Bombardier Announces Senior Management Reorganization in Support of its Transition to a Pure-play Business Jet Company

MONTRÉAL, Oct. 01, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Bombardier (TSX: BBD.B) announced today that it has begun the process of streamlining its senior leadership team as it transitions to a pure–play business jet company. As part of this process, the Company has eliminated the Bombardier Aviation president role and announced that David Coleal will depart the Company.

"With the sale of Bombardier Transportation nearing completion, we are preparing for our future as a business aviation company," said ric Martel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc. "Our goal is to create a leaner, more agile and customer–centric company to better capture growth opportunities with our industry leading business jet portfolio. This includes simplifying our corporate leadership structure."

"I want to acknowledge and thank David Coleal for his many contributions to Bombardier," Martel continued. "We wish David continued success in his future endeavours."

About Bombardier
With nearly 60,000 employees across two business segments, Bombardier is a global leader in the transportation industry, creating innovative and game–changing planes and trains. Our products and services provide world–class transportation experiences that set new standards in passenger comfort, energy efficiency, reliability and safety.

Headquartered in Montral, Canada, Bombardier has production and engineering sites in over 25 countries across the segments of Aviation and Transportation. Bombardier shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (BBD). In the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, Bombardier posted revenues of $15.8 billion. News and information are available at bombardier.com or follow us on Twitter @Bombardier.

Bombardier is a trademark of Bombardier Inc. and its subsidiaries.

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Covid-19 Deaths: 1 Million and Surging

Face masks hanging on window bars in Havana, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Oct 1 2020 – Covid-19 deaths worldwide have surpassed 1 million. With new cases of coronavirus infections rapidly mounting again, the numbers of Covid-19 deaths are feared to surge in the coming months. 

It took approximately 40 weeks to reach the first million Covid-19 recorded deaths. Some have projected the second million Covid-19 deaths to take about 10 weeks, arriving in late December, and the third million to take an additional 4 weeks, arriving in late January.

Approximately 60 percent of the 1 million Covid-19 deaths to date have taken place in 6 countries (Figure 1). The United States continues to maintain its dominant lead in Covid-19 deaths as well as in coronavirus cases. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 21 percent of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide, or approximately 210,000 deaths that have jettison Covid-19 to the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer. 

 

Approximately 60 percent of the 1 million Covid-19 deaths to date have taken place in 6 countries (Figure 1). The United States continues to maintain its dominant lead in Covid-19 deaths as well as in coronavirus cases. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 21 percent of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide, or approximately 210,000 deaths that have jettison Covid-19 to the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer

Source: Worldometer.

 

The country in second place is Brazil, which with less than 3 percent of the world’s population accounts for 14 percent of all Covid-19 deaths. Brazil is followed by India at 10 percent, Mexico at 8 percent, and the United Kingdom and Italy both at 4 percent.

In several months India is projected to overtake the U.S. as the country with the largest number of  Covid-19 deaths. India’s daily virus-related deaths are currently around 1,100 versus 760 for the U.S. In addition, India’s daily virus infections have surpassed 90,000 compared to about 42,000 for the U.S.

Due to differences in the population size of countries, Covid-19 death rates provide a meaningful comparative perspective on the performances of countries in confronting the coronavirus pandemic. While the Covid-19 death rate for the world is about 130 deaths per million population, the rates of the dozen deadliest countries, which except for the U.S. are located in Latin America and Europe, are about 600 or more Covid-19 deaths per million population (Figure 2).

 

Due to differences in the population size of countries, Covid-19 death rates provide a meaningful comparative perspective on the performances of countries in confronting the coronavirus pandemic. While the Covid-19 death rate for the world is about 130 deaths per million population, the rates of the dozen deadliest countries, which except for the U.S. are located in Latin America and Europe, are about 600 or more Covid-19 deaths per million population

Source: Worldometer.

 

The top two countries are Peru and Belgium, with rates of 980 and 860 Covid-19 deaths per million population, respectively. The countries with the next highest death rates of approximately 670 Covid-19 deaths per million population are Spain, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile. 

The high Covid-19 death rate of Peru is believed due in part to the country’s poor health system, which failed to conduct effective testing and contact tracing, and the fact that 70 percent of Peruvian workers are in the informal sector with most not able to afford to isolate as they are dependent on daily earnings. 

In the case of Belgium, government officials say their high Covid-19 death rate is likely due to a number of factors including their exceptional way of counting unconfirmed Covid-19 deaths, the high level of elderly placed in care homes and poor initial preparations at home care centers permitting the virus to spread rapidly and have devastating effects. 

