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Guatemala’s children bear brunt of prolonged drought and rising heat

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 January 2020 17:14 ..

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 January 2020 17:14 GMT Image Caption and Rights Information

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Jan 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rising numbers of children in Guatemala are going hungry as drought linked to climate change reduces food harvests, fueling child malnutrition rates in the Central American nation, the United Nations and charities said.

Guatemala, which has one of the world’s high rates of child malnutrition, recorded more than 15,300 cases of acute malnutrition in children under 5 last year, up nearly 24% from 2018, according to government figures.

The number of children acutely malnourished was the highest since 2015, when a severe drought hit Central America.

Guatemala’s farmers are reeling from a series of prolonged droughts in recent years and from a lengthy heat wave last year as climate change brings drier conditions and erratic rainfall, U.N. officials said.

Children living in poor highland farming communities and along the “Dry Corridor” – running through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua – are bearing the brunt, they said.

“There is an increase in cases of acute malnutrition that are related to climate change and the long periods of drought from June to October (last year),” said Maria Claudia Santizo, a nutrition specialist at the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

Drought is also adding to the area of Guatemala suffering problems, she said.

“With climate change, the dry corridor has expanded,” Santizo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Poor harvests of staple crops such as beans and maize mean rural families are forced to eat fewer meals a day, and have less food to sell, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Families also are unable to store food to see them through the lean period before the next harvest, the U.N. agency said.

“We are seeing a high rate of child malnutrition that’s rising for two reasons – high temperatures which affect the crops and resulting crop losses, and rains that are more erratic and unpredictable,” said Amy English, a technical advisor at international aid agency Mercy Corps, which works in Guatemala.

She said worsening hunger in the region was a contributor to the caravans of migrants moving north toward Mexico and the United States.

To combat crop losses, rural development programs must include efforts to help farmers adapt to climate change, including planting more drought-resistant crops and better conserving water, she said.

Jose Aquino, a rural development manager in Guatemala for Mercy Corps, said more rivers in the region are running dry at least part of the year.

“2019 was one of the driest years in Guatemala. Rivers that didn’t used to dry up are now doing so,” Aquino said.

“All this basically affects the availability of food,” he said.

STRUGGLING TO COPE

Marc-Andre Prost, a WFP regional nutrition advisor, said three in every five people in Guatemala already live in poverty and rural communities are struggling to cope with the additional burden of extreme weather.

According to WFP, about one million people in Guatemala – 15% of the population – “cannot meet their food needs on a daily basis”, and hundreds and thousands rely on food aid.

“Climate change is not responsible for this situation but climate change and what we’ve seen in the last two years, these climate events, are definitely exacerbating a situation where people don’t have the capacity to cope,” Prost said.

Guatemala’s small-scale farmers are heavily dependent on rainfall and most lack alternative sources of water for their crops.

“As soon as there is a problem with the rainfall, we see the immediate consequences on households” as they try to earn an income and feed themselves, Prost said.

Climate change means it is likely extreme weather – from hurricanes to torrential rains and prolonged droughts – will become more frequent in the future, he said.

Like previous leaders, the new president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, has pledged to make combating stubbornly high rates of child malnutrition a national priority.

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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GCO responds to Amnesty report on non-payment of salaries by stadium contractor

Office on Wednesday issued a statement in response to an Amnesty report accusing a company operating..

Office on Wednesday issued a statement in response to an Amnesty report accusing a company operating at the Al Bayt Stadium of not paying salaries to workers.
Here is the full statement:
In September 2019, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) was made aware, by the Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy, of delayed salary payments by Qatar Meta Coats W.L.L.
The company was financially sanctioned, and operations were suspended until all outstanding salaries were paid. Financial insecurity between November 2019 and April 2020 meant that Qatar Meta Coats workforce received irregular salary payments during this period.
In May 2020, the issue was partially resolved and all salary payments from February to May were paid in full by the company. There are a small number of outstanding salary payments preceding February, which will be resolved in the coming days. Qatar Meta Coats was recently sold and ADLSA is overseeing the activities of the new ownership to rectify the neglect of the previous owner, including renewing expired residence permits and health cards.
Working with our international partners, the government has bolstered legislative and operational frameworks to improve and further protect the rights of migrant workers, while clearly setting out the legal obligations of all companies operating in Qatar. We have made it clear to all employers that, in line with legislation, incidents of non-compliance will result in strict sanctions, including heavy fines, shutting down worksites, blacklisting, and prosecuting individuals responsible for neglecting the welfare of their workforce.
Furthermore, as part of our efforts to tackle exploitative labour practices by companies, draft legislation was passed last week to increase financial and non-financial penalties for labour law violations, including those related to delayed salary payments.
The government has made significant progress in recent years to reform the countrys labour system. There are still issues to overcome, including those related to the attitudes and behaviours of a small minority. This will take time, but we remain firmly committed to the task.

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Creepy technologies invade European post-pandemic workplaces

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa ..

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa F. Etienne, said preparing for winter and hurricanes is critical to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Americas.

With more than 3.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the region and many areas reporting exponential rises in cases and deaths, “We are concerned by data showing the virus surging in new places that had previously seen a limited number of cases,” Etienne said in a press briefing today.

