Thursday, August 28, 2008

[Personal] Another vacation

I take a lot of vacation, because I get a lot of vacation. We will return Tuesday morning. Please have bail money ready for me, If I'm not posting then. - Kale

Indian monsoon floods leave a million homeless

from the Guardian

One of northern India worst floods have left over a million homeless and destroyed 250,000 houses. Some are saying that the flooding was 'man-made". The flooding in India last year, led to an increase in child trafficking. - Kale

Randeep Ramesh in Delhi

More than a million people have been forced from their homes and 250,000 houses destroyed in one of the worst floods in northern India for decades, sparking accusations that the destruction was man-made.

Described by the country's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, as a "national calamity", the flooding occurred after the Kosi river burst its banks in Nepal ten days ago, sending floodwaters across a swath of the eastern flank of the Himalayas and submerging large parts of the Indian state of Bihar.

Today the Indian army mobilised, evacuating more than 100,000 people and dropping food supplies from the air. Pratyaya Amrit, Bihar's secretary for disaster management, said that a further 300,000 people would be moved to relief camps in the next 48 hours.

Experts have said that the flooding was not simply an act of nature, and that the failure of the Indian authorities played a large part in the making of the disaster. The Kosi river's flood defences are supposed to be able to handle flows of almost a million cubic feet of water per second. Yet they were breached when the flows were a little more than a tenth of that capacity, pointing to serious defects.

Nepal, where the Kosi originates from, has accused the Indian government of failing to uphold its commitment under a 1954 treaty to maintain the river's embankment. India countered that its engineers could not get access to river.

"We know the monsoon comes every year. Why weren't they ready for the disaster? The fact is that there was much less flow in the river than the stated capacity which exposes the kind of maintenance that was done," said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the independent South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

Thakkar said that there was an "unfortunate lobby consisting of politicians, bureaucrats, builders and engineers who take money and don't do any work. There is no oversight of this process. That's why we get flooding every year."

Relief agencies said that Bihar's status as the poorest, most deprived state in India meant that victims of the annual monsoons were especially vulnerable.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Social injustice cutting life expectancy, UN report says

from the Guardian

This is kind of obvious, but now that the WHO is officially saying it, it may help more to realise it's truth.

Basically, where you live can kill you. Social injustice thru poverty, poor education and bad housing is killing people. The report says "on a grand scale".

by Sarah Boseley,

The gap between rich and poor is such that a child born in the Glasgow suburb of Calton can expect to live 28 years less than one born in Lenzie, eight miles away.

This substantial gap between the life expectancy of children of the most affluent and privileged, and those who are born into deprivation and get fewer chances as they grow up is present in every society around the world, the report finds.

Inadequate education and bad housing are key factors impacting on life expectancy around the world. But some countries are better than others at closing the gap.

The report, by a World Health Organisation commission chaired by the British professor Sir Michael Marmot, shows that the poor health and shorter lives of the least fortunate has reduced life expectancy in the UK to 79 years. It trails Japan, with an average of 83, Australia, Sweden, Canada and Italy.

Stark disparities within the UK are also highlighted by the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. A boy born in Hampstead, London, will live around 11 years longer than a boy from St Pancras, five stops away on the Northern line of the underground.

Adult death rates were generally 2.5 times higher in the most deprived areas of the UK than in the most affluent.

An example from the US recorded the fact that 886,202 deaths would have been averted between 1991 and 2000 if the death rates of white and black Americans had been equal.

Highlighting inequalities between different parts of the world, a girl born in Lesotho, southern Africa, is likely to die 42 years younger than one born in Japan.

In Sweden, one in 17,400 women die during childbirth, compared with one in eight in Afghanistan.

While healthcare, good hospitals and doctors play their part, the report says that the conditions in which children grow up and live as adults are fundamental to their chances of good health, and some have it much better than others.

But the social injustice which leads to health inequality could be eradicated within a generation, it says.

The report says a "toxic combination of bad policies, economics and politics is in large measure responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible. Social injustice is killing on a grand scale."

The commission calls for worldwide government action to eradicate the unjust disparities in social background that lead to shorter lives. It wants every government policy and programme to be assessed for its impact on health.

Above all, it says, governments should invest in high-quality education with a major focus on intervening in the earliest years, from the womb to the age of eight. Affordable housing, encouragement for people to use healthier modes of transport, and controls on junk food and alcohol outlets are all important, as is the availability of full, fair and decent employment for all on a living wage.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As Food Costs Rise, So Do School Lunch Prices

from the New York Times

This article explores the effect that rising food prices are having on school lunches. School officials point out that what kids are getting for a dollar or two in the cafeteria would cost 6 to 7 dollars at a restaurant. - Kale


Gas pumps, grocery stores, and now school cafeterias.

Prices on some school lunch lines are going up this fall as school officials, like many others, struggle to pay higher prices and delivery fees for staples like bread, milk, fresh fruit and vegetables. The price increases, generally about 25 cents a meal, come as school districts in New York and across the country try to eke more out of already tight budgets, with some switching to four-day schedules to reduce utility and busing costs, and others asking more of their students to walk to school or limiting out-of-town games for athletic teams.

But for many parents, nothing hits the pockets quite like lunch prices.

“It’s 25 cents a day, but if you have three kids, over a week that’s the price of a gallon of milk,” said Harry A. Capers Jr., a past president of the New Jersey Parent-Teacher Association. “I think it’s something people will notice and I am really concerned about those who have to make tough choices.”

New Jersey’s largest school district, Newark, is raising the full price of its daily lunches to $1.50 from $1.25, as its overall food budget grows to an estimated $5.2 million from $5 million last year. (Most Newark students do not pay the full price. In most cases there and elsewhere, increases in the cost of full-price lunches will not affect the reduced prices — a maximum of 40 cents a meal — that students from poorer families have to pay.)

In Paterson, N.J., the full price is also increasing by 25 cents — to $2.25 in high schools and $2 in elementary schools — to help cover a 23 percent increase in bread prices alone in the last year. The district, which serves 18,000 lunches a day, now pays 12 cents for each hot dog bun, compared with 9.5 cents a year ago.

“It’s something we have to do,” said Tonya Riggins, Newark’s director of food services, who oversees 29,000 daily lunches. “People may not be happy, but it’s the economy and it’s beyond our control.”

Across the metropolitan area, many suburban and rural schools are raising lunch prices while large urban districts are taking other measures to cover rising food bills, from reducing food management costs in Yonkers to shopping around for cheaper plastic plates and cups in Syracuse.

The New York City schools, which serve 626,670 lunches a day, will keep full lunch prices steady at $1.50. But the system will save money by, for example, replacing individual bread rolls and cherry tomatoes in salads with slices of French bread and whole tomatoes that can be bought in bulk. “It’s a lot of little things that add up to big savings,” said William Havemann, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Education.

To help offset higher food costs, the United States Department of Agriculture, which subsidizes school lunches, has increased its average lunch reimbursement to districts this year by 10 cents to $2.57 a meal for students who qualify for free lunches, and $2.17 for those who qualify for reduced-price lunches. Last year, the increase was 7 cents.

The department issued a report this summer, called “Meeting the Challenge of Rising Food Costs,” to help districts develop strategies to control food costs and stretch budgets. In addition to cash reimbursements, it will provide more free food this fall to 101,000 school districts participating in the lunch program. It will also expand another program, which provides free snacks of fruits and vegetables, primarily to low-income districts, to all 50 states from 14 states last year.

But many school officials contend that the federal lunch money is not keeping up with rising food prices, particularly in districts that are stocking their cafeterias with healthier food choices like skim milk, whole grains and fresh fruit.

“When you start including more fresh fruit and vegetables instead of green beans in a can, your costs increase,” said Brian Sirianni, assistant superintendent for business in the Ballston Spa district, north of Albany. His 4,500-student district is raising lunch prices by 35 cents, to $2, in the middle and high school, and by 25 cents, to $1.75, in the elementary schools — and may have to increase prices again in the next two years.

Affluent suburban schools are also feeling the pinch. In New Jersey, the Mount Laurel district, which serves an average of 1,985 lunches a day, will raise its lunch price by 20 cents — the highest increase in recent memory — to $2 in the middle schools, and $1.90 in the elementary schools. “We’re not trying to make a profit, we’re just trying to break even,” said Marie Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the district.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Food, Fuel and Water Crises Converging

from IPS News

The food and fuel crises are bad enough, but add water into the fray and it could be disastrous. The World Bank still insists on water privatization before making loans. - Kale

By Thalif Deen

STOCKHOLM, - "It's the spectre of a food, fuel and water crisis," says Lars Thunell, executive vice president of the Washington-based International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group.

"I believe we are at a tipping point," he said, because the scarcity of water poses a threat to the food supply just when the agricultural sector is stepping up production in response to riots over food prices, growing hunger, and rising malnutrition.

