Nairobi, 21 April 2009 On April 22, we celebrate the Anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, a landmark in the history of the environmental movement – a movement, which gave birth to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972.
The first Earth Day was conceived partly out of frustration that basic issues like air quality and water pollution still had not been addressed. Today, intelligent management of the planet has to be a fundamental issue taking center stage, as the international community faces the twin challenges of dealing with the most serious global economic crisis since the 1930s, and negotiating an equitable and definitive agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in December.
Many major economies have introduced “green” stimulus packages. Various programs, such as UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative, seek to re-focus the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and “natural” infrastructure such as forests and soils, as the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century.
However, this is just the beginning. Sealing the climate deal at the crucial UN climate convention in Copenhagen will not happen without a groundswell of public pressure for action on climate change ? in developed and developing nations alike. The message to world leaders is simple and urgent: “Seal the Deal! – Work together to find a solution that is scientifically-credible, equitable and economically-defensible.
The past few years have seen renewed interest from the public in engaging in environmental stewardship. Bridging the gap between Earth Day on April 22nd, and World Environment Day, 6 weeks later on June 5th, is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations mobilizes this enthusiasm, enhancing political attention and action. The theme for WED 2009, Your Planet Needs You. UNite to Combat Climate Change, reflects the urgency for nations to join in addressing climate change, by reducing their carbon footprint, and improving the management of forests and other valuable natural resources.
Earth Day initiatives demonstrate how responsible governments, civil society, and the private sector can catalyze this energy, by promoting an enhanced understanding of the challenges we all face in safeguarding our own survival and that of future generations.
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27 May 2008 – Stepped-up measures are crucial to ensure the sustainable return of those forced to flee their homes by post-electoral violence that swept through Kenya earlier this year, a United Nations envoy cautioned today.“In the absence of substantially increased efforts, we will jeopardize the fragile process of building and restoring peace in displacement affected countries,” said Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, at the end of his 19-23 May visit to Kenya.
He commended the Government, the Kenyan Red Cross, international aid organizations and the people of Kenya for their assistance to those internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.
But the Government faces challenges in its efforts to return the displaced to their homes, including ensuring that the repatriations are safe and voluntary and providing humanitarian assistance in areas of return, the Representative noted.
“While reconciliation efforts are under way and there is an increased police presence in affected areas, more robust reconciliation measures involving returning IDPs and the local communities must be undertaken to address the underlying causes of the displacement,” he said.
Mr. Kälin said that “without true reconciliation and fair transition measures, the risk of renewed violence against returnees remains high.”
While in Kenya, he visited transit sites in the Molo and Uasin Gishu districts, noting that the speed of the repatriations have left some without adequate humanitarian assistance, clean water and sanitation, access to education and basic health services.
“Returns must be better planned and coordinated if we want to avoid regression into a new emergency,” the Representative observed. “We run the risk now that the displaced persons will return to camps and urban areas in increasing numbers because life at transit sites may become unbearable.”
He said he recognizes that converting from an emergency phase to one in which IDPs can resume their lives is difficult, but warned that if this transition is not handled appropriately, there is a chance that a new round of violence could break out.
Mr. Kälin – who during his visit met with Government officials, UN agencies, the Kenyan Red Cross, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and stopped at IDP camps – voiced concern that the lack of funds is impeding the ability of aid agencies in assisting returnees, and called on the Government and donors to provide the necessary support.
He also appealed to authorities to adopt a comprehensive IDP strategy and the laws needed to implant such a plan.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The United Nations has teamed up with religious, business and sports leaders in a new effort to send insecticide-treated bed nets to Africa to prevent millions of deaths from the disease, ahead of the first-ever World Malaria Day on Friday.“Nothing But Nets” is a grassroots campaign created in 2006 by the UN Foundation to raise awareness about malaria, which still kills about one million people every year, most of them children, and help fund the distribution of life-saving bed nets.
Ann Veneman, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that of the one million people that die each year due to malaria, about 800,000 are children under the age of five who live in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The Nothing But Nets campaign is an important initiative that will help build on successes in addressing malaria and accelerate results for children,” she told a news conference at UN Headquarters. “Our results will be measured in lives saved and in lives improved.”
Ms. Veneman stressed that the disease takes a heavy toll in terms of death and human suffering and is a major source of poverty. “The cost of malaria control and treatment drains African economies and, according to some estimates, slows economic growth by as much as 1.3 per cent per year,” she noted.
“Malaria prevention is an important component of poverty reduction and economic development, and progress is being made,” she added.
Tim Wirth, President of the UN Foundation, explained that through the programme, citizens around the world can purchase bed nets for $10 each. They are then distributed through UN programmes in different countries.
“This is the most effective prevention programme in the area of malaria that we know about,” he noted.
