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Outbreak of Locusts in Somalia Predicted to be Worse in 2021In the past several decades, Somalia has faced a variety of challenges, including foreign imperialism, religious extremism and a struggling infrastructure system. Literacy and education have long been areas of concern, as has access to food, water and healthcare. In 1991, President Muhammed Siad Barre was overthrown, and the country descended into civil war with various political and military factions vying for control of the country. Peacekeeping groups from the U.S. and the United Nations attempted to restore a central government and restrain violence, but they were met with opposition and eventually left, unsuccessful, in 1993.

A Destabilized Country and Poverty

There have since been many attempts to create a functioning national government, but for years progress stalled. The Islamic extremist group Al-Shabab gained momentum in the mid-2000s, causing huge amounts of violence and destruction in the region. They attacked national infrastructure, and at various points forced agencies who had been providing aid to withdraw. These tactics caused thousands to die, displaced thousands more and destroyed access to healthcare and education for many.

Human Rights Watch estimated in 2018 that over 2.5 million people were internally displaced, and agencies providing relief faced continued attacks and the inability to access those who need help. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Somalia today is roughly 70%, and “almost nine of 10 Somali households are deprived of at least one fundamental dimension: access to income, electricity, education or water and sanitation.” Life expectancy is low as well, figured to be roughly 53 years for men and 57 for women. These issues are both caused and compounded by the constant violence; the civil war deprived many of access to necessities like food and housing, and it continues to be a daily worry even with other equally pressing needs.

Locusts and Food Security

It is against this backdrop that Somalia is currently dealing with a plague of epic proportions. Every year, there is an outbreak of locusts in Somalia and neighboring countries, and locals are accustomed to their presence on some level. However, 2020 is entirely different: Warming temperatures and increased flooding over the last several years created ideal conditions for locusts to breed and reproduce, leading to two separate waves of locusts this year alone. By all accounts, this invasion is the worst in 25 years, decimating a country that was already ill-equipped to deal with a disaster.

The first infestation of locusts in Somalia numbered in the hundreds of billions, blotting out the sky and destroying crops, farmland and any other vegetation they found. The second was even more devastating—trillions of locusts descended on East Africa and wiped out any chance of a successful harvest. The LA Times reports, “In a single day, a swarm can travel nearly 100 miles and eat its own weight in leaves, seeds, fruits and vegetables—as much as 35,000 people would consume. A typical swarm can stretch over 30 square miles.” It is nearly impossible to deal with them individually, and a lack of centralized response has left farmers to fend for themselves in an attempt to mitigate economic loss and save what they can of the most recent crop yield.

These waves of locusts ruined economic prospects for many Somali citizens, and left many in debt, unable to sell their harvest or participate in the local economy. The U.N. Food and Agriculture division estimates that 100% of sorghum and maize—both vital to the Somali economy—were affected or harmed by the infestation. Experts also worry that they will return in the spring of 2021 if allowed to continue breeding and growing to maturity unchecked. The unprecedented quantities this year make it difficult to contain, and there is now only a short window in which to act. Avoiding another round will require a timely and focused response.

Moving Forward

The good news is that there are tangible solutions, and possibilities remain for Somalia to revitalize their economy and recover from this devastation. Pesticides are proven to contain the insects, and the challenge now is to deploy them in high enough quantities that it might have a tangible effect. Currently, Somalia lacks the political will and infrastructure to supply enough planes to be useful, but the U.N. FAO has been meeting with both West African and European countries in an attempt to gather the resources necessary to fight the locusts.

Scientists have been working to develop a worthy biopesticide over the past decade, and there is now a working product that’s “cheaper, more effective, longer-lasting in the desert and easier to store,” according to Science Magazine. Somali politicians and leading experts in the field from around the world have been working to provide relief, and although locusts in Somalia have not been seen like this in many years, there are reasons to be hopeful, given the scenario. If aerial spraying becomes financially viable and available, it could provide significant relief and a renewed opportunity for those who have been affected.

One FAO official commented, “We’re already partnering with NASA, with NOAA, with the European Space Agency, with Cambridge University… all of these different entities have their own expertise.” Ultimately, a solution to locusts in Somalia is within reach—and it requires a combination of pesticides, more accurate predictors of future outbreaks and cheaper methods of delivery for needed chemicals. If this can be achieved, it would be critical in the fight for food and job security in the country, allowing the economy to flourish and crops to grow.

– Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees in Turkey
The war in Syria is a long-standing conflict with severe consequences. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions are still affected by the violence. Nearly 6.5 million people are displaced within Syria, while another 4.5 million have fled Syria since the conflict began. Turkey has received the largest number of refugees, a vast majority requiring medical attention and financial assistance. Here are five facts about the health of Syrian refugees in Turkey and what is being done to help them.

5 Facts About the Health of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

  1. Mental health services are in huge demand. Refugees of all ages are at a higher risk of common mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety PTSD. Dr. Jalal Nofel is a psychiatrist based at the Relief International Mental Health Center and has worked directly with a multitude of refugees. In an interview, Dr. Nofel noted the most frequently treated illness is PTSD. He noted that many “have lost family members and they face financial problems and a vague future.” Six mental health centers span the country, offering a variety of treatments from therapy and medications.
  2. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are in need of prosthetics. According to Relief International, 1.5 million refugees have permanent impairments and over 80,000 of those have lost limbs. Just a mile from the Syrian border resides the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs (NSPPL), which specializes in building prosthetics and providing physical therapy. This center sees about 10 patients per day and creates nearly 500 personalized prosthetics a year. NSPPL is just the beginning for prosthetic care, however. With 12 centers across Turkey, 30,450 patients were treated by Relief International in 2018.
  3. Refugees face struggles in regards to nutrition and sanitation. 30-40% of hospitalized patients are classified as malnourished and these numbers rapidly increase in the elderly population. Clean water is also scarce for Syrian refugees. In an article from the Human Rights Watch, an aid worker disclosed that water trucking for camps along the Syria/Turkey border only provides for about 50% of the population. The quality of this water is also lower than pumped water.
  4. Diseases and epidemics, both chronic and viral, plague the population. According to a study by the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, not only are refugees fighting tuberculosis, leishmaniasis and brucellosis, but also gastrointestinal diseases and bacterial meningitis. COVID-19 has also increasingly made life difficult for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as most reside in dense living spaces which enables a rapid spread of the virus. The global pandemic has also had an effect on refugees’ role in the Turkish economy. According to a survey, about 69% of refugees have reported unemployment or suspension of business activity.
  5. Turkey is working to enable refugee recovery. In 2014, the country established a new ID system and temporary protection system, which gave legal immigrants access to the free healthcare system. Although these medical services are free, medicine is not always free. Most refugees are forced to forfeit a large portion of their limited income for medicine. To help further improve healthcare in Turkey, the WHO is working with local NGOs to train medical professionals to deal with the influx of patients.

As more media attention is given to this humanitarian crisis, the sooner aid and a sense of peace can be bestowed to these displaced people. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize the health of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Amanda J Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Sudan
Public discourse surrounding political, human and women’s rights in Sudan is experiencing a major shift. Issues of political and social participation and freedoms have been at the forefront of Sudanese protests in recent years. Women have played a major role in breaking down norms and building up a new female identity.

The Protests

Sudan still faces major internal conflict due to the secession of South Sudan and the ensuing conflict in 2011. In recent years, the role of women and their rights has come into question for the Sudanese people. Women in Sudan have specifically felt subjugated due to legal regulations and celebrated when the country eradicated these laws.

A key facet of these issues is class. Upper-class women wear different clothes than poorer women in Sudan. This discrepancy is not only troubling but deeply rooted in socio-political inequity. BBC reported that “in recent years it was common to see rich Khartoum women wearing trousers in public—while those targeted by the morality police were often poorer women from the marginalized areas on the periphery of this vast country.”

The Reason

The Global Fund for Women outlines the varying causes for many of the protests in Sudan. Some of the protests took place at military headquarters. The protestors staged a sit-in and called for “civilian rule, women’s rights and an end to the nation’s civil wars.”

Some of the specific regulations that women want to change are in regard to their physical appearance. Some examples Sudanese would like to change include how they must dress or cover their hair. Breaking any of the current rules can result in harsh and demeaning punishments. GFFW reported that “thousands of women have been sentenced to floggings under the laws, with poor and minority women particularly affected.”