Speaking at the conclusion of the weeklong Stockholm International Water Conference Friday, Thunell said the growing demand for water is outpacing supply.

The world's current population of over 6.0 billion is expected to rise to about 9.0 billion by 2050, with more than 60 percent living in mega cities.

"Since water consumption goes up where there is development and improved lifestyles, we can expect even greater demands on fresh water," Thunell said.

The most water-intensive sector, agriculture, is expanding and industrialisation and energy production are further driving demand, he added.

The conference, which was attended by over 2,400 water experts and government officials, ended with an ominous warning: that water and sanitation are not far behind the food, energy and climate crises.

Summing up the weeklong proceedings, the Stockholm International Water Institute said that slow progress on sanitation will cause the world to badly fail the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the same time, weak policy, poor management, increasing waste and exploding water demands will push the planet towards the tipping point of a global water crisis.

According to U.N. estimates a little less than one billion people worldwide still don't have access to clean drinking water while over 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation.

The MDGs aim at a 50 percent reduction both in the number of people without drinking water and without basic sanitation. The deadline has been set at 2015. But most of the world's poorer nations are likely to miss the deadline.

Colin Chartres, director general of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said the causes of water scarcity are essentially identical to those of the food crisis.

"There are serious and extremely worrying factors that indicate that water supplies are close to exhaustion in some countries," he said.

He pointed out that current estimates indicate the world will not have enough water to feed itself in 40 years time, "by when the current food crisis may turn into a perpetual crisis."

Chartres said he and his water science colleagues have raised a warning flag that significant investments in both research and development and water infrastructure development are needed, "if dire consequences are to be avoided."

IFC's Thunell said providing clean water and sanitation services are not only business opportunities but also opportunities to improve lives. He said investors see an opportunity in the 450-billion-dollar global water sector, where stocks are performing strongly worldwide.

Private firms also regard water supply as a business risk and are tackling it as an integral part of their risk-management strategy.

"I believe the moment is right," Thunell said. "We can avert a crisis -- as partners, working together."

He said IFC will do its part by investing in companies that pursue opportunities in water conservation and quality, and by fostering public-private partnerships in the water sector.

But Patti Lynn, campaigns director of Corporate Accountability International, has a different take on the role of the private sector.

"The crisis stems from a confluence of problems, but perhaps no contributing factor is more insidious and correctable than the privatisation of the resource," she told IPS. "When people's access to clean drinking water is reliant on the profit interests of a handful of transnationals, all of us pay a premium and because of this many of the world's poor go thirsty."

Asked if the international community will meet the MDGs relating to water and sanitation by 2015, she said: "Not if we don't change immediate course."

Link to full article. May expire in future.

India Is Home To One-third Of All Poor People In The World According to the World Bank

from Bernama

More on the World Bank statement from yesterday, and some specifics on India. - Kale

NEW DELHI -- India is home to roughly one-third of all poor people in the world and has a higher proportion of its population living on less than US$2 per day, according to the World Bank's latest estimates on global poverty.

The estimates also shows that the rate of decline of poverty in India was faster between 1981 and 1990 than between 1990 and 2005, the Times of India on Wednesday quoted the bank as saying.

This is likely to give fresh ammunition to those who maintain that economic reforms, which started in 1991, have failed to reduce poverty at a faster rate.

India, according to the estimates, had 456 million people or about 42 percent of the population living below the new international poverty line of US$1.25 per day. The number of Indian poor also constitute 33 percent of the global poor, which is pegged at 1.4 billion people.

India also had 828 million people, or 75.6 percent of the population living below US$2 a day. Sub-Saharan Africa, considered the world's poorest region, is better -- it has 72.2 percent of its population (551 million) live below the US$2 a day level.

While the full report has not been released yet, a briefing note sent by the Bank had some of the data and showed that the poverty rate -- those below US$1.25 per day -- for India had come down from 59.8 percent in 1981 to 51.3 percent by 1990 or 8.5 percentage points over nine years.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Income erodes, poverty gains in Minnesota

from the Star Tribune

Now it's Minnesota's turn. The census bureau also found that the medium income in Minnesota dropped. - Kale

By WARREN WOLFE, Star Tribune

The results reflect the downturn in Minnesota's economy that began two years ago, while the national figures were still improving, said state economist Tom Stinson.

"It's not a surprise," he said. "But the census report does reflect the reality that Minnesota hit the wall in job formation early in 2006 and pretty much stayed there. We probably won't begin to recover until next year."

Even though the report shows Minnesota was declining while national measures were improving, the state remained among the highest in income and lowest in poverty.

Using two-year averages, the report said Minnesota's median income dropped from $59,583 in 2004-2005 to $57,932 in 2006-2007.

That compares with $49,901 nationally, putting Minnesota eighth-highest.

There were about 482,000 Minnesotans in poverty last year, up 60,000 from 2006. The poverty rate rose from 8.2 percent to 9.3 percent.

That dropped Minnesota from fifth-lowest in 2006 to ninth-lowest last year, still well below the national rate of 12.4 percent. The poverty guideline in 2007 was $13,690 for a family of two, or $20,650 for four.

"Our hope is that next year's report won't show any worsening of the situation in Minnesota," Stinson said. "This quarter is probably the strongest of the year, and it will probably be next spring -- my crystal ball's a little cloudy here -- that we begin to see improvement nationally and in Minnesota."

The Legislature responded to recent economic problems with budget cuts "that made it hard for low- to moderate-income workers to make ends meet," said Katherine Blauvelt, policy analyst with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. She urged lawmakers to find different solutions as they face another deficit next year.

There was a bright spot in Tuesday's census report.

The number of Minnesotans without health insurance dropped by about 42,000 people to 433,000, from 9.2 percent of the population to 8.3 percent.

With the national rate at 15.3 percent, Minnesota ranked fourth-lowest in the percentage of uninsured.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Asian Development Bank Introduces New Way to Measure Poverty in Asia

from the Voice of America

The Asian Development Bank says that Asian countries can eradicate poverty by 2020. With economic growth in Asia the bank has developed a new method to measure poverty. They say the changes can help with policy and compare levels from country to country. - Kale

By Claudia Blume

The Asian Development Bank has developed a new benchmark to measure poverty in Asia. The ADB says in a region that has seen stellar growth rates and rising income inequality, its new Asian poverty line can help policy makers measure and compare poverty levels. Claudia Blume reports from Hong Kong.

Living on one dollar or less a day - that is how poverty is commonly measured around the world. But the Asian Development Bank thinks that in Asia a new benchmark is needed that reflects the region's rapid economic growth and growing income disparities.

In Hong Kong on Wednesday, the non-profit lender introduced its new Asian Poverty Line, which defines poverty as living on $1.35 a day. The ADB arrived at that figure by taking the median of the national poverty lines of 16 developing countries in Asia in 2005.

The U.S. dollar-denominated poverty line is not based on market exchange rates, but on purchasing power parity figures, which use baskets of goods to compare purchasing power across countries. The ADB says it developed a new set of measurements for their study that only compare the prices of goods and services purchased by the poor.

ADB chief economist Ifzal Ali says the bank collected data on where the poor shop, what they buy and on the quantity and quality of their purchases.

"Both you and a poor person might consume rice every day but you would consume a much higher quality of rice than a poor person who would eat coarse rice," he said.

The ADB says different measurements effect estimates of the scope of poverty in Asia. If the traditional method is used, which measures the average purchasing power of all people in a country - including the rich - there are more than one billion poor people in the region. By using the new measurement which only focuses on the poor, the figure drops to 800 million.

Ifzal Ali says it is the first time that a cross-country comparison of poverty lines has been done in Asia. He says by looking at the report, policy makers can determine where they stand compared with other countries in the region.

Ali says the Asian Poverty Line and the new, poor-focused purchasing power measurement can also help predict how inflation will affect the poor in the region. He says the ADB analyzed the likely effect of a 10 percent increase in grains, and a 10 percent increase of general food prices on poverty figures.

"The report shows that if you have a 10 percent increase in - say - cereal prices, the number of poor would go up by 36 million almost immediately. If on the other hand food prices went up - this is going from cereals to food - it would increase by about 85 million people," he said.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

More Kentuckians living in poverty

from the Lexington Herald Leader

Kentucky regressed in some areas in the census bureau stats. - Kale

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears

The number of Kentuckians living in poverty last year increased only slightly, from 17 percent of the population in 2006 to 17.3 percent in 2007, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

A much bigger increase was seen in the percentage of people without health insurance, rising from 13 percent in 2004-2005 to 14.6 percent in 2006-2007. Insurance rates are measured over two-year periods.

Overall, Kentucky ranks 48th among states in income, compared with 45th in 2006. It is the fifth-highest state in terms of the number of people living in poverty.

In reaction to the report, the state's leading child-advocacy group says that families in the state are faring far worse over time. Kentucky's poverty rate has risen significantly since 2001, when it was 15.4 percent, Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in a press release.

