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In an effort to protect human health and aid crop production, the World Bank is planning “aggressive action” to help developing nations cut emissions of soot and other air pollutants contributing to our warming world. Of the Bank’s total funding to poor countries, approximately 8 percent, or $18 billion from 2007-2012, goes to sectors such as farming, waste, transportation and energy that could ultimately cut emissions. The bank stated that policy would be shifted to insist that projects in the future include a component to reduce air pollution.

Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, explained that they would work to turn funding into aggressive action to cut pollutants. “Anything that delays the pace at which global warming is arriving buys time for our clients, the poor countries in the world,” Kyte said.

The World Bank would research new ways to help curb methane emissions from rice irrigation, reduce pollution from public transport and improve efficiency of high-polluting cooking stoves and brick kilns, among other things. Soot comes from sources such as diesel engines and wood-burning cooking stoves. Methane, on the other hand, comes from decomposition of plant and animal matter, such as from the digestive tracts of sheep and cattle, as well as from farming.

The focus of short-lived air pollutants is meant to coincide with efforts to cut carbon dioxide, identified by the U.N. panel of climate scientists as both the main greenhouse gas from human activities, and the main cause of global warming. Simply cutting short-term pollutants would reduce global warming by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) by 2040-50.

Cutting short-lived pollutants would also protect human health, with approximately six million people dying each year worldwide from air pollution. “First aid for the climate can also be first aid for people’s health,” Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Soljhell said. Reducing pollutants “can also help rural economies, with current estimates showing the potential to save about 50 million tons of crops each year,” he said. Pollution poisons plants and blocks sunlight, stunting growth.

Ali Warlich

Sources: Huffington Post, ReutersThe Sydney Morning Herald

Acer Malaysia
Acer Malaysia has partnered up with Stop Hunger Now to raise RM50,000 to feed as many as 300,000 people under the Stop Hunger Now program. Acer Malaysia has pledged RM10,000 to jump-start the fundraising. Both organizations are urging the public to support the cause to provide more people with at least one filling and nutritious meal a day.

“Acer decided to take part in the two-month program under our corporate social responsibility program. We have committed to donating a minimum of RM10,000 or 10,000 packs of meals. With each pack providing six reasonable meal servings, the 10,000 packs will feed 60,000 people. However, we are expanding this program to include generous Malaysians and help more people,” stated Acer Sales & Services Sdn Bhd general manager Ricky Tan.

Each Stop Hunger Now meal packs costs just RM1 and is very nutritious. Each meal contains soy, rice, dehydrated vegetables, and a flavoring mix, including 21 essential vitamins and minerals. Because the packs have a shelf life of two years, they are easily transported and are a viable solution to fight hunger among the world’s most vulnerable and impoverished.

Donations can be made without any purchase at simplygiving.com/acerstopshunger. For every RM10 donated, the public helps to provide food for 60 people. Meals will be packed using funds raised through the program on World Peace Day, on September 21.

Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency and has been working to end hunger for more than 15 years. Since 1998, the organization has distributed food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in 65 countries. Stop Hunger Now has developed a packaging operation mobile enough to go wherever volunteers are located, and can accommodate as few as 25 or as many as 500 volunteers at a time.

One SHN packaging event can result in the packaging of over 1,000,000 meals. The use of volunteers for these events has resulted in a very cost-effective operation, and also increases hunger awareness and food security issues across the globe. Stop Hunger Now has packaged a total of 107,529,729 meals since its founding, and that number continues to grow each week.

Ali Warlich

Sources: Stop Hunger Now, The Star Online

History of the United Nations
The history of the UN begins like so… Before the United Nations was the international body that it is today, there was the League of Nations. First established at the end of the first World War, the League of Nations sought “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.” The League of Nations was ultimately unsuccessful as an international body and it failed to prevent the second World War.

As a result, the League of Nations disbanded. Yet, international leaders recognized the need for an international body which could negate international conflict and promote international norms. Out of this need came the foundations of what is today the United Nations.

On June 12, 1941, nine governments exiled by the second World War met in London. Much of Europe had come under Axis control and London had experienced over twenty-two months of air raids. Yet, these governments met, unshaken by the events taking place and resolute on bringing the second World War to its conclusion, to sign the Inter-Allied Declaration. By August 14, 1921, US President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom proposed a set of guidelines for international cooperation, known as the Atlantic Charter.

