Progress toward a malaria-free Africa has stalled

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s World Malaria Report 2017 signals that, for the first time in more than a decade, progress against malaria on the African continent, which accounts for almost 90% of the global malaria burden, has stalled.

“Malaria alone is estimated to rob the continent of US$12 billion per year in lost productivity, investment and associated health care costs. It is therefore critical that we sustain the political commitment, as articulated in our continental Agenda 2063, to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030 through increased domestic financing, increased access to life-saving malaria interventions, as well as more robust health systems,” said H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

African leaders previously committed to eliminating malaria by 2030. And while some African countries have seen a greater than 20% increase in malaria cases and deaths since 2016, others are showing that beating malaria is possible.

High-burden countries such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which account for 27% and 10% of the global malaria cases, respectively, also face significant gaps in financing their malaria efforts over the next three years. Alternatively, several African countries that have stepped up their efforts, such as Senegal and Madagascar, have achieved a greater than 20% decrease in malaria cases in 2016, according to the World Malaria Report 2017.

“African countries are at greatest risk of losing the significant gains made over a decade and must renew efforts to make fighting malaria a priority. Domestic funding needs to be urgently stepped up. These investments — only a fraction of what African nations will save if we succeed in eliminating malaria — will pay off, in millions more lives saved, health systems strengthened, economies grown and the world back on track to end this disease,” said Dr Kesete Admasu, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.

[African Union]

The forgotten man: The refugee forced to flee, and then vilified in the media and politics

The humanitarian community presently faces a mammoth funding shortage for the problems it already faces, let alone being able to mitigate against new disasters, said Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the crowd gathered at Davos. “We are confronted in 2018 with a big gap between needs of people and the capacity of the international system as a whole to respond,” he said.

“Historically, migration has a positive force in societies and economies around the world,” said William Swing, the director general of the International Organization of Migration. “We need to recognize that migration is not an issue to be ‘solved.’ It is a human reality that we need to manage, humanely and responsibly.”

But that’s simply not happening in most Western countries. “People look to their leadership, and there just isn’t a lot of political courage and leadership on the issue of migration right now,” Swing said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lamented the disillusionment seeping into the West. “Many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves,” he said. “It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening. … Everyone is talking about an interconnected world, but we will have to accept the fact that globalization is slowly losing its luster,” Modi said. “The solution to this worrisome situation against globalization is not isolation. The solution is in understanding and accepting change.”

Valter Sanches, the general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, which represents about 50 million workers in more than 140 countries, said that the chasm between rich and poor was only growing wider. And the politics of the moment don’t seem capable of breaching the gap.

[Washington Post]

World Food Programme honors UPS

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has honored David Abney, Chairman and CEO of UPS, in recognition of outstanding contributions the company and its foundation have made towards achieving Zero Hunger.

“UPS is a steadfast partner that is always quick to offer vital resources that are often in short supply during emergencies,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “UPS and its employees are true champions for Zero Hunger and great examples of what can be achieved working together with the private sector.”

Beasley presented the 2018 Hunger Hero Award to Abney at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Since 2009, UPS has provided critical in-kind support to WFP directly and as a founding member of its Logistics Emergency Teams (LET), a collaboration of global logistics and transportation companies that support the humanitarian community during emergencies.

UPS’s support to WFP has included deploying rapid response teams and calling up logistics personnel from an emergency roster to take part in coordinated responses; providing airlift services to deliver essential food and supplies to depots at the scene of a response; and providing warehouse facilities and equipment to WFP when needed. Additionally, UPS executives are often deployed to share logistics expertise to help prepare for future emergencies. UPS also provides capacity building grants to strengthen WFP’s capabilities to respond more efficiently to rapid onset and complex global crises.

In addition to the company’s in-kind resources and expertise, The UPS Foundation provides cash donations to WFP, often at the earliest moments following a natural disaster when flexible funds are needed most.

[WRP]

USAID announces launch of smart communities coalition with private-sector partners at Davos

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green and Mastercard Executive Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships Tara Nathan co-chaired the launch of the Smart Communities Coalition (SCC) today at the World Economic Forum in Davos. SCC will address technology challenges that refugees and host communities face, and increase their Internet connectivity, digital-payment capabilities, and energy access within refugee settlements. SCC will improve camp-management and service delivery, and help empower refugees to provide for themselves and their families.