Median household income in the state also dropped last year and is below the national average of $50,233, according to census figures released Tuesday.

However, Kenneth Troske, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, said that although Kentucky is a poor state, he doubts we've grown poorer this past year.

"I don't know whether or not the census numbers are correct, but they just don't fit with other data we have on the state's economy," Troske said.

Troske said there was a 2.3 percent increase in the amount of goods and services produced in Kentucky in 2007, according to national figures.

Brooks, of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the census numbers on poverty are cause for alarm.

"Despite several years of economic growth, Kentucky's families actually lost ground in reducing poverty, improving health coverage or increasing family incomes," Brooks said.

"Now that the economy has weakened, things are likely to get worse ... for the most vulnerable of Kentuckians," he said.

More children younger than 18 were living in poverty in 2007, 23.4 percent, compared with 22.3 percent in 2006.

Kentucky's median household income decreased from $40,489 in 2006 to $40,267 in 2007.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Cleveland has second highest poverty rank in US

from Business Week

If you are curious, Detroit was number one. - Kale


Cleveland was the nation's second most impoverished big city in 2007, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey released Tuesday.

The northeast Ohio city along Lake Erie is among U.S. cities which have suffered from job losses and a rising tide of foreclosures.

The data indicates Ohio has pockets of poverty statewide. Ohio's poverty rate was 13.1 percent, ranking it 19th among states nationally and tied with South Dakota, just a tenth of a percentage point above the national average.

Cleveland, with an estimated 29.5 percent of its population in poverty, is ranked only behind Detroit among cities with 250,000 or more people. Detroit had an estimated 33.8 percent in poverty last year.

The Census data put Cleveland's total up 2.5 percentage points from last year's report. A year ago, the American Community Survey using 2006 data ranked Cleveland as the fourth most impoverished city, with a 27 percent poverty rate.

Two of the three years before that, Cleveland had the highest poverty ranking in the nation.

In the Census data released Tuesday, Cincinnati ranked 10th nationally, with an estimated 23.5 percent of its population in poverty. In last year's report, Cincinnati's estimated poverty rate was 27.8 percent, or third highest nationally among big cities.

Two smaller Ohio cities, Youngstown and Dayton, were estimated to have poverty rates higher than Cleveland's but less that Detroit's.

According to the Census estimates, Youngstown's poverty rate in 2007 was 32.6 percent and Dayton's was 30.2 percent.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

World poverty 'more widespread'

from the BBC

The World Bank issued a statement yesterday saying the global poverty may be worse than previously thought.

By Steve Schifferes

It has revised its previous estimate and now says that 1.4 billion people live in poverty, based on a new poverty line of $1.25 per day.

This is substantially more than its earlier estimate of 985 million people living in poverty in 2004.

The Bank has also revised upwards the number it said were poor in 1981, from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion.

The new estimates suggest that poverty is both more persistent, and has fallen less sharply, than previously thought.

However, given the increase in world population, the poverty rate has still fallen from 50% to 25% over the past 25 years.

"This is pretty grim analysis coming from the World Bank," said Elizabeth Stuart, senior policy advisor at Oxfam.

"The urgency to act has never been greater, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where half the population of the continent lives in extreme poverty, a figure that hasn't changed for over 25 years."

Regional differences

The new figures confirm that Africa has been the least successful region of the world in reducing poverty.

The number of poor people in Africa doubled between 1981 and 2005 from 200 million to 380 million, and the depth of poverty is greater as well, with the average poor person living on just 70 cents per day.

The poverty rate is unchanged at 50% since 1981.

But in absolute numbers, it is South Asia which has the most poor people, with 595 million, of which 455 million live in India.

The poverty rate, however, has fallen from 60% to 40%.

China has been most successful in reducing poverty, with the numbers falling by more than 600 million, from 835 million in 1981 to 207 million in 2005.

The poverty rate in China has plummeted from 85% to 15.9%, with the biggest part of that drop coming in the past 15 years, when China opened up to Western investment and its coastal regions boomed.

In fact, in absolute terms, China accounts for nearly all the world's reduction in poverty. In percentage terms, world poverty excluding China fell from 40% to 30% over the past 25 years.

Millennium goals

The new figures still suggest that the world will reach its millennium development goal of halving the 1990 level of poverty by 2015, according to World Bank chief economist Justin Lin.

"Poverty has fallen by about 1% per year since 1981," he said.

"However the sobering news that poverty is more pervasive than we thought means we must redouble our efforts."

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Incomes fall in Michigan, number in poverty rises

from the Galveston Daily News

While most states had steady poverty rates, the news wasn't good for our home state of Michigan. - Kale


TRAVERSE CITY -- Government data painted a bleak economic picture for Michigan, where the auto industry's downward plunge has rippled across the state.

Michigan was the only state where poverty rose last year, as well as the only one where incomes fell, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released Tuesday that illustrate the uniqueness of the state's economic swoon.

"It's really a depressing picture," said Amy Rynell, director of the Heartland Alliance Mid-America Institute on Poverty, an advocacy group based in Chicago.

Michigan's poverty rate was 14 percent, up from 13.5 percent in 2006 and more than a full percentage point above the national rate, which was virtually unchanged during the same period. The state's rate has grown steadily since 2000, when it was just above 10 percent. The number of people in poverty increased by 45,000 during 2006-07.

The 2007 median income in Michigan was $47,950, down 1.2 percent or $596 from the 2006 median of $48,546. The state's nationwide ranking slid from 24th to 27th.

Nationwide, the median household income rose to $50,233, a modest increase of $665 from the previous year, although it was the third consecutive annual rise. While the overall poverty rate held steady at 12.5 percent, Latinos, children and the foreign-born - demographic categories that overlap considerably - experienced significant increases.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has emphasized diversifying the state's economy, promoting growth of industries such as defense contracting, alternative energy and film production. The Democratic governor and lawmakers this year boosted tax incentives for businesses adding jobs.

Last week, Granholm announced 20 new business expansions or relocations expected to bring $658 million in new investment to the state.

Whether such improvements will be enough to offset continued gloomy news from the automotive sector remains to be seen. But the 2007 statistics, reported in the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey, offer little reason for optimism.

They also showed Michigan's rate of "extreme poverty" - a yearly income of less than half the poverty threshold, or $10,325 for a family of four - jumped from 6 percent in 2006 to 6.5 percent last year. Eight years ago, the rate was 4.8 percent.

"We know that people with incomes that low are living in unsafe conditions," Rynell said. "Children probably are not getting enough healthy food to eat. People may be living in shelters. Seniors are likely skipping dosages of medication to make ends meet."

The child poverty rate increased from 17.8 percent to 19 percent between 2006-07, while the national rate stood at 17.6 percent.

Detroit's poverty rate of 33.8 percent was highest among cities of 250,000 or more, while Kalamazoo and Flint tied for fifth among cities of 65,000 to 249,999 people. Both had rates of 35.5 percent.

"We know that many people are struggling harder and harder just to get by, and more vulnerable people are turning to public services for help," said Sharon Parks, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Human Services. "This reinforces the need to strengthen our strained safety net, and policymakers must pay attention to these startling figures."

In another report released Tuesday, the Census Bureau said 11 percent of Michigan residents had no health insurance coverage in 2007 - up from 10.4 percent in 2006 and 9.1 percent at the beginning of the decade.

But that was one category in which Michigan fared better than most other states. The national average of uninsured citizens was 15.5 percent, and Michigan ranked 11th best nationally in providing health coverage.

More than 18 percent of Michigan residents get some type of assistance through the state Department of Human Services, said Sheryl Thompson, acting director of outstate operations.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

557,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty last year

from the Boston Globe

Here are the census stats in regards to the state of Oklahoma. - Kale

By Justin Juozapavicius,

TULSA, Okla. --Nearly one in six Oklahomans lived in poverty last year, even as the state's economy continued to do well, according to figures released Tuesday from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

The survey, which provides statistics on income, earnings and housing, among others, found that 557,000 Oklahomans -- 15.9 percent -- were in poverty in 2007, slightly lower than the 17 percent of residents who lived in poverty in 2006.

Twelve states, including Oklahoma, all had lower poverty rates in the 2007 survey than in 2006.

Even with the slight improvement, the survey found that Oklahoma's poverty rate still remained above the national average of 13 percent in 2007.

Nationally, the survey estimated more than 38 million Americans lived in poverty last year. New Hampshire had the lowest poverty rate in the nation with 7.1 percent, while Mississippi had the highest with 20.6 percent.

The situation in Oklahoma, where continued expansion of the oil and gas industry helped personal income grow by nearly 1 percent in the first quarter of 2008, is a "classic glass half-full, half-empty story," said David Blatt, director of policy for the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

"We have to remember that there is a substantial part of the population that has not enjoyed the boom," Blatt said. "People frequently say a rising tide lifts all boats. We see here with these numbers that a substantial part of the population has been left off the boat and left, frankly, floundering in the water."