On December 1, 1942, the Declaration of the United Nations was signed by representatives from over 26 countries as they pledged their support in the fight against the Axis Powers. While the Declaration did not officially establish the United Nations, it laid the groundwork of future international cooperation. In 1943, Roosevelt met again with Stalin in Tehran to propose an international organization made up of all member states and an executive committee, which would discuss social and economic issues. Under this proposal, the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and China would be the “four policemen” who would enforce international norms and endorse peace. After this meeting, several task-specific organizations were established: the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Many of these organizations still exist under today and are under the discretion of the modern United Nations.

In late 1944, representatives from the UK, US, Russia and China met at Dumbarton Oaks in the United States to develop a consensus about a future international organization based on the principles of collective security. At this meeting, the representatives agreed on the goals of the international organization, its structure and how it was to function. Namely, the Conference decided on a General Assembly comprised of all member states and a Security Council with specific voting procedures and veto powers for permanent members.

In 1945, representatives from 50 countries met at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco to draft the United Nations Charter based on the debates held at Dumbarton Oaks. Present at this Conference was President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The attendees agreed that the international organization which was to be founded was to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,…to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Other important objectives outlined at the Conference were the principles of equal rights and self determination of peoples, as well as international cooperation in social, economic, humanitarian or cultural crises around the world. On October 24, 1945, the Charter was ratified by a majority of states.

The first General Assembly was held on January 10, 1946 in London, with 51 nations present. The first resolution adopted by the General Assembly the United Nations intended for the peaceful use of atomic energy and the elimination of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction. Since its first resolution, the UN has adopted hundreds each year. While resolutions adopted in the General Assembly are non-binding, these resolutions are important signals of international resolve.

Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: UN, History Channel, U.S. Department of State

Negative Impacts of Slums Social Problems
Slums are heavily populated urban areas characterized by substandard housing, inadequate access to clean water and sanitation, and a constantly changing residential population. As of 2012, 863 million people called a slum their home. But, the negative impacts that result from slums are alarming. They affect everything about a community, from education to natural disasters. This article discusses the key 6 negative impacts of slums and their significance.


Top 6 Negative Impacts of Slums


  • Women and Girls: Women and girls are not afforded time for education, as they are burdened with carrying water long distances and caring for sick family members. And, in slums with poor (or nonexistent) sanitation facilities, going to the toilet at night increases their risk of sexual assault.
  • Health and Child Mortality: Illness and disease spread like wildfire in slums; in the Kibera slum in Kenya, HIV infection is twice the national average, and diarrhea is the leading killer of children under five.
  • Education: Social and cultural barriers deny children from slums the opportunity to receive an education. Many children never receive any formal education and few complete a primary education.
  • Finance: Banks often refuse residents of slums because they are considered ‘unbankable.’  Without the support of a financial institution, slum dwellers must incur interest charges from loan sharks, which serve to further impoverish them.
  • Political and Social Exclusion: Governments often ignore slum dwellers; they are excluded from voting, city development plans, and full protection under the law. Without the rights and voice that other citizens have, people living in slums constantly face political and social exclusion.
  • Disasters: Many slum dwellers in developing countries live in danger of a rise in sea level. Storms, earthquakes, and other disasters affect city slums more seriously than other areas, as substandard houses crumble or poor drainage systems promote prolonged flooding.

Dana Johnson

Sources: Homeless International
Photo: Photopin

Food Corruption in India
Within India’s new $19 billion food distribution program lies the threats of corruption and ill-treatment of the impoverished. Although the food program was designed to combat malnutrition and hunger, something that affects 42% of Indian children, massive loopholes are beginning to overshadow the positive effects of the program.

The food scheme works by investing an additional 230 billion rupees into food subsidy costs and then offering free grains to about 800 million people who applied for rations. The problem arises when local shops are in charge of distributing the grain. According to customer complaints, these shop owners do not give the full amount of grain allotted to each ration recipient and sell the withheld grain on the black market for a profit.

Shop owners defend themselves by pointing to their own meager incomes. Fair Price Shop owner, Brij Kishore, reports earning about $900-1,100 a month. He claims that he must act corruptly because “it’s forced on us…we don’t have a choice.” However, recipients of the rationed grain are hardly sympathetic.

A customer, Santosh, who is a mother of four and wife of an unemployed husband, says she struggles to feed her family with the allowed amount of grain and needs the extra 10 kilograms of grains the storekeeper keeps. “We have been getting 20 kilos of wheat and five kilos of rice and the wheat is full of dirt,” she says. The designated amount of grain given to each family is 35 kilograms.

Many argue, however, that the program does not need to be eliminated; rather, the loopholes must be fixed. This will be no easy task, as the problems are plentiful. In 2005, the Planning Commission found that 58% of grain was not delivered to the intended beneficiary. As demand for the grain continues to increase, it is up to the Indian government to meet the needs of its citizens. The good news is that improvements are already being implemented. Their effectiveness, though, will hopefully be seen in the near future.

