OneWorld and the WorldWatch Institute highlight the growing issue of overpopulation, the 6.7-billion strong elephant in the room that development folks don't like to talk about. Over-population and high fertility rates play a significant role in increased poverty, food shortages, water competition, and climate change, issues that will only continue to get worse as the world population nears 9 billion in 2050. And while the Bush Administration has made some significant efforts at population reduction in the United States and Iraq, the consensus among development professionals is that educating women is a much better alternative to pointless war.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the recent escalation of long-simmering tensions between Georgia and Russia has uprooted as many as 100,000 people. This figure is in additon to the 275,000 in the region already stateless and displaced from prior conflicts. UNICEF warns that women and children have been disproportionately victimized by the war, and that the region's children are at risk of long-term psychosocial impact:
We are trying to ensure that all children have basic health and hygiene needs taken care of,” Mr. [Benjamin] Perks [Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Georgia] says. “We have a particular problem… with institutionalized children and children with disabilities who have also been affected by the conflict and we’re making sure that social services are able to provide support for the especially vulnerable children who do not have the protection of a family.”
Mr. Perks says he’s also concerned about the psychological impact on children of the escalation in violence.
“Aerial bombardments, snipers, tanks – these are devastating for children and this is a number one concern that the huge escalation in violence and conflict will have a psychological impact not only on children but on their parents as well.”
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Palestinian patients seeking necessary treatment are increasingly being denied exit visas by Israeli security forces, according to a new report by Physicians for Human Rights - Israel. In one of the more troublesome findings of the report, patients are being asked to act as collaborators and spy on Hamas activists as a condition for permission to exit Ghaza. This violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention comes in addition to the illegal blockade of Ghaza that has decimated the region's medical facilities, forcing patients to seek treatment in hospitals in Israel, Jordan, or the West Bank.
The following excerpt illustrates a typical experience of one of the denied patients:
Since the month of August or September 2007, I began feeling pain in the upper part of my right thighbone, as well as pain in my legs and back, constantly. In the past, about two years ago, I suffered from the same pain, but infrequently. ... In October, I was examined by physicians in Gaza, and x-rays were done on my right thigh. A tumor was found on the upper part of my right thighbone, but the type of tumor was not identified.
At the physicians’ recommendation, I was referred for an MRI test to diagnose my illness, at Al-Raiyeh al-Arabieh in Ramallah in the West Bank, as it was impossible to conduct the exam in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, I submitted a request to the Palestinian side, according to an appointment that was set for me at the Ramallah hospital for 4 December 2007. On 3 December 2007, I was informed by the Palestinian side that the Israeli side had approved the request I submitted, and that I was to go to Erez Crossing the following day.
At about 7:00 a.m., I reported at Erez Crossing with my mother... ,who escorted me, and received permission from the Palestinian side.
At 14:00, I was approached by two Israelis in civilian dress, who held my ID card. One of them asked my name. I was then taken to an examining room, where I was asked to remove my pants and shoes. They recorded my voice as well. I was led through corridors underground, and they put me in a waiting room for about twenty minutes.
I was then questioned about the Kataib Shuhada al-Aqsa organization. I responded that I had no connection with this organization, but the interrogation was focused on this point. Then the interrogator began accusing me of lying, and said that we in the Gaza Strip did not deserve to live, and that if he had the power, he would have disconnected us from electricity and water, and even prevented entry of food into the Gaza Strip.
Then the interrogator informed me that it was impossible to allow me to enter Israel, but I said I had no intention of entering Israel but rather Ramallah. He replied, “It is impossible for us to approve your entry. Security issues are in our hands, and your entry into Ramallah requires passage through Israel, and I am sorry but I cannot approve it for you,” although he had reviewed all my medical documents and I had explained my medical condition to him. He was not convinced by my documents and claimed that I did not appear to suffer from any illness.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The recent escalation of violence in Afghanistan has caused a surge of civilian casualties in recent months, according to a statement issued by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), a coalition of 100 NGOs working in Afghanistan. There were over 260 civilian casualties in July of 2008, more than any other month in the past six years. And, as Helena Cobban writes, these civilian casualties are at best a footnote in Western media. According to ACBAR, there's plenty of blame to go around:
Around two-thirds of the reported civilian casualties can be attributed to insurgent activities, especially the increasing use of suicide bombings and other indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and the use of civilian property from which to launch attacks. The increased number of air strikes by international military forces, which are up by approximately 40 per cent on last year, has also contributed to the rising civilian death toll.
Searches conducted by Afghan and international forces have on some occasions involved excessive use of force, extra-judicial killings, destruction of property and/or mistreatment of suspects.
Monday, August 04, 2008
A new paper by economists Michael Herrmann and Haider Khan examines the growing urbanization trend in the least-developed countries in Africa. Although Africa's population is still 75% rural, urban migration is accellerating, far outpacing the rate of job creation or infrastructure development in urban areas. This leads to increased crime, poverty, and social exclusion in urban areas.
Although the obvious response of development policy must be to encourage job creation in the urban formal sector, Herrmann and Khan suggest that a far more holistic approach is needed:
The data examined in this paper is showing that urban centers in African LDCs are witnessing a large influx of people, but that the cities in most African LDCs are suffering from a lack of jobs. Urban centers continue to be characterized by a rapid increase of un- and underemployment, and associated with this a rapid increase of poverty and slums. To use the picture of the u-shaped curve of urban development, many cities are at the downward slope and the challenge is to encourage a transition to the upward slope. Although this transition requires a better management of urban centers, it goes well beyond a narrow focus on the urban centers alone. It is important that the anti-urban bias, which has characterized development efforts in recent years, is not replaced by an anti-rural bias in the years to come. Indeed, we are arguing that successful urban development is closely linked to and cannot be separated from successful rural development. In accordance, we are encouraging development policies to focus on the strengthening of three linkages between informal and formal enterprises in the urban areas, linkages between small-scale farms and large commercial farms in the rural areas, and finally linkages between farms and firms across geographic locations.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
A new web site produced by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provides a snapshot of our planet's vital signs, as measured by Earth-observing satellites such as Jason-2 and AIRS and Terra. The prognosis, as reported on Gristmill, isn't too good - a current rate of sea level rise of 1.3 inches per decade that could accelerate to 6 in/decade by the end of the century.