MapActionHunger in Africa is an ever-present concern. The issue was heightened in 2020 when climate change and unusual rainfall patterns caused locust swarms to infest East Africa. The area had not experienced such an extreme locust plague in many years. Kenya’s last major infestation was about 70 years prior. On the other hand, Somalia and Ethiopia last experienced a severe locust plague roughly 25 years ago. In 2018, two major cyclones increased the locust population in Saudi Arabia by 8,000-fold, and subsequently, strong winds moved the swarms into the Horn of Africa. In December 2020, a rare cyclone in Somalia created locust groups of more than 15 million per square mile, devouring the crops of 19 million herders and farmers in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. MapAction is bringing in geospatial technology to help better respond to such crises.

Climate Change in Africa

In January 2021, the Famine Early Warning System reported that areas in the Horn of Africa were facing food crises due to the locust swarms. A swarm the size of Manhattan can eat the same quantity of food as the whole population of New York and California in just one day. From March 2021 through May 2021, a lack of rainfall in parts of Ethiopia meant that farmers could not prepare their fields for crops or have adequate grass for pasture. The countries most vulnerable to food insecurity are Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. Indeed, the persistent lack of rainfall has brought dry conditions to many parts of East Africa.

The disastrous combination of flooding and drought, along with locust infestation, is harshly impacting communities in the region, even more so due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 lockdowns, communication between relief organizations is difficult. Since April 2020, an organization called MapAction has been working in the eastern and southern parts of Africa, “applying geospatial expertise to humanitarian situations” to improve results. The organization looks to improve communication between Oxfam and its local partners.

Geospatial Analysis

MapAction believes that expert geospatial analysis can help spread resources to populations affected by famine, drought and other emergencies. MapAction works to ensure that emergency aid responders and disaster management agencies have access to crucial data. This data will allow responders to make decisions that will improve food security and relieve hunger in Africa. The team creates map templates and trains locals to update maps. This helps inform Oxfam’s partners about threats to food security, such as when locust swarms move into new areas. MapAction also maps where work has been done to prevent efforts from being wasted through duplication.

MapAction’s Impact

Rupert Douglas-Bate originally conceived the idea for MapAction. Bate formulated the concept while “working as an emergency water engineer in Bosnia in 1994.” Bate realized “that there was a gap in mapped analysis to support the effective planning and delivery of humanitarian aid.” MapAction first started off supporting Oxfam and partners in Kenya and Somalia but intends to assist in Zimbabwe and Zambia too. In the near future, MapAction would like to extend its scope to Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Botswana.

Since its inception, MapAction has supported thousands of emergency aid groups in more than 60 humanitarian crises around the world. Furthermore, the organization has helped millions of people who were in danger of starving. The organization has won four Stevie International Business Awards for Company of the Year and an Association for Geographic Information Award for Excellence due to its Ebola assistance in West Africa.

MapAction continues to develop new technologies to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. In the process, it is subsequently reducing the threat of widespread hunger in Africa, preventing millions from falling deeper into poverty.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in the MENAThe Middle East and North Africa, or MENA region, is best known for its strategic location in relation to the lucrative fossil fuel market. Oil and gas have given many developing countries a fast track into wealth, causing rapid urbanization and social stratification. This is especially noticeable around the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, in places such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran and Egypt. Now, more than 60% of the population lives in cities, but poverty is heavily concentrated in rural areas. Given the push to transition to renewable energy and the disaster potential posed by sea-level rise and other climate changes, sustainability in the MENA region is critical.

Recovery from Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has started a significant economic downturn in this region. During the start of the pandemic and resulting financial crisis, the price of oil dropped sharply, even falling below $0 per barrel. This had a dramatic, negative effect on the overall economy and hinders the region’s ability to recover effectively.

In past financial crises like this one, carbon emissions routinely decreased, especially in 2009 by approximately 1.4%. In 2010, the decreases were more than offset, with emissions showing a growth of around 5.4%. An article published in Nature noted that during the COVID-19 lockdown measures global CO2 emissions decreased by 17%.

Programs for Sustainability in the MENA Region

This large decrease in emissions presents an opportunity to work toward sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa. One way is by designating the financial relief and stimulus money to restart the economy to projects such as the Egyptian Pollution Abatement Programme (EPAP) which funds environmentally friendly services and projects. They are currently developing more sustainable fuel, funding hazardous waste management efforts and supporting various other technological innovations to reduce pollution. Similar programs exist in Lebanon and several other nations.