Those hit the hardest by poverty in Oklahoma include children, people without high school degrees, ethnic minorities and single-parent families, Blatt said.

The community survey also found that the state's median household income was $41,567 in 2007, an increase of $1,802 from the year before. The figure is still $9,173 below the national median.

Another survey released by the bureau Tuesday, along with data from Oklahoma's Insurance Department, found that more than 661,000, or more than 18 percent, of Oklahomans did not have health insurance from 2006-2007. Oklahoma also has the fifth-highest uninsured rate in the U.S. for residents ages 19-64.

Kim Holland, the state's insurance commissioner, described the situation here as one that's "not gotten much worse or gotten much better," and added that funding for programs remains the challenge.

"How do we generate more revenue that can be dedicated to expanding access for health insurance?" Holland said. "If we could finance what the Legislature has approved, we could go from fifth in the nation to last in the nation in terms of uninsured. We just have to find the funding mechanism."

Link to full article. May expire in future.

African nations gear up to raise rice production

from Commodity Online

A group of NGO's are trying to double rice production in Africa in 10 years. Here are details on the efforts. - Kale

By Savitri Mohapatra

Everyone to the farm,” is the new decree of President Wade of Senegal—a country that has seen massive riots in the last few months, when thousands of citizens carrying empty rice sacks on their heads marched in protest against soaring rice prices. The President has just unveiled an ambitious agricultural plan called the Great Offensive for Food and Abundance (GOANA), which aims to make Senegal self-sufficient in food staples, especially rice.

GOANA’s target is to produce in the next season 500,000 tons of rice—2.5 times more than the current production. Senegal, where rice-fish called cebbu jen is the most popular daily dish, consumes about 800,000 tons of rice per year and nearly 80% of this is imported at a cost of more than 100 billion CFA francs (US$247 million).

Some Senegalese call this the “tyranny of rice” because of its huge negative impact on the national economy. President Wade has said that GOANA will help free Senegal from this tyranny, urging farmers to grow more rice (and even asking his ministers and government officials to farm at least 20 hectares each).

The government has earmarked 750 billion CFA francs ($1.85 billion) for boosting national rice production. The money will be used to improve irrigation facilities and farmers’ access to seed, fertilizer, and equipment.

Similar announcements have been made by governments of several African countries in the wake of the rice crisis—news that comes as a relief to local rice farmers. “We think that the crisis has forced our government to pay attention to local rice production, which has been neglected for so long,” says Abdoulaye Ouédraogo, a rice farmer from Burkina Faso, which is now investing massively in agriculture.

He added that if the government had listened to the farmers earlier, the country would not have been in such a crisis, referring to food riots that recently broke out in the cities. As expected, in contrast to urban consumers, African farmers are happy about the high price of rice. “I have never seen this kind of price hike in 30 years,” says Abdoulaye. “Just a few months ago, 1 kilogram of paddy [unhulled] rice was selling here for 110 CFA francs [$0.27] and now it is 225 CFA francs [$0.56].” In neighboring Mali, the grain is so much in the limelight today that some citizens joke the country will soon have a Minister of Rice.

In April 2008, the government launched an Initiative riz (rice initiative) as “a structural response to the rice crisis.”

The aim of this program is to double Mali’s annual milled rice production in 2008-09 to 1 million tons, which will not only meet domestic demand but also provide a surplus of 100,000 tons for export. In addition, Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé is placing considerable importance on the national rice research program. “There is no agricultural development without research,” he said. According to the Africa RiceCenter (WARDA), the rice crisis offers a big opportunity for Africa to use its latent potential for production and break from decades of policy bias against agriculture.

Except for Egypt, Africa is a net importer of rice with Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire ranking among the top 10 importers of rice in the world. With nearly 40% of the continent’s total rice consumption coming from the international market, African national rice economies are more exposed to unpredictable external supply and price shocks than those of other continents.

Africa is especially vulnerable because of the high prevalence of poverty and food insecurity. “Africa faces not only problems of affordability of rice but also of availability in the international market because of the rice export bans by several countries,” says WARDA Director General Papa Abdoulaye Seck. “Since 2006, WARDA has been systematically alerting the governments of its member states to a looming rice crisis in Africa.”

According to Dr. Seck, the best option for Africa to manage the crisis is to combine emergency responses in the short term with measures that favor sustainable expansion of the continent’s rice supply in the longer term. Short-term measures include reduction of customs duties and taxes on imported rice and setting up of mechanisms to avoid speculation in rice markets. At the same time, governments must avoid undermining incentives for domestic rice production.

In the medium and long term, taxes on all critical inputs, cost saving agricultural machinery and equipment, and post harvest technologies need to be reduced. Governments should also facilitate access to credit for farmers, expand rice areas under irrigation, and improve rural infrastructure. There also needs to be concerted investment in regional research capacity to support the development of rice varieties resistant to major pests and diseases and sufficiently robust to withstand drought and climate change induced environmental shocks.

To assist the African countries that have been severely hit by soaring prices, an Emergency Rice Initiative for Africa was launched in June 2008 by WARDA, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO), IFDC (an international center for soil fertility and agricultural development), Catholic Relief Services, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Urgent assistance will be provided to 11 pilot countries in four major areas: seed, fertilizer, best-bet technologies, and postharvest and marketing. WARDA, the International Rice Research Institute, FAO, and Sasakawa Global 2000 will play a key role in enhancing Africa’s rice research capacity and facilitating access to important rice information and knowledge.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

U.S. uninsured numbers drop, poverty flat

from Reuters

Here are some of the raw stats and facts from the census bureau. - Kale

The U.S. Census Bureau released 2007 figures on Tuesday showing fewer Americans went without health insurance and the official poverty rate remained steady.

Following are some key numbers issued by the agency.


-- A total of 45.7 million or 15.3 percent of people lacked public or private health insurance in 2007, down from from 47 million or 15.8 percent in 2006.

-- In 2007, 27.8 percent of people had government insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid, up from 27 percent in 2006, while 67.5 percent had private health plans, down from 67.9 percent a year earlier.


-- In 2007, 37.3 million people were defined as living in poverty, up from 36.5 million in 2006, but the official poverty rate was 12.5 percent, unchanged from 2006. Eighteen percent of children (13.3 million) were impoverished in 2007, up from 17.4 percent (12.8 million) in 2006.

-- The poverty threshold in 2007 was $21,203 for a family of four; for a family of three, $16,530; for a family of two, $13,540; and for individuals $10,590.

-- Among large cities, Detroit had the highest poverty rate (33.8 percent). Among the 50 states, poverty rates ranged from 7.1 percent in New Hampshire to 20.6 percent in Mississippi.

-- Among foreign-born people, the poverty rate increased to 16.5 percent from 15.2 percent in 2006. Of U.S.-born people, 11.9 percent were in poverty in 2007, unchanged from 2006.


-- Real median household income gained 1.3 percent between 2006 and 2007, from $49,568 to $50,233. It rose in the Midwest ($50,277) and the South ($46,186) from 2006 to 2007, fell in the Northeast ($52,274) and was steady in the West ($54,138).

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Facts on child poverty in the UK

from Wales Online

Some stats and figures on child poverty in the UK. - Kale

by Jamie Robins, Gwent Gazette

The widely accepted definition of poverty is having an income which is less than 60% of the national average.

For example, in 2005/06 this was £182 per week for a single adult with two children under the age of 14 and £260 per week for a couple with two children under the age of 14.

Poverty shapes children's development. Before reaching his or her second birthday, a child from a poorer family is already more likely to show a lower level of attainment than a child from a better-off family.

By the age of six, a less able child from a rich family is likely to have overtaken an able child born into a poor family.

Children up to 14-years-old from unskilled families are five times more likely to die in an accident than children from professional families, and 15 times more likely to die in a fire at home.

Children growing up in poverty are more likely to leave school at 16 with fewer qualifications.

As many as 2% of couples, and 8% of lone parents, cannot afford two pairs of shoes for each child.

Poverty affects children’s health throughout their lives. When they go on to have children of their own, these effects are passed to the next generation.

Poor children are born too small; birth weight is on average 130 grams lower in children from higher social classes.

Low birth weight is closely associated with infant death and chronic diseases in later life.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Growing our own food - South Africa

from the Mail and Guardian

This article profiles new food co-operatives in South Africa that are being used to combat rising food prices. - Kale


Salaminah Motsoagae (23) is a single mother who lives in an informal settlement in Orange Farm, Gauteng. She lives with her mother, who is a domestic worker and the only income earner in the family.

Rising food prices have put a financial strain on Motsoagae's family, leaving them with less money than before to buy food. "We are down to two meals a day," she says.

"Things are especially tough on people in my community who are HIV-positive because they must eat a nutritional meal each time they have to take their antiretrovirals (ARVs). Most of the time there just isn't enough for them to eat and they become very ill. Our government needs a wake-up call because we cannot continue to live like this."

