FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Monday:  July 28, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in UN Foundation (5)

Monday
Aug062012

"Saving the World From Madness" (REPORT) 

 

(Video: Sound bites from speakers at the UN WHO Meeting to launch the Quality Rights Tool Kit/NIA SPOONER)

By Dr. Judy Kuriansky

*Recently, the United Nations World Health Organization launched the Quality Rights Tool Kit, which supports countries in assessing and improving the quality of mental health care as a human rights condition. and civil society actors gathered together to lend their support to the project and to discuss how to promote the use of the Tool Kit in countries.  Dr. Judy Kuriansky was there to chronicle the discussion for HUMNEWS.

FACT:   Globally, one in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Poor quality services and human rights violations in mental health facilities and social care homes are an everyday occurrence in many countries around the world. People living in mental health facilities are often exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment and many are subject to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. As a result, people with severe mental health conditions in some countries die as much as 10 years younger than the general population. (Source: WHO)

(DRAWING: ArtTherapy) “Derogatory words are used to describe us, such as mentally disturbed, having unsound minds, idiots, lunatics, imbeciles and many other hurtful labels,” declared Mrs. Robinah Alambuya of Uganda, to an invited audience of about 100 health professionals, UN agency officials, the UN Foundation academics, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, journalists and guests.  The diverse group was gathered at the Millennium Hotel Diplomat Ballroom in New York City, across the street from the main United Nations headquarters, for an event sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighting abuses in the mental health care system and to launch a landmark product, the WHO QualityRights Toolkit, to address the problem.

“These words and the beliefs from which they derive, devalue us and form the basis of discrimination and the loss of inherent dignity,” Alambuya said. 

SHOWING RESPECT

Representing African women and the voices of survivors of people with psychiatric and psychosocial problems in Africa, Alambuya made a plea for respecting those who deal with mental health distress. In her role as President of the Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities monitoring inhumane health care systems, she applauded WHO’s efforts to insure those rights in her keynote speech.

The `Tool Kit' is an awareness and training campaign to provide the public, the private sector,  and government groups with actionable steps to stop human rights violations against people with mental health conditions, in order to improve the quality of care and to promote human rights as including mental health.

The recommendations can be implemented in developing and developed nations by all stakeholders, and even includes those with mental disabilities themselves.

"IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE"

Dr. Michelle Funk, Coordinator of Mental Health Policy and Service Development in the Mental Health and Substance Abuse department at WHO, pointed out the extent of the problem with "One in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime," she said.

Suicide is among the top three cause of death in young people aged 15-34 worldwide. Qualified caregivers are scarce with less than one psychiatrist serving 200,000 in almost half the world populations. Yet poor quality services and human rights violations are pervasive in social care homes and mental health facilities where patents are often exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment. And worse, to physical, emotional and even sexual abuse. 

“It is a scandal that still today many mental health facilities are places of violence and harmful treatments practices rather than places of care and support," said Funk. “One of the most important points to note about this tool kit is that it establishes the key standards that need to be met in all inpatient and outpatient mental health and social care facilities across the world.” She went on to praise the role of the governments of Spain and Portugal in providing funds to help produce the toolkit.

NOTABLE ADVOCATES

Panelists at the June 28th event represented a wide range of perspectives about the issue, including UN and government officials, an African woman with disabilities, and a former prisoner from the slums of India.

Hollywood film producer Gary Foster described his evolution to become a mental health advocate when producing the film “The Soloist“ - a true life story about a former cello prodigy who developed a mental health condition and became homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. Foster, who also produced “Sleepless in Seattle” and "The Score” spent time on skid row where he discovered that all people have “dream for success.”  

Serving as an important example of how the campaign goals can be accomplished, Ambassador Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez, Deputy Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the UN, described his government’s recent advances in ambitious health care reform, including a social development component with a human rights approach - pointing out how abuses of mental health are not an isolated issue, because mental health care extends to all facets of society, and is integrally tied to attitudes and poverty. 

Often times, people with psychosocial disabilities become homeless, are abandoned by their families, and are detained against their will by authorities - neglected in inferior conditions. Therefore, mental health services need to encompass access to decent work, education and quality of life. 

Panelist Julian Eaton, a psychiatrist and mental health advisor from the West Africa Office of CBM in Togo, discussed how "the value of technology in such a campaign, particularly the use of mobile phones, is revolutionary". 

The initiative builds on WHO’s Mental Health and Development Report, published in 2010 and is also based on the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which asserts that “human rights standards that must be respected, protected and fulfilled in all facilities”.

(Video: WHO)

A short film was shown of cruel and deplorable conditions in a care center, showing emaciated patients, chained to beds, crying out and lying in excrement. Ambassador Gonzalez pointed out that mental health workers themselves, who have to work in substandard conditions, are another victimized group. 

