Friday, September 28, 2012

Price for a contraception device to be halved for the developing world

A very big announcement was made at the United Nations Wednesday, one that could make contraceptives for women in the under-developed world a lot cheaper. Progestogen implants will now be available at half price thanks to an aggreement reached by Bayer HealthCare and a purchasing coalition.

From the Huffington Post, we read more about the announcement.
"This is a very big deal, and it will play itself out over and over again in the lives of citizens who will be safe, who will have healthier families and who will live longer lives," Clinton said at the U.N. Wednesday, flanked by the leaders of Norway and Nigeria.
Bayer HealthCare, the maker of the progestogen implants, has agreed to reduce their price by more than half in exchange for a six-year purchasing commitment from a coalition made up of the Norwegian, British, U.S. and Swedish governments, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and The Children's Investment Fund Foundation.
This announcement comes in the wake of a family planning summit in July, during which $4.6 billion was dedicated to family planning.

Growth of African cities beginning to slow

One of the common perceptions about Africa is that the cities are growing out of control. People flee the rural areas because there are more jobs in the city. But recent research is indicating that this growth is starting to slow down, because of a lack of jobs in the urban areas.

From Reuters Alert Net writer Laurie Goering attended a presentation covering the new data.
Contrary to expectations, countries like Ivory Coast, Mali, Zambia and Central African Republic have seen periods in the last 20 years when more city dwellers have moved to rural areas than vice versa, said Deborah Potts, a Kings College London demographer who looks at urbanisation trends in sub-Saharan Africa.
In many parts of the region, “you have tremendous counter-movements out of the cities back to rural areas… because people are finding it really hard to find livelihoods that will sustain them in the cities,” she said during a presentation at the Chatham House think tank in London.
This outwards migration has slowed the expected rate of population growth in some African cities such as Lagos, Potts said. That could have important implications for urban planners and for national preparations to deal with climate change.
The lack of jobs in African cities may also challenge widely held assumptions that rural families hit by increasingly extreme weather will be able to adapt by moving to cities or sending family members to work there.
Farmers affected by worsening droughts may move to towns or cities, Potts said, but “there are no livelihood activities for them and if there are no such activities, they will just be refugees. That’s a different kind of urbanisation.”
In fact, faced with food shortages and weather disasters like flooding, African city dwellers may actually move - temporarily or permanently - to rural areas to try to cope, said Deborah Sporton, an Africa expert and human geography lecturer at Britain’s University of Sheffield.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Some pledges of help from the Clinton Global Initiative

The Clinton Global Initiative is wrapping up its annual conference in New York. Both of the U.S. Presidential candidates spoke at the conference yesterday.

Former President Bill Clinton formed the Initiative because he was frustrated about going to many global summits without anything being done. So Clinton demands a pledge from every conference attendee. The pledge has to be a new program to help the poor or the environment.

From this Reuters story, writer Edith Honan tells us of some of the pledges made this year.  
Clinton spent much of Sunday's session heaping praise on companies' socially responsible practices. Walmart, which has made extensive investments in solar energy at its U.S. stores, and Procter & Gamble, which has pledged to save a child every hour by providing safe drinking water, were lauded for their efforts.

In keeping with this year's theme, "Designing for Impact," participants will discuss ways to provide safe and reliable energy, boost sustainable tourism, promote a greater role for women in society, and guarantee access to food in the face of extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change.

Since the initiative began, more than 2,000 pledges have been made, valued at more than $69 billion, and they have improved the lives of more than 400 million people in 180 countries, Clinton said.

At this year's summit, businessman and philanthropist Tom Golisano pledged $12 million to expand the Special Olympics' health-related services to people with intellectual disabilities.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Suntech Power Holdings Company Limited and the GlobalECHO Foundation have teamed up to install solar panels at the Panzi Hospital - a pioneering facility that treats victims of sexual violence.

Getting around the Taliban ban on vaccines

For a long time the Taliban have imposed a ban against vaccinations. They believed that the vaccinations would leave their young boys impotent. So for many years their children were at grave risk of diseases such as polio, measles, hepatitis and more. 