Power Africa, a U.S. Government-led initiative coordinated by USAID, will spearhead efforts to provide energy access to refugees in a more cost-efficient manner. Within SCC, USAID’s Global Development Lab and other partners will increase Internet and mobile connectivity.

SCC’s private sector partners, such as Mastercard, will bring their payments technology and expertise to create efficiency, transparency, and accountability with new financial tools for refugees and the surrounding communities to give them a safe and secure way to access and pay for services like electricity, Internet, and school fees.

Among the non-profit SCC participants which have generously pledged their support: World Vision; Mercy Corps; Lutheran World Federation; Danish Refugee Council; and Norwegian Refugee Council.

[USAID]

The toll from landslides heaviest in developing countries

This month’s tragic mudslides in Montecito, California are a reminder that natural hazards lurk on the doorsteps of many U.S. homes, even in affluent communities. Similar events occur every year around the world, often inflicting much higher casualties yet rarely making front-page headlines.

Dave Petley, an earth scientist at the University of Sheffield, has calculated that landslides caused 32,322 fatalities between 2004 and 2010 – equivalent to over 4,500 deaths each year. For comparison, floods are estimated to have killed an average of roughly 7,000 people each year.

In the most destructive recorded cases of the 20th century, thousands of people died in single events. The highest numbers of fatalities from landslides occur in the mountains of Asia and Central and South America, as well as on steep islands in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. For example:
– Catastrophic debris flows from Nevado Huascarán, the highest mountain peak in Peru killed as many as 4,000 people in 1962 and another estimated 18,000-20,000 in 1970.
– During the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China’s Sichuan province, 20,000 deaths were attributed to landslides – roughly one-fourth of the total deaths from the quake.

Wherever slopes are steep, there is a chance that they will fail. Heavy rainfall or a large earthquake can destabilize precarious balances and unleash the raw power of tumbling rocks and debris. The risks increase after wildfires. They also can be exacerbated by deforestation and land use change. Earthquake-triggered landslides, while less frequent than those induced by rainfall, have been responsible for some of the greatest losses of life.

Among the reasons the effects of landslides are disproportionately severe in developing countries reflect a number of factors, including the resilience of basic infrastructure and emergency services; the availability of health care to treat people who are injured or left homeless; and patterns of development that determine where people live, and the lack of early warning systems that can alert people to imminent risks.

[Read full article]

UN launches global funding push after US aid cuts to Palestine

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today launched a global fundraising campaign to sustain resources for its education, health and other assistance programmes.

The campaign follows the announcement by the United States to withhold more than half its funding commitment to the UN agency.

“I wish to confirm to all Palestine refugees that UNRWA schools […] will remain open [and] health care, and other services will be provided. It is a huge challenge, but it is absolutely imperative,” Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said in Gaza, launching the campaign, ‘#DignityIsPriceless’.

The UN agency said the reduction in US funding could have a significant impact on the daily lives of millions of vulnerable Palestine refugees across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

It added that basic education for 525,000 boys and girls at over 700 UNRWA schools; emergency food and cash assistance to 1.7 million Palestine refugees; access to primary health care for 3 million refugees, including pre-natal care; and dignity and human security for 5.3 million refugees, have been endangered as result of the limited funding.

[UN News Centre]

Thousands still dying at sea enroute to Europe

Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe. Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places.

Approximately 227,000 refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in 15 priority countries of asylum and transit along the Central Mediterranean route. Despite appealing for just 40,000 resettlement places last year, UNHCR has thus far received 13,000 offers of resettlement places.

After stories of migrants being sold at an auction and being held in horrific conditions in detention centers were revealed, both UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have helped evacuate hundreds of vulnerable refugees from Libya to Niger.

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity… what was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, adding that the EU’s policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean is “inhuman.”

“We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores,” he continued, calling for the decriminalization of irregular migration in order to help protect migrants’ human rights.

Human rights officials have also criticized the EU-Turkey deal which returns migrants who have entered the Greek islands to Turkey. Many have found that asylum seekers are also not safe in Turkey as the country does not grant asylum or refugee status to non-Europeans.

[IPS]

One in four Iraqi children directly impacted by conflict

More than four million children have been impacted by extreme violence in Iraq, many robbed of their childhood and forced to fight on the frontlines, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on 19 January 2018.

“Last year alone, 270 children were killed,” said UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere following a recent visit. “Some will bear the physical and psychological scars for life due to exposure to unprecedented brutality,” he added, pointing out that over one million children were forced to leave their homes.

