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A Staggering 160 Million Are Victims of Child Labour

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 06/11/2021 - 07:26

Children work at a mine in South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN says child labour figure has risen to 160 million, as COVID puts many more at risk. Credit: UNICEF/Patrick Brown

By Simone Galimberti
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Jun 11 2021 (IPS)

Among the many daunting issues leaders of the G7 will have to discuss in their upcoming summit in idyllic Cornwall on June 11-13, child labour won’t be on the official agenda.

Yet the latest figures jointly released by ILO and UNICEF in occasion of the upcoming World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June are depicting a very worrying scenario with unprecedented rise of children engaged in work.

Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward”, the latest major publication on the issue, shows that there are now 160 million children in child labour, a rise of 8.4 million in the last four years, a very worrying, though unsurprising finding that is a major blow to the gains of the last two decades.

That’s why it is an imperative that the leaders of the G7 take a stand against this global plague, ensuring that any global strategy focused on “building forward better” must also enlist the fight against child exploitation as a top priority within a broader strategy to reset global development.

At legislative levels there are some encouraging developments that could pave the way for an holistic approach built on the Agenda 2030 that will create a global momentum around global target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The target, after which a global coalition against child labour is named, focuses on “taking immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms”.

For example, several countries around the world including France and Netherlands have in place a strong human rights due diligence legislation that compels major corporations to have more robust compliance mechanisms along the lines of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

The good news is that the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, is expected to come up with a wide-ranging reform package on a mandatory human rights due diligence by the end of year though there is fear this might be further delayed.

Though future negotiations within the complex decision-making system of the EU might water down the final legislation, there is no doubt that the expectations are so high and the level of ambition expected to be found in the final document so large that half cooked measures won’t be accepted by the Parliament whose consent is mandatory for the legislation to be approved.

Amid also news that the G7 is close to a deal on a global taxation agreement that will affect the major world corporations, we might assume that the best and most effective way to tackle child labour “head on” is to force corporates to step up their commitment towards human rights.

Probably this is the most pragmatic manner from a western’s point of view to have child labour again at the center of the global agenda.

Given the almost universal discontent against big business all over the world, this is also perhaps the safest bet to ensure that G7 and G20 nations will not overlook the fight against child labour from their proceedings.

While it is vital that the global leaders meeting over the weekend in a beautiful setting in Cornwall to take a stand on the issue, yet we should not neglect that, most of the times, child labour is a phenomenon thriving out of an enabling environment in the developing world, and in the worst cases, it is almost an intrinsic element of the local fabric.

Oftentimes working children are recruited by small, often informal micro businesses in the developing world, economic entities that are not even under the purview of local tax offices nor those of the mostly ineffective Labour authorities in charge of checking on child labour.

The ILO-UNICEF joint report is clear on this point when it explains that it is “much more common in rural areas with 122.7 million rural children in child labour compared to 37.3 million urban children where children are involved in agriculture related work.

To confirm the trend, according to the report, the “largest share of child labour takes place within families with “72 per cent of all child labour and 83 per cent of child labour among children aged 5 to 11 occurs within families, primarily on family farms or in family microenterprises.”

These insights prove how challenging the fight against child labour has always been in the last two decades despite very encouraging improvements worldwide.

Exercising pressures on big corporations alone won’t suffice also because many of the developing countries with high number of working children are not attractive enough to host manufacturing sites that elsewhere are technically run by local contractors often in breach of the most basic human rights provisions.

To really build forward better, G7 and the G20 need to go well beyond a much-needed equitable distribution and production of vaccines, a mammoth task itself.

They need to come up with ambitious plans that will mobilize massive amounts of resources in unprecedented figures that will help developing nations not only to transit towards a net zero future but doing so by also ensuring a far greater equity in the national development outcomes pursued by developing nations that must be inclusive of the most vulnerable segments of their populations.

It means dealing with child labour not as a standing alone problem but as a part of a bigger strategy able to close the faulting lines so common in many emerging nations, like weak public health and poor education, lack of dignified job opportunities, all scars of remarkable but unfair economic pre-pandemic growths that proved to be unable to truly trickle down.

World leaders should go tough on billionaires and uncanny global corporations but at the same time they should remember the fight against child labour is a priority and an essential pillar to build a more equitable world.

A way for them to start would be to come up with an urgent plan of action to back those nations in the Pathfinders Initiative, countries who showed in the past commitment against child labour but whose efforts are now at risk of a brutal reversal.

Bold action is a must especially if we do not want to make a contempt of Year for the Elimination of Child Labour that happens to be undergoing unnoticed by most.

Eliminating child labour by 2025 might be out of reality but taking meaningful actions in that direction now is not.

The Author, Co-Founder of ENGAGE, a not-for-profit NGO in Nepal, writes on volunteerism, social inclusion, youth development and regional integration as an engine to improve people’s lives. He can be reached at simone_engage@yahoo.com

 


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Excerpt:

The international community commemorates World Day Against Child Labour on June 12
Categories: Africa

Preventing Hunger While Building Peace

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 06/11/2021 - 07:09

Agroecology can fight malnutrition, curb conflict AND build community self reliance and resilience–in hunger hotspots and beyond

By Daniel Moss and Amrita Gupta
BOSTON / NEW YORK, Jun 11 2021 (IPS)

Acute hunger is expected to soar in over 20 countries in the next few months, warns a recent report on global “hunger hotspots” from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). An estimated 34 million people are “one step away from starvation”, pushed to the brink by climate shocks, conflict, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daniel Moss

The food aid industry is likely to be very busy in the coming years, even as Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, points out that the “right to food is different from a system of charity. Often the donors are part of the problem.”

At the Agroecology Fund–a force of more than 30 donors, 10 advisors and hundreds of grantee partners embedded in the global agroecology movement–we believe that to be part of the solution, an agroecological and food sovereignty lens must guide food security interventions, especially in times of acute crisis.

Evidence that agroecology is one of the most effective solutions to hunger and malnutrition mounting. Agroecology and traditional indigenous food systems help communities strengthen their food systems independent of external inputs or imported foods. By improving food sovereignty and access to healthy foods, agroecology increases farmer incomes, curbs out-migration from rural regions and addresses the root causes of hunger.

Importantly, agroecology addresses the root causes of conflict too. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) finds that countries where land and water become scarce or degraded tend to be more conflict-prone, and that “conservation, [and] sustainable and equitable management of nature plays an important role in preventing conflict and in rebuilding peace.” That is why agroecological practices, which steward natural resources, protect biodiversity, and support the wellbeing of indigenous and local communities, help curb conflict. Research by Coventry University in the UK also reiterates that agroecology creates a foundation for peace-building efforts in fragile environments.

In the past year, as Covid-19 exposed the vulnerability of our globalized, industrialized food system, our grantee partners sprung into action. Even in conflict zones or “hunger hotspots”, there exists local capacity to provide solutions.

Amrita Gupta

In Haiti, which imports the majority of its food, Mouvement Paysan Acul-du-Nord initiated cooperative farming in 25 communities to ensure food sovereignty. Those who owned land invited landless farmworkers to use it to produce food, and families shared harvests of rice, sweet potato, and beans with each other. In Nigeria, where artisanal fishers are among the most marginalized communities ––threatened by climate change, displacement and water pollution–– Fishnet Alliance provided fishing gear for fishers to feed their families and earn an income. The Alliance helped amplify fishers’ voices to policymakers: urging that traditional governance systems over the commons be respected. In Burkina Faso, Groundswell International trained women and youth to make masks and liquid soap, and encouraged the government to buy local agroecological produce for their school food and food aid programs.

These stories of resilience and grassroots can be found across the globe. In Palestine, as decades of conflict with Israel have deprived populations of land and water, the Union of Agriculture Work Committees (UAWC) saves traditional, locally adapted seeds for farmers; at refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank, they helped families grow food on rooftops during the pandemic.

