Promoting STEM amongst young women in Lebanon

‘Girls Got IT’ is a joint Initiative between five Lebanese NGOs, led by Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, in partnership with UNICEF and funded by the Kingdom of Netherlands.

Female students participate in hands-on activities and to learn more about the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with influential speakers inspiring the girls and sharing their knowledge on the topics.

“The main goal of ‘Girls Got IT’, one of the initiatives UNICEF supports through its Youth Innovation Labs programme, is to promote digital literacy amongst young girls by introducing them to various careers and enriching their knowledge and developing their skills in digital and STEM fields, thus bridging the gender gap,” said UNICEF Representative Tanya Chapuisat.

The skills being taught and developed through the ‘Girls Got IT’ program aim to make young females better qualified for job positions and increase their experience in the STEM fields.

[UNICEF Lebanon]

New Orleans looks to Amsterdam for a new flood plan

Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina became the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, New Orleans is still struggling with infrastructure issues that make it difficult to stave off floods. As the city scrambles to fix its broken water pumps for the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, engineers are working with the Dutch government on a longer-term, environmentally friendly plan to let the water in and make New Orleans look more like Amsterdam.

“We can’t simply address the hard infrastructure issues,” like drain pumps and levees, said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and chief executive of The Water Institute of the Gulf, an independent research group. “We have to look at green infrastructure and develop better practices of living with water.”

Last month, The Water Institute joined forces with a Dutch research company, Deltares of the Netherlands, to develop nature-based solutions to New Orleans’ water problems. Dutch designers have been collaborating with New Orleans engineers and architects since 2006, but the work grows more urgent each year as climate change exacerbates the storms and coastal erosion that threaten to sink New Orleans. If the city can learn to embrace and store the water in productive ways, as Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam have done with their canal systems, flooding will cease to be as much of a threat.

[Huffington Post]

Ensuring women’s access to technology

Small scale irrigation technologies and practices at the household level is growing rapidly in Africa and Asia. Such small scale irrigation—like the use of small pumps—can increase incomes, improve livelihoods and strengthen resilience.

After a technology gets to a household however, men often become its de facto “owners”, even if the pump was awarded to the woman for example. Moreover, women often miss out on the benefits, as they are generally unable to control produce sales and the use of that income, except under limited conditions.

So how can we increase women’s participation and empowerment in small scale irrigation where there are no common water governance bodies, and no place for quotas, since the technologies do not fall under public schemes or irrigation projects of management institutions?

Projects that promote irrigation for women should first of all be aware that targeting women with irrigation technology alone is unlikely to give them full rights over the technology, since the rules of the household often override any project-level rules and expectations. Likewise, projects should be aware that attempts to empower women may fail if they do not also secure support from the men within households.

[International Food Policy Research Institute]

Muslims have assimilated well in Germany

Muslim immigrants in Germany have an easier time finding a job and building a community than those in Switzerland, Austria, France and Britain.

That’s according to a new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation. The researchers spoke to more than 10,000 Muslims who were either born in Europe or arrived before 2010, which means they did not interview the millions who traveled to Europe from Syria and the Middle East during the recent refugee crisis.

There are presently 4.7 million Muslims in Germany. According to researchers, 96 percent said they felt connected to the country.

About 60 percent now hold a full-time job, and an additional 20 percent are employed part time. These rates are similar to those for ethnic Germans, and higher than Muslim employment rates in the other western European countries studied. It’s probably thanks to Germany’s booming economy.

Muslim migrants do lag, however, when it comes to finding good jobs–they make less money than their German peers. And the most religious Muslims, who often dress differently and require time to worship during work hours, struggle to find employment in Germany. Devout Muslims had an easier time finding employment in the United Kingdom.

“When it comes to participation of Muslims in society, [it] isn’t as bleak as it is often presented in the media,” says Ayse Demir, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Turkish community organization TBB. “It shows that a lot of Muslims feel integrated, but there is a lack of acceptance–and that’s also our perception. Participation isn’t a one-way street: It needs to come from both sides.”

[Washington Post]

The four famines in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen

The so-called “four famines” currently afflict South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

The numbers are staggering. Some 20 million people are at risk of starvation. UNICEF estimates that nearly 1.4 million children face an imminent risk of death.

The US ambassador to the UN has called the famines “the largest food security emergency since World War II.” The UN seeks nearly $5 billion to help halt the four famines; only half of the necessary funds have come in. At least $2.2 billion more is needed this year to stave off the worst.

Despite the Trump administration’s general skepticism of foreign aid, the United States has largely answered the call. Washington has pledged nearly $1.2 billion for famine relief since November.