One local NGO has found a way around the ban, and it began by cooperating with the Islamists. From the Inter Press Service, writer Ashfaq Yusufzai describes the effort.
Earlier this month officials mounted an offensive against the ban. The government enlisted a local NGO, the National Research and Development Foundation, and religious scholars to hold talks with the outlawed jihadist outfit Ansar ul Islam (AI) to negotiate the terms of a vaccination programme.
The NGO began facilitating the vaccination on Sept. 4, an upbeat Dr. Aftab Akbar Durrani, social sector secretary of the FATA, told IPS.
He added that AI’s cooperation had enabled 95 percent of the children in the Tirah area to receive the vaccination.
“It is a major breakthrough, as many (previous) efforts to vaccinate children in the Taliban-controlled areas had failed,” officials told the English-language Dawn newspaper, crediting the organisation with protecting 32,641 children from polio.
Officials added that 11,626 children also received the vaccine against measles, while another 3,889 newborns and month-old infants were vaccinated against five other ailments between Sept. 4 and 6.
“Ansar ul Islam and religious leaders attached to the group understand that the poliovirus can cause lifelong disability so they are ready to support the initiative,” according to officials. Only four families refused to vaccinate their children, but efforts are currently underway to convince them otherwise.
“Ansar ul Islam played a vital role in countering community refusals,” officials told IPS

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Scavenging for food in Spain

Spain is in a simliar situation as Greece as they fight off bankruptcy with round after round of austerity measures. The government cuts employees, cuts back on services, but they also increase taxes on an already poor economy.

Over 50 percent of young people in Spain are unemployed. More and more people are taking to scavenging through garbage bins to find their next meal. The problem has become so widespread that one city has mandated locks on garbage bins.

From this New York Times story that we found at the Oregon Bulletin, writer Suzanne Daley explains the problem. 
At the huge wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of this city recently, workers bustled, loading crates onto trucks. But in virtually every bay, there were men and women furtively collecting items that had rolled into the gutter.
“It’s against the dignity of these people to have to look for food in this manner," said Eduardo Berloso, an official in Girona, the city that padlocked its supermarket trash bins.
Berloso proposed the measure last month after hearing from social workers and seeing for himself one evening “the humiliating gesture of a mother with children looking around before digging into the bins."
The Caritas report also found that 22 percent of Spanish households were living in poverty and that about 600,000 had no income whatsoever. All these numbers are expected to continue to get worse in the coming months.
About a third of those seeking help, the Caritas report said, had never used a food pantry or a soup kitchen before the economic crisis hit. For many of them, the need to ask for help is deeply embarrassing. In some cases, families go to food pantries in neighboring towns so their friends and acquaintances will not see them.
In Madrid recently, as a supermarket prepared to close for the day in the Entrevias district of Vallecas, a small crowd gathered, ready to pounce on the garbage bins that would shortly be brought out to the curb. Most reacted angrily to the presence of journalists. In the end, few managed to get anything as the trucks whisked the garbage away within minutes.
But in the morning at the bus stop in the wholesale market, men and women of all ages waited, loaded down with the morning’s collection. Some insisted that they had bought the groceries, though food is not generally for sale to individuals there.

Climate change and its growing threat to hunger

The number of floods around the world are increasing at a record pace. This further complicates the challenge of feeding the world when food crops wash away over and over again. That is why experts say that the biggest threat of climate change is to food.

From Reuters Alert Net writer Amantha Perera attended the World Conservation Congress in South Korea that touched on this issue.
Achim Steiner, executive director of  the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that shifts in weather patterns suggest that problems for people and the environment will multiply if no action is taken on climate change.
 “I think climate change has resonated at every level of discussion both here and at Rio,” Steiner told AlertNet, referring to the Rio+20 sustainable development conference in June. He warned that if action is not taken to limit harm to nature, a large part of the global population will bear the consequences.
“We are living in an age of destruction. If we believe that we can feed nine billion people with the agriculture and industrial model of the past century, we are wrong,” Steiner said.
Similar views were expressed by other experts that changing climate patterns were raising risks and pushing companies as well as governments to act.
“Climate change is worsening everything. Flood disasters increased by 230 percent and drought disasters by 38 percent in the 20 years to the early 2000s,” Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank said in her keynote address on the opening day of the congress.
Ajanta Dey, an experts on mangroves from the Indian state of Kolkata told AlertNet that climate change-linked sea level rise and changing rainfall patterns were putting many communities living along the mouth of the Ganges River at risk.
“The monsoon rainfalls have changed drastically. All of it is being blamed on changing climate patterns and I feel the world needs to open its eyes,” she told AlertNet.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Housing subsidy families happier instead of richer

Back in the 1990s the U.S. began a housing subsidy program for poor families. It gave poor families a chance to move out of slums and into nicer neighboorhoods. The hope was that the families would be given all of the economic opportunities easily found in richer areas. The theory didn't work to well, but it did impove one thing for the poor, it made them happier.