Ideally, these programs and other emerging jobs in green technology will more than replace any jobs lost from the oil and gas industry and increase opportunities for employment outside the agricultural sector. Non-farming activities in the water-constrained MENA region, reduce poverty, according to a study conducted by senior economists at the World Bank Group.

Alternatively, there are other initiatives to invest in sustainable land management practices. These could increase the profitability of work in the agricultural sector and lower the risk of poor weather leading to extreme poverty. For example, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) program in Morocco aimed to diversify coastal economic activities in low-income areas. They encouraged algae cultivation and ecotourism in addition to normal fishing and farming. This made the community more resilient to potential unforeseen circumstances.

Looking Forward

In recovery from a crisis, the priority is usually to return to normal, but that kind of thinking sets back long-term goals that could greatly improve the quality of life and technological sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa. As another World Bank Blog article says: “Thinking ahead, therefore, the urgent focus on short-term needs should not overlook opportunities to achieve other longer-term goals (and avoid making longer-term goals even more challenging).”

– Anika Ledina
Photo: Flickr

Monsoons in South Asian Countries
Monsoons are seasonal changes in the direction of the wind in a region that causes wet and dry seasons. This phenomenon is most associated with the Indian Ocean where its effects greatly impact South Asian countries. The summer monsoon, which occurs between April and September, brings the wet season. Warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean moves inland and brings heavy rainfall and a humid climate. In contrast, the winter monsoon occurs between October and April and brings the dry season, but it is often weaker than the summer monsoons as the Himalaya Mountains prevent most of the dry air from reaching coastal countries. Monsoons in South Asian countries contribute to many industries, such as farming and electricity, however, there are adverse effects.

Negative Impacts of Monsoons in South Asian Countries

Here is a closer look at how monsoons have impacted some countries.

  1. India. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India is one of Asia’s largest countries. Agriculture makes up 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and over half of the population works in this industry. Consequently, when there is too little or too much rainfall it can be severely damaging to the economy and the livelihoods of millions. The 2009 summer monsoon, for example, brought low rainfall that prevented farmers from planting their crops. Farmers were left to sell their starved farm animals for only a fraction of the normal price. Years with little rainfall also affect India’s electricity as hydropower makes up 25% of its energy source. Likewise, higher levels of rainfall can lead to floods, coastal damage, and other disasters. In 2019, flooding due to heavy rain led to 1,200 deaths and millions of displaced individuals.

  2. Bangladesh. The low elevation and dense population of Bangladesh make it extra vulnerable to the impact of monsoons. Now, with the rise of COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in the country, the summer 2020 monsoon has affected 5.4 million lives. This monsoon season brought heavy rainfall that led to the worst floods Bangladesh has faced within the last decade. Nearly a million homes were submerged underwater and 600 square miles of farmland were damaged by the floods. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made relief efforts difficult to reach the country.

  3. Pakistan. Similar to Bangladesh, Pakistan also faced heavy rainfall and floods from the 2020 monsoon season. Over 400 people have died with another 400 injured and more than 200,000 homes severely damaged from floods and landslides across the country. The government reported that the excessive rainfall destroyed nearly one million acres of farmland leaving farmers and consumers in a difficult position. In the Sindh Province, the impact of the monsoon displaced 68,000 people who are now in relief camps. The summer monsoons also affect the short-term and long-term health of victims as disease and infection spread faster within relief camps and the water.  In 2010, communities affected by flooding reported 113,981 cases of respiratory tract infections.

Relief Efforts

The countries above are only a few of the several areas affected by monsoons in the region. Fortunately, several agencies provide emergency relief for monsoons in South Asian countries. During the 2020 floods, the UN helped with the evacuation of 500,000 people and prepared to provide humanitarian aid to the most affected and vulnerable communities. In Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies worked closely with the government to provide victims with basic necessities, such as food, water, shelter, and other supplies. Additionally, the UN launched a $40 million response plan to help over one million people. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations gave over $1 million dollars in emergency funding to provide relief to the Sindh Province in Pakistan and funded other operations that provided basic needs to 96,250 people. Other agencies such as UNICEF standby and are ready to provide relief to any country impacted by natural disasters. The work of these organizations is critical to saving lives.

