Inter Press ServiceGender – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Jul 2017 18:27:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 UN Appoints Experts to DRC’s Kasai to Probe Harrowing Rights Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/un-appoints-experts-drcs-kasai-probe-harrowing-rights-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-appoints-experts-drcs-kasai-probe-harrowing-rights-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/un-appoints-experts-drcs-kasai-probe-harrowing-rights-abuses/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 18:27:16 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151462 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, appointed a team of three international experts yesterday to collect information and raise awareness about grave atrocities in the ongoing conflict in the remote Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Central Kasai has been mired in a conflict between government forces […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, appointed a team of three international experts yesterday to collect information and raise awareness about grave atrocities in the ongoing conflict in the remote Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Security Council observes a moment of silence in memory of two UN experts who were killed recently while monitoring the sanctions regime in the Kasaï Central region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Credit: UN Photo

Central Kasai has been mired in a conflict between government forces and local militias called Kamuina Nsapu since August 2016. The conflict, which has escalated in recent months, garnered international attention when two U.N. experts in the region were killed in March 2017.

The conflict intensified in the run up to the elections of December 2016, when government security forces clashed with demonstrators who contested the president’s bid to stay in power beyond his term ending in 2016, and killed 50 people. Hundreds were jailed, and media outlets were banned.

Ever since, the situation has only become worse.

Newer armed groups like Bana Mura have emerged to fight the Congolese army and police. They have carried out brutal attacks against targeted civilians of Luba and Lulua ethnic groups, killing hundreds and burning villages. Small children have been gravely wounded from machete attacks, and pregnant women have been cut open.

Victims have speculated that members of the Congolese army have also been part of these horrific killings.

Today, as many as 3,300 people have died, and 1.3 million people have been displaced within the country. In Angola alone, more than 30,000 people have been registered as refugees as thousands more stream into the central African country every day. Some 42 mass graves have been documented by the Joint Human Rights Office.

The atrocities committed against civilians have put pressure on the UN, which adopted the UN Human Rights Council resolution on June 22, 2017.

In the resolution, the Council expressed its grave concerns about the recurrent violence and the “recruitment and use of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, destruction of houses, schools, places of worship, and State infrastructure by local militias, as well as of mass graves.”

The Council puts the newly appointed team in charge of collecting information, determining facts and circumstances, and to forwarding “the judicial authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo the conclusions of this investigation in order to establish the truth and to ensure that the perpetrators of deplorable crimes are all accountable to the judicial authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The team includes Bacre Ndiaye, a Senegal national, Luc Côté, a Canadian who has worked on human rights violations in the DRC, and Mauritania’s Fatimata M’Baye.

A comprehensive report with the findings will be presented in June 2018, at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council.

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Yemen Records 400,000 Cholera Caseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 06:37:59 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151450 The directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement today shedding light on a deadly cholera epidemic engulfing war-torn Yemen. More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone. […]

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More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected in Yemen, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

Tents set up at Alsabeen hospital in Sana'a Yemen for screening suspected cholera cases.

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

The directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement today shedding light on a deadly cholera epidemic engulfing war-torn Yemen.

More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

The dire situation results from a culmination of factors, such as modern tactics of warfare that destroy water pipelines, as well as continuous bombing of schools and hospitals. More than 60 percent of the population remains uncertain of their next meal as famine looms.

Nearly 2 million children are suffering from malnutrition, and are easy targets of the water-borne disease. The report estimates that nearly 80 percent of all children need immediate humanitarian assistance.

Amid the lack of adequate international support, community leaders have stepped up to the task—more than 16,000 volunteers visit families from door-to-door to raise awareness about cholera, and assist them with information to protect themselves.

Many health-care workers, as many as 30,000, haven’t been paid in nearly 10 months. Still, that doesn’t keep them from their work.

Similarly, international organisations like UNICEF and WHO have set up nearly 1,000 diarrhoea treatment centers to provide key supplies, like food and medicine. They are also similarly assisting, with the help of the community, to rebuild the local infrastructure.

There is hope, and more than 99 percent who are now showing cholera-related symptoms have a good chance of surviving.

The two-year deadly conflict in Yemen between the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) and Houthi rebels in one of the most poorest Arab countries has produced devastating results—one report in 2016, which was quickly withdrawn, estimated that nearly 60% of children died from attacks by the SLC.

The UN agency leaders, Anthony Lake (UNICEF), David Beasley (WFP) and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO) urged the international community to “redouble its support for the people of Yemen,” following a trip to the country themselves.

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WHO Urges Govt’s to Raise Taxes on Tobaccohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 21:27:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151369 Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today. Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.” […]

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Credit: IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today.

Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.”

He mentioned the adoption of core policies, called MPOWER, to monitor and protect people from tobacco smoke. At the highest level of implementation of these policies, countries will have eliminated tobacco-related deaths.

“The focus of the report is to monitor effective implementation of policies. The trend is good, but there’s room for vast improvement. Many countries are helping people to quit by putting out larger warning labels, but there’s no stringent action by measures of raising tax, for example,” said Dr. Prasad.

Still, there is good news—almost 71 countries have two or more of MPOWER policies in place, protecting a total of 3.2 billion people worldwide. In 2007, only 42 countries had some policy in place.

Every country, of course, follows a mix of different measures.

In terms of the newer countries on board, Afghanistan and Cambodia have adopted smoke-free laws in indoor public places and workplaces. Other countries have expanded existing measures—Nepal and Bangladesh passed laws at the national level for larger warning labels clearly demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking.

Still others, like Austria and Malta, have adopted the surest but politically most charged approach to combat the epidemic—raising taxes.

“The important issue is to support the benefit of raising taxes—it’ll bring down both demand and generate resources. In Philippines—which raised taxes in 2012—two things happened. The country generated extra revenue by as much as 5 billion dollars, and the use of tobacco declined. More governments have to understand this,” said Dr. Prasad.

The importance of raising taxes so that governments are able to spend that extra money on healthcare is a crucial and proven linkage, but has faltered after enormous pressure from powerful tobacco lobbyists to maintain the status quo.

“The countries which have shown progress are moving in the right direction. There needs to be greater political will because we have the evidence and the knowledge to back it up. We need to understand that the tobacco industry is not our friend,” Dr. Prasad explained.

Similarly, adoption of other effective measures like a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion also ranks low among countries. Mainly low and middle income countries, like Afghanistan and Senegal, among five others, have implemented the policy.

Combating a tobacco epidemic does not rest on curbing sale of cigarettes alone. Tobacco can be consumed in several other ways, such as its widespread consumption as khaini and bidis in India.

“Of the 300 million smokers in India, 72 million smoke bidis. The majority of the population consume khaini,” explained Dr. Prasad on the multifaceted tasks of fighting the tobacco industry.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development. Controlling tobacco is a key part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

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Educating Children One Radio Wave at a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/educating-children-one-radio-wave-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=educating-children-one-radio-wave-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/educating-children-one-radio-wave-time/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:40:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151366 Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario. Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region. “Boko Haram […]

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'Kidnappy' is one of the fears that Nigerian children shared as part of UNICEF's Education in Emergencies exercise. Thousands of young girls have been kidnapped and held for year by Boko Haram since the start of the insurgency in 2009. Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario.

Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region.

“Boko Haram has disrupted the lives of 1.3 million children with a radical insurgency that has burned villages, displaced people, and created a culture of fear,” said UNICEF’s Crisis Communications Specialist Patrick Rose.

Now entering its eight year, Boko Haram’s violent insurgency has intensified and spilled over in the Lake Chad region, displacing over 2 million people across four countries.

The group has particularly targeted education, destroying more than 900 schools and forcing at least 1,500 more to close.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 611 teachers have been killed and another 19,000 forced to flee. Boko Haram has also attacked students to keep them out of school and forcibly recruited students into its ranks.

Such targeted attacks and destruction have created an education gap in crisis-affected areas, especially where displaced communities have fled to.

“Short of going through and building new schools in all of those communities when we don’t know how long this conflict is going to last, we tried to develop ways that we could reach these children and deliver some sort of educational routine that will keep them at least learning,” Rose told IPS.

Created with support from the European Union (EU) and in partnership with the governments of Cameroon and Niger, UNICEF’s radio education programs serve as an alternative platform for the 200,000 children in the two countries unable to access schools.

It includes 144 episodes of educational programming on literacy and numeracy for various ages and will be broadcast through state channels in both French and the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde, and Hausa.

The curriculum also includes a child protection component such as psychosocial support, guiding teachers to create a space for children to share their experiences and learn how to manage their fears.

“When you have children who have been deeply disturbed by displacement, many of whom have witnessed the murders of their own families, and you create a situation in which they are expected to spend eight hours a day in a classroom that isn’t engaging at all with the reality that they are encountering outside, you get a fundamental dissonance and ultimately low engagement,” Rose said.

As part of its Education in Emergencies initiatives, UNICEF works closely with communities to identify the risks they face as individuals and schools as a whole.

In one such workshop about fears, one girl wrote “kidnappy,” reflecting the deep distress and risk of kidnapping that young girls face.