From the New York Times, writer Sabrina Tavernise looks into the surprising results of the housing subsidy program.
What researchers did find were substantial improvements in the physical and mental health of the people who moved. Researchers reported last year in The New England Journal of Medicine that the participants who moved to new neighborhoods had lower rates of obesity and diabetes than those not offered the chance to move. Beyond the increase in happiness, the new study found lower levels of depression among those who moved.
“Mental health and subjective well-being are very important,” said William Julius Wilson, a sociology professor at Harvard whose 1987 book “The Truly Disadvantaged” pioneered theory about concentrated poverty. “If you are not feeling well, it’s going to affect everything — your employment, relations with your family.”
The researchers measured quality of life using participants’ reports of their own well-being. Researchers asked: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days? Would you say you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?”
A year after they entered the program, the families who had made the move were living in neighborhoods where about a third of the residents lived in poverty. In contrast, those who were not offered the chance to move lived in neighborhoods where half of the residents lived in poverty.
Professor Wilson said it was not surprising that education levels did not change significantly because many of the children who moved remained in the same school districts. And Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard and one of the study authors, said that the preference for educated workers was so strong that changing neighborhoods did not do much to improve job options for the participants, who were mostly African-American women without college educations.

Introducing Global Citizen

Technology can do a lot to improve the fortunes of those in poverty. Technology can build awareness through blogs like our own. The hope is that the awareness can prompt many into action.

Technology applications can also improve access to the world economy to the bottom billion. Online micro-credit platforms and mobile money transfer apps give the poor more opportunity than ever before. 

Hugh Evans and Simon Moss have started a website called Global Citizen to build awareness and inspire action. The pair wrote this op-ed piece for the Huffington Post to promote their new website.
They're using technology that was pioneered in countries like the U.S. to fight poverty themselves. M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service for people without bank accounts, has more than 17 million customers across sub-Saharan Africa. has crowd-sourced more than 20,000 reports of officials who demanded bribes in India, and has now expanded to Kenya, Indonesia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
Closer to home charities, campaigners and fundraisers are using technology to create a generation of global citizens, who alongside being American, Cubs fans and New Yorkers, also see themselves as part of the wider world, and people who will stand up and use their money, their networks, and their voices to ensure that we create a world without extreme poverty.
It's in this vein that we recently launched Global Citizen, a new platform for people here in the U.S. and around the world to learn more about the progress that's being made in international development and take action to build the movement to end extreme poverty forever. Combining articles, videos and infographics about the issues with actions like signing petitions, sharing to social networks and donating, Global Citizens can earn points for taking action, and, over time, get access to rewards that recognize their contributions.
Since the launch of Global Citizen 42 days ago, it is clear that the issue of global poverty resonates with everyday Americans. More than 70,000 users have signed up to take action and earn tickets to the Global Citizen Festival on September 29. There have been more than 61,000 tweets using the hash-tag #GlobalCitizen in the past three weeks.

Second major flood in a year for northeast India

Assam, India has been hit with their second major flood in a year. Over a million people have been displaced away from the rising Brahmaputra river. Experts say that poorly managed levees are contributing to the problem.

From Reuters Alert Net, writer Biswajyoti Das tells us more about the latest humanitarian emergency.
Floods and landslides caused by relentless rain in northeast India have killed at least 33 people and displaced more than a million over the past week, officials said on Monday.
At least 21 people were killed in landslides and another eight were missing in the mountainous state of Sikkim, said state government spokesman A.S. Tobgay.
In Assam, still recovering from deadly floods that hit the tea-growing state in July, eight people were killed and 20 were missing, police said.
Floods displaced nearly one million in that state alone, and many were now sheltering in camps or beside roads, which tend to be built above the land they pass through, a senior official in Assam's disaster management authority said.

