Monthly Archives: June 2019

Oil-rich Nigeria overtakes India for extreme poverty ranking

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Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day.

The findings, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute, show that the numbers of Nigerians falling into extreme poverty grows by roughly six people every minute.

In Nigeria, as with other countries on the continent, that figure is projected to rise. “By the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today,” the researchers write.

Despite being the largest oil producer in Africa, Nigeria has struggled to translate its resource wealth into rising living standards. A slump in oil prices and a sharp fall in oil production saw the country’s economy slide into recession in 2016.

A recent rise in oil prices has helped to spur the country’s economic recovery. Addressing the situation in March this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that although growth was again beginning to rise, “more needs to be done to reduce unemployment and address poverty.”


Two-thirds of those in extreme poverty live in Africa

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The World Poverty Clock and Brookings Institute indicate that more than 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for about two-thirds of the total number.

The researchers note that 14 out of 18 countries where poverty is rising are in Africa, adding that if current rates persist, 90% of the world’s poorest will be living on the continent by 2030.

Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day.

Other nations in Africa to feature on the list of 10 worst affected countries, include the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 60 million people; Ethiopia with 23.9 million people; Tanzania with 19.9 million.; Mozambique, with 17.8 million people; Kenya, with 14.7 million people; and Uganda, with 14.2 million.

The introduction of internationally agreed UN Sustainable Development Goals, intended to “end poverty” by 2030, has resulted in about 83 million people escape extreme poverty between January 1, 2016 and July 2018. However, “the task of ending extreme poverty by 2030 is becoming inexorably harder because we are running out of time. We should celebrate our achievements, but increasingly sound the alarm that not enough is being done, especially in Africa,” researchers say.


Parents pay children’s tuition fees with plastic bottles

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Oriola Oluwaseyi, 32, makes her way through the busy streets of Ajegunle, a low-income community in Nigeria’s commercial center, Lagos, to collect plastic waste bottles from retail stores. In the evening, Oluwaseyi will drop the bottles at Moritz International School where her 8-year old daughter, Rebecca attends primary school. The bottles will act as down payment for her daughter’s tuition.

As a petty trader earning a pittance from trading car engine oil at bustling Ajegunle market in Lagos, Oluwaseyi does not earn enough to cover the annual 18,000 naira (around $50) school fees. However, thanks to a recent partnership with Africa Cleanup Initiative (ACI), an NGO with focus on sustainability, her daughter’s school now accepts the plastic bottles in exchange for school fees. Through a program called RecyclesPay, ACI collaborates with schools in low-income communities to allow parents who are unable to afford fees for their children to pay using plastic bottles they collect. Twice a month Oluwaseyi visits her daughter’s school with bags full of sorted plastic bottle recyclables. The cost of tuition is determined by how many bottles she has collected; for every 200 kilograms of recyclable bottles, Oluwaseyi can earn up to ₦4,000 (about $11) off the term’s tuition of ₦7500 (about $24).

“The program has given me leverage to channel the funds I would have spent on school fees, to buying of school bag, new pair of sandals and books for her,” Oluwaseyi says.

Nigeria has been tagged the poverty capital of the world, with 87 million Nigerians, around half of the country’s population, living on less than $1.90 per day.

There are more than 450,000 megatons of plastic waste discarded in Lagos waters every year, according to reports in local media. According to 2017 Ocean Atlas report, Nigeria is ranked number 11 in the world for plastic pollution, posing health risks to citizens and causing environmental damage.

Alexander Akhigbe, founder of ACI, says through the RecyclesPay scheme he is providing solutions to Nigeria’s environmental and climate issues. So far, ACI has run its projects in five schools in Lagos and has reached more than 1,000 school children, he says.


$4.6 billion emergency funding for detained migrants clears US Congress

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After a brief showdown over competing emergency humanitarian aid measures to alleviate the crisis at the US southern border, the House voted on Thursday to pass the Senate’s less restrictive version of the bill.

“In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote. “…We will do so with a Battle Cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth,” Pelosi added.

Lawmakers are set to recess for the July 4 holiday and were aiming to get the measure enacted before they left.


Arab opposition to President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”

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Sixteen signatory Middle Eastern organizations expressed their “grave concern regarding the US-led ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop in Bahrain, which poses a significant threat to the Palestinian right to self-determination, justice, and equality”,  part of President Trump’s anticipated Palestine-Israel peace plan. The proposal was put together by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

A joint statement comments on “…the troubling pattern of the current US administration’s policies portend what the plan will likely entail — a continued course of uncritical support for Israel at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people. Since 2017, the Trump administration’s policies have undermined Palestinian rights, contravened international law, and flouted longstanding US policies with regard to Israel and Palestine.

