Climate Change

A military coup has worsened Mali’s national security, amplifying the impact climate change has had on the country and its people. Conflict erupted in northern Mali in 2012. The violence of the proceeding five years has since destroyed the nation’s land, diminishing the abilities local farmers have to grow vegetation.

Since 2012, Mali has witnessed a wave of poor harvests, pushing a food crisis upon the country. Hostile physical and environmental circumstances have forced about 475,000 people from their homes to neighboring countries, and those who remain in Mali face food shortages and security threats. With 25 percent of families moderately to severely food insecure, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimates that 270,000 people face starvation.

Two thirds of Mali is a desert or semi-desert that experiences long yearly periods of drought. Furthermore, the Sahara Desert is expanding southward at a rate of 48 km per year. Climate change has significantly decreased the amount of rainfall, dropping by 30 percent since 1998. Consequently, Mali is also suffering from water scarcity. Only three-fifths of Malians have access to safe drinking water and only about one-third have proper sanitation.

The water shortage has weakened Mali’s agricultural activities, taking an immense toll on its citizens. Agriculture employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population and 70 per cent of Mali’s entire labor force. Cotton, gold and livestock make up 80 to 90 percent of total export earnings.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on generating food security, particularly between harvests. The organization built a total of 3,966 environmental assets such as ponds, dams, and canals to help alleviate Mali’s lack of water. Technical and economic assistance have been provided for local farmers, broadening Mali’s market and strengthening the agricultural sector.  WFP has also begun providing nutrition support for pregnant women, nursing mothers, underweight children and children under five suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition. Further assistance from organizations like WFP is necessary to lift Mali‘s people from the harsh grips of military conflict and climate change.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

When economic crises, military conflict and general mayhem plague the continents, few people consider the impact such events may have on the communities located in the South Pacific. Over 10 million people populate the 3,500 islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean, an extremely large number of whom suffer from debilitating disease and poverty.

Save for the extreme natural catastrophes that seem to constantly plague the Philippines, the high rates of poverty, poor education and abysmal health of Pacific islanders fails to gander consistent international attention.

To illustrate the severity of the problem, here are nine facts to learn about poverty in the South Pacific.

1. 38 percent of Papua New Guineans live below the National Basic Needs Poverty Line, which means 2.7 million people are unable to buy sufficient food and meet basic requirements for housing, clothing, transport and school fees. Even more alarmingly, 61 percent of the populace does not have access to safe drinking water.

2. Pacific islands are disproportionately affected by global disasters. A 2012 World Bank study revealed that of the 20 countries in the world with the highest average annual disaster losses scaled by gross domestic product, eight are Pacific island countries: Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands.

3. Literacy rates are a persistent concern, especially on the Solomon Islands, where only 65 percent of the adult population (330,000 people) can read.

4. Pacific Islanders may be notorious for their love of canned meats like spam and corned beef, but what is not widely discussed is the debilitating effects such imported goods have on their health. As of 2007, eight of the 10 heaviest countries were located in the South Pacific. Nauru, the world’s smallest republic with just over 9,000 inhabitants, earned the number one spot with over 90 percent of their adult population considered obese.

5. Human rights violations also remain high in the pacific. Amnesty International recently reprimanded Papua New Guinea for burning a woman alive amid allegations of sorcery. Although the 1971 Sorcery Law has been repealed, which criminalized sorcery and could be used as a defense in murder trials, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women in 2012 found that sorcery allegations are often made to mask the abuse of women.

6. Domestic abuse and gendered violence is also a concern but inconsistent reporting makes it difficult to pinpoint exact levels of abuse. In the first National Study on Domestic Violence in Tonga, conducted in 2009, results found that 45 percent of Tongan woman reported having experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse in their lifetime.

7. Pacific Islanders are at high risk for Neglected Tropical Diseases, which commonly affect the world’s poor, women and disabled. Hookworm, leprosy, scabies and Japanese encephalitis are among the most prevalent; these adversely affect worker productivity, pregnancy outcomes and child cognition and development.

8. In 2010, Oceania unemployment rates reached 14 percent, while the United States average in the same period came in at 9 percent.

9. Since the mid 20th century, approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific region have been affected by extreme events, resulting in 9,811 deaths and $3.2 billion in damages.

Pacific island nations’ small size, limited natural resources and great distances to major markets makes them particularly vulnerable to external crises and thus results in extremely volatile economies. Greater commitment to development initiatives will enable Oceanic nations to handle stresses caused by external forces and eventually strengthen the autonomy of the respective nations.

– Emily Bajet

Sources: University of Hawaii, Asian American For Equality, Oxfam, The World Bank, The World Bank News, Poodwaddle, Australia Network News, Australia Network, The New York Times, PLOS, Samoaobserver, Matangitonga, Labour
Photo: IFAD

Political Crisis in Mali Affects Education
How does a political crisis or violent fighting within a country affect education?

For Mali, a political crisis has meant the displacement of over 700,000 students and teachers, the destruction and closing of at least 115 schools, and a large psychological impact on students from exposure to violence that must be addressed.

The political crisis in Mali began over a year ago. It puts the Mali government against Tuareg rebels and has resulted in the uprooting of a large number of residents from northern Mali and has pushed them southward, out of harms way. This uprooting has forced many children to find new schools to attend. It has also pushed teachers into finding new schools to teach in. While 500,000 out of the original 700,000 students have found new schools to attend since being displaced, there is still “an urgent need to rebuild schools, train teachers and provide learning supplies,” according to a statement made by UNICEF.  This is because many of these news schools were already facing issues with overcrowding are now operating beyond their capacities, and finding themselves unable to cope with the displayed northerners.

Malian educational authorities are working with UNICEF officials to quickly open up more schools in northern Mali. Over 1,100 Malian teachers have been trained to provide psychological support to students, as well as mine-risk education, since December. This is a big necessity because, as put by UNICEF Representative Françoise Ackermans, “when a teacher is afraid to teach and when a student is afraid to go to school, the whole education is at risk.”

Yet, education will continue to be negatively affected as long as violence progresses in the area. As of today, Mali is still highly volatile, making even walking to school dangerous. Political crises and violent fighting between two groups within a country have very serious effects on its citizens, creating far-reaching consequences. Ensuring children have access to schools ensures these children have access to knowledge, an important asset to all.

– Angela Hooks

Source: UN News Centre
Photo: Care