known to cause mesothelioma, a form of cancer. The material is still used across the globe exposing people to the resulting mesothelioma.

By Brook Spencer
WALLINGFORD, CT, US, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

The worldwide impact cancer has is well known. It is the second leading cause of death globally, and according to the World Health Organization, was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 deaths are due to cancer and of those deaths approximately 70 percent occur in low and middle-income countries.

Asbestos is a global problem that leads to real health risks – namely a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma. September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day, the one day a year mesothelioma is in the spotlight.

The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos – a naturally occurring fibrous material that was commonly used in building materials in the United States through the 1970s. While use in the United States has decreased, worldwide asbestos is a booming trade.

Asbestos is still being used in approximately 70 percent of the world, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Some countries still rely heavily on the import and export of the mineral. Russia is its biggest exporter; they are estimated to have exported 56 percent of the asbestos used globally in 2015. A report estimated Russia’s exports to be worth $191 million U.S. dollars. The total global trade for 2015 was estimated to be $344 million U.S. dollars.

A true testament of Russia’s devotion to the cancer-causing mineral is their city Asbet, named after the Russian word for asbestos. Residents of the city have described layers of the asbestos dust seen throughout the city and in their homes.

In addition to the heavy exporting of asbestos from Russia, the mineral’s industry has been growing in both China and India. From 2007 to 2015, China’s exports increased by more than 39 percent each year and India’s grew by nearly eight percent each year. These two countries, along with Brazil and Kazakhstan, made up the remaining 44 percent of exports for 2015.

 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring carcinogenic fibrous material. Anthophyllite asbestos, pictured here, is just one of the six different types of asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring carcinogenic fibrous material. Anthophyllite asbestos, pictured here, is just one of the six different types of asbestos.

 

The United States forbearance on the production of the hazardous material has been a driving force in the exporting of asbestos. According to the United States Geological Survey, the last U.S. producer of asbestos ceased operations in 2002. Since its closure the United States has been dependent on imports to meet manufacturing needs. In 2016, U.S. consumption of asbestos was estimated to be about 340 tons, essentially unchanged from that of 2015. Asbestos is still being used in approximately 70 percent of the world, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Some countries still rely heavily on the import and export of the mineral. Russia is the biggest exporter of asbestos; they are estimated to have exported 56 percent of the asbestos used globally

Mesothelioma Awareness Day, like those in previous years, has always been focused on reducing the asbestos demand worldwide. It is currently banned in at least 60 countries around the world. Although some of these bans are partial or allow exceptions, most are complete bans on the importation and manufacture of the material.

Six countries are expected to ban the mineral completely by 2020. Canada, Moldova, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines are all expected to have a complete ban on the material in the coming years.

The goal of the bans is to decrease the rates of mesothelioma worldwide. It is estimated that as many as 43,000 people around the world die annually from mesothelioma. The highest rates of mesothelioma occur in Australia, Belgium, and Great Britain, with an average of 30 cases per million people. Through 2020, the rate of death for malignant mesothelioma in developed countries is expected to increase by 5 – 10 percent annually.

A detriment to the available statistics regarding the disease is lack of reporting. While the highest rates of incidence for mesothelioma occur in the Genoa Province of Italy, West Cape of Australia, and the Northern Yorkshire area of the United Kingdom the inconsistency of reporting leads many to believe that there are other pockets where mesothelioma impacts are greatly felt. The Classification of Diseases (ICD) did not include mesothelioma until their tenth revision so it is possible that Asia, Africa, and South America have a higher rate of mesothelioma than is currently known.

Mesothelioma can be caused by limited exposure to asbestos so reducing the amount of it used around the world is paramount. As Mesothelioma Awareness Day nears there is hope that with each passing year there will be fewer diagnoses. Fight  to #ENDMESO on September 26.

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How Aid in Cash, Not Goods, Averted a Famine in Somaliahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aid-cash-not-goods-averted-famine-somalia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-cash-not-goods-averted-famine-somalia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aid-cash-not-goods-averted-famine-somalia/#respond Fri, 08 Sep 2017 06:52:51 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151981 In February, when the government of Somalia sounded an alarm to the UN about risks of a famine in the country, the UN’s Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), besides quickly shuffling a response team, was acting from a steep sense of history. The Office, instead of sending out massive aid packages, distributed cash […]

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Young girls line up at a feeding centre in Mogadishu. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

In February, when the government of Somalia sounded an alarm to the UN about risks of a famine in the country, the UN’s Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), besides quickly shuffling a response team, was acting from a steep sense of history. The Office, instead of sending out massive aid packages, distributed cash vouchers to families who could spend it to buy goods according to their needs.

The famine between the years 2010 and 2012, which killed more than a quarter of a million people in the country, offered important lessons to the aid community. This spring, when poor rainfall led to large scale crop failure and a rise in malnutrition, the freshly elected government raised immediate alarm. A looming crisis stood to affect nearly 6.7 million people in the country, or more than half of the population.

The new expansion of a cash-based strategy, largely owing to Somalia’s strong network of money vendors, ultimately formed the basis of a formal team, called the Cash Based Response Working Group 2017.

This group, drawing from reports of 2011, formulated new means of distributing cash, quickly and efficiently. Jordi Casafont Torra, a humanitarian affairs officer with the OCHA, and who worked directly with teams on the ground to respond to the crisis, explained the distribution of money to all those affected.

The new ways of sending out money were many. The most popular one, he told IPS, was the use of an electronic voucher called a SCOPE card. Funded by the World Food Programme, these cards could be easily used in all local stores that quickly became handy with the new form of payment. The cards, much like debit cards, were recharged with money, and could be swiped to check out items from local stores.

Other vouchers, like “water vouchers” directly targeted specific supplies. Still other vouchers, like those that came with a cash-for-work incentive, put more people to work to build the local infrastructure, the lack of which often impeded work, in exchange for money. Slowly, Somalis began shaping the economy.

Within a month since teams were first alerted to the worsening drought conditions, 1.4 million people clocked out of danger. By May, the numbers had climbed to 3 million.

“Cash enables affected people to choose and buy from local shops, having the double impact of both assisting persons and supporting the local economy,” Torra said. The ramping up of cash-based operations had set the stage for a locally supported and a sustainable economy.