“President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan in violation of international law, which does not recognize sovereignty over territory taken from another country by force. It has also cut crucial US funding to UNRWA for its work with Palestinian refugees, eliminated USAID programs in the West Bank and Gaza, and closed the Washington office of the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“Palestinians have been held captive to Israel’s market and economy due to the prolonged occupation and are facing increasing economic pressure as a result of US policies. Now, Palestinians will be asked to give up their inalienable rights and struggle for freedom and justice in exchange for vague promises of economic cooperation and an alleged better standard of living. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and a number of prominent Palestinian businessmen have made it clear that they oppose the plan and will not be attending. Russia and China will also boycott the workshop.”

USAID Global Water Development

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In the “Global Water and Development Report of Water and Sanitation Activities FY 2017,” USAID charts its progress toward achieving the goal of providing 15 million people with sustainable access to safe drinking water services and 8 million people with sustainable sanitation by 2022.

In FY 2017, USAID provided $449.6 million to support water, sanitation, and hygiene activities in 41 countries. As a result, 3.6 million people gained access to improved water while 3.2 million gained access to improved sanitation.

The annual report also touches on individual’s journeys to self-reliance, for example:

  • A community mobilizer in India marketing safe water kiosks to her neighbors
  • A homeowner in Indonesia who can now afford to build a septic tank system with funds from a community savings account
  • A mother in the Dominican Republic who has traded a wetland for the open sewer that used to run through her backyard
  • A regional water bureau manager in Ethiopia who can remotely monitor water point functionality through a data visualization platform

Emergency aid for migrants held at US border

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The U.S. Congress is trying to rush $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian aid to the southwestern border, while placing new restrictions on President Trump’s immigration crackdown, spurred on by disturbing images of suffering migrant families and of children living in squalor in overcrowded detention facilities.

The House bill goes further than a Senate legislation in placing restrictions on the money. Facilities that house unaccompanied children would have a slightly shorter time frame — 12 months instead of 14 months — to meet existing legal standards for healthy, sanitary and humane conditions; they would have to allow oversight visits from members of Congress without warning; and the Department of Health and Human Services would have to report a child’s death in its custody to Congress within 24 hours.

But some Democrats fear that the aid will be used to carry out Mr. Trump’s aggressive tactics, including massive deportation raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that he has promised will begin within two weeks.  “Democrats distrust this president because we have seen his cruel immigration policies and lawless behavior terrorize our constituents,” Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said on Monday evening “We cannot allow our anger at this president to blind us to the horrific conditions at facilities along the border as the agencies run out of money.”

The White House on Monday issued a statement threatening that Mr. Trump would veto the House measure.

The day before, Trump tweeted that he was suspending ICE raids on illegal immigrants for two weeks. A statement by four freshman representatives, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, said: “These radicalized, criminal agencies are destroying families and killing innocent children. It is absolutely unconscionable to even consider giving one more dollar to support this president’s deportation force that openly commits human rights abuses and refuses to be held accountable to the American people.”

[New York Times]

Migrant children held in deplorable conditions at US border

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After just 2 months in office, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders, plans to step down in the coming weeks., according to two agency officials. Customs and Border Protection has come under fire in recent days amid revelations that nearly 300 migrant children — from infants to 17-year-olds — had been detained in a remote Border Patrol station in West Texas without adequate food, water and sanitation.

All but 30 of the children were transferred out of the center in Clint, Texas, after revelations last week that they were being held in squalid conditions. But a CBP official confirmed today that 100 of those children have been moved back to the same Border Patrol station because there wasn’t room in child shelters run by Health and Human Services.

A law professor who recently visited the facility, Warren Binford of Willamette University, described the conditions for children: “Many of them are sleeping on concrete floors, including infants, toddlers, preschoolers. They are being given nothing but instant meals, Kool-Aid and cookies — many of them are sick. We are hearing that many of them are not sleeping. Almost all of them are incredibly sad and being traumatized. Many of them have not been given a shower for weeks. Many of them are not being allowed to brush their teeth except for maybe once every 10 days. They have no access to soap. It’s incredibly unsanitary conditions, and we’re very worried about the children’s health.”

News of the conditions at the Clint facility was first reported last week by The Associated Press based on initial interviews with Binford and other lawyers who were conducting inspections under the terms of the Flores settlement, a legal agreement that spells out how the government is supposed to treat detained migrant children. The AP reported: “A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.”