Drugs and crime in France's second largest city

Marseille is France's oldest city and it's second largest. The city is full of culture and the arts, but it also becoming well known for drugs and street gangs. The problem has gotten so bad that local politicians even called for the army to step in to take control.

From NPR, reporter Eleanor Beardsley talks to a couple of people involved in the city. 
Reporter Karim Baila spent two months in Marseille filming a documentary for French television on the city's troubles. He says he wanted to understand what was at the root of the violence stalking his native city. Since the beginning of the year, drug- and gang-related shootouts have killed 20 people, many of them cut down by automatic rifles. Marseille is also France's purse- and chain-snatching capital. Some 840 gold chains have been ripped from their wearers' necks since June.
Baila focused on the city's huge juvenile delinquency problem. He believes the problem starts in the isolated housing projects on the city's north side.
"There is poverty, discrimination and segregation where we've put people in these high-rise ghettos," Baila says. "And they are so overcome by unemployment and misery that a parallel economy has taken over. Drugs and gangs now rule, and they've become no-go zones for the police."
Drug running from one of the high-rise complexes can bring in anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 a day, Baila says. The gangs move marijuana, cocaine, heroine and ecstasy. The dealers operate with impunity; their idol is Al Pacino's character in the film Scarface. And by age 30, they're often in prison or dead.
Saida Hidri runs a support group for mothers living in the high-rises. She lives in one herself, in an apartment on the 15th floor, which she reaches via a ride on a dirty, graffiti-tagged elevator.
Hidri says unemployment in her neighborhood is nearly 50 percent.
"The kids drop out of school to work but there are no jobs. So they fall into the drug gangs where they can earn good money," she says. "But later, if they want to leave they'll be killed because they know the network. They're prisoners, and so are their families. That's why we live in fear."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Water crisis in the former oasis of Tunisia

Even after the Arab Spring stormed thru the little country of Tunisia, people there are still having trouble getting access to basic services.  This summer the people of Tunisia had to suffer thru mandated water cuts. The government says the official reason is because of short supply, but the people blame the Phosphate industry. Residents say that the industry uses most off the water, and contaminates whatever is left over. This is one of the reasons why experts say there may soon be a war caused by water scarcity in Africa.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Ihsan Bouabid looks into the water management issue.
Local people say the water issue has been an everyday reality for decades, ever since the creation of the Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) in 1897.
“Tap water is contaminated by chemicals produced by the phosphate plants,” Hayat Benrejeb, who lost her husband to lung cancer three years ago and lives in Gafsa’s old quarters, tells IPS.
Benrejeb says the problem is a “time bomb waiting to explode” because school children are suffering increasingly from asthma and pneumonia, illnesses that could only be explained by the presence of sulfuric fumes.
CPG’s mining operations are mainly based around the deposits in the Gafsa basin located in the south of the country, north of Chott el Jerid. The company produces eight million metric tons of merchant-grade phosphate annually.
This production is also vital for the domestic industry for phosphoric acid and fertiliser production through the Groupe Chimique Tunisien (GCT) headquartered in the Mediterranean port Sfax, 190 km from Gafsa city.
“Water supply and pollution issues alike have deepened over the years after high volumes of water started being pumped for the local chemical industries,” says Benrejeb. “Our region did not benefit from any profit made by these companies. We only inherited the ills left behind.”
Now, most people have to buy mineral bottled water for daily consumption, she says.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ban Ki-Moon asks for more aid dollars, again

Once again the pleading for more development assistance from rich contires is being heard, this time U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Rich nations have over and over again failed to live up to their promises of more development dollars to poor nations. The recent global recession only made matters worse, as rich nations were forced to cut back on the money they give.

At the U.N. general assembly meetings, Moon says that the aid cuts could prevent some of the Millenium Development Goals from being reached. With the target year for the goals being 2015, aid dollars need to increase by almost double to make sure they are all met in time.

