A decision by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to segregate buses in the occupied West Bank has backfired after causing an uproar in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, and political damage on the international stage. Israeli settlers in the West Bank have been waging a campaign to prohibit Palestinians, particularly labourers who work in Israel, from using their buses in the occupied West Bank for over a year, saying that they represented a security threat, and refused to give up their seats for Israelis. Meanwhile, an Israeli rights group has accused the Israeli authorities of being indifferent to attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers and security forces.
In Argentina, a country that exports food to millions of people around the world, thousands of children in rural areas go hungry and millions of families have unmet dietary needs. The Huerta Niño project promotes organic gardens in rural primary schools, to teach children healthy eating habits and show them that they can grow their own food to fight hunger. The gardens benefit 20,000 children in 270 rural schools in low-income areas and the vegetables and fruit they grow are eaten in the school lunchroom. It also teaches them farming skills, under the slogan “it’s not about giving people food, but about teaching them to produce their own.”
In spite of strides in social progress, Latin America’s maternal mortality rates remain unacceptable. Approximately 16 women die every day in Latin America and the Caribbean from maternity-related complications. Many of the deaths are avoidable, occurring partly because of neglect of the prescriptions provided by experts, coupled with a lack of preventive action and health promotion. “When you look at the basic causes of maternal deaths you don’t have to be highly intelligent to see that they are related to lack of access (to the health system) and to abortions, which are the main cause of maternal deaths in Argentina and in Latin America,” adds one expert. IPS reports.
Thefts, murders and mutilation of Africa’s white rhinos for their prized horns are at an all-time high say conservationists who are keeping track of the poaching of species by fortune-seeking hunters. To save the animals from further decimation, the U.S.-based Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA) proposes moving about 1,000 of South Africa’s white rhinos to individual ranches in Texas, which have a comparable climate to South Africa. Most would be baby rhinos whose mothers are slaughtered by poachers who slice off their horns. IPS reports.
Just weeks after the 7.8 magnitude Nepal earthquake on April 25 that has killed over 8,000 people and devastated the country, displaced families are gradually – but cautiously – resuming their normal lives. But delivery of humanitarian aid and basic relief supplies remains slow, hindered by the scale of the tragedy. With the annual summer monsoon just around the corner – and heavy rains already lashing some parts of the country – experts say the clock is ticking for effective relief efforts. IPS speaks to victims and support workers in Nepal: “We have stopped crying out of fear because we need to move on now and be brave,” says 13-year-old Sunita.
“For babies born in the big city, it’s the survival of the richest,” concludes a report from Save the Children which ranks 179 countries based on their urban survival gap – the growing inequality between rich and poor in both developing and developed countries which literally determines whether millions of infants will live or die before their fifth birthday. The 10 developing Countries with the largest child survival divide include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, India and Vietnam but wealthy capital cities that are the worst for child survival, include Washington D.C. (U.S.),Vienna (Austria), Bern (Switzerland), Warsaw (Poland), and Athens (Greece).
Climate change may still be one of the most divisive issues but experts say the global transition from fossil fuels to renewables is gaining momentum. Wind power capacity is on the rise, and is now enough to power more than 90 million U.S. homes. In China, electricity generation from wind farms now exceeds that from nuclear plants, while coal use appears to be peaking. Running electric vehicles is set to become more affordable, but making renewable energy more accessible needs to happen faster, say experts and campaigners. "If they truly want to keep their own jobs, our elected leaders will soon see ties with coal, oil and gas as a serious political liability,” says Kyle Ash of Greenpeace USA.
Led by women, tribal communities in rural India are protecting their lands from illegal foresters, so they can continue to carve out simple lives, and sustainable futures for their children. India’s Forest Rights Act (FRA) allows them to own, manage and sell non-timber forest products (NTFP), which some 100 million landless people in India depend on for income, medicine and housing. Overall, 15,000 villages in India, primarily in the eastern states, protect around two million hectares of forests. This quiet drama – involving the 275 million people who reside in or on the fringes of the country’s bountiful forests – could be the defining struggle of the century, reports IPS.
The El Salvador government is considering extreme measures to deal with escalating gang violence in one of the world’s most violent countries. In response to recent attacks by gangs against police and soldiers, parliament is debating whether to declare a state of siege in the most violent urban areas, which would involve militarising areas with high murder rates. Police and local residents are also openly discussing the creation of groups or “death squads” to exterminate gangs and some police have openly talked about killing gang members. In March, police recorded El Salvador’s worst murder rate in a decade: 481 homicides, an average of 16 murders a day.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, April 2013 that killed 1,100 people and injured 2,500 was deemed one of the worst industrial accidents in modern history. Two years on, Bangladesh’s garments sector is still plagued with many ills that make life for the four million people it employs a waking nightmare. A recent report found that safety standards are still low, workplace abuse - including verbal, physical and sexual abuse - is common, and union busting – as well as violent attacks and intimidation of union organisers – remains the norm.
