Hurricane relief in the Bahamas

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The Bahamian Government reports that 53 people are known to have been killed in the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, with 608 individuals still listed as missing – although this number may not include all undocumented migrants. More than 1,500 people remain in shelters in Nassau and at least 3,000 are living with host families.

The Salvation Army’s divisional headquarters (DHQ) in Nassau is currently supporting four main components: overall logistics and coordination throughout the islands, coordination with the USA mainland, support to shelters throughout Nassau and relief support for the Abaco Islands. As part of the overall relief effort, and to avoid duplication of assistance, Salvation Army team members are attending numerous government-run coordination meetings taking place in Nassau for various aspects of the relief effort, including logistics, washing, food, shelter and psycho-social assistance.

Food, cleaning supplies, baby supplies, hygiene items, water and clothes are being distributed through Freeport Corps and essential goods have been supplied to other distribution points and through community networks. In addition, emergency personnel have begun regular distributions to communities to the east of Freeport, where door-to-door visits are part of a programme to offer practical and emotional support. Supplies are also being provided to neighborhood distribution points, and to partner organizations with a more regular presence in the east of the island (such as the UK charity Team Rubicon).

Inhabitants of the Abaco Islands, most of whom were evacuated after Dorian struck, are slowly returning – although some are going back only for short periods to salvage belongings. Bulk relief supplies are now being transported, utilizing World Food Programme-chartered vessels and storage in Marsh Harbour, in preparation for when larger numbers of people return to the islands.

[Relief Web]

Migrant and refugee death toll in Mediterranean tops 1000 for 6th year

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More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the sixth year in a row that this “bleak milestone” has been reached, the United Nations said.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR called for European Union (EU) member states to reactivate search and rescue operations and acknowledge the crucial role of aid groups’ vessels in saving lives at sea. “The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” Charlie Yaxley, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement.

The EU struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to cut off refugee and migrant flows to Greece from Turkey. Departures, now also diverted largely via Libya and other parts of North Africa, have fallen sharply from a peak of more than 1 million in 2015 to some 78,000 so far this year, UNHCR figures show.

“Of course the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean are much lower. So, that points to the fact that the journeys themselves are much more dangerous,” UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told Reuters Television. “It is also worth highlighting that 70 percent of the deaths actually occur on the central Mediterranean, namely people attempting to get from Libya across to Italy or Malta.”

[Voice of America]

UN World Food Programme launches global movement to fight food waste

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While there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, one third of the 4 billion metric tons of food we produce each year is lost or wasted, costing the global economy nearly US$1 trillion annually. At the same time, war and unrest are forcing more people to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War, making it difficult for millions of people to grow their own food or buy it at an affordable price.

A recent report by the World Resources Institute confirmed that halving the rate of food loss and waste is an important strategy that would contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and sustainably feeding the planet by 2050.

World Food Programme’s goal is a world with Zero Hunger. Part of achieving that goal is preventing food loss. WFP does this by helping smallholder farmers through the provision of new technologies for storage and transportation that prevent crops from spoiling prematurely and by connecting them with markets.

“#StopTheWaste is a campaign that appeals to everyone along the chain from farm to fork,” said Corinne Woods, Chief Marketing Officer for the World Food Programme. “Food waste is a global issue but everyone can play their part in building a sustainable solution. Whether you are a farmer in Nigeria, losing your crops after harvest or a restaurant diner in New York, wasting the leftovers from your meal, you really can help to #StoptheWaste.” Read more

Rich countries cut spending on humanitarian crises as demand rises

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Wealthy countries including the United States, Germany and Britain spent less on aid for humanitarian crises last year, even as the United Nations said it was dealing with unprecedented need, research released on Monday showed.

The United States, the world’s biggest donor of humanitarian aid, cut its spending by 6% or $423 million in 2018, while Germany and Britain both spent 11% less than in 2017, according to the yearly Global Humanitarian Assistance report.

That was despite a record request through appeals coordinated by the United Nations, which deemed more than 200 million people to be in need of humanitarian aid. A large number of crises endure for many years, requiring greater level of resources and over a longer period of time, the report said.

Development Initiatives is an independent international development organization that produced the report, which looks at the resources directed to people in crisis.

[Thomson Reuters Foundation]

From New Zealand to Rome, thousands are protesting again today for Earth Strike

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A week after millions of protesters took part in the Global Climate Strike, thousands of activists began turning out around the world today to draw attention to the climate crisis.

In New Zealand, tens of thousands of young people marched to the parliament. Katherine Rivers, an 18-year-old university student, said it was great to see young people taking action and personal responsibility by marching. “We need to stop pandering to some of the people who are making money off climate change. The big oil companies, the dairy industry, etc.,” she said. “And make a change for the future of these kids that are here.”

In Rome, tens of thousands rallied, with protesters holding such signs as “Change the system, not the climate” or just the word “Future.”