As a psychologist who has worked in many mental health institutions with psychiatric patients, I asked Michele Funk whether a solution would be to allot needed funds for improvements in these facilities.  “No", she responded, “They must be shut down, and new ones opened.”

CRITICS, SUPPORTERS

While generally lauded, the Toolkit is not without criticism.  Alambuya expressed concern about the emphasis on a medical model of service delivery that does not adequately take into account the social problems faced by persons with mental disabilities, saying, "The voices of people with disabilities must be heard, using the popular phrase, `Nothing about us, without us'”.

(PHOTO: Adolescents are generally perceived as a healthy age group; yet an estimated 10-20% of them experience a mental health problem/WHO)In a powerful close to the panel, Gregory David Roberts, speaking from personal experience of his being imprisoned and overcoming drug abuse, the author of the best-selling novel “Shantaram”  recounted the story of a fellow inmate - mentally challenged - who had been abused by the other prisoners; and who despite consistently smiled.  One day the man found unhatched eggs, and put them under his armpits until they hatched.  The baby pigeons became valued and protected in the jail, eventually taming hard-hearted cruel prisoners.  The experience prompted Roberts to learn lessons about his shame for not defending the man, and about the power of people of mental disability to transform others.

Roberts recounted another story of a mentally challenged young man who would have been arrested had it not been for the community people who chained him up near them, where he could be cared for and protected from arrest,  underscoring his point that community-based programs are key.

More launches of the toolkit campaign will be held to gain more visibility for the project.

“Everyone should have access to mental health care,” said His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly. Recommending mainstreaming of mental health care, he noted that his own state of Qatar introduced a resolution to the UN General Assembly to introduce and International Day of Autism"If we all consider human rights together," he said, “We can make a difference.”  

- Dr. Judy Kuriansky is the Main United Nations NGO Representative for the International Association of Applied Psychology and a member HUM's Board of AdvisorsA licensed clinical psychologist in the Departments of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Teachers College, she is world renowned as a humanitarian who has led workshops on peace, trauma recovery, crisis counseling and on her unique East/West intervention programs around the world, from Argentina to India, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Israel, the UAE, and Iran. She has worked in disaster relief and psychological first aid at Ground Zero after 9/11, after SARS in China, bombings in Jerusalem, earthquakes in Australia and Haiti, the tsunami in Sri Lanka and the tsunami/earthquake in Japan, information about which is on www.DrJudy.com. An award-winning journalist and accomplished author, she is a tireless advocate for media which sheds light.

Monday
Apr022012

India: Leading the way on polio, energy innovation (PERSPECTIVE) 

(PHOTO: Polio victims in Kishanganj, India/TOPNEWS.IN) By N R Narayana Murthy and Ted Turner

India celebrated an historic milestone earlier this month when the World Health Organisation announced there had been no new cases of wild polio virus for one year.

That leaves only three polio endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

To understand the scope of this achievement, consider that 20% of all births worldwide today are in India. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one child is born here every 20 seconds, and each has to be vaccinated in order to completely wipe out polio - from the most rural outposts to shanty towns in urban hubs and everywhere in between.

The achievement is a validation of the work of the United Nations, the public and private partners of the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the Indian government, and the people of India, all of whom united to solve what seemed like an insurmountable problem.

The victory over polio is also evidence that fast-growing nations like India can embrace economic development and sustainable development at the same time. India`s transformation on many fronts gives us reason to believe that nations can overcome disease and environmental degradation to become healthier, wealthier, and more environmentally sustainable.

It is estimated that India will soon surpass China as the world`s most populous country. As India grows, it is bringing millions of people out of poverty and into an emerging middle class. How India grows can show the world that harnessing innovative technologies, using sustainable energy sources, and engaging a young generation is a proven path to prosperity.

India is working with the UN to tackle these issues on a global scale. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is championing two new initiatives - Every Woman Every Child and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative - because access to energy and improving women and children`s health are fundamental to achieving all our development goals. India is an example of how a commitment to these two goals leads to results.

A bright future for India begins with increased efforts to promote safe motherhood. According to USAID, today, India accounts for more maternal deaths than any other country in the world; avoidable complications during pregnancy and childbirth kill approximately 67,000 Indian women annually. These unfortunate statistics are a reality in part because many Indian mothers are still in their teens; nearly one-third of all women deliver a child before the age of 20.

The Indian government has committed to promoting maternal health and family planning, pledging to spend $3.5 billion per year on improving health services, especially women`s and children`s health. India`s ministry of health has announced it is strengthening efforts in the 264 districts that account for nearly 70% of all infant and maternal deaths. The government is implementing a Mother and Child Tracking System, which tracks every pregnant woman by name for the provision of timely antenatal care, institutional delivery and postnatal care, and immunizations for newborns.