Not only does the radio program have the potential to decrease the likelihood of kidnapping as children listen from home, but it also creates a “positive” space that addresses children’s realities.

Discussions are underway with the governments of Cameroon and Niger to make radio courses certified, allowing children to receive a certification and pass the school year.

Rose called the approach to the complex crisis “unique,” as it moves from a focus on individual countries to a multi-country response.

He also highlighted the potential for the radio education program to be replicated in other regions of the world.

In 35 crisis-affected countries, humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises have disrupted the education of 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18.

“In the same way that radio played a key role in the Cold War and reaching people around the world with messages, it is the same sort of situation here—radio doesn’t respect the borders of conflicts,” Rose concluded.

Ongoing insecurity has impeded humanitarian response in the Lake Chad basin, leaving children’s needs largely unmet.

UNICEF has so far received 50 percent of a 38.5-million-dollar appeal to meet the education needs of children in the region.

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Halting Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism, Mission Impossiblehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/halting-sexual-exploitation-children-tourism-mission-impossible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=halting-sexual-exploitation-children-tourism-mission-impossible http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/halting-sexual-exploitation-children-tourism-mission-impossible/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:44:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151347 While the business sector jumps for joy as the number of tourists grew in 2016 for the seventh consecutive year to reach 1.2 billion, and as the first four months of 2017 have registered 6 per cent increase, the sheer speed, abetted by technology, of an atrocious crime—the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, has, […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)

While the business sector jumps for joy as the number of tourists grew in 2016 for the seventh consecutive year to reach 1.2 billion, and as the first four months of 2017 have registered 6 per cent increase, the sheer speed, abetted by technology, of an atrocious crime—the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, has, to date, out-paced all attempts to put an end to it.

In fact, failure of collective action and a chronic lack of robust data constitute the main challenges to eliminate this crime, underlines the Global Study “Offenders on the Move,” which is the largest pool of information on the issue to date.


Source: International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017

In spite of such widely recognised failure, further attempts gave lastly been deployed to halt this crime–a group of specialised experts on July 17 gathered in Madrid at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters, to discuss measures the fight against child sexual exploitation in the tourism sector. “Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune.”

“We cannot build the responsible and sustainable tourism sector that we seek without protecting the most vulnerable in our societies. To do so we need effective tools and a global commitment,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

“Article 2 of UNWTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism underlines that the exploitation of human beings in any form, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of tourism”, Taleb Rifai recalled.

The world organisation is progressing with transforming the Code into a legally binding international treaty, the UNWTO Draft Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, which we hope will be approved by our General Assembly next September, he added.

The Madrid meeting initiative has been coordinated by the Bangkok-based End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), a network of 95 civil society organisations in 86 countries with one common mission: to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children, with the support of the government of The Netherlands.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai

‘Sexual Exploitation in Tourism Has a Child Face’

The fight against Child Exploitation in tourism is one of the priorities of UNWTO who has been leading since 20 years the World Tourism Network on Child Protection, formerly the Task Force for the Protection of Children in Tourism.

Najat Maalla M’jid, Chair of this Task force, which guided the development of the Global Study, set the scene for Madrid the meeting by stridently declaring, “Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune.”

In this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, let us place children’s right to protection from violence and exploitation at the heart of our actions, she added.

For his part, the Special Rapporteur on child trafficking and sexual exploitation, Maud de Boer Buquicchio called for “child protection to be placed at the core of tourism development strategies.”

The rise of the Internet and informal operators as well as greater access to international travel have expanded ‘demand’ and heightened the dangers for children. At the same time, grinding poverty and lack of education – combined with the continued neglect of child protection systems – have fuelled the ‘supply’ of children.

INTERPOL at Work

One of the initiatives conducted globally has been represented by the tools implemented by INTERPOL aimed at reducing the possibilities for known sex offenders travelling unnoticed internationally.

Peter van Dalen, from Interpol’s Organized & Emerging Crime Directorate, said, “Anonymity protects traveling sex offenders, and INTERPOL is working with countries to deprive known sex offenders’ of their anonymity, through mechanisms such as an international warning system sharing information across borders about convicted sex offenders, as well as an international vetting system for job applicants applying to working with children.

Credit: UNWTO

A unique feature of this process has been the strong engagement with the private sector, motivated by the need to ‘get ahead’ of practices that can seriously affect their reputation and their bottom line, according to UNWTO.

“The recently reported examples from the US involving flight attendants intervening when they noticed unusual situations involving children travelling with adults underscore the fact that no country is immune to the issue – and furthermore, that investments by the travel and tourism industry in training staff and access to reporting systems can pay dividends.”

The challenge remains to expand coordinated action to implement the recommendations of Global Study.

Poor Countries Encouraged to Promote Tourism

Meanwhile, world bodies have been lastly encouraging developing countries, in particular in Africa and the poorest nations worldwide, to promote tourism as a powerful economic engine.

Just four days ahead of the Madrid expert meeting on sexual exploitation of children in tourism, the UNWTO reported that tourism “can make a strong contribution to the economies of Least Developed Countries where the sector is a major exporter concludes the report Tourism for Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).’

Launched on 13 July on the occasion of the Aid for Trade Review held in Geneva, the report has been produced by UNWTO, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).

Tourism represents 7 per cent of all international trade and is of increasing relevance to the trade community, according to the report. It is part of services trade, accounting for 30 per cent of the world’s trade in services. This is particularly true for the LDCs, where it represents 7 per cent of total exports of goods and services, a figure that stands at 10 per cent for non-oil LDC exporters.

In view of the above, and as shown in the report, tourism has been recognised as a key sector for trade-related technical assistance in LDCs. Forty-five out of 48 Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies analysed for the report feature tourism as a key sector for development, according to the study.

“Yet, despite tourism’s value in the trade agenda, it is often difficult to direct trade-related technical assistance towards the sector because tourism and trade tend to fall under different line ministries. Successful interventions in tourism require strong collaboration across government agencies as well as across different actors at the regional or local level.”

The report aims to increase the commitment and investment in coordination and raise tourism’s prominence in trade-related technical assistance as to ensure the sector delivers on its powerful capacity to create jobs and incomes where they are most needed and for those who are most vulnerable – including youth and women.

The report has been launched to coincide with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.

In the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute to all the 17 SDGs.

Goal 17 sets as one of the targets a “significant increase of exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the least developed countries’ share of global exports by 2020”, to which tourism as service export can contribute.

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How to Achieve Universal Goals, Strategicallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieve-universal-goals-strategically http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:49:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151328 Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week. Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week.

A view of the Trusteeship Council Chamber during the Ministerial Segment of the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve the 2030 universal goals—such as eradication of poverty and hunger.

“We have come to New York in order to find common solutions for common problems,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, a top expert on policies on the Global South, to IPS News.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, among other key panelists, led discussions on the exchange of information, also addressed as interlinkages, between countries in one such panel, called Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs.

The main goal of the panel was to identify the different ways in which different targets and goals could be mix and matched to produce maximum results.

For example, the goal of eradicating hunger necessarily means a sustainable chain of food production and consumption. Food production relies on fertile soil, which ultimately caters to goals of environmental conservation. This pattern of information in an interdependent ecosystem sits at the heart of reviews and assessment to improve implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Crucial information, such as who needs the most help and how to provide it, are collected by different agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in every country. While this exchange of information becomes important to identify synergies between countries, they are not enough to bring the goals to a vivid global reality.

“Setting up various kinds of agencies is important to ensure the flow of information is important, but are not fully adequate. We need to assess how to build one policy over another, so that two policies don’t add up to two, but more than two,” Debapriya Bhattacharya told IPS news.

The next crucial part of this flow is establishing a relationship—or seeking leverage—with the global community.

This partnering with a resourceful global community is especially important for countries to mitigate financial and technological issues. For example, a landlocked country with varying special needs can also quickly benefit from a global partnership.

To achieve this partnership, panelists stressed on the importance of political leadership.

Ultimately, with the help of newer technologies, this wide array of information coalesces into quantitative and qualitative data, and guides policy making.

Hopefully, in the next and complimentary step—the implementation of the data to deliver on the goals—all that glitters will turn to gold.

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Civil Society on SDG Engagement: “We Are Not Guests”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:55:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151313 Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting. Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in […]

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Indigenous children hold signs supporting the struggle in Cherán. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting.

Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015.

Concerned about the slow progress towards sustainable development by governments after two years, civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world have descended upon the global meeting to make their voices heard and demand engagement in order to achieve the ambitious agenda.

“One thing that is very different in the 2030 Agenda is the call for inclusion of all stakeholders and all people…we are not guests, we are not in the shadow, we are part of the implementation of this agenda as we were also part of the crafting of the agenda,” co-chair of the Steering Group of the Coordination Mechanism of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) Naiara Costa told IPS.

MGoS is a newly created space to help civil society access information, increase their participation in decision-making processes, and facilitate collaboration across major stakeholder groups including indigenous peoples, women, and persons with disabilities.