In Rwanda, communities involved in the Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation (GER) agroecology programs have begun peace-building talks to heal the deep rifts caused by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. One survivor noted that agroecology diminishes mistrust and suspicion between groups as: communities work together to share harvests.

Now compare these strategies to the conventional development paradigm, in which boatloads of foods (too often, the surplus of US-grown genetically modified commodity crops) are “donated” to conflict areas, entrenching the unsustainable industrial agriculture model within the United States while undermining local agricultural practices and biodiversity in poorer countries.

As John Wilson, an advisor to the Agroecology Fund, says: “We have to be bolder in our nutrition approaches than we have been—more creative and innovative.” Our partners from Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Haiti and elsewhere, working at the frontlines of multiple crises, embody these bold and innovative approaches to deal with the root causes of malnutrition and conflict in the short- and longer term. Even as they fight hunger through self-help and mutual aid, they are improving livelihoods, stewarding landscapes, and mitigating climate change. And they are urging their governments to invest in small farmers and local agricultural production, so that communities can strengthen their resilience and achieve the deep and lasting food systems transformation we so urgently need. By supporting their efforts to make agroecology the cornerstone of global food systems, we can move millions away from starvation—in “hunger hotspots” and beyond.

Daniel Moss is the Executive Director of the Agroecology Fund. Amrita Gupta is the Fund’s Communications Lead. For more information on the Fund and its partners, visit the website.

 


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Excerpt:

Agroecology can fight malnutrition, curb conflict AND build community self reliance and resilience–in hunger hotspots and beyond
Categories: Africa

Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: Tragedy of the man-made famine

BBC Africa - Fri, 06/11/2021 - 02:36
Aid workers are still unable to reach large parts of Ethiopia’s Tigray region because of the war there.
Categories: Africa

Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: UN aid chief says there is famine

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 20:43
More than 350,000 people are living in "severe crisis" after months of conflict in the Tigray region.
Categories: Africa

France to scale down W Africa military operations

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 20:09
French forces have been helping countries in the Sahel region to fight militants.
Categories: Africa

Andre Onana: Cameroon and Ajax keeper has doping ban reduced

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Cameroon and and Ajax keeper Andre Onana has his 12-month ban for a doping violation reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Categories: Africa

Global Progress Against Child Labour “Ground to a Halt” – UN Report

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 12:39

Musah Razark Adams, 13, (r) shows the sling shot that he uses to hit birds with when he works in a local rice field. Adams and his brother, Seidu, 15, (l) work to so that they can pay for school materials. A new report on child labour shows that global progress against child labour has ground to a halt and that a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of rising poverty driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DEHLI, Jun 10 2021 (IPS)

Malleshwar Rao, 27, spent his early years as a child labourer in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. Soon after finishing school at a local ashram, where the children of poor parents, sex workers and orphans studied, the 9-year-old would rush to a local construction site to join his parents who would be toiling in the harsh tropical sun to construct buildings as daily wage earners. The supervisor would assign Rao simpler tasks and his extra income would help his parents feed him and his younger brother.

“Those were really tough days,” recalls Rao, now an engineering graduate and an entrepreneur who also runs a non-profit `Don’t Waste Food’ to feed the needy.  “There was never enough food in the house. I used to study in the morning, then work as a labourer, go back home to do my homework and then get up early the next day to rush to school again. Life was blur; there was no time to play even,” Rao tells IPS.

At the beginning of 2020, 160 million children – 63 million girls and 97 million boys – like the 9-year-old Rao, were working everyday.

According to a global report by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released today, Jun. 10, the world is at a “critical juncture in the worldwide drive to stop child labour”, as the number of children in child labour has increased by 8.4 million children over the last four years.

“Global progress has ground to a halt over the last four years after slowing considerably in the four years before that. COVID-19 threatens to further erode past gains,” the report cautions.

New analysis suggests a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of rising poverty driven by the pandemic, the report states.

It also notes that while the global picture showed that while child labour in Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean was decreasing, progress in Sub-saharan Africa had “proven elusive” with child labour increasing.

In addition to working as construction labourer, Rao also took up random jobs at local eateries to earn 10 cents daily for three to four hours of work – dishwashing and organising groceries. “The added incentive was the leftover food which the eatery owner kindly gave to me. I’d eat some and bring the rest back for my family,” says Rao.

Former child labourer Malleshwar Rao was so affected by the hunger he felt as a child that he started his own charity to provide food for the poor. A new report shows that that involvement in child labour is higher for boys than girls. However, when girls’ household chores are included as child labour, the gap reduces. Credit: Neena Lal/IPS

Rao’s story is a microcosm of the larger story of child labour in the world that shows that involvement in child labour is higher for boys than girls. However, when girls’ household chores are included as child labour, the gap reduces.

“Among all boys, 11.2 per cent are in child labour compared to 7.8 per cent of all girls. In absolute numbers, boys in child labour outnumber girls by 34 million. When the definition of child labour expands to include household chores for 21 hours or more each week, the gender gap in prevalence among boys and girls aged 5 to 14 is reduced by almost half,” today’s report notes.

The report also shows that more than one third of all children in child labour are excluded from school and that “hazardous child labour constitutes an even greater barrier to school attendance.”

“For every child in child labour who has reached a compulsory age for education but is excluded from school, another two struggle to balance the demands of school and work. They face compromises in education as a result and should not be forgotten in the discussion of child labour and education. Children who must combine child labour with schooling generally lag behind non-working peers in grade progression and learning achievement, and are more likely to drop out prematurely,” the report states.

Rao, however, was fortunate to have completed school. Thanks to the help of good Samaritans who paid his fees, Rao was able to turn his life around by graduating with an electronic engineering diploma from a local college.

He then got a job at a social media company as a content curator, earning $450 a month.

“My parents were thrilled that I was the first educated person in the family who also bagged a respectable job with a great salary,” Rao tells IPS. 

“My mother couldn’t stop crying for days. However, tackling hunger was always important for me, so simultaneously I also launched my NGO which collects extra food from nearby restaurants to feed the poor. Apart from reducing food wastage in hotels and at social gatherings, the initiative has also prevented thousands in the city from not sleeping hungry.”

He has since left his job and started his own travel startup.

But during the pandemic, apart from ration kits, Rao has also been providing oxygen cylinders and cooked meals for those in quarantine. India has reported nearly 30 million COVID-19 cases and upwards of 350,000 deaths since the pandemic’s second wave began in March.

“I have 30 volunteers from the local community engaged in distributing food and helping people get in touch with blood donors as well hospitals who have COVID beds. Through our network, we’ve been able to provide groceries for around 70,000 families within this lockdown period  since March,” says Rao.

The money is raised through crowdsourcing on social media and through individual donors. The NGO has also started supplying masks and sanitary pads for construction workers. His volunteers have also helped cremate 180 dead bodies of deceased who were shunned by families for fear of catching COVID-19.

Having known what it is like to be hungry and struggle for a square meal, Rao says he often encounters poor children during his donation drives who remind him of his past.

According to the ILO, there are around 12.9 million Indian children engaged in work between the ages of 7 to 17 years old, the majority who are between 12 and 17 years old, who work up to 16 hours a day to help their families make ends meet. An estimated 10.1 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old are engaged in work, says the organisation.

Much of the problem lies in tardy implementation of laws, say activists. According to Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research, a Delhi based think tank, even though India has strict laws against child labour, they are full of loopholes which allow poor families and unscrupulous agents to circumvent them and exploit the children. 

“These poor kids work in hazardous industries like brick making, quarries, tobacco industry and glass making which not only puts an end to their education but also makes them vulnerable to prostitution and trafficking at a very young age. The implementation of the laws needs to be stricter,” says Kumari.    

The report calls for extending social protection to mitigate poverty and economic uncertainty which underlie child labour.