Violence is not only killing and maiming children; it is destroying schools, hospitals, homes and roads. Poverty and conflict have interrupted the education for three million children across Iraq. Some have never been inside a classroom.

“In one of the schools that UNICEF recently rehabilitated in the western parts of Mosul, I joined 12-year-old Noor in class. She told me how her family stayed in the city even during the peak of the fighting. She spoke of her fear when she was taking shelter. She lost three years of schooling and is now working hard to catch up, learning English with other boys and girls,” said Cappelaere.

“The children of Iraq, like all children around, the world have the right to learn and aspire to a better tomorrow. The children of today are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, engineers and scientists. Investing in them now is an investment in Iraq’s future,” he underscored.

[UN]

UN Migration Agency appeals for $1.4B to help 80 million people in 50 countries

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is appealing for nearly USD 1.4 billion to address the needs of over 80 million people in 50 countries in 2018.

These funds will support people displaced within the borders of their own countries, migrants, refugees and the communities that host them, people returning to their areas of origin and people experiencing or recovering from conflict and natural disasters.

“In terms of internal displacement alone, due to conflict and natural disasters, over 31 million people were newly displaced in 2016 adding to the millions already living in long-term protracted displacement,” Said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, from the Organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Whether displaced by drought in Somalia, returning home to a recently liberated neighborhood in Mosul or a member of the local community in Cox’s Bazar, where over 800,000 Rohingya refugees have settled, millions of people are in need not only of emergency assistance and protection but of innovative support that helps them get back on their feet, more resilient than they were before. This is IOM’s goal for 2018,” said Abdiker.

The countries covered include: Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Georgia, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

[IOM]

Massive infrastructure spending needed in Africa, says report

Economic growth in Africa picked up steam last year and is set to accelerate strongly in 2018, but “massive investments” are needed in infrastructure, the African Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday.

Growth in Africa rose from 2.2% in 2016 to 3.6% in 2017 and is likely to rise to 4.1 percent in 2018 and 2019, the ADB said in its annual report, African Economic Outlook. “The recovery in growth could mark a turning point in net commodity-exporting countries,” it added.

However, across the continent job creation did not rise in lockstep with growth, lagging by 1.4%.  Woman and young people, aged 15-25, are those who have been most affected by the slow growth in employment.

To generate jobs for the 12 million young people entering its workforce each year, Africa must take a fast-track to industrialization, the ADB said. But key obstacles in infrastructure remain, including energy, water and transport, as well as health, education, security and administrative capacity.

“The continent’s infrastructure needs amount to $130-170bn a year, with a financing gap in the range of $68-$108bn,” the report said.

Tax reform is also essential, the ADB said. Tax collection is improving in Africa – it hauled in around $500bn last year, a figure that compares with $50bn in foreign aid, $60bn in remittances and $60bn in foreign direct investment. Despite this progress, tax revenue is still below the threshold of 25% of gross domestic product (GDP) deemed necessary to scale up infrastructure spending.

[AFP]

UN needs over $1.5bn for Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations this year will seek more than $1.5bn to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), UN migration agency’s chief envoy to the country, Jean-Philippe Chauzy said, warning the country was at a “breaking point”.

The African giant has been plagued by near-relentless instability since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The total humanitarian appeal for 2018 is $1.68bn, more than double the amount requested last year, he added. “If we don’t get that level of funding people will die,” Chauzy said.

WFP’s country chief in the DRC, Claude Jibidar, warned that “a major famine” could hit the troubled province Kasai unless donor support increases.

Another crisis unfolding in the DRC is in the country’s east, where armed groups are active in North Kivu and South Kivu, two huge provinces which border Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

[AFP]

Three humanitarian aid opportunities

As 2018 begins, the challenges of humanitarian crises are momentous. Overcoming them will require creativity. But there are reasons for optimism.

  1. More locally-led and contextual responses – The chorus of voices advocating the value of and need for locally-led humanitarian response is growing, and local, national and regional actors are increasing in strength and profile.
  2. The role of data, technology and evidence – Humanitarian agencies are deploying technology to improve aid delivery and using data to improve our analysis of humanitarian crises. A recent US Institute of Peace report for example points to the transformative potential of renewable energy technologies allowing humanitarian actors to use solar energy instead of diesel fuel.
  3. Reforming humanitarianism – Creative new models and approaches are appearing, many drawing inspiration from outside the humanitarian sector. An upcoming report from the Humanitarian Policy Group will detail a series of alternatives: from a networked approach allowing aid recipients and providers – whether international, local or individual – to interact directly based on collaboration rather than control, to a cooperative, social economy model that uses humanitarian supply chains to generate economic opportunities for communities in crisis situations.