The founding partners of the campaign, which was inspired by sports columnist Rick Reilly, include the National Basketball Association (NBA), the United Methodist Church and Sports Illustrated magazine.
NBA Commissioner David Stern highlighted the power of sports as a vehicle for communication on a global scale. “Athletes can be used to communicate many messages – some of them are for athletic shoes and apparel and some of them may be for cereal or automobiles. But how wonderful it is or them to have the opportunity to communicate that we should save lives,” he stated.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
International community must act earlier to address increasing vulnerability.
An estimated 14 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing a food emergency just two years on from the height of the worst drought in decades, CARE International warned today. Without significant rain this month, millions of people, already left devastated and vulnerable by the 2006 emergency, risk further loss of their livelihoods and possible starvation as water and pasture rapidly diminish.
Parts of Somalia are already facing emergency and CARE staff are responding to widespread and acute shortages of food and water. In Kenya and Ethiopia, despite recent rains in places, CARE staff are reporting high levels of vulnerability with livestock dying due to lack of water and grazing, dramatic rises in the price of food and water and children dropping out of school to help find food.
“A lot depends on the next four weeks,” said Steve Wallace, CARE’s Regional Director for East and Central Africa. “Already in some areas pasture has all but disappeared and a lack of water has forced schools and health clinics to close. Without rain in the next month households that are still struggling to get back on their feet will be facing a severe food and water emergency again.”
Increases in global food prices that have priced food beyond what the poor can afford, the rapid succession of droughts as predicted by climate change experts and recent escalations of conflict in Somalia and Kenya have all contributed to the poverty and vulnerability that underpin the current precarious situation.
But, according to CARE, the aid system has also contributed by failing to tackle these underlying causes of food emergencies. This has left people in a downward spiral, becoming increasingly susceptible as they fall in and out of emergency.
“For the last two years CARE has called for urgent, radical changes to the aid system to ensure money is spent more intelligently to end the cycle of emergency” said Vanessa Rubin, CARE International UK’s Africa Hunger Advisor. “Progress has been made, but not to the necessary scale and the result is that people today are more vulnerable than ever.”
“We have a window of opportunity to prevent millions of people from losing their major source of food and income, if not their lives, to another drought. International donors must act early and make money available immediately to protect people’s livelihoods where it is still possible and prevent an emergency from taking root.”
Too often the aid community gives money late to emergencies of this nature, providing funding for the wrong things and for periods too short to truly fight emergencies. This time around, the aid community must consider the long-term nature of the crisis at the heart of its response.
In Somalia, CARE is currently providing food to 660,000 people and plans to feed 200,000 more from June. CARE needs $25 million to ensure that we can continue to get food to all of these people. In Kenya, CARE has been trucking water into the most affected areas and is working with community leaders to prevent conflict over diminishing water resources. In Ethiopia, CARE has been providing feed for livestock to protect the livelihoods of poor pastoralists, providing water storage to communities, and providing extra food to vulnerable children in response to increased levels of malnutrition.
About CARE International: CARE is one of the world’s largest aid agencies, working in nearly 70 countries to fight poverty and helping more than 55 million people every year. Our long-term programmes tackle the deep-seated causes of poverty and we are always among the first to respond when disaster strikes. We remain with communities to help them rebuild their lives long after the cameras have gone.
For more information or interviews, please contact:
Amber Meikle, London, +44 207 934 9348, firstname.lastname@example.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
|Displaced people from Mt Elgon receive food aid|
(IRIN) – A simmering feud over land rights in western Kenya’s Mt Elgon district was blamed for several killings there in October, as disease spread among those displaced by the unrest.
“At least seven people have been killed in the month of October in the district,” Maurice Anyango, Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) relief officer, said on 26 October.
The dead include an area administrator (locally known as a ‘chief’), who was shot dead in his office on 16 October in Kapkaten, in Kopsiro division.
Anyango said the killing prompted several families to flee the area, adding that an estimated 45,000 people were currently displaced in Mt Elgon district.
Seven people were killed on 5 August and another three on 7 August in the Kopsiro area of the district.
The insecurity in the area forced many of the area’s secondary school students to sit their national examinations in neighbouring districts.
Meanwhile, KRCS and its partners have continued to deliver food and other aid to the displaced, Anyango said.
“In the last two weeks we were able to reach at least 9,058 people in Mt Elgon and Bungoma [a neighbouring district],” he said.
There were increased cases of typhoid, malaria, diarrhoea and skin infections among the people in the Cheptais, Kaptama and Chepkitale areas, a volunteer with the KRCS division of health and sanitation, Daniel Lagat, said.
At least 180 people have died in the area since fighting broke out in December 2006 following inter-clan disputes between the Soy and the Mosop communities over land allocation in the Chebyuk settlement scheme.
The first killings in the area took place in August 2006 with the Sabaot Land Defence Force – formed after claims of injustice over land allocation – being blamed for most of the violence.
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