Violent Response

The protestors filling the streets are primarily women, an estimated 70%. These women come from many backgrounds ranging from students to housewives to street traders. This diverse group of females march the streets while chanting, clapping and singing. Amidst the clamoring for change, human rights violations also occur.

There was an increase in violent attacks during many of the protests in favor of women’s rights in Sudan and the ending of the civil conflict. There have been instances of rape, disfigurement and burnings. The military more subtly uses sexist language and insults as another weapon against those protesting for women’s rights in Sudan. Human Rights Watch asserts that this retaliatory violence “escalated following the Arab uprisings, the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan’s economic downturn and the proliferation of new wars in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.”

Looking Forward

The push for women’s rights in Sudan is progressing forward and incorporating the issues of class and poverty. The country now realizes that the need for comprehensive human rights laws (and specific laws protecting women) is urgent.

The women’s movement is strong but needs continued organizational support. There are few laws currently in place to protect women and children and this must change. Protests, as well as the documentation of human rights violations, are not enough. The government needs to create change and protect its citizens. Women, just like all other citizens, deserve human rights.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Russia
Russia is somewhat infamous for its history of oppression and human rights abuses. Often in the news for things like unfair elections or police brutality, gender equality is a less-reported topic, but nonetheless a pervasive and damaging systemic issue. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Russia.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Russia

  1. Russian women are equal in theory, but not in practice. The Constitution of Russia, adopted in 1993, guarantees equal rights for women and men. Even before that, the Bolshevik Revolution granted women’s rights in Russia– including suffrage– in 1917. However, women are still fighting inequality in many sectors, including the professional realm. People in Russia expect women to prioritize motherhood over professional development because of Russia’s low fertility rate. Citing a belief that strenuous jobs pose a threat to women’s safety and reproductive health, the government has barred women from occupations like aircraft repair, construction and firefighting. While the country passed reforms in 2019 to reduce the number of restricted jobs from 456 to 100, they will not come into effect until 2021. However, some of the largest industries, like mining and electric engineering, remain in the barred category.
  2. More women are in poverty than men. In addition to legal barriers to job opportunities, traditional gender roles box women out of professions like politics. Women earn on average 30% less than a man, one of the largest wage gaps among high-income countries. Even in professions where the wage gap is the smallest, like in the education sector, there is a 20% difference in average salary. Women also do a significant amount of unpaid work– estimates have determined that the loss to the annual budget due to gender segregation is 40-50% in Russia. Were Russia to offer equal resources in agriculture to all genders, it could raise food production by 30%. Higher poverty rates for women affect not only women but the children they raise. Impoverished women often cannot afford higher education for their children, which limits the children’s upwards economic mobility. Therefore, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated because of systemic gender discrimination putting mothers in positions where they cannot give their children better lives.
  3. Russian women face threats to their physical safety– and the police stand by. Domestic violence as a whole– which disproportionately victimizes women– is a serious threat to women’s rights in Russia. In January 2017, Russia decriminalized domestic violence that does not cause serious injury– meaning broken bones or a concussion– for first-time offenders. Since most victims do not report their abuse, most “first-time offenders” are actually long-time abusers. In addition, police officers routinely ignore domestic disturbance calls. When officers do respond, they often refuse to criminally prosecute instead of telling victims to prosecute privately. This is economically unfeasible for many women and effectively places the onus of an entire subgroup of law enforcement on the victim rather than the state. Decriminalization of domestic violence has rendered the statistics on it unreliable, but statistics have shown that most cases do not end up in court. If women cannot receive the assurance of their physical safety under Russian law and society, their overall rights are under severe threat.
  4. Learned attitudes reinforce gender inequality. Every Russian man that the Levada Center polled, regardless of age group, responded that the most desirable quality in a woman was that she had to be a good homemaker. This attitude pervades across gender lines: younger Russian women answered that attractiveness was the best quality, but by age 30, the women agreed that their most desirable quality was to be a good homemaker for a man. When pollsters asked the equivalent question about desirable qualities in a man, both men and women ranked intelligence as the most important trait in a man. Men, however, ranked intelligence in a woman as sixth or seventh on their list of 15 traits. But before one can solely cast the blame for gender inequality on men, women ranked independence as least important for themselves. Older women’s answers matched that of the men– the mothers and grandmothers teaching the sons their societal values. No one gender is at fault for the perpetuation of gender inequality; instead, it is a product of Russian culture and society that each generation has passed on to the next.
  5. The feminism movement in Russia is growing every year. Hundreds instead of dozens of women attend marches and protests now, especially against the controversial decriminalization of domestic violence. The work of leaders like Leda Garina and Zalina Marshenkulov has fostered the growth of feminism in the public consciousness. Despite facing arrests and threats, activists and organizations are persisting in getting the message of gender equality out to the public. Innovations in technology and social media make information more accessible to the Russian people and change the perception of feminism from a dirty, Western word to something necessary to Russian society. New venues are cropping up in big cities to aid women. For example, Cafe Simona in Saint Petersburg is a woman-only workspace and event space that allows women to go about their days without experiencing harassment. NGOs like Human Rights Watch also strive to inform both the domestic and international communities of the issues facing Russian women. Reporting by HRW and other media outlets on Yulia Tsvetkova, a feminist blogger who underwent and is a political prisoner, led to protests around the country. Despite crackdowns on NGOs under Putin’s “foreign agents” law, organizations are doing their best to get the word out about the situation in Russia.