Friday’s strike, branded the “Earth Strike” or “General Strike to Save the Planet,” follows a series of worldwide demonstrations surrounding the United Nations Climate Action Summit. It will also pay homage to a key anniversary: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was published on Sept. 27, 1962, launching the modern environmentalist movement.

On Wednesday, climate scientists at the U.N. released a released a report on the world’s oceans and mountains, warning that melting glaciers can not only contribute to rising sea levels, but can also pose a threat to humans through landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods.

That same day, Italian officials closed roads after experts warned that a massive chunk of a glacier in the Alps is at risk of collapsing due to climate change.

While some countries held their major Global Climate Strike last week, 28 countries and territories planned to host their main strike on Friday, including: Argentina, Aruba, Belgium, Canada, Ecuador, Eswatini, Gambia, Greece, Guam, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Mali, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela and Yemen.

Greta Thunberg planned to attend Friday’s strike in Montreal, according to her Twitter.

[USA Today/Earth Strike]

4 million people marched for climate action

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Extreme storms, hurricanes, and cyclones are occurring so frequently that they seem commonplace. Recently the Bahamas and parts of the USA were hit by Hurricane Dorian. Earlier in the year it was Cyclone Idai, followed by Kenneth, and then Fani in the Indian Ocean. Those cyclones battered Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Seychelles and parts of the coastal areas of eastern India. Scientists surmised that the cyclones that killed over a thousand  in Mozambique and caused $2 billion worth of damage, made even more intense by the warming of the ocean.

In 2000, flooding in Mozambique caused extensive damage and pictures of desperate citizens stranded on rooftops, tree tops and broken bridges made the rounds in the global media. In 2012, flooding in Nigeria took the lives of 363 persons. Last year, over 100 persons died in floods in the country. All these come as go as news and the numbers of persons killed and properties damaged all go down as mere statistics.

As I write this, I am reading of another storm hitting the Bahamas and a headline that the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency predicts weather related destruction in parts of Nigeria by October as floods march down from the upper reaches of the Niger Basin comprising Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ivoire, Benin, Chad, and Cameroon. The floods are coming and we have a month’s notice to relocate to higher grounds. Storms in Guinea and other upstream nations will pile up the flood that will quietly wiggle its way down the River Niger and take unsuspecting communities downstream by surprise. But, are they not forewarned?

…Precious little is being done or planned to be done. Countries are still struggling to make any serious commitments in the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions as required by the Paris Agreement. … Unfortunately, the climate negotiations have become an arena for nations to agree on what is convenient for them to do or not to do, completely ignoring the climate debt and the fact that rich, industrialized, polluting nations have already grabbed 80 percent of the carbon budget. We are seeing the burden of climate action being loaded on poor, vulnerable nations and territories that never contributed significantly to the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These poor countries are required to turn their forests and soils and seas into carbon sinks so that polluters can continue with pollution-as-usual in the name of business. This manner of inter-generational buck-passing is unacceptable and confirms why radical actions must be taken to force governments to take up their responsibilities.

In his The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Global Warming, Michael Tennesen states that if all the ice sheets on earth were to melt, we would have a sea level rise of approximately 60 metres, or 200 feet. If that were to happen, only a few would find higher ground to relocate to. In fact, in some low lying coastal areas, a sea level rise of just 1 meter or 3 feet would translate to the submergence of land to a distance of several kilometers into the hinterland. The polar ice caps and all the ice sheets may not yet be cracking and collapsing into the sea at this time, but we have the warning that the scene is set for that to happen. Will nations heed the warnings we have today and take needed actions? Is the world ready to leave fossil fuels in the ground and ensure a rapid transition to renewable energy sources?

We are happy that the 4 million people who marched in the Climate Strike caught the attention of the world. …But our marches must never offset or take the place of action.

[Nnimmo Bassey, writing in greengrants.org]

Greta Thunberg: Activism works

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Excerpts from a speech Greta Thunberg delivered upon accepting the Ambassador of Conscience Award:

This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future. All these fearless youth, fighting for their future. A future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot. 

We are currently on track for a world that could displace billions of people from their homes, taking away even the most basic living conditions for countless people, making areas of the world uninhabitable for humans.

The changes and the politics required to take on the crisis simply doesn’t exist today. That is why every single one of us must push from every possible angle, to hold those responsible accountable and to make the people in power act and to take the measures required.

We, who together are the movement Fridays for Future, we are fighting for our lives. But not only that, we are also fighting for our future children and grandchildren, for future generations, for every single living being on earth, whose biosphere we share, whose biosphere we are stealing, whose biosphere we are ruining.

We are fighting for everyone. For the people living in areas of the world that are already suffering the consequences from the first stages of the climate and ecological emergency. People who breathe toxic air, who drink contaminated water, who have to flee their homes because of climate and environmental-related disasters. Indigenous communities whose lands and waters are being destroyed. People whose food and water supply is being threatened by environmental-related catastrophes, stronger and more frequent droughts, rainfalls, storms, or melting glaciers.