Motsoagae and her family are among the estimated 1,7-billion people worldwide lacking basic food security as prices soar.

It was against this background that a public policy debate was organised recently ahead of the Southern African Development Community summit in Johannesburg to raise awareness on the extent of the food crisis and explore policy options for urgent action.

Speaking at the panel discussion on food security in Southern Africa, Professor Sam Moyo says: "Food security is not about the physical availability or scarcity of food at the national and household level, but also the qualitative degree and temporality of access in relation to nourishment, social resilience and vulnerability."

Moyo says domestic food production and consumption per capita have declined and led to persistent chronic food insecurity among at least 40% of the regional African population. "These are extremely poor, both as a cause and effect of food insecurity."

Jemina Mkhize, a pensioner from eMpendle, a small rural area in KwaZulu-Natal, says she believes the government should support small-scale farmers and improve rural development as one of the main solutions to the food crisis. "I have a fairly big yard and my house is not that big, so I am left with quite a lot of space to grow food to feed my family. I have spinach, potatoes, cabbages and pumpkin growing in my own backyard," she says with pride.

"I couldn't afford to take a bus to town every weekend to buy food -- the transport was getting expensive, the food was getting expensive. I could see starvation getting closer for my grandchildren, so I decided to spend my money buying seeds to plant the food myself. Now I not only feed my own family, but other people in my community who go hungry because they cannot afford the high-priced food."

Mkhize says the people in her community are working together to secure land they can use to farm food to feed the community, adding that more and more people are opening their gates to allow community members to use their land to plant vegetables.

"This poverty is contributing to more people getting sick. People are weak and falling ill easily, therefore not being able to work at a time when they need all the money they can get to feed their families. If the government wants to solve [the problems of] crime, unemployment, HIV/Aids and TB, it must look at solving the food crisis."

Beatrice Mkwaila of the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi, says the country's economy is almost entirely dependent on agriculture, which provides 85% of the population with its livelihood. She says while the estate sector is a significant contributor to the economic picture it is not the largest, "for in Malawi the largest producers are the smallest".

Smallholders constitute 90% of Malawi's farmers, but they face a range of challenges including poor infrastructure, lack of resources, lack of access to value-adding technologies, dependency on rain-fed agriculture, increasing costs of production and unreliable produce markets.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

More people in Nebraska, Iowa lacking health insurance

from the Omaha World Herald

The perspective from the farm belt. The numbers with health insurance dropped by 1 million since the Bush administration began. - Kale


The percentage of people in Nebraska and Iowa lacking health insurance is rising, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The figures compare the 2006-2007 average with the average of 2004-2005.

The census figures show that 12.8 percent of Nebraskans were without health insurance coverage in the most current two years, up from 10.5 percent.

In Iowa, the percentage of uninsured went from 8.7 percent to 9.9 percent.

Nebraska and Iowa were among 10 states that had a rate increase.

Both states' rates of uninsured still falls below the nationwide 2006-2007 average of 15.5 percent. The percentage of Americans without insurance in 2005-2004 was 15.1 percent.

The data are part of a new census report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States.

The report says both the number and percentage of people without health insurance nationally decreased in the one year period between 2006 and 2007.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Household income up, poverty level falls in Colorado

from the Denver Business Journal

Here they come! The US census bureau figures generally remain the same for the nation. Here is a look at Colorado.

The median household income of Colorado residents has increased by more than 8 percent since 2004, or four times the national average.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday reported the median income in Colorado has risen to $59,209 (based on a two-year average from 2006-07) from $54,719 (based on a two-year average from 2004-2005).

The 8.2 percent increase is considered statistically significant, according to the Census Bureau.

Nationally, the median income rose by 2 percent during the same period, to $49,901 from $48,934.

During the same period, the percentage of Coloradans -— and Americans as a whole — living in poverty dipped. A family of four earning less than $21,203 a year is considered to be living in poverty.

The percentage of Coloradans in poverty dropped to 9.8 percent during the 2006-07 period from 10.7 percent in 2004-05. Nationally, the poverty figure fell to 12.4 percent from 12.7 percent.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Ireland Government plan on child poverty in difficulty

from the Irish Times

Child benefit payments have run into a snag in Ireland. The government would like to set up a tier system based on need but it will be difficult. - Kale


GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS to tackle child poverty by identifying families who are most at risk of deprivation have run into major difficulties.

Officials have spent several years trying to plan a new child benefit payment which would be targeted at low-income families and those reliant on social welfare. However, briefing material prepared for Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin shows progress on the issue appears to have stalled due to difficulties in identifying families who are most at risk of poverty.

The documents were obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Government pledged to introduce such a "second tier" child benefit payment in the programme for government and in the latest partnership agreement.

Latest figures indicate that more than one in 10 children are consistently living in poverty and deprived of essentials such as proper winter clothing.

One potential solution under discussion by senior officials at the Department of Social and Family Affairs involves merging two existing welfare benefits, the child dependent allowance - which is paid to families dependent on welfare - and the family income supplement - which is paid to low-income families where a parent is working. However, officials warned that such a step could pose major administrative problems.

"These two payments are currently made to two distinct and different groups, namely social welfare dependent families and working, low-earning employees with families," the briefing paper says.

"For this reason, amalgamating the two payments is extremely complex and would involve the extension of income testing to a much wider section of families than currently applies."

The briefing papers also acknowledge that the Government think tank, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), was unable to establish a consensus on a suitable way forward.

Another option examined by officials was to dramatically increase the uptake of the Family Income Supplement from its current level of about 40 per cent to about 100 per cent. This would reduce child poverty by an estimated 3 per cent.

This option, according to officials, was worthy of examination as it would not involve dismantling the current system of child income support measures.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Haunted wasteland saps spirits, lives after cyclone

from the Boston Globe

8 out of 10 families lived in poverty before the cyclone hit Burma. The devastation can still be seen in the area, and many things have not been restored. - Kale

By Seth Mydans,

BANGKOK - Nearly four months after the cyclone, the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma is a flat, dark expanse of ruin populated by dazed survivors, unburied bodies and visions of wandering, moaning ghosts.

The region seems to have avoided mass starvation and epidemic, and people are rebuilding their precarious lives in this vast and often flooded marshland where the margin between survival and death has always been thin.

Within that thin margin, recent visitors say, many of the survivors seem to have lost their spark of life, and some of the dead seem not yet to have disappeared as they haunt the minds of those they left behind.

"There is a weariness in people's eyes here," said a photographer who has been chronicling the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which struck on May 3. He spoke on condition of anonymity because access to the region is forbidden to foreign journalists.

"There's a lost feeling that you get," he said. "People are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Some of them don't have the strength to start over."

After an international furor over the government's refusal to admit foreign relief workers, a tightly controlled system has been put in place, and aid is reaching much of the area, where the United Nations says 2.4 million people were affected.

The cyclone left 138,000 people dead or missing and 800,000 homeless, according to UN figures, after tremendous winds and a storm surge that resembled a tsunami.

It leveled most of the fragile thatch homes in its path, uprooted trees, swept away the livestock and fishing boats that provided a livelihood and polluted many rice fields with salt.

For those fields that survived, this year's planting season has now passed, and experts say it may be more than a year before many people see their next decent harvest.

Although some houses are being rebuilt and some fields are being worked, the delta remains a vista of ruin and debris, where human and animal bones and the last decomposing bodies still cluster at the edges of waterways.

Fantastical tales circulate among the survivors, the photographer said, weaving a tapestry of stories from this world and the next.

There is the tale of the boy who survived by clinging to the back of a crocodile, and the story of the boatload of people stranded at low tide who sat waiting on the silt for the water to rise, surrounded by stranded corpses.

There is the story of the mother who was reunited with her baby after it was swept away in a washtub, and the story of the woman who gave birth as the cyclone hit and pulled her baby from the water by its umbilical cord.

And there are the stories of wandering ghosts, whose cries for help can be heard at night in haunted places that no villager dares to enter.

Among these phantoms and traumas, international relief workers have become the survivors' lifeline, delivering aid to all but the most remote parts of the delta.

More than 1,800 visas have been issued to these workers, aid officials say, though access to the hard-hit delta is slowed by an ever-more-complicated process of permissions and paperwork.

By now, most survivors have received aid, said Andrew Kirkwood, country director for the aid group Save the Children. "But very few people have received enough assistance to get them through the next three months, and almost no one has received enough assistance to enable them to rebuild their lives."

He said the reconstruction of schools, clinics and other infrastructure, which should be well underway by now, still lagged because of delays in delivering basic emergency assistance.

The xenophobic military junta that holds Burma in its grip prevented large-scale foreign aid deliveries for the first three crucial weeks after the cyclone, then loosened its controls only gradually and partially. It never did allow US and French naval vessels to bring in tons of aid and equipment.

