Category: Humanitarian Aid

Malta rescues 216 migrants in upsurge of Mediterranean crossings

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A Maltese armed forces patrol boat picked up more than 200 migrants from two dinghies in the Mediterranean and brought  them to Malta on Saturday, a spokesman said.

At least one pregnant woman and a number of children were believed to be among the 216 rescued migrants. Their nationality was not known.

An AFM spokesman said a patrol boat had been deployed to a sinking dinghy south of Malta on Friday. After picking up the migrants, it was diverted to a second dinghy while on its way to Malta, picking up those migrants as well.

The armed forces said that with good weather conditions prevailing, departures of migrants from Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria had increased in the past two days, resulting in 12 migrant boats arriving in Sicily, Sardinia, and Lampedusa.

The Libyan coast guard said on Friday it had rescued 290 migrants from inflatable rafts near the capital Tripoli.

[Reuters]

Global sea levels could rise by much more than previously predicted

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Global sea levels could rise by over 6 feet by 2100––twice as much as had previously been predicted––threatening major cities and potentially flooding hundreds of millions of people, a study published Monday warned.

The implications for coastal populations around the world could be severe if the predictions in the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences prove accurate. In the worst-case scenario, where global emissions are not curtailed and the climate warms by 5°C (9° Fahrenheit), the report authors predict sea levels could rise by as much as 7.8 feet (2 meters).

Large parts of low-lying countries like Bangladesh would become uninhabitable, while critical areas for food production would be lost. Major cities, including New York and London, would also be threatened, according to the study.

Shanghai, Mumbai and some island nations could become permanently flooded, according to that scenario. Almost 1.8 million square kilometers (about 700,000 square miles) of land, including some used for farming, could be permanently flooded.

“There are roughly 240 million people in the world who would be flooded if we had 7.8 feet of sea level rise,” says Bob Kopp, a climate and sea level scientist with Rutgers University in New Jersey and a co-author of the study. “Most of them are in Asia.”

But it “would also have fairly significant implications for coastal cities in the U.S. like New Orleans and Miami where a large chunk of economic activity is exposed to flooding, as well as other cities like New York and Boston.”

Reports of the rate of glacier melt in Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating at a faster than expected rate. The world is facing a risk of sea level rise “substantially higher than were in the 2013 assessment report of the IPCC,” Kopp says.

[TIME]

Malaria vaccine begins wide-scale testing in Malawi

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Malaria cases appear to be on the rise again after a decade of success in combating the deadly disease.

RTS,S — the only malaria vaccine to successfully pass clinical trials — will now be made available to 360,000 children in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana in the first round of implementation testing.

Immunologist Faith Osier spoke to the Sierra Leone Times about the process and next steps for her work, tracking the efficacy and potential side effects of the vaccine, the results of which are expected in 3-5 years.

“While we wait, the scientific effort to develop a more effective vaccine will continue as vigorously as ever,” she said. “Researchers like myself are energized by the limited success of the current vaccine and are convinced that we can do better.”
Watch Faith Osier’s TED Talk.

Global electricity access up but sustainable development goals are not being met

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A new report produced by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) and released this week says that despite significant progress in recent years, the world is falling short of meeting the global energy targets set in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030.

Ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 remains possible but will require more sustained efforts, particularly to reach some of the world’s poorest populations and to improve energy sustainability, according to the report.

Notable progress has been made on energy access in recent years, with the number of people living without electricity dropping to roughly 840 million from 1 billion in 2016 and 1.2 billion in 2010. India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Myanmar are among countries that made the most progress since 2010.

However, without more sustained and stepped-up actions, 650 million people will still be left without access to electricity in 2030. Nine out of 10 of them will be living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following a decade of steady progress, the global electrification rate reached 89 percent and 153 million people gained access to electricity each year. However, the biggest challenge remains in the most remote areas globally and in sub-Saharan Africa where 573 million people still live in the dark.

[Renewable Energy World]

South Korean aid for North Korea

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South Korea has vowed to move quickly on its plans to provide $8 million worth of humanitarian aid to North Korea through international organizations and is also considering sending food to the country that says it’s suffering its worst drought in decades.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday it will discuss its plans with the World Food Program and the United Nations Children’s Fund so the aid reaches North Korean children and pregnant women quickly.

Seoul hopes the aid will help revive diplomacy and engagement with Pyongyang that tapered off amid a stalemate in nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea. But Seoul has yet to decide on concrete plans amid public frustration over recent North Korean missile tests.
[AP]

Lowest rainfall in 100 years in North Korea leaves millions at risk of starvation

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North Korea’s worst drought in decades is being driven by the lowest rainfall in a century, according to the country’s official state newspaper.

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper—the official publication of Kim Jong Un’s ruling party—blamed the ongoing drought on lower than expected levels of precipitation. The newspaper said North Korea received just 56.3 millimeters (2.21 inches) of rain or snow from January to May 15, the lowest amount since 1917. The article noted that water was running out in the country’s lakes and reservoirs, and explained the lack of rainfall “is causing a significant effect on the cultivation of wheat, barley, corn, potatoes and beans,” according to Al Jazeera.