It also calls for, among others:

  • an evidenced-based policy roadmap;
  • for every child to be registered at birth, which would allow them to access social services;
  • the expansion of decent work; and
  • free, good quality schooling which can “provide a viable alternative and open doors to a better future”.

Meanwhile, Rao’s story shows that with education, former child labourers can lead better lives. He has been recognised by local personalities and was also mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his monthly radio talk show ‘Mann ki Baat’ (Heart to heart talk).  Rao has also received awards from local communities and organisations for his work.

“The pandemic has brought out the worst and the best in people. I’m now on lifelong mission to ensure that nobody goes hungry. My new startup isn’t yet profitable, but I’m earning enough to feed my family and also take care of the needy,” he says.

** Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Bonn, Germany

 

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalisation of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

 


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Categories: Africa

How can you tell the difference between real and fake medicines?

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 10:02
We look up close at some real and fake anti-malarial drugs that were bought in Nigeria.
Categories: Africa

Protecting the Nile Delta

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 09:27

Protective measures are being deployed along the coast. Credit: UNDP Egypt

By External Source
CAIRO, Egypt, Jun 10 2021 (IPS-Partners)

Children run after each other with kites flying along Egypt’s Nile Delta. Families and friends enjoy the scenery as they enjoy an afternoon picnic. Just a few miles away, farmers work in their fields of green. These diverse crops will feed millions of Egyptians. Throughout the region, cities buzz with people coming and going from factories and offices, playing football with their families, and building the economic engine that will support the nations’ goals for low-carbon climate-resilient development.

It’s a beautiful picture. A picture of progress, a picture of hope, a picture of peace.

Now imagine if this got impacted negatively. The Nile Delta hosts 18 million citizens – almost a quarter of Egypt’s population — as well as countless businesses, economic sectors, farms and more.

This terrifying scenario will come true if climate change isn’t taken seriously.

Millions at risk

The effects are already being felt. Consider the example of Aziz, who lives with his family in a humble home in the coastal city of Kafr ElSheikh governorate, 130km north of Cairo.

“Fishermen and farmers were afraid of going to work,” says Aziz, “because of the water’s rising levels that cover the shore during the storms.”

Aziz’s observations have been backed up by scientific reports. According to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Nile Delta is one of the world’s most vulnerable areas when it comes to sea-level rise, extreme weather conditions, and other factors worsened by climate change.

This region accounts for more than half of Egypt’s economic activity through agriculture, industry and fisheries. The Nile Delta alone contributes about 20 percent of Egypt’s GDP.

Egypt studied the results and worked with international partners on solutions to protect vulnerable areas and their people.

To address these issues, the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the world’s largest dedicated climate fund – to launch a new climate project.

With the project’s help, 17 million people will be protected from coastal flooding with the installation of 69 kilometers of low-cost dikes system across the Nile Delta shores. They have been designed to look like natural coastal features and/or sand dunes.

The dikes will be stabilized with a combination of reed fences and local vegetation species to encourage dune growth by trapping and stabilizing blown sand. These coastal protection measures will reuse existing dredged materials that would have otherwise been deposited in the marine environment.

Extraordinary measures

Protecting the local communities, preventing economic losses, and saving human settlements and infrastructures require extraordinary measures.

“We realized that the rising water reaches us because there were no measures to protect our lives and properties,” said Aziz.

The number of extreme weather events inducing casualties and economic losses has increased significantly in Egypt over the last 10 years. Aziz has witnessed strong storms never seen before.

So far, 10 percent of the dikes have been installed. They were put to the test in December 2020, when the country witnessed one of the severe storms, including heavy rain and strong winds. People could personally see how extreme weather could be deadly if the country isn’t prepared. The dikes passed the test and blocked the unexpected sea surge at Nile Delta shores.

Integrated approaches

The physical solution is not the only way to address the negative impacts of climate change. An Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plan will be implemented to make the area’s economic, social, and agricultural activities climate resilient. The plan will include establishing a system to monitor changes in sea levels and the impact of climate change on coastal erosion and shore stability.

Coastal development community activities are being delivered in different locations throughout the project intervention area. For example, an agriculture drainage system – located north of Bar-Bahry – will improve the productivity of approximately 1,000 acres north of the coastal highway and raise income for at least 500 families.

An urban drainage system in Al-aqoula village will protect the main roads from excessive rains. This will positively improve the quality of life for the entire village of 1,500 inhabitants, and facilitate their access to services such as schools, religious venues, markets and transportation.

As for Aziz, he says the work is already having an impact. “Farmers are back to the field after the project was implemented. We saw the change when we woke up to find that water was blocked from reaching us, our fields, and our homes,” says Aziz. “With this [project] in place, we hope our children will have a safe future.”

Excerpt:

With support from the Green Climate Fund and UNDP, Egypt is protecting its people and its economy from the devastating impacts of sea-level rise
 
UNDP

Categories: Africa

Investing in Lives & Livelihoods of India’s Women Crucial to Nation’s Full Recovery

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 09:04

Participants in UN Women India’s Second Chance Educational and Vocational Learning Programme. Credit: UN Women

By Susan Ferguson
NEW DELHI, India, Jun 10 2021 (IPS)

Thousands of Indians have been affected by the latest COVID-19 outbreak. Not only those suffering from the disease, but also those who care for them.

Just as with the first wave and as with countless disasters before them, women have taken on the heavy burden of caring for the sick and finding ways to meet their family’s basic needs.

The combination of illness, unpaid care, economic slowdown, lack of access to financing for female entrepreneurs, and domestic violence has left many women unable to return to work.

Much of this is attributable to a long history of seeing the work women do as unimportant in the “real world” of the economy, and as unworthy of value in the household.

A recent Oxford report shows that Indian women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every day — a contribution of at least ₹19 trillion a year to the Indian economy.[1] Yet in India, duties performed at home have historically not been considered “work,” due to norms of gender and caste.

Susan Ferguson. Credit: Yvonne Fafungian

If these trends aren’t reversed, it will have a devastating impact on the economy while further exacerbating gender inequality. For this generation of women to emerge relatively unscathed from this pandemic and be able to return to the workforce, we must invest seriously in the livelihoods of women and girls in our country.

India has now lost over 300,000 people to the virus and that number continues to rise as the country struggles to deal with a new, deadly variant that has overwhelmed its healthcare capacity.

Rural parts of the country are reliant on the incredible dedication of front-line women workers: Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers (Accredited Social Health Activist), community health workers and nurses, along with civil society organisers and volunteers.

This predominantly female workforce has been seriously overstretched. The ASHA programme has only been around for 15 years, but often they’re the only line of defence in remote areas.

These women have been hailed as national heroes for the hazardous work they have done, which has at times led to illness and death due to lack of protective gear. Many also face verbal and physical abuse during door-to-door surveys.

The accolades and appreciation — which are not tied to any economic benefits or opportunities — serve as an ironic reminder that these women are still often required to perform double duty in the form of seemingly endless unpaid labour at home.

Public spending in India on healthcare is only one percent of its GDP, which is far less than many other developing nations. Indeed, the Anganwadi and ASHA programmes technically qualify as volunteer work.

This devaluation of “women’s work” is reflected in the home. India’s First Time Use Survey states that while Indian men spend 80 percent of their working hours on paid work, women spend nearly 84 percent of their working hours on unpaid labour.

Health workers participating in UN Women India’s Second Chance Education programme display their “Certificate of Completion Essential Upskilling for Nurses on COVID-19 Pandemic Management”. Credit: UN Women

According to NITI Aayog, women spend 9.8 times the time that men do on unpaid domestic chores. In a country with a high proportion of multigenerational households, women spend on average 4.5 hours a day caring for children, elders and ill or disabled persons, compared with less than one hour for men.

The COVID-19 outbreak has only exacerbated this situation, and its impact on women’s participation in the formal economy is clear. Many women have had to stop working formally to devote themselves solely to unpaid work. In the decade before the pandemic, female labour force participation had already been trending downward, making women’s earned income in India just one-fifth that of men’s — well below the global average.