But despite the early demands from around the world that the Burmese government permit open deliveries of aid, the United Nations says that nearly half the assistance pledged by foreign donors has yet to appear. Recently it said it had received $339 million in international donations, a shortfall of $300 million.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Appalachian poverty rate may dip slightly

from the Evening Sun

The census bureau in the US will release the new poverty figures today. So you will see quite a bit mentioned about it here today, and how it relates to certain states or areas of the US. - Kale


The number of Appalachian residents living in poverty is expected to fall slightly.

But anti-poverty experts say the slight improvement should be short-lived as wages drop, the job market weakens and household expenses rise.

The U.S. Census Bureau plans to release figures Tuesday on income, poverty and health insurance coverage from 2007.

In 2006, America's poverty rate was 12.3 percent, down from 12.6 percent the year before.

Appalachia includes all of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Poverty ruins elections - FDC's Besigye

from New Vision

During a recent election in Uganda, people were paid not to vote. A politician blames the poverty in the country for the outcome. - Kale

By Ali Mambule

THE election process has been ruined by widespread poverty, the FDC president, Kizza Besigye, said while addressing his supporters at Bwala Social Centre in Masaka town on Friday.

He said it was shocking that some people are paid sh1,000 to give up their rights during elections.

“I have realised this for a number of times. Many Ugandans are given sh1,000 to pretend to be blind during voting time such that the person who paid the money can help him or her cast the vote as he wishes,” Besigye said.

He said even people who are educated have fallen victim to this malpractice especially in rural areas where jobs are scarce.

Besigye was sensitising his supporters about the electoral process to take place soon.

He said: “Even people who are capable and sure of winning an election have succumbed to the crooks who give them as low as sh5m to stand down in their favour.”

He blamed the National Resistance Movement government, saying “It did not have the heart to serve Ugandans.”
“That is why they have insisted on using a one-sided electoral commission which helps them to play their deals as they wish,” Besigye said.

He appealed to the Government to change the commission before the next elections in 2011.

He told the crowd that the party would soon hold elections at all levels.

“FDC is not like the NRM which deceives people that an election can be held with one of the contestants holding the same post he or she is campaigning for. We shall all stand down and if some people are re-elected, they will resume their work,” he said.

He told the gathering that only party card-holders will be eligible for election.
He, however, expressed disappointment over people who sell the cards and spend the money on personal problems.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Humanitarian workers among dead in Guatemala crash

from the Tri City Herald

Utah mission workers were among those found dead in this plane crash. - Kale


SALT LAKE CITY A small plane that broke apart in Guatemala as the pilot attempted an emergency landing, killing 11 of the 14 people aboard, was carrying members of a Utah-based humanitarian group who were on their way to help build a school in a remote, impoverished area of the country.

Seven of the dead were Americans, including the wife of Chris Johnson, acting chief executive of CHOICE Humanitarian, a West Jordan, Utah-based group that arranges relief missions around the world, according to Lew Swain, a board member for the group.

The three survivors also are Americans, including a Utah businessman who was pulled from the wreckage by farmers shortly before it exploded Sunday in a field lined with palm trees.

"We only know the engine had problems and they did not make a successful landing," Swain said Monday.

The single-engine Cessna Caravan, also known as a Cargomaster, broke apart and scattered burned wreckage across a barren field where the pilot made an emergency landing about 60 miles east of Guatemala City, Guatemalan civil aviation director Jose Carlos said.

Johnson was prepared to fly to Guatemala when he got a message from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City that his wife, Liz, a leader on the expedition, had died, Swain said. Liz Johnson died at 3:15 a.m. Monday, said William Diaz, general manager of Hospital El Pilar in Guatemala City.

Johnson decided to stay in Utah, where he remained in mourning Monday.

"There's not a thing he can do at this point. We're working with the U.S. Embassy to have all of the arrangements made for the repatriation of those who are deceased, and medical flights for those living," Swain said.

The embassy did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

CHOICE Humanitarian is aimed at helping people in poverty around the world improve their own lives. CHOICE stands for the Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Inter-Cultural Exchange.

The group relies on help from volunteers who pay their own way on trips to countries including Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Nepal and Kenya. The volunteers on the flight that crashed were on their way to a Guatemalan town called Sepamac.

Among the dead were Roger Jensen and his son, Zachary, of Amery, Wis. A daughter, Sarah Jensen, 19, suffered minor cuts and bruises and survived along with her mother, April, who had burns and contusions, Sarah Jensen told the AP in a brief hospital interview.

April and Sarah Jensen were expected to return Monday to the U.S. by air ambulance, said Diaz, the hospital official.

The Guatemalans who died in crash include pilot Fernando Estrada; co-pilot Monica Bonilla; and two CHOICE Humanitarian representatives in Guatemala, Javier Rabanales and Walfred de Rabanales, according to civil aviation authorities and Swain.

Utah businessman Dan Liljenquist survived the crash with a broken right leg and broken left ankle.

"There were farmers in the field where they crashed. They pulled my husband out of the plane 30 seconds before the plane exploded," Brooke Liljenquist told the AP in a telephone interview from her home in Bountiful, Utah.

"He has constant pain he says he can deal with. He's just grateful to be alive," she said.

Dan Liljenquist is president and chief operating officer of Focus Services of Roy, Utah, which handles customer service calls for other companies. Brooke Liljenquist said the crash killed four employees of his company, two from Utah and two from another call center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The other U.S. passengers who died were Cody Odekirk; John Carter; Jeff Reppe and Lydia Silvia, according to Guatemala's civil aviation authority, which didn't list their hometowns. Swain declined to provide that information.

Roger Jensen, 48, was the maintenance manager at Smyth Companies in St. Paul, Minn., for 12 years, Chief Executive Officer John Hickey said Monday.

"He did everything. He was a carpenter. A multipurpose utility player. He was a very popular employee, forever upbeat," Hickey said. "He was very giving. I think he was in Africa last year."

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Malawi Rural Dwellers Benefit from Millennium Villages

from Voice of America

An update on the experimental Millennium villages Project. While this profiles Malawi there also such villages in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. - Kale

By Lameck Masina

In Malawi, two villages with about 40,000 people have begun reaping the fruits of the United Nations initiative known as the Millennium Villages project. The goal is to reverse the poverty, hunger and disease affecting millions of rural people in sub-Saharan Africa. Voice of America English to Africa Service's Lameck Masina in Blantyre reports that there are two Millennium Villages in Malawi – one in the southern district of Zomba, the other in the central district of Mchinji.

UN specialists have been helping the villagers improve education, health care and small businesses. For example, 30 thousand bed nets have been distributed to households to combat malaria, and nearly 40 boreholes have been drilled to provide access to clean water.

School children in the two Millennium Villages receive corn porridge in an effort that teachers say has almost doubled attendance in primary schools.

Much of the emphasis has been on improving food production. UN specialists in the villages have been emphasizing improved seeds and fertilizers in order to maximize crop production. Farmers are encouraged to create their own fertilizers from manure, because the cost of commercial fertilizers has more than doubled since last year.

Farmers are also encouraged to grow a diverse array of cash crops, including groundnuts, cabbages and tomatoes.

Vailet Mawerenga, a farmer in the Millennium Village in Zomba, says "Before I joined the project, the main problem I was facing was an acute maize shortage, but now food is not a problem, [especially] to those who are working hard."

Mawerenga says in the past she used traditional seed varieties, which produced about four 50kg bags of maize per acre. Today, new hybrid seeds have given her a 10-fold increase.
She says this year is her best yet. Her first priority, she says, is to replace the thatched roof of her house with a metal one. If crop surpluses continue, she wants to open a tailoring shop.

Farmers in Zomba say the rising cost of fuel is the main factor cutting into their profits from increased production. As a result, some farmers have to cycle 25km to sell produce at the nearest town. Others have joined forces to hire pick-up trucks to take their crops to the main market.

Phelire Nkhoma, the agriculture coordinator for both of Malawi's Millennium Villages, says "What we have discovered is that the project has really transformed the lives of these people. We have seen our farmers…with food [now] throughout the season and [with] good houses with iron-sheeted roofs. The cases of malnutrition care are no longer there."

The Millennium Villages were inspired by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. They were commissioned by the UN secretary general as a way to help achieve the organization's Millenium Development Goals, which focus largely on cutting poverty in half in Africa by 2015.

Financial support for the Malawi villages is scheduled to end in five years. But Nkhoma says the success of the villages may change that, "We are expecting that in 2010 the Millennium Villages project will [end]. However there are some rumors that probably it can extended to another five years."

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Public-private sectors to fight poverty

from the Daily News Tanzania

This article details a conference happening in Tanzania. - kale

The Chief Secretary of the Revolutionary Council of Zanzibar, Mr Ramadhan Mwinyi Muombwa, has said the public and private sectors have to join hands in fighting poverty and in addressing other economic challenges facing Tanzania.

Mr Muombwa made the appeal in Zanzibar while closing a six-day seminar on leadership attended by senior officials from the Union and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar as well as representatives from the private sector.

The seminar is the first in a two-year series of seminars to be delivered by the Enhancing Public Service Leadership in the Globalised Era (EPSL) programme targeting leaders from the government and the private sector.

"It is clear to me as it should be clear to you that it is only through increased collaboration and partnership between the private and public sectors that we are going to succeed in our Endeavour to free our people from the trap of abject poverty," the chief secretary told the participants.

Underscoring the two government's readiness to support and strengthen ties with the private sector, Mr Muombwa said Tanzania's competitiveness would not be forged by the government or the private sector in isolation but by the leaders of the two sectors working together to find "effective ways of collaborating and sharing ideas on how to lead our people."

Assuring the government of a reciprocal collaboration by the private sector, the Co-chairman of the CEO Scholarship Fund Trust, Mr Ali Mufuruki, said the private sector viewed the EPSL programme as a welcome initiative to the common goal of establishing better understanding and relations between the two sectors.

The EPSL Programme is a three-year initiative that is jointly funded by the Government of Tanzania, development partners and the CEO Roundtable - a forum consisting of 40 members, mainly chief executive officers from leading private sector companies operating in Tanzania.

The programme aims at providing an innovative training curriculum for selected members of the civil service and the private sector within Tanzania, with the goal of developing flexible leaders who are well prepared to succeed in the changing global business environment.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Inflation-hit Kenyan farmers want food where their mouths are

from the Gulf Times

This article show how high inflation has effected farmers in Kenya. - Kale

KAGIO, Kenya: Twenty years ago, Benson staked all his assets to venture into lucrative export crops and started growing the French beans so prized by European consumers.

But with rampant inflation pushing up his costs and a slumping market for French beans, the ageing Kenyan farmer decided to revert to subsistence crops and “plant for his stomach”.

“When prices were good, I was able to build a house, I got a wife and I was able to raise my family,” says Benson Murimi Munga.

“Then, the buyers started dropping prices... I was facing losses in terms of what I had invested in the farm in buying fertilizers, pesticides, seeds and labour, I could not recover.”

Now the 49-year-old has stopped growing French beans and his modest plot in Kagio, a village nestled in the heart of Kenya’s central breadbasket, is planted with rice, bananas and maize.

French beans are Kenya’s top vegetable export but are not consumed locally and a growing number of farmers are opting for crops that will at least feed the family when times get hard.

French beans, seasonal in Europe, were introduced in Kenya and championed as a miracle crop for local farmers since the richer soil and climate here allow for all-year harvests.

“In those days, French beans would give you a good pay, people were planting French beans all over,” says Peter Mwangi, a buyer in the Kagio region who remembers how the farmers’ standard of living improved at the time.

“But the prices are preventing us from farming French beans, they are getting lower and lower. Farmers are running into debt,” he explains.

“Prices were bad the whole of last year, 60% of our production was not bought and we fed the cows with it.”

Kenya’s flagship vegetable export crop has recently suffered from a campaign by European green activists critical of the carbon footprint generated by air freighting goods that are also grown locally.

Kenya’s farmers have also felt the squeeze of increasing competition from countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Senegal and suffered from the soaring cost of chemicals and fertilizers.

“It has become more and more of a challenge to address all this: the fuel prices, the cost of inputs has gone up... and at the same time there is a lot of competition from other countries,” says Shamit Shah, founder and director of Sunripe, one of Kenya’s largest French beans exporters.

Kenya was badly hit by the global food crisis and skyrocketing inflation, heightening fears of food shortages following the disruption to farming caused by the violence that swept the country after the disputed December elections.

“Kenya strayed from sustainable farming and followed the temptation of exporting, when it’s clearly preferable to produce and consume locally,” says Claude-Marie Vadrot, an ecology expert with French weekly Politis.

“With subsistence farming, there’s more or less always a market for your products, but when French or European retailers no longer want beans, then Kenya will be left with nothing,” he explains.

“Kenya can try to cash in on exports to neighbouring countries, but exports to Europe are a lost cause due to the soaring cost of transport, the issue of carbon emissions. Farmers should not waste time in shifting the focus back to indigenous crops,” he says.

But Vadrot’s view is not shared by all in Kenya.

“Encouraging subsistence farming is another way of taking Kenyan farmers out of the international market chain and confining them to poverty,” retorts Stephen Mbithi, the chief executive of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya.

“African countries will not become food secure by having enough food in their granary, but by having enough disposable income in their pockets to buy the food they need,” he argues.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Gap in Capacity Scuppers Efforts to Uplift Poor

from All Africa

This examines the use of resources to uplift the poor. the authors say that South Africa have many recources but the are under used. - Kale

Business Day (Johannesburg)

By Ted Black and Andrew Black

ON HIS 90th birthday, Nelson Mandela said: "There are many people in SA who are rich and who can share their riches with those who have not been able to conquer poverty."

We all understand why he said that, but "wealth redistribution" is the wrong focus for the nation. More than enough of it has taken place since 1994 -- legally and illegally.

Over the past 60 years, developed countries have given billions of dollars to help developing ones escape poverty, disease and provide hope. Despite an extraordinary level of financial support, relatively few countries, mainly Far Eastern, have emerged with viable economies. Many others, especially in Africa, have sunk deeper into debt with ever more of their people falling into poverty. Success stories are rare.

Various unstoppable forces contribute to the failure, not least political and economic beliefs and systems coupled to greed. However, as the late Peter Drucker pointed out many years ago, "Capitalism has been proved a false god because it leads inevitably to class war among rigidly defined classes. Socialism has been proved false because it has shown it cannot abolish these classes."

Does this mean the best wish for SA is to have an avaricious, privileged, multiracial elite perched on the lid of a simmering cauldron of unmet expectations? Rather go for a message of hope with the right goal in mind. Again, Drucker defined it clearly for us. "The task is not to make the poor wealthy, but productive," he said.

Of all the forces that work against success, one key factor is the inability to get things done. Moreover, the same assumptions that drive the "big-fix solutions" in business underpin most government social and economic programmes.

A gaggle of experts develops large-scale recommendations for change and presents them. They usually involve big projects -- change in legislation, introduction of new technology, large-scale training and the inevitable restructuring. Human and capital resources are duly committed to these activities.

AS SENSIBLE and informed as the programmes are, their success needs tremendous can-do capacity at national and local government level. This capability is rare and hardly ever developed. Human resource departments can't do it and neither can business schools -- both are like marriage counsellors. They can help, but in the end it is the task of husband and wife to make the marriage work.

It is the same with management development -- it can't be done in a classroom. It has to take place on the job.

This capacity gap -- the one between knowing and doing -- scuppers social and economic progress in developing countries as much as it hampers productivity improvement in businesses.

As Drucker dryly observed: "The wonder of modern institutions is not that they work so badly, but that anything works at all."

However, his sarcasm was deliberately provocative. It pointed to a fundamental truth. There is always a deep reservoir of potential waiting to be tapped.

In the private sector, productivity is higher because of competition but there is still massive opportunity to improve. The power of our major corporations to fix prices allows huge levels of costly incompetence to exist. As to governments worldwide, the potential to improve is boundless.

It means the answer to the poverty problem is not about redistribution of wealth. The poor do not create poverty nor does unemployment sustain it -- the system that surrounds them with its institutions and policies does.

Economists for the poor like Peru's Hernando de Soto, Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, and the late Norman Reynolds in this country, have repeatedly proved that the poor have vast amounts of unused abilities and skills.

In recent years, development professionals working with government officials at local levels in Africa have started tapping into them by using Rapid Results initiatives to building can-do abilities.

The first step is to make the ego-free admission that the way we do things now is not working. It frees you to tackle things in a new way. The projects usually last no more than 100 days but they are not quick-fixes implying rough and ready short-term solutions.

For instance, in Madagascar, more than 40 Rapid Results teams lifted the percentage of regular users of family planning services in one region from 12,5% to 17,5% of women of childbearing age within nine months.

This defied expert predictions and created a performance breakthrough in a culturally sensitive area that had resisted change for decades. Moreover, they accomplished it within budget and existing resources. Today, more than 100 family planning clinics are under way in all 22 regions of the country. A cadre of trained rapid-results coaches from the health ministry supports them.

The new confidence that the projects unleashed triggered more initiatives to tackle other priorities such as maternal risk during pregnancy and birth. Because of these successes, the president of Madagascar has introduced the approach into various parts of the public-service delivery system in the country.

IN SIERRA Leone, the Rapid Results approach proved that the newly elected local councils were ready to manage their own development agendas. To sustain peace after many tragic years of civil strife, decentralisation of responsibility and authority was critical. However, central government was reluctant to release funds to local councils -- "How can we be sure they have the capacity to manage funds in a responsible way?"