Yonhap reported that South Korean authorities are preparing to send food to North Korea if the situation deteriorates. Any food aid may give a shot in the arm to stalled negotiations between the North, South and U.S. on the denuclearization of the peninsula and the lifting of sanctions, the agency noted.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme (WFP) said more than 10 million North Koreans—representing some 40 percent of the national population—were already facing severe food shortages. Such an extensive drought will likely exacerbate such food pressures, leaving many at risk of starvation. The report said that North Koreans have been surviving on just 300g (10.5 oz) of food each day so far this year. During a visit to South Korea earlier this week, WFP Executive Director David Beasely told reporters the body has “very serious concerns” about the situation in North Korea.

Last week, Mohamed Babiker, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ North Korea office, said the organization was “particularly concerned about the impact that this early drought will have on children and adults who are already struggling to survive. Even before this drought, one in five children under 5 years old was stunted because of poor nutrition. We are concerned that these children will not be able to cope with further stress on their bodies.”

Thus far, there is no suggestion the drought could spark a famine as severe as the one that is believed to have killed millions of North Koreans in the 1990s.

[Newsweek]

1 in 7 of all babies born worldwide too small

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More than 20 million babies were born with a low birthweight (less than 2500g / 5.5 pounds) in 2015—around one in seven of all births worldwide according to the first-ever estimates documenting this major health challenge. These findings and more are documented in a new research paper developed by experts from the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published in The Lancet Global Health.

More than 80% of the world’s 2.5 million newborns who die every year are of low birthweight. Those low birthweight babies who survive have a greater risk of stunting, and developmental and physical ill health later in life, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Low birthweight is a complex clinical entity…,” says co-author Dr Mercedes de Onis from the Department of Nutrition at WHO. “This is why reducing low birthweight requires an understanding of the underlying causes in a given country. For example, in Southern Asia a large proportion of low birthweight babies are born at term but with intrauterine growth restriction, which is associated with maternal undernutrition, including maternal stunting.

“Conversely, preterm birth is the major contributor to low birthweight in settings with many adolescent pregnancies, high prevalence of infection, or where pregnancy is associated with high levels of fertility treatment and caesarean sections (like in USA and Brazil). Understanding and tackling these underlying causes in high-burden countries should be a priority.”

Affordable, accessible and appropriate health-care is critical for preventing and treating low birthweight. Reductions in death, illness and disability in newborn babies will only be achieved if pregnancy care is fully integrated with appropriate care for low birthweight babies.

[World Health Organization]

More than one million people in Gaza – half of the population – may not have enough food by June!

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Unless UNRWA secures at least an additional US$ 60 million by June, their ability to continue providing food to more than 1 million Palestine refugees in Gaza, including some 620,000 abject poor – those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on US$ 1.6 per day – and nearly 390,000 absolute poor – those who survive on about US$ 3.5 per day – will be severely challenged.

“This is a near ten-fold increase caused by the blockade that lead to the closure of Gaza and its disastrous impact on the local economy, the successive conflicts that razed entire neighborhoods and public infrastructure to the ground, and the ongoing internal Palestinian political crisis that started in 2007 with the arrival of Hamas to power in Gaza,” said Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza.

Moreover, the tragic death of 195 Palestinians – including 14 students from UNRWA schools and the long-lasting physical and psychological injuries of 29,000 people during the year-long demonstrations known as the Great March of Return – come after three devastating conflicts in Gaza since 2009, which resulted in at least 3790 deaths and more than 17,000 injuries combined.

A report issued by the United Nations in 2017 predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by the year 2020. 

[Read full UNRWA article]

Google offers tech aid to take on humanitarian crises

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Frontier technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence have revolutionized Google’s business, and now the tech company is looking to share the wealth with those that need it most: people on the front lines of humanitarian crises.

From among 2,600 applicants, 20 winning nonprofits and social enterprises walked away from Google’s AI Impact Challenge with access to a pool of $25 million in funding, expertise from “Googlers,” and a shot to mitigate humanitarian challenges in their local communities.

“We want to see if we can help make the world a better place by bringing the best of Google,” said Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of Google, and president of the company’s humanitarian arm, Google.org. “We look at issues and see where do we think we could have a differential impact. And so some of those areas include economic opportunity, the future of work, thinking about how to bring digital skilling to millions across the globe.”

This year’s winners include the American University of Beirut, which is developing a tool to help Middle Eastern and African farmers save water; Eastern Health of Australia, which uses machine learning to identify patterns in suicide attempts for more effective prevention; and Hand Talk, a startup that is using AI to translate Portuguese into sign language for disadvantaged, deaf Brazilians.

Fuller said the project helps unite tech companies, civil society, and governments to ensure “everyone has access to the benefits of this technology, and that we are applying it to the problems that really matter most to humanity.”

[Cheddar]

The U.S. has slashed its refugee intake. Syrians fleeing war are most affected

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The number of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States in fiscal 2016 was 12,587.

In fiscal 2018, the United States admitted 62.

The drop is largely the result of the Trump administration slashing the total number of refugees allowed into the country each year and because of enhanced screenings for refugees from 11 countries, including Syria.

[Washington Post]