Over the years, the Government of India and the States have taken initiatives to increase women’s participation in the workforce. Starting from removing restrictions on women’s right to work at night in factories or appointments as board members, to comprehensive maternity benefits and protection from sexual harassment at the workplace.

Initiatives such as the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, the Skill India Mission, and Startup India all have progressive policies, programmes, and legislations. Despite these important initiatives, the decline in women’s labour force participation has not yet been reversed.

After the recent outbreak of this pandemic, there is a risk that this exodus from the workplace could become permanent. This would decimate both women’s livelihoods and the economy at large.

On the other hand, according to IMF estimates, equal participation of women in the workforce would increase India’s GDP by 27 percent.[2]

This crisis can be avoided if India increases its public investments in the formal and informal care economies and taps into the job creation potential of the care economy.

As per the ILO, demand for care jobs (caring for children, people with disabilities, and the elderly, both in urban and rural areas) will increase with working parents and an aging population.

According to simulation results, increasing investment in the care economy to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 may generate 69 million jobs in India.[3] Analysis shows that if another two percent of GDP were earmarked for the Indian healthcare system, it would create millions of jobs, many of which would go to women.

It is vital that women working on healthcare’s front lines are recognized as formal workers and have the same benefits and protections as any comparable occupation. The implementation of progressive childcare and leave policies would also help relieve the burden.

But there also needs to be a mindset shift that recognizes the value of this equally vital unpaid work. In fact, Indian politicians have recently taken the unprecedented step of pledging to pay women for their unpaid labour, a move that activists have long been calling for — one which could be adopted in the rest of the world.

Some have criticized such proposals, saying that they would merely entrench gender stereotypes and discourage women from entering the formal workforce. That is why, over the long term, policies of this kind must be combined with ones that help women take part in the formal workforce if they so choose.

These include initiatives that help women entrepreneurs find and obtain financing for their initiatives — something they have struggled to access in the past.

It also includes expanding educational opportunities for women and girls. UN Women India’s Second Chance Education programme is a good example of how we can simultaneously address the pandemic recovery and offer opportunities for women to advance their careers, by training front-line health workers while providing employment pathways.

We need to also consider the persistent issue of income inequality. We consistently see larger wage gaps in countries in which women perform longer unpaid work hours. While this situation has improved over the years in India, investing in the care infrastructure will ensure women do not opt for lower-paying jobs when looking for roles that trade flexibility for hourly pay, due to the demands at home.

Private sector involvement is also critical in this area: family-friendly workplace policies are beneficial to women workers and can profit the entire economy.

In the end, it will come down to changing attitudes, sharing the burden equally and dismantling the idea that domestic labour is exclusively the domain of women. Whether it’s at home, in the office or in the field, we must stop taking women’s work for granted.

Susan Ferguson is the UN Women Representative for India. She joined UN Women in 2017, after a long career in international development. She has lived and worked in South Africa, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and has experience working in grass-roots development agencies; establishing and managing social services; working within Local, State and Federal Government in Australia on social policy and social programmes.

Donate to help women in India severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis ►

Notes

[1] https://www.oxfamindia.org/press-release/timetocare-india
[2] https://in.one.un.org/unibf/gender-equality/
[3] Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work: Key findings in Asia and the Pacific, ILO, 2018 (https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/care-economy/WCMS_633305/lang–en/index.htm).

 


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Categories: Africa

From Climate Change to Covid, Are We Ready to Deal with Disasters?

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 08:29

Credit: Bibbi Abruzzini

By Bibbi Abruzzini
PARIS, Jun 10 2021 (IPS)

In the last 20 years, disasters affected over 4 billion people. At global level we witness on average one sweeping disaster a day, the majority of which are floods and storms. From the Covid-19 pandemic to climate change, calamities are taking new shapes and sizes, infiltrating every dimension of society. From the emotional to the political, how do we deal with disasters? How can we create a whole-of-society approach to disaster risk reduction?

Right through this vortex of intersecting crises, a new toolkit and interactive website by Forus, the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), Save the Children Switzerland and Inventing Futures, with the support of Fondation de France, looks at how civil society organisations coordinate disaster risk reduction and post-emergency interventions. Meant for civil society networks, activists, government officials and community-based organizations, the toolkit provides best-practices from around the globe.

“Today, we are all actors and victims of crises. How can we better understand and learn to cope with them? These practical tools allow us to discover the stakes, the exemplary actions and their effects, through simple definitions and concrete testimonies experienced by civil society,” says Karine Meaux, Emergency manager at Fondation de France.

“Building resilient communities in the face of natural and man-made hazards has never been more important. While disasters don’t discriminate, policies do. Together we can act and put pressure on decision-makers to promote a holistic approach to disaster prevention and reduction and truly people-centred policies,” says Sarah Strack, Director of Forus.

Civil society at the forefront of disaster management

From resilient communities in Nepal, to conflicts in Mali and peace processes in Colombia, the toolkit presents six approaches to disaster risk reduction gleaned from case studies compiled across the civil society ecosystem. The toolkit looks at various topics from capacity building, to local knowledge, resource mobilisation, partnerships with governments and long-term sustainable development and livelihood resilience, ensuring that communities ‘bounce forward’ after a disaster.

Credit: Bibbi Abruzzini

Specifically, the toolkit aims to clarify the crucial role frontline civil society organisations play in reducing the impacts of disasters in the midst of an expanding and intensifying global risk landscape. Bridging governments, communities and experts is the only way we can tackle the multiple ways disasters affect local and social processes such as education, migration, food security and peace. If civil society is not free to operate – or even exist – our collective capacity to deal with disasters and create long-term resilience is hampered.

“You have countries [in the region] in which civil society is not even allowed to exist. This reality changed a lot after the Arab Spring, with countries living in a terrible crisis, with military conflicts, where the role of civil society now is not only to struggle for their existence, but also to provide the population with basic needs and humanitarian interventions,” says Ziad Abdel Samad, Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).

Everyday disasters and inequalities

Robert Ninyesiga, from UNNGOF, the national civil society organisation platform in Uganda, argues that in most cases, “more effort has been put towards disaster response while neglecting the disaster prevention aspect”.

This therefore calls for continuous intentional awareness and capacity building as regards to disaster prevention and this can only be effectively achieved if sustainable partnerships between central governments, local governments, civil society organisations, media and citizens are strengthened.

Shock events, high-impact disasters, such as conflicts, earthquakes or tsunamis are just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath this layer there are an increasingly high number of “everyday disasters” affecting people around the globe. Localised, small scale, and slow onset disasters are often “invisible” – far from the spotlight. Those at low incomes are the most vulnerable and find themselves at the periphery of infrastructures, response systems and media attention.

For instance, in addition to being often exposed to intensive disasters such as floods and storms, residents in urban slums across Bangladesh are suffering much more than other communities since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Bibbi Abruzzini

“Most slum dwellers are daily wage earners, but they are not able to earn money. They are not able to maintain social distance, because in one room 4-5 members are living. Many people are using a shared bathroom. It’s very difficult to maintain hygiene. There is not enough space to sit or sleep at home while maintaining sufficient distance. Due to lack of money, many slum dwellers have only one or two meals a day. Violence and sexual harassment are increasing in the community due to cramped conditions. Children are not attending school,” explains the Participatory Development Action Programme (PDAP) which works in the slums of Dhaka .

These pressures add to regular “everyday” challenges of air pollution and garbage management, flooding, water-logged land, and poor quality water.

Local knowledge and Resilient Future

Civil society organisations often fill a tremendous gap and find themselves at the forefront of prevention and emergency efforts. The localisation of responses and partnerships are absolutely crucial to understand the needs of communities in pre and post-disaster scenarios.

In Honduras, civil society has created community-led interventions, to prioritise local plans of action across the country.

