Monthly Archives: July 2019

Killer heat: Climate change in action

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This year’s record heat in Europe and the US follows record temperatures last year too.

This week the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a report, entitled, Killer Heat, which predicted that “The United States is facing a potentially staggering expansion of dangerous heat over the coming decades.”

Responding to the report, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Professor Michael Mann, said: “What we describe as a record heat-wave, in a few decades we will simply call that summer.”

The US and Europe are not the only places suffering for extreme heat. Our climate crisis is also happening in the Asia and the Arctic.  

Although the heatwave has been bad news for Europe, it is terrible and potentially devastating news for the Arctic. As the Washington Post notes, the heat dome “could dramatically speed up the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and enhance the loss of already record-low sea ice.”

The heatwave in the North finally and rightly making the headlines, but it is the poor in the south who suffer too. And mostly they will suffer in silence.

[Green News]

WHO goal to rid the world of hepatitis by 2030

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Four years ago the World Health Organization (WHO) rolled out its global strategy to eliminate hepatitis by 2030 four years ago. Known as a “silent killer” disease, hepatitis is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver.

There are different forms of hepatitis, ranging from A, B, C, D, and E. Each is caused by a different type of virus. Unfortunately, most people who have the most serious forms of the disease – particularly the B and C viruses – are unaware of infection. This allows the infection to spread unchecked, leading to serious damage to the liver. This means that the organ can’t carry out its main function which is to filter blood coming in from the digestive system before directing it to the rest of the body, and detoxification.

In 2015 the WHO estimated that 328 million people globally were living with hepatitis B and C. In the same year there were 1.34 million deaths from viral hepatitis. That’s higher than deaths caused by AIDS and comparable to TB fatalities. It’s the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, hepatitis B is the most common form of the illness. Last year it was reported that 6.1% of the population was infected.

Hepatitis B is spread through infected body fluids. This can either be through sex with an infected partner, at birth from an infected mother to her baby or through direct contact with an infected person’s open wounds or blood. There is also risk from sharing syringes, razors or toothbrushes with infected persons. The key strategy for managing hepatitis B is prevention by being vaccinated. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have made vaccination and post-infection therapy available. But the number of those infected annually and dying from viral hepatitis remains high.

The WHO’s 2030 deadline is feasible. But it may not be achieved because of the prevailing low vaccination coverage in sub-Saharan Africa coupled with limited healthcare budgets that are unable to make diagnostics and treatment available to all.

[African Population and Health Research Center]

Climate records fall as Europe bakes in heatwave

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Soaring temperatures broke records in Germany, France, Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday, as a heatwave gripped Europe for the second time in a month in what scientists said were becoming more frequent events as the planet heats up.
– Paris saw its highest temperature since records began and Britain reported its hottest weather for the month of July.
– The mercury in Paris touched 42.6 C (108.68 F) in mid-afternoon, above the previous Paris record of 40.4 C (104.72 F) recorded in July 1947.
– In Britain, the temperature reached its highest for July, hitting 38.1 C (100.58 F), said the Met Office, the national weather service.
– An all-time high was measured in Germany for a second day running, at 41.5 degrees Celsius (106.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
– In the southern Netherlands, the temperature peaked at 40.4 C (104.7 F), topping 40 C (104 F) for the first time on record, Dutch meteorology institute KNMI said. That broke the national record of 39.3 C set the previous day. Before this week, the national heat record had stood for 75 years.

Climate specialists said such heatwaves are becoming more frequent as a result of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.


Myanmar’s ‘minimal preparations’ for Rohingya refugee return

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Myanmar has made “minimal” preparations for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees sheltering in neighboring Bangladesh, according to an Australian think-tank, despite the country saying it is ready to start repatriation.

More than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee northern Rakhine state in western Myanmar during a 2017 military-led crackdown the United Nations has said included mass killings and gang-rapes executed with “genocidal intent”. Almost 400 Rohingya villages were burned to the ground during the violence.

A Reuters investigation in December 2018 found that the authorities have built houses for Buddhists in former Rohingya areas. A resettlement map drafted by the government revealed that refugees, rather than returning to their original villages, would be herded into several dozen Rohingya-only settlements.

While authorities have promised to resettle the refugees, analysis of satellite imagery shows “no sign of reconstruction” in the overwhelming majority of their former settlements while, in some areas, destruction of residential buildings has continued, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said in a report released July 23.

The AHA Centre report, leaked to the media in June, has predicted that half a million refugees would come back within two years.

The UN has said conditions in Rakhine are not yet conducive for returns.