In striking contrast to the rates of the deadliest dozen countries are the substantially lower Covid-19 death rates of many other countries around the world. Denmark and Germany, for example, report Covid-19 death rates of 112 and 114 per million population, respectively. Even lower rates are observed in Norway, Australia and Japan, of 50, 35 and 12 Covid-19 deaths per million population, respectively.

It took approximately 40 weeks to reach the first million Covid-19 recorded deaths. Some have projected the second million Covid-19 deaths to take about 10 weeks, arriving in late December, and the third million to take an additional 4 weeks, arriving in late January

Unfortunately, in many countries a combination of denial, deception and defiance stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming public health evidence concerning the dissemination of the coronavirus and lethality of Covid-19.

The interaction of the pandemic’s fallout with the growth of populism and extremism around the world hindered effective responses. In too many instances, the recommended mitigation measures became politized and openly ignored, denigrated and resisted by some groups.

Some contend that the various public health measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including masking wearing, social distancing and sheltering-in-place, are infringements on their liberties and freedoms and constituted unconstitutional violations of their basic rights.

However, it is widely recognized that measures and regulations intended to promote the health and safety of the general public are well within a state’s authority.

Many of the deaths in the high Covid-19 mortality countries likely would have been prevented by the early intervention and widespread use of face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, sheltering-in-place, testing, contact tracing and related other measures.

Downplaying the threat of the pandemic, making misleading pronouncements, sending confused messages, offering unfounded reassurances, maligning health officials, delaying/resisting public health measures and deflecting blame to others contributed to the disastrous spread of the disease and subsequent rapid rise of Covid-19 deaths in many countries. 

For example, if the United States response to the pandemic had been more successful and had been able to achieve the relatively low Covid-19 death rate of Germany (114 versus 638 per million population), the U.S. Covid-19 death toll would have been approximately 38,000 rather than 210,000.

Even the relatively higher Covid-19 death rate of neighboring Canada (246 deaths per million population) would have more than halved the US death toll, avoiding approximately 130,000 U.S. Covid-19 deaths (Figure 3).

 

if the United States response to the pandemic had been more successful and had been able to achieve the relatively low Covid-19 death rate of Germany (114 versus 638 per million population), the U.S. Covid-19 death toll would have been approximately 38,000 rather than 210,000. Even the relatively higher Covid-19 death rate of neighboring Canada (246 deaths per million population) would have more than halved the US death toll, avoiding approximately 130,000 U.S. Covid-19 deaths

Source: Author’s estimates based on data from Worldometer.

 

Similarly, the different approaches of Sweden and Denmark resulted in significantly higher Covid-19 death rates for Sweden, 583 versus 112 deaths per million population. While Sweden adopted libertarian policies of minimal regulations perhaps with the aim to achieve herd immunity, Denmark imposed social distancing, mask wearing and related public health measures.

If Sweden had been able to achieve the Covid-19 death rate of nearby Denmark, the Swedish death toll from Covid-19 would have been substantially less, about 1,100 rather than 5,900. 

While in mid-April the world’s daily Covid-19 deaths peaked at around 8,500, the average daily number of deaths near the end of September was approximately 5,300. In recent weeks, however, growing numbers of countries in various regions are reporting surges in daily coronavirus cases.

In the third week of September, nearly 2 million new Covid-19 cases were reported worldwide, the highest number of reported cases in a week since the start of the pandemic. 

In Europe weekly cases are now exceeding those reported when the pandemic first peaked in March. Those growing numbers of coronavirus cases point to the beginning of a second surge of Covid-19 deaths, especially for many of the countries in the northern hemisphere where approaching cold weather will drive more people indoors.  

A vaccine for the coronavirus, which now has approximately three dozen candidates in human trials, is unlikely to be widely available before the expected second wave of the pandemic. If the second wave follows the path that some now fear, the current number of one million Covid-19 deaths could triple in a matter of months.

Moreover, if the world’s Covid-19 death rate were to begin to approach the current level of the United States or the United Kingdom, the million Covid-19 deaths could more than triple in the coming year.

It is widely recognized that a vaccine for the coronavirus will not be 100 percent effective. Some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies place the effectiveness of a hoped for vaccine at around 60 percent.  In the United States the Food and Drug Administration has indicated that any coronavirus vaccine must be at least 50 percent effective to secure approval from regulators. 

Some scenarios envision the coronavirus pandemic continuing for the long haul, perhaps for at least several more years. Some fear that an approved vaccine may offer only limited seasonal protection, similar to other coronaviruses in circulation. 

Also, significant numbers may decide to avoid getting inoculated while many others may simply delay their decisions fearing vaccine safety may have been seriously compromised due to political influence. In addition, the global distribution of an approved vaccine may remain limited for some time due to insufficient supplies, relatively high costs for those in low income countries and international political disputes.