Giselle Ramirez-Garcia
Photo: Flickr

EcovillagesGreen growth refers to economic growth through the use of sustainable and eco-focused alternatives. These “green” alternatives benefit both the economy and the environment all while contributing to poverty reduction. Ecovillages are a prime example of an environmentally conscious effort to address global poverty. They are communities, rural or urban, built on sustainability. Members of these locally owned ecovillages are granted autonomy as they navigate a solution that addresses the four dimensions of sustainability: economy, ecology, social and culture.

The Global Ecovillage Network

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) recognizes that all four facets of sustainability must be addressed for maximum poverty reduction. Solely focusing on the economic or environmental impact will not yield optimal results. Embracing, not eliminating, the social and cultural aspects of sustainability should the aim of all communities in order to move toward a better future.

The development of sustainable communities around the globe is a commitment of the GEN. The organization’s outreach programs intend to fuel greater global cooperation, empower the citizens of the world’s nations and develop a sustainable future for all.

Working with over 30 international partners, GEN focuses on five defined regions. GEN Africa was created in 2012 and has overseen developments in more than 20 communities across the continent.

A Focus on Zambia

Zambia is one the countries garnering attention. Over half of Zambia’s population — 58% — falls below the $1.90 per day international poverty line. The majority of the nation’s impoverished communities live in rural regions.

Zambia’s government addresses these concerns by integrating the U.N.’s sustainable development goals into its development framework. With a focus on economic and ecological growth, Zambia could lay the groundwork for the success of its’ ecovillages.

Planting the Seed

The Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme recognizes youth as the future keepers of the planet. As well as Zambia, the program has chapters in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The focus is on establishing regional networks to strengthen sustainable efforts. The Zambia chapter along with its 17 newly joined organizations work toward the goal of educating and encouraging communities to find sustainable methods of food production.

ReSCOPE seeks to connect schools and their local environments through the Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities Programme. The program is a partnership between GEN and ReSCOPE and has received funding from the Scottish government. Through education and encouraging sustainable practices, Zambia’s youth have an active role in ensuring future growth.

Greening Schools

Greening Schools strengthens the communities of four schools — the centers of resilience and a source of community inspiration. Beginning with nutrition and food security, students are able to play a part in developmental change. Their hard work includes planting of hundreds of fruit trees. The schools became grounds for hands-on agricultural experience and exposure to the tending of life.

However, the impact was not restrained within the schools. The greening schools inspired local communities to make seed security and crop diversification a commitment. In 2019, these communities “brought back lost traditional crops and adopted intercropping and other agroecological practices.”

As part of their sustainable development goals, the U.N. recognizes the value of investing in ecovillages. Goals 11 and 12 stress the importance of sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production respectively. Educating and advocating for youth to take part in ecovillages addresses this matter.

Coming generations will determine the future, and the youth wield the power to address global concerns like sustainability and poverty. Ecovillages are a great new way to break the cycle of poverty.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP

Climate Change in the Pacific Islands
The Pacific Islands are a geographical region that the many small islands scattered across Southeast Asia characterize. It contains 15 countries such as Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Micronesia and more. As such, it is an extremely ecologically diverse area, home to many unique species of plants and animals. However, environmental challenges in the Pacific Islands pose a serious threat to the region, as natural disasters are prevalent. These ongoing natural disasters have destroyed much of the development in the area, leading to the Pacific Island’s long-standing struggle with economic growth as it lags behind its neighboring regions and countries.

Approximately one in four Pacific Islanders live below the poverty line, some of the highest rates of poverty in the world. These pressures have resulted in many people starting local projects to benefit their communities, which end up leading the world in how to adapt to environmental difficulties.

How Natural Disasters Exacerbate Poverty

As environmental challenges in the Pacific Islands continue to worsen, natural disasters have become increasingly common and dangerous. As an island region with some areas just 10 feet above sea level, the Pacific Islands is especially susceptible to the effects of these disasters. Estimates have determined that the region has lost a total of $3.2 billion since the 1950s due to natural disasters alone. As the area must allocate money towards repairing damaged structures and maintaining critical services, less can go to social programs to lift people out of poverty.

