- Preparing for winter in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley
The upcoming winter in Lebanon brought the first snowfall to parts of the country on Wednesday. It is an unwelcome sign for the 2.2 million Syrian refugees living outside of the country right now.
Temperatures fell to as low as 20ºF as the refugees must cope with little or no heat. Winter is a particularly hard time and the acceleration of people fleeing from Syria over the past year weighs heavy on the humanitarian response.
Current predictions indicate that this year’s winter will be harsh in countries where Syrian refugees are living, such as Lebanon and Jordan.
Nearly 3 million people received supplies to help cope with the winter, including high thermal blankets and extra plastic sheeting, from UNHCR. Still, many people are relying solely on the blankets to keep warm during the cold months.
“Most of these people used to live relatively decent lives. They were not used to worrying about hunger and keeping warm,” explained Phillips, Campaigns and Policy Director for Oxfam GB, to Humanosphere. “It is a huge shock psychologically.”
Because many of the people who left Syria were not living in poverty, they arrived in neighboring countries with some assets. With little or no opportunity to make an income, families are turning to personal savings and finally selling off valuables.
But the money is running out.
The internet holds the power to transform Africa, says the McKinsey Global Institute.
Expanding internet access and unleashing its capabilities can impact six areas: financial services, education, health, retail, agriculture, and government. A new report, Lions Go Digital: The Internet’s Transformative Potential in Africa, predicts that 500 million people in Africa will be online by 2025. It is a dramatic increase from the 16 million people connected to the internet today.
An analysis of the fourteen leading economies in Africa reveals varying progress of internet impact. Kenya and Senegal are considered leaders which the large economy of Nigeria is a country ‘punching below its weight.’
Optimism springs from the low contribution of the internet to the GDP (iGDP) of many African nations. In the US, the internet contributes to 3.8% of GDP. The average across Africa is only 1.1%, nearly half that of other emerging economies, says the report. The gap demonstrates the potential benefit that the internet can have on African economies.
“Today, following a decade of economic expansion, Africa is going digital,” say the report authors in the introduction.
- Vestergaard Frandsen
Some 3.3 million lives were saved since 2000 from malaria, says a new WHO report.
Deaths worldwide fell by 45% and were more than halved for African children under five years old.
However, a lack of funds and recent problems with bednet makers means the progress made over the last decade is as risk.
“This remarkable progress is no cause for complacency: absolute numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not going down as fast as they could,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “The fact that so many people are infected and dying from mosquito bites is one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.”
Cases of malaria fell by 29% worldwide over the period, but an estimated 3.4 billion people remain at risk for malaria. The problem is concentrated. According to the WHO, 80% of global malaria cases occur in southeast Asia and in Africa.
The number of bed nets distributed has declined over the past three years from 145 million in 2010 to 70 million in 2012. That falls short of the 150 million needed each year to ensure every person at risk is protected, says the WHO.
- Flickr, pugetive
If you think the debate over vaccines in the United States can sometimes be a little wacky, take a look at India.
And if you think irresponsible politicking and journalism can’t kill, think again.
Seattle-based PATH, which in 2009 attempted to test the logistics of expanding the use of HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine in girls to prevent cervical cancer, has been castigated by critics for ‘unethical human experimentation’ – even though the vaccine is hardly experimental – and is now the target of two lawsuits in India.
One politician, capitalizing on the controversy, even called for PATH to be entirely expelled from India.
Meanwhile, the international biomedical research community, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the pharmaceutical industry have suspended more than a hundred clinical trials throughout India because of the government’s new rules that require those running the trials to compensate any study volunteers who later suffer injury or death – whether the injury or death is directly caused by the study or not.
- Vivien Tsu
“This has become very harmful,” said Vivien Tsu, a women’s health expert at PATH who led the HPV study in India. “The HPV controversy and the arguments over clinical trials in India have ended up fueling each other in a way that undermines public health, not to mention India’s role in biomedical research.”
Humanosphere has followed the dispute over the PATH HPV study for a few years now. Many perhaps expected the controversy would subside over time as the evidence accumulated to show it was both beneficial and well-intended. Just the opposite has happened. Continue reading
- Indian rights activists react to the Supreme Court decision to uphold a law banning gay sex.
Sex between two same-sex partners is again illegal in India.
The Supreme Court reversed a four year old decision by the nation’s High Court that decriminalized consensual same-sex activity between adults. Amnesty International India described the news as a “black day for freedom in India.”
The decision is a major setback for gay rights activists in India.
“I feel so exhausted right now thinking we are being set back by 100 years. . . . I think it’s pathetic and sad,” said Naz Foundation founder Anjali Gopalan. Continue reading
- SOPUDEP school
The often debated topic of whether or not foreign aid has done good reappeared in this weekend’s column by Nick Kristof for the New York Times.
By featuring the story of one young girl’s struggle to go to school, Kristof shows that aid works. Even in Haiti.
Jonathan Katz, he reported from Haiti during the earthquake and cholera outbreak, says the argument has some major holes.
“When you consider these facts, it gets pretty difficult to argue that whatever is going on right now in Haiti—including aid—is working, and much harder to dispute the claim that “dedicated and ethical” or any other foreigners are doing harm,” wrote Katz for the Beacon Reader. Continue reading
A fascinating graphic from The Economist tracks income levels for South Africans based on race over the period of Nelson Mandela’s life. Most interesting is how little the gap between white and black South Africans has closed in nearly 100 years. The much celebrated end of apartheid nearly 20 years ago did not slow down the accumulation of wealth among white South Africans.
Under its own majority rule, the lot of the ever-growing black population—today forming over three-quarters of the national total—has been notably poor. Misguided governance, low-quality education, skills shortages and massive unemployment levels of around 40% have left it more disadvantaged today than when Nelson Mandela was still behind bars. Black income has virtually flat-lined, betraying tremendous gulfs between the wealth of the different racial groups. Sadly, the nation Mandela leaves behind today remains one of the least equal in the world.
- Afghan women’s self-help group.
- Canada in Afghanistan
The landmark law enacted in Afghanistan four years ago is providing little protection for women.
In 2011, Afghanistan was found to be the worst place to be a women, according to a survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The greatest threats to Afghan women, according to those polled, were non-sexual violence, a lack of access to economic resources and health.
The establishment of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law in August 2009 was heralded as an important advance for the safety of women. Some twenty-two acts were included in the law ranging from forced marriage and forced self-immolation to violence and the practice of giving away women to settle a dispute.
Yesterday, a report released by the UN raised serious concerns with the progress over the past four years.
“Implementation has been slow and uneven, with police still reluctant to enforce the legal prohibition against violence and harmful practices, and prosecutors and courts slow to enforce the legal protections in the law,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Continue reading