Category: Global


Displacement Of Religious Communities Reaches All-Time High

In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in the world. Millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are being emptied of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm.


City Population To Reach 6.4b By 2050

Global urban population is expected to increase by another 2.5 billion people by 2050 from current levels of 3.9 billion or 54% of population, with the greatest growth expected in India, China and Nigeria, according to the 2014 revision of the World Urbanization Prospect.


Time To Reassess The Goals Of Humanitarian Aid

For the first time, the U.N. has declared three simultaneous crises – in South Sudan, Syria and the Philippines – as level 3, the highest band of emergency. So this is a period of intense activity for NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee. But it is also a good time to reflect on the goals and working methods of the humanitarian system.

Rethinking Urban Poverty

One of every seven people on earth lives in urban poverty; many of them reside in overcrowded informal settlements with inadequate water, sanitation, health care and social amenities. But simplistic income–based and nutrition–based poverty lines – including the widely used US$1 per day poverty line – yield a poor understanding of this issue, according to authors Diana Mitlin and David Satterthwaite. “If we are to use a monetary measure for defining and measuring whose income or consumption is insufficient… this measure has to reflect the cost of food and of non–food needs,” Mitlin affirmed.  The authors also criticize the emphasis on ‘income poverty.’ “Focusing only on income poverty can mean that a low–income household  – with a secure home with good quality provision for water, sanitation and drainage, access to health care and with their children at school – is considered just as poor as a low–income household with none of these,” they write in a book summary. “Almost all official measurements of urban poverty are also made with no dialogue with those who live in poverty and who struggle to live with inadequate incomes,” the summary states. “It is always the experts’ judgment that identifies those who are ‘poor’ who may then ‘targeted’ by some programs; at best, they become ‘objects’ of government policy, which may bring some improvement in conditions, but they are rarely seen as citizens with rights and legitimate demands who also have resources and capabilities that can contribute much to more effective poverty reduction programs.”  

Unemployment Triggers Social Unrest

The ILO fears global employment will not recover until 2015. This is two years later than its earlier estimate that the labor market would rebound to pre-crisis levels by 2013. About 22 million new jobs are needed – 14 million in rich countries and 8 million in developing nations. “Fairness must be the compass guiding us out of the crisis,” said the ILO Director-General. Quoted by The Guardian, Juan Somavia added: “People can understand and accept difficult choices if they perceive that all share in the burden of pain. Governments should not have to choose between the demands of financial markets and the needs of their citizens. Financial and social stability must come together. Otherwise, not only the global economy but also social cohesion will be at risk.” Also quoted by the British newspaper, Raymond Torres, lead author of the ILO’s annual World of Work report, said there were two main reasons for the bleaker outlook facing many countries: “The first is that fiscal stimulus measures that were critical in averting a deeper crisis and helped jump-start the economy are now being withdrawn in countries where recovery, if any, is still too weak. The second, and more fundamental factor is that the root causes of the crisis have not been properly tackled.” The ILO said the global economy had started growing again, with encouraging signs of employment recovery, especially in some emerging economies in Asia and Latin America. But it added: “Despite these significant gains … new clouds have emerged on the employment horizon and the prospects have worsened significantly in many countries.” Since the crisis started in 2007, some 30-35 million jobs have been lost worldwide. The ILO forecasts that global unemployment will hit 213 million this year, a rate of 6.5%. For the United States, the number of jobs still needed to regain pre-crisis levels is 6.9 million. Many countries that experienced employment growth at the end of 2009 are now seeing the jobs recovery weaken. Even among people with jobs, satisfaction at work has deteriorated significantly. “The longer the labor market recession, the greater the difficulties for jobseekers to obtain new employment,” the ILO report said. “In the 35 countries for which data exists, nearly 40% of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year and, therefore, run significant risks of demoralization, loss of self-esteem and mental health problems. Importantly, young people are disproportionately hit by unemployment.”  

Numbers Of Unsafe Water Crisis

− Around 90% of diarrhea cases, which kill some 2.2 million people every year, are caused by unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene.  − Over 50% of malnutrition cases globally are associated with diarrhea or intestinal worm infections.  − Over half the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from illnesses linked to contaminated water.  − Almost 900 million people lack access to safe drinking water, and an estimated 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. South Asia (around 221 million) and sub-Saharan Africa (330 million) have the highest proportion of people living without basic sanitation.  − Ninety percent of wastewater discharged daily in developing countries is untreated. Eighty percent of all marine pollution originates on land – most of it wastewater – damaging coral reefs and fishing grounds.  − People in developed countries generate five times more wastewater per person than those in developing countries, but treat over 90% of their wastewater, compared to only a few percent in developing countries.  − Agriculture accounts for 70 to 90% of all water consumed, mainly for irrigation, but large amounts return to rivers as run-off; nearly half of all organic matter in wastewater comes from agriculture.  − Industrial wastes, pesticides from agriculture, and tailings from mining also create serious health risks and threats to water resources, costing billions of dollars to monitor, much more to clean.  − Use of bottled water is increasing, but it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. In the USA alone, an additional 17 million barrels of oil per year are used to make plastic containers. Worldwide, 200 billion liters of bottled water are produced every year, creating an enormous problem of how used plastic bottles could be disposed of.  − Wastewater generates methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2). It also generates nitrous oxide, which is 310 times more powerful than CO2.  − It is estimated that, in just a decade, wastewater-linked emissions of methane will rise by 25% and that of nitrous oxide, by 50%.  − Increased flooding, as a result of climate change, can overwhelm ageing sewage infrastructure in cities and towns.   