Mary Penn

Source: South China Morning Post, Arab Times

In 1990, the United Nations set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): a set of priorities to be met by the year 2015. Two years from the deadline, one of those goals has already been met.

The number one priority for the UN in 1990 was the eradication of extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as living under the dollar amount of $1.25 USD per day. In 1990, over two billion people were considered to be living in extreme poverty. Today, that number just over one billion, meeting the MDG of halving the world’s extreme poverty rate.

Questions regarding inflation and whether the number itself is a good measure to define what it means to live in extreme poverty aside, this is a major breakthrough in the fight against global poverty. Since the goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger was the number one MDG for the UN, there is much to celebrate for the continued success of the MDG program. Still, over one billion people, some 13 percent of the world population, is living in extreme poverty. So, how do we continue to take important steps toward the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger?

WHO is working with countries across the globe in several ways that combat hunger. Specifically, WHO works with these countries to:

  • build capacity in standard (child) growth assessment tools
  • assist in planning and conducting nutritional surveys
  • support the analysis and interpretation of nutritional survey results
  • support the development of nutritional surveillance systems
  • ensure that nutrition is an integral part of care and support for people with HIV and TB
  • develop national nutrition plans and policies
  • strengthen the delivery of essential nutrition actions

By facilitating the maintenance of local support infrastructure and monitoring systems for child nutrition levels, WHO is encouraging the increased accountability for important, early development in the most at-risk nations. Not all the world’s most hungry people are children, but a great proportion of them are. These efforts take aim at an area in need of major improvement and, by doing so, are an efficient measure taken toward the eradication of hunger worldwide.

Not only is the WHO’s focus on child hunger an important one for the success of the MDG program, it also recognizes the significance of hunger as an issue for early development and future health. Hungry children are more at risk to develop problems later in life than hungry adults because the internal systems in children are still growing and more at risk for failure due to insufficiencies in their diets. By focusing on child nutrition, organizations like WHO do well in taking a utilitarian stance on extreme poverty and hunger.

Herman Watson

Sources: UNICEF, UN Millennium Development Goals, World Health Organization

For the 2013 GSVC, young graduates and entrepreneurs from 30 countries presented 650 projects to the judges. For the first time since its creation in 1999, the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC), an international competition, has had African participants and winners.

This year’s winner was Faso Soap, a soap that prevents its users from contracting malaria. The use of this mosquito repulsive ingredient marks a revolution for people in mosquito-infested countries who cannot afford a mosquito net or anti-malaria drugs. The first victims of malaria are pregnant women, young children under five and HIV patients (as their immune systems are severely compromised).

Malaria is one of the most long-lasting pandemics, and the World Health Organization states that more than half of the world population is still at risk of contracting it. In Africa alone, malaria is the leading cause of death. In 2010, malaria killed 660,000 out of the 219 million people who contracted the parasite (malaria is not a virus) and 91% of the deaths were recorded in Africa.

Taking into account the cultural habits as well as the poor financial means of the majority of the African population, Moctar Dembele and Gerard Niyondiko, two students, found an innovative and unique way of preventing malaria: they created a 100 percent locally produced, antibacterial and mosquito-repulsive soap, the Faso Soap.

According to the Berkeley Blum Center’s Developing Economies, “this solution, added to locally manufactured soap, provides a very accessible, low-cost anti-malaria tool.”

The Faso Soap, a project undertaken in Burkina Faso, brought $25,000 to its winners. Hopefully, it will soon be widely produced and distributed in order to substantially reduce malaria contamination rates through a cost-effective solution.

To watch the demo video, click here.

Lauren Yeh

Sources: Blum Center for Developing Economies, Global Social Venture Competition, Le Monde

Technological capabilities in developed countries continue to evolve, changing the way our economies operate. These new tools give citizens the power they need to innovate even further. What’s more, the ability to access and use new technology properly is more and more becoming a requirement in the workforce.

Developing countries in Africa have citizens who haven’t been able to receive the positive impacts that this technology has to offer. Just seven percent of the African population has consistent access to the Internet. It is an impact that can change their individual lives and the lives of those in their communities. The 4Afrika initiative, powered by Microsoft, hopes to get these citizens up to speed with modern day technology. 4Afrika works to empower African youth and set them up for the future through three focus areas.