People still need to do more to improve women’s rights in Russia. Nothing less than significant legal reforms are necessary to change the culture of misogyny in the country. Gender equality might be a long way off for Russian women, but because of activists and NGOs fighting for their rights under the law, hope is on the horizon.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in China
For many years, gender equality and women’s rights in China have been a problem, mainly for women. Various restrictions still take place, even today. Income discrepancies and traditional gender roles in the country aimed at placing and keeping women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their supervisors and often lose their pay when on maternity leave. From occupational rights to issues such as property rights, men in China have always (and unfairly) been the more supported gender for years. Unfortunately, this continues to this day.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Women of the past and present in China, have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality, and therefore women’s rights in China. Particularly — in the workplace, however, recent research says otherwise. Of the job listings in the Chinese Government’s civil service job list, 11% stated preferences for men. The percentage was higher in jobs preferring men from 2018 to 2019, at 19%.

This information was identified by the Human Rights Watch, which also discovered that fewer than 1% of these job postings offered offered support to women. This has caused many women to surrender to traditional gender roles. For example, staying at home, not working and being dependent on the male of the house. Notably, only 63% of the female workforce worked in 2017.

Patriarchal Oppression

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but the country’s overall success and growth. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This, compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that  80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year,  ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Indian Migrant Workers
As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it is revealing the country’s systematic inequalities as Indian migrant workers bear the brunt of the pandemic.

The Lockdown

India’s national lockdown began on March 25, 2020. It went into effect a mere four hours after the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, made the announcement. However, Modi’s order did not consider the impact it would have on migrant workers. As a result, millions of migrant workers were jobless and stranded in cities all across the country. Shareen Joshi, a professor at Georgetown University, spoke to The Borgen Project. Joshi described how the lockdown “appears to have been imposed to benefit India’s middle and upper classes in urban areas. It literally ‘forgot’ about 350 million migrant workers.”

Consequently, thousands of migrants had to make the dangerous journey home. With public transportation shut down, some walked hundreds of miles, often without proper protective gear or the ability to practice social distancing.

“The virus is basically systematically exposing inequalities and fault-lines in every country it seems to enter,” Joshi said.

The Pandemic Highlights Underlying Inequalities

Indian migrant workers are already a vulnerable population. They rarely belong to trade unions or work under contracts. Additionally, many migrants lack the bank accounts necessary to secure government benefits. Although the Indian government offers welfare for those below the poverty line, migrant workers often do not know how to access this relief.

Indian migrant workers were among the first to feel the economic consequences of the virus. An April 2020 report by the nonprofit organization Jan Sahas, titled Voices of the Invisible Citizens, stated that “90% laborers (approx.) have already lost their source of income” within just three weeks. This complete financial depletion left, “42% of labourers” with “no ration left even for the day, let alone for the duration of the lockdown.”