Poverty Reduction Is An Urgent Priority

“What is also very alarming is the amount of phosphate and nitrogen that is lost as agricultural refuse; projections show that we can run out of phosphate very soon,” he warned. Nearly half the agricultural phosphate applied each season is washed away and ends up in rivers and oceans, where it contributes to triggering algae blooms that could damage ecosystems and fish stocks, Nelleman said. Wastewater treatment plants should be sophisticated enough to harvest the phosphates.  The report urged countries to draw up national and local strategies to cope with the wastewater production and invest in infrastructure to manage it. 

Asia Most At Risk From Natural Disasters

African countries at extreme risk are Ethiopia, Sudan and Mozambique, with 95% of casualties due to drought. Since 1980, drought has caused 9,800 deaths in Ethiopia, 5,300 in Sudan (ranked fifth) and over 3,400 in Mozambique (ninth). According to experts, unlike earthquakes and storms, drought damage is more difficult to detect, both in terms of human lives and economic loss because it is a slow onset disaster. Whereas France and Italy, ranked 17 and 18, respectively, are the most vulnerable countries in Europe because of the 40,000 people who died in heat waves in 2003 and 2006, the US, with more than 8,000 lives lost over 30 years, is highly susceptible to hurricanes and storms and ranked 37th.  Haiti and China are, respectively, at numbers 8 and 12 among the countries at highest risk. The earthquake in Qinghai Province on April 13, 2010, of almost the same magnitude of that that hit Haiti on January 12, cost the lives of 2,187 people – against 230,000 who died in Haiti. The countries least at risk are Andorra, Bahrain, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Qatar, San Marino and the United Arab Emirates.  In line with the data produced by Maplecroft, a study by the UN Development Program says that 85% of the people exposed to earthquakes, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts in the past 10 years live in countries having either medium or low human development. Pedro Dabase, head of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR) Regional Office for Africa, underlined: “In these types of rankings, the variables to look at are the time period of analyzed data, types of hazards and vulnerabilities to natural disasters. This is because countries that face similar patterns of natural hazards often experience widely differing impacts when disasters occur, depending, in large part, on the kind of development choices they have made.”  The expert added: “If one looks at the frequency of earthquakes and cyclones in Haiti in the past 100 years, the situation of the country would not be considered as worrisome, unlike the past 10 years, with great human losses caused by flooding almost every year and hurricanes in 2004, 2005 and 2008. In terms of impacts for example, the recent earthquake in Chile, of the same magnitude of that in Haiti, recorded about 100,000 deaths but, in terms of economic losses, it registered US$22 billion, versus the $8 billion estimated for Haiti. Therefore, the vulnerability of Chile in terms of economic loss is higher than Haiti which, instead, caused more losses in terms of human lives.”  Figures produced by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the beginning of 2010 highlighted that, in the past 10 years, 3,852 disasters killed more than 780,000 people, affecting more than two billion and causing an economic loss of $960 billion. According to ISDR, earthquakes, followed by storms (22%) and extreme temperatures (11%) are the deadliest natural hazards of the past 10 years and remain a serious threat to millions of

200 Million Children In Danger Of Death

The general picture shows a dramatic situation: in developing countries, one in four children are malnourished; more than 72 million do not attend school; and each year, worldwide, 9 million children under 5 years of age die from preventable or curable causes, almost 2 million of them on the day of their birth, while everyday over 4 thousand children under 5 die from lack of drinking water. Worldwide, there are more than 15 million orphaned by AIDS. The majority of malaria deaths are in sub-Saharan children under 5 years of age. Two million children are involved in child prostitution rings and over 215 million spend their childhood working. 

Climate Change Costs A Lot

Sönke Kreft, climate policy advisor at Germanwatch, said: “Developing countries top the list of 10 countries identified as the most vulnerable to climate risks – the findings underline the need to provide funds for near-term finance in the next three years – 2010 to 2012 – [when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires].”  Small, medium-sized and large climate events causing damage, injury or loss of life have all been occurring more frequently, but Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam are among the nations most vulnerable to extreme climate events, costing them millions of dollars every year, according to the index.  The 10 countries most affected by extreme climate events fall into two groups: those that rank high because of exceptional catastrophes, such as Myanmar; and countries continuously hit by extreme events, such as Bangladesh and the Philippines. The losses resulting from climate events could be much higher. The study did not factor the “affected people,” because the impact of slow-onset disasters, such as droughts which affected predominantly African countries, could not be verified. “That is the weakness in our study,” Kreft commented.    

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