Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Amnesty report calls the Niger Delta a "resource curse"

Amnesty International has released a report that talks about the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The Niger Delta is rich with oil, and only a few people get rich from the oil.

However, wastes from the oil production has caused contamination of the area's water and soil. Many in Delta region have not seen any benefits in their lives from the sale of the oil.

The poverty and resentment have spawned violent groups who sabotage the oil production, only leading to more pollution. The militia groups cause oil spills, waste dumping, and set fires to wells.

From Canada com, this AFP tells us more about the Amnesty report on Nigeria.

In a report released Tuesday, Amnesty described the situation in the Niger Delta, home to 31 million people, as a "human rights tragedy" which has fuelled anger and conflict.

"People living in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with, and wash in polluted water; they eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins -- if they are lucky enough to still be able to find fish," said the report.

Farmland in the region, one of the most important wetlands on earth, is being destroyed by oil spills.

"After oil spills the air they breathe reeks of oil, gas and other pollutants; they complain of breathing problems, skin lesions and other health problems, but their concerns are not taken seriously," the report added.

Amnesty blames both the government and multi-national oil giants for the rights abuses in the south of Africa's most populous country.

"Their poverty, and its contrast with the wealth generated by oil, has become one of the world's starkest and most disturbing examples of the resource curse," the report said.

Oxfam calls on G-8 to increase agriculture aid

The G-8 meets in Italy next week to talk about world issues. Ahead of the meeting of leaders of the eight richest nations, Oxfam asks that the countries commit to spending more money to help poor farmers.

From Reuters, reporter Lesley Wroughton summarizes the statement from Oxfam.

In a new report, Oxfam said agricultural assistance by Group of Eight donor countries had fallen sharply, to around $5 billion a year in 2007 from $20 billion in the 1980s.

"A substantial increase in long-term agriculture investments is loose change compared to ongoing investments in rich countries or the trillions of dollars spent globally this year on the financial bailout," said the report's author, Emily Alpert.

"Strengthening the agricultural sectors of developing countries is a crucial part of the long-term solution to the world's food, financial and climate crises," she added.

A devastating crisis in food prices last year, which led to increased hunger, malnutrition and the risk of social unrest in many poor countries, illustrated why investment in agriculture was necessary to boost global food supplies, Oxfam added.

Years of underinvestment have caused stagnating yields, degraded lands and a scarcity of fresh water in poor countries, it said.

Investment by donors, national governments and the private sector in poor countries should target women and help improve knowledge about environmentally-sustainable farming methods in the wake of climate changes, the report said.

In Africa, governments spend on average 4.5 percent of their budgets on agriculture, the report said.

Shifting the focus on U.S. food aid

In a speech yesterday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the U.S. will make changes in how it fights global hunger. Right now, the US spends a lot more in food aid than it does on projects that help develop the food production of the under-developed world. Valsack wants to change that, and said that they plan meet with agriculture ministers in Africa on how to best to help the continent's food security.

From this Reuters article, writer Mark Weinraub provides more background on US policy.

President Barack Obama has said his administration will ask Congress to double funding for agricultural development aid to $1 billion by 2010.

Aid groups have urged the administration and Congress to do more to address global hunger and poverty.

The United States is the world's largest donor of emergency food aid -- mainly crops grown by American farmers -- but spends 20 times as much on food aid to Africa as it spends on programs that could boost African food production, according to research by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

U.S. annual spending on African farming projects topped $400 million in the 1980s, but by 2006 had dwindled to just $60 million, the council has said.

Vilsack said the United States wants to invest in roads and other infrastructure projects in foreign countries to ensure that food is accessible to everyone who needs it.

Developing nations may also be able to produce more food for trade, helping to improve the global economy, he said.

Gaza poverty level sees dramatic increase within a year

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement about conditions in the Gaza strip yesterday. The Red Cross says that there has been a "dramatic increase in poverty" in the Gaza strip since the collapse of the Gaza economy last year. Conditions were only worsened by the Israeli offensive back in January.

The Red Cross says that 70 percent of Gaza Palestinians are in poverty, which is especially troubling because half of the population is children. The Red Cross also warns that the water and sanitation system in the area could collapse soon.

From Reuters, writer Stephanie Nebehay gives us more details.

Stringent import restrictions imposed by Israel are crippling reconstruction efforts by donors who have pledged $4.5 billion, it said. Basic medicines are in short supply and the water and sanitation system is on the brink of collapse.

The humanitarian agency called on Israeli authorities to lift the restrictions and allow spare parts, water pipes and building materials into the Hamas-ruled coastal territory devastated by the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 offensive.

"Gaza neighbourhoods particularly hard hit by the Israeli strikes will continue to look like the epicentre of a massive earthquake unless vast quantities of cement, steel and other building materials are allowed into the territory for reconstruction," the ICRC said in a report.

Israeli forces bombed and then invaded Gaza to root out militants firing rockets into southern Israel. According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 people including 926 civilians were killed, along with 10 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians.

Many Gazans are "sliding ever deeper into despair", with thousands whose homes and belongings were destroyed still lacking adequate shelter, the Geneva-based ICRC said.

Hospitals are run down, with much of their equipment unreliable and in need of repair after daily power cuts.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A follow up on what happened at the U.N. last week

All nations agreed on a document from the special session of the United Nations that concluded last week. The plan contains proposals for helping the under-developed world through the global economic recession. Critiques of the agreement range from it being too weak, to relief that all nations could agree on something.

However, controversy has stemmed from the UN summit due to proposed reform of the IMF and World Bank. The plan only says that reform needs to be done, not what should be done. Despite agreeing to the plan, the US says any reform is up to IMF and World Bank shareholders, meaning you have to go through us first.

From the IPS, reporter Thalif Deen describes the aftermath of the summit.

Perhaps one of the farthest reaching proposals was "the urgent need" for further reform of the governance of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWI) - namely the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - where rich nations exercise disproportionate power based on their shareholdings.

The outcome document calls for "a fair and equitable representation of developing countries, in order to increase the credibility and accountability of these institutions."

"However," said Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), the U.S. delegates "indicated governance structures of the BW institutions should not be influenced by the United Nations (therefore refusing democratic scrutiny) and that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should be left to do business as usual."

She said the 27-member European Union (EU) complimented the outcome document as being highly ambitious, "which is cynical indeed when most developing nations feel they have been railroaded into accepting a very weak compromise, with only an ad hoc U.N. working group to continue the work."

"Civil society is angry that no concrete bailout measures have been agreed on for the most affected: women and the socially marginalised," she added.

The document also says: "We recognise that it is imperative to undertake, as a matter of priority, a comprehensive and fast-tracked reform of the IMF."

Not so fast, says the United States.

Speaking after the adoption of the document, a U.S. delegate said the BWI had "governance structures independent of the United Nations".

"Any decisions on their reform could only be made by shareholders and their boards of governors. The United States did not interpret the language in the document as endorsing a formal United Nations role in decision affecting them," he said in a statement Friday.

Improving a drought resistant food

A research institute has developed new varieties of the pigeon pea, which could help Sub-Saharan Africa become more food secure. The pigeon pea is a high protein pea often called the "poor man's meat" and can grow well despite droughts. The Indian based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics have developed varieties of the seeds for growing in different climates and altitudes.

From the Voice of America, reporter Cathy Majtenyi describes the scientists work.

In Kenya, ICRISAT is growing more than 40 varieties of pigeon pea cross-bred to thrive in different altitudes, temperatures, rainfall, and other conditions.

They also want a breed resistant to wilt, a disease that hits pigeon pea plants especially hard.

Farmers have cultivated pigeon pea in this East African nation for centuries. But traditional varieties tend to take about 10 months to mature.

Some of the new varieties being developed and tested in Kenya mature within five months of being planted, enabling farmers to have two or more harvests a year.

And that is good news for farmers such as Bernard Nzuma, who says that his family's food security has increased because of the new varieties that he grows.

"It resists the drought so there is food security. I'm able to have income and take care of the family needs. The pigeon pea leaves are good for improving the fertility of the soil. I use the leaves to feed my animals and also as fertilizer," Nzuma said.

