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.
“The land cannot support us anymore. The flowering cycles are less predictable. We have to now go much further into the sea to catch fish,” said William Clark Enoch, who belongs to the oldest continuing culture in the world in Australia which has lived in harmony with the land for many generations. Global sea levels have increased by 1.7 millimeters per year over the 20th century and researchers warn that climate change will have a range of negative impacts in this region. But could people such as Enoch hold answers to preserve and protect eco-systems. IPS reports.
How climate change can aggravate inequality, particularly for women living in poor countries, where their lives are often directly dependent on the natural environment, is a topic considered by Susan McDade, UN Development Programme Deputy Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, in this opinion piece for IPS. “The success of climate change actions depend on elevating women’s voices, making sure their experiences and views are heard at decision-making tables and supporting them to become leaders in climate adaptation,” she says.
Research reveals that, across Africa, men have lower rates of HIV testing, enrollment on antiretroviral treatment, adherence, viral load suppression and survival, than women. As of December 2012, men represented only 36 percent of all people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Africa, according to the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Some experts argue that the focus of public health services across Africa on maternal and child health, coupled with successful advocacy for women’s special vulnerabilities around HIV, have overshadowed the needs of men.
A number of health, advocacy and faith groups are calling on President Barack Obama to take executive action clarifying that U.S. assistance can be used to fund abortion services for women and girls raped in the context of war and conflict. For over 40 years, the Helms Amendment has been applied as a complete ban on abortion care in U.S.-funded global health programmes – with no exceptions. News calls are being made to amend the law so appropriate post-rape care, including abortion services, legal and social services, and treatment for mental and physical health can be given to those in need.
New research has found that just half of major global banks have a public policy to respect human rights. Findings published by BankTrack identified that of the 32 of the global banks examined, none had publicly put in place a process to deal with human rights abuses, if identified. Against a set of 12 criteria, the average score was only a three. The report also stated that the banks it investigated, “have been found to finance companies and projects involving forced removals of communities, child labour, military backed land grabs, and abuses of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.”
The unknown fate of 43 student teachers in Mexico allegedly abducted by police and handed over to a notorious drug gang in Iguala, continues to spark nationwide anger over corruption within the Mexican government and police force. The case also throws light on a growing scepticism about the government’s competence—not only to deliver justice, but also to carry on an investigation with any kind of legitimacy or credibility. IPS reports.
The Kyrgyz parliament may vote in December 2014 to consider a possible new law that would label foreign-funded organisations “foreign agents.” But some critics of the bill, which closely resembles a similar law already passed in Russia, argue it would add layers of bureaucracy and possibly force some civil society NGOs to close their doors.
When a stray bullet fired by Taliban militants became lodged in her spine last August, 22-year-old Shakira Bibi gave up all hopes of ever leading a normal life. Though her family rushed her to the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar, capital city of Pakistan’s northern-most Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, doctors told the young girl that she would be forever bed-ridden. Bibi fell into a deep depression, convinced that her family would cast her aside due to her disability. Worse, she feared that she would not be able to care for her daughter, particularly since her husband had succumbed to tuberculosis in 2012, making her the sole breadwinner for her family. IPs reports on new hope for Pakistan’s paraplegics.
Major US jewellery companies and retailers have started to take steps to eliminate the presence of “conflict gold” from their supply chains, according to the results of a year-long investigation. Human rights advocates, backed by the United Nations, have been warning for years that mining revenues are funding warlords and militia groups operating in the Great Lakes region of Africa, particularly in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “Just a few years ago, jewellery companies were pretty resistant to making progress on this, but today there is clearly interest in supporting peace and finding out more about the role they can play in this issue," says Holly Dranginis of Enough Project. IPS reports.
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.