    [Overseas Development Institute]

Haiti: Eight years after the earthquake

Eight years ago a devastating earthquake struck Haiti killing 200,000 people, including 102 United Nations personnel. More than 300,000 were injured and over 1.5 million Haitians were displaced.

Haiti’s path to recovery has been particularly difficult, also considering the country’s challenges as a Small Island Developing State: extremely vulnerable to debt, unemployment, climate change and sea level rise.

But Haitians have also shown tremendous resilience after the earthquake and every year subsequently as they face a new hurricane season. Many continue to face multiple challenges, including displacement, food insecurity and lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and country still needs international support as Haitians pave their own way towards sustainable development. Results include:

  • The Unite Nation Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the people of Haiti to build back better after the earthquake and after several hurricanes in the past eight years.
  • Over 300,000 Haitians were temporarily employed—40 percent of them women—to remove debris, recycle material, and help rebuild their communities
  • All debris was removed
  • Over 2,300 km2 were protected, 400 hectares reforested

[UNDP]

Iraqis returning home outnumber displaced for first time since 2013

The number of Iraqis returning to their area of origin has surpassed those internally displaced for the first time since December 2013, when the country became engulfed in conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIL), the United Nations migration agency said Friday.

“Iraqis who remain displaced are among the most vulnerable, as they face obstacles to return, including damage or destruction of their home and local infrastructure, financial limitations and other constraints,” said Gerard Waite, chief of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) mission in Iraq.

On December 9, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Iraq’s victory over ISIL and by the end of the year, IOM had identified 3.2 million people who had returned back to their place of origin – while a staggering 2.6 million remained displaced.

[UN News Centre]

Warming puts millions more at risk from river floods: Study

River floods are one of the most widespread and damaging forms of natural disasters around the world.

Scientists now say millions more people around the world are threatened by river floods in coming decades due to climate change. German researchers say greater flood defenses are particularly needed in the United States, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia and Central Europe.

Using computer simulations, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research say the number of people affected by the worst 10 percent of river flooding will increase by up to 156 million in Asia alone by 2040.

The study published Thursday in the journal Science Advances concludes that flood risks will rise regardless of efforts to curb climate change because of greenhouse gases already emitted in past decades.

[Economic Times (India)]

Seeds of hope for working women in rural areas

In Nganda, a rural community in remote Senegal close to the Gambian border, restaurant owner Aissatou Tisse is carving out a reputation for tasty homemade, locally grown food.

About 100km away in the village of Niakhar, handicapped Daba Dione feeds her family by raising chickens on a modest smallholding. Thanks to a training course in veterinary health, she is routinely consulted by neighbors about their own poultry. “Today, I’ve even forgotten the difficulties of the past,” Dione told AFP.

The two have benefited from schemes that seek both to support women’s empowerment and fight poverty in rural Africa, where male dominance, backbreaking labor and misery go hand in hand.

UN agencies like International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), both based in Rome, manage projects to help empower rural women, who account for at least 43% of agricultural laborers worldwide, according to an FAO report.

Why women? Women are more inclined than men to spend their revenue on food and education.

[Read full AFP article]

Improved seeds and better access to water a winning combination for Indian farmers

Hundreds of farmers from across 15 villages have arrived at Kisan Mela (Farmer’s Fest) organized by USAID. As names are called one-by-one, farmers queue to get their bags, each containing five kilograms of high-yielding rice seeds.

Munda collects his bag and rejoins his group, his face beaming with a smile that’s unstoppable. “I have heard so much about these seeds. Farmers in villages near mine have doubled their crop production since they got these. And even the drought last year did not affect them. It is my turn now,” he says.

Munda, like every farmer in Jharkhand, is trapped in a vicious and complex agricultural quagmire. The state has a mountain topography, which means that the land here is rocky, uneven and less fertile. Munda barely produces enough to feed his family beyond six months. Even though Jharkhand receives monsoon rains twice the national average, the state’s sloping geography means that 90 percent of the rainwater quickly washes away, leaving the farmers distressed with severe water shortage and periodic droughts.