Innovations in health are being matched with a bold effort to find new sources of energy to meet India`s growing demand. According to the UN, more than 280 million people in India lack access to electricity, and millions more suffer from unreliable and intermittent service. When Indians don`t have access to energy, they cannot improve their health and economic opportunity.

(GRAPH: Solar roof water heater/Watersystemz.com)In Bangalore, rooftops are dotted with solar-powered water heaters - now mandatory on all new structures. Underserved communities are experimenting with clean energy solutions. The UN Foundation, for example, through its Practitioner Network for Energy Access, is working with a range of businesses and civil society organizations in India to catalyze the delivery of micro-grid and stand-alone energy solutions to communities that lack access to electricity.

In India`s rural communities, clean burning cookstoves can provide a safer way for millions of people who live off the electricity grid to cook meals without emitting harmful smoke into their homes. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has extended an invitation to the Indian government, as a leader on this issue, to be a leading national implementing partner in scaling up the market for clean cookstoves and fuels.

India`s leadership on sustainable energy is crucial because developing countries around the world want to replicate India`s success. India is now developing ways to bypass the plight of many developed countries, which rely excessively on a fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure. It also helps India fulfill its obligations to future generations for clean, sustainable energy sources.

India will have the opportunity to showcase its progress to the world in June when delegates from around the world gather in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  As governments and civil society groups gather to talk about the future we all want, there are lessons to be learned from India`s approach to development and innovation.

To be sure, India`s embrace of sustainable development will take decades to realize. The size and scale of its challenges are enormous. But India doesn`t accept these challenges as intractable, and neither should the world. There is impressive evidence that India can achieve both economic development and sustainability at the same time. That`s good news for India and good news for the world.

-- Murthy is an industrialist and Turner is a media entrepreneur and philanthropist. This opinion piece first ran in the Times of India.

 

Monday
Sep192011

Technology and Innovation Headline Social Good Summit (NEWS BRIEF)

By Themrise Khan in New York

 

(HN, September 19, 2011) - "Early to bed, early to rise, have a good time and advertise."

 

This was one of the many sound bytes media mogul and billionaire extraordinaire Ted Turner gave out at the opening of the Social Good Summit in New York today.

Organized by the 92Y, Mashable and the UN Foundation, the Summit brings together a range of social entrepreneurs and social media activists, for quite literally, the social good.

The summit runs parallel all week with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

The initial focus was heavy on technology and a wired world for “doing good”. From education, to clean water to maternal health, the key message was that technology, new media and the youth, are a lethal contribution to rid the world of poverty.

But using social media for global good has its pitfalls, as Ted Turner openly declared that the print media was “gone”. For someone whose business is the broadcast media, that’s quite a declaration. But whether one downloads the Economist on an iPad as Mr. Turner regularly does, or manages an online site to provide young graduates with jobs in the non-profit sector as idealist.com does, its hard to say whether the speed of the social media can keep pace with the speed of natural and man-made disasters.

This is why Turner had strong words to say about cuts in military spending to redirect towards more local causes at home, like alternative clean energy, a cause close to his heart. As Chairman of the UN Foundation, Turner would also like to see an end to nuclear arms and a reduction by 10% in global military budgets, every year for ten years.

For someone whose business has been the media all his life, the fact that the CNN giant thinks the US media focuses too much on itself and not enough on the rest of the world, is something many of us would like to admit, but are perhaps a tad bit fearful of doing.

But most of the initiatives showcased today, were far from being focused on the US.

From the One Laptop One Child Initiative which has 3 million child users globally, to USAID’s initiatives of using text messages to inform global programmes with real life statistics, to providing maternal healthcare for women in developing countries, it’s the rest of the world that social media for social good is trying to change.

But despite the tweeting, blogging and online fundraising that has spurred a new generation of “do-gooders”, there is still a lot to be done and done properly, as philanthropist Howard Buffet, grandson of another billionaire mogul, surprisingly candid views on the failure of corporate and non-profit philanthropy around the world showed.

But the Summit has tried to begin on a very optimistic note in dark times.

With world leaders congregating in New York this week to debate some very controversial issues, one hopes the optimism rubs off the right way.

Monday
Apr252011

World Malaria Day: Race to 2015 Elimination Faces Challenges (REPORT)

A Nigerian mother with her infant: the vast majority of malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa are among children under 5. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, April 25, 2011) - The race to eliminate malaria - a preventable disease that claims the lives of almost one-million children every year - by the United Nations target of 2015 faces several challenges - despite tens of millions of dollars earmarked each year towards prevention efforts.

In a conference call hosted by the United Nations Foundation on the eve of World Malaria Day (today), experts agreed that despite well-meaning efforts of several fronts, recalcitrant governments and unpredictable world events could frustrate efforts to reduce malaria deaths to zero by 2015.