“It is an agenda that is attracting so much attention and that civil society is taking so seriously that you need to have a space where people can come and get information and be prepared…if we are not engaged, [the agenda] is not going to be delivered,” Costa added.

Though there has been some progress towards inclusion of marginalised groups, there is still a long way to go.

Yetnebersh Nigussie, who is the senior inclusion advisor of international disability and development organisation Light for the World, told IPS that persons with disabilities have long been neglected, stating: “When talking about persons with disability, we are talking about billions—that’s 1/7th of the global population which is a huge segment of the population that has been highly overlooked.”

Though comprising of 15 percent of the global population, persons with disabilities are overrepresented among those living in absolute poverty.

They encounter exclusion and discrimination on a daily basis, including in development programmes and agendas like the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which made no reference to persons with disabilities.

Two years into the new 2030 Agenda, participation is still uneven for persons with disabilities, Nigussie said.

“Most of disability organizations were not fully informed—even in cases that they were consulted, accessibility needs were not addressed, and they were not meaningfully included,” she said, adding that there are also cases of exclusion against disability organizations within civil society itself.

Filipino indigenous activist and former Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Joan Carling echoed similar sentiments to IPS on the exclusion of indigenous groups.

“Indigenous people who are defending our lands are being killed. So how can there be effective participation of indigenous peoples if that is the situation at the local level?” she said.

According to Global Witness, more than 200 environmental defenders, including indigenous leaders, were killed trying to protect their land in 2016, more than double the number five years ago.

Almost 100 have already been killed so far in 2017, including Mexican indigenous leader and illegal logging opponent Isidro Baldenergo Lopez.

States often exclude indigenous groups in development processes because it is too political otherwise, Carling noted.

“[States] are threatened by our demand of our rights to our territories and resources…so they try to avoid any reference to indigenous peoples because once they call us indigenous peoples, then they have to recognize our rights,” she told IPS.

Both Carling and Nigussie also highlighted the shrinking space for civil society around the world.

CIVICUS has found that civic space is severely constrained in 106 countries, over half of the UN’s members, through practices such as forced closure of CSOs, violence, and detentions.

Civil society activists are imprisoned most when they criticise the government and its policies or call attention to human rights abuses, the group noted.

Nigussie told IPS that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a “joint responsibility” between governments and civil society and that if they fail, they are “mutually accountable.”

To promote such accountability, the SDGs must be linked to the human rights model which will entail frequent consultations with persons with disabilities from the grassroots to the international levels.

Though engagement at the local and national levels are most important to successfully achieve sustainable development, global forums like HLPF at the UN allow civil society to make sure their concerns are heard.

“There is a lot of interest in bring the issue of lack of consultations at the global level simply because the space at the national levels are not provided,” Carling told IPS.

She highlighted the importance of indigenous peoples to identify, support, and have ownership of their own solutions.

“The goal is leaving no one behind—so if it is not participatory or rights-based, then it will end up as business as usual again,” Carling said.

Costa urged for nations to bring lessons learned back home, concluding: “It cannot stop here, [countries] need to bring the discussion back home. Otherwise its just a talk shop and we cannot allow this to happen.”

This year’s HLPF is held at the UN from 10-19 July with the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” It will focus on evaluating implementation of SDGs in 44 countries including Argentina, Ethiopia, and Thailand.

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Digitizing Family Planning: The Way of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/digitizing-family-planning-way-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digitizing-family-planning-way-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/digitizing-family-planning-way-future/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:09:59 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151310 Online shopping may have its pros and cons, but when it comes to buying products that have an invisible morality tag, it’s the safest possible option, believes Franklin Paul. One of India’s most vocal advocates for youth rights to sexual health, education and products, Paul has spent over two years studying and introducing digital technologies […]

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Digitizing SRHR communication: some of the popular mobile phone apps currently used in India by the government and an NGO. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Digitizing SRHR communication: some of the popular mobile phone apps currently used in India by the government and an NGO. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
LONDON, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Online shopping may have its pros and cons, but when it comes to buying products that have an invisible morality tag, it’s the safest possible option, believes Franklin Paul.

One of India’s most vocal advocates for youth rights to sexual health, education and products, Paul has spent over two years studying and introducing digital technologies to India’s rural youths. “One day soon, nobody will have to walk into a store to buy condoms, face the nosey chemist and feel embarrassed. They will just order it from their mobile phone or tablet or laptop and and get it delivered on their doorstep,” he says ."Health workers themselves feel embarrassed to talk of sex and contraceptives, but if that information is available on the mobile screen, nobody will have to be embarrassed." --Kamla Mukhi

Talking to IPS on the sidelines of the London Family Planning Summit held last week, Paul shared his personal experiences of talking to youths in the East Champaran district of Bihar, one of India’s most underdeveloped states. The government has just introduced sex education in the state’s schools, but for young men and women, it is difficult to get the correct information on reproductive health.

To help them, Paul and his fellow youths launched a cellphone application called M Sathi. Available now on Google Play, the app provides information in a fun and interactive way where users can learn about sex and related issues through games and quizzes.

Digitizing SRHR

In India, the government is currently running a special campaign on expanding digital connectivity and providing quality e-Governance. Named “Digital India”, the campaign envisions transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

The campaign aligns well with the government’s plan to advance and improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the country, says Chandra Kumar Mishra, India’s secretary of health. “We are digitising our communication all along our supply chain,” he said, right after announcing that India would spend an additional one billion dollars in the next five years to provide better reproductive health care to its population.

With the new announcement, India’s commitment now stands at an impressive sum of three billion dollars.

There are 100 million women in India who use contraceptives, according to government data. But not every one receives what she needs. This causes not just an imbalance in the demand and supply system, but also becomes a hurdle in achieving the overall SRHR goal of the government: providing contraceptives to an additional 48 million women and also reduce and eradicate diseases and deaths.

Digital tools can help bridge the gap between the demand and the supply, says Mishra.

Citing the example of E-mitra, a mobile phone based communication service launched by the government, Mishra says that the rapid expansion of digital network in India is sparking greater use of internet phones, especially in the urban and semi-urban belt. Health service providers should leverage this opportunity to reach out more people and provide them with credible information through mobile phones and internet tools, he feels.

Cellphones for Better Information

Mishra’s words resonate with Kamla Mukhi, a 24-year-old young tribal woman community health campaigner in Daltongunj, a coal mining district in east India’s Jharkhand state. In Daltongunj, tribal women have to travel 20-25 kilometers to reach the nearest health center for their need – whether it is for information or a product.

A year ago, Mukhi visited one such health center. “An elderly woman health worker secretly slipped a box of condoms into a young woman’s hand. Later, the woman asked me, ‘Didi, how do I eat this? This is rubber.‘ I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The woman had earlier received cereals and birth control pills here, so she thought this new product was also for swallowing,“ Mukhi recalls.

With mobile phones, such situations would not occur because women can receive the information directly, without any added confusion, Mukhi says.“The health workers themselves feel embarrassed to talk of sex and contraceptives, but if that information is available on the mobile screen, nobody will have to be embarrassed.”

The digitized information system can also be a big boon for women and young people who live in conflict areas, says Mukhi, whose own village falls in an area partially controlled by Naxals, an ultra-communist rebel outfit fighting against the government.

“Women walk long miles to a health center. Then they find out it’s been closed because there was a security threat or an attack. If such information is shared on a mobile phone, they need not undergo such unnecessary hassles,“ says the young health activist.

Investing in Data

But while it’s rather easy to share and give away information, collecting accurate statistics about how that knowledge is put to use remains a huge challenge.

“Credible data is a very crucial area,” says Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who in 2016 had announced an 80-million-dollar fund for research and collection of reliable gender specific data. Such data, feels Gates, is vital to identify the economic and social issues affecting women and fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially goals 3 and 5.

“When a woman health center worker uses and shares data with the women in her community, she knows its valuable because its credible,“ Gates says.

Mishra agrees: “One of the technologies that we are using is Supply Chain Management, a software that will track the purchases and supply of all the reproductive healthcare commodities. We also have a current database on levels of contraceptive use which we are now going to digitize. Soon we will have an enormous volume of data and most of it we will make available to the public,” he says.

Currently, the government is partnering with the Gates Foundation in developing Kilkari, a mobile application that will provide customized information to new mothers, including notifying them on next vaccination dates. The government also has two other mobile apps – Emitra and Anmol – that are used to give free information on family planning.

Youth-Friendly Technologies

None of the government’s technologies are specifically targeting youths, Mishra admits, but says that his department is planning to address it soon. Franklin Paul says that to encourage youths to use the technologies, they need to be ‘youth-friendly.‘

“The government apps are very text-heavy. But young people love something that is interactive and visually appealing and stimulating. This is why we are about to add videos to our Msathi apps. Just as we need to give them a basket of contraceptive products to choose from, we also need to give them a basket of technologies to pick. So, instead of just text messages, we should offer a bouquet of ecommerce, multimedia and social media that will help expand SRHR services among youths,“ says Paul.