To break this cycle of extreme poverty and food insecurity, USAID organized the first Farmer’s Fest in June 2015, selecting farming families from villages to receive high-yielding rice seeds along with training in modern sowing and farming methods.

But seeds alone couldn’t do the magic. “In India, farming is still rain-fed and rain-dependent. To cultivate a good crop, farmers need assured access to water during the months of shortage. That is why we began building dobhas or small ponds,” says a local USAID official. A dobha is a low-cost rainwater harvesting technique where a 10-by-10 foot pit is dug to trap the rain water.

Whereas before a farmer might produce barely 150 to 200 kilograms of rice a year, after utilizing the higher-yielding rice seeds and dobha irrigation technique, production can shoot up to 450 kilograms in only a year.

[USAID]

Weather disasters cost U.S. record $306 billion in 2017

2017 was the third-warmest year on record, and weather and climate-related disasters cost the United States a record $306 billion in  the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday.

The agency said western wildfires and hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma contributed to making 2017 the costliest year on record. The previous record was $215 billion in 2005, when hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita slammed the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, the average annual temperature for the contiguous United States was 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit (12.6 degrees Celsius) in 2017, 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average and the third-warmest since recordkeeping began in 1895, following 2012 and 2016, the agency said.

Scientists have long concluded that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels and industry are driving climate change, leading to floods, droughts and more-frequent powerful storms.

The federal agency’s report underscores the economic risks of such disasters even as President Donald Trump’s administration casts doubts on their causes and has started withdrawing the United States from a global pact to combat climate change.

[Reuters]

Widening budget gap forces UN to slash food aid to refugees

Beset by funding shortages, the U.N. World Food Program has reduced the daily calorie intake for the 650,000 refugees it feeds in Ethiopian camps by 20 percent, leaving them with an average allowance of just 1,680 calories a day. (On average, men need about 2,500 calories a day, women about 2,000.)

If new funds do not come by March, the refugees will see a further drop, to about 1,000 calories a day. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 new refugees, mostly from war-torn South Sudan, arrive every day.

The problem is not restricted to Ethiopia. The operations of the WFP, by far the world’s biggest food provider, are under threat as global crises overwhelm donor countries’ capacity to give. With near-famines in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as a string of protracted conflicts and refugee crises in places such as Syria and Ethiopia, the need is simply too great.

In Syria, where a six-year-old civil war is slowly winding down amid massive devastation and displacement, the WFP has been able to feed fewer people every month, dropping from 4 million in November, to 3.3 million in December and an expected 2.8 million next month.

In Yemen, where a civil war and a foreign blockade make it hard just getting food into the country, half of the 7 million people fed by the WFP are on 60 percent rations (1,260 calories a day). Similarly in Somalia, where 3 million people receive assistance, the WFP has had to suspend rations for many and reduce them for others.

[Washington Post]

10 ways basic living standards have risen for billions of people

  1. The International Energy Agency announced that nearly 1.2 billion people around the world have gained access to electricity in the last 16 years.
  2. In February, the World Bank published new figures showing that 20 years ago, the average malnourished person on planet Earth consumed 155 fewer calories per day than they needed. Today, that number is down to 88.
  3. Since 2000, life expectancy in Rwanda is up from 49 to 64, child mortality is down more than two-thirds, maternal mortality is down nearly 80%, and HIV/AIDS prevalence is down from 13% to 3%. Mail & Guardian
  4. In the last three years, the number of people in China living below the poverty line decreased from 99 million to 43.4 million. And since 2010, income inequality has been falling steadily. Quartz
  5. 275 million Indians gained access to proper sanitation between 2014 and 2017. Gates Notes
  6. In 1991 more than 40% of Bangladesh lived in extreme poverty. The World Bank said this year that the number has now dropped to 14% (equating to 50 million fewer people). Quartz
  7. The United States’ official poverty rate reached 12.7%, the lowest level since the end of the global financial crisis. And the child-poverty rate reached an all time low, dropping to 15.6%. The Atlantic
  8. Between 2005 and 2017, Afghanistan built 16,000 schools, the nation-wide literacy rate increased by 5%, and the youth literacy rate increased by more than 16%. USAID
  9. In October, a new report by the International Labor Organization revealed that global child labor has plummeted. In 2016, there were 98 million fewer boys and girls being exploited than in 2000. CS Monitor
  10. Global deaths from terrorism dropped by 22% from their peak in 2014, thanks to significant declines in four of the five countries most impacted: Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. ReliefWeb

[Quartz]