“Honduras, and Central America more in general, have been hit in the last 10 years by an intensification of disasters, most of them linked to climate change. Our role in helping communities to adapt to climate change and to deal with disasters, is in terms of capacity building, humanitarian assistance and advocacy by creating links between local, national, regional and global levels,” says Jose Ramon Avila from ASONOG, the national platform of civil society organisations in Honduras.

The intense and cascading nature of risks, such as seen in the cases of Covid-19 and climate change, represent a serious threat to the achievement of a sustainable and resilient future. Growing experience over the last three decades has revealed that disasters and development are closely linked. Ignoring the impact of disasters makes it more difficult to pursue sustainable development.

“Sustainable development can only be achieved when local risk is fully understood. Critical to understanding and assessing the complex threats and risks, challenges and opportunities faced by communities most at risk, is the need to partner with those people. This practical toolkit provides valuable insights and examples from GNDR members and others on how this can be achieved,” says Bijay Kumar, Executive Director, Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR)

It has also been found that much of the negative impact on sustainable livelihoods comes not from large, ‘intensive’ disasters, but from many smaller, ‘everyday’ disasters. It has become crucial to address intensive and everyday disasters and to integrate our responses with overall work to pursue sustainable development.

We need to ask ourselves this question: can we build new bridges of solidarity between civil society, communities and governments? Can we prevent and anticipate disasters? Our future is not disaster-free; to build resilient communities it is crucial to nurture strong roots for our society to flourish.

The author Bibbi Abruzzini is Communications officer at Forus.
Find the toolkit and microsite on Disaster Risk Reduction here. Available in English, French and Spanish.

 


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Categories: Africa

Kenyan avocado farm faces more claims of abuse

BBC Africa - Thu, 06/10/2021 - 01:53
As the company tries to win back the UK business it lost, more alleged victims have come forward.
Categories: Africa

Nations Pledge to Tackle Inequalities as part of New Targets to end HIV/AIDS by 2030

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 19:05

UN officials say they are worried that the achievements in the HIV/AIDS response are uneven and the most vulnerable are at highest risk. They say the new targets are urgently needed. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Alison Kentish
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 9 2021 (IPS)

World leaders, those on the frontlines of the AIDS response, civil society, academics and youth have agreed that there is no way to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 without tackling persistent inequalities among marginalised groups.

The leaders on Tuesday adopted a new set of targets to end the epidemic. Called the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026, it builds on the 2016 Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, with more ambitious plans to tackle issues like discrimination and criminalisation of same-sex relations.

“The inequalities blocking progress towards ending AIDS emerge when HIV intersects with complex fault lines across social, economic, legal and health systems,” the agreement states.

It contains pledges to decrease the annual number of new HIV infections to below 370,000 and AIDS-related deaths to 250,000 while eliminating new infections among children.

It sets a 2025 target to end HIV-related discrimination in all forms and to bring life-saving HIV treatment to 34 million people.

UN officials say since the first confirmed case of HIV in 1981 there has been significant progress in understanding and responding to the disease. This includes a 61 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths since a peak in 2004 and ‘dozens of countries’ meeting or surpassing the targets set out to fast-track AIDS response in the 2016 Declaration.

But they are worried that the achievements are uneven and the most vulnerable are at highest risk. They say the new targets are urgently needed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, and humanitarian emergencies, have impeded progress as health systems are placed under immense strain, and critical services and supply chains are disrupted,” said Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly. “Tragically stigma and discrimination persist, further isolating those already marginalised.”

Bozkir told the hybrid event that while all forms of inequality must be eliminated, HIV statistics among young women make a compelling case for prioritising an end to gender inequality.

According to UNAIDS, young women are twice as likely to be living with HIV as young men. In 2020, 6 out of every 7 new HIV infections among young people, aged between 15-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, were girls.

“Every girl and every woman must be free to exercise their fundamental human rights, to make their own decisions, to live a life free from fear of gender-based violence and to be treated with dignity and respect. All girls should have equal access to quality education. This is the foundation for a society where women feel safe to take their rightful place in the workplace, public life, politics, and decision-making,” he said.

Yana Panfilova, a 23-year-old Ukrainian woman who was born with HIV appealed to world leaders to help the millions of people with HIV who struggle daily with fear and isolation.

“Millions of people with HIV may have HIV pills, but they live in a world where their families and their societies do not accept them for who they are. I am here today as the voice of 38 million people living with HIV. For some of us, pills are keeping us alive, but we are dying from the pandemics of stigma, discrimination,” she said.

“The AIDS response is still leaving millions behind. LGBTIQ people, sex workers, people who use drugs, migrants and prisoners, teenagers, young people, women and children who also deserve an ordinary life, with the same rights and dignity enjoyed by most people in this hall.”

The Executive Director of UNAIDS Winnie Byanyima stated that HIV rates are not following the course outlined in the 2016 Agreement and warned that as part of the fall-out from the COVID-19 crisis, it is possible to see a resurgent AIDS pandemic.

“The evidence and analysis are clear. Inequalities in power, status, rights and voice are driving the HIV pandemic. Inequalities kill. As the Global AIDS strategy sets out: to end AIDS, we have to end the inequalities which perpetuate it,” Byanyima said.

The UNAIDS Chief said the world should applaud the new measures to confront the AIDS epidemic, adding that the policies and services needed to end AIDS will prove useful in beating COVID-19 and prepare the world for future pandemics.

“We cannot be neutral on inequalities. To get back on track to ending AIDS, we must be deliberate in confronting them. The only alternative is a vicious cycle of injustice, illness, and emergency. The most unrealistic thing we could do now is to imagine we can overcome our crises through minor adjustments or tinkering.”

 


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Excerpt:

Despite gains in the last few decades, global targets set out five years ago have not been met. UN officials told a High-Level Meeting on AIDS this week that among populations such as sex workers and women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, discrimination, gender-based violence and criminalisation are fuelling the epidemic.
Categories: Africa

Damage to Coral Reefs Hurts Fishing Communities in Central America

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 16:59

Punta Remedios is a beach of singular beauty that also provides shelter for the boats of the fishing community of Los Cóbanos, on the Pacific coast of El Salvador. It is home to the only rocky reef with coral growth in the country, which is being damaged by climate phenomena and human activities. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
LOS CÓBANOS, El Salvador , Jun 9 2021 (IPS)

As fisherman Luis Morán walked towards his small boat, which was floating in the water a few meters from the Salvadoran coast, he asked “How can the coral reefs not be damaged with such a warm sea?”

Morán lives on the edge of Punta Remedios beach, just outside the 22-hectare Complejo Los Cóbanos Natural Protected Area, a marine reserve located in the western department of Sonsonate, El Salvador.

The site is known as the habitat of the only rocky reef with coral growth in this Central American country that has coastline only on the Pacific Ocean.

Los Cóbanos is a hamlet in the canton of Punta Remedios, Acajutla municipality, whose capital has the same name. It is located about 90 kilometres west of San Salvador. The village is in a coastal area of poor communities that mainly depend on fishing.

From talking about coral reefs with marine biologists who work in the area and with whom he collaborates, Morán has learned that they are hurt by warm water temperatures.

“This water is so hot that it already looks like soup,” the 56-year-old fisherman told IPS, aware that the impact on the coral is also affecting the livelihoods of people in the fishing communities.

Many of the fish species that are of commercial value to the community, such as red snapper, breed and find shelter in the reefs.

Other fishermen from Los Cóbanos with whom IPS spoke confirmed that fish are increasingly scarce in the area.

Fisherman Luis Morán, a resident of Punta Remedios beach in the hamlet of Los Cóbanos in western El Salvador, says human activities such as overfishing and unsustainable tourism are damaging the health of the coral reef located in that area of the Pacific coast, the only one of its kind in the country. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Melvin Orellana, 41, said he went to sea a few days ago, but caught less than 2.5 kilos of fish.

“I didn’t even cover the cost of the gas,” said the father of two.