The Las Cruses Chiapas Connection

A New Mexico State University professor is working on a book that profiles the struggle of the poor in Mexico's southernmost state.

Professor Christine Eber travels to the Chiapas for anthropology trips, during her time there, she became friends with Flor de Margarita Pérez Pérez. Perez has been a struggling to survive through most of her life, going from one craft co-op to another to sell goods for money.

Eber has also started a charity that helps to find markets for the crafters in Perez's community, called the Las Cruses Chiapas Connection.

From the Silver City Sun News, writer Daniella De Luc interviews Eber about the book and it's subject.

"After knowing Margarita for over 20 years, I have had the opportunity to see the changes through her eyes," Eber said. "With this book, we would like to reach a broad audience and help them understand the conditions of life in Chiapas for indigenous people."

As part of these efforts, Eber recently had her first book translated into Spanish. Eber intends to make a bilingual edition of the life story called "Restless Spirits: The Journey of a Tzotzil-Maya Woman." She will submit the manuscript for publication in fall 2009.

Chiapas has a tumultuous history including long-standing inequalities in access to land and resources, disease and poverty and non-existent health and educational facilities. To combat these setbacks and to support their families, indigenous groups in Chiapas have formed cooperatives that build upon local knowledge and skills in order to market coffee, weavings or other artisan work, Eber said.

"Margarita has been involved in many cooperatives and social movements since she was a teenager. Through her life story, we would like to give a glimpse of the struggles her people go through, and how life has changed in highland Chiapas since the 1960s," Eber said.

When the armed uprising of the Zapatista movement took place in 1994, Pérez Pérez said she was unsure what it was, but thought that the Zapatistas were going to help change the way of life for the better for indigenous people in highlands Chiapas. She is still committed to the struggles of social injustices but doesn't see change happening overnight.

"Although I was very excited at first, later as they were saying, 'We're going to win, we're going to win a better life.' As the years passed, I didn't see any triumph. I began to think, 'Ah, the triumph will not come now.' All we can do is to struggle and struggle more and not give up," Pérez Pérez said.

"I could die in a week, or in a few months, so it's better that I not focus on triumph. It's better just to struggle so that something might change in the future," she said.

Women make up 70% of the poverty population

A microcredit firm called Okiocredit has completed a study that looks at the percentages of women who are in poverty from country to country. The study finds that women make up 70% of the poverty population, and it remains around that percentage regardless of nation.

Okiocredit performs loans in the countries of Bulgaria, Kenya, Peru and the Philippines. We found the story about the study in the business website, BDaily.

Dr Shobha Arole, Oikocredit board president said: “A lack of access to basic education, economic and property rights means 70% of the world’s poor are female.

“These are the groups who are marginalised, victims of violence ad vulnerable in every sense of the word.”

Oikocredit offers microfinance to families in poverty around the globe, reaching 69 different countries, with 16.8 million people assisted by the private cooperative financial institution since it was established in 1975.
One of the problems highlighted by the report is that even if microcredit is taken out in a women’s name, she will not necessarily have control over it.

The report said: “It is possible that a husband or male family members use the money, with the woman taking the microcredit simply because she is more eligible.

“Some writers state that women, instead of benefiting, actually suffer if they have access to microfinance funds. It is suggested that their husbands may see this as encouragement to decrease their contribution to the household.”

Friday, June 26, 2009

FAO: 1 billion hungry people in the world

In years past, it was natural disasters that led to increases of hungry people, but now it's mankind's doing.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization says there are now 1 billion hungry people in the world, that's more then ever before. The FAO puts the blame squarely on the global recession and rising food prices.

From this VOA story that we found at New Jersey News Room, writer Joe De Caupa recieved some quotes from FAO director Jacques Diouf.

"The number of those suffering from chronic hunger in the world has topped one billion in 2009. One billion and 20 million to be more precise," he says.

Diouf says a "dangerous mix" of the global economic slowdown and very high food prices pushed another 100 million people into the hungry category over the past year.

"Neither drought, nor floods or disastrous harvests can be held to blame this time. Worsening hunger in the last three years largely stems from economic shocks," he says.

This includes the global credit crunch, falling trade and investment flows, declining remittances and budgetary pressures on development aid.

"The financial and economic crisis is having a particularly profound impact on poor and rural households, specifically, the rural landless, the urban poor and the female-headed households," he says.

The latest figures show the number of hungry people in the Asia-Pacific region is up 10.5 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, there's an 11.8 percent increase. The Near East and North Africa are up 13.5 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean show a 12.8 percent increase. Even developed countries are not immune, showing a nearly 15 and a half percent hike in the number of hungry people.

The FAO leader says the world's food system is "fragile and vulnerable."

Even simple sewing machines can empower Tanzanian women

There is a stat cited in the following story that blows me away, I will have to look into it to see if it's correct. Is it true that AIDS orphans make up 85% of Tanzania's population?

At any rate, we found out about a great mission operated by a Wisconsin nun. Sister Stella Storch visits Tanzania and gives sewing skills and tools to the young female orphans there.

From The Fond du Lac Reporter, we read this interview with the Sister.

Sister Stella Storch, coordinator of peace, justice and ecology for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes, recently returned from Tanzania, East Africa. Each year, after this annual visit, she comes back to share the story of "Empowering Women's Future: the AIDS Orphan Sewing Project."

Storch said AIDS orphans, who live on less than $1 per person a day, make up 85 percent of the country's population

Many of the girls who come to the sewing project walk one to two hours each way, and one girl walks three hours. The girls, most of whom are 15 to 20 years old, are willing to do this for three years in order to learn the basics of sewing, and, ultimately, to become tailors, Storch said.

Upon graduation, they are given a sewing machine so they are fully independent. The first three graduates staff a store in town that sells their dresses and nightgowns. Occasionally, they receive a contract from the government to sew uniforms for children going to school.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not many showing up to the UN summit on the global recession

The United Nations is currently holding an "emergency" summit on the global economic recession. Big topics like reform of the IMF and World Bank, and stimulating the economies of the under-developed world were to be discussed. However, only 14 heads of states have shown up to the summit.

The first day featured heavy criticism of the US for not having enough regulations in place to prevent what caused the recession. From CBS News, foreign affairs reporter Pamela Falk gave this anylasis.

On the first day, the message was clear: developing countries are the victims of the financial crisis and they need money. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, "surely, if the world can mobilize more than $18 trillion to keep the financial sector afloat, it can find more than $18 billion to keep commitments in Africa."

Security ahead of the "United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development" was tight. New York City Police blocked the perimeter of the U.N., and plans were readied for the red carpet treatment of presidents arriving at the General Assembly.

The problem was, almost no one showed up. Of the 140 nations participating, only a dozen presidents and prime ministers are attending, and it was postponed from early June because the "outcome document" – a set of proposals for the reform of the world financial system – had no consensus.

The draft outcome document proposes debt relief and increased aid to poor countries, "fast-tracked" reform of the Bretton Woods institutions (in particular the IMF), and it calls for expansion of the regulation of credit rating agencies and hedge funds.

Much of the brainpower for the final document came from Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics, who headed a Commission of Experts on Financial and Monetary Reform, who warned of "another debt crisis further along" if industrialized nations do not help poor nations, but his comments were muted compared to his proposal a few months earlier, when he called for a drastic overhaul of the international financial system. (See: "U.N. Recommendation On World Economy: Replace The Dollar")

Poverty levels in Estonia hold steady

A new survey conducted by Statistics Estonia shows that 19 percent of Estonia's population lives in relative poverty. The country in Europe's Baltic region is one of the top ten poorest countries in Europe.

From Baltic business News, writer Marge Tubalkain-Trell details the survey.

In 2007, a person was considered to be at-risk-of-poverty if his/her monthly equalised disposable income was below 4,340 kroons. The at-risk-of-poverty threshold rose by 860 kroons compared to 2006. The share of persons living in relative poverty did not change significantly compared to the previous year, but the difference in income between the poorest and richest fifth of the population decreased by 0.5 percentage points. The difference in income between the poorest and richest fifth of the population was fivefold. In Europe the income distribution was more unequal than in Estonia in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, United Kingdom, Portugal and Greece. The inequality level was similar to Estonia’s in Italy, Spain and Germany.