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The Arab Youth Bulge and the Parliamentarianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:26:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151300 More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women. These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and […]

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The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students from Al-Amal Preparatory School for Girls in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, participate in psychosocial support activities. Credit: © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

By IPS World Desk
ROME/AMMAN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women.

These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and alarming growing water scarcity, all worsening as a consequence of climate change.

One of the main consequences is an increasing social unrest like the one that led to so the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Let alone massive migration–now it is estimated that 25 to 35 per cent of Arab youth appear to be determined to migrate. (See: What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?).

What to Do?

More than 100 Arab and Asian legislators are set to focus on these and other related challenges in Amman, Jordan, during the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which is the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), participants have been selected based on their needs for capacity enhancement and priority policy interventions where knowledge-sharing can be most effective.

According to APDA, over the past decades, while the Arab region has shown remarkable socio-economic improvement including education and health, it has faced profound changes and challenges. Among them is the “youth bulge,” which describes the increasing proportion of youth in relative to other age groups.

The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students at the Jalazone Basic School watch a performance by ‘Clowns 4 Care’. Credit: © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Riham Jafary

Such increase, together with overall Arab population pressures, has resulted in an unprecedented youth population growth in the region’s history, it adds.

One of the most challenging issues facing young Arabs are the high-unemployment rates. “The region has one of the highest regional youth unemployment rate seen anywhere in the world,” it warns, adding that in 2009, more than 20 per cent of Arab youth were unable to find a job, which constituted more than half of the total unemployment.

Such high youth unemployment, combined with a demographic youth bulge, provoked the Arab Spring, a civil uprising mainly by Arab youths, and regional instability, according to APDA.

Moreover, despite overall progress in the health sector in many Arab countries over the past years, Arab youth still suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities, lack of access to health information and services, especially for reproductive health.

“This is especially true for young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities and putting many in a vulnerable situation. “

The Youth Bulge

Organised under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs”, the Amman meeting aims at enhancing the roles of parliamentarians in enacting legislation to formulate policies and mobilize budget that takes population issues into account is a driver to promote socio-economic development.

In fact, legislators have a significant part to play in linking demographic dimensions with sustainable development and turning them into advantages to produce socio-economic outcomes.

“For instance, the youth bulge presents not only development challenges but also opportunities, if appropriate policies are adopted to invest in the youth and reap the full potential of them. “

The Amman event will be followed by one in India on mid-September, and another one in the Republic of Korea towards the end of October 2017.

The Asian Population and Development Association has supported activities of parliamentarians tackling population and development issues for 35 years.

This time, in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event is intended to highlight and call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

As well, it will focus on parliamentarians’ important roles and tasks in addressing population issues aligned with the new goals and targets, and related policies and programmes that advance social inclusion and population stability in the region.

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2 Billion People Don’t Have Access To Clean Water, Opens up Fissures of Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:52:35 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151290 More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for […]

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More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On 9 February 2016 in central Ethiopia, children and women from a semi-pastoralist community wait their turn to fill jerrycans with clean water at a water point in Haro Huba Kebele in Fantale Woreda, in East Shoa Zone, Oromia Region. Credit: © UNICEF/UN011590/Ayene

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for drinking.

“Clean water and sanitation is central to other outcomes, for example, nutrition among children. While many countries like India have made it a top priority, many others haven’t been able to emphasise the issue yet,” Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, told IPS.

As many as 400 million people still rely on distant water sources—travelling to and fro from their homes to pick it up. Some 159 million people, according to the report, rely on untreated water from lakes and streams. This puts lives, especially of young children, at great risk.

“Every day, 800 children under the age of five die from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea. In fact, diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of death in the world.” Wijesekera added.

A lack of access to clean drinking water is also bad news for hygiene and sanitary levels. In many countries, open defecation due to the lack of in-house toilets poses a significant challenge.

“The sheer indignity of openly defecating, especially among young girls, takes a toll on other aspects of their lives—such as their poor attendance in school where there aren’t toilets,” Wijesekera explained.

This is especially true in rural areas. While the global drop in open defecation from 20 to 12 percent between 2000 and 2015 is a welcome fact, the rate of decline, at just .7 percent every year, puts pressure on governments to do more. To eliminate open defecation by 2030, for example, the rate of decline has to double.

Still, some countries like Ethiopia have combatted the issue of open defecation successfully.

“In Ethiopia, the percentage has dropped from 80 to 27 percent between 2000 and 2015. Critical building blocks like stronger policies at the government levels and dutiful allocation of funds can go a long way,” Wijesekera said.

These issues—from access to safe drinking water to sanitation supplies—mostly affect the poorest families. For example, Angola, which has performed better than other sub-Saharan African countries and achieved overall basic access to water for its citizens, still shows a gap of 40 percent between people who live in urban and rural areas.

Similarly, Panama’s capital city has achieved universal access to clean drinking water, but other sub regions in the country remain marginalized.

Meanwhile, the report has drawn criticism from other NGOs for being incomplete.

“The report is a good starting point but the current data only reflects 35 percent of the global population across 92 countries. Big countries like China and India have been left out,” Al-Hassan Adam, the international coordinator at End Water Poverty, a coalition organisation that campaigns for water rights and sanitation, told IPS.

“Bigger industries have to do more to protect water resources. In countries like Mexico, water is still contaminated. In other poorer countries, infrastructure to ensure safely managed water is missing in the first place,” he added.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN strongly focus on reducing inequality between and within countries, and commit member states to “leave no one behind.”

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For India’s Urban Marginalized, Reproductive Healthcare Still a Distant Dreamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/indias-urban-marginalized-reproductive-healthcare-still-distant-dream/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-urban-marginalized-reproductive-healthcare-still-distant-dream http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/indias-urban-marginalized-reproductive-healthcare-still-distant-dream/#comments Tue, 11 Jul 2017 12:21:01 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151240 In a semi-lit room of a southern Chennai neighborhood, a group of women sit in a circle around a table surrounded by large cardboard boxes of “Nirodh” – India’s most popular condom. Clad in colorful saris, wearing toe rings and red dots on their foreheads, they look like ordinary housewives. Slowly, one of the women […]

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India is a part of the FP2020 – a partnership to achieve SDG 3 & 5 and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030

Sex workers in India’s Chennai city demonstrate their skills in slipping condoms on a phallus. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
CHENNAI/LONDON, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

In a semi-lit room of a southern Chennai neighborhood, a group of women sit in a circle around a table surrounded by large cardboard boxes of “Nirodh” – India’s most popular condom.

Clad in colorful saris, wearing toe rings and red dots on their foreheads, they look like ordinary housewives. Slowly, one of the women opens a box, takes out a handful of condoms and a wooden phallus. Sound of laughter fills the air as each woman takes her trurn to slip a condom over the phallus. It’s a rare, happy hour for these women who live a hard life as sex workers – a fact they carefully guard from their families.“In our community, over 90 percent of people survive by begging. How can they ever afford any of these treatments?" --Axom, a 26-year-old transsexual man

Baby, who only goes by the first name, is in her forties and the most experienced of all when it comes to demostrating condom skills. A peer educator, Baby has been teaching fellow sex workers all over the city of Chennai how to practice safe sex and protect themselves from both HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Thanks to constant training and a generation of awareness, condoms are now part and parcel of almost all of the city’s 6,300 sex workers’ lives, she says. But their sexual health and protection from diseases still completely depend on their clients’ willingness to use a condom.

“We try our best to help the client understand that it is very important to wear a condom because that will keep us both safe from HIV and other infections like gonorrhea. But it needs some convincing. Most of them wear it only grudgingly,“ says Baby.

Female condoms – a mirage

India is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of condoms in the world. The government-owned Hindustan Latest Limited (HLL) produces over a billion condoms annually, including Nirodh. Of these, 650 million Nirodh condoms are given away annually free of cost for the safe sex campaign. But when it comes to female condoms, there is no free lunch and one must buy the condoms from a store.

AJ Hariharan is the founder and CEO of the Chennai-based Indian Community Welfare Organization (ICWO), one of the largest NGOs in the country working for the welfare of sex workers. Hariharan says that female condoms could be of immense help for the sex workers, but are extremely hard to access because of steep pricing.

A pack of male condom costs around 25 rupees, while a female condom is priced at 59 and above. This is far beyond the reach of most sex workers whose daily earnings are 200-500 rupees, which goes to support their families.

“At the current price, a female condom is an out of reach luxury for poor women. They will never be able to able to use this which is a shame because the average sex workers really need female condoms,” Hariharan adds..

The reason behind the “great need” is both self-empowerment and money, he explains: it takes some time to explain to a client why he must wear a condom and then help him put it on. But this requires time and often, the couple may have to wait before the man has an erection again. With a female condom, business can be done faster as she can save both her time and energy and serve him quick. For those women who rent a place for work, this can be very helpful as she can be with multiple clients in few hours and spend less on rent.

Organizations like ICWO have asked the government for a free supply of female condoms, says Hariharan, but have not received any so far. “This is one of the biggest unmet needs and it must be looked seriously into,” he says.

Despite their inability to afford female condoms, the sex worker community is luckier than other marginalized people of the city as they regularly access sexual and reproductive health services.