Orellana uses nine 18-gallon (68-litre) drums of gasoline to run his 75-horsepower engine. A gallon (almost four litres) costs about four dollars.

He and the other fishermen make forays up to 70 nautical miles (130 kilometres) offshore to fish for shark, dorado and snapper.

Coral reefs at risk of perishing

The warming of sea temperatures produced by climate change and expressed, for example, in the El Niño phenomenon, is one of the factors that is damaging coral reefs around the world, and Los Cóbanos is no exception, said biologists interviewed by IPS.

Marine biologist Johanna Segovia (L) and her team carry out research in the waters of the Los Cóbanos National Protected Area in the Salvadoran Pacific. The expert says that as the coral reef ecosystem in the area is damaged, the livelihoods of local fishing communities are also affected. CREDIT: Courtesy of Johanna Segovia

This warming causes the “bleaching” of corals, colonial organisms that live in association with microalgae, which provide food through photosynthesis, but which the corals end up expelling when they are stressed by the increase in water temperature. When they lose the microalgae, they bleach.

That is a sign that they are being impacted; they are not yet dead, but they could die if the temperatures stay warm too long, marine biologist Johanna Segovia told IPS.

“If the coral stays at that temperature for three months, it starts to die… but if the temperature returns to normal, it can recover again,” added Segovia, a researcher at the Francisco Gavidia University in El Salvador.

The impact is already evident, and has been confirmed by biologists.

“We have gone from three percent coral cover to only one percent” in the Los Cóbanos nature reserve, Segovia said after diving among the reefs off the coast, which she does regularly as part of her research on the local ecosystem.

Currently, the live coral cover observed in the area belongs to the Porites lobata species.

In the vicinity of Punta Remedios beach, on the coast of El Salvador, many families have set up small, precarious food businesses, mainly offering seafood, to sell to tourists who visit and often have no regard for the environment, leaving garbage behind and trying to capture prohibited species, such as crabs. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned in 2019 that by 2050, 70 to 90 percent of the world’s coral reefs would be lost, even if actions were promoted at the international level that managed to stabilise global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It is this warming of the water that drives fish away from the shore to compensate for the difference in temperature, as they are not able to regulate it themselves.

In addition to the phenomena associated with climate change, these organisms are being hit by the actions of industrial fishing and local communities.

For example, poor management of river basins upstream leads to pollution and sediment reaching the reef ecosystem.

The extensive use of pesticides in agriculture and deforestation affect the upstream river basins, whose waters carry pollution and sediments to the coral reef zone.

“Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems, and some environmental variables in the ocean, such as temperature and sedimentation, are factors that play a major role in their deterioration,” Francisco Chicas, a professor at the University of El Salvador‘s School of Biology, told IPS.

Unsustainable tourism is another cause of this deterioration, with visitors often disrespecting local regulations that prohibit affecting the coral ecosystem in any way.

José Cruz Miranda, a resident of Los Cóbanos, a village on the Salvadoran coast, was a fisherman for more than 30 years, but had to stop fishing due to health problems. Now he gathers empty cans, which he sells to a recycling company – environmental work that helps reduce pollution in an area with rich coral communities. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Tourists can approach species that are near the surface, but they are not allowed to touch them, let alone try to catch them.

It is even forbidden to take biogenic sand, which is yellow in color and is actually the remains of decomposed shells and corals.

In Punta Remedios people have organised to make sure nothing like that happens.

“On Sundays, my son-in-law confiscates bottles with sand and small crabs,” said Morán, who has four grown children and who, together with his wife, María Ángela Cortés, runs a mini seafood restaurant located on a wooden platform overlooking the sea.

He complained that tourists leave garbage strewn everywhere.

José Cruz Miranda, another local resident, collects empty soft drink and beer cans. He has a total of 30 kilos stored in his house. He sells them for 0.80 cents per kilo to a recycling company in Ajacutla.

Miranda, who has diabetes, uses the money from the cans to buy the medicine he needs.

“That helps me cope with my diabetes,” he told IPS.

María Ángela (“Angelita”) Cortés, 52, prepares a dish in her mini-restaurant on the beach of Punta Remedios, in the hamlet of Los Cóbanos on El Salvador’s Pacific coast. She takes advantage of the return of tourists to boost her business in an area with few job opportunities besides fishing, which is increasingly scarce due to the damage suffered by the local coral reef. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Central American similarities

The factors that are impacting the reefs in Los Cóbanos also affect the rest of Central America.

In Costa Rica, coral reefs “are losing their health due to all the anthropogenic and natural factors, and of course all of this is aggravated by climate change,” Tatiana Villalobos, co-founder of the non-governmental Raising Coral Costa Rica, told IPS.

That country has some 970 square kilometres of coral cover on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, although Villalobos noted that the figure is from 10 years ago.

There are areas, she said, where reefs recover better than others.

One example off the Costa Rican Pacific coast is Cocos Island, located about 535 kilometres to the southeast. The situation there has been controlled and the reefs can be said to be in good health.

It is on the coast, Villalobos said, where there has been a significant loss of coral cover, due to sedimentation, pollution and generally poor environmental practices.

Overfishing is also a problem, as it is in the rest of Central America and the world.

This happens when herbivorous species are fished, which causes changes in the ecosystem that end up impacting the reef.

Overfishing in Los Cóbanos, for example, is a serious problem, especially because although people from the local fishing communities use hand lines, those who come from other areas fish with nets, even though they are banned.

In Honduras, the situation is quite similar.

Gisselle Brady, programme coordinator for the non-governmental Bay Islands Conservation Ecological Association (BICA), told IPS that although the ecosystems and culture in this area of the Honduran Caribbean are different from those of the Pacific coast, the problems are basically the same.

Among them, she mentioned overfishing, climate change, unsustainable tourism, and the lack of regulation by the State to keep these ecosystems healthy.

On the contrary, Brady added that the Honduran government is promoting, with a law passed in 2018, further growth of the tourism sector, as well as the controversial industrial parks called Employment and Economic Development Zones (Zedes), which do not abide by national laws.

This is even impacting nature reserves with coral reefs, such as the Nombre de Dios park in La Ceiba, in northern Honduras, she said.

“It is sad that national laws are driving such unsustainable development,” said the expert from the island of Roatan, the largest in the Bay Islands department.

She pointed out that a measurement used in the so-called Mesoamerican Reef, which covers the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, gives a score of five when the reef is healthy.

Honduras has gone from three, considered fair, to 2.5, which is poor. Danger stalks its reefs. And it is not alone.

Excerpt:

This article is part of IPS coverage of World Environment Day, celebrated June 5, whose theme this year is “ecosystem restoration”.
Categories: Africa

South African woman gives birth to 10 babies in Pretoria

BBC Africa - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 14:35
Gosiame Thamara Sithole, 37, was astonished by decuplets after scans only showed eight in the womb.
Categories: Africa

Inclusivity Is My Key to Success

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 13:09

Zoltán Kálmán is Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome

By Zoltán Kálmán
ROME, Jun 9 2021 (IPS)

In three cycles I spent all together more than 15 years in Rome, at the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and between my last two assignments in Rome my responsibilities in Budapest included FAO related issues. This made it possible for me to witness the development of this organization under the leadership of four Directors-General. Edouard Saouma, Jacques Diouf, Jose Graziano da Silva and Qu Dongyu. This long association and “historic” view of FAO would definitely help me in fulfilling the role of the Independent Chairperson of the Council of FAO (ICC). As conventional wisdom suggests, in order to make good decisions for the future we need to know, understand and learn from the past. The Independent External Evaluation, commissioned by the FAO Council in 2004, was an important milestone in this regard. It was followed by inclusive discussions among FAO Members about the recommendations and finally an Immediate Plan of Action was adopted by the FAO Conference. It was the most significant reform in FAO and I had the privilege to contribute to this process.