The virus has also aggravated discrimination against Indian migrant workers. Joshi stated that migrant workers represent their own “scheduled castes” within India’s caste system. Many consider migrant workers as possible carriers of the virus. Fearing infection, their communities shun them upon their return home.

Rebuilding the Economy and Addressing Inequities

As India begins to rebuild its economy, Joshi recommends “a bottom-up strategy, people-centric rather than money-centric.” This strategy would have the government invest in individual villages to create a trickle-up effect.

Moreover, this strategy would aid the Indian migrant workers. In March 2020, the president of the Indian National Congress, Sonia Gandhi, proposed that district collectors help migrants who cannot afford shelter and that the government provide transportation for migrants to get home. Joshi described a proposal to make ration cards portable. This would allow migrants to “access food in both the location they are registered and the area where they work.”

While this pandemic has brought unthinkable suffering to Indian migrant workers, it may also inspire a new fight for equality. Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, believes the pandemic might provide “an opportunity to end communal bias and­­­ other discrimination in governance and restore the impartiality of state institutions.” This pandemic has shown, if nothing else, the need to address the inequalities that have plagued India.

Jessica Blatt
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe once had an effective water system. However, a lack of proper infrastructure and government action means a lack of safe water. Water and waste disposal systems suffer ineffective planning, especially in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. Further, COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe broadly as well as having an impact on its already fragile water supply.

The Issues in Harare

To survive, residents in Harare must dig wells to create a water source. However, the well water is not safe to drink. The sewage system in Harare is another health issue for residents. Young children play in sewage and often fall ill from the lack of sanitation.

Additionally, further issues plague Harare. The Human Rights Watch interviewed a Harare resident named Bonnie who explained that she does not have water to bathe and clean her three children, including one in diapers. The video also featured an interview with a woman called Abigail. She mentioned that the water smells, and she must use a purification tablet before bathing or drinking. Abigail says the government’s negligence has caused these issues within the community.

More than half of Harare’s 4.5 million population could only access running water once a week. This was according to the city’s mayor, Herbert Gomba, back in 2019. Thus, residents must turn to other solutions, such as waiting in long lines at communal wells, streams or boreholes. The water received from these places may not even be safe to drink.

Drought is the cause of the shortage of water in Zimbabwe. In Harare, one-half of the population’s reservoirs are empty because there is no rain. The remaining water, 45% to 60%, is often lost and inaccessible to the population due to leakage or theft.

The Pandemic

As the novel coronavirus plagues the globe, the disease is contributing great distress to Zimbabwe. COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe mainly through its water supply, which hurts the citizens of Harare and the surrounding population.

In Harare, citizens go without water for days. They must wait until water trucks arrive in the city. Once the water is finally available, COVID-19 changes how citizens can access it. Citizens gather in large numbers to wait in line, which makes the concept of social distancing nearly impossible. Then, they push and shove to receive water. Additionally, COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe because many individuals do not wear or cannot access masks.

Organizations like Doctors Without Borders encourage social distancing. Yet, it is not a long-term or time-friendly solution, as they are not sure that it will keep people safe. Furthermore, the people in Harare are desperate for food and water. They may sacrifice their health to be first in line to receive water for themselves and their families.

Dewa Mavhinga, the South Africa director at Human Rights Watch, explains that COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe differently because of their pre-existing lack of water. It takes a toll on the spread of the virus and other infectious diseases, such as typhoid and cholera. Water is necessary for handwashing and hygiene, which can combat the spread of coronavirus. Without an uninterrupted supply of water, residents will struggle to stay safe and healthy.

Aid

Supporters abroad can help aid the people of Zimbabwe by urging U.S. congressional leaders to make the COVID-19 crisis in Zimbabwe a current political and human rights focus. With U.S. backing, the Zimbabwean government can ensure there are water points throughout the country. This will prevent overcrowding and the spread of COVID-19.

Another way to aid Zimbabwe’s public health system is to show support to organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children. These organizations are providing emergency relief and recovery programs for people in Zimbabwe. They are doing everything they can to combat how COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe by implementing humanitarian relief efforts.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 crisis in prisons
There are currently an estimated 11 million people either incarcerated or in custody, around the world. In prisons and jails, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation during the Covid-19 crisis have exacerbated these preexisting problems. Professional health physicians and Human Rights Watch advocates explain that “prisoners share toilets, bathrooms, sinks and dining halls”. Also, sometimes prisoners lack access to running water. These inadequacies reflect the (at times) — dismal quality of life that incarcerated people experience, globally.