“There are eight hospitals in the city where we can go for a regular health check-up that includes having an HIV and STI test and take condoms,” says Vasanthi, a sex worker.

Healthcare for the Transgender

But for another sexual minority – the 450,000 strong transgender community – even a regular health check-up remains a struggle.

“One of the biggest challenges is finding a doctor who can and is willing to understand our problems,” reveals Axom, a 26-year-old transsexual man.

“The moment you walk into a hospital or a private clinic, the doctor will start judging your character and rebuke you for your sexual choice, instead of advising you what to do. It always starts with ‘why do you choose to be this way?’ After this, obviously you will never feel like opening up about your health issues,” Axom says.

Besides the moral policing, transgender community members also face uphill battles to afford healthcare including feminizing and masculinizing hormonal treatment.

Axom has been undergoing hormonal treatment. He hopes to have sex reassignment surgery – a multilayered medical treatment that will give him a prosthetic penis – and is spending over 10,000 dollars on the treatment. Thanks to his job in one of the world‘s biggest e-commerce firms, he can afford it, but for most others, such procedures remain a distant dream.

“In our community, over 90 percent of people survive by begging,” Axom says. “How can they ever afford any of these treatments?“

FP2020, Commitments and Gaps

In 2012, India became a part of the FP2020 – a global partnership to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5 and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030. India had committed among other things to invest two billion dollars over eight years to reduce the unmet need and address “equity so that the poorest and most vulnerable population have more access to quality services and supplies.“

On July 11, representatives from the FP2020 partner countries are participating in a summit in London again to inform and analyse the current status of delivering those commitments made four years ago.

For India, this is a good chance to tell the world what it has really done and recommit to achieve the goals that it had set, says Lester Coutinho, Deputy Director of Family Planning at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Governments, including India, are now responding to the gaps in the commitments that they made. Adolescents and youths are one area, supply chain is another, money for purchasing commodities is the third. Giving counseling and information to women and young people is another. There are tangible solutions in these areas that the government can adopt,” says Coutinho.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, transsexual men and woman like Axom hope that one day the government will subsidize the SRS and hormonal treatment for transgenders.

“The Supreme Court of India recognized the transpeople as a third gender in 2014, so we are now entitled to equal rights and facilities as other citizens do. If the government can offer free surgeries for life-threatening diseases, why can’t we expect it to offer us subsidies on treatments that can remove threats to our identities and the restoration of a normality in our life?” asks Axom.

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Is Religion the New Colonial Frontier in International Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development/#respond Tue, 04 Jul 2017 06:30:40 +0000 Azza Karam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151158 Azza Karam is Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

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Azza Karam is Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

By Azza Karam
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 4 2017 (IPS)

A decade ago, it was difficult to get Western policy makers in governments to be interested in the role of religious organizations in human development. The secular mind-set was such that religion was perceived, at best, as a private affair. At worst, religion was deemed the cause of harmful social practices, an obstacle to the “sacred” nature of universal human rights, and/or the root cause of terrorism. In short, religion belonged in the ‘basket of deplorables’.

Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Yet, starting in the mid-1990s with then President of the World Bank, James Wolfenson, and celebrated in 2000 under then UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan when the Millenium Development Goals were agreed to, a number of religiously-inspired initiatives coalesced, all trying to move ‘religion’ to international development’s ‘basket of desirables’.

The arguments used to begin to generate positive interest in the role of religious NGOs in international multilateral fora were relatively straightforward. Today they are almost a cliche: religious institutions are the oldest social service providers known to human kind, and several basic health and educational institutions of today, are administered or influenced to some extent, by religious entities.

So if we are serious about strengthening health systems and universal access to healthcare, enhancing educational institutions, content and accessibility, protecting our environment, safeguarding the rights of marginlised and vulnerable populations, countering social exclusion and ensuring human dignity, then – the argument is – we have to work with those who influence minds, hearts, and continue to provide and manage significant amounts of social services in most countries. Facts and figures as to how many social services are provided by/through religious institutions continue to be provided and roundly disputed.

The number of initiatives within the secular multilaterals – like the UN – which focused on ‘religion and development’ began to slowly attract the attention (and the money) of some western donor governments such as Switzerland and Norway, both of whom were keen on mobilising religious support for women’s rights in particular. Some governments (such as the USA and the UK) dabbled in engaging with religious NGOs both at home in their own countries, and supporting some of them in their development and humanitarian work abroad.

Nevertheless, from a multilateral perspective, the larger tapestry of western donor support to efforts around religion, tended to be marginal – dipping toes in the water rather than taking a plunge.

With the increasing presence of al-Qaeda on the world stage in 2001, and the subsequent war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world witnessed the emerging gruesome hydras of religious extremism, at once fueling, and being fueled by, the phenomena of ultra nationalism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. Some western governments spoke openly of engaging religious actors in counter-terrorism, but this narrative was fraught with political tensions.

It was only when migrants appeared to ‘flood’ European shores (albeit in numbers which are only a fraction of those ending up in developing countries), that there was a noticeable surge of keen interest by several western governments in ‘this religion thing’.

For the UN developmental entities who had invested significantly to generate the interest of their largest western donors in the relevance of religions to development, spurred by the learning from the MDGs and with a view to realizing Agenda 2030, there was a noticeable volte face which was taking place right under their noses.

Almost overnight, UN-steered initiatives to engage with religious actors and enhance partnerships around health, education, environment, women’s rights, humanitarian work, all of which had been painstakingly prepared and backed by years of research, consultations, networking and shared practice (as the work of the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development testifies) became the object of desire by some governments.

Rather than seek to support the UN in continuing to engage with this work and the critical partnerships developed and labored over for years, however, the objective of these governments is to seek to directly manage the convening, networking and funding roles of faith-based entities, ostensibly with the same objectives of achieving the SDGs.

But there is a critical difference between the UN convening and working with faith-based organizations and religious leaders, and one or a handful of governments doing so. To survive, to thrive, and to protect human rights, the agenda of multilateral entities has to remain distinct from the national self-interest of any one government – or a handful thereof – no matter how powerful this government (or these governments), may be.

This applies to all issues, constituencies and types of partnerships outlined in SDG 17. But the argument here is even more powerful: that where religions are concerned, the need for unbiased and non-partisan engagement with religious actors, distinct from any one nation’s self-interest, is crucial.

If there is suspicion about the role of a non-western government in supporting religious actors in countries outside of its own, then why do we not also suspect western governments of involving themselves in supporting religious efforts in countries other than their own?

This question becomes especially pertinent when we begin to look at the religious composition of the western governments now keen on ‘supporting religion and development’ abroad – they are mostly Christian. And if we look at the governments viewed with much suspicion who have long been supporting religious engagement overseas (also for development and humanitarian purposes, one might add), they tend to be Muslim. A coincidence perhaps?

To avoid these kinds of questions, it would behoove all concerned parties interested in achieving the significant targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, and with a view to endorsing the United Nations’ mandate of safeguarding peace and security and protecting human rights, to support the efforts of the UN system in engaging the whole of civil society.

Rather than efforts driven by some governments, to work with select religious actors, in some countries, the challenge (which is fully achievable) is to strengthen the multi-faith and broad-based civic coalitions of legally registered, bona fide NGOs, working with and known to their governments and to the UN entities, at national, regional and global levels, to deliver for the world.

Otherwise, the danger is that such efforts will be misconstrued as the new colonial enterprise in international development, playing into rising religious tensions globally. History is replete with examples where mobilizing religious actors in other countries, no matter how well-intentioned, can create some rather unholy alliances.

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Progress on World Hunger Has Reversedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/progress-world-hunger-reversed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=progress-world-hunger-reversed http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/progress-world-hunger-reversed/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 16:10:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151156 World hunger has increased, reversing years of progress, said a UN specialised agency. During its biennial conference held in Rome, Italy from 3-8 July, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that the world is facing it’s worst food crisis since World War II. “I wish I could announce here today some good news regarding […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

World hunger has increased, reversing years of progress, said a UN specialised agency.

During its biennial conference held in Rome, Italy from 3-8 July, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that the world is facing it’s worst food crisis since World War II.

World hunger has increased, reversing years of progress, said FAO: the world is facing its worst food crisis since World War II

Credit: FAO/Carlo Perla

“I wish I could announce here today some good news regarding the global fight against hunger…but, unfortunately, it is not the case,” said FAO’s Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva to member states at the opening of the meeting.

FAO has identified 19 countries facing severe food crises due to a combination of conflict and climate change including South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen where nearly 20 million are affected.

Though South Sudan recently declared that it no longer has areas in famine, millions are still on the brink of starvation as violence and insecurity ensues.

In fact, almost 60 percent of hungry people around the world live in areas affected by conflicts and climate change. With no relief to be seen, many turn to migration, contributing to the doubling of global displacement, said Graziano da Silva.

The concerning trends comes just two years after the adoption the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals which includes targets to eradicate hunger by 2030.

“Strong political commitment to eradicate hunger is fundamental, but it is not enough. Hunger will only be defeated if countries translate their pledges into concrete action, especially at national and local levels,” said Graziano da Silva.

