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Wednesday: April 2, 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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Wednesday
May162012

Despite Progress, Millions at Risk as UN Releases Africa Human Development Report (NEWS) 


(Video UNDP)

By Shout Africa

Aid provided to Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger is insufficient, the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today. Since late January, nearly 160,000 Malians have fled their country for camps in neighboring nations. Instability persists in Mali, leaving little hope that the refugees will be able to return soon. On top of that, another imminent threat looms: the rainy season, which will further complicate the deployment of aid.

MSF is working in camps in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, and is concerned that the impending rainy season and the current shortage of aid will worsen the problem significantly. “MSF calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Program (WFP) to increase and speed up the distribution of aid in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger before the rainy season makes aid distribution even more difficult,” says Malik Allaouna, MSF director of operations.

In the makeshift Mauritanian camp of Mbéra, located in the middle of the desert, residents share one latrine for 220 people. They receive only 11 liters of water per person per day and the food distributed by the WFP does not meet the specific nutritional needs of children.

“We received four kilograms of rice – the quality is mediocre and it’s full of pebbles – two cups of oil and two cups of sugar for 10 days,” says one person in Mbéra camp. “They’ve given us just a single ration since we arrived.”

(MAP: LongWarjournal) In Burkina Faso, where MSF is working in four camps, the organization notes that food supplies are distributed inappropriately. “The same quantity is distributed without regard for the number of people in a family,” says Mohamed El Moktar, a refugee at the Gandafabou camp. “We are seven people. After two days, we have nothing left.”

Living conditions are significantly below international aid standards and render people who are already weakened by a very long journey even more vulnerable to illness. Most of the diseases treated during MSF’s medical consultations in the camps are directly related to poor living conditions.

At MSF’s treatment centre in Mbéra, four out of every 10 patients are suffering from respiratory infections and two out of 10 for diarrhea. The next most common ailments are skin infections and malnutrition. Since the organization started working in Mbéra, more than 500 children have been treated for malnutrition.

“Food insecurity is a threat both for the Malian refugees and for the host communities, which are already suffering from poor harvests,” adds Mr. Allaouna. “Only food distribution, in sufficient quantity and quality, will prevent children’s nutritional condition from further deteriorating.”

In Burkina Faso, MSF is working in the Ferrerio, Gandafabou, Dibissi and Ngatourou-Niénié camps. In Mauritania, in Mbéra, Fassala and Bassikounou; and in Niger, it is active in the communities of Mangaïzé, Abala, Chinagodrarand Yassan.

- This article originally appeared on Shout Africa

Thursday
Sep012011

Magnitude of Social Exclusion Higher in Areas Hit by Environmental Disasters (REPORT)

An elderly Ukrainian woman photographed near Chernobyl by Olena Serbyn-Sullivan. Credit: M. Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS (HN, September 1, 2011) - The magnitude of social exclusion is 15 percent higher in areas affected by environmental disaster than in areas where such disasters have not occurred, according to a new study.

The Social Exclusion Survey, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), finds that, from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the depletion of the Aral Sea, these events have an impact on the social fabric of the affected communities.

The report found the impact is significant and disproportionately felt by young people.

Addressing which type of exclusion is more prominent, the report found that in areas with environmental damage, it is economic exclusion that accounts for the biggest share (38 percent) of the social exclusion index, as opposed to exclusion from social services in non-affected areas.  One way to interpret this is that environmental disasters hit the economy by disrupting production linkages and forcing qualified workers to migrate. Investments are also likely to decline.

An interesting finding from the survey is that environmental disasters might also have unexpected positive externalities. Exclusion from participation in civic and social life contributes least to social exclusion in affected areas. This might seem counter intuitive but, as the recent case of the tsunami in Japan has shown, environmental disasters encourage people to rely on informal networks and community action. 

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 was the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry, causing a huge release of radionuclides over large areas of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Today in the affected region, many people still complain of health problems and the disaster is linked, in part, to the mistrust in government in Ukraine.

The Aral Sea was once the fourth biggest inland sea in the world, but widespread mismanagement of resources that started in the sixties caused water levels to drop to alarmingly low levels. The sea is literally dying.

- UNDP, HUMNEWS staff

 

Monday
Feb282011

UN Orders Immediate Evacuation of Remaining International Staff From Libya (BREAKING NEWS)

(HN, February 28, 2011) - All remaining international staff have been ordered to leave Libya immediately, HUMNEWS has learned.

UN agencies operating in the country were advised yesterday that the evacuation of "all remaining international staff" had been authorized.

The UN's Department of Safety and Security has also ordered the suspension of any travel to Tripoli.

The decision is a clear sign of the rapidly-deteriorating situation in Libya and comes after several major powers - including the US and UK - have shuttered their embassies.

According to UN rules, locally-engaged staff do not qualify for evacuation without special authorization from the Secretary General. Although internal evacuation is sometimes granted earlier.

