Global action needed for 2.2 billion ‘poor or near-poor’, says UN | 

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the HDR 2014 launch event in Tokyo.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the HDR 2014 launch event in Tokyo.
UNDP

Some 1.5 billion people in 91 countries are living in poverty right now. An additional 800 million are on the brink of poverty. The global community needs to get in order and work together so that fewer people are living in poverty, says the United Nations Development Programme.

The UN agency released its annual Human Development Report today. It takes stock of the progress of development in every country in the world each year. The accompanying Human Development Index that is a part of the report acts as a sort of scorecard for countries.

This year’s report that steady progress against poverty has come under threat. Natural and man-made disasters have led to significant set-backs over the past few years. Last year saw the Central African Republic and South Sudan descend into a violent political crisis. Meanwhile, the Philippines was slammed by a typhoon, taking thousands of lives and causing billions of dollars in damage and economic loss. Income inequality and changing food prices are also held to blame for some of the more recent challenges.

“If people remain at risk of slipping back into poverty because of structural factors and persistent vulnerabilities, development progress will remain precarious,” says Helen Clark, Administrator for UNDP, in the report introduction. “The eradication of poverty is not about ‘getting to zero’ – it is about staying there.”

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News in the Humanosphere: #BringBackOurGirls, 100 Days On | 

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Stephen Melkisethian

And the more than 200 missing girls are still no-where in sight. “The only information comes from Boko Haram’s leader, who said in a video they are being held captive as “slaves” and will not be returned unless the government swaps imprisoned militants for girls. “The sadder thing is the conversation between the citizens and our government leaves a lot to be desired. Leaves a lot to be desired,” says Obi Ezekwelizi, one of the leaders of Bring Back Our Girls. Activists say they plan to continue near daily “sit-outs” in Abuja until the girls are rescued. But the group and the kidnapped girls are also now in the center of Nigerian politics, with the government accusing Bring Back Our Girls of being agents of the opposition.” (VOA)

UN Human Rights Council Authorizes Gaza Probe…“Twenty-nine countries voted for an investigation to be carried out by the body, notably including China, India, and several South American countries. There were 17 Abstentions, mostly from EU member countries. There was a single, definitive vote against an investigation: the United States. The EU abstentions speak to the political influence of their relationship with the United States. The votes for investigation by South American countries is no surprise either, given their poor trade and diplomatic relations with Israel. The blatant vote against investigation by the U.S. was expected, but interesting nonetheless given the fact that the vote is just for an investigation, not an automatic accusation. “ (UN Dispatch)

HIV/AIDS

The vast majority of AIDS patients are of working age, according to statistics from UNAIDS. And so, as the working population changes, AIDS activists say the workplace also needs to adapt. (VOA)

Africa

Gambia has taken steps to improve its poor human-rights record after the European Union suspended 150 million euros in development aid this year, activists said, urging tougher action by the international community. (TRF)

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TB detection innovation holds potential to reduce infection’s spread | 

Sputum samples containing tuberculosis bacteria fluoresce.
Sputum samples containing tuberculosis bacteria fluoresce.
Jeffrey D. Cirillo

A newly discovered way of testing people for tuberculosis (TB) dramatically cuts the time it takes for a diagnosis to under an hour. The development by chemist Jianghong Rao of Stanford and microbiologist Jeffrey Cirillo of Texas A&M Health Science Center could not only make TB diagnosis faster, but prevent new infections by confirming someone has it before they are contagious. All that for a test that will cost roughly $5.

Initial human trial results are in, showing that the new diagnostic test has an 86% sensitivity, far better than the 50% to 60% sensitivity for the commonly used smear microscopy method. The findings were published earlier this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie. The results come from a test of 50 sputum samples. The test was able to detect 80% of samples that contained Mycobacterium tuberculosis that were not detected by a microscope. It is a major improvement over traditional methods.

The innovation is in the discovery of a unique enzyme present in TB. A substance developed by Rao and Cirillo reacts with the enzyme create a fluorescent hue that can be read by a battery-powered device. Efforts are underway to develop a paper-based test, making it easier for the test to be used.

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News in the Humanosphere: Central African Republic Peace talks suspended; Widodo wins Indonesian presidency | 

Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo.
Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo.

Peace talks between the Central African Republic’s sectarian rivals were suspended Tuesday after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up less than a day before the deadline of a deal. (Yahoo)

Indonesian Political Phenom Wins Presidential Election…Joko Widodo was certified the winner in a highly contentious election. He defeated the son-in-law of Suharto, Prabowo Subianto, a retired general who is not conceding defeat. “Mr. Joko, a thin, unassuming figure with what he has described as a typical “village face,” will be Indonesia’s seventh president and the first not to have emerged from the country’s political elite or to have been an army general.” (NYT)

HIV/AIDS

The ongoing International AIDS Conference in Melbourne has led to a spike in news reports about HIV/AIDS. We are collecting some of the top news here.