Though peace is important to end these crises, the international community cannot wait for peace in order to take action, he added.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni similarly called for “renewed and extraordinary efforts” during a keynote address, particularly pointing to the influx of migrants into the European Union (EU) country’s shores.

Italy is one of the major destinations for migrants who embark on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean sea. In the first six months of 2017, Italy has taken in over 82,000 migrants. In the past week alone, more than 10,000 migrants have been rescued from overcrowded, unstable boats by the country’s coastguard.

Overwhelmed by the numbers, the country has threatened to close their ports to rescue ships unless other EU countries share responsibility and help take in migrants.

However, responding to emergencies alone will not be sufficient.

“To save lives, we have to save their livelihoods. We cannot save people and put them in camps,” said Graziano da Silva.

FAO has highlighted the importance of work around climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agricultural production, migration, and support of conflict-affected rural livelihoods among its key priorities.

“There is no peace without sustainable development, and there is no sustainable development without peace. Vulnerable people, rural people cannot be left behind…we have to build the conditions for them to thrive, for them to have hope, for them to exercise their human right to food,” Graziano da Silva concluded.

Around 1000 participants are expected to attend the 40th session of FAO’s conference, including a 176 member delegation. Participants will address pressing policy issues related to global food security and will review and vote on FAO Director-General’s proposed program of work and budget for 2018-2019.

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Ending Child Marriage Could Add Trillions to World Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ending-child-marriage-add-trillions-world-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-child-marriage-add-trillions-world-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ending-child-marriage-add-trillions-world-economy/#respond Fri, 30 Jun 2017 06:07:19 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151120 The benefits of ending child marriage are many—boosting a young girl’s morale and increasing her chances of education and work, and by that virtue, curbing high population rates in developing economies and boosting growth. Still, more than 15 million children, under 18 years of age, are married each year. A new study published by the […]

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In Nepal, many children who suffer from malnutrition belong to young mothers. In fact, teen marriages and pregnancies are common and over 23 percent of women give birth before they are 18 years old. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2017 (IPS)

The benefits of ending child marriage are many—boosting a young girl’s morale and increasing her chances of education and work, and by that virtue, curbing high population rates in developing economies and boosting growth.

Still, more than 15 million children, under 18 years of age, are married each year.

A new study published by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) estimates that from now until 2030, the largely outlawed practice of child marriage is going to cost developing countries trillions of dollars.

“We haven’t seen real investments needed to end the practise. Policy makers have increasingly acknowledged child marriage as a human rights abuse, but we didn’t have a sense of the economic impact, which we thought might spur increased funding by donors and governments,” Suzanne Petroni, one of the lead authors of the report, told IPS.

The burden is borne mainly by poor economies with a large population of children under 18. The UN estimates that Africa, by the end of 2050, will be home to the largest population of children under 18.

In the Republic of Niger, for instance, 77 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 22 were married before they turned 18.

Given the high numbers, Niger also stands to curb its population growth by as much as 5 percent if it ended the practice, and trigger growth of 1.7 billion dollars in additional welfare, 327 million in savings to the education budget, and 34 million through reduced infant mortality.

Similarly, In Uganda, the economy stands to gain 2.4 billion dollars by curbing its population growth, as does Nepal, which stands to gain almost a billion dollars.

Globally, the amount adds up to 500 billion dollars, picked up by related benefits—fewer instances of malnutrition, for example—by the end of 2030.

“Many countries have laws on the books. In Bangladesh, for instance, half of the girls are married before 18, even though the country has banned child marriage since 1929. So clearly, laws are not sufficient to create change,” Petroni explained.

Besides the glaring benefits of a surge in economic growth in developing countries, ending the practise will ensure better prospects for young girls— better education, higher incomes, and finally, as better decision makers.

In fact, child marriage and higher school dropout rates hamper the chances of earning better wages by 9 percent on average.

The UN aims to abolish the practise by 2030, as a part of its broader mission to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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More Bang for Your Buck: Saving Lives by Investing in the Pooresthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 07:01:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151079 Investing in the health of the poorest communities saves almost twice as many lives, according to a UN agency’s analysis. In a new report titled “Narrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) found that increased access to health among poor communities saves more lives and is […]

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Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030

Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) Noah Chipeta rides his bicycle from the Chanthunthu community clinic to the nearest health centre, which is 17 kilometres away, in order to restock medical supplies at the clinic in rural Kasungu District, Malawi | Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2017 (IPS)

Investing in the health of the poorest communities saves almost twice as many lives, according to a UN agency’s analysis.

In a new report titled “Narrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) found that increased access to health among poor communities saves more lives and is more cost-effective than in non-poor communities.

“It is critical to focus on the poorer populations, especially in terms of health and nutrition,” Senior Advisor for UNICEF and the report’s author Carlos Carrera told IPS.

Impoverished children are nearly twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthday than children growing up in better circumstances. A majority of these deaths are preventable, but lack of access to critical health services make them all too common.

However, UNICEF has found that health gaps between poor and non-poor communities have narrowed in over 50 countries and that improved access to health interventions among poor communities have helped decrease child mortality three times faster than among non-poor groups.

Since birth rates are higher among the poor, the reduction in the under-five mortality rate translates into 4.2 more lives saved for every million people.

In fact, over one million people, a majority of whom lived in poverty, were saved during the final year of the 51 countries studied.

Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030

UNICEF-supported mobile health team providing essential basic health services to remote and isolated communities, with a special focus on maternal and neonatal care | Credit: UNICEF

Such live-saving health interventions include increased provision of basic medication, skilled birth attendance, full immunisation programmes, and even free health services.

In Bangladesh, new policies including the establishment of free community clinics and targeted sanitation and hygiene interventions have helped decrease under-five mortality by almost 75 percent.

Carrera pointed to Sierra Leone as another successful example as it introduced services targeting the major killers of vulnerable children and women, including insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, birth attendance, and immunisation.

Between 2000 and 2013, the West African nation achieved up to 25 percent increases in some intervention coverages among the poor.

“By combining all of these different methods, they managed to improve coverage of all these high impact interventions in poor populations,” Carrera stated.

However, the 2014-2015 Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone potentially set back decades of progress in the country, and serves as a reminder for the need for sustained investment in community health systems.

Though it is more expensive to reach marginalised populations due to barriers such as distance and lack of roads or infrastructure, the benefits outweigh the costs, Carrera noted.

For every one million dollars invested, the number of deaths averted is 1.8 times higher among the poor than the non-poor.

“It is more costly, we accept that, but it is so much more effective because of the higher burden of diseases and higher risk for the health of poor children and women that it saves many more lives,” Carrera told IPS.

As a result, he advised governments to utilise an equity approach to identify populations and causes of death in order to design targeted interventions to reach and include the most vulnerable.

“That will be the most efficient way to use their resources—not just the most equitable, but also the most efficient,” Carrera added, noting that this is the only way for governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The internationally adopted SDGs, whose motto is to ‘leave no one behind’ includes targets to reduce preventable deaths of children and provide equitable access to quality and affordable health care services for all, especially those who have not been reached.

Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030.

“With so much at stake – and so many lives hanging in the balance – we cannot afford to ignore this new evidence,” UNICEF stated.

UNICEF’s study draws on data from 2003 to 2016 in 51 countries where around 80 percent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur.

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Putting the Spotlight on Women Migrant Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:25:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151040 Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide. But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug. This is why, experts from […]

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Eni Lestari Andayani Adi (Indonesia), Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), addresses the opening segment of the United Nations high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide.

But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug.

This is why, experts from UN Women and the United Nations University (UNU) in New York came together this week to discuss and raise awareness about migrant women workers’ rights.

In 2015, female migrant workers, who number 117 million, contributed about half of the world’s total remittance flow.

As labour markets shuffle in the new world order, two distinct patterns have emerged. Women have increasingly moved to hospitality and nursing industries, or the “domestic” economy, as well as areas previously dominated by men, such as agriculture. Demand has continued to rise in developed countries, but women’s contributions have been severely underappreciated.

By contributing to the gaps of the labour economy, women have lifted the working age population, and contributed to technological and human capital. By virtue of their soft skills, they have closed the gaps of a receding tax base, undermined by an aging population, and have come to the assistance of the elderly in the chaos of cutbacks in the health sector.

In the Philippines, for instance, which is the world’s third highest remittance receiving country, women migrant workers have been the sole breadwinners for their family. Typically, women largely migrate to Europe and North America.

Still, with the change in the world order and the growth of newer economies, this flow is likely to change. Experts predict that the flow from the Global North to the Global South will shift, as migrants move into the fast growing economies of Asia, like China and India.

“Migration is going to continue because a single country will not have all the resources in and of itself. Even if technology advances, we are not going to put our children in the hands of a robot,” Dr. Francisco Cos Montiel, a senior research officer at UNU, told IPS.

Inkeri Von Hase, an expert on gender and migration issues, told IPS that “we have to prioritise women’s empowerment so they are able to realise their full potential.” The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted in 2016 with this very aim to protect and empower migrant workers, has largely failed to take into account specific rights for women’s protection.