From the Washington Post, we hear more about the shortfalls in aid.  
The report said official development assistance in 2011 fell to $133 billion, less than half the $300 billion needed annually to meet the goals set by world leaders in 2000.
The secretary-general urged donor nations to step up their international aid and fill the $167 billion gap.
“It is clear that we need a stronger global partnership to achieve the MDGs by the 2015 deadline,” he said. “Do not place the burden of fiscal austerity on the backs of the poor — either in your own countries or abroad.”
The report said 16 key donors reduced their aid in 2011, mainly in response to the global economic crisis. The economic downturn also led governments to adopt protectionist trade policies that hurt developing nations, the report said.
The U.N. chief said essential medicines are much too expensive and only half of public health facilities in developing countries are able to provide them. He said Internet access is also prohibitively expensive for the poor, especially in Africa.

New report finds little political will to fight child malnutrition

You will often see reports released at the same time that important international meetings take place. With the U.N. General assembly going on now in New York, we can expect to see quite a few of them in the upcoming days. The groups issuing the reports hope to sway some of the discussion at the meeting.

We often link to the reports focusing on development aid, and a very important one was released today. The charities Save the Children and World Vision have issued a report on the rates of child malnutrition across the globe.

According to the report titled "Nutrition Barometer" 36 countries contain 90 percent of the world's malnourished children. The report finds that there is often very little political or legal commitment to improving the health of children in those 36 countries.

The "Nutrition Barometer" can be downloaded from here at the Save The Children website. From Reuters Alert Net, writer Thin Lei Win gives us this summary.
India, despite experiencing strong economic growth in the past few years, shares the bottom rank – countries defined by the study as having low levels of political, legal and financial commitment and little changes to the high rates of malnutrition – with Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen.
These three countries, together with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger, Ethiopia and Madagascar, also have the worst nutrition and child survival outcomes, the report said.
While malnutrition itself may not kill children, it is the underlying cause of the deaths of 2.3 million children under five years in 2011 – more than a third of the total, the report said.
Peru, Guatemala and Malawi were applauded for topping the list, with political will and committed resources to fight child malnutrition achieving results.  
Despite the overall positive trend of child survival, including nearly halving the number of children dying before their fifth birthday between 1990 and 2011, “progress in reducing childhood under nutrition has been slow,” the report said.
“Rates of stunting are falling too slowly, and the proportion of wasted children (suffering acute weight loss) actually rose during the last decade,” it added.
“Malnutrition remains a critical problem and it’s a very complex problem,” Michel Anglade, Save the Children’s director for campaigns and advocacy in Asia, told AlertNet.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The new U.S. Census Bureau poverty and income data

Just in time for the U.S. Presidential Election, the Census Bureau has released new data on the income and poverty levels throughout the nation. CNN Money has great interactive map where you can scroll over each state to see their data.

Again this year, Mississippi is the state with the highest poverty level and lowest median income. On the bright side, the highest median income belongs to Maryland, while the lowest poverty level belongs to New Hampshire.

Ugandan children "haunted" by hunger

 A disease caused by malnutrition has parents in Uganda keeping a constant watch on their children. It is called "nodding" syndrome; a strange condition similar to epilepsy that has children going into convulsions whenever they attempt to eat food. Because of a lack of medical support, some of the parents are abandoning their children or decide that they simply "haunted"

From the Inter Press Service, writer Henry Wasswa describes the condition further. 