In 2007, incomes grew for the entire population. Incomes increased most in the smallest and medium income quintiles — in the first, second and third — by about a quarter. In the fifth income quintile that comprises of richer people income increased by 13%. The distribution of income in society remained at about the same level as in previous years — there was no significant mobility between the quintiles irrespective of occupation, age and gender. The richest households in Estonia are households without children where all members are working (their at-risk-of-poverty rate is 4%) and the poorest are households with children where nobody works. In the latter the at-risk-of-poverty rate increased by three percentage points during the year and rose to 87% in 2007.

Due to the decrease in the differences of incomes, income inequality slightly lessened between Estonians and non-Estonians and the urban and rural population. Ethnic Estonian citizens’ income increased on average 17% over the year, while the income of non-Estonians with other or unspecified citizenship grew by about a fourth. Similarly, the income of the urban population grew by 17% and that of the rural population by about a fourth.

In Northern Estonia the concentration of richer people among the overall population was the highest — 55% of Northern Estonians belonged to the fourth or fifth income quintiles. In Northeastern Estonia (Ida-Viru county) most people were poor — nearly 60% of people belonged to the first or second income quintiles. Central, Western and Southern Estonians had a comparatively even income distribution. The ratio of rich and poor people tends to be more equal in the cities, in the countryside the poor are a larger majority.

Island nation of Mauritius sees it's economy wash away

The island of Mauritius once had a thriving textile industry, but during the global economic recession, orders coming into the island's textile plants had dried up. To make matters worse, the government does not have an unemployment insurance program.

The island off of the African coast in the Indian Ocean also had a thriving tourism industry, but that has also had a sharp decrease, as people from rich nations don't travel as much as they used to.

From IPS, Nasseem Ackbarally explains the problems in the nation dealing with a recession that they did not cause.

"How will I pay my mortgage loan and my utility bills? How will I send my children to school? How will I buy food?" asks Anita Goodye, a mother of three who lost her job at clothing manufacturer Shibani Knitwear in January, together with 500 other workers.

Thousands of textile and manufacturing workers on the island find themselves in a similar situation to Goodye. They struggle to make ends meet after jobs were cut and several factories closed down because of lack of orders. According to finance minister Ramakrishna Sithanen, about 5,000 jobs, or seven percent of the textile and manufacturing workforce, have been lost in the first quarter of 2009 alone.

"Mauritius is riding through a class four cyclone, and the longer its duration, the heavier will be the consequences," he declared on national television, using the cyclone as a metaphor for the turbulent financial times the island state is facing.

Far away seems the economic miracle of the 1990s that provided jobs and money to many Mauritians, allowed for the expansion of the textile, manufacturing and tourism industries and served as a model for economic success to other African governments.

"We live in uncertainty because our factories, big and small, are producing and exporting less. If the crisis persists, many more workers will lose their jobs," predicts Eric Mangar, manager of Movement for Food Security, a local NGO working against poverty and hunger.

Sacked workers, mostly women, demonstrated on the streets in March in front of Government House in Port-Louis. They demanded jobs, but, above all, their unpaid salary for the past months.

Several factories, including Shibani Knitwear, Chentex Garments have not paid their workers since November 2008, when the economic downturn started to have an impact in Mauritius. Women are most affected by the financial crisis because 60 percent of the island’s textile workers are female.

"Our factories are receiving much less orders for textiles," comments François Woo, director of the Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile, employing 5,000 people. According to the Central Statistics Office, exports declined by 10.5 percent between 2007 and 2008. He fears the financial crisis will completely destroy Mauritius’ textile industry and with it tens of thousands of jobs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It takes 90 minutes to start a conversation

It's "An Inconvenient Truth" of poverty issues. The Australian charity Global Poverty Project is producing a movie that hopes to get people talking about poverty, just as Al Gore's movie did for global warming.

From the ABC we are introduced to the Global Poverty Project and it's founder Hugh Evans.

"There are lots of people talking about extreme poverty but there isn't a coherent narrative or conversation around how we can end it within our lifetime," the humanitarian and activist told ABC News Online.

"I wanted to work with a team of experts around the world to create a groundbreaking presentation that communicates how we can actually end extreme poverty within our lifetime, in such a way that anyone can sit though this 90-minute presentation and be equally compelled and challenged, but also raise a debate."

Evans - who is also an author, co-chaired the Youth 2020 Summit and was among Who Magazine's Most Beautiful People this year - wants you to listen, for 90 minutes to be exact.

And when Evans wants you to listen, a lot of important people, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Hugh Jackman, the Queen, and those inside 10 Downing Street, do too.

As for the mission to eradicate extreme poverty in his lifetime, Evans says it just needs to start with a conversation.

"The reality is that 27,000 people continue to die every day due to causes that can be prevented ... it's the greatest challenge of our generation and surely we need to be debating in the public forum how we can end it in our lifetime.

"And that's exactly what the Global Poverty Project is trying to achieve."

Medical Journal critiques US President's AIDS-fighting program

A British Medical Journal says that the US President's AIDS-fighting program could do more to prevent transmission among drug users. The AIDS program called PEPFAR which began with our last President, George Bush, does not do needle exchanges or treatment for drug dependency.

The outgoing administration left it up to future the Obama Presidency to change PEPFAR to begin needle exchanges or drug treatment, and Obama has been on record as being in favor for it. PREFAR currently only uses education projects for drug users. The lack of these programs is further complicated by needle exchanges being illegal in some African countries.

From this IRIN article that we found at Reuters AlertNet, we see more details about PEPFAR's preferences to combat AIDS.

Researchers have estimated that 1.2 million deaths in Africa were averted between 2004 and 2007 as a direct result of interventions funded by PEPFAR.

However, HIV activists have heavily criticised its prevention track record, including stipulations that one-third of funding be spent on programmes promoting abstinence outside of marriage, and limited funds for progammes targeting high-risk populations such as sex workers and intravenous drug users.

PEPFAR was reauthorized for an additional five years in 2008, but stayed mute on the issue of needle-exchange initiatives; media reports quoted former US Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul as saying that it would be up to President Barack Obama's administration and the US Congress to decide whether to implement such programmes.

In Kenya, PEPFAR representatives were reluctant to comment on the Lancet report but said in a statement: "Our work with IDUs and non-injecting drug users is part of a balanced prevention portfolio that reflects the drivers of the epidemic in Kenya."

Although heterosexual transmission is still the main means of HIV infection, in sub-Saharan Africa there could be up to three million people who inject drugs, with more than 200,000 in Kenya and at least 250,000 in South Africa; prevalence is often higher among intravenous drug users than in the general population.

"The criminal nature of drug use in these countries means drug users are usually arrested and imprisoned, rarely ever getting treatment for their addictions," Anne Gathumbi, of the Open Society of East Africa, a think-tank based in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. "The few treatment programmes that exist are mainly detox centres with very high rates of relapse."

Trying to forge peace in Sudan

Washington is hosting leaders from Southern and Northern Sudan to try to negotiate peace in the country. Rival ethic groups have warred in bloody clashes in recent months. The attacks include destroying and stealing boats full of food aid meant for a rival tribe.

Trying to broker any kind of peace will be difficult. The conflict is complicated by accusations of some of the groups being armed by the Khartoum government. Meanwhile, some factions of the tribes have disarmed while others took the opportunity to gather more weapons, suggesting a lack of cohesive leadership.

From this IRIN article that we found at Reuters Alertnet, we find some background about the armed conflict in Sudan.

On 12 June, fighting broke out close to Nasir in Upper Nile State, Southern Sudan, when hundreds of armed Jikany Nuer men attacked a flotilla of 31 boats, including 27 carrying grain and other supplies for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), according to UN officials and eyewitnesses.

"The boats were carrying supplies to our enemy," said Jikany youth Peter Gatwech, recovering from a bullet wound to his stomach in Nasir hospital.

Dozens of people in Nasir said the attack on the boats was prompted after three other boats - thought to be carrying ammunition or arms upstream to the Lou - joined the convoy.