Consequently, in order to check the spread of the second and subsequent waves of coronavirus infections and limit the numbers of Covid-19 deaths, public health mitigation measures, including mask wearing, social distancing, hand hygiene, sanitizing, sheltering-in-place, quarantining, testing, contact tracing and staying at home when sick, will remain the primary tools in the medical arsenal to confront the pandemic for the foreseeable future.

Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

We Need Nature and Biodiversity if We Want a Sustainable Future

More than 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs are endangered due to overfishing, destructive practices and climate change, according to the United Nations. Yesterday the first-ever U.N. Summit on Biodiversity concluded with world leaders and experts agreeing on the urgency to preserve biodiversity globally. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

More than 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs are endangered due to overfishing, destructive practices and climate change, according to the United Nations. Yesterday the first-ever U.N. Summit on Biodiversity concluded with world leaders and experts agreeing on the urgency to preserve biodiversity globally. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2020 – “Investing in nature is investing in a sustainable future,” was one of the key messages from yesterday’s first-ever United Nations Summit on Biodiversity where world leaders and experts agreed  on the urgency to act swiftly to preserve biodiversity globally. 

“More than 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs are endangered due to overfishing, destructive practices and climate change,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in his opening remarks  at the biodiversity summit, which was held as the 75th Session of the U.N. General Assembly wrapped up this week.

This loss doesn’t come without a cost.

Guterres added that according to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimate, the amount of money required for sustainability of nature is about $300 – 400 billion, which is less than “current levels of harmful subsidies for agriculture, mining and other destructive industries”.

Guterres also pointed out how this disproportionately affects poor communities.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, between 50 to 90 percent of the livelihoods of poor households comes from ecosystems.

“Nature offers business opportunities to poor communities, from sustainable farming to eco-tourism or subsistence fishing,” Guterres said.

This year was especially crucial given the COVID-19 pandemic and the havoc it wreaked across communities around the world.

Volkan Bozkır, president of the General Assembly, pointed out the world’s  inability to ensure preservation of biodiversity severely impedes the ability to fight diseases — a result that is being witnessed first hand this year. It also negatively affects food security, water supplies, and livelihoods, among other issues.

“We must be pragmatic: our healthcare systems rely upon rich biodiversity,” Bozkır said. “Four billion people depend upon natural medicines for their health, and 70 percent of drugs used for cancer treatments are drawn from nature.”

“More than half of the world’s GDP – $44 trillion – is dependent on nature,” he added. 

Chinese president Xi Jinping addressed the meeting, extending a warm welcome for next year’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 15) scheduled to take place in China. 

“COP15 offers an opportunity for parties to adopt new strategies for global biodiversity governance,” Xi said. 

Xi proposed a list of steps that leaders can take in order to ensure biodiversity preservation around the world:

  • Adhere to ecological civilisation and increase the drive for building a beautiful world, given that a sound ecosystem is crucial for the prosperity of civilisation. “We need to respect nature, follow its laws, and protect it,” he said. “We need to find a way for man and nature to live in harmony, balance and coordinate economic development and ecological protection.”
  • Uphold multilateralism and build synergy for global governance on the environment. “Faced with the risks and challenges worldwide, countries share a common stake as passengers [on] the same boat, and form a community with a shared future,” Xi said. “To enhance global governance on the environment, we must firmly safeguard the U.N.-centred international system, and uphold the sanctity and authority of international rules.”
  • Continue with green development and increase potential for high quality economic recovery after COVID-19.

Meanwhile, panelists at a “Fireside Chat” panel brought up the importance of including indigenous communities in the conversation.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, said the indigenous community is “critical” to this conversation.

“Let’s recall they are the owners and managers of one quarter of global land area, and one third of protected areas,” Andersen said. “So safeguarding their right to their land is part of safeguarding biodiversity.”

Ana Maria Hernandez Salgar, the first woman chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), also shared a similar sentiment as she reflected on what, in her experience, has led to true change.

“We have to work collectively: governments, individuals, private sector, academia, we need to address the root cause of biodiversity loss – it works,” Salgar said.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the appointed Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, also spoke on the same panel and added that it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that biodiversity, on top of being a concern, is also a solution to some of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“We know, 14 out of the 17 SDGs depend on biodiversity, from nature-based solutions, to climate, to food, water, security, sustainable livelihood: biodiversity remains the basis for sustainable future and sustainable development,” Mrema said.

Perhaps the conversation on the link between biodiversity preservation and humans was most aptly put forth by Achim Steiner of the U.N. Development Programme who moderated the panel.

At the core of the preservation efforts is how we view the issue, Steiner said.

It’s not just about nature, it’s about humans too.

