When the Asian tsunami washed over Indian Ocean rim countries on Boxing Day 2004, it left a trail of destruction in its wake, including a death toll that touched 230,000. Millions lost their jobs, food security and traditional livelihoods and many have spent the last decade trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. But for a small tribe in southern India, the tsunami didn’t bring devastation; instead, it brought hope. IPS reports.
After four decades of on-off war, South Sudan gained independence from North Sudan in July 2011. But stability did not last long and violence erupted last December, and now the world’s newest sovereign state is battling to contain AIDS. IPS reports.
Environmental problems, by their nature, don’t respect borders. Air and sea pollution often affect countries that had nothing to do with their production. Many extreme weather events, like typhoons, strike more than one country and climate change affects everyone. These environmental problems can aggravate existing conflicts among countries. But they can also bring countries together in joint efforts to find solutions. IPS reports on how fishing is helping ease tensions between two bitter enemies, North Korea and South Korea.
Winter has not yet hit the nearly besieged city of Aleppo in Syria but children are already attending classes in winter coats and stocking hats. Cold, damp underground education facilities are less exposed to regime barrel bombs and airstrikes but only about 20 original school buildings are still operating from some 750 in the area prior to the uprising. IPS reports on how children are trying to go to school as an intractable crisis continues.
“Going back home? That would be suicide. The Islamists would cut our throats straight away,” says Khalil Hafif Ismam, a Mandaean refugee from one of the oldest yet most decimated communities in Mesopotamia. The Ismams are Mandaeans, followers of a religion that experts have tracked back 400 years before Christ, and which consider John the Baptist as their prophet. Accordingly, their main ritual, baptism, has taken place in the same spots on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates for almost two millennia. But their existence is now under threat from ISIS. IPS reports.
Addressing violence against women, in all of its forms, is a global imperative and should be one of the international community’s top priorities, says Lakshmi Puri who is the assistant-secretary-general of the United Nations and deputy executive director of UN Women. In an opinion piece for IPS, Puri argues that the focus of prevention and response to violence against women should be on strengthening global policy frameworks and ensuring accountability mechanisms are in place.
A new report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that nine out of 10 cases of journalist killings go unpunished. The report found that between 2004 and 2013, 370 journalists were murdered “in direct retaliation for their work” and that in 90 percent of these cases there was total impunity – “no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions.” IPS reports.
Every day some 2000 boats jostle for space in the murky waters of Karachi Harbour, one of Pakistan’s oldest. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers an area of about 240,000 square km and extends up to 350 nautical miles from the coastline, giving Pakistan the potential to become a major producer of seafood, not only for local consumption but for the global market as well. Nearly 400,000 people are directly engaged in fishing in Pakistan but an industry that could create a huge job market contributes a dismal one percent to Pakistan’s GDP. IPS reports.
Heavy rains throughout the monsoon months, beginning in August, left thousands of people in northern Bangladesh homeless or in dire straits as the mighty Brahmaputra, Dharla and Teesta rivers burst their banks, spilling out over the countryside. Some of the worst hit people were the roughly 50,000-70,000 ‘char dwellers’, residents who have been forced to make their homes on little river islands or shoals, the result of years of intense sedimentation along some of Bangladesh’s largest rivers. IPS reports.
A Guatemalan court has ruled that charges should be brought against two members of the army for sexual and domestic slavery against women during the nation’s civil conflict. Forced work was accompanied by sexual violence and women were systematically raped by soldiers. The sexual and domestic slavery perpetrated against the women of Sepur Zarco formed part of a military plan executed in stages that started with the kidnapping, torture and forced disappearance of their husbands, who were peasant leaders. After that, soldiers brutally gang-raped the women in their homes, in front of their children. Their homes and belongings were burned and their crops destroyed.