Still, all this is not to say that all women migrant workers are necessarily victims of sexual assault and discrimination at work. Many have found a renewed sense of agency and purpose, for instance, the women who have fled violence in Guatemala and El Salvador. To ensure they can continue to tread this path, however, it becomes crucial to adopt newer policies today.

It is also significant that many migrants have become de-skilled in the process of migration, and have settled for the first jobs they found, in a bid to earn money to send home.

The new recommendations by experts in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration report could be crucial to ensure the autonomy and independence of women migrant workers across the world.

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“Big Reflection” Needed on Opioid Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:26:39 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151003 Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency. In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world. In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at […]

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Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency UNODC

Intravenous drug users in Pakistan. Credit: Fahim Siddiqi/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency.

In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world.

In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at least once. Of these, almost 30 million suffered from drug use disorders including dependence. UNODC found that opioids were the most harmful drug type, accounting for 70 percent of negative health impacts associated with drug use disorders worldwide, and its production is only increasing.

“[Opioid use] is a really dramatic epidemic…they are really, in terms of burden of disease, at the top of the scale,” said UNODC’s Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch Gilberto Gerra to IPS.

The use of opioids, including heroin, morphine, and fentanyl, heighten the risks of acquiring diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C through unsafe injecting practices as well as overdoses and death.

Globally, there are an estimated minimum of 190,000 premature deaths related to drugs that were mostly avoidable. A large proportion of those deaths is attributed to the use of opioids.

Though affects many countries in the world, the opioid crisis is particularly prevalent in the United States.

Mostly driven by opioids, approximately one quarter of the estimated drug-related deaths worldwide occur in the U.S.

Overdose deaths in the North American nation more than tripled from almost 17,000 to over 52,000 annually between 1999 and 2015, and increased by 11 percent in the past year alone, reaching the highest level ever recorded.

In fact, more Americans died from the misuse of opioids in 2016 than in the entirety of the Vietnam War, noted Gerra.

In the state of Maryland, opioid-related deaths quadrupled since 2010 and deaths from fentanyl increased 38-fold in the past decade. In response to the crisis, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, stating: “We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency…this is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

Though some states have begun the place restrictions on the accessibility of pharmaceutical opioids, including a Florida bill that aims to restrict painkiller prescriptions to a five-day supply, Gerra stressed the importance of focusing on not only supply, but also the demand side of opioids.

“If so many people are consuming this opioid medication including legal opioids from the pharmacy, when you restrict the pharmacy’s opioid medication, they will start to turn to things like heroin,” he told IPS.

In the U.S., heroin use has increased significantly, and the Centers for Disease Control has suggested that it is linked to prescription opioid abuse.

“There needs to be a big reflection on this issue in North America,” Gerra said.

However, the potential changes in healthcare in the U.S. may impact access to treatment.

In particular, the current health care bill proposes cuts to expanded Medicaid, which is used by many states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic to boost their response by paying for medication, therapy, and other treatment services.

Health advocates criticised the proposed cuts during President Trump’s first meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which is charged with finding solutions for the epidemic.

“If we make it harder for people to get health care coverage, it is going to make this crisis worse,” said North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper.

A similar scenario is found around the world as availability of and access to treatment of drug use disorders remain limited. Fewer than one in six persons with drug use disorders are provided with treatment each year, UNODC found.

Gerra highlighted the importance of treatment, pointing to the need for personalised interventions and close supervision by doctors or therapists in order to avoid opioid misuse.

He also added that people possessing drugs for personal consumption should not be criminalised as it steers them away from seeking treatment for fear of punishment.

Though approaches to global drug policy have been contentious and diverse, countries in the General Assembly session on the world drug problem (UNGASS) in 2016 unanimously agreed for the first time to a people-centered approach which sees the drug problem as a health disorder rather than a criminal or moral issue.

“We cannot respond to people trapped by drugs with a punitive approach. We have to tell them that we are here, we are aware of your condition and behaviour, you are aware that you are in trouble, please come and we will do what we can to help you and your family to overcome this problem in a very humane and human-rights, science-based way,” Gerra told IPS.

Gerra called for a continuum of care approach to help keep people using drugs like heroin safe through services like needle exchange programs and to provide long-term accessible and affordable treatment once users are ready.

“No one should be left behind in the delivery of prevention and treatment interventions,” UNODC said in its report.

Gerra noted that prevention is by far the most cost-effective intervention in the long run, but approaches must be science-based in order to be effective.

“People don’t understand that there is a science behind prevention—they continue to use initiatives that are well-intentioned but completely not science-based [and] then they say prevention is not working,” he said, pointing to science-based methodologies such as life skills education and drug education to children.

The globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, whose motto is to leave no one behind, includes a target to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

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Sexual Violence Fuels Vicious Recruitment Cycle in Congolese Militiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:00:45 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150988 In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the active recruitment of young girls by armed militias has produced disastrous effects—facing social stigma when they’re freed, many girls find their way back to these violent groups and rejoin them. Half of the girls, employed as what are called “operation units”, are sexually assaulted by soldiers. Among […]

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While measures such as the Child Protection Code brought back 46,000 children from armed groups, only seven percent of those freed were girl soldiers

Former soldiers who have returned to school successfully in Congo. Credit: Child Soldiers International

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the active recruitment of young girls by armed militias has produced disastrous effects—facing social stigma when they’re freed, many girls find their way back to these violent groups and rejoin them.

Half of the girls, employed as what are called “operation units”, are sexually assaulted by soldiers. Among these violent defensive militias in DRC, also known as Mai Mai, girls accounted for up to 40 percent of all underage soldiers.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, celebrated June 19 and commemorated three years ago by the UN, Child Soldiers International (CSI) released an important report outlining the aftermath of this violence.

“I left [to join the Mai Mai] after they raped my mother in front of all of us, even my father. I felt shame, pity, anger. One day I decided to take up arms to avenge my mother,” a former girl soldier, who is 19, explained.

Most of the girls, who were interviewed in early 2016, were abducted by groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), M23, and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

At a young age, the girls often endured sexual violence, which became a routine event.

“Sometimes I didn’t even know the name of the man who abused me at night,” said a 16-year-old girl. “I wanted to escape but saw what they did to those who tried… I was too scared.”

While measures such as the Child Protection Code of 2009 brought back 46,000 children from armed groups, only seven percent of those freed were girls.

Things didn’t get much better at home. The girls were often shunned by their families, and blamed for their status as victims as of sexual assault.

“Not two days goes by without neighbours making us feel we have known men,” a 14-year-old girl said. “We are not allowed to associate with their daughters.”

Facing a lack of aid or counseling, many went back to the groups. They long to speak with their families, and go to school, the report says. Instead, they are turned away. This injures their psyche, and can lead to low self-esteem. More has to be done, Sandra Olsson, the programme manager at CSI, told IPS.

“Community reintegration and tackling the stigma and rejection these girls face needs to be at the centre of reintegration programmes for these girls. We hope that our research and recommendations will help the DRC government develop girl specific reintegration strategies,” she said.

The report, she told IPS, hopes to raise awareness, provide long term assistance to the girls, and finally, end sexual violence in conflicts.

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Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 15:56:55 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150956 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financing

Right to health as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and; contribution to economic development as envisioned in Vision 2030. Credit: JACARANDA HEALTH

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Every year, one million Kenyans are driven below the poverty line by healthcare-related expenditures. Poverty predisposes them to disease and slows all aspects of growth in the economy.

Poor health hobbles economic growth. Noble Laureate in Economics Robert Fogel noted in 1993 that better diets, clothing, housing and quality healthcare all play an important role in generating economic growth. Strengthening healthcare systems to increase access to affordable, appropriate and quality health services in any country is a prerequisite for long-term development and structural transformation.

Africa accounts for a quarter of the world’s disease burden but has less than 5 per cent of the world’s doctors. The continent lags far behind in basic healthcare coverage for services such as immunization, water and sanitation, and family planning. Kenya is no exception.

The new Kenyan Constitution devolved responsibility for primary and secondary healthcare services to the newly demarcated 47 counties, leaving the national government to focus on policy and research.

Kenya’s health financing envelope is progressing gradually but falls short of the 2001 Abuja Declaration, in which nations committed to allocating 15 per cent of their national budget to the health sector. In fact, Kenya is outperformed by some of its neighbours in the national budget allocation to health sector. In fiscal year 2014/15, Uganda allocated 8 per cent of its national budget to the health sector compared to Kenya’s 4 per cent.

Kenya’s allocation has been increasing every fiscal year, rising for instance from about US$178.8 million (Ksh 15.2 billion) in 2001/02 to US$382.2 million (Ksh 34.4 billion) in 2008/09 based on exchange rate then. In the current fiscal year, Kenya allocated around US$597 million (Ksh 60.9 billion) for healthcare services compared to US$591.2 million (Ksh 60.3 billion) for fiscal year 2016/17. This is projected to increase in the medium term to US$606.9 million (Ksh 61.9 billion) and US$614.7 million (Ksh 62.7 billion) for 2018/19 and 2019/20, respectively.