Major events like floods, droughts, tropical cyclones and tsunamis plague the region, reversing years of developmental projects like houses, hospitals, schools and more in just a few days. Long-term effects like inconsistent rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and seawater contamination have caused widespread food insecurity, water shortages and forced migration away from flooded or damaged areas. Many of these issues hit those already in poverty the hardest. Impoverished islanders lack the resources necessary for resilience in the face of such natural disasters, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

Innovations to Deal with Natural Disasters

Native peoples have come up with creative strategies to combat the threat of environmental challenges in the Pacific Islands at the community level. They are driving the world’s innovations to adapt to natural disasters by combining their knowledge of the native flora and fauna with high-tech science to protect their homes and livelihoods. These innovations have taken many forms, ranging from new data models to resilience-building aimed at future-proofing local economies and resources.

Most notably, communities have begun focusing on ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) in the Pacific Islands. This form of adaptation builds on the idea that healthy ecosystems are naturally resilient to the impacts of natural disasters. It prioritizes strengthening, restoring and sustainably managing damaged ecosystems.

Many areas have begun allocating resources towards the restoration of habitats resilient to natural disasters, such as mangrove and seagrass biomes. Studies that researchers conducted in Lami Town, Fiji have demonstrated that this method is both cheaper and more effective than man-made alternatives, especially for long-term development. As a result, the UN promotes EbA as the top method for adapting to the effects of natural disasters in the Pacific Islands.

Communities across the Pacific Islands have initiated projects to grow native plants along coastlines for their disaster-resistant properties and implemented laws to protect the many nearby marine ecosystems. They have also begun experimenting with drought-resistant crops. These projects have shown to positively affect local ecosystems, as well as benefiting the people’s sense of culture and identity while strengthening local governments and reducing reliance on outside forces.

Some areas struggling with water scarcity have rehabilitated their traditional water wells by adding a vegetation buffer to prevent sediments and pollution from falling into the well. Landowners are also agreeing to share wells during drought season, a concept that people developed and piloted in Oneisomw, Micronesia.

Work Remains

The Pacific islands have also made huge steps in climate-smart development, using the best science available to them to identify and prevent the devastating effects of natural disasters. The Catastrophe Risk Information System (PacRIS) acts as a huge database on where disasters have hit historically, as well as the damage they instigated. This project has grown to focus on urban development, strengthening building codes and making predictions about future disasters and their severity.

Although the Pacific Islands has made great strides in addressing the many effects of natural disasters and environmental conditions to prevent poverty and destruction in their communities, the region still requires imminent international support. The Pacific Islands account for a negligible amount of carbon emissions causing many of these issues. Yet the effects of environmental challenges in the Pacific islands are some of the most catastrophic, while major countries refuse to take action to reduce emissions and provide aid. Despite the large obstacles the Pacific Islands face, there is still hope that the area will be able to maintain its way of life and a reasonable amount of stability with the right tools and resources.

Elizabeth Lee
Photo: Flickr

Global Maker Challenge
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity (the Global Prosperity Initiative) launched the second cohort of its Global Maker Challenge in late 2019, in Abu Dhabi. The challenge is an innovation-based contest that brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to present ideas and solutions for promoting global prosperity and improving living standards.

Global Maker Challenge 2019 Themes

The Global Prosperity Initiative partnered with 10 U.N. agencies as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve, a marketplace for social impact initiatives, to select four themes that Global Maker Challenge submissions must follow. This cohort’s themes are (1) Sustainable and Healthy Food for All, (2) Climate Change, (3) Innovation for Inclusive Trade and (4) Innovation for Peace and Justice. Nearly 3,400 participants submitted cutting-edge ideas — including web and mobile applications, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions.

The Finalists

In the end, 20 finalists (five from each section) were chosen by a select group of experts from U.N. agencies, global organizations, digital innovation companies, NGOs and academia. The final projects selected stood out among the rest because they were both affordable and scalable — two characteristics that are critical when working with disadvantaged communities. Limited infrastructure and resources  are often some of the greatest challenges that must be overcome.