There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses. (AP)

With HIV and AIDS disproportionately affecting indigenous people across the world, there is a strong need for culturally appropriate programs designed, championed and delivered by indigenous people, activists and experts say. Many indigenous women are living in silence with even their immediate families not knowing that they have HIV. (IPS)

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AIDS 2014 – Plenty of slogans & new science but not enough money | 

downloadAt the world’s biggest AIDS meeting this week in Australia, one long-time activist and attendee sees lots of slogans and important new research findings but not nearly enough money to make use of either the potential new tools or the rallying lingo.

A new drug, Truvada, has been shown effective at preventing HIV infection and recently was endorsed by the World Health Organization for use by those most at risk of infection. Despite some disappointing news about efforts to come up with a cure for AIDS, scientists point to other research fronts, though less sexy than a cure, where progress is being made on the search for a vaccine, on treatments for preventing disease and spread of HIV.

“This is one of the most exciting times in terms of HIV science, but one of the worst of times economically,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC (AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, which despite the name works across all aspects of disease prevention), who spoke with Humanosphere by telephone from Melbourne where the International AIDS Society is holding its biannual meeting AIDS 2014.

At the last big AIDS confab, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to help create an AIDS-free generation. Others spoke optimistically about the ‘end of AIDS’ as if the world is now at a tipping point, as if we are poised to end the pandemic.

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Rights Groups: no amnesty for Central African Republic atrocities | 

from the PK5 area in Bangui, Central African Republic under the protection of French troops and members of the Multinational Force of Central Africa. (Feb 2014)
from the PK5 area in Bangui, Central African Republic under the protection of French troops and members of the Multinational Force of Central Africa. (Feb 2014)
Rex Features via AP Images

Discussions are currently underway to bring to an end the year-long strife and fighting that has beset the Central African Republic. The hopes is that a peace settlement will be agreed upon and the country will be able to regain stability. So far, things have not gotten off to a good start. The talks were canceled today after the ex-rebel Seleka group was a no show. Moving forward on suspending fighting and disarming fighters are now on hold.

One concern going into the talks is over whether the people who committed some of the most heinous crimes will be given a pass as a part of the deal. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights watch say that such an amnesty should not be available to persons that committed serious crimes.

“Mediators and participants at the Brazzaville forum need to keep the thousands of victims in the Central African Republic and their desire for justice at the top of the agenda,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a public statement. “Amnesty for those most responsible for crimes against humanity and other heinous crimes is simply not an option.”

A day later, Amnesty International released its own statement calling for no amnesties for war crimes.

“The Brazzaville peace talks must ensure that accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law are at the heart of any discussion to bring peace in CAR. Individuals suspected of these crimes must not be allowed to use these peace talked to secure positions in the government that they may use to enjoy impunity,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.

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News in the Humansosphere: New peace talks kick off for Gaza and CAR | 

Secretary of State John Kerry visit to Israel May 23-24, 2013.
Secretary of State John Kerry visit to Israel May 23-24, 2013.
U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Ban Ki Moon, John Kerry in Cairo for Gaza Talks. ”[Kerry] will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a cease-fire agreement offered by Egypt that would halt two weeks of fighting that has descended into war and killed at least 500 Palestinians and more than two-dozen Israelis. Kerry headed almost immediately into a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, where he announced the U.S. will send $47 million in humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of Palestinians who have fled their homes in Gaza to escape the violence.” (Houston Chronicle)

Over 150 delegates from all sides of the fighting in Central African Republic are represented at peace talks in Brazzaville Congo that started on Monday. Appeals for a ceasefire, however, were clearly not respected on the ground. There is not high hopes that these talks will succeed. “Central African Republic’s interim president appealed on Monday to Muslim Seleka rebels and ‘anti-balaka’ Christian militia to agree on a ceasefire at the start of talks in the neighbouring Congo Republic.The three-day forum in Brazzaville, mediated by Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, aims to reach terms for a halt to hostilities and disarmament but will not address negotiations for a longer-term peace deal in the former French colony. (Reuters)

Africa

Religious leaders in Sierra Leone criticized the government’s handling of an Ebola outbreak that has killed 194 people in the West African country, saying a lack of information was prompting rural communities to shun medical help. (Reuters)

Mozambique is discussing with its foreign coal mining partners ways to help them ride out depressed markets but will not be offering special tax breaks to ease the pain, its mineral resources minister said. (Reuters)

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