The attack cut supplies to the more than 19,000 displaced Lou Nuer people in the eastern town of Akobo, who had fled earlier fighting against the Murele.

The river convoy had to pass through Nasir - home of the Jikany Nuer people - and the latter want revenge for an attack by Lou gunmen on 8 May that left 71 mainly women and children dead in the village of Torkech.

"They killed so many of us," said Thiyang Gatbel, a young Jikany girl shot in the arm during the night attack, and still recovering in hospital. "We were sleeping outside under mosquito nets, and they surrounded the village."

In May, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Ashraf Qazi, warned that death rates in the south had outnumbered those in the war-torn western region of Darfur.

CPA needs bolstering

Southern Sudan and the north must bolster efforts to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to ease tensions in the south and avoid possible conflict with the north, observers have warned.

"If this agreement fails, there is a risk that all of Sudan will go to war again," said Melanie Teff of Refugees International. "Every possible step must be taken to prevent a return to the horrors of the past."

The CPA ended 22 years of conflict between north and south, and led to the establishment of a semi-autonomous administration in Southern Sudan.

"The danger of violence across Southern Sudan could intensify in the months ahead," the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a 21 June report. It warned of the "failure of the government of Southern Sudan and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to protect civilians".

The great North South Divide, or reforming the IMF and World Bank

A commentary focuses on an upcoming UN conference that will focus on the global recession. Many are calling on reform of the IMF and World Bank at this conference. Critics say that the policies of the big banks have been ineffective in helping poor nations through the global economic recession.

Next weeks conference is expected to have this debate between poor nations and rich ones, or the north vs the south. The south wants more say in how the IMF and World Bank are run, while the north says that they alone should set the policy.

In his opinion piece for Al Jazerra, Aldo Caliari from the Rethinking Brtetton Woods think tank frames the debate to come.

The continued clash between northern and southern world views about what role the UN should take to tackle the financial crisis was again writ large, as painfully slow negotiations took place earlier this year.

Developing countries say the conference should centre on the causes of the crisis and the need for reforms in the international monetary and financial architecture – namely the IMF and the World Bank.

Northern, or developed, governments demand that a UN-convened conference should stay focused on development issues and how to mitigate the impact of the downturn – i.e. more aid.

The developed nations insist that reform of the financial and monetary systems are best left to G20 leaders and the IMF and World Bank themselves.

If only that separation between reforming the IMF and the World Bank and development was so easy to make.

The reality is that it does not take long to trace the effects of the economic crisis on the developing world, or to see that poorer nations will be hit harder.

In turn, it is a fairly shared view among the main global economic institutions that failures in regulation, loose monetary policy and lax prudential supervision in the world's dominant economies were the proximate cause of the crisis.

So the assertion that "development" aspects should be addressed separately from "systemic" ones is, at best, impractical and, at worst, a simple way to dodge a broader debate on necessary reform.

Besides, allowing the World Bank and the IMF to intervene or even define their own reform would be suspect, to say the least.

Giving aid to artisans to preserve crafts of the third world

Many art forms in the under-developed world are under constant threat of vanishing due to lack of access to materials or a market to sell from. A story in The Washington Times highlights a business that helps to bring these crafts to the marketplace. Artecnica travels to the under-developed world to find artisans whose crafts are worthy of an international market.

For our snippet, Designer Tucker Robbins from Artecnica mentions a charity that they cooperate with. Reporter Kim cook tells us about Aid for Artisans.

He cites the group Aid to Artisans (ATA) as having done good work in Honduras, Guatemala and Peru. The nonprofit organization, which also has had projects in Iraq and elsewhere, tries to create economic opportunity for artisans in regions where craft traditions are at risk, often where civil strife has taken a toll, particularly on women.

Many of its products are sold online, including beautifully worked iron bowls and screens forged by artists in Haiti's ironcraft center, Croix de Bouquet. ATA has worked with them on their techniques, and helped them devise better ways to purchase raw materials and market their wares.

ATA's Colleen Pendleton says red tape can make it difficult in some places to get ATA projects off the ground, but so far no country has rebuffed them.

She points to Artecnica as one of her group's most successful partnerships: "In 2002, Artecnica founded Design With Conscience, a program that promotes self-sustaining communities of skilled artisans in underdeveloped countries. They've invited talented, internationally known designers to team with them and with artisans in need around the world."

Former Colombian journalist Marcella Echevarria has started the design firm SURevolution, which brings Indian and Latin American handcrafts such as textiles, baskets, ceramics and an array of fashion pieces to the luxury marketplace. Earthy black La Chamba pottery is made from the mica-rich clay of the Colombian hills. Velvety smooth bowls are turned out of rosewood stumps from carefully managed forests in Bolivia, by workshops whose earnings help raise their community twice above the country's poverty line.

"When you think about it, embedded in textiles, metals and ceramics you find the DNA of us as world citizens. We deserve to know about the techniques, materials and craftsmanship, because they're the carriers of our identity," Miss Echevarria says.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Houses made of cardboard

German scientists believe that they have found a way to solve Africa's housing shortage. Gerd Niemoeller has created a cardboard house. The house has been standing up to wind and rain tests, and the scientists believe they are ready to begin production.

Niemoeller's cardboard houses are intended to be sued as emergency shelters or to replace slum housing.

From Jansamachar, we learn more about the design of the houses.

The breakthrough came with Niemoeller's revolutionary method of honeycomb cardboard soaked in polymer resins. Resembling a honeycomb wafer biscuit, this structural design has been a mainstay in aircraft and yacht design for decades, but not in housing.

"Up until now honeycomb structural construction elements have been produced primarily from aluminium. But that of course entails a local industrial capacity which is costly and very energy-intensive - which is unaffordable in the Third World," says Niemoeller.

That's where his "paper house" comes in.

"People want to stay in their own countries. It's only the dire circumstances of poverty which force them to become refugees," he says. "The changing climate will only exacerbate this trend critically, unless we can come up with alternatives."

Niemoeller uses cellulose, primarily from recycled paper, which is soaked in polymer resins. The cellulose mass is subjected to extreme heat and pressure and is formed into wafer-like honeycomb structural elements.

Each honeycomb is a mini-vacuum which helps to hold the panel together and increase tensile strength.

"If you put a nail in the wall, you damage only one single honeycomb without damaging the vacuum properties of the surrounding honeycombs," says the 58-year-old engineer from Luebeck, Germany.

"A 4-centimetre-thick wall has the tensile strength of a 40-centimetre-thick conventional compressed board wall," he says.

Namibia's progress on meeting the MDG's

The government of Namibia has released a new report that tracks the countries progress on meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Despite progress in some area's maternal deaths have been increasing in the country.

From the New Era, we read more of what is included in the report.

According to the just released second MDG Report 2008, the country achieved goals of reducing the number of severely poor households, the survival rate in Grade 8, the ratio of females to men in secondary education, the literacy rate of women compared to their male counterparts, HIV/AIDS prevalence rate amongst the 15 to 19 year age group and incidences of malaria.

These targets fall under MDGs relating to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

But Prime Minister Nahas Angula said unless the country focuses on education, agriculture and health, it is unlikely to make progress in other goals as well. He singled out primary health care, under nutrition,
sanitation and maternal health as being critical issues that should be addressed by the relevant ministries.

Infant mortality deaths have dropped from 57 per 1 000 live birth in 1993 to 49 per 1 000 live births currently, but with the target put at 38 deaths per 1 000 live births by 2012, the country is unlikely to achieve the goal.

The country is also unlikely to meet the under five mortality rate target of 45 deaths per 1 000 live births. Currently 69 deaths per 1 000 live births are reported.

Infant mortality and under five mortality, which are under the reduce child mortality goal have increased because of the HIV/AIDS and under nutrition, while maternal deaths have almost doubled from 225 deaths per 100 000 live births in 1993 449 deaths per 100 000 live births to date. The target for 2012 is 337 deaths per 100 000 live births.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Leaving everything for Cambodia

A family from the Louisville, Kentucky area left all the comforts of America to work in a hospital in Cambodia. Drs. Lori and Bill Housworth and their three children left for Cambodia after a volunteer visit to the country in 2002 moved them to do more.