Inclusivity is the key for successful accomplishment of the tasks of ICC. This requires real, meaningful consultations both among the Membership and with the Management. I believe the practice of inclusive consultations and dialogues taking place at the World Food Programme could be considered as a good example. I had the honour to be Member of the WFP Executive Board between 2015-2020; served as Vice-President in 2017 and elected President of the Board in 2018. The inclusive, transparent and efficient working methods of the WFP EB are greatly appreciated generally by the Membership. No need to simply “copy and paste” the WFP model, but some of these working methods could be successfully applied at FAO as well, including the disciplined time-management, which could be achieved through inclusive preparatory consultations and jointly established rules.

According to my vision the position of Independent Chair implies certain authority and power, and I think this should be used for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the FAO Council. But in my interpretation the role of ICC is first and foremost a SERVICE. This service includes representing Members’ interests and assisting Membership to better exercise their functions, guiding discussions and building consensus. I have no hidden agenda to push for any particular interests of countries, regions or lobby groups. I cannot claim that I am a candidate of the EU, although many EU countries support my candidacy. Similarly, I am not a candidate of the European Region or the OECD, although I count on significant support from these groups of countries. I am simply a candidate from Hungary, but I would be Independent Chair of all FAO Members, representing the interests of all of them, independently, irrespective of the size, geographic location, political orientation, economic model or level of development of the countries. Transparency, independence, neutrality and impartiality are not just nice sounding words to me. I take these principles seriously as I did when I was President of the WFP EB. As a retiree, I would be qualified to accomplish the duties and tasks of ICC in a fully independent manner, in line with the spirit of the recommendations of the Independent External Evaluation (IEE).

Inclusivity means that I listen to all Members both at official meetings and informal discussions, with my door always open. Inclusivity would require efforts for a more active involvement of all countries while better engaging even those with small missions and limited capacities. Inclusivity also means full respect for multilingualism and due attention to the specificities of countries and regions.

In the past few decades I participated in many meetings, sometimes making tough discussions and I always have been constructive, finding solutions and reaching consensus through dialogues. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn a lot during my assignments in Rome and I am strongly motivated to make the best possible use of my past experience, for the benefit of FAO. Originally it was not my personal career ambition to become ICC. Rather, the most important motivating factor for me was the inspiration and encouragement of Permanent Representative colleagues from all regions, particularly from developing countries. In fact, a number of colleagues and friends from various regions approached me and encouraged me to consider applying, based on my background and experience, including as successful President of the WFP EB. This inspired me immensely and I am grateful for all the encouragement and also for the significant support to my election bid already received from many countries from all regions.

The priority areas to be discussed at FAO Council are included in FAOs Programme of Work and Budget, Medium Term Plan or Strategic Framework. I only wish to highlight 2 very important challenges ahead of us. First, food security for all, particularly in countries seriously affected by the COVID pandemic. Second, sustainable agriculture and food systems, with due attention to all 3 dimensions of sustainability. Naturally, the Independent Chair can have his own programme priorities, but these are discussed among the Memberships of all FAO governing bodies and a decision is taken by consensus. All these issues are also discussed with the FAO DG and the Management, with clear and distinct roles and responsibilities. FAO Members, through the governing bodies, can provide strategic policy guidance to the Management regarding the principles and priority areas to be followed, in line with the SDGs. The technical details on HOW to implement the programmes, remains to the highly professional Management and Staff of FAO. The overall management of FAO is the responsibility of the Director General of FAO. With the new leadership style of DG Qu Dongyu we are confident that he will continue to introduce positive changes, appreciating and motivating the staff, who are the greatest assets of this important Organization. He will definitely continue the tradition of listening to the views of the FAO Membership and respecting the guidance provided by the governing bodies. This will help him in his efforts to make FAO more efficient and effective, contributing to achieving Zero Hunger.

 


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Excerpt:

Zoltán Kálmán is Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome
Categories: Africa

Nigeria’s Twitter Ban Is Part of a Larger Attack on Civil Society

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 12:47

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly, 2019. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Nelson Olanipekun
LAGOS, Nigeria, Jun 9 2021 (IPS)

Four years ago, Omoregie* and his friends were arrested without cause and taken into custody. When they got to the station, Omoregie watched as the police began to beat his friends. Afraid, he began to discreetly tweet about the attacks as they took place.

I and many other Twitter users could read his fears while he called for help through his tweets. Taking action as a lawyer, I was able to secure his release within a few hours with the help of other activists through the police unit responsible for citizen complaints.

I had been thinking of Omoregie this week when the government of Nigeria banned the use of Twitter in the country, making use of it a criminal offense. The ban followed the social media platform’s deletion of a tweet from President Muhammad Buhari in which he threatened violence against people in a region in the country’s South East where attacks had been made on public infrastructure.

While the banning of Twitter surprised many, the government’s action against social media platforms has long been threatened and is part of a long-term strategy to bend civil society and force Nigeria’s citizens into compliance with the government. Twitter has been a major source of activism and news in Nigeria

While the banning of Twitter surprised many, the government’s action against social media platforms has long been threatened and is part of a long-term strategy to bend civil society and force Nigeria’s citizens into compliance with the government. Twitter has been a major source of activism and news in Nigeria.

Nigerians spend almost four hours on social media daily and Twitter is the second largest social media platform after Facebook. Most public debates begin on Twitter and the platform often sets the tone for national news carried on traditional media. It has become the platform to hold government, institutions and powerful individuals accountable.

It has also long been a place for activism and to organize protests, including last year’s EndSARS protests, which led to the eradication of the Special Anti Robbery Squad. Ninety-nine people were killed during the EndSARS protest in Nigeria and Twitter helped to expose these abuses. This was most evident during an attack by police and the military on protesters at Lekki Bridge in Lagos.

Documentation of the attack, including a livestream by media personality DJ Switch forced senior military officers to intervene and later acknowledge the attack took place. Since livestreaming the attack, D.J Switch has been forced to seek asylum in Canada as a result of threats to her life.

This efficacy for activism has drawn government’s attention.

About two years ago, Nigerian government introduced a social media bill that sought to regulate the social media space and criminalize simple comments that authorities deemed ‘falsehoods’ or hate speech with fines and jail terms.

As a lawyer and an activist, I appeared before a Senate committee at the public hearing and gave statements about how we use social media to help fight human rights violations, consumer rights, and even to help find missing persons. After the public hearing, the bill was abandoned but, as we saw with last week’s Twitter ban, the Buhari administration did not give up on its ambitions to restrict social media.

They took their opportunity with last week’s shutdown. Nigeria’s judicial system has been effectively on strike for the past two months, so the Twitter ban was implemented without the oversight of the courts. In addition to banning Twitter, the government has demanded licensing of all social media platforms as well as services which stream news and entertainment via the Internet.

All of these restrictions aim to control freedom of expression; a right guaranteed under Nigeria’s Constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights–both of which Nigeria has signed.

The Twitter ban also comes as the Nigerian government increases offline crackdowns on citizen action. They have repeatedly trampled on the right of citizens to assemble and protest in physical space. Activists have been shot at by police and military and many arrested while protesting peacefully. Twitter has also been used to shine a light on these crackdowns.

Since the ban against Twitter was announced, the government has wasted no time in implementing punishment for users. Immediately after the announcement, Nigeria’s Attorney General directed the arrest and prosecution of anyone using the Twitter app.

Practically, this will mean police will be empowered to search telephones for the app. Police searches of phones—and unhappiness with those searches—are not new to Nigerians and were one of the reasons for the EndSARS protests.

The draconian ban also begs the question, if Twitter, a global platform which helps to spotlight the government excesses can be shut down, what safety is there for Nigeria’s local media, journalists and citizens? With the Twitter ban Nigeria risks further sliding into dictatorship and there will be fewer ways to organize challenges to it.