On a wet earth littered with fresh fruit from a large mango tree in Tumangu village in northern Uganda, Betty Olana (42) sits on a papyrus mat watching over four emaciated children infected by the mysterious nodding syndrome that leaves victims mentally challenged and nodding repeatedly when they see food or cold water.
One of them is her daughter, Joyce Laram (15), who sits with her mouth agape, and saliva running down her chin. The sick children rarely speak and even when the do, they utter unintelligible words only understood by their parents.
“It is mostly at night, when the moon is up that she gets delirious. She hardly gets sleep at night. She cries out suddenly and we have to tie her up. She is now saying: ‘I am seeing ghosts. The ghosts are there. I am seeing them with my eyes. Please protect me,’” Olana told IPS of her daughter who was completely normal until the age of 10.
Victims of the unexplained neurological condition experience numerous symptoms, including continuous nodding, mental retardation, epilepsy, rashes and trembling hands. Many of the infected also suffer from malnutrition as their seizures are triggered by food.
“At the beginning, she started nodding. She has been on medication (for epilepsy) for a long time. The medical people say it is epilepsy, but I do not think so. I think this child, like the rest in this village, is haunted by the spirits of the dead,” Olana said.
Health experts say that the disease is non-communicable. But scientists remain in the dark about the fatal disease that has no known cure, and which first appeared in Tanzania in the 1960s. The Ugandan government estimates that as of January, 200 children have died from the disease.
The children have to be watched constantly as some have fallen into fires and rivers, while wild animals have eaten others. Some parents tie their children to trees or lock them up when they go to farm or to the market. But many have been abandoned.
Now, parents and relief workers in northern Uganda, where nodding syndrome is prevalent, are angry that the government is not doing enough to combat the disease.
The region has been left devastated by the country’s war with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), headed by Joseph Kony. It was one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts, which began in 1978 and has since moved to neighbouring South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The LRA has been accused of human rights abuses, including the abduction of 20,000 children, the murder of almost 100,000 civilians, mutilation, slavery, torture and rape.

Video: a profile of U.N. Energy Director Kandeh Yumkella

From the CNN program African Voices, a profile on U.N. Energy Director Kandeh Yumkella. In this piece, Yunkella talks about his belief that the world needs an energy revolution. If those in poverty had access to energy, Yumkella believes that all of the other obstacles would begin to fall.

Rethinking Zimbabwe's ban on genetically modified food

Zimbabwe has imported food constantly over the last 15 years. Successive droughts and land seizures have contributed to the lack of food.

During this time of food shortages, the country has had a ban on growing genetically modified food. The only GMO food sold within Zimbabwe has been imported from elsewhere. Many are calling on the government to rethink this ban. Citing some of the drought resistant attributes of GMO seeds that could help Zimbabwe become food sufficient again.

From Reuters Alert net, writer Madalitso Mwando looks into the debate.

Last month, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) announced it was asking the government to allow farmers to plant GMO crops to boost agricultural production after a succession of poor harvests.
 “We will continue pushing for the embracing of GMO production, using GMO technology,” the CZI said in a statement, noting that exporting such food would be a starting point.
Zimbabwe has long opposed the production of genetically modified crops, even though imported GMO products have flooded supermarkets since the easing of stringent import regulations in 2009, when the country suspended the local currency.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made has said previously that the country will not allow farmers to produce GMOs, claiming they contain toxic substances that are harmful to consumers’ health and that they are less nutritious than organic foods.
The minister’s position has been criticised as flawed since Zimbabwean farmers use pesticides and fertiliser, so locally produced food, while non-GMO, is not necessarily organic.
However, there remain policy differences within the troubled coalition government on this issue, as with others. Science and technology minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei said last month that the government was reviewing its anti-GMO policy.
According to Dzinotywei, the safety of GMOs has been confirmed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organisation, as well as the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, a non-profit research organisation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The struggle for Canadian single parents

New census data for Canada shows that the number of single parents jumped eight percent over the last five years.  Evidence suggests that many of them live just above the poverty level for the country. Despite earning an honest wage, many single parents are finding it hard to climb the income ladder due to the increasing gap between rich and poor.

From Metro News Canada, writer Micheal Tutton meets a few of the single parents living in a homeless shelter in New Brunswick.

“It’s not about you any more,” Young said, Striker happily playing nearby. “It’s all about your child and the good decisions you have to make for them.”
First Steps, a centre for homeless, single mothers, is a safe haven, a daycare and and a provider of in-house high school education to the dozen women currently living there.
For Young, the converted convent next to a city hospital seems like “a mansion” compared to the squalor of her old neighbourhood, where many of Saint John’s lone-parent families continue to live.
“There were stabbings,” she recalled. “You would find syringes in the street, crack pipes and stuff like that.”
Lone-parent families represented 16.3 per cent of all census families in 2011, nearly twice the percentage of 1961, before the advent of 1968′s Divorce Act and a steadily growing proportion of parents who never got married in the first place.
In 1961, roughly two-thirds of lone parents were widowed, and the rest were either divorced or separated, with a small percentage never having been married. Since then, the proportions have changed dramatically: half are either divorced or separated, while the ranks of those going it alone from the outset have grown tenfold.