Among the UN agencies active in Libya are: the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Information Service (UNIC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A UN mission has had a presence in the country since its independence in 1951.

Last week, UNDP announced the firing of Aisha Gaddafi - Colonel Gaddafi's daughter - as its Goodwill Ambassador in Libya.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said the agreement with Aisha al-Gaddafi was terminated under Article 30 of the UN Guidelines for the Designation of Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace.

The article says that the designation will be terminated if the "messenger of peace or goodwill ambassador engages in any activity incompatible with his/her status or with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, or if the termination is in the interest of the Organisation."

Aisha al-Gaddafi. Daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Aisha al-Gaddafi was appointed as the goodwill ambassador of Libya on July 24, 2009 to address the issues of HIV/AIDS and violence against women in Libya, both culturally sensitive topics in the country.

It appears that all references to Aisha Gaddafi have been removed from the UNDP's country website for Libya.

- HUMNEWS staff

Thursday
Feb102011

Tajikistan and the Tyranny of Statistics (Report)

(HN, February 10, 2011) - Like most other economies in Europe and Central Asia, Tajikistan depends heavily on foreign trade. Economists who monitor the country’s import and export data—which are reported on a monthly basis by the Statistical Agency—may think they are keeping a finger on Tajikistan’s pulse.Water is become a scarce - and increasingly precious - resource in many countries surrounding Tajikistan. UNICEF

They might be wrong. Especially when it comes to exports.

Sometimes, however, these data obscure more than they illuminate. Rather than worrying about cotton and aluminum, it may be more helpful to think of Tajikistan as one of the world’s leading exporters—both directly and indirectly—of labour and water.

As per international practice, Tajikistan’s foreign trade statistics emphasize the final products that are bought and sold abroad. For Tajikistan’s exports, this boils down to aluminum and cotton, which generate three quarters of the country’s export revenues.

In one sense, this is no surprise: anyone familiar with rural life in Tajikistan knows that “cotton is still king” in the countryside. The importance of the TALCO aluminum smelter in Tursunzode just west of Dushanbe—Tajikistan’s largest industrial enterprise and leading exporter—is likewise well known.

However, both cotton and aluminum production can be seen as algorithms for reprocessing water—which is where Tajikistan’s true riches lie.

More than half of the water used by Central Asia’s 60 million inhabitants comes from rivers whose headwaters rise in Tajikistan (population 7.5 million).

It is this water that turns turbines in hydropower plants along the Vakhsh river cascade, which generate the electricity needed to derive aluminum from bauxite. Water from these rivers also feeds the canals that irrigate Tajikistan’s thirsty cotton fields. Tajikistan’s exports are really about water—embodied in aluminum ingots and cotton fiber.

When Tajikistan’s (mostly cotton and aluminum) exports are compared to its imports, they are often found wanting: the country reports a yearly trade deficit in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. But Tajikistan’s single most important export—labour—is not captured in the trade statistics.

Every year some 800,000 to 1.5 million (no one is quite sure how many) Tajikistani citizens work abroad, chiefly in Russia. The IMF and National Bank of Tajikistan estimate that these migrants sent home $2.4 billion in remittances in 2010—roughly double the $1.2 billion earned from exporting aluminum, cotton, and other commodities and manufactured goods (see Charts 1 and 2 above).

If the country’s trade balance is recalculated as exports minus imports plus remittances, then Tajikistan consistently runs a healthy external surplus. Looked at from this perspective, Tajikistan’s reported average annual 9% GDP growth during 2000-2008 does not seem so surprising. Nor does the continuation of economic growth (albeit at a slower pace), or relative stability of the somoni (the national currency), during the global economic crisis of 2009-2010.

Many economists would argue that the balance of payments—and particularly the current account balance, which shows exports and imports of services, as well as of good and remittances—provides the fullest measure of an economy’s engagement with the rest  of the world.

But Tajikistan’s balance-of-payments data are reported with some delay: at present, the most recent BoP data available on the National Bank of Tajikistan website are from the first quarter of 2010. By contrast, data on merchandise exports and imports, and on remittances, are reported monthly. If we want to track how Tajikistan is faring in the world economy in real time, exports minus imports plus remittances may be our best shot.

Tajikistan is a low-income country where some 3 million people struggle to get by on $2.15/day or less. Poverty reduction, providing access to clean water and sanitation services, creating decent jobs at home, and addressing gender inequalities are major challenges. Migration may be a cash cow, but it can also be a hardship for divided families.

Understanding these challenges and helping the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals requires a deep knowledge of Tajikistan’s economy, and its official economic data.

Sometimes, however, these data obscure more than they illuminate. Rather than worrying about cotton and aluminum, it may be more helpful to think of Tajikistan as one of the world’s leading exporters—both directly and indirectly—of labour and water.

- UNDP, HUMNEWS staff