The family fights with mosquitoes daily, and one of the children almost got taken away by an elephant, but the family says that have received more from the Cambodian people than they have given.

From the Courier Journal, writer Laura Ungar tells us the Housworth's story.

Living and working in Cambodia, the Housworths are reminded each day of why they are there.

The terrible legacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime remains. According to Friends Without a Border, 1.5 million people were executed, starved or died as the result of forced labor at their hands in the 1970s. "The genocide left the country's infrastructure decimated and her people orphaned," the organization wrote. "Today, many Cambodians still struggle to reconstruct their lives, while battling abject poverty."

Children suffering everything from dengue fever to heart defects come to Angkor from 60-190 miles away, often coming by ox-cart and motor scooters and selling belongings or borrowing money for travel expenses.

Bill recalled a girl who fell out of a tree. As her chest filled with blood, her family traveled 60 miles down a bumpy dirt road to the hospital, where she spent a week, but survived.

Bill said the hospital sees 400 children a day, and every evening the staff must make hard decisions about who is sickest and can stay. Many families set up camp on the grounds while children are treated, cooking food rations the hospital gives them.

Bill spends about a fifth of his time doctoring and the rest teaching residents and overseeing a mostly-Cambodian staff of 240, including 30 doctors and 100 nurses. Under his leadership, the hospital recently launched a heart surgery program in which donors pay for congenital defect repairs costing about $6,000. Six surgeries have been done so far, one on a little girl named Mey who had a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of her heart.

Two Green Bay Packers visit Kenya

Two American Football players, Aaron Kampman and Donald Driver visited Kenya this summer. The mission trip to Kenya was arraigned by World Vision. The two athletes visited children and brought gifts to them.

From the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, writer Mike Vandermause talks to Donald Driver about the trip.

The 10-day excursion included two nights in a dorm-like hotel in Mutomo, Kenya, with no air conditioning or ceiling fans. At least the players were provided with mosquito nets so they could sleep.

"There's no way you would be able to sleep without mosquitoes tearing you up," said Driver. "You have bugs in your room that you've never seen in your life."

Driver spent part of his teen years in Houston living out of a U-Haul truck, but some of the conditions in Africa astounded even him.

"It touched me, because I've lived homeless before, but to that extent, no. I've never lived like that," he said. "I think that makes you appreciate the way you live. I didn't have any problems compared to what they have over there."

Why would two highly paid professional athletes, joined by their wives, spend their offseason free time walking through the slums of Nairobi, standing amid squalid conditions, witnessing the heartbreaking reality of a country stricken by hunger, an AIDS epidemic and an unsanitary water supply?

For Driver, who was reluctant when his wife, Betina, first suggested the trip, it was an eye-opening experience.

"It changes your perspective on life," he said. "It makes you appreciate what you have. You can't complain about the little things we complain about."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Be sure to enter our contest!

Don't forget to enter our contest, for a chance to win one of the t-shirts above from Moju Project, all you have to do is write a couple of sentences in the comment field.

We we're recently introduced to a charity called MojuProject. The MojuProject helps to feed orphans through the selling of T-Shirts. Each T-shirt feeds a orphan for a month. All the proceeds go to two orphanage groups called Children's Hopecrest and Feed My Starving Children.

Gerrid Smith of MojuProject has offered to us an opportunity to give away free t-shirts through our first ever comment contest. The best three comments will win one of the MojuProject T-Shirts. All you have to do is provide the best comment that answers the following question, first let me give you some background to set up the question.

In his book "Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism" Muhammad Yunus describes the concept of "social business." Following in the steps of microcredit, people create "social business" that try to lift people out of poverty, looking to maximize human benefit instead of maximizing profit. Money is given by people to start the business, but once that business begins to sell its goods or services, the business only returns that same money without interest or profit. When the business becomes self sustaining, the money gained from selling the goods and services are not put in an investor's pockets, but used to give more benefits to the poor.

Examples of a social business would be; medical services that charge the cheapest rate possible without a profit motive, or selling highly nutritious foods to people who don't have access to them without profit.

The hope is that such social businesses could become self sustaining instead of non-profits constantly asking for donations, or governments constantly asking for peoples taxes.

So, the question for our contest is... what "social business" would you propose to create? What are the greatest needs of those in poverty, and how could a business help these people?

Give us your ideas and the three best comments will win a T-Shirt! Leave your entries in the comments below, and a way to contact you in case you win!

Teens spending part of the Summer, volunteering

Teens from Wichita, Kansas learned more about the plight of the homeless in the U.S. Instead of heading to a foreign country for their missions trip this year, the teens from Andover's Hope Community Church spent a week working for the Inter-Faith Ministries homeless shelter.

From the Wichita Eagle, writer Joe Rodriguez spoke to one of the teens, Aaron Schnieder.

"They're just nice people that something bad happened to," he said.

Schneider learned the lesson as part of a mission project with more than 25 other teenagers from Andover's Hope Community Church.

They spent the week away from their homes, and away from their cell phones and other electronic devices.

They were allowed to bring only what fit into one backpack and $20 each to cover their expenses, including food.

The idea was to make the teens more aware of issues such as poverty and homelessness and provide them the opportunity to do local mission work, a project leader said.

Lacey Gould, event coordinator for the youth at Hope Community Church, said many of the teens didn't even know local people struggled with issues such as homelessness. Many teens, she said, had the perception of homeless as "scary" and "older men."

"I think they realized this week it really could be anybody," she said. "They met a lot of families with children. I think they just started to perceive it differently."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anti-Poverty march this weekend in Jackson, Mississippi

An anti-poverty march will take place in Jackson, Mississippi this weekend. The size of the march is what we are not sure on. Organizers say "busloads" yet the local police will not have extra patrols around for the march.

The organizers are the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who traces their roots to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The march will begin in the inner city and make it's way to the state capitol. Some say the numbers may be small, and that the SCLC should have done more to get the word out.

From Macon dot com, writer Shelia Byrd tells us more about the conference's roots.

The SCLC was co-founded by the King in 1957. When King was killed in 1968, he was working on a similar initiative to reduce poverty, especially in hard-hit areas of the country. Evans said efforts to help the poor on a large-scale began to wane after that.

"We just let it lay. I'm not trying to be accusatory, but we went into the 70s doing our own things and it ended last year with almost the ruin of America," Evans said.

The renewed push comes as the nation grapples with a deep recession, and Congress has steered billions in federal dollars to corporate bailouts. Clay has said the poor have been left out.

King's campaign was to culminate in a march in Washington, D.C., and Clay said initially that's where the SCLC had planned to revive the movement.

But he said God instead directed him to go to Jackson, a capital city with a population of 176,614 that is nearly 71 percent black. Twenty-three percent of the population lives under the poverty level. He said Mississippi also is home to the Delta region, considered among the poorest areas in the nation.

Some residents living in a poor area of Jackson where people are to gather Saturday said they weren't told about the march.

The young nanny's of India

Many young girls from the ages of 12 to 15 are employed as nanny's in India. Even though there is a law in India that makes this illegal, a loophole in laws makes it impossible to prosecute, for a similar law make the practice legal.

Regardless of the law loophole, its is a culturally accepted practice to have young girls employed as nanny's even though they should be enjoying their own childhood.

From Time Magazine, writer Nilanjana Bhowmick introduces us to one such nanny.

Asha's day starts at 8 a.m., when she wakes up and makes breakfast for the family she lives with as a nanny in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi. She takes the kids down to play, feeds them, bathes them and puts up with their tantrums. Asha is around 14 years old — a few years older than the children she minds. Neha, 12, works as a daily maid for a family in New Delhi. her day starts in the kitchen, where she struggles over the high sink every morning to wash the breakfast dishes. Like Asha, Neha has never been to school, and like Asha, she is one of hundreds of thousands of child laborers believed to be working as domestic helpers in homes across the nation.