EU caps bio-fuel use, but is it enough?

The European Commission usage of bio-fuels has had quite a few unintended consequences. Their policy of mandating some usage of bio-fuels has increased food prices, led to more hunger and destroyed rain forests. The EU now admits to at least the last point, and is now changing policy to stop it. But some hunger advocates say it is still not enough.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Daan Bauwns has this analysis. 
According to the existing European rules at least 10 percent of the EU’s transport energy must come from renewable sources by 2020, primarily through biofuels derived from wheat, soy or rapeseed. But in an unprecedented move, EU Energy Commissioner G√ľnther Oettinger and Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard announced Monday that the European Commission (EC) is planning to limit the use of crop-based biofuel to five percent in the total share of renewables in transport fuel.
Just ahead of the meeting, international NGO Oxfam released a new report which demonstrates that Europe’s hunger for biofuels is pushing up global food prices and driving people off their land, resulting in deeper hunger and malnutrition in poor countries.
According to the NGO, despite soy and maize prices being at all-time highs in July and prices of cereals and oil remaining at peak levels in August, the Commission and most governments seemed to turn a blind eye to the devastating impacts that EU biofuels mandates have on food prices and land rights.
“I’m happy the EC is finally recognising the fact that the use of food-crops for fuel is problematic,” says Ruth Kelly, Oxfam’s economic policy advisor and writer of Oxfam’s new report, “but putting a cap of 5 percent on biofuel consumption is ridiculous. At this moment the biofuel use in the EU is only at 4.5 percent. So the new cap of 5 percent is actually an increase of what we’re using at the moment.

One in Three Hispanic Children at Risk for Hunger in the United States

Bread For The World released a new report yesterday on hunger within the Latino population of the United States. The report shows that one in three Hispanic children are at risk for hunger within our borders.

Bread for the World has made the entire report available on their website; "Hunger and Poverty in the Hispanic Community." From Bread for The World's press release we find more figures from the report.

Thirty-four percent of Latino households with children struggle to put food on the table, according to “Hunger and Poverty in the Hispanic Community,” PDF Icon compared to about 22 percent of U.S. households with children overall.  And a shocking 36 percent of all Hispanic children live in poverty, compared to 25 percent of U.S. children overall. 
These figures could be much worse if it were not for government safety net programs. Federal nutrition programs like SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), and school meal programs have helped keep more people from going hungry, despite the nation's soaring poverty and unemployment rates. Thirty-five percent of Latinos are eligible for SNAP benefits, but only 21.4 percent actually participate in the program.
“Congress has a responsibility to communities with the greatest need, and we are urging policy makers to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people,” added Moreno.

The biggest health threat from climate change? Hunger.

Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are largely unprepared for climate change. Droughts and flooding have already taken a toll on crops and experts say to expect more in the future. With climate change destroying the food, that means there could be less to feed the people in the effected areas.

From Reuters Alert Net, writer Laurie Goering attended a World Health Organization briefing on the subject.

“No one will ever die with a death certificate saying they died of climate change,” so assessing the number of climate-linked deaths will be difficult, epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts.
But malnutrition is already an underlying cause of about half of 9 million annual child deaths. And with 85 percent of the health impacts of climate change estimated to hit children, they will be “highly vulnerable”, said Ebi, a lead author of the human health section of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report.
The two areas of the world likely to suffer the greatest health risks linked with climate change are sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, IPCC studies suggest. Both are already grappling with malnutrition, in particular, and could see agriculture suffer from climate extremes, health experts say.
But governments and health services in these regions are not the only ones who need to act. “Every country is going to be affected,” Ebi said. “There is no country that is not going to see some health impacts from climate change.”

Solomon Nzioka, a doctor in the WHO’s Kenya office, cited last year’s drought in East Africa, which led to tens of thousands of deaths in southern Somalia before aid arrived, as an example of the health and malnutrition challenges ahead.
Kenya’s health service also is struggling to cope with new disease challenges, such as dengue fever, he said.
After this year’s long rains, from March to May, doctors saw a rise in what they thought were malaria cases. But the initial diagnoses proved wrong, and blood tests showed the outbreak was dengue, a surprise for health workers, Nzioka said.