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How Quinoa Can Lead to Nutritional SecurityFebruary 20th marked the beginning of the International Year of Quinoa, a project designed to raise awareness of the benefits of quinoa and its ability to bring nutritional security. The project was launched by the United Nations and the Andean Community of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to help reach the Millenium Development Goal of reducing world hunger to a half by 2015.

Quinoa contains essential amino acids and vitamins, yet has no gluten. It is easy to grow because of its adaptability to different environments – thriving in below-freezing temperatures, as well as altitudes way above sea level. Thus, cultivating quinoa in areas with arid farming conditions and high malnutrition rates is both a possible and effective way to help combat global poverty and improve the standard of living in many countries. During the project’s launch, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commented that the International Year of Quinoa will act as “a catalyst for learning about the potential of quinoa for food and nutrition security, for reducing poverty.”

Bringing awareness to the value of quinoa worldwide is beneficial not just to the fight against global hunger and poverty, but to quinoa farmers as well. As the price of quinoa rises due to its increased popularity with large companies, farmers that cultivate quinoa will experience higher incomes.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: NY Times

North Korean Prison Camps Uncovered Using Google Earth
Using new Google Earth images, analysts and human rights groups have uncovered visual proof of several prison camps operating in the oppressive North Korean state. Long an unconfirmed and secret program that the country continually denied as foreign propaganda, the regime’s prison camps are now verifiable through high-definition satellite imagery.

The UN has been encouraged by rights groups to investigate the situation that has persisted for nearly 50 years, as there are thought to be nearly 200,000 political and civilian prisoners held in a series of camps – many detained as punishment for attempting to flee North Korea in search of food or work, according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission.

With the release of the latest satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth, a newly constructed prison camp can be seen in Kaechon, South Pyongan Province, that did not exist when the last images were released in 2006, according to the North Korean Economy Watch website. Analysts were able to determine such details as a 13-mile-long fence, with two checkpoints and six guard posts, and a seemingly nonoperational coal mine.

Reports of conditions inside North Korea’s prison camps have been few and far between, as very few prisoners have ever escaped alive, with little chance of ever leaving the prison at all once they are in. The accounts of life inside, where perceived “enemies” of the regime and three generations of their family can become imprisoned for the rest of their lives, are extremely harrowing. Such stories include prisoners “forced to to survive by eating rats and picking corn kernels out of animal waste.”

Other such conditions include abuse, torture, sexual violence, and disease; analysts suspect that nearly 40 percent of prisoners die of starvation and malnourishment, while those who survive are worked to death in harsh conditions for up to 16 hours per day. Prisoners who attempt to escape and are caught face execution.

The role of Google Earth has played a large part in the increased amount of knowledge that rights groups have available on the prison system. Former prisoners have, with the improvement in imagery that is now high-definition, been able to work with analysts in pinpointing the exact features of the prison camps that they were in, including their barracks and camp execution grounds.

Although the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, stated that steps are needed in order to take stronger action against the regime, she also acknowledged that the UN had hoped that the change in leadership would improve the human rights situation in the country. Ms. Pillay stated that the UN will look into creating an international investigation into the North Korean prison camps system since it is clear that the situation is not improving.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Telegraph

 

UN Refuses to Compensate Haitian Cholera Victims
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no evidence that anyone in Haiti had ever gotten cholera before 2010. However, since the outbreak began that year, almost half a million Haitians have gotten the disease, and nearly 8,000 have been killed by it.

Cholera is a horrible disease with a surprisingly simple treatment. Victims suffer from extreme diarrhea, but if they are constantly supplied with oral re-hydration in order to replace lost water and electrolytes, they will almost always survive. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure and a lack of water sanitation systems has resulted in many Haitians not getting the treatment they need.

As a result of these deaths, the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has filed a claim against the UN, stating that evidence demonstrates that the UN was responsible for the outbreak in the first place. Allegedly, UN troops from Nepal were carrying the disease as they were sent to Haiti to assist after the 2010 Earthquake.

On Thursday, February 21, 2013, the UN rejected the Institute’s claim on the basis of diplomatic immunity. Although there are many efforts at the international level to eradicate the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the U.N.’s official decision states that “the claims are ‘not receivable’ because they concern ‘a review of political and policy matters.'” As the UN refuses to compensate Haitian cholera victims, thousands more may suffer until enough money can be raised to implement Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s plan for eradicating cholera in the region.

Jake Simon

Source: U.S. News
Photo: The Guardian

Polio Vaccine
Nine public health workers were recently killed by gunmen in Nigeria, according to The New York Times. The women were giving the polio vaccine to patients as part of a drive to eradicate the disease. The United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization both have a hand in funding and running the aid effort. No group has claimed to have committed the murders but local militant groups are suspected.