“On the street I feel vulnerable, so inferior. You lose your dignity and it’s hard to get it back. I want out of this,” says Miguel Arregui speaking in Malaga. Spain’s severe recession and high unemployment rate, which currently stands at 24.4 per cent, have impoverished its population while government budgets for social services for the poor have been cut drastically. According to statistics earlier this year, between 20.4 and 27.3 percent of Spain’s population of 47.2 million lives below the poverty line. Even worse is the fact that 27 percent of the country’s children – more than 2.3 million girls and boys – live in or on the verge of poverty, according to the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF. IPS reports.
A federal jury has convicted one former Blackwater contractor of murder and three of his colleagues of voluntary manslaughter in the deadly shootings of 14 unarmed civilians killed in Baghdad’s Nisour Square seven years ago. The massacre resulted in a wave of popular anger in Iraq against the United States and the army of private security contractors it employed there. It also sealed the reputation of Blackwater as a trigger-happy mercenary outfit whose recklessness and insensitivity to local populations jeopardised Washington’s interests in conflict situations. IPS reports.
Climate warriors from a range of small island states including Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands and Samoa, are taking on the coal industry in Australia by paddling canoes into the sea to block ships from entering the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle. For these populations, the fossil fuel industry poses one of the gravest threats to their very existence.
For girls living in northern Pakistan’s sprawling tribal regions, the struggle for education began long before that fateful day when members of the Taliban shot a 15-year-old schoolgirl in the head. Still, the news that Malala Yousafzai – a former resident of the Swat Valley – won the Nobel Peace Prize brought hope to those battling the Taliban. “It will be a motivational force for parents to send their daughters back to school,” said Muhammad Shafique, a professor at the University of Peshawar.
The UN has estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste globally every year while at the same time 805 million people go hungry. A recent forum in Italy organised by environmental group Greenaccord saw experts, journalists and policy makers come together to try and tackle the issue. Critics pointed out that about one-third of food produced in the world goes to waste costing roughly $680 billion in industrialised countries and $310 billion in developing countries.
Fracking in Argentina has come under fire from locals living near wells who claim they’re ill and their drinking water has been contaminated. Fracking is the process of pumping water and chemicals – a cocktail of some 500 substances that remains a trade secret – into the ground to extract shale gas, a new and highly contentious issue around the world. Indeed, protests have taken place in the UK and US while Germany has put an eight-year moratorium on the practise while effects on the environment are studied. Meanwhile, this controversial drilling has brought many new job opportunities to Argentina.
Environmental groups have hit out against a new global agreement aimed at halting deforestation by 2030, claiming it was insufficient. The New York Declaration on Forests was signed by some 150 parties including heads of state, civil society groups and leaders of some of the world’s largest companies. The document was hailed as one of the best outcomes from the UN’s recent climate summit but critics say the agreement is not legally binding for states or companies and cannot be enforced.
The Panama Canal - opened 100 years ago - links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans while handling five percent of the world’s shipping traffic. Indeed, there are some 12,000 ships navigating the canal each year bringing in 1.2 billion dollars to the country annually. Now, a new $5.2 billion project is set to expand the canal to allow bigger boats through with the aim of increasing shipping traffic to 15 percent when completed next year. However, critics say the canal’s wealth is not distributed among the population resulting in high levels of inequality.
The recent rape and murder of a 17 year old tribal girl in India has once again thrown light on the country’s shocking problem with gender based violence. One in three Indian women are physically or sexually abused in their lifetime and on average 92 women are raped every single day. Experts have blamed a lack of accountability in conflict stricken areas where the presence of armed insurgencies and violent tribal clashes are a daily reality.
Drought has left thousands of people struggling to survive in Sri Lanka where destroyed crops have left the country’s impoverished farmers unable to make money to feed their families. If the heat continues many will struggle to find drinking water too. Previously, droughts were expected every ten to fifteen years but Sri Lanka has seen an increase in extreme weather. In response, the government has launched a $100m programme to hopefully prevent disaster in the near future.