Nepal is leading the way on numerous conservation fronts. With 20 protected zones covering 23 percent of Nepal’s total landmass –it ranks among the world’s top 20 nations with the highest percentage of protected land. It also employs innovative tools and strategies to monitor critically endangered species, like the one-horned rhinoceros whose numbers are steadily increasing in the country, and poaching has virtually been eradicated. Experts say collaborating with local communities who depend on biodiversity conservation for their livelihoods is also key, such as a leasehold forestry programme that provides a livelihood to over 7,400 poor households by involving them in sustainably managing over 42,000 hectares of forested land. IPS reports.
An expose recently published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has found that over the last decade, projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods. Over 50 journalists around the world reviewed World Bank records, interviewed scores of people including former Bank employees and carefully documented over 10 years of lapses in the financial institution’s practices, which have rendered poor farmers, urban slum-dwellers, indigenous communities and destitute fisherfolk landless, homeless or jobless. IPS reports.
In the 15 years since the World Education Forum in Senegal laid out six education targets agreed upon by 164 governments, some progress has been made. But a recent report by UNESCO states there are still 58 million children out of school globally and around 100 million children who do not complete primary education. Although governments agreed in 2000 to halve the global illiteracy rate by 2015, a four-percent reduction is all that has so far been achieved. Meanwhile, inequality in education has increased, with the poorest and most disadvantaged shouldering the heaviest burden. IPS reports.
The United Nations rapporteur for minorities has called for greater action on stamping out anti-Roma and anti-‘Gypsy’ bias. Rita Izsák says the media must avoid perpetuating “sensationalist” coverage of negative stereotypes of people of Gypsy and Roma heritage, and that political and social leaders should work harder in eradicating biases against those groups. A 2014 report from Amnesty International estimated 12 million Roma living in Europe were “living with the daily threat of forced eviction, police harassment and violent attacks.” IPS reports.
Restrictions blocking the distribution condoms in African prisons and schools have set off a heated debate, rendering the fight against HIV/AIDS a challenge ahead of this year's U.N. deadline for nations to halt its spread. South Africa and Namibia may be the only two out of Africa’s 54 countries that have adopted HIV/AIDS preventive measures in schools and jails. Although other African governments admit there are sexual activities going on in schools and prisons, they remain hesitant to allow condom distribution in them. IPS speaks to a student and prisoner in Zimbabwe who have both been persecuted for using condoms.
Recent research by HelpAge India reveals that every second elderly person in India – defined as someone above 60 years of age – suffers abuse within their own family. According to sociologists, neglect of senior citizens – once revered and idolized in Indian society – is largely attributable to the changing social landscape in Asia’s third largest economy, currently home to over 100 million elderly people. A common reason for the abuse is elderly family members’ economic dependence on their progeny. IPS reports.
Since 2010, Argentina has worked to modernise its police force, encouraging women to join and breaking down the glass ceiling for them to reach top positions. The process began with centre-left President Cristina Fernández’s designation of the first female security minister: Nilda Garré, who banned restrictions or quotas for the admission of women in the four national police forces and their academies. “We are trying to build a democratic institutional culture that will promote gender equality and human rights in the area of security,” says human rights lawyer Natalia Federman, Argentinia’s first national director of human rights in the Security Ministry.
In January Indonesia executed six people by firing squad for drugs offenses. They were the first executions since President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo took power in October but another 10 prisoners are due to be executed soon. There are currently 138 people – one-third of them foreigners – on death row in Indonesia, primarily for drug-related offenses. While the governments of these foreign nations fight to spare their citizens, the UN has questioned whether the executions will do anything to fight the rise of drug abuse. IPS reports.
Labourers working on three major banana plantations on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, along the border with Panama, are on strike to protest harassment of trade unionists, changes in schedules and working conditions, delayed payment of wages and dismissals considered illegal. More than 300 labourers, almost all of them indigenous Panamanians working on plantations for a branch of the U.S. corporation Del Monte Foods, have been on strike since Jan. 16 to highlight the abuses in a sector in the hands of transnational corporations. Governments of both countries have been forced to intervene.
Women in Pakistan’s drought-struck Tharparkar District are shouldering the burden of a long dry spell that is wreaking havoc across the desert region both at home and in the fields as they try to support their families. But a new scheme is helping them adapt to their environment and earn an income by conserving a small, thorny tree called the mukul myrrh. The tree produces a gum resin that is widely used for a range of cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Today, some 2,000 women across Tharparkar are growing gum trees to bring better nutrition, income and food security to their families.