The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has decimated Gaza’s fishing industry, with thousands of Gazans deprived of a living and unable to support their families as a result. The Israeli navy limits Gaza’s fishermen to a three nautical-mile zone off Gaza’s coast, but even fishermen within that zone have come under fire and been shot, injured and killed or had their boats destroyed or confiscated. Agricultural produce and manufactured goods used to underpin the coastal territory’s economy before Israel and Egypt enforced the Gaza blockade. Analysts and political commentators have repeatedly warned that Israel’s continued siege and restrictions on Gaza could destabilise the region further, leading to more violence and possibly a new war.
Besides providing jobs and incomes for people in the countryside of northern Brazil, cacao producers who choose to go organic are actually helping to accelerate reforestation. Two-thirds of the population of the municipality of Medicilândia is still rural, and a view from the air shows that it has conserved the native forests. Experts praise Organic cacao farmers, saying they are more aware of the need to preserve the environment, and more focused on sustainability. IPS reports.
The death of two Bolivian boys in a fire and the mistreatment and sexual abuse of a young Bolivian woman put the problem of slave-like labour conditions in clandestine sweatshops back in the headlines in Argentina. According to the Alameda Foundation, there are some 3,000 sweatshops in and around Buenos Aires alone, with an average of 10 employees each. In 10 years, the Foundation received some 5,000 complaints of slave and child labour, mistreatment and sexual abuse. The state, the textile and fashion industries, and consumers mutually blame each other for the problem, reports IPS.
In Zimbabwe’s Lupane District, rural women produce baskets and other crafts from local forest products to earn a living in an area is prone to droughts and has a harsh history of hunger. Selling to clients in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Denmark, their craft skills earn them around 50 dollars a month – a small fortune in a place where women once counted it a blessing to earn even a few dollars in the course of several weeks. IPS reports.
Sri Lanka, a country of 20 million people has an impressive female adult literacy rate of 90 percent and girls outnumber their male counterparts at the secondary level, indicating a dedication to gender equality across the social spectrum. However this has not translated into equitable employment opportunities, or wage parity between men and women. The female unemployment rate in Sri Lanka is over two-and-a-half times that of the male rate, and almost twice the national figure. Economic experts say that women who seek higher education also have higher job aspirations, but the job market has not grown fast enough to cater to such needs. Many believe a higher portion of women in decision-making positions could right these imbalances.
In 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised for the tens of thousands of indigenous children who, between the 1890s and 1970s, were forcibly removed from their communities by government authorities and placed into care. But despite the apology, indigenous activists maintain that the ‘stolen generations’ is hardly an isolated chapter, let alone a closed one. Indigenous children in out-of-home-care numbered 14,991 in June 2014. Barely five percent of the population under 17 is indigenous yet 35 percent of all children removed are Aboriginal and Strait Islanders. “After the  apology, our community felt disempowered. We were suffering in silence,” said Auntie Hazel, of grassroots pressure group Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR).
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.