“Biodiversity has as much to do with nature as it has to do with people, people’s dependence on nature, people’s inability to see the complexities of nature, people’s blindness and sometimes greed and ignorance and also the planetary blindspots of our economies.”

The Triple Humanitarian Crisis and Why Kenya Deserves An A + in its Response

The triple humanitarian crisis. Photo Credits from left and in clockwise direction-UN Habitat, Kenya Red Cross and FAO Kenya.

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1 2020 – The United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Ms Amina Mohammed recently commended “Kenya’s exemplary role in its response to COVID-19 and in advancing Agenda 2030”.

On Monday, 28 September 2020, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta hosted a national conference on COVID 19. I was invited to speak about Kenya’s response, and without equivocation I restate what I said–Kenya deserves an A + rating.

Here’s why!

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Asia, Europe and the US, experts began to worry about what it would do to poor countries, with predictions of thousands of deaths, serious infections as well as the near-total collapse of already ailing health systems.

How would Africa, characterised by crowded living conditions, widespread poverty and a lack of basic hygienic facilities deal with such a devastating and largely unknown pathogen? Months later, such horror scenarios have not materialised and the question has changed to why most of Africa is seeing comparably less devastation.

As explained by President Uhuru Kenyatta during the National Covid-19 Conference, “the reason why we have managed to flatten the curve is because Kenyans have exercised an impressive civic responsibility and duty.”

A reality that tends to be lost in all the discussions about this novel coronavirus in Kenya is just how much pummelling the country’s social and economic structures have received lately.

2020 was a particularly difficult year for Kenya. A triple crisis, coming on the heels of a protracted period of droughts, a cholera epidemic and not to underestimate the spectre of cross-border terror attacks, which dented one of Kenya’s biggest foreign exchange earners-tourism.

Consider this. In 2017, nearly half the counties of Kenya was reeling from the effects of probably the worst drought in the last 20 years. With nearly 3.4 million people food insecure, Kenya’s food security prognosis looked gloomy, with climate change and natural resource depletion set to pose even greater risks in the long term.

Often unnoticed is the insidious effect on the country’s economy, with experts estimating that there have been, “12 serious droughts since 1990”. The average annual costs of the damage caused estimated at around KHS 125 billion ($1.25 billion) — with each drought reducing the country’s Gross Domestic Product by an average of 3.3 percent.

The two consecutive national elections in 2017 also took a massive financial toll.

Given the dire financial situation, it is quite remarkable, the resilience, tenacity and optimism, Kenya has displayed in the face of such adversity, and done so with their head held high, with stoicism and compassion in its fight against the triple threat.

Since the beginning of the year, Kenya has gone through a series of unprecedented crises, where within six months it has experienced the worst desert locust invasion in 70 years, heavy unusual flooding that has left scores of people dead and thousands displaced, and the pandemic that is taking a toll on health services and the economy.

Aware of the technological and financial handicaps facing the health sector, the government has responded commendably in leading the fight against COVID-19, from mandating physical distancing and wearing of masks, promoting hand and respiratory hygiene, promptly dealing with rumours, to specialised facilities in hospitals, to working with industry to deliver local equipment such as PPEs, to delivering economic relief to impacted families. And above all not allowing politics to hijack the wisdom of science.

In about six months after the first case was reported, Kenya increased the number of infectious diseases isolation beds from eight to just over 7,000 across the country, thus keeping the casualty rates low. This was a remarkable feat achieved through unity of purpose between the national and county governments.

The government rolled out moderate stimulus packages to help families ride out the economic turbulence and cushion companies from financial shocks. The Treasury instituted tax relief for low-income earners and reduced VAT rates as well as corporate sales tax for businesses. In a country already facing slow GDP growth, these were commendable actions of national self-sacrifice and coming together in times of crises.

When you look at some of the most developed countries in the world, buckling to the microscopic and highly virulent coronavirus and their national responses are properly examined, Kenya does score an ‘A+’ in how quickly and decisively the government acted in the COVID-19 crisis. Measures such as travel restrictions, curfews and school closures were implemented early in the country, before the number of infections rose.

As testament to the spirit of coming together to confront a common adversary, there was broad support from the public for these measures. In social media and elsewhere, citizens were quick to express responsible outrage where they felt those responsible for the response at various levels were not keeping to the expected standards.

This grit and determination to rise to the occasion even where resources are hard to come by was key in getting on board international donor agencies and private sector to mobilise funding to support the national response. The UN in Kenya repurposed $45 million from the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) towards the COVID response, and deployed over 150 staff and volunteers to the government response structures.

In partnership with the Government of Kenya, the UN launched a Flash Appeal to mobilize $267.5 