Category Objectives and Finalist List

  1. Sustainable and Healthy Food for All: Ideas submitted to this category aim to address issues regarding access to sustainable and nutritious food among growing urban populations, as well as reducing hunger and malnutrition. Finalists presented solutions for storing fresh produce and extending the shelf life of foods. Finalists accomplished this using temperature control hubs and sustainable packaging that reduces waste. Another finalist introduced an idea for a social enterprise that makes affordable and nutritious food more accessible to low-income communities.
  2. Climate Change: Contestants focused on promoting sustainability and efficient resource use to lower carbon emission and eliminate waste. Several finalists addressed the textile industry and how to make its materials more sustainable. Submissions included technologies to create biodegradable textiles from plant-based materials, upcycled plastic and ethical sourcing. Other projects addressed the issue of climate change in different ways, such as generating electricity from wastewater and creating a circulation system to convert compost into fertilizer.
  3. Innovation for Inclusive Trade: This category aims to increase the market inclusivity of rural populations to promote global, economic growth. Finalists introduced several digital platforms that provide access to financial literacy tools and empower small business owners. Ideas included an application providing financial tools and market information to emerging enterprises. Also, platforms for connecting rural farmers to international markets and mapping tools — which increase the visibility of small retailers.
  4. Innovation for Peace and Justice: Contestants provided solutions for displaced populations and refugees seeking essential services and resources. Several finalists focused on making education more accessible. Ideas included virtual reality classrooms for students in underserved communities. Also, technology training and legal services for residents of refugee camps and solar-powered learning hubs. Other finalists presented solutions for improving the quality of life of displaced populations, such as user-managed identification and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) learning technology and games.

Final Pitch

Finalists will present their solutions in a series of virtual pitches, starting in late August 2020 and commencing in early September of the same year — during the Global Maker Challenge Award Ceremony. Prizes include project funding and mentorship worth up to $1 million.

Seeing the Big Picture

The second cohort of the Global Maker Challenge comes at a critical time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable groups lack humanitarian aid, social protection and stimulus packages. Unless action is taken, as many as 50 million people could fall into extreme poverty, as a result of the pandemic. Innovation and collaboration are powerful tools for developing solutions to unprecedented challenges. Today’s entrepreneurs and designers provide hope for overcoming setbacks caused by the pandemic and maintaining progress towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Environment
Esteemed service organization Rotary International describes itself as “a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders and problem solvers.” Running strong for upwards of 110 years, Rotary uses its expansive network to enact positive change for its focus areas: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies. These six areas act as pillars, each sustaining the vast organization by way of focused motivation. On June 25, 2020, Rotary International announced, with unanimous support from the Rotary Foundation Trustees and Rotary International Board of Directors, that it will be adding a seventh area of focus: supporting the environment.

The Decision to Add

This new area of focus did not come about randomly. Rotary has consistently shown support for environmental projects over the past five years, contributing over $18 million in funding from Foundation grants. Before the environment was an official area of focus, Rotary regularly made the environment a priority, recognizing how intertwined the issue is with the other six focus areas. The benefit of officially announcing the environment as an area of focus, then, is that it allows Rotary to directly channel global grants to this issue, creating new projects and innovations. Rotary International President Mark Maloney said of the decision, “I believe strongly that our Rotary Foundation programs now have a valuable added dimension to our efforts.”

Support for the Addition

In January 2020, when discussion of whether to add the new focus area occurred, the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group advocated for its addition, arguing that it would help to maximize the success of environmentally-focused projects. Their reasoning also touched on how other focus areas are impacted by the environment. For example, to effectively achieve the focus of providing clean water, Rotary must acknowledge how water shortages can occur in communities near areas of deforestation. In addition, trash and toxic waste dumped into water sources can undermine Rotary water projects while also spreading disease. On the flipside, Rotarians implementing projects to support the other focus areas must consider their effects on the environment and whether a project as a whole is sustainable.

Sustainability Projects

The Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group oversees a number of sustainability projects running globally. The group’s environment-specific projects show their commitment to this new focus area. Some of the projects include Rotarians for Bees, started by the Rotary Club of Canterbury in Australia to conserve bee populations; Lunch Out of Landfills, created by the Southern Frederick Rotary Club in Maryland to reduce food waste, and Ocean CleanX, which uses technology to increase awareness of ocean pollution. There are many more projects that Rotary clubs have adopted to limit society’s negative effects on the planet. The announcement of the seventh focus area will bring about new environmental projects and increased funding to make this global issue a Rotary priority for years to come.

The Future

Adding the environment as a new area of focus provides Rotary International with the influence needed to continue sustaining humanitarian projects in the long term while also actively working to make the planet cleaner and safer for the communities it serves. This proactive approach to climate change ensures that Rotary International will be able to handle the inevitable changes arising from a warming planet amid increasing levels of pollution, deforestation and extinction. Rotary is not alone. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a partner of Rotary, has also added climate change to its top issues. Humanitarian organizations like Rotary have the network and resources necessary to help vulnerable communities adjust to environmental changes that are on the horizon.

Maria Marabito
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Malta
Considerable progress has been made in addressing poverty in Malta. Malta has experienced substantial increases in its GDP, with a real GDP growth rate of 6.7% in 2017. The unemployment rate in 2018 was also relatively low at 3.7%, exhibiting a -2.5% change from 2012, compared to the European Union average of 6.8%. Malta has further experienced a positive improvement in almost all of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty and zero hunger. In addition, Malta is among one of the fastest-growing economies within the E.U., further exhibiting their ability to effectively address poverty.

What Is Being Done?

The government of Malta is fighting poverty through its National Strategic Policy for Poverty Reduction and for Social Inclusion 2014-2024. The strategy works to address poverty in Malta through a focus on income and benefits, employment, education, health and environment, social services and culture.

The national strategy has been successful in that it has led to continued increases in the figures for At Risk of Poverty and Social Exclusion (AROPE). Progress addressing poverty in Malta is also being measured by the World Bank, which found that from 2010 to 2015 the income of the bottom 40% in Malta experienced a 3.6% increase, a growth rate faster than the average of the total population.

Pushing Forward Further Progress

While Malta has experienced considerable improvements in addressing the 2030 SDGs, progress has stalled in addressing sustainable consumption and production, inequality and climate change. Malta has put forth policies to push forward progress with regard to these stalled SDGs.

The reform package measure “Making Work Pay” works to address inequalities through the introduction of a guaranteed minimum pension, reduced income tax and introduction and extension of in-work benefits. The success of these measures is evident through the country’s low unemployment rate and rising GDP. Additionally, gender inequalities continue to persist in terms of employment. However, the rate of women in employment has seen a considerable increase in recent years. The fact that the gender employment gap has reduced by 4.6% from 2015 to 2018 demonstrates this.

Despite the fact that progress addressing climate change in Malta has stalled, when compared to other countries within the E.U., Malta is among the countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Malta’s Sustainable Development Vision for 2050 addresses the lack of progress in regard to climate change, as well as envisions the eradication of poverty and social exclusion.

Tourism in Malta

The Maltese government is also using tourism, a major contributor to their economic development, as a means of pushing forward the green economic transition and progress towards sustainable consumption and production and climate change. The restoration of historical and cultural sites in the country is making this progress possible. One such example is the restoration of the Grand Master’s Palace in Malta. Tourism contributes to the alleviation of poverty in Malta by increasing economic opportunities and generating taxable economic growth which can be used towards poverty alleviation.

While work is still needed in Malta in areas such as climate change and the gender employment gap, poverty in Malta is well on its way to meeting its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Health and Climate Change
Health and climate issues closely relate as environmental hazards have the ever-increasing potential to inflict damage on human populations. Climate conditions are able to worsen human health in the form of physiological deterioration, such as heart and lung diseases, asthma, mental health illnesses and many more ailments.

Extreme natural disasters such as floods, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires are examples of environmental factors that hurt human health. While these elements can cause health issues like the ones above, indirectly, the correlation between health and climate issues appears in the form of ecological changes and other biological forms. Examples include food security, mental illness, malnutrition, water-borne diseases and/or other infectious diseases. Reducing environmental risks can ultimately reduce these health risks.

Food Insecurity

In 2017, there were 157 million more “heat wave exposure events” than in 2000, which are extreme weather conditions that drastically increase individuals’ chance of mortal health risks. Extreme heat leads to an increase in hospital admissions and deaths credited to cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disorders, heat stroke and more. Heatwaves also decrease productivity—people lost 153 billion hours of labor from “excessive heat,” primarily in the agricultural industry, in 2017. Productivity loss leads to food insecurity, disruption of livelihoods and poor income distribution for those depending on agriculture for jobs.

As well as productivity decline, extreme weather events can diminish biodiversity and change rainfall trends, which causes crop yields to decline around the world. Insufficient crop yields reduce the amount of “consumable food calories” or the amount of food produced from crop yields for people to eat. This process results in global food insecurity, malnutrition, stunted growth, diseases and death, and while most wealthy countries are able to import food or find other viable crop options, rural areas in poorer countries, where 70% of the world’s most food-insecure live, suffer. Globally, food production lost approximately 35 trillion calories, which could have fed undernourished populations, as a result of fluctuating and unfavorable environmental conditions. Meanwhile, about 70% of weather disasters (droughts, floods, storms and more) are climate-related and FAO specifies that agriculture endures more than 20% of the damages. Of the damages to all industries from droughts in Latin America and the Caribbean between 2006 and 2016, agriculture bore 80% of the damages.

Food insecurity from insufficient crop yields increases the demand for food without a supply, therefore prices rise, which generates a new level of vulnerability for poor populations and forces them to turn to less nutritional food and threatens mass malnutrition. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) possesses a small agricultural industry and imports approximately 86% of its food. Food insecurities from their produce suppliers will “constrain trade flows” to the UAE and pressure individual people and households to spend a greater proportion of their income on food.

Increase in Diseases

Infectious diseases, such as malaria and cholera, and waterborne diseases spread faster in warmer climates leading to illnesses becoming more prevalent in regions where they were previously not a threat. As the frequency of droughts increases, humans become dependent on contaminated water sources that are more likely to have waterborne viruses that infect populations.

Malaria is an example of a disease that can spread based on environmental factors. As the temperature of the earth rises, malaria becomes more prevalent and the death rate increases because warmer than usual conditions enable the disease to spread to new, previously immune regions, such as East Africa.

Because the threat level of food and waterborne diseases is dependent on climate conditions, governments must prepare surveillance and preventative measures within their health systems.

Air Quality

The increased frequency of wildfires that put human health at risk is another example of how health and climate intertwine. Wildfires produce smoke that leaves behind carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter in the air which dramatically reduces the air quality. The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC credit smoke exposure and poor air quality as the causes of “hundreds of thousands of deaths annually” from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and strokes.

Additionally, poor air quality from unclean cooking, heating and lighting practices—using indoor stoves and burning kerosene, wood, animal dung or vegetables—kills 4 million annually and causes 93% of children around the world to suffer from respiratory infections, according to WHO. Air pollution impacts the population generationally, as those that suffer from exposure to polluted air are later more likely to give birth to premature children with increased susceptibility to diminished cognitive ability, asthma, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. In 2016, 1,432 individuals died as a result of air pollution in the United Arab Emirates.

Poverty undoubtedly plays a significant role in health. Factors such as geographic location, socioeconomic status, age, access to health care, the resiliency of health care infrastructure and type of ecological threat have the potential to drastically amplify the level of health risk to populations. A perfect example of the role of wealth regarding health is how 98% of “low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants” worldwide fail to reach air quality standards that WHO has presented. Comparatively, the number of high-income countries with inadequate air quality levels is 56%. The good news is that many of these environmental problems are reversible: just as environmental issues can cause health problems, solving environmental issues can improve global health.

Actions Taken

The East African Development Fund (EADB) is an example of an economic institution that recognizes the threat of environmental issues on socio-economic development and overall health. The EADB has identified the necessity of addressing health and climate threats through the process of development in developing countries and regions. By supporting various initiatives and technologies, the EADB helps those facing environmental obstacles such as droughts, changes in rainfall and diminished crop yields.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an organization that finances projects that address environmental issues. The GEF has provided $20.5 billion in grants and $112 billion to finance environmentally regenerative projects in 170 countries. GEF prioritizes a multifaceted approach and deliberate engagements with the “private sector, indigenous peoples, and civil society” to establish a variety of strategies and results.

Many more organizations like these exist, such as the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE). These environmental organizations support national strategies to mitigate the economic and health repercussions of the environment and encourages each nation to do its part in addressing environmental challenges.

WHO Recommendations

Every four years, WHO curates profiles for countries to identify climate risks, correlating health impacts and national responses. In these profiles, WHO connects health and climate issues, as well as categorizes health impacts and solutions that differ between country and region. Across the board, one of the primary recommendations is the implementation of policy and a national strategy for health and climate issues. For example, one of the primary concerns in the United Arab Emirates is air pollution and the respiratory effects, whereas, in the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu in Polynesia, rising sea levels produce the most concern. WHO helps plan and implement “climate-resilient health systems” which improves the health workforce’s ability to better respond to health effects from environmental problems. In Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, health officials receive training on health services for extreme weather events and “climate sensitive diseases.”

There are innumerable ways that public health and climate issues interconnect—tackling health problems and global environmental problems together is like killing two birds with one stone. As an international organization, WHO is responsible for producing thorough health guidelines and coordinating global health and climate responses. It falls upon each country to determine its role in protecting global health and solutions for environmental challenges they can implement to ensure the safest future.

–  Nye Day
Photo: Flickr