We are still moving in the wrong direction with unimaginable pace. It may seem impossible to pull the emergency brake, and yet that is what we have to do.

But there is an awakening going on. Even though it is slow, the pace is picking up and the debate is shifting. This is thanks to a lot of different reasons, but it is a lot because of countless of activists and especially young activists. Activism works. 

Iman on philanthropy and her refugee past

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“When I was discovered as a model in Kenya, I was a refugee,” says supermodel Iman. “We literally escaped Somalia and came to Kenya as refugees with just the clothes on our backs.”

“I was really inspired by the nongovernmental organizations, the NGOs like CARE, that were on the ground helping us, helping young girls and women by finding them jobs and food. The NGOs also helped girls and women avoid sexual harassment, assault and rape. For a young girl, navigating life as a refugee in another country can be a minefield.”

On Tuesday, CARE — the esteemed anti-poverty and humanitarian organization founded in 1945 — revealed that supermodel, activist and entrepreneur Iman has been appointed its first-ever global advocate. The role was specifically created for Iman, now 64, who will work with CARE to strengthen its ongoing mission to end poverty, with an emphasis on aiding refugee girls and women both domestically and internationally.

“This is the work that moves me. I have been involved with quite a lot of charities, but what moves my heart is women and girls. Since I was a refugee myself and because I’ve known the plight of women and girls myself, through my own journey in life, I was aware of what CARE does and I was aware of their long history,” Iman tells THR of the agency, which originated the “care package” in 1946 during post-World War II relief efforts. “So, we came up with the global advocate role, where it’s about finding out what really impacts women and girls around the world and here at home in America.” 

She adds, “We have to think of refugees collectively as humans. They’re not nameless, they’re not faceless, they’re not just people who come from far away. These are people who are at the U.S.-Mexico border right now. I am one of them. People usually don’t understand who a refugee is. I am the face of a refugee.”

Michelle Nunn, CARE CEO and former U.S Senate candidate, couldn’t think of a better person to partner with. “Iman really represents CARE’s purpose and mission, the strength of women around the world and also the capacity to create change in the world,” Nunn says. “This cause has never been more important if you think about the fact that, for the first time in history since World War II, we have never had more people displaced in the world, including right here in America. We were thrilled that Iman was willing to accept this mantle.”

To “truly understand” CARE’s operations, Iman tells THR that she plans to visit refugees in person. “I have to go on the ground and see it for myself. I want to empower girls and women who are in camps, whether it’s in Syria or at the U.S.-Mexico border,” she says. “I want to see that they are taken care off and feel safe.”

[The Hollywood Reporter]

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers scathing speech at UN

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Teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg delivered an emotional and scathing speech at the United Nations on Monday, accusing world leaders of stealing her dreams and her childhood with their inaction on climate change.

“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” the 16-year-old from Sweden told the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Thunberg slammed the members of the U.N. for caring more about money and “fairytales of eternal economic growth” than collapsing ecosystems, mass extinctions and people suffering due to climate change.

Thunberg said the earth’s remaining CO2 budget was rapidly dwindling — citing a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that said the planet has experienced a more than 70 gigaton deficit in the earth’s remaining CO2 budget since January 2018.

But Thunberg said leaders from the United Nations wouldn’t suggest more radical plans to reduce emissions because they are “still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

“You are failing us but young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” Thunberg said. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”

Earlier, Thunberg tweeted that she and 15 other children from around the world had filed a legal complaint, claiming that some countries have violated an approximately 30-year-old human rights treaty. The complaint was filed against nations who have ratified the treaty and have the largest emissions, she wrote. Those nations are Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey.

On Friday, Thunberg led 150 countries in a youth-led Global Climate Strike, which saw millions taking to the streets around the world to demand action and an end to the era of fossil fuels. Thunberg marched in New York City, where she addressed thousands of strikers. “This is an emergency,” she told the crowd. “Our house is on fire.”

[NBC]

65 countries start working towards net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050; big emitters remain undecided

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Nearly one-third of countries globally have started working towards “achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emission by 2050”, the United Nations said on Monday with heads of state and government assembling in New York for the Climate Action Summit.

Though many European Union (EU) nations, including France, Germany, Italy and the UK, figured in the list of 65 such nations, they account for just 37% of global emissions. The big emitters are missing from the list.

Top emitters such as China, the US and India and others like Russia, Japan and Australia have so far not spelt out their intent on either working for net-zero emission or looking to raise their climate action targets by 2020.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres had called the Climate Action Summit to ramp up the NDCs as the current collective targets of all countries may still take global average temperature rise well above 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century from the pre-industrial level. The idea behind the enhanced climate actions is to ultimately stabilize global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century so that the world can be saved from the disastrous consequences of climate change.

[Economic Times]