Under the Flores settlement, children detained by the Border Patrol are supposed to be turned over to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, within 72 hours. Some children said they had been kept at the Clint facility for weeks.

Congress is expected to vote today on a supplemental spending bill to send money to agencies working to address the needs of migrants arriving at the U.S. Border with Mexico. Last-minute requirements were added to the $4.5 billion legislation that would obligate CBP to establish hygiene and medical standards for children and a 90-day limit on keeping kids in temporary emergency shelters.


Canada resettled more refugees than any other country in 2018

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Canada resettled the largest number of refugees out of 25 countries in 2018, according to the UN’s refugee agency. The country accepted just over 28,000 refugees last year, with the United States coming in second with 22,900.

An influx of asylum seekers crossing at the US-Canada border has also become a political issue after approximately 40,000 people “irregularly” crossed into Canada between 2017 and 2018.  Canada currently is struggling with a backlog of almost 74,000 asylum claims with applicants waiting almost two years for a hearing.

According to the US-based Pew Research Center, which looked the UNHCR data, 2018 was the first time the US, under the Trump administration, did not lead the world in refugee resettlement since 1980.

More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide came from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. Globally, 92,400 refugees were resettled in 2018, fewer than 7% of those awaiting resettlement worldwide.

Out of the 25 countries that resettled refugees in 2018, Australia, the UK, and France also resettled high numbers, according to UN figures.


I pray for refugees because I was one

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I walked for nine days in my slippers in the deep forest. My father carried all the food. My mom carried my one-year-old brother. I carried all the cookware, some blankets, and clothes for them. After seven days, we reached the Tenasserim River and crossed on a big boat. As we were climbing the mountain, I heard the gunfire again.

I was very tired carrying my brother while climbing the mountain, so I spoke to myself, “Sunday, you cannot die here. You must finish your high school, go to college, speak for your people, and tell the world what you have been through and who you are.”

I am an ethnic Karen, one of more than 10 ethnic minority groups in Burma. My parents became Christians when I was born. The place where I was born and grew up had no electricity, no hospital, and no clinic. We carried water from the river to our house. We ate the fruits from our tree on the farm. My parents passed only grade three.

After I finished grade four at a Karen school, my parents sent me to the Burmese school far away from my home. Because my parents were so poor, they could not support me with money. I stayed in the home of family friends, a pastor’s family in a sister village. I looked after their cows, did the housework, while they gave me free room and board.

In 1997, I was away from home in another village, taking my fifth-grade final examination. I heard gunfire from far away. About an hour later, our principal asked us to stop immediately and go home to find our family for our safety. When I got home, my family had already hidden in the forest. My father brought me to my mother and my younger brothers and sister, and we moved from place to place every day for our safety. A few months later, the Burmese army came and set up their camp at my village while we were still living in the forest. Since that day, I have never gone back to my village, and the Burmese army camps are still there.

We hid in the jungle for a few months. Other families from another village came to live with us. Then we decided we would travel to the border to seek refuge in Thailand. After we crossed the Tenasserim River and the mountain beyond it, we arrived safely in Thailand at a temporary place. A few weeks later, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) moved us to Tham Hin refugee camp in a truck. Around 9,000 refugees lived in our camp. Another nine refugee camps were established along the Thailand-Burma border.

There were no school buildings. At first, we had to study at our teacher’s house, and sometimes in the community building. Before we got a donation for our school, one of our teachers used pieces of cardboard and charcoal for teaching because we did not have chalk or a chalkboard. I finished high school there in 2003.

I prayed and sought my way out of the refugee camp and started learning to use a computer, the internet, English, and news reporting with my Karen news group. I left the camp illegally and was arrested by Thai police two times before I made it to Chiang Mai, the second biggest city in Thailand. I enrolled in a journalism course in Chiang Mai. This is where I met my husband. He was from another refugee camp trying to earn his GED diploma at another school in the same city. We got married in the refugee camp on September 4, 2006, after finishing at our school.

My husband and I encountered a new problem. Our daughter did not have the Refugee Registration Document, issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), because she had not been born in the camp. It was the only document that took refugees to the United States and other resettlement countries. We did not give up praying. My husband’s refugee camp leaders helped, so our daughter got her UNHCR registration card with my husband. That meant that she could resettle with him, but I would have to go back to my own camp. We would resettle apart.

After two years, we got the chance to move to Indiana and reunite with my parents and siblings.

[Excerpt of CT article by Sunday Htoo, a refugee from Burma (Myanmar)]