The case for humanitarian aid to North Korea

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News reports suggest that North Korea may once again be facing serious food shortages, and calls from the United Nations for the world to provide humanitarian assistance have grown. Such assistance has not always gone to those who needed it most, and Pyongyang strongly resists any kind of international monitoring to try to make sure it does.

Even so, the United States should open its pocketbook. At its core, providing food and medical assistance is an issue of morality and humanity.

In May, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report stating that some 10.9 million people in the country—approximately 43 percent of the population—suffer from food insecurity, and nearly as many lack access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. Ten million North Koreans lack access to safe drinking water, and the U.N. estimates that 16 percent do not have access to basic sanitation. Meanwhile, UNICEF notes that while there has been some improvement in recent years, one in five North Korean children suffers from stunted growth.

While North Korea’s government may have a callous attitude toward its people, Americans believe that every life has value. Right now, lives are at stake. We can help to save them, and we should.

[Foreign Policy]

UN calls out Saudi Arabia and UAE for not paying Yemen aid pledges

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United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock called out Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday for only paying a “modest proportion” of the hundreds of millions of dollars they pledged five months ago to a humanitarian appeal for Yemen.

Both countries each promised $750 million at a U.N. fundraising event in February (that was seeking $4 billion):
– Saudi Arabia so far has paid only $121.7 million and
– the United Arab Emirates about $195 million, according to U.N. figures.

Saudi Arabia leads a Western-backed military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015. The United Arab Emirates is a key member of the coalition.

The United States sells billions of dollars worth of weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The United States has paid more than $288.7 million to the U.N. Yemen appeal, making it the largest donor for 2019.

The United Nations describes the situation in Yemen – where the four-year-long war has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions on the brink of famine – as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.


Unauthorized migrants face public backlash in Mexico, survey finds

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Mexicans are deeply frustrated with immigrants after a year of heightened migration from Central America through the country, according to a survey conducted by The Washington Post and Mexico’s Reforma newspaper. The data suggests Mexicans have turned against migrants transiting through their country.

A 55 percent majority supports deporting migrants traveling through Mexico to reach the United States.

More than 6 in 10 Mexicans say migrants are a burden on their country because they take jobs and benefits that should belong to Mexicans.

[Washington Post]

UN refugee agency deeply concerned about US asylum curbs

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The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. says it’s “deeply concerned” about new U.S. restrictions on asylum, saying it will put vulnerable families at risk.

UNHCR comments late Monday came after the Trump administration said it will end all asylum protections for most migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the plan, migrants who pass through another country — in this case, Mexico — on their way to the United States will be ineligible for asylum.

UNHCR says the rule overly restricts the right to apply for asylum, and threatens the right not to be sent back to countries where people could face persecution.

The rule went into effect Tuesday and will affect many refugees fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. It is certain to face legal challenges.


UN statement on the US again withholding funding from UNFPA

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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, notes with regret the determination by the United States of America to withhold funds from UNFPA for the third consecutive year.

This unfortunate decision will impede UNFPA’s crucial work to protect the health and lives of hundreds of millions of women and girls around the globe, including in humanitarian settings.

Therefore, UNFPA hopes that the United States will reconsider its position. UNFPA remains keen to maintain an open dialogue with the U.S. Government. UNFPA has had the pleasure of welcoming delegations under various U.S. administrations, and none have found UNFPA to be in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

Since its founding 50 years ago, UNFPA strives to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


Millions displaced as monsoon floods hit India, Nepal and Bangladesh

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More than a hundred people have died and millions were forced to leave their homes as monsoon rains have devastated parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

At least three million people have been displaced in north and Northeast India, reports the BBC, including almost two million people in the northern Indian state of Bihar, and more than 1.7 million people in northeastern Assam state, a region known for its tea production.

“Many people have taken shelter on the highways, that will be the state for the next two to three weeks until the water recedes,” Mohamad Farukh, CEO of the disaster relief NGO Rapid Response told TIME about the situation in Assam State. He says that he expects the situation to “deteriorate over the next two to three days” in India as water flows to the region from Nepal and Bhutan.

In Nepal, police said 67 people have died and 30 people are missing, according to the BBC.

Storms have also killed at least 29 people in Bangladesh in the last week, including 18 hit by lightning, reports the BBC.

Cox’s Bazar, a lowland coastal district where about a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have been stuck after fleeing violence, has not been spared. It is the “most severe weather since the massive Rohingya refugee influx of 2017,” according to a statement on the International Organization for Migration’s website. Landslides, floods and wind have damaged hundreds of structures and directly impacted 5% of Cox’s Bazars residents, it says. “Monsoons and landslides are making the Rohingya refugees’ difficult situation even more precarious,” Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on their website.