The challenges confronting the health sector range from the spread of non-communicable diseases to inadequate funding of health interventions. The devolution of healthcare services, coupled with the Bill of Rights, elicits huge funding demands, making the sustainability of gains made so far in the sector more complex.

In 2015, the international community formally enshrined UHC in Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide development efforts through 2030.

Partnering with mobile phone service providers and charging a small fee for targeted healthcare initiatives can generate the necessary resources to support Universal Health Coverage in the country.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Credit: UNDP

In its Vision 2030, Kenya committed to becoming a competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life for all its citizens by 2030. Investing in a quality health delivery system is enshrined in the Vision, an area in which the government has made considerable progress.

Revamping the national health insurance scheme to comprise everyone capable of paying premiums, rather than only those in formal employment has shifted the burden of healthcare costs from the individual to the collective by raising more money for healthcare services.

Nevertheless, four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance. That is why Kenya needs to adopt more innovative ways of financing its healthcare system.

The 2014 World Bank Group’s Kenya Public Expenditure Review considers the private sector a lead in local healthcare markets. This is because it owns 60 per cent of all primary healthcare facilities, while 40 per cent are government-run. Leveraging this strategic position of the private sector, public-private partnerships (PPP) can be institutionalized for financing UHC in Kenya.

One such case in point is the strong PPP established in 2015 by six private sector companies (Philips, Merck Sharp & Dohme-MSD, GlaxoSmithKline-GSK, Safaricom, Kenya Health Care Federation and Huawei) to improve maternal health in historically marginalized counties. This initiative – targeting Mandera, Marsabit, Migori, Isiolo, Lamu and Wajir and spearheaded by the Government of Kenya and the UN – has yielded positive health outcomes. Similar approaches can be adopted for the health system at both national and county levels.

Kenya is known for developing innovative home-grown solutions to challenges. It can easily move towards a cashless economy, which will be critical for driving Kenya’s socio-economic transformation agenda.

For instance, M-pesa was conceived to address the challenge of rural banking but it has also provided a platform for M-health, the use of mobile devices to support the practice of medicine and public health.

Kenya can institute targeted taxation as an innovative financing policy to complement existing financing mechanisms. Partnering with mobile phone service providers and charging a small fee for targeted healthcare initiatives can generate the necessary resources to support UHC in the country.

An estimated US$122.5 million (Ksh 12.5 billion) is transacted daily in the form of mobile money transactions. By contributing roughly one percent on a graduated scale, Kenya can easily raise US$ 1.2 million (Ksh 125 million) daily to finance UHC.

For example UNITAID, an International Drug Purchase Facility for AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria is supported mainly (70%) through the airline ticket tax. The airline solidarity contribution is an innovative attempt to gain the benefits of a global tax. Kenya can do the same by charging a small tax at its international airports and border crossings for a ring fenced public health account.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “All roads should lead to universal health coverage.” Credit: UN/DANIEL JOHNSON

There is no one-size-fits-all health financing solution. And Kenya must continuously adapt in the face of rapid technological changes.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the new WHO Director-General has said that, “all roads should lead to universal health coverage.” With its technological prowess, a hotspot for innovation, incredible entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise, Kenya must be at the vanguard on the road to universal health care in Africa.

The post Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Men Who Commit Femicide Lose Rights Over Their Children in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/men-commit-femicide-lose-rights-children-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=men-commit-femicide-lose-rights-children-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/men-commit-femicide-lose-rights-children-argentina/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:37:22 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150908 In January 2008, Rosana Galliano was shot to death in Exaltación de la Cruz, a rural municipality 80 km from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. Her ex-husband, José Arce, who was sentenced to life in prison, had hired hitmen to kill her. Nine years later, Arce was put under house arrest, for health reasons, and lives […]

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Men Who Commit Femicide Lose Rights Over Their Children in Argentina

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

In January 2008, Rosana Galliano was shot to death in Exaltación de la Cruz, a rural municipality 80 km from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. Her ex-husband, José Arce, who was sentenced to life in prison, had hired hitmen to kill her.

Nine years later, Arce was put under house arrest, for health reasons, and lives with their children, two boys aged 12 and 13.

Women’s organisations hold that there are dozens of similar situations in Argentina, where society is becoming more aware of cases of gender-based violence.“In most cases, the woman files a complaint, but there is no support or monitoring in place to know what happens to her afterwards. And when the judges issue a restriction order, it is not enforced and the woman is defenceless.” -- Mabel Bianco

People have responded by taking to the streets: since 2015, an extraordinary social mobilisation, which has continued to this day, has installed the issue on the public agenda and forced politicians to address the phenomenon of the high rate of femicides, the term given murders of women for gender-based reasons.

The case of Rosana Galliano’s children was the main catalyst for a law passed by Congress on May 31, which strips parents who kill, injure or sexually abuse their partners of parental rights.

“We have received queries about a number of cases similar to that of Rosana Galliano’s children, which don’t make it to the media because the families of the murdered women don’t want to go public,” said Ada Rico, who heads La Casa del Encuentro, a Buenos Aires-based organisation that combats violence, abuse and discrimination against women.

“We submitted a draft law in 2014 aimed at removing parental responsibility from those who commit femicide,” she told IPS. “It was discussed together with seven similar drafts and a consensus was reached. It is a law that is likely to be copied by other countries.”

In the face of the lack of official statistics, La Casa del Encuentro began in 2008 to gather media reports on gender-based murders of women in this South American country of nearly 44 million people.

That same year these murders were officially defined as femicides, during a meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism of the Belem do Pará Convention, the Inter-American instrument signed in 1994 to prevent and punish violence against women.

 Demonstrators march along the Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, behind a big banner that reads “Students demand ‘Not one less’” during the massive march against gender violence in the Argentine capital on Jun. 3. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS


Demonstrators march along the Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, behind a big banner that reads “Students demand ‘Not one less’” during the massive march against gender violence in the Argentine capital on Jun. 3. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS

The Argentine Congress followed suit in 2012, stipulating life in prison for men guilty of murders involving gender-based violence.

Up to then, murders resulting from domestic violence were treated as manslaughter, punishable with a maximum of 25 years in prison.

However, this change did not lead to a decline in violence against women in this country. La Casa del Encuentro’s figures show that femicides have remained fairly stable, at a high level: 255 in 2012, 295 in 2013, 277 in 2014, 286 in 2015 and 290 last year.
Among the hundreds of cases, one completely changed life in the town of Rufino, in the province of Santa Fe, and shook the entire country.

Chiara Páez, a 14-year-old girl, disappeared one Sunday in May 2015.

A large part of the town’s 20,000 people went out to search for her. But eventually the police found her body buried at the house of her boyfriend’s grandparents. Her 16-year-old boyfriend confessed that he had beat her to death. The autopsy revealed that Chiara was pregnant and that she had taken medication to have an abortion.

A few days later, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of Buenos Aires and other large cities to demand a stop to male violence against women. “Not one less” (“Ni una menos”) was the slogan devised by a group of feminist activists and journalists, which was taken up immediately by a good part of Argentine society.

Since then, huge “Not one less” marches have become an annual event. The last one was held on Jun. 3 on the Avenida de Mayo avenue, and one of the main speakers was Nora Cortiñas, renowned leader of the human rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

The pamphlet handed out at the demonstration noted that many women are murdered after reporting that they are victims of domestic violence, which makes the government responsible for their protection and their deaths, “as much as the murderers.”

“Not One Less” was the slogan of the Jun. 3 march against gender-based violence in Buenos Aires. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS

“Not One Less” was the slogan of the Jun. 3 march against gender-based violence in Buenos Aires. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS

They also demanded an end to discrimination against women in the labour market, and called for legal, safe, free of charge abortion.

“Violence against women will not rapidly decline since it is mainly linked to cultural factors very marked in society, such as the greater value put on men in all fields,” Dr. Mabel Bianco, the head of the Foundation for Women’s Studies and Research, told IPS.

“We are still lacking answers from the government. A protocol that unifies the steps to be followed nationwide in the face of complaints of gender-based violence must be designed,” she said.

She said that “in most cases, the woman files a complaint, but there is no support or monitoring in place to know what happens to her afterwards. And when the judges issue a restriction order, it is not enforced and the woman is defenceless.”

One of the results of the social mobilisation was the start of official record-keeping on femicides in 2015. The Supreme Court keeps these figures, and in late May it presented the statistics from 2016: 254 women were murdered for gender-based reasons, 19 more than in 2015.

In this year’s report, the Court for the first time differentiated between “biological females” and trans women, who were the victims of five of the femicides last year.

Meanwhile, Congress did not stop with the parental responsibility law. The same day it was passed, the Senate gave preliminary approval to two other bills focused on gender-based violence.

One of them establishes financial support by the state for women who cannot afford to leave their abusive partners. The other one implements a subsidy for the families who raise children whose mothers have been victims of femicides. The two draft laws are now pending approval in the lower house of Congress.

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