The PAHO Director noted, “In South America, our response to the pandemic will be impacted by the arrival of winter, while hurricane season will complicate our efforts in North and Central America, and especially in the Caribbean.”

Preparing for respiratory infections during winter

Winter, now starting in South America, “fuels respiratory infections—like seasonal influenza and pneumonia—that can rapidly spread in colder climates and as more people gather indoors to stay warm,” she said.

“This is a problem for patients because respiratory illnesses leave them at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection. Its also a challenge for strained health systems that will have to cope with the dual burden of a coronavirus pandemic and a spike in other respiratory illnesses. It does not help that the similar symptoms will make diagnosing COVID-19 even harder,” Dr. Etienne told journalists at the briefing.

Influenza vaccination “to prevent severe cases of flu is more critical than ever—particularly for high-risk groups like health workers, the elderly and people with chronic conditions. These same groups are also at high-risk of coronavirus infection,” she noted.

Seasonal influenza vaccination is ongoing in 14 countries, and more than 90 million people are being targeted. PAHO is helping countries buy vaccines through its Revolving Fund. “The Fund helped secure 24 million flu vaccine doses, despite the added logistical hurdles that were all facing in transporting essential supplies during the pandemic,” the PAHO Director explained.

Preparing for hurricane season

With hurricane season starting, PAHOs director suggested that officials in the Caribbean, Central America, and the East coast of the USA “review national hurricane response plans and conduct simulation exercises to ensure your disaster and COVID-19 responses are aligned. We should also plan for potential disruptions to the care of critically ill patients and refine evacuation plans.”

She said PAHO is working to provide emergency response supplies throughout the region, and “to secure critical facilities like laboratories, and quarantine and isolation centers so diagnosis and treatment for COVID-19 can continue even under difficult circumstances.”

”We must take action today to safeguard our progress and mitigate the spread of the virus during this time. That means redoubling our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, so that we reduce the dual burden the approaching winter and hurricane seasons might bring.” Dr. Carissa F. Etienne

Strengthening health infrastructure by hiring surge staff and expanding reserves of essential supplies and protective equipment is also important and “will help ensure the work done to prepare for COVID-19 is reinforced to address these seasonal threats, she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed our region to the limit. Our communities and health systems are under duress, and our collective efforts are laser focused on containing the virus, Dr. Etienne said.

“Preparing for winter and hurricane season is a critical part of this fight. We must take action today to safeguard our progress and mitigate the spread of the virus during this time. And that means redoubling our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, so that we reduce the dual burden the approaching winter and hurricane seasons might bring.”

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Dozens dead in Pakistan as PIA plane plunges into Karachi houses

Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner cr..

Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner crashed into a residential neighbourhood while on approach to the airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, officials say.

At least two male passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi survived the crash on Friday, a health ministry spokeswoman told Al Jazeera.

There were at least 91 passengers on board the plane, according to an official passenger manifest shared with Al Jazeera by the officials.

Health ministry spokeswoman Meeran Yousuf told Al Jazeera by telephone that 85 people have died, with 53 bodies kept at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi’s largest government hospital, and 32 at Civil Hospital Karachi, another major state-run hospital.

Yousuf said the two survivors were being treated at the hospitals in Karachi, while 19 bodies have been identified so far.

At least six people who were on the ground when the airliner crashed into houses in the densely populated Model Colony area of Karachi, adjacent to the city’s international airport, were being treated for their injuries, she added.

“Our plane [an Airbus] A320 which was coming from Lahore to Karachi was on final approach,” said PIA chief Arshad Malik in a video message released after the crash.

“The last words we heard from our pilot were that there is a technical problem and he was told on final approach that he has both runways available to him to land on. But the pilot decided that he wanted to go around.”

The plane then rapidly lost altitude and crashed short of the runway into the Model Colony neighbourhood, witnesses told the local media.

Dense plumes of black smoke rose above houses in the narrow streets of the neighbourhood, with television footage showing several houses crushed from the impact of the aircraft.

Parts of the plane, including the emergency exit door, were seen strewn in the streets.

Pakistan: Passenger plane with 107 onboard crashes


Wreckage of the PIA passenger plane crash can be seen in a residential area in Karachi [Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu]


Pakistan’s military said it had deployed helicopters to assess the damage and help ferry the dead and wounded to the hospitals.

An emergency was declared in all of the city’s hospitals, already reeling from a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus, provincial health minister Azra Pechucho told reporters.

“We are doing DNA testing of the dead bodies so that they can be identified and they can be given to their families,” she said.

“We were already in an emergency situation due to COVID, we were already alert … and now we have put the surgical units on alert as well.”

‘Shocked and saddened’

Pakistan resumed limited domestic flight operations last week, after a lengthy suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,067 lives in the South Asian nation, according to the government data.

The Airbus A320, operated by Pakistan’s national flag carrier, was due to land in Karachi at 2:45pm local time (09:45 GMT) after an hour and a half in the air after departing Lahore earlier in the day.

In 2016, Pakistan suffered its deadliest recent air crash, when all 47 people on board a PIA Embraeur ATR aircraft were killed when it crashed into a mountain en route from the northern town of Chitral to the capital Islamabad.

In 2010, the country saw its worst air disaster, with all 152 people on board an Air Blue passenger flight killed when the plane crashed into the hills just north of the capital Islamabad.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an immediate inquiry into Friday’s crash.

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