Overcrowding Effects

Overcrowding and unclean living conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the immense violations of human rights in prisons and jails. Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Philippines’ prisons are currently at 450%, 432% and 537% capacity, respectively. Overcrowding allows Covid-19 to spread much more easily through prisons. Furthermore, it makes single rooms unavailable for both sick and healthy inmates. With the current state of affairs, physical distancing is simply not an option. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners expects incarcerated people infected with Covid-19 to receive medical attention in line with the WHO guidelines. Overcrowding hinders the fair treatment of incarcerated people — especially considering that prisoners are not typically afforded sufficient care from doctors during pre-pandemic times (let alone amid a pandemic).

Prisoners and Human Rights

Prisoners deserve basic human rights, access to healthcare and safe public health. UNAIDS, the WHO and the UNHCR are all calling for a mass release of prisoners — from a public safety standpoint. The release of incarcerated people who qualify as high-risk for Covid-19 (e.g., the elderly, mothers with children or who are breastfeeding, pregnant women and non-violent offenders) reduces health risks. These risks would otherwise remain unaddressed within prisons and jails (given their resources). Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS calls it [the Covid-19 crisis] an “unprecedented global emergency” and recognizes the dire need to defend the human rights of incarcerated people, worldwide.

Solitary Confinement during Covid-19

Solitary confinement is typically a severe punishment for inmates. However, the U.S. has mandated the practice for infected inmates in response to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons. Before the Covid-19, 60,000 inmates were in solitary confinement in federal prisons — whereas now there are 300,000. This practice has proven to be a disincentive for inmates to come forward as sick, even if they are knowingly infected with Covid-19.

Practical Solutions to the Problem

More practical and effective solutions to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons and jails include thorough testing and screening for the virus, to stay ahead of the spread. Another solution — comprehensive safety practices of employees who travel in and out of the facilities, daily. Still, there is too much overcrowding and simultaneously, too many at-risk populations in prisons and jails. These facilities cannot properly preserve the human rights and well-being of inmates during the current pandemic. Non-violent offenders, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women, people who are detained because they cannot afford bail, elderly people and those with misdemeanors are all examples of groups that could be safely released.

An Expert Outlook

UNAIDS, the U.N., the Prison Policy Initiative, the WHO and numerous other organizations tracking the health and safety of incarcerated people insist that the true solution to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons is to eliminate overcrowding. Therefore, the solution to overcrowding in prisons may well be to release large amounts of qualifying incarcerated people. This may hold true in particular, amid a global pandemic.

Nye Day
Photo: Pixbay

landmines in yemenYemen is experiencing several crises within its borders. One such problem is the large number of landmines and improvised explosive devices scattered throughout the country. Houthi militias placed many of these landmines in Yemen, often in busy areas containing hospitals and schools. The Yemeni government believes that landmines are so widespread that it could take multiple decades to remove all of them. Currently, experts believe the death toll of landmines falls somewhere above 9,000. To make matters worse, some landmines are configured to be more deadly. For instance, an anti-tank mine that normally needs 220 pounds of weight on it to detonate may only need 22 pounds of pressure to detonate with modifications. Despite this dire situation, the country and international institutions have begun to remove landmines in Yemen.

The Negative Effects of Landmines in Yemen

The landmine problem within Yemen is preventing people from living normal lives and keeping impoverished people from receiving the aid that they need. Yemen was already impoverished before the presence of these landmines, and they have only exacerbated the problem. In 2019, the U.N. estimated that 80% of the population was in danger of suffering extreme hunger and disease.

Unfortunately, landmines can prevent relief aid from coming into parts of the country that need it. Landmines also prevent humanitarian organizations from traversing distances to reach people and areas in need. According to an article by Human Rights Watch, Yemeni people could not complete simple tasks needed for survival such as raising crops and obtaining clean water due to the presence of landmines. As such, landmines in Yemen have serious consequences for citizens’ daily lives, preventing them from overcoming the many negative effects of poverty.