1. World-Class Skills

The 4Afrika Initiative works to develop a competitive, academic environment that generates young entrepreneurs. The Afrika Academy, where technological capabilities flourish, can be accessed by those with strong academic merit. Research institutions and local African universities partner to fund this innovative project. The Academy will provide advanced training that will help citizens gain employment in the workforce, benefitting the communities they live in.

2. Access to Technology

The initiative plans to make smart devices, including Windows PCs, slates, and smartphones, affordable to African communities. Injecting these capabilities into the communities is an important step in empowering the citizens. Developing stronger Internet connections and access in local African communities is also important to the initiative.

3. Innovation

Innovation is something constantly occurring across the globe, and something that Africa desperately needs. Microsoft has recently been developing new Microsoft applications that will be beneficial to developing nations. The 4Afrika Initiative plans to give the technological capabilities and market support needed to allow African communities to flourish.

Click here  for more information on this innovative campaign.

– William Norris

Sources: Microsoft, Internet World Statistics
Photo: Biztech

Why do Slums Exist?
Put simply, the term “slum” refers to “a heavily populated urban area characterized by substandard housing and squalor.” But why do slums exist? In an effort to include quantifiable data in the definition, a group of UN experts suggested expanding it to refer to areas that combine inadequate access to safe water, sanitation and other infrastructure, structurally poor housing, overcrowding, and an unstable residential population.

Today, slums are becoming the most obvious materialization of urban poverty in developing world cities; in Nairobi, Kenya, 60% of the population lives in slums. That 60% is crowded onto only 5% of the land.

The existence of slums is caused and sustained by a number of forces, including rapid rural-to-urban migration, insecure tenure, and globalization.


Why Do Slums Exist? 4 Illuminating Facts


Rural-to-urban migration amplifies slum formation because city planning and management systems are unable to effectively manage the considerable population influx. For perspective, consider these facts:

  • UN-HABITAT projects that by 2030, Africa will no longer be a rural continent, as more than 50% of its population will be in cities.
  • Today, 75% of the population of Latin America lives in urban areas as the result of a significantly rapid rate of urbanization since the 1970’s
  • Asia, home to 80% of the world’s population, currently sustains 36% of their population in cities.
  • Mumbai, Calcutta and Bangkok are home to over 10 million people; between one-third and one-half of them live in slums.

Insecure tenure means tenants are not protected from unpredictable rent increases and eviction processes. Insecure tenure inhibits opportunities for residents to acquire credit, which limits tenants’ ability to improve upon their homes. A revolving door of tenants does little to inspire feelings of community or pride in one’s home.

Globalization also promotes slum living. Global economic booms and busts lead to uneven wealth distribution. Historically, global economic cycles have been responsible for creating many of major city slums in the developed world, and it is likely globalization will do the same to the developing world.

Addressing slums and their contributing factors are keys to sustaining progress toward the Millennium Development Goal to significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. Although the percentage of people living in urban slums has decreased from 39% in 2000 to 33% in 2012, 863 million people are estimated to still be living in slums as of 2012.

– Dana Johnson

Sources: UN-HABITAT, Business Dictionary, UN
Photo: Portal OZK

Sorcery-Related Violence in Papua New Guinea
To most Americans, conversations surrounding witchcraft and sorcery seem antiquated. Such hysteria appears to be from a different time, a puritanical period in the earliest colonies that persists only through something like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. However, in Papua New Guinea, where belief in the preternatural is widespread, discussions of witchcraft— called sanguma in the local language—is quite common.

In a community where any misfortune can be blamed on a person with little tangible evidence, human rights violations are rampant, and systems of fair trial and justice crumble. The sorcery-related violence that comes as a consequence of this belief in the supernatural often translates to gender-related violence. The most targeted citizens are often the weakest in a society: women, widows, and the elderly, those who are unable to adequately protect against violence.

The constant fear of being targeted tears communities apart. Those convicted with crimes related to witchcraft can face sexual violence, live burial, stoning, drowning, mutilation, and beating. Should a convict survive his or her punishment, they often also lose their property, livelihood, and homes. In the Simbu province in Papua New Guinea, roughly 10 to 15 percent of the population has been banished from the community in consequence of accusations made against them of witchcraft and sorcery.

Reversing the deeply ingrained systems of belief has proved to be difficult. However, alleviating poverty in Papua New Guinea and performing interventions to prevent needless violence, would make their communities safer and more prosperous. Organizations like Oxfam New Zealand are working to better understand New Guinea’s culture and what motivates sorcery accusations in order to help reshape the culture’s attitudes at an institutional level. Oxfam seeks to change laws and promote intervention between citizens that might prevent sorcery-related violence.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: Vice, Oxfam