Germany, Britain and Sweden have given generously and disproportionately, while others, like Saudi Arabia, have failed to meet their pledges. Still other countries, like Russia, have yet to meaningfully get in the game.

It’s here that President Trump could rack up a win for his administration and for humanity. When a president conveys the gravity of an impending catastrophe to the American people and explains the country’s role in averting it, they tend to support it.

The administration should challenge other wealthy countries to follow our lead, and publicly recognize those who do. In a divided country and jumbled world, foreign policy successes are difficult to come by. A victory against famine would not make a bad first year accomplishment.

[CNN]

Climate migrants might reach up to one billion by 2050

Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.

Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, this could be the scenario by 2050. If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.

For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification alone. Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.

[All Africa]

The latest on refugee traffic to Europe

During the first seven month of 2017, 119,300 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea and land to Europe, mainly through Greece, Italy, and Spain.

There is now a decrease in the number of refugees and migrants entering Europe via Italy (by 43%) compared to the same month last year, coupled with an increase through the Western Mediterranean route to Spain by more than triple. Arrivals to Spain however remain much smaller than those arriving via the Central Mediterranean route.

Meanwhile arrivals through the Eastern Mediterranean route to Greece increased during July 2017 in comparison to last year. Refugees mainly originate from Syria (37%) and Iraq (13%). While the number of sea crossings between January and April this year was vastly lower (97%) than during the same period in 2016, the number of arrivals between May and July this year was 37% higher than in the same three-month period last year.

[UN High Commission for Refugees]

The coming confrontation between Assad and jihadists in Syria

Once famous for its olive groves and archaeological ruins, Idlib is now the last redoubt of Islamist opposition to Assad. The capital, Idlib City, has been under Islamist control since 2015, and today the two million people living in the province — many of them refugees from other parts of the country – could be caught up in a disastrous final confrontation between jihadists and the Assad regime.

The prospects offered by life in Idlib remain dire, with unemployment, petty crime, and psychological trauma prevalent among the population.  Ahmad Awad, a civil society activist, laments “There is no real government here at all. All that people are thinking about is trying to make a living and their fears about what may come in the future.”

The main group currently in control of Idlib is the Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly the Nusra Front. Under HTS, Idlib has also become a haven for international jihadists who have migrated to Syria, transforming parts of the provincial territory into a strangely multicultural world of Uzbeks, Chechens, Europeans, and others.

A negotiated “deescalation” with the Syrian government and its allies has prevented a major external assault on the province, but this cold peace is unlikely to last forever. Eventually, Idlib will likely face a full-blown military attack by the Assad government and its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies. In a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. last month, the U.S. special envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State described  Idlib as “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” signaling that the international community is also unlikely to tolerate a province under HTS’s control.

When the battle for Idlib does come, it may be the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in a civil war that has already claimed over 400,000 lives.

[The Intercept]

Saudi coalition to blame for half of Yemen child casualties

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition was responsible for an “unacceptably high” 51 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year, according to a draft United Nations report seen by Reuters.

The draft report on children and armed conflict, which still has to be approved by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and is subject to change, blamed the Saudi-led coalition for more than 680 child casualties and three-quarters of the attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen.

It will be up to Guterres to decide whether to return the Saudi-led coalition to a child rights blacklist annexed to the report. The coalition was briefly added last year and then removed by then-U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. At the time, the Saudi-led coalition had been named on the blacklist after the U.N. report blamed it for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015, plus half the attacks on schools and hospital.

The Saudi-led coalition began an air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

[Reuters]

A future outside the camp

Soe Meh is 21 years old. She was born in Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp in Thailand, where her parents fled to more than 20 years ago, running away from the violence that was blighting their village in Myanmar.

Soe Meh doesn’t know how life is outside a camp: she grew up, studied, made friends, fell in love, had a daughter… all within the camp where she was born. However, since 2015 she has been working with ACTED to help the members of her community to be prepared for a life away from the camp.

ACTED has been providing vocational and life skills training to young refugees since 2013, aiming to prepare them for a potential voluntary return by developing skills in line with Myanmar labor market needs. Hairdressing, computer, motorcycle repair or hotel services are some of the courses offered, all of them complemented by a life skills course designed to ensure that the participants have all the necessary information and tools to jump into the work world outside the camp. How to manage time, take decisions, communicate, work in a team or develop a CV are some of the topics covered during the life skills course provided by Soe Meh, now an ACTED Life Skills Trainer.

Soe Meh is very talkative and always smiling. Among the refugees, this is not a very common feature, as they are usually shy and quiet. She hopes that, one day, her two-year-old daughter will enjoy a life outside the camp and she is proud to say that she will be able to help her and guide her in her path.

[ReliefWeb]