Hiring young children to work as nannies and maids in India is increasingly common. It's also illegal. In 2006, India banned the employment of children below the age of 14 in homes and restaurants. And though the law has gone largely ignored by thousands of employers, it is getting more attention on national and international levels. Earlier this week, a U.S. State Department report on human trafficking indicted India for its lack of commitment to the issue, coinciding with a June 15 statement by a trial court in Delhi about the need to punish agencies that recruit children, along with child workers' family members. "We have lost our national conscience," says Shantha Sinha, chairperson for the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). "Otherwise why would educated people break the law at every moment by employing minors as domestic help and behaving like they are doing the children a favor?"

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2009, released on Tuesday, gave India a Tier 2 rating for the sixth consecutive year, citing that India has not been able to suppress human trafficking, "particularly bonded labor." According to a 2001 census, an estimated 185, 595 children are employed as domestic help and in small roadside eateries, a number that is believed to have grown today. Most child domestic workers in India are trafficked by placement agencies operating in poor states like Orissa, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The agencies pay families in advance for their children and then place them at jobs in cities, tying the child to the agency until he or she pays off the money given to his family. The June court statement issued out of Delhi was over the case of local couple who had been accused by police of hiring and ill-treating a 15-year-old girl working as their maid. The couple pleaded that they did not know the girl was a minor, and that the placement agency told them that she was over 18. The case put the spotlight back on the thousands of illegal agencies operating in the Delhi and surrounding region, and the need for a regulatory body to monitor their activities. Out of the 5000 odd placement agencies in the area, only 33 are registered.

Australia's Anglicare demands a new form of assistance

The Australian NGO Anglicare has released a new report on poverty in Australia. The report says that the global economic recession has not created a new class of poor in Australia. Anglicare is also calling on government to come up with a different model of assistance, one that treats the root causes of poverty.

From the ABC, reporter Simon Santow talks to the Anglicare CEO.

SIMON SANTOW: Single parents, people living alone, renters, people dependent on welfare and Indigenous Australians continue to be the poorest in society.

And Peter Kell rejects recent reports that there's evidence a new class of poor arising from the global financial crisis is swamping social services.

PETER KELL: The experience of our emergency relief centres would indicate that it's not a major part of the people that we are helping.

However I would put one caveat on that. This report deals with the period ending in February this year. Unemployment here is only just starting on the rise. All the economists tell us that it is going to get to 8 or 9 per cent from its current 5 point something.

So the demand for this kind of help is clearly going to go up over the next 12 to 18 months as unemployment goes up.

SIMON SANTOW: Anglicare says it has welcomed huge boosts to the amount of money provided for emergency relief for the poor but now it wants the focus to move beyond bandaids and towards tackling the underlying causes of poverty.

PETER KELL: We need to work out how we wrap around the immediate help of food vouchers, rent payments, utility payments with other case management assistance which helps people with their other needs, their needs in relation to child problems or lack of skilling, lack of education, not even knowing how to prepare a nutritious meal - all these sorts of things which we sort of take for granted in normal Australia but which go to present these people on this continuum of despair that they are on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Video: Poverty simulation for teachers in Texas

Teachers in Abilene, Texas experienced a life in being poor through some role playing. Another poverty simulation took place to help teachers gain some insight on what it's like for their students who are poor.

From this video, that we found in the Reporter News, a Curriculum Consultant Valinda Miller explains the simulation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A profile of a pregnant woman with malaria

World Vision gives us this profile of a pregnant mother struggling with malaria. The disease is preventable, yet 10,000 pregnant women die of malaria every year in sub-Saharan Africa. Insecticide treated mosquito nets can keep people safe, but it is a struggle for aid groups to distribute the nets and make sure they are being used.

From World Vision, writers Andrea Peer and Jessie Lester introduce us to Esperance.

At 18 years old, Esperance contracted malaria for the first time. “It started on Tuesday,” she explains. “I had no appetite and a terrible headache. I was also coughing and felt nauseous, like I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t eat,” she says.

Esperance grew up in the mountains of Rwanda, where temperatures were not warm enough to host the anopheles mosquito that carries the malaria parasite. When she married and moved to a warmer region, Esperance was exposed to the disease for the first time. “Near my new home there is a river and bushes. A lot of mosquitoes come and bite us. That’s why I believe I am suffering from malaria,” she says.

Four days after her fever began, Esperance slipped into a coma, and her husband of seven months carried her on foot to Rwanda’s Kigeme Hospital, one hour away.

Because she had never contracted malaria, Esperance’s body had no immunity to the disease, making her risk extremely high. And if that wasn’t frightening enough, this young woman’s bout with the illness came at the worst possible time — four months into her first pregnancy.

Hyacinth Umhoza, a nurse at Kigeme Hospital, acknowledges that the risk of malaria is much greater for women who are pregnant. “Their immune system[s] [are] weakened because they are feeding two bodies, so vitamins and minerals go to two people. Any disease can attack both of them,” she explains.

At the hospital, Esperance received three rounds of intravenous therapy, which finally brought her out of the coma. “When you get someone who is unconscious and you bring them back, it is a miracle,” says Hyacinth. “Esperance has recovered. It seems that God is behind this,” she adds.

Report claims that climate change is slowing China's poverty fighting efforts

Greenpeace and Oxfam released a new study that says that climate change is slowing China's efforts to eliminate poverty. The study focused on three counties within China and shows how weather has effected crops, or in some cases lives.

The irony is that China's investments in energy have done a lot to reduce poverty in the country. However, those same investments have increased emissions. The authors of the report urge China to now cut emissions.

From Reuters India, writer Emma Graham-Harrison was present at the reports release.

One county in southwestern Sichuan is grappling with an increase in torrential rains which have destroyed homes by undermining their foundations and damaged fields.

A second case study looks at a poor corner of southeastern Guangdong province that is troubled by a rise in droughts and flooding -- because when rain does come it is much heavier -- causing crop failure, damage to roads and other problems.

In northwestern Gansu, a third county is suffering from intensified drought that has forced some 34,000 people to leave their homes and left thousands more with limited drinking water.

"The impact of climate change on poor communities is a new phenomenon, a new challenge, in man's fight against poverty," economist Hu (Angang) said.

The impact on people in areas like these, already grappling with problems like remote location and limited resources, may make it harder for Beijing to continue lifting ordinary Chinese citizens out of poverty, the report said.

"Environmental degradation, drought and increased disaster risk and incidence mean that in the future we will have to deal with more and more people falling back into poverty," it said.

Médecins Sans Frontières vacates Bakool area of Somalia

A region of Somalia will no longer receive much needed health care from Médecins Sans Frontières. The health aid charity has decided that it is too unsafe to continue to provide services there. MSF operated the largest in-patient facility in the Bakool region of Somalia.

From the Médecins Sans Frontières website, we learn the reasons for the departure.

After nine years of providing health care for the population in Bakool region, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reached the regrettable conclusion that we do not have sufficient security to continue our work. This decision was MSF’s alone and we were not expelled by the authorities. Our medical activities elsewhere in Somalia continue.

Somalia is a very difficult place to provide humanitarian assistance as was underlined by the abduction of two MSF medical staff in Bakool in April 2009. MSF is grateful that the incident was resolved positively with the help of the community.

However, following the abduction and other serious incidents over the past year, MSF can no longer safely provide quality medical care to the people living in Bakool.

For the past months, MSF has run the project from a distance, complemented by short visits of international technical support staff. With the abduction, the possibility of even this approach has been eroded.

“Given the immense needs in Bakool and beyond we have continued to work under difficult circumstances, but unfortunately we now have to concede that the risks there have reached unacceptable levels,” said Jerome Oberreit, director of operations at MSF.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

U.S.: global recession lends to a rise in human trafficking

The U. S. State Department says that the global financial crisis has made more people vulnerable to human trafficking. More people are forced into labor or sex out of desperation.

From this Reuters story, writer Deborah Charles attended a press conference that the State Department had to reveal their report on human trafficking.

In its annual "Trafficking in Persons" report, which tracks "modern slavery" like forced labor and the sex trade, the State Department said growing poverty around the world has sparked an increase in both supply and demand for human trafficking.

"In a time of economic crisis, victims are more vulnerable, affected communities are more vulnerable," Luis de Baca said as he presented the report.

"Persons who are under economic stress are more likely to fall prey to the wiles of the traffickers who often get their victims through promises of a better life, promises of better earnings," he said.