Removing Landmines in Yemen

One international institution removing landmines in Yemen is the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDP has been using its Mine Action Project to map out terrain where the landmines are located, clear the landmines, inform communities of the seriousness of the landmines and help those who have been injured. So far, the UNDP has cleared up to three million square meters where landmines previously sat. During the UNDP’s operations, it removed around 66,000 undetonated landmines.

The United States has also provided funding for landmine removal to Yemen in the Red Sea Mills area. U.S. funding has aided Yemeni de-mining teams working for the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center, directed by the UNDP. During two months of operations, 58 de-miners funded by the U.S. cleared 1,239 explosives including landmines and improvised explosive devices. Both the UNDP, the U.S. and Yemen itself are all working in conjunction with landmine removal. Importantly, the U.S. provided landmine removal funds to the Red Sea Mills to allow Yemeni people to have access to agriculture once again. This illustrates the positive effects of landmine removal in Yemen.

In short, landmine removal is not just necessary to prevent death and injury. Landmine removal is necessary so that Yemeni people can provide for themselves. It also allows Yemeni citizens to receive the help they need from international citizens, at a time when the country is facing so many overlapping crises.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Sector in Kenya
Agriculture is one of the most critical production sectors in society. Proper agricultural techniques and efficient transportation of goods are crucial in reducing food insecurity. They are also vital in ensuring that everyone is provided with adequate nutrition. Based on a 2020 food insecurity projection by the European Commission, between 6% and 9% of Kenyans have faced food insecurity this year. This is a result of many factors in the agricultural sector in Kenya.

In Kenya, the agricultural sector makes up 24% of its GDP via direct agricultural production. It makes up an additional 3% via agricultural manufacturing and distribution. More than 80% have jobs in the farming sector in Kenya. Unfortunately, many barriers over the past decade have inhibited agrarian success in Kenya.

Political Climate and Environmental Barriers

Following a controversial presidential election in December 2017, conflict broke out in Kenya. Throughout the months of conflict, more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed. More than 500,000 fled their homes to avoid violent areas. This displacement negatively impacted the agricultural sector in Kenya. It separated farmers from their property and destroyed crops.

Additionally, the climate of Kenya makes it susceptible to drought, flooding and landslides. Roughly 83% of Kenya is on “arid” or “semi-arid” land. These areas are much more likely to suffer from droughts, which drastically diminish crop yields. These droughts also impact livestock in Kenya by depleting water availability and grazing locations. Many areas in Kenya also experience periods of continued rainfall that can cause flooding. Flooding can overwater crops and cause an increase in livestock-related diseases.

Increasing Cost of Agricultural Inputs

The rising price of necessary agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, has been making it difficult for farmers to compete with importers. Importers can sell their products at lower costs and push local producers out of the market. In the first half of 2018, food imports rose by more than 50%. For a country whose economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, this can be very detrimental.

Policy

In recent years, the Kenyan government has begun implementing subsidies on farm inputs such as fertilizer. These subsidies have made local farmers equip to compete in the agricultural market. In tandem with this, the government has been improving rural infrastructure so that these farmers have access to a broader customer pool.

In addition to these policies, the Kenyan government has been working on implementing educational programs. These programs provide farmers with a comprehensive understanding of agricultural diversification techniques and irrigation strategies. The climate of Kenya can make it exceedingly difficult to sustain agricultural growth. Therefore, educational resources could improve the crop yields of farmers.

Nonprofit Work

It is estimated that each day, 83 tons of produce grown on Kenyan farms are rejected after being deemed aesthetically imperfect for export. In many cases, these products end up in landfills. In January 2017, the World Food Programme began an initiative to reduce the amount of wasted food in Kenya.

This program diverted these “ugly” fruits and vegetables from landfills to schools. These products help make school lunches for those in disadvantaged communities. This program both combats childhood hunger and reduces food waste. Within the first four months of this program being enacted, it provided more than 11,000 pounds of produce to schoolchildren.

To combat food insecurity and help raise the GDP in Kenya, innovations in its agricultural sector need to be made. These changes will require investment in crop-related technologies and resources, either by the government or by international donors.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr