The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has compiled an extensive study of the whole world’s progress on climate change. It ranks countries on responsibilities for climate change, judges a country’s adaptability to climate change and provides detailed forecasts of what each country can expect in the coming years, effectively providing a blueprint for action at a moment when many scientists fear that time is running out for saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. It also estimates that global economic losses by the end of the current century could reach 25 trillion dollars.
In Central America, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community suffer harassment, mistreatment and even attacks on a daily basis because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A regional programme “Centroamérica Diferente” (Different Central America) is being implemented in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to secure respect for the human rights of people with different sexual orientations or gender identities. “We want to improve the quality of life of the LGBTI community, so we are no longer discriminated against by sectors and institutions of the government,” said campaigner Eduardo Vásquez.
A leading advocacy group warns of a “worldwide deterioration in freedom of information”. Out of the 180 countries surveyed for the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2015, two-thirds have slipped in standards compared to last year. Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea are the worst offenders in terms of press freedom. But it is no longer straightforwardly about censorship, or laws, or even about the physical manifestation of violence against journalists. “There’s also the “chilling climate” wherein if one journalist gets killed, the other 99 are much more likely to do as they’re told,” says one expert.
In Nepal, there is little official data on the number of children in need of mental health care, from young victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, to children affected by natural disasters. Yet health professionals and social activists say it is a major issue that calls for swift government action. Nepal spends less than two percent of its 334-million-dollar health budget on mental health services. There are 70 psychiatrists in Nepal, one for every 380,000 people, and only one child psychiatrist. “The problem lies in the fact that mental illness is not seen as a health issue,” says Sailu Rajbhandari, clinical psychologist in Nepal.
Conservationists in Zimbabwe warn that the country’s current rates of deforestation could convert Zimbabwe into an outright desert in just 35 years. The country is currently home tocurrently 88,167 tobacco growers, whom environmental activists say are the catalysts of looming desertification - as they continue to cut down “millions of tonnes of firewood each year to treat the cash crop.” But Zimbabwe’s deforestation crisis is linked to several factors – including the work of timber merchants, commercial logging, and its people, who heavily rely on wood fuel as a major energy source for cooking and heating.
India hosts the largest number of child labourers in the world. Millions of children work long hours for little pay in homes, factories, cotton fields, sandstone quarries, restaurants and agricultural fields across the country. They can also be found on the streets vending food, scavenging, shoe shining, car-washing and begging. As well as being deprived of their childhood, freedom and education, many child workers are also underfed and often beaten. A range of civil society actors are calling for a change in this status quo, claiming that unless India finds a way to interrupt the practice of child labour, it will face multiplied challenges in social, economic and political arenas.
A bill which will bring medical marijuana to New York State in 2016 will leave the treatment inaccessible to low-income patients, community groups warn. Concerns have been raised about the proposed regulations, including access for low income patients, and the small number of illnesses – just 10 - which qualify for the treatment. There is no requirement that insurance cover medical marijuana, patients must buy vaporisers to use the drug and a registration fee is also required. Some 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalised cannabis for medical use, and four allow its recreational use.
Women are being dumped, abandoned and abused inside many of India’s mental health institutions. A recent report revealed that female patients often face systematic abuse that includes detention, neglect and violence. Many are misdiagnosed and placed in institutions by their husbands or families. Women can languish inside mental health institutions for years, uncared for and unattended. They endure conditions that are inhumane and sexual abuse is also rampant. “There is hardly any air or light. Unlike the male patients who are allowed some mobility within the premises, women are herded together like cattle,” says a mental health campaigner. IPS reports.
The Mexican government is to face close scrutiny from the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances – a phenomenon that made international headlines after 43 students from a rural teachers college were killed in September 2013. Forced disappearance is one of the worst human rights issues facing this Latin American country, where over 23,000 people have gone missing between 2007 and 2014. Human rights organisations say forced disappearance is not adequately classified as a crime in Mexican law.
In India’s southern Telangana state, a local non-profit is mobilizing people against child trafficking, child abuse and infanticide, all frequent occurrences in the community. The school they run in Lambada currently educates 65 children – rescued either from child employers or human traffickers. In a country where 50 percent of the tribal population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than a dollar a day, preventing Lambada families from killing or selling their children is an uphill battle. Many Lambada women believe the key lies in education, urging families to take advantage of free schooling and government stipends aimed at boosting female enrolment rates in rural areas.
Cuba has met the United Nations goal of reducing hunger. But anemia caused by malnutrition is still a problem among infants, small children and pregnant women in this Caribbean island nation, which has been in the grip of an economic crisis for over two decades. A lack of access to healthy, fresh rood that is rich in iron is a key factor, especially for children and pregnant women. An estimated two billion people worldwide suffer micronutrient deficiencies
As a wave of outrage, crossing Pakistan’s national borders, continues a month after the December 16 attack on a school in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, some citizens are turning away from collective expressions of anger, and beginning the hard work of building grassroots alternatives to terrorism and militancy. The Citizens Foundation (TFC), a local non-profit, has pledged to build 141 Schools for Peace, one in the name of each person killed in the attack. Since 1995, the charity, has completed 1,000 school ‘units’ capable of accommodating up to 180 pupils, all built from scratch in the most impoverished areas of some 100 towns and cities across Pakistan.
“People get used to war. During the last battle, children were still coming to play. Can you imagine, a seven-year-old boy running through the bullets just to play video games,” says Mohammad Darwish, owner of a cybercafé in the Bab Al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood in in Tripoli, Northern Lebanon where clashes between the army and local Sunni gunmen are now common. Tabbaneh is probably the hardest neighbourhood to grow up in the whole of Tripoli, its residents suffering from alarming poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. IPS reports.
Afghan widows and orphans in Pakistan have few livelihood options, but a women’s charity is teaching them basic embroidery and sewing to help them start home-based businesses. Safoora Stanikzai, who heads the Afghan Women Organisation, says she has imparted skills to about 4,000 women since establishing the centre in 2010. Some Afghan women earn as much as 150 dollars per month by altering or stitching women’s garments. With their new incomes, they are able to feed their families. IPS reports.
In certain rural parts of India, lower caste women are forced to work as ‘manual scavengers’ from an early age. The role condemns them to clean human waste out of dry latrines with their hands, and carry it on their heads to disposal dumps for the equivalent of $6 a month. Many also clean sewers, septic tanks and open drains with no protective gear. Despite persecution and the threat of violence, women like Bittal Devi, herself a former manual scavenger, are rising up against being forced to do degrading work that has already been banned by the Indian government.
IPS reports on life from within refugee camp in Harran and Gaziantep in Turkey, which house thousands of Syrian families living in tents and containers. Harran houses 14,000 people in 2,000 containers that are divided into small neighbourhood-like communities. Seen from outside, the camp seems like a prison, but the gates are always open so that families can leave and visit shopping centres nearby. For the first time in their lives, the Syrian refugees housed in the Haran refugee camp took part in a fair election, to select their own neighbourhood community representatives.
Aleta Baun, an Indonesian environmental activist known in her community as Mama Aleta, has a penchant for wearing a colourful scarf on her head, but not for cosmetic reasons. The colours of the cloth, she says, represent the hues of the forests that are the lifeblood of her Mollo people living in West Timor, part of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province. For many years, Aleta has been at the forefront of her tribe’s efforts to stop mining companies destroying the forests of the Mutis Mountains that hug the western part of the island of Timor. IPS reports.
Thousands of migrants remain in Libyan detention centres. Three years after Libya´s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed, the nation remains in a state of political turmoil that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. There are two governments and two separate parliaments – one based in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk, 1,000 km east of the capital. The latter, set up after elections in June in which only 10 percent of the census population took part, has international recognition. The population and, very especially, the foreign workers are caught in the crossfire.
One of the major challenges assumed by President Raúl Castro when he launched reforms in Cuba was improving living standards in a country still suffering from a deep recession that began over 20 years ago and which has undermined the aim of achieving economic and social equality. Inequality has been growing in Cuba since the start of the crisis triggered by the break-up of the Soviet Union and the East European socialist bloc – Cuba’s main trade and aid partners – in the early 1990s. Since the 1959 revolution, free healthcare and education have been important tools for social equality. IPS reports.
The world’s top 100 arms producing companies racked up 402 billion dollars in weapons sales and military services in 2013, according to latest figures. However, this was a decrease of about 2.0 percent over the previous year, and the third consecutive year of decline in total arms sales. Still, Russian companies increased their sales by about 20 percent in 2013 compared with U.S. and Western arms manufacturers. Siemon Wezeman said “the remarkable increases” in Russian companies arms sales in both 2012 and 2013, are in large part due to uninterrupted investments in military procurement by the Russian government during the 2000s.