De Baca said human trafficking can be valued at about $50 billion a year. That includes about $31 billion profit earned by the traffickers plus about $20 billion in opportunity cost from lost labor of the people who are put into bondage.

The State Department expanded a blacklist of governments it believes are not doing enough to stop human trafficking to 17, out of 175 countries it monitors in the annual report.

Chad, Malaysia, Niger, Mauritania and Zimbabwe were included among the worst offenders -- putting them at risk of losing some U.S. aid.

Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea have received the lowest ranking in each year they have been included in the report started nine years ago.

The lowest ranking means the United States could withhold aid that is not humanitarian or trade-related.

Bill Clinton becomes UN Special Envoy to Haiti

Former President Bill Clinton is now the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti. Clinton says that he wants to use the job to help to improve the lives of Haitians and to help them escape poverty.

From this Associated Press article that we found at WPBF, writer Edith Lederer attended a press conference that announced the appointment.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and was in the throes of a food crisis and political deadlock when four tropical storms battered it last fall, killing some 800 people and doing $1 billion in damage. Hunger worsened, poverty deepened and hard-won stability threatened to come apart five years after a bloody rebellion.

Clinton said he will try to do in Haiti what the U.N. attempted to do when he was the top U.N. envoy promoting recovery from the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami -- "to leave things better than they were before the natural disasters."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who appointed Clinton to the US$1-a-year post on May 19, told a news conference that "no one is better placed" than the former U.S. president to help Haiti's president and prime minister promote their new economic development program and to help ensure that governments deliver on the US$335 million they pledged in April for Haiti's recovery.

"Haiti is at a turning point," Ban said. "It has a real chance for stability and potential prosperity. ... And we wanted to send a message to the international community: Haiti needs and deserves our help."

Sitting beside the secretary-general, Clinton said that even after the devastation caused by last year's storms "I think Haiti ... has the best chance to escape the darker aspects of its history in the 35 years I have been going there."

Stores have goods again in Zimbabwe

If you have the money, there is again plenty to buy in the stores of Zimbabwe. Last year, store shelves were empty thought the country do to the hyper inflation of the Zim currency. Once Zimbabwe scrapped their local currency and lifted import restrictions people can shop again.

From South Africa's 24 News, we hear more from a Zimbabwe shopper.

"It a luxury for those who have money to buy," said Marian Chituku, a 36-year-old mother of three, holding a loaf of bread as she walked out of a supermarket in the working-class suburb of Chitungwiza, outside the capital.

"The shops are full, but to us there is no difference because we cannot afford the goods. They are as good as non-existent. We only see them on the shelves."

Chituku said her family has tea - without milk - in the late morning, skips lunch and then eat dinner as their only meal in order to stretch her income from a vegetable stall in the township.

But in Harare's leafy suburbs, supermarkets are a shopper's paradise for the select few deciding between imported haddock fillets or full-shell mussels.

"You can get everything you want here," Josephine Marucchi, a housewife from the posh suburb of Mount Pleasant, said pausing to choose from the various brands of cheese before completing the sentence: "as long as you have money.

"It's completely different from last year when people had money and the shops were empty," she added.

Monday, June 15, 2009

World Vision says thousands at risk of disease in Sri Lanka

Monsoon rains are about to come to Sri Lanka, and for those who are in displacement camps, the rains could cause diseases. World Vision is concerned about the poor sanitation at the camps that could create rivers of sewage running through the camps.

From this World Vision press release, writer Rachel Wolff receives comments from workers in the country.

“We are very worried about the outbreak of diseases,” said Suresh Bartlett, World Vision's national director in Sri Lanka. “When the rains come in two weeks or so I can’t imagine what conditions will be like due to the lack of any proper drainage and toilet system.”

The sanitation facilities in the largest camps where most of the displaced are living are woefully inadequate and at least 11,500 more latrines are needed in the camps to comply with international minimum standards. With the monsoon rains expected to arrive within the next two weeks, at least 2,500 are needed immediately to meet even the most basic needs and to prevent a potential health crisis.

Unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation facilities give rise to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera as well as malaria and dengue fever, according to World Vision health experts. Most fatalities occur in young children.

“Camps further north in Jaffna have already experienced rains and there we have seen people trying to keep their things dry in overturned buckets and hanging their babies in saris to keep them off the ground and out of flood waters, “ said Bartlett.

Food aid destroyed by tribal fighters in Sudan

A caravan of boats delivering food aid to Southern Sudan was attacked by tribal fighters. 800 tons of food has either been looted or destroyed from boats trying to give the food to the rival faction. The U.N.s World Food Programme tried to fly in some food Saturday, but it was far short of what is needed to feed to people.

From this Reuters story that we found at The New York Times, we learn more details about the attacks.

About 40 southern Sudanese soldiers and civilians were killed when tribal fighters ambushed boats carrying food aid, the latest in a string of ethnic attacks threatening a fragile peace deal, officials said Sunday.

Members of the Jikany Nuer group opened fire Friday on 27 boats loaded with emergency rations destined for an area controlled by the rival Lou Nuer tribe, the United Nations World Food Program said.

Hundreds have been killed and more than 135,000 displaced in southern Sudan this year in tribal killings. The violence is rooted in longstanding feuds over cattle, aggravated by political discontent and weapons left over from two decades of civil war.

A United Nations official said the attack on Friday was thought to be the first in which southern Sudanese soldiers had suffered significant casualties in the tribal clashes.

The minister of information for Upper Nile State, Thon Mom, said the attack killed at least 40 people, including troops from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the former rebel group based in southern Sudan. The troops were escorting the convoy south on the Sobat River to the town of Akobo.

“Women and children who were on the boats were also killed, either directly by bullets or by drowning after jumping into the river,” said Malaak Ayuen Ajok, an army spokesman.

He said the Jikany Nuer fighters had demanded to search some of the barges, south of the settlement of Nasir, suspecting they were carrying arms and ammunition to the Lou Nuer.

They searched one barge, finding only sorghum and other rations, but opened fire when the rest of the convoy continued on its journey, he added.

The officials said they were awaiting more detailed information on the attack. “It could be less than 40 killed,” Mr. Ajok said. “It could be more. We should find out later today.”

No aid allowed into Eritrea

There may be many who are starving in the nation of Eritrea, but it's hard for the international community to determine. The government of Eritrea refuses any food aid, and has poor relations with the United Nations. The country also has strict government controls over Non-Govermental Organizations, so much so, that there are now only 5 government approved NGO's.

From the IRIN, we find out more about the government policy that is questioned with the recent failed harvest.

According to a recent report by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), rates of acute malnutrition in the northern provinces of Gash Barka and Anseba were above the emergency threshold of 15 percent; by February 2009, admission rates to therapeutic feeding centres were already two to six times greater than in 2008.

UNICEF warned that higher global food prices could be affecting up to 2 million Eritreans, more than half the population of 3.6 million. UN agencies have projected that the 1.3 million people living below the poverty line would suffer most.

Heruy Asgodom, head of Eritrea's agriculture department, acknowledged: "The rains have been poor again this year," but added, "We don't need food aid - we don't believe in it."

Eritrea is difficult terrain for humanitarian agencies, a result of strained relations with the UN system, allegedly flowing from its border dispute with archrival Ethiopia.

Marcus Prior, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said the government was not issuing work permits to international humanitarian staff, and with "movement restrictions, and the curtailing of project activities by key partners, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the real needs in Eritrea at this time".

The agency is feeding 17 million people in the Horn of Africa, which is still struggling to recover from its worst humanitarian crisis since 1984. Prior said WFP was "concerned" that malnourished children and pregnant mothers in Eritrea might "need the same level of assistance that the agency is already providing in neighbouring countries".

Eritrea suspended food aid in favour of a cash-for-work policy in 2006, "integrating" 94,500 tons of donor food into its new programme. Aid workers speculate that food-for-work was funded by "redirecting" supplies "seized" from a WFP warehouse. According to the US government, "this food aid later appeared on the local market". WFP still has an office in Asmara, the capital, but currently runs no operations in the country.