Some will argue that Twitter is to blame for its banning because it overstepped in deleting a tweet from President Buhari that Twitter argues violates its policy. But even if we accept that Twitter was wrong to delete a tweet, the federal government’s reaction to ban a platform so important to public debate and activists is petty and an extreme overreach.

It is time for the world’s democracies to take concrete steps and forestall Nigeria human rights violations. Censorship of independent voices is often a means to shut down accountability and enable autocratic rule.

Allowing the Twitter ban by a few politicians without criticism would signal that the world endorses autocracy. The world’s silence and inaction are an endorsement of the Twitter ban, a shrinking of the ability of civil society to organize and a violation of the rights of 200 million Nigerians.

*Not his real name

 

Nelson Olanipekun is a human rights lawyer and advocate who uses technology and law to accelerate the pace of justice delivery. He is a 2021 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

Categories: Africa

Scream of the World: Volcanos and Earthquakes

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 12:37

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Jun 9 2021 (IPS)

In February the killing of the Italian ambassador, Luca Attanasio, in the vicinity of the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, did for a short while put the global spotlight on this troubled area, where warfare, poverty and general insecurity generate immense human suffering.

On the 22nd of May, the same area was afflicted by one more disaster – Mount Nyiragongo erupted. This huge volcano is located 20 kilometres north of the town of Goma and 10 kilometres from the border to Rwanda. A lava stream reached the airport and threatened the city centre of eastern Goma. Authorities urged all residents to evacuate the town – it has half a million inhabitants – causing thousands of people to leave their homes. At least thirty persons died during the chaos. The humanitarian crisis continues unabated. More than 230,000 displaced people are currently crowding small towns and villages around Goma. Lack of clean water, food and medical supplies are in many places, within and outside Goma, creating catastrophic conditions.

Scientists worry about a lack in precise monitoring data and a plausible second eruption. Earthquakes continue to shake the area, while cracks are opening up, revealing red-hot lava, evidence that magma is accumulating beneath the ground. Developments are monitored by personnel from the Goma Volcanic Observatory (GVO). However, after the World Bank in 2020 decided to terminate its contributions, the observatory is functioning under strained conditions.

In another part of the world, on Iceland, the volcano Fagradsfjall is since mid-February 2021 erupting intermittently, emitting a steady stream of lava, which effusion rate recently increased to approximately 12.4 cubic metres per second. Thankfully is the Reykjanes peninsula, where Fagradsfjall is situated, sparsely populated. However, this does not mean that volcano eruptions in remote areas do not affect people living far away from them.

In 2010, a series of minor eruptions of the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull emitted a dust cloud which across western and northern Europe caused disruptions to air travel. For a period of six days the invisible ash was putting a complete stop to all flights. In 2004, a rupture in the earth crust along an undersea fault between the Burma Plate and the India Plate caused massive tsunami waves that devastated coastal areas along the Indian Ocean. At least 228,000 people died from the immediate impact of the tsunamis followed by other deaths due to the hardship they caused.

This catastrophe made me remember a visit I eight years earlier made to the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVISCORI-UNA). The walls of a room were lined with seismographs, which writing needles quivered incessantly while measuring seismic activities along the San Andreas Fault and Mexican-Central American volcanoes.

The scientists I talked to reminded me that if you compared the earth to an apple, the thickness of earth’s outer crust could be likened to the apple’s skin. The earth’s crust occupies less than one percent of our planet’s volume and is under the oceans just eight kilometres thick and approximately 32 kilometres under the continents. Underneath the crust is extremely hot magma. The earth’s innards are constantly getting hotter all the way down to the innermost core, composed of immensely hot and compressed nickel and iron.

I asked the Costa Rican experts if they could predict an earthquake, or volcano eruption. To my astonishment they answered that it could possibly be done a few minutes before they occur, though this would be far too late for initiating an efficient evacuation of huge metropolises like Los Angeles and Mexico City. The scientists then told me that the San Andreas Fault has reached a sufficient stress level for an earthquake of great magnitude to occur and the risk is increasing more rapidly than previously believed. When I asked them when such a catastrophe might take place, they shrugged their shoulders and stated: “Maybe in ten, twenty years time, maybe earlier, maybe later, no one knows … but the catastrophe will come. We are at least sure about that.”

Humanity appears to be helpless when confronting such catastrophes. Nevertheless, we may be prepared for them by establishing efficient means to take care of the victims, make sure that constructions might withstand earthquakes and avoid establishing settlements too close to volcanos. We also have to take care of our environment and don’t destroy elements that could mitigate the effects of natural disasters. For example, the impact of the 2004 Tsunami on the Indonesian Aceh Province would have been less if huge areas of protective mangrove swamps had not been eradicated to construct fish ponds and shrimp farms.

Since I find myself in Italy it is hard to avoid thinking about the threat constituted by Mount Vesuvius, regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Not the least since a population of three million people live close enough to be severely affected by an eruption, with 600,000 settled within a zone of extreme danger.

Historically, some of Vesuvius’ eruptions have blanketed southern Europe with ash. Harvests were especially severely damaged in 472 and 1631, resulting in disastrous famine. People living in the fertile agricultural landscape of Italy’s Campania region have genuine reason to be anxious about their health. For decades they have lived on top of potentially lethal toxic waste, illegally and secretly dumped by members of criminal organisations.

Some parts of the crater wall of Vesuvius looks like a geological strata, with layers formed by different types of waste – asbestos from demolished buildings, dioxin-rich chemical sludge, drums of solvent, etc.. Black water forms pools at the bottom of the crater, mixed with stinking, steaming pits of sewage and pitfalls down to sulphuric acid and incandescent magma. Furthermore the bottom of the crater is in most places covered by thick layers of ash and lava from earlier eruptions and it is scary to imagine what might happen when all this ash, trash and dregs through an eruption become dispersed in the atmosphere.

Our disregard for Mother Earth makes me think of a story by Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. In 1928, he wrote a short story called When the World Screamed, featuring a brilliant scientist called Professor Challenger. This slightly mad scholar assumes that the earth may be some kind of organism, akin to a giant sea urchin. To prove his theory Professor Challenger contacts two engineers, experts in deep-earth drilling.

They succeed in drilling through the earth crust, reach the mantle and the drill hurts a nerve of Mother Earth. Professor Challenger had thus proved that the earth actually is an organism, but at that very moment our ears were assailed by the most horrible yell that ever yet was heard. […] It was a howl in which pain, anger, menace, and the outraged majesty of Nature all blended into one hideous shriek.

It is a humorous and rather shallow adventure story, though it stays in the mind as a quite poignant reminder that the earth actually is a kind of organism that may be destroyed and hurt by the mindless actions of humans. As earthquakes and volcano eruptions prove, the earth is an extremely powerful and unpredictable entity. We cannot always anticipate how nature will react, but we can mitigate the effects from damage caused by natural disasters by taking better care of our habitat, as well as each other and not, as often is the case, fall victim to greed and rage.

Natural catastrophes are difficult to avoid and mitigate, but much more can be made to address a man-made disaster like the one already prevailing in Congo’s Kivu district. A spectacular cataclysm like an earthquake, or volcano eruption, often awake people’s compassion for the victims – for example did nations all over the world provide over USD 14 billion in aid to regions damaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Maybe we may hope that the human suffering caused by Mount Nyiragongo’s eruption might increase a commitment to support the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo to overcome the endemic crisis engulfing this region and finally establish a lasting peace in this troubled and often forgotten part of the world.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

 


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Categories: Africa

Nigeria's Twitter ban: Donald Trump hails Buhari

BBC Africa - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 11:45
The former US president urges other countries to restrict use of social media platforms.
Categories: Africa

Ashleigh Plumptre: Leicester City Women's star keen on Nigeria

BBC Africa - Wed, 06/09/2021 - 10:59
Ex-England youth player and Leicester City Women's defender Ashleigh Plumptre would 'grab the chance to play for Nigeria with both hands'.
Categories: Africa

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