On average, malaria claims the life of an African child every 45 seconds. The vast majority of the deaths are among children under five years old.

The main item in the arsenal to fight the disease is insecticide-treat bed nets - which last as long as five years and costs about $10 (including associated costs such as training of health workers). If used properly, the nets protect sleeping children and also kill malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

Malaria eradication proponents claim that more than 75% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are now covered by bed nets. "We are really making a difference," said sports columnist Rick Reilly.

But the on challenges the road to 2015 are many.

The recent civil war in Ivory Coast, for example, has delayed the distribution of millions of bed nets, said Ray Chambers, a philanthropist and humanitarian who was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2008 as his Special Envoy to mobilize global support for action on the disease. Chambers said the nets are stuck in warehouses in Ivory Coast and if they are stolen or destroyed it could prove difficult to raise replacement funding.

"The greatest risk is that they may disappear between now and the time they get the opportunity to distribute them," said Chambers in reference to the nets in Ivory Coast. In addition, the migration of at least 75,000 people to Liberia also makes protection of people difficult.

Experts also identified Nigeria - Africa's most populous nation with 150 million people - and the Democratic Republic of Congo - as serious trouble spots in the battle against malaria. In Nigeria, nets are not distributed as efficiently as they should and crucial social mobilization efforts need to be scaled up.

Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, said it is expected that the mobilization of community health workers and community-based organizations will improve the usage rates of bed nets. "In a lot of countries they never used to have nets..it needs explanation and a lot of work. They have a lot of nets coming but they have to catch up on the work to change the behaviour of the people."

Of the 67 million nets earmarked for Nigeria, about 27 million have been paid for but have yet to be distributed "because of different delays within the government process," said Chambers.

Chambers said the DRC has its own set of problems that prevent proper distribution, but that universal distribution is expected as soon as later this year.

He added, however, that an incredible set of partnerships has evolved to fight malaria. Aside from the UN Foundation, the collaboration includes Nothing But Nets, Roll Back Malaria, UNICEF, Rotary International, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Population Services International. "It's because of this incredible partnership that has ever been assembled in a fight against any type of major disease," said Chambers. "We have made the greatest and most rapid progress against any major disease in our lifetime."

 

Monday
Mar282011

Global Humanitarian Community Not Tooled to Handle Emerging Technologies, Volunteers - Report

New technology and volunteers could help victims of earthquakes - like this father and daughter in Pakistan - to receive assistance faster. CREDIT: Michael Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, March 28, 2011) - If there was one thing that the Haiti earthquake of 2010 demonstrated, it is that traditional humanitarian aid agencies have a difficult time interfacing with the emerging volunteer and tecnical communities.

This was one of the findings of a new report released today by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation.

The report concludes that increasing dialogue and partnership is required for a more effective response to emergencies.

"Humanitarian organization have amassed deep wisdom and experience from decades of work in the field. Yet new voices are opening the possibility of future interactions with communities affected by the disasters. And new partners are offering faster, more effective means of analyzing an ever-increasing volume and velocity of data.

"The challenge ahead is how to create an effective interface between these resources and create an ecosystem where each actor understands its role."

The report examinines how technology is reshaping the information landscape in which aid groups respond to sudden onset emergencies. The report, Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies, analyzes how the humanitarian community and the emerging volunteer and technical communities worked together in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and recommends ways to improve coordination between them in future emergencies.

“The challenge is to improve coordination between the structured humanitarian system and the relatively loosely organized volunteer and technical communities. This report illustrates a potential way forward,” said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  “Without direct collaboration with humanitarian organisations, volunteer and technical communities run the risk of mapping needs without being able to make sure that these needs can be met,” she stressed.

One of the most potentially controverial recommendations is that, during disasters, a team composed of members of the volunteer and technical communities be deployed to the field with a mandate to "deploy best available tools and practices."

Another recommendation calls for a netraul forum to "surface areas of agreement and conflict between international humanitarian systems and the voulnteer and technical communities."

UN and traditional aid agencies are know to maintain closed loops in the opening days and weeks of major disasters - making it difficult for freelancers, volunteers - even the private sector - to become integrated into the emergency response. Some aid workers have even complained about a lack of communication between UN agencies, resulting in duplicated efforts.

Written by a team of researchers led by John Crowley at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the report is based on interviews with more than 40 technology and humanitarian experts, many of whom responded to the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  The report identifies best practice and lessons learned from the Haiti operation; makes recommendations to strengthen coordination between the humanitarian and technology communities; and proposes a draft framework for institutionalizing this collaboration. 

The report was released today at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference. In recent years, the UAE has been positioning itself to become a humanitarian hub.

- HUMNEWS staff