The government argues it rejected general food distribution because a "few have tended to use relief assistance as a political tool, and in a manner that would ultimately perpetuate dependency rather than eliminating it". It bred "lethargy", which the more dignified food-for-work programmes avoid.

1.2 billion people in the under-developed world are illiterate

New research has found that over 1.2 billion people in the under-developed world cannot read or write their own name. The research was conducted at a Malaysian university by Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing.

From this story in the Malaysian New Straits Times, writer Adrian David attended the revealing of the research.

Lim said less than 40 per cent of school-going children in developing countries were enrolled, with 50 per cent of them dropping out after six years.

At the global level, almost one-third of those who were illiterate and three billion of those who lived in abject poverty earning less than US$1 a day, were from the Commonwealth, he said.

Lim said this meant that the Commonwealth had 330 million illiterates and one billion very poor.

Lim was speaking at the Stakeholders Forum of the 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers, themed `Making Connections and Building Partnerships: Towards and Beyond Global Education Goals and Targets’ at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Lim said of the 6.7 billion world population, only 900 million who lived in 57 countries termed as developed or industrialised, were rich.

“In contrast, five billion people live in the developing world of 120 low- and middle-income countries.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The first ever Poverty News Blog Contest!

We we're recently introduced to a charity called MojuProject. The MojuProject helps to feed orphans through the selling of T-Shirts. Each T-shirt feeds a orphan for a month. All the proceeds go to two orphanage groups called Children's Hopecrest and Feed My Starving Children.

Gerrid Smith of MojuProject has offered to us an opportunity to give away free t-shirts through our first ever comment contest. The best three comments will win one of the MojuProject T-Shirts. All you have to do is provide the best comment that answers the following question, first let me give you some background to set up the question.

In his book "Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism" Muhammad Yunus describes the concept of "social business." Following in the steps of microcredit, people create "social business" that try to lift people out of poverty, looking to maximize human benefit instead of maximizing profit. Money is given by people to start the business, but once that business begins to sell its goods or services, the business only returns that same money without interest or profit. When the business becomes self sustaining, the money gained from selling the goods and services are not put in an investor's pockets, but used to give more benefits to the poor.

Examples of a social business would be; medical services that charge the cheapest rate possible without a profit motive, or selling highly nutritious foods to people who don't have access to them without profit.

The hope is that such social businesses could become self sustaining instead of non-profits constantly asking for donations, or governments constantly asking for peoples taxes.

So, the question for our contest is... what "social business" would you propose to create? What are the greatest needs of those in poverty, and how could a business help these people?

Give us your ideas and the three best comments will win a T-Shirt! Leave your entries in the comments below, and a way to contact you in case you win!

Zimbabwean girls as young as 12 turning to prostitution for food

Save The Children says that young girls in Zimbabwe are turning to prostitution for food. The girls as young as 12 are selling their bodies for as little as a few cookies.

The charity fears that human traffickers could bring the desperate children to South Africa for next year's World Cup. The children would be used to satisfy the demands of travelers from around the globe who will come to the country for the football event.

From the BBC, reporter Mike Thomson talked to a head teacher of a school who has seen the problem firsthand.

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is thought to top 90% and many cannot afford to pay for food, medical care or school fees.

The deputy head teacher of a large school with 1,500 pupils east of Victoria Falls told the BBC that hundreds of her female students are now selling their bodies for whatever they can get.

"It could be books, it could be biscuits, chips, some even just to be given a hug."

Throughout my conversation with the deputy head, two small teenage girls in threadbare school uniforms sat watching from a brick wall by the playground. Both are orphans.

The older one, who is 14, said she knows many girls here who have become prostitutes.

"I don't want to do that but life is so difficult, so very difficult. Both my parents are dead and I rarely see my two sisters. Recently I stood by the river and I thought about throwing myself in but I didn't. I don't know why."

Analysis of the G-8 aid commitments to Africa

The big story yesterday was the new report from the ONE Campaign on the G-8 fulfillment of aid promises. ONE had really attacked Italy and France for dragging the whole G-8 aid average down. ONE says that the two countries had fallen way short of it's promises to double aid to the African continent.

Despite the broken promises, China gives more aid for African infrastructure than the whole G-8 combined. This is one of the reasons that Sir Bob Geldof wants more international voices to contribute to solve the problems of poverty, instead of just eight nations.

We found a great analysis of all this in TIME Magazine, writer Vivienne Walt analyzes the difficulty that rich nations have in keeping commitments while trying to prevent collapses at home due to the global recession.

It may be no surprise, in light of the global economic recession, that the world's richest nations have failed to deliver much of the aid they promised Africa four years ago. But campaigners are not letting the Group of 8 (G-8) industrialized countries off the hook. According to ONE, an advocacy group founded by U2 singer Bono, most of the blame for the shortfall in pledges made at the high-profile Gleneagles summit in 2005 rests on just two countries — Italy and France. Italy, which next month hosts a summit of G-8 leaders, has delivered a miniscule 3% of the amount it pledged at Gleneagles, according to ONE's annual DATA report tracking aid delivery. France has given just 7% of its pledged amount.

At Gleneagles, the leaders of the U.S., Japan and the wealthiest European countries vowed to supply $21.5 billion in aid to Africa by 2010, to help the continent work its way out of poverty by tackling dire problems in health and education. But with just a year to go to 2010, only $7 billion of the additional $21.5 billion has come through — with France and Italy accounting for the bulk of the shortfall, although that could rise to about $11 billion by the end of this year. The star of the donors is Britain, which is on track to become the first G-8 country to meet the target of spending 0.7% of its national income on aid. Still, the G-8 as a whole looks unlikely to achieve its targets. (See pictures of the global financial crisis.)

The leaders who pledged the $21.5 billion in 2005 obviously hadn't anticipated the global downturn that would force them to spend hundreds of billions on bailing out their own floundering economies. And the squeeze on the finances of G-8 countries is likely to worsen, next year, as governments scramble to lower their deficits, rather than risk inflation in the midst of rising unemployment. Overseas aid could then suffer even further cuts. "As governments look to cut deficits, they will look to cut all parts of their budgets and these parts that are to help the poorest may or may not be cut as part of that process," Bill Gates told reporters in London on Thursday at the launch of the DATA report. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation operates in numerous African countries, and its $27.5 billion endowment makes it a far more significant donor than foreign governments are in some countries.

Cuts in aid budgets by the industrialized nations could prove disastrous for some African countries, according to the Africa Progress Panel, a group led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. "The financial meltdown that evolved into an economic recession has now become a development crisis," warns the Panel's report released on Wednesday. "Combined with the food crisis, the volatility in fuel costs and climate change, it threatens to reverse Africa's recent progress."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Corruption within aid groups

A recent scandal where food aid was stolen from World Vision has brought more attention to corruption within aid groups. Two World Vision workers in Liberia robbed World Vision of food and construction supplies then sold them for a profit. Since finding out about the theft, World Vision has installed more double checks to ensure the aid gets to the people.

Still the question remains why there is so much graft with aid agency's, and why it's so hard to catch. In his article for Reuters Alert Net, writer George Fominyen looks into why aid seems to fall into corrupt hands.

Dishonest staff are not the only problem. Some anti-graft watchers also blame corruption on a lack or resources for external monitoring.

"Often, in an effort to cut overhead costs, on-site external monitoring is de-prioritised. Regular audits only pick up areas where procedures have not been followed, not where procedures have been manipulated to cover up fraud," says Jessica Shultz, programme coordinator at the Norway-based U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre.

In addition, there is a sense of complacency towards corruption.

"Paying bribes to get goods past a road block, for example, may seem acceptable at the height of an emergency when lives may really be at stake. However, that thinking is being challenged now even in emergency situations," Shultz said.

A notorious corruption case surfaced in 2002 when a study brought to light allegations of widespread sexual exploitation of refugee children in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone by aid workers and peacekeepers from 40 agencies in exchange for relief supplies.

Food distribution, a cornerstone of humanitarian assistance, is particularly vulnerable because the complex logistics of aid delivery make corruption hard to detect.

Moreover, food is a valuable commodity and there are many opportunities for corruption in the process of shipping, storing and distributing food aid.