Polio has not been an epidemic in the developed world for quite a long time. The polio vaccine is easily found and administered in most areas of the world. Nigeria is one of the few countries in which polio continues to cause a real threat to the population. A large factor in this deadly situation is a high level of mistrust of the vaccine. Rumors about the CIA and Western governments using the vaccine to spread AIDS and sterilize women have both been spread.

It is surprisingly easy to believe that such things would be happening since such things have indeed been done before. Building trust on both personal and international levels is important to defeating the last holdouts of polio. The absence of the disease from the rest of the world can’t be the only proof that health workers can bring to their communities, there needs to be greater trust and less fear.

To combat the myths about the polio vaccine and the fear of receiving it, Bill Gates of  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has begun to address those issues head-on. Bill Gates recently gave a lecture outlining the importance of the vaccine’s availability and dispelling the popular myths about what it does.

The presence of a big name like Gates will go a long way in getting rid of these misconceptions that are putting people’s lives in danger. Watch Bill’s lecture here.

– Kevin Sullivan

Sources: The New York Times, BBC
Photo: Vaccine Truth

UN Central Emergency Response FundIn December of 2012, the United Nations had called for financial support for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which has financed humanitarian programs that saved millions of lives. Donors pledged $384 million for 2013. On January 21, the United Nations announced that $100 million was to be allocated to 12 poorly-funded crises around the world.

Since 2006, the UN CERF has helped speed up relief efforts by collecting donations to ensure that programs providing life-saving assistance receive adequate funding. Since then, the Fund has managed to secure a total of $900 million to address crises. In 2012, CERF allocated a total of $465 million to programs delivering humanitarian aid in 49 countries including Syria, South Sudan, Haiti and Pakistan, the highest amount allocated in a year.

On December 11, 2012, in a statement at the high-level CERF conference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, praised the Fund’s work in aiding those affected by crises. “CERF’s support has been critical to saving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world,” Amos said. “It has bolstered the transformative agenda, which aims to strengthen humanitarian response, and our efforts to have a robust and well-coordinated UN-led humanitarian response in support of national efforts.”

Amos reviewed CERF’s work in supporting Syrians in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, refugees in South Sudan, and disaster response in Haiti and Cuba post-Hurricane Sandy. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had also praised the fund’s range of services: “From flood zones to war zones, CERF stops crises from turning into catastrophes.”  Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the Fund’s ability to mobilize funds “in stubbornly under-funded situations” through its “quick, targeted support” mechanism.

CERF supports the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen. CERF selection criteria include humanitarian needs and analysis of funding levels. These situations include the Sahrawi refugee operation in Algeria, life-saving programs in Eritrea and agencies working in Afghanistan.

The objective is to target ‘forgotten’ or ‘neglected’ emergencies. A second round of allocating funding will follow in July 2013. Amos reiterated that the CERF continues to help millions of people “after the media spotlight fades.” She hopes more governments will cooperate with CERF in providing funds to those trapped in “hidden emergencies.”

“CERF is more than a message from the international community – it is a real help for the most vulnerable members of our human family,” concluded Ki-Moon.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: UN NewsUN NewsOCHA

Accountability Promised on Aid PledgesAt the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed in these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of the gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly

michael-kors-joins-the-united-nations-to-end-world-hungerMichael Kors joins the United Nations‘ initiative to try and end world hunger. Michael Kors recently launched a PSA, or a public service announcement, stating he would raise awareness and money for the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP). Together, Michael Kors and the United Nations are committed to a long-term campaign to attain the goal of a hunger-free world. Michael Kors has promised to take a large part in various awareness-raising events, as well as separate events to engage in fundraising for the United Nation’s program.

The United Nation’s World Food Program aims to primarily help mothers and children in need and to help provide sustenance and other assistance when needed. The first initiative planned, as Michael Kors joins the United Nations’ goal of ending world hunger, is focused on a pair of unisex watches. Kors recently announced the launch of a new product, the two watches, with the slogan “Watch Hunger Stop.” Through this program, every single watch sold will help feed 100 children.

Kors commented, “I am so proud to be joining the World Food Programme in one of the greatest global fights of our time – the battle to end hunger.” His words reflect his excitement to be a part of the initiative. As Michael Kors joins the United Nations’ battle against world hunger, and he will certainly do his best to make it happen. WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin made a similar comment reflecting the company’s excitement to have Michael Kors aboard. Although the global fashion community is not the most obvious audience of the world hunger campaign, reaching so many people will certainly help the cause tremendously.

To watch Kors’ official PSA, look here.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: World Food Programme, WFP News
Photo Source: Haute Living