Similarly, Somalis, a highly mobile savvy population, also increasingly took to mobile money. In a country where nearly 73 percent used mobile money, SIM cards loaded with money were distributed. In June, for instance, over a million people used mobile money to buy items.

The average amount of money, adjusted to inflation rates or other circumstances, was calculated by a measure called the minimum expenditure basket (MEB). In the month of July, this money was billed to 89 dollars for every household.

Ultimately, data from feedback mechanisms, for instance, a UK Government’s Department of International Development (DFID) funded call centre in Mogadishu, showed that 75 per cent of the money was used on food, and the rest was used to buy household items. Some even used the money to pay off small loans.

Increasingly, it became clear that a new flow of international aid, cash, and not goods, worked to mitigate the risks of an immediate famine. For now, in spite of acute risks in some parts of the country, Somalia has successfully averted a food crisis.

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Cholera in North-Eastern Nigeria: An Endemic Outbreakhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/cholera-north-eastern-nigeria-endemic-outbreak/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cholera-north-eastern-nigeria-endemic-outbreak http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/cholera-north-eastern-nigeria-endemic-outbreak/#respond Wed, 06 Sep 2017 20:12:22 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151955 A recent cholera outbreak in North-Eastern Nigeria has resulted in at least 186 suspected cases and 14 deaths as of Sep. 1, according to Borno State’s Ministry of Health. The outbreak, which coincided with this year’s annual World Water Week, occurred in Muna Garage, a camp sheltering an estimated 44,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on […]

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Nurse treats cholera victims. Credit: IPS

By Lindah Mogeni
NEW YORK, Sep 6 2017 (IPS)

A recent cholera outbreak in North-Eastern Nigeria has resulted in at least 186 suspected cases and 14 deaths as of Sep. 1, according to Borno State’s Ministry of Health.

The outbreak, which coincided with this year’s annual World Water Week, occurred in Muna Garage, a camp sheltering an estimated 44,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno state, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A rapid response to the outbreak by Borno State’s Ministry of Health, along with WHO and other humanitarian partners, is underway.

The response includes, but is not limited to, establishing cholera treatment centers, distributing statewide diarrheal disease kits, increasing risk awareness and community outreach, initiating oral cholera vaccination campaigns in the camp’s affected areas and training health workers on cholera infection, prevention and control (IPC).

Cholera outbreaks are endemic in North-Eastern Nigeria. According to an overview in the Pan-African Medical Journal, such endemic outbreaks are prone to occur in conflict-affected areas where civil unrest has disrupted public sanitation services.

Borno State is one of Boko Haram’s strongholds.

Boko Haram terrorists have damaged or destroyed 75 percent of the water and sanitation infrastructure in North-Eastern Nigeria, leaving about 3.6 million people without the most basic water services, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Most Northern states in Nigeria rely on hand dug wells and contaminated ponds as sources of drinking water. A cholera outbreak occurs when untreated diarrhea from cholera patients gets into the water supplies, according to the Pan-African Medical Journal overview.

“When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow,” said UNICEF’s Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Sanjay Wijesekera, on Aug. 30.

The best preventive measures against cholera include basic hygiene and sanitation practices as well as access to clean water, according to WHO’s assessment. This ties in with the sixth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to “ensure water and sanitation for all” by 2030.

Steps towards achieving this goal involve ‘not just keeping up with cases’ but also implementing programs to ‘prevent further spread and early detection of cholera’, according to WHO.

Significantly, cholera outbreaks in North-Eastern Nigeria have occurred prior to the dawn of Boko Haram in 2002.

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What Charities and Relief organizations do to alleviate poverty in the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 06:29:05 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151925 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

Extreme poverty remains one of the world’s biggest challenges. According to the United Nations, 767 million people live in extreme poverty around the world. Although world society has managed to lift nearly 1 billion people out of extreme poverty – in 1999 it was estimated that 1.7 billion were affected by extreme poverty – the unprecedented rise of conflict and of violence in the Arab region has worsened the socioeconomic situation of vulnerable population segments in many countries. On 22 February 2017, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations –Stephen O’Brien – stated to the United Nations Security Council that 67% of the population in Syria is living under conditions considered as extreme poverty. In another Arab country affected by war and conflict – Yemen – the World Bank estimates that poverty affects 62% of the population, whereas the World Bank’s estimates this number to be at approximately 22% for Iraq or even as high as 40% in territories controlled by DAESH. Inevitably, conflict and violence have worsened the situation in the Arab region.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The 2017 World Charity Day is an opportunity to highlight the potential for an increased role by charity organizations and philanthropies in eradicating poverty worldwide through volunteer work and charitable activities. The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is an encouraging example of a wealthy businessman who has devoted his life to addressing poverty and humanitarian issues through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The think tank, According to Purpose in Action – specialized in enhancing donor contributions – estimates that the “annual global charitable giving amounts” is at least USD $410.71 billion a year. Put in a wider context, the amount given annually for charitable causes is higher than the nominal GDP of countries such as of the United Arab Emirates (USD 407 billion), Norway (USD 391 billion) and South Africa (USD 317 billion).

The Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index for 2016 – measuring charitable activities in 140 countries – show that charitable causes motivate people from all over the world to contribute to advancing common causes and address poverty. Countries from the Arab region score high in this index: The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were among the leading countries in the world that promoted charitable causes. When the survey respondents were asked whether they would participate in helping a stranger, 81%, 79% and 78% of the respondents in Iraq, Libya, Kuwait respectively stated that they would commit themselves to help someone in need. Helping people in need is inherent to the spirit of the Arabs and is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran in which Muslims are obliged to give Zakat – charity to the poor in specific amounts. Surat Al-Isra from the Holy Quran [17:26] says:

“You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant.”

The war in Syria has had a tremendous negative impact on the civilian population. More than 12 million people have been forced on the move. Although countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have donated significant funds to alleviate the miseries of the Syrian people, the real impact is delivered through the active involvement of NGOs, IGOs, UN entities and grass-root movements working on the ground. According to the latest donor report provided by Islamic Relief USA, more than 9 million people have benefited from charitable contributions channelled through this organization. The International Rescue Committee has also assisted more than 1 million Syrian civilians in need of aid and support. Other relief organizations – such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration – are working tirelessly to provide support to Syrians desperately in need of humanitarian assistance.

The war in Yemen is another example of a country that has benefitted from the goodwill of charities working to alleviate extreme poverty and to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population. The ongoing famine in the country is currently affecting up to 17 million people. In response, Saudi Arabia allocated USD 66.7 million to UNICEF and WHO in June this year in response to the cholera outbreak in the country. Other countries in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates has disbursed over USD 2 billion in humanitarian and in development aid – for the period of 2015 – 2017 – to Yemen and USD 200 million for Palestine partly through charities.

These examples show that charitable organizations and governments can work jointly to provide assistance and protection to Syrian and Yemeni civilians living in extreme poverty and distressing situations in their respective countries. It also indicates that charitable organizations can play the role as a mediator – without being regarded with suspicion by the belligerents – in offering assistance to the civilian population on the ground.

Although the praiseworthy activities of charities contribute to alleviate poverty in the short-term, identifying a long-term solution to address extreme poverty requires a more holistic and inclusive approach to deal with its root-causes. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored so as to accelerate economic growth and to enable societies to stand on their feet. The implementation of unilateral coercive measures on countries affected by war continues to further exacerbate poverty, curb economic growth and destroy the middle class whether in Syria or in Gaza. The return to peace is the first required step.

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Small Entrepreneurs Emerge as Backbone of Bangladesh’s Rural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 16:15:54 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151915 She was born in the early 1950’s to an ultra-poor family in Kundihar, a remote village of Banaripara of Barisal division in Bangladesh. She was a beautiful baby and her father named her ‘Shahndah Rani’ which means ‘Queen of Evenings’. But in reality her life was far from that of a queen. Born into acute […]

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Shahndah Rani. Credit: Shahiduzzaman

By Shahiduzzaman
Banaripara (Barisal), Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

She was born in the early 1950’s to an ultra-poor family in Kundihar, a remote village of Banaripara of Barisal division in Bangladesh. She was a beautiful baby and her father named her ‘Shahndah Rani’ which means ‘Queen of Evenings’. But in reality her life was far from that of a queen.

Born into acute poverty, there were days when she went without any food. Rani’s parents could not afford any schooling and gave her away in marriage at age 16 to relieve some of the pressures on them. She was married off to Monoranjan Dhar, who despite being poor himself, cared for Rani.

Soon after she moved in with her husband, Rani started working to produce lime from snail shells in the traditional way, by hand. Lime is one of the ingredients used in the consumption of betel leaf. Many people in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries are dependent on betel leaf or ‘paan’ chewing, which also includes other ingredients such as areca nut and often tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant effects. Historians claim that betel leaf chewing has been part of South Asian culture for hundreds of years.

Rani’s struggle for survival began at the time of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. She managed to save a capital fund of just 65 dollars, which she used to buy firewood and for collecting snail shells from ponds, marshland and swampland around her village. On the very first day of her business venture, she produced one kilogram of lime, which she was able to sell in a nearby rural market for about one US dollar.

Rani quickly realized that she was on the right track and understood the market value and demand. She’s never looked back.

Her husband Monoranjan proudly says, “Rani is energetic and she can think well. She gives me the courage and confidence to face the challenges of poverty together.”

Shanda Rani and her family with IFAD team members. Credit: Shahiduzzaman


Following four decades of hard work, Shandha Rani is now an icon for rural entrepreneurs in her village and community. Her husband and three adult sons work with her. She has also created jobs for three more people.

Several other women and men are following Rani’s footsteps. Dipali Rani is one of them, who also started producing lime. The local people have renamed the village Lime Para (village).

“It is good. Traders are now directly coming to us to buy our product. It also reduces our worries about marketing the product,” said Manaranjan.

Rani is eager to expand her network and business into neighbouring districts, so she is negotiating with financial institutions for loans to invest. She has successfully set up a small workshop with an electric moulding machine, a fireplace to burn snail shells and storage space. Rani is the proud owner of a motorboat for easy transportation of her product and raw materials. Her family home is now a tin-roofed, brick-walled house with a toilet on her own land. At present she has a running capital of about 10,000 dollars, with the capacity to produce 800 kg lime per day. However, lime from snail shells can’t be produced year-round because of non-availability of the shells, particularly in dry or winter seasons.

“If initiatives are taken to cultivate snail shells, it will be a big push for lime production. It has a potential market in the country. Snail shells without flesh are the key raw material for lime production. Besides, their flesh has huge demand in fish cultivation farms as feed. Such initiatives will also create more job opportunities in rural areas,” said James P. Biswas, Deputy Executive Director of the Bangladesh Development Society (BDS).

Rani’s story is one of the success stories of BDS, an NGO based in Barisal working to support development of rural entrepreneurs with assistance from the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations specialized agency.

Since 2000, BDS has been supporting Rani. She was able to take loans 16 times and each of these loans was repaid on time. The loan amounts vary between 200 and 6,000 dollars.

“The organization has provided loans for various purposes to dozens of families in this sub-district and there has been remarkable progress. In most cases, beneficiaries have overcome poverty while at the same time creating jobs. With such success, BDS in partnership with the IFAD and PKSF is planning to increase the loan amount and help expand areas of activities,” Biswas added.

Benoit Thierry, Country Program Manager in the Asia and the Pacific Division of IFAD, who recently visited the Kundihar village along with PKSF officials, met up with several beneficiaries including Shahndah Rani to assess the impact of IFAD support in this area. Over four decades, the Fund has been providing grants and loans to Bangladesh, with the aim of enabling poor people in vulnerable areas to adapt the pattern of their livelihoods to climate change; help small producers and entrepreneurs benefit from improved value chains and greater market access and economically and socially empower marginalized groups, especially poor rural women.

Currently, the Government of Bangladesh and IFAD are negotiating to undertake another six-year project, starting in 2018, to increase farmer incomes and livelihood resilience through demand-led productivity growth, diversification and marketing in changing climatic conditions.

The proposed 111-million-dollar programme is expected to directly benefit at least 250,000 rural households in eleven districts of the country’s southern divisions of Chittagong and Barisal.

PKSF General Manager Akond Md. Rafiqul Islam said, “For many years, access to credit, cooperation, technical support and technology transfer to the poor were limited. Since its inception in 1990, PKSF has been working exclusively for their development in collaboration with 250 NGOs. In this context IFAD’s continuous assistance makes it easier to address effectively the needs of moderate and ultra-poor people. Now you will find thousands of success and trend setting entrepreneurs like Shahndah Rani all over the country.”

Things are moving and changing fast in Bangladesh. In a very real sense, these small rural entrepreneurs are strengthening the rural economy and creating huge job opportunities, Islam added. At present, PKSF is supporting more than 10 million poor people in the country, 90 percent of them women.

Israt Jahan, the top government official of Banaripara Upazilla, lauded IFAD, PKSF and NGO initiatives.

“Their activities are supplementing the government programmes, particularly in poverty alleviation, strengthening rural economy, empowerment of women and their participation in socio-economic development and cultural activities,” Jahan said.

She added that, “The Bangladesh government has made remarkable progress on poverty alleviation. While connectivity between rural areas and cities are well established, we still need to do more and welcome any support from IFAD and PKSF for programmes undertaken to benefit rural people.”

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Towards a Resource Efficient and Pollution Free Asia-Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 10:31:46 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151906 Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

By Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim
BANGKOK, Thailand, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Senior government officials from across Asia and the Pacific will meet in Bangkok this week for the first-ever Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment. The high-level meeting is co-convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and UN Environment and is a unique opportunity for the region’s environment leaders to discuss how they can work together towards a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific.

Shamshad Akhtar

At the core of the meeting is the question: how can we use our resources more efficiently to continue to grow our economies in a manner that does not tax our natural environment or generate pollution affecting public health and ecosystem health. There is certainly much room for improvement to make in this area.

Resources such as fossil fuels, biomass, metals and minerals are essential to build economies. However, the region’s resource efficiency has regressed in recent years. Asia is unfortunately the least resource efficient region in the world. In 2015, we used one third more materials to produce each unit of GDP than in 1990. Developing countries use five times as many resources per dollar of GDP in comparison to rest of the world and10 times more than industrialized countries in the region. This inefficiency of resource use results into wastage and pollution further affecting the natural resources and public health which are the basic elements for ensuring sustainable economic growth.

As the speed and scale of economic growth continues to accelerate across the region, pollution has become a critical area for action. While the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 per cent of adults and children who are impacted by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries. Asia and the Pacific produces more chemicals and waste than any other region in the world and accounts for the bulk – 25 out of 30 – of cities with highest levels of PM 2.5, the tiny atmospheric particulate matter that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. More than 80 per cent of our rivers are heavily polluted while five of the top land-based ocean plastic sources are from countries in our region. Estimates put the cost of marine pollution to regional economies at a staggering US$1.3 billion.

Erik Solheim

If left unattended, these trends threaten to up end hard-won economic gains and hamper human development. But while these challenges appear intractable, the region has tremendous strengths and opportunities to draw from. Many countries hold solid track records of successful economic transformation. The capacity for promoting environmental sustainability as an integral pillar of sustainable development must now be developed across all countries in the region

There are some profound changes underway in Asia and the Pacific. The region is experiencing the largest rural to urban migration in history. Developing these new urban areas with resource-efficient buildings, waste water and solid waste management systems can do much to advance this agenda. Advancing the “sharing economy” might mean we have better utilization of assets such as vehicles, houses or other assets, greatly reducing material inputs and pollution. The widespread move to renewable energy should rein in fossil fuel use. And advances in recycling, materials technology, 3D printing and manufacturing could also support greater resource circularity.

Moving to green technologies and eco innovation offer economic and employment opportunities. Renewable energy provided jobs for 9.8 million people worldwide in 2016. Waste can be converted into economic opportunities, including jobs. In Cebu City– the second-largest city in the Philippines, concerted Solid Waste Management has borne fruit: waste has been reduced by 30 per cent in 2012; treatment of organic waste in neigbourhoods has led to lower transportation costs and longer use period in landfills. The poor have largely benefited from hundreds of jobs that have been created.

At the policy level, it is vital that resource efficiency and pollution prevention targets are integrated into national development agendas, and targeted legal and regulatory measures to enforce resource efficiency standards should be established. For example, the Government of China has instituted a national system of legislation, rules and regulations that led to the adoption of a compulsory national cleaner production audit system that has been in place for more than 10 years. The direct economic benefits from this system is estimated to be more than $3 billion annually.

Further, we need an urgent reform of financial instruments. Too little capital is supporting the transition to green and resource efficient economy – major portion of current investments is still in high-carbon and resource-intensive, polluting economies. Polluter pay principle and environmental externalities are not yet fully integrated into pricing mechanisms and investment models. The availability of innovative financing mechanisms and integrated evaluation methods are important for upscaling and replicating resource-efficient practices. For example, the large-scale promotion of biogas plants in Viet Nam was made possible by harnessing global climate finance funds. Several countries in the region area are already emerging as leaders in the development of comprehensive, systemic approaches that embed sustainable finance at the heart of financial market development, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and we should draw from the positive lessons learned from these experiences.

Resource efficiency and pollution prevention must be recognized as an important target for action by science, technological and innovation systems. This is important for the ongoing development of technology, and for scaling up technologies. Research shows that developing countries could cut their annual energy demand by more than half, from 3.4 percent to 1.4 percent, over the next 12 years. This would leave energy consumption some 22 percent lower than it would otherwise have been – an abatement equivalent to the entire energy consumption in China today.

We need to move to a more resource efficient and pollution free growth path that supports and promotes healthy environments. The cost of inaction for managing resources efficiently and preventing pollution is too high and a threat to economies, livelihoods and health across the region.

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Once Decimated by AIDS, Zimbabwe’s Khoisan Tribe Embraces Treatmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/decimated-aids-zimbabwes-khoisan-tribe-embraces-treatment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decimated-aids-zimbabwes-khoisan-tribe-embraces-treatment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/decimated-aids-zimbabwes-khoisan-tribe-embraces-treatment/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 13:13:21 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151858 Sixty-seven-year-old Hloniphani Sidingo gives a broad smile while popping out through the gate of a clinic in her village, as she heads home clutching containers of anti-retroviral pills. The first Bantu people to dwell in present-day Zimbabwe, the Khoisan, also known as the Bushmen or Basagwa, populate remote areas of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Botswana, […]

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Members of Zimbabwe’s Khoisan tribe perform a traditional dance during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign conducted by Tsoro-O-Tso San, a development trust that aids the tribe. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
TSHOLOTSHO, Zimbabwe, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Sixty-seven-year-old Hloniphani Sidingo gives a broad smile while popping out through the gate of a clinic in her village, as she heads home clutching containers of anti-retroviral pills.

The first Bantu people to dwell in present-day Zimbabwe, the Khoisan, also known as the Bushmen or Basagwa, populate remote areas of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Here, the Khoisan community is found in Matabeleland North’s Tsholotsho district, where many like Sidingo are domiciled. Other Khoisans live in Plumtree in this country’s Matabeleland South province.

Now, with the word spreading far and wide about AIDS awareness, many Khoisans like Sidingo have joined the fight against the disease. And thanks to the Zimbabwean government’s anti-retroviral initiative, she is still alive more than 16 years after she tested positive for HIV.

“I’m so happy. I’m happy I continue to receive my share of treatment pills from government and this keeps me going,” Sidingo told IPS.

“AIDS killed my husband and my children – five of them,” she said. “I’m not taking chances because I want to survive. My husband back in the days didn’t trust community health workers when they approached us urging us to embrace HIV/AIDS tests and get treatment if we have the disease. Ntungwa, my husband, actually thought health workers were up to no good and avoided them, resulting even in our children, who also later died of AIDS, doing like their father,” added Sidingo.

Meanwhile, organisations catering for the welfare of the Khoisan here say the dread and shame surrounding HIV/AIDS is fading among members of the tribe.

“The Khoisan now understand the existence of the (AIDS) virus and almost all who are infected are on ARVs,” Davy Ndlovu, Programmes Manager for Tsoro-O-Tso San, a development trust that aids Khoisan people in Zimbabwe, told IPS.

But while success stories are there to be told about the ancient tribe’s strides in combatting HIV/AIDS, a combination of poverty and ignorance has sometimes disrupted ARV treatment.

“As you might be aware, the San are a poor people and when the nursing staff here once told them not to take the medication on an empty stomach, this was interpreted in that when one had no food for that day, one would not take his or her medication. Due to this ignorance, a number of Khoisan people living with AIDS have lost their lives,” Ndlovu said.

While the tribe now embraces ARV medication, they still face the burden of having to walk long distances to access treatment, according to Tsoro-O-Tso San.

“The other issue has to do with reviews where people are expected to travel to the nearest hospital, which is about 15 to 20 kilometres away. When they fail to raise transport money, they just stay and miss the review,” said Ndlovu.

Despite such hurdles, for Khoisans living with HIV like Sidingo, fighting the disease has become top priority.

“I have learnt to adhere to taking my medication consistently. Many people in my community now understand the importance of getting tested for HIV,” Sidingo told IPS.

Ndlovu said like Sidingo, many Khoisans now live with HIV and are trying to cope with the virus like everybody else, in  a country where 1.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS.

To Ndlovu, “They (the Khoisan) are no longer discriminated against in the AIDS battle.”

Of the 2,500 Khoisan people domiciled in Zimbabwe, approximately 800 of them now live with HIV/AIDS, about a third of the population, according to Tsoro-O-Tso San.

Meanwhile, the rush to get tested for HIV/AIDS amongst Zimbabwe’s Khoisan tribe comes at a time the tribe stands accused of engaging in careless sex habits, exposing the tribe to the ravages of AIDS.

“The biggest threat is that the San still practice casual sex with no protection at all. Sex among the San is a pastime to be enjoyed and you still find people sharing girlfriends – young and old do this,” Ndlovu of the Tsoro-O-Tso San told IPS.

“Organisations like Medicine Sen Frontiers (MSF) have worked with the Khoisan tribe on issues related to HIV/AIDS. A number of the Khoisans, both male and female, the youths in particular, have been trained as peer HIV/AIDS educators with the intention to teach people issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention, safe sex, and treatment,” said Ndlovu.

The Zimbabwean government’s National Aids Council fosters also HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns amongst the country’s ancient tribe, according to Tsoro-O-Tso San.

To do this, NAC works in conjunction with the country’s Ministry of Health to provide anti-retroviral drugs to the minority tribe, a gesture that has put smiles on many HIV-positive Khoisans like Sidingo.

“Back in the years, as the Khoisan we thought our people were being bewitched as we saw them succumbing to AIDS, but thanks to the treatment, we have started to live on even with the virus,” Sidingo told IPS.

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2017 World Water Week: ‘Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/2017-world-water-week-water-waste-reduce-reuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-world-water-week-water-waste-reduce-reuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/2017-world-water-week-water-waste-reduce-reuse/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:25:22 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151768 With a growing global population, a rise in energy and industrial production, the demand for water is reaching new levels. By 2050 it is expected that approximately 6.4 billion people will live in cities, making urban water management an essential building block for resilience and sustainable growth. Cities are increasingly recognized as critical to achieving […]

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2017 World Water Week: ‘Water and waste: reduce and reuse’

2017 World Water Week: ‘Water and waste: reduce and reuse’

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

With a growing global population, a rise in energy and industrial production, the demand for water is reaching new levels.

By 2050 it is expected that approximately 6.4 billion people will live in cities, making urban water management an essential building block for resilience and sustainable growth.

Cities are increasingly recognized as critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While wastewater isn’t only an urban challenge, cities can serve as a hub for wastewater innovation.

Water supply, sanitation and storm water are integral components of the urban water system. New approaches to ‘smart cities’, with greater emphasis on integrated urban water and wastewater management, are required..

Success in urban water management relies on people, good governance and cross-sectoral collaboration.

 

 

When properly harnessed, wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other consumables. This is why the theme of this year’s World Water Week is ‘Water and waste: reduce and reuse’.

A circular economy, in which water and waste are reused and managed as economic assets, is an important part of the solution to this challenge.

World Water Week, annually hosted by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), will bring together scientists, policy makers, private sector and civil society actors to network, exchange ideas and foster new thinking.

Have your say at this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm.

Visit the Exhibit area where SIWI along with the Global Water Partnership and several stakeholders will share their knowledge and insights, bringing a diversity of perspectives to the World Water Week.

Water is key to our future prosperity, and together, we can achieve a water wise world.

 

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Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Bindinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:47:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151690 The Minamata Convention — a legally-binding landmark treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade – entered into force August 16. The primary aim of the Convention is “to protect human health and the environment” from mercury releases, which are considered both environmental and health hazards, according to the United Nations. […]

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Minamata Convention - Informal gold mining is one of the main sources of mercury contamination. An artisanal gold miner in El Corpus, Choluteca along the Pacific ocean in Honduras. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS.

Informal gold mining is one of the main sources of mercury contamination. An artisanal gold miner in El Corpus, Choluteca along the Pacific ocean in Honduras. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS.

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 16 2017 (IPS)

The Minamata Convention — a legally-binding landmark treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade – entered into force August 16.

The primary aim of the Convention is “to protect human health and the environment” from mercury releases, which are considered both environmental and health hazards, according to the United Nations.

So far, the international treaty has been signed by 128 of the 193 UN member states and ratified by 74 countries, which are now legally obliged to comply with its provisions.

The Minamata Convention joins three other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel Convention (1992), Rotterdam Convention (2004) and Stockholm Convention (2004).

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), an international coalition of over 95 public interest non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from more than 50 countries, has been calling for a legally binding treaty for over a decade and “welcomes the new protocol”.

The treaty holds critical obligations for all 74 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.

According to ZMWG, mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury – accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children.

In an interview with IPS, Michael Bender and Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Co-coordinators of ZMWG said despite its flaws, the new treaty presents the best opportunity to address the global mercury crisis.

‘’The ZMWG looks forward to effective treaty implementation and providing support, where feasible, particularly to developing countries and countries with economies in transition”.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What would be the significant impact of the Minamata Convention entering into legal force on August 16? How will it advance the longstanding global campaign to end the widespread use of mercury which has long been declared both an environmental and health hazard worldwide?

A: The new treaty is a mixture of mandatory and voluntary elements intended to control the burgeoning global mercury crisis.  It holds critical obligations that affect global use, trade, emissions and disposal of mercury.  In the near term, such provisions include a prohibition on any new primary mining of mercury, and phasing out mercury added products (by 2020) and mercury bearing processes (by 2025).

Some of these steps were unthinkable several years ago.  Now, viable, available and cost effective alternatives exist for most all products containing mercury like thermometers, dental amalgam, thermostats, measuring devices and batteries, as well as processes using mercury (e.g. production of chlorine.)

Support for treaty implementation will be provided through a financial mechanism established in the Convention text. Furthermore, the treaty includes reporting provisions (also relevant to the question below) which entails the Convention Secretariat monitoring progress and, over time, having the Conference of the Parties address issues that may arise.

The treaty also includes other provisions which provide information and guidance necessary to reduce major sources of emissions and releases. Taken together, these steps will eventually lead to significant global mercury reductions.

However, while heading in the right direction, the treaty does not move far enough nor fast enough in the short run to address the spiraling human health risks from mercury exposure.

In the case of major emission sources, like coal-fired power plants, the requirements are for countries to follow BAT/BEP practices (best available technologies/best environmental practices) to curtail releases, but no numerical reduction targets were established. New facilities will not be required to have mercury pollution controls for 5 years after the treaty enters into force, with existing facilities given 10 years before they begin their control efforts.

The treaty also addresses artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which is both the largest intentional use and emission source of mercury globally.  However, while required ASGM national action plans (NAPs) will foster reduced use, the treaty fails to include a provision to require an eventual end to mercury use. It is envisioned, however, that NAPs will eliminate many of the worst practices that constitute the vast majority of mercury use in the sector.

While the Convention bans new primary mercury mining, it allows existing primary mining for 15 years (but does not allow supplying such uses as ASGM.)  From this source, mercury is only allowed in the manufacturing of mercury-added products and other manufacturing processes.

Q: What in your opinion are the key provisions of the Convention that could eventually lead to a worldwide ban on the use of mercury?

A: The Convention contains control measures aimed at significantly limiting the global supply of mercury to complement and reinforce the demand reduction control measures. Specifically, the Article 3 provisions limit the sources of mercury available for use and trade, and specify procedures to follow where such trade is allowed. Eventually, as mercury uses diminish, via the different Convention provisions – (e.g. the Convention’s 2020 mercury-added product phase out, and 2025 ban on the mercury use in the chlorine production)–  the production and exports from primary mercury mines will be reduced.

As discussed above, while the Convention does not ban its use, the provision to develop plans for curtailing mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining is important, since it is the largest mercury use and release sector, far surpassing emissions from coal fired power plants.

Q: With 74 ratifications so far, is there any mechanism that will help monitor the implementation of the convention by the 74 countries that are state parties and who are legally obliged to comply with the provisions of the convention?  Does the convention lay out any penalties against those who violate the convention or fail to implement its provisions?

A: The Convention establishes reporting requirements by the Parties, including reporting on “measures it has taken to implement provisions of the Convention and on the effectiveness of such measures…”   Further, no later than six years after the Convention enters into force, the Conference of the Parties (COP) is charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention The evaluation shall be based on available reports and monitoring information, reports submitted pursuant and information and recommendations provided the Implementation and compliance committee.

This is why discussions during COP1 (scheduled to take place in Geneva September 24-29) regarding reporting forms are so important. The Article 21 reporting requirements will provide critical information on the global mercury situation and the effectiveness of the Convention in achieving mercury reductions and protecting human health.

Information Parties report on should be made publicly available. This should include information on emissions and releases; the quantities of waste mercury (i.e., commodity-grade mercury no longer used) that was disposed, and the method of final disposal; and the decisions on frequency of reporting.  Most importantly (at least for mercury production and trade) we recommend the data be provided annually in order to accurately monitor the changing global circumstances, and because of the problems with other data sources.

Finally, the Convention does not foresee penalties for noncompliance.  However, the Convention compliance committee will also focus on assisting countries come into compliance as well as also identifying areas where countries may need more assistance. In addition, individual country laws can enact penalties – (e.g. the EU regulation on mercury discusses penalties, and the Member States have to define these within their national laws.)

The NGOs will also play the watchdog role in monitoring progress, and ‘naming and shaming’ as relevant, as we follow the process in the COPs, etc.

Q: Are there any concerns that some of the leading countries, including UK, Russia, Germany, India, Italy, South Africa, Australia and Spain are not on the list of ratifiers of the convention? Have they given any indications of future ratifications?

A: For developed countries, it’s anticipated that they already have implemented many of the conference provisions, or are in a position to finance them in the future (unlike developing countries, which will rely on Convention funding.)

As far as South Africa, our partner NGO, Ground Work, has stated that ratification remains a challenge in South Africa because the industrial sector is very heavily driven by the coal industry, with almost 90% of the energy from coal. The large-scale mining sector is also not willing to declare the amount of mercury released from the ore that they mine.

All EU countries will eventually all ratify.  India has started the process toward ratification, as has Australia and also Russia- but it may take some time.

In the meantime, India has taken some affirmative steps in shifting out of mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants and regulating mercury.  However, emissions from thermal power plants is still a concern since almost 60 % of the energy generated is from coal and the cost associated with capturing mercury from coal emissions is viewed as a constrain.

Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Binding

 

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Why Breastfeeding Is One of the “Smartest Investments” for All Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 07:08:58 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151609 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding. Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim […]

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May 18, 2017. A combined group of South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans take part in a class about breast feeding. Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement, Adjumani District. Conflict and famine in South Sudan have led to an exodus of refugees into Uganda. Credit: JAMES OATWAY/UNICEF

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 8 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding.

Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim a rate above 60 percent. Overall, only 40 percent of children less than six months old are exclusively breastfed today.

In the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—236,000 children die each year from a lack of investment in breastfeeding. Together, the countries lose more than 119 billion dollars annually.

A healthier workforce, nurtured from the very beginning of childhood, can add to a prosperous economy. Breastfeeding ensures ammunition against deadly diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are two major causes of death among infants. Similarly, it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer among mothers.

“We need to bring more understanding to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding—the baby should be fed with mother’s milk within the first hour of being born. Unfortunately, for many social and cultural reasons, this is not put to diligent practice. This is a sheer missed opportunity,” France Begin, a Senior Nutrition Adviser for Infant & Young Child Nutrition at UNICEF, told IPS.

The obvious benefits of breastfeeding, such as providing nutrition and bolstering development of the brain, are well known. Still, it is commonly mistaken as a woman’s job alone.

“Countries like Nepal and Kenya have done a wonderful job with policies to protect lactating mothers. In Kenya for example, all workplaces in the private sector have a room dedicated to mothers who have to breastfeed their children. In a way, this is our message too—you have to support women, and can’t simple leave it up to them,” said Begin. Indeed, providing lactation education classes and better paid maternity leave can go a long way.

Across all income levels, breastfeeding adds to an increase in intelligence, measured by a 3-point Intelligence Quotient (IQ) increase on average. Better academic performances, ensured by strong educational opportunities and programs, can lead to a better life for all members of the family.

“If you don’t make a strong commitment, it is a sheer drain to the child’s life, the families, and in the end, the economy,” resounded Begin.

This is why the report has deemed the practice as a “smart investment.” As the rate of breastfeeding remains stagnant in over two decades, it has become imperative to rally support and raise awareness. The UN has stepped up to do so by observing World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 until August 7.

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World Still Lagging on Indigenous Rights 10 Years After Historic Declaration, UN Experts Warnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:43:55 +0000 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151593 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine is Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Albert K. Barume is chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

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Women from Nepal's indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Albert K. Barume and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
GENEVA / NEW YORK, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

The world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights, a group of United Nations experts and specialist bodies has warned. Speaking ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the group says States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders.

The joint statement from the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples reads as follows:

“It is now 10 years since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly, as the most comprehensive international human rights instrument for indigenous peoples. The Declaration, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, stands today as a beacon of progress, a framework for reconciliation and a benchmark of rights.

But a decade on, we need to acknowledge the vast challenges that remain. In too many cases, indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago.

Indigenous peoples still suffer from racism, discrimination, and unequal access to basic services including healthcare and education. Where statistical data is available, it shows clearly that they are left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes.

Indigenous peoples face particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources, which are pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities.

Indigenous women face double discrimination, both as women and as indigenous peoples. They are frequently excluded from decision-making processes and land rights, and many suffer violence.

We call on all States to ensure that indigenous women fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Declaration and emphasize that their rights are a concern for all of us.

The worsening human rights situation of indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of indigenous human rights defenders.

Individuals and communities who dare to defend indigenous rights find themselves labelled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists.

They even risk death. Last year alone, some sources suggest that 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries – more than double the number who died in 2014. Half of them were working to defend land, indigenous and environmental rights.

We urge States to protect indigenous human rights defenders. Crimes committed against them must be duly investigated and prosecuted, and those responsible brought to justice.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands, resources and rights. Lasting peace requires that States, with the support of the international community, establish conflict resolution mechanisms with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’, in particular indigenous women.

Many States still do not recognize indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous women and youth still face a lack of official recognition and direct political participation. Even in States where laws are in place, the Declaration has not been fully implemented.

It is high time to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector.

The minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, as set out in the Declaration, must now be met.

These include the rights to identity, language, health, education and self-determination, alongside the duty of States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing measures that may affect them.

The Declaration represents important shifts in both structure and the practice of global politics, and the last 10 years have seen some positive changes in the situation of indigenous peoples and greater respect for indigenous worldviews.

But we still have a long way to go before indigenous peoples have full enjoyment of their human rights as expressed in the Declaration. We call on all States to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from indigenous backgrounds.”

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Zaatari Camp Marks Fifth Year With 80,000 Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:00:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151525 Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28. The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement […]

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A view of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living. Credit: UN Photo/Sahem Rababah

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28.

The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement since WWII—with a clear goal to house refugees temporarily.

Between then and today, more than 80,000 Syrian refugees have settled in the camp, making it the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp.

Far from being a makeshift settlement today, the camp has a bustling economy, with many teaching young children—who make up more than half of all refugees—to read and write. The NRC has set up educational centers and centers for vocational activities.

“Now the camp is completely different. There are many more facilities and services. There are no more tents, everyone is living in prefabs. We feel more at home now,” Anwar, one of the first refugees to enter the camp from Daraa, says in a report by the NRC.

“We struggled at the beginning. We used to have shared washrooms. Water lacked sometimes. We had no electricity. The shops weren’t there,” he continued.

All that, of course, has changed. Today, Anwar teaches carpentry and painting to others. Similarly, because many haven’t been able to leave the camp, new businesses have thronged the area.

Still, the very permanence of the camp illustrates the protracted nature of the Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year. Many children have been born in the camp, and the UN has urged other governments to share in this humanitarian responsibility to ensure a better life for all.

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Has Disability Risen among the Elderly?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/disability-risen-among-elderly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disability-risen-among-elderly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/disability-risen-among-elderly/#comments Mon, 31 Jul 2017 14:10:11 +0000 Veena Kulkarni Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151502 Veena S. Kulkarni is Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Sociology, & Geography, Arkansas State University, US; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, US; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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Disability is neither purely medical nor purely social. Rather, it is an outcome of their interplay.

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

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (or RPD Act) is laudable in its intent and procedural detail, but mostly silent on disabilities among the elderly. Indeed, for this reason alone, it is arguable that its overarching goal—“The appropriate Government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others” —is mere rhetoric, if not a pipe dream.

Disability is part of human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive to old age will experience increasing difficulties in functioning. Disability is neither purely medical nor purely social. Rather, it is an outcome of their interplay. Chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer) are associated with impairments that get aggravated by stigma, discrimination in access to educational and medical services, and job market. Higher disability rates among older people reflect an accumulation of health risks across a lifespan of disease, injury, and chronic illness (WHO and World Bank, 2011). The co-occurrence of NCDs and disabilities among them poses considerably higher risk of mortality, relative to those not suffering from either or one.

Raghav Gaiha

There is a bidirectional link between disability and poverty: disability may increase the risk of poverty, and poverty may increase the risk of disability. Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship—including food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to healthcare. Poverty may increase the likelihood that a person with an existing health condition becomes disabled, for example, by an inaccessible environment or lack of access to appropriate health and rehabilitation services.

There is a bidirectional link between disability and poverty: disability may increase the risk of poverty, and poverty may increase the risk of disability. Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship.

Detailed evidence on disabilities and their correlates is particularly relevant as India’s elderly population (60 years or more) is growing three times faster than the population as a whole. Three demographic processes are at work: declining fertility rates, increasing longevity and large cohorts advancing to old age (Bloom et al. 2014). As both non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and disabilities tend to rise with age, often in tandem, the inadequacies of the present health systems, community networks and family support may magnify to render these support systems largely ineffective. If the costs in terms of productivity losses are added, the total cost burden of looking after the disabled elderly may be enormously higher in the near future.

Disability is usually measured by a set of items on self-reported limitations with severity of disability ranked by the number of positively answered items. Disabilities in activities of daily living (ADL) show dependence of an individual on others, with need for assistance in daily life. The activities of feeding, dressing, bathing or showering, walking 1 km, hearing, transferring from bed and chair, normal vision, and continence are central to self-care and are called basic ADLs.

A review of the evidence from the India Human Development Survey 2015 (IHDS) that tracks the same sample of individuals over the period 2005-2012, yields useful insights from a policy perspective. IHDS covers seven disabilities already defined.

At an all-India level, there was a very rapid rise in the prevalence of all disabilities among the elderly during 2005-2012, from 8.4% to over 36%.

The prevalence was much higher among the older elderly (i.e. >70 years) than among 60-70 years old. Besides, it shot up to over 50% among the former in 2012 as compared with 33% among the latter. So the more rapid the ageing of India’s population, the higher will be the prevalence of disabilities.

The disability prevalence was slightly higher among elderly females, but became considerably higher in 2012. From about 9.4% in 2005, it rose to nearly 40% in 2012. Thus lower survival prospects for elderly women are likely to reflect greater disability.

There was a reversal in the rural-urban disabilities, with a slightly larger prevalence in urban areas, but both rose substantially with a larger prevalence in rural areas (about 37% as compared with 35%). If we use caste as a predictor of socio-economic deprivation, we find that disabilities rose much faster among the SCs than in the General category, with the prevalence among the former rising from 6.9% to about 37%. Besides, each category (including OBCs, and STs) witnessed a sharp rise in disabilities.

There are two ways of examining the link between poverty and disabilities: one is to assess whether the prevalence of disability is higher among the poor, using the official poverty line, and another is to rely on a ranking based on assets. We prefer the latter, since income fluctuates more than assets. Distinguishing between the least wealthy (or the first wealth quartile) and the most wealthy (the fourth quartile), we find that while the prevalence of disabilities was about the same in both (about 9.7%), it rose at a much faster rate among the least wealthy, resulting in the highest prevalence (39.5%) in 2012. As there is a strong association between NCDs and disabilities (e.g. between diabetes and restricted mobility and vision impairment, heart disease and limited mobility, stroke and speech and mobility impairment), some of the risk factors associated with the former are also linked to the latter. These include smoking, alcohol consumption, dietary transition to consumption of energy-dense foods—high in salts, fats and sugars—and sedentary lifestyles. As the population ages, and the burden of NCDs rises, disabilities are likely to be far more pervasive. Compounded by lack of access to disability-related services (e.g. assistive devices such as wheelchair, hearing aid, specialised medical services, rehabilitation), and persistence of negative imagery and language, stereotypes, and stigma—with deep historic roots-leading to discrimination in education and employment—the temptation to offer simplistic but largely medical solutions must be resisted. In brief, a multidimensional strategy is needed that includes prevention of disabling barriers as well as prevention and treatment of underlying health conditions.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Guardian.

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