Nineteen Rapid Results initiatives silenced the critics. Each local council converted one of its campaign promises into a 100-day goal and delivered on it. Three years later, the councils, supported by trained coaches, still use the approach to organise development projects. For instance, after testing only 1000 people in two years, the National AIDs Secretariat tested 15700 Freetown residents for HIV/AIDS in voluntary counselling and testing centres in 100 days with no additional resources.

In Kenya, coaches trained as part of a World Bank capacity- building initiative are now the core team supporting the "Results for Kenya" public sector reform programme. The government recently won a UN award for it.

A separate initiative emerged after a six-year stalemate between the government and industry on the fortification of staple foods to fight malnutrition. A 100-day project to form a public/private partnership broke through the logjam to fortify 15% of the country's cooking oil with Vitamin A. By the end of the project, the rapid results team had successfully designed and implemented a certification system and placed an official government logo on the three leading cooking oil brands.

The momentum and confidence created by this initial success generated additional efforts. The partnership is moving on to fortify flour products with iron, zinc and folic acid.

IN SA a few years ago Sasol sponsored a small, pilot project in Zamdela Township in Sasolburg. Its aim was to help young people to start their own businesses and to improve the results of existing businesses.

The participants, 20 men and women, were chosen carefully. Eight started street trading and the rest pursued opportunities in the community at large. Six businesses already existed but the rest were start-ups. They included selling cellphone airtime, cabinetmaking, dressmaking, catering, sign writing and photographic and electrical services.

The usual training brief was ignored. Instead, the programme was designed for on-the-job practice and coaching, not theory. A four-day classroom session -- the only training in a nine-month programme -- ended with a 10-day breakthrough project.

Many important lessons were learned during those 10 days, including the fact that nothing drives performance better than a clear, easily-measurable task. The entry ticket was R100 in cash -- not easy for many of them to bring.

Organised into small teams, their goal was at least to double the money per person in 10 days. The winning team would have most sales-in-cash banked, with progress measured by the minute.

None failed, and many discovered elements of lean thinking.

As it was winter, one team sold woollen beanies, gloves and scarves door-to-door with five other products. Schoolchildren became the main customers.

Next, they found that inventory is waste. The stock was sourced in Johannesburg -- a costly journey. Rather than holding products in stock and offering them for sale, they took orders first, negotiated for the right stuff, bought what was needed and sold for cash on-delivery.

They also learned that you get economic results by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. After a primary school principal banned them from selling directly to pupils they changed tack and took bulk orders from the school with a volume discount. They turned their cash 20 times in 10 days.

Each team finished with more than it started. Those who made most profit but generated less cash learned about debtors and the cash-to-cash cycle. To increase sales of signboards they gave credit. Instead of having their cash in the bank, customers were still holding onto it after 10 days.

Then two 100-day projects followed. Over a nine-month period, this little group generated R5 sales for every R1 Sasol put in. Almost all of them survived and even expanded to employ more people. Sadly, the sponsoring initiative ended there.

Dr Jo Barnes, a senior lecturer in health sciences at Stellenbosch University, is an exemplar of doing what you can with what you have. An epidemiologist with a special interest in waterborne diseases, she initiated a number of small projects in rural communities to reduce water-pollution levels.

"Each of them, is an example of how small and humble ideas can bring incredible results," she said.

A team of 15 jobless matriculants was trained in trades such as plumbing, painting and woodwork. The municipality provided a year's worth of materials for maintenance and repairs. As part of its practicals, the team repaired the community hall and toilet blocks.

Another group, for only one meal a day, volunteered to patrol their community, pick up litter and clean the rivers.

"Sometimes, they scolded those who were being completely careless towards the environment," she said.

Another campaign was an educational one. Fifteen people walked door-to-door handing out pamphlets typed in Xhosa. They stuck them to the walls of every single dwelling, shebeen, toilet block, police station and spaza shop. There were four, simple instructions on them:

* Always wash hands after using the toilet;

* Accompany children whenever they go to toilet blocks, and stop them from playing nearby;

* Do not to throw rubbish around, such as plastic bags, as these block the toilets; and

* Rub newspaper as if washing it.

"Seeing as toilet paper is so expensive," she said, "most people use newspaper, but it has a layer that makes it non-absorbent. So our last instruction was to rub it to make it soft and absorbent. That way it flushes through the system."

Barnes and her team quickly figured that these four messages were the most important to spread and the results were remarkable. After repeating this process a little while later they followed up with a survey on knowledge retention. They found that 85% of the community still had the pamphlets on their walls.

And the result? Pollution levels downstream from the settlement plummeted, proving that pollution can be reduced rapidly and affordably in rural areas. However, when the team handed the projects over to the municipality, it took only two months for levels to shoot back to where they had been.

As Barnes says: "When a bit of creative thought is applied, it is simple to find a variety of ways to help. But we have to bypass the inertia. The solution is simply to start -- start with what can be done. Push the boundaries by doing what we can do well, no matter how small it may be.

"There is an urgent need to mobilise people who can help and work out simple solutions for those who need them.

"The only way to achieve this is to get real commitment from government -- a commitment that is above politics and above party lines," Barnes says.

"The most necessary message of all, and one that needs to go out to every single settlement, every municipality and every person, rich and poor, is that certain things in life are beyond politics. Environmental and health rights are common to all of humanity."

THE greatest lesson of all, as Yunus found in Bangladesh and elsewhere, is that people, however poor, can lift themselves out of the quagmire of poverty with very little. They need the ability to borrow small amounts of money and, as De Soto advocates, own their homes.

The truth is that SA, like any business, does not have to look outside for more resources. We have them. We pay for them. We don't use them.

Ted Black ( is affiliated to Robert H Schaffer & Associates, which sponsors Rapid Results - an initiative to build development capacity.

Andrew Black is head writer for ISIZA magazine, which focuses on the construction industry.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Poverty is UK's hidden child killer

from the Guardian

A new report says that British government has failed to help children with chronic illness and early deaths. - Kale

by Jamie Doward,

An 'epidemic of poverty' in Britain is having a dramatic impact on the survival rates and health chances of children from poor families, an influential coalition will warn this week in a major report that casts doubt on government efforts to close the inequality gap.

End Child Poverty, a 130-strong network of children's charities, church groups, unions and think-tanks, claims that the gap between rich and poor represents a 'huge injustice' in British society and has become one of the major factors affecting child mortality rates.

Its report, based on a wide-ranging analysis of government data, finds that children from poor families are at 10 times the risk of sudden infant death as children from better-off homes. And it reveals how babies from disadvantaged families are more likely to be born underweight - an average of 200 grams less than children from the richest families. Poorer children are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer chronic illness when toddlers and twice as likely to have cerebral palsy, according to the report, 'Health Consequences of Poverty for Children'.

'Poverty is now one of the greatest dangers faced by our children,' said Nick Spencer, one of the report's authors and professor of child health at the University of Warwick. 'If poverty were an infection, we would be in the midst of a full-scale epidemic.'

The report is likely to revive the debate on child poverty and focus attention on Labour's record when it comes to tackling social inequalities. In March 1999, the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, promised to eradicate child poverty 'within a generation'. This was later defined as a commitment to end child poverty by 2020, with a target of halving the number of children living in poverty by 2010/11.

But last week the Conservatives attacked the government on its record for narrowing the gap between rich and poor. 'Labour has failed, it has created a more unfair society and I think there is a real opportunity for the Conservative party now to lead this debate,' the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, said.

But while the current row over social inequality has tended to focus on education and benefits, the implications for health have been largely ignored. Now, however, the End Child Poverty report highlights how socio-economic factors affect the entire life of children born into poverty, from foetal development and early infancy through to teenage years and adulthood.

It found that children living in disadvantaged families are more than three times as likely to suffer from mental health disorders as those in well-off families and that infants under three years old in families with an annual income of less than £10,400 are twice as likely to suffer from asthma as those from families earning over £52,000.

The report also suggests the health consequences of being born into poverty continue well beyond infancy. For example, adults who came from deprived families were found to be 50 per cent more likely to have serious and limiting illnesses, such as type two diabetes and heart failure.

'From the day they are born, children's health and very survival are threatened by family poverty,' said Donald Hirsch, co-author of the report and policy adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

'It is one of society's greatest inequalities that poor health is so dramatically linked to poverty. Children in the poorest UK families are at least twice as likely to die unexpectedly before their first birthdays than children in slightly better-off families. This is a huge injustice for the children in one of the richest nations in the world.'

The government claims it is closing the gap between rich and poor, but accepts that more needs to be done. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said in June: 'Although we have already lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty with new tax credits, more people in work and better public services, the latest figures show we have not made enough progress.'

He added: 'We will not deny or explain away the figures. We will take them as a spur to action, a call to conscience.'

The government recently announced the introduction of 10 pilot projects to tackle ill health among people from poor backgrounds, including rewarding parents for making sure their children attend health check-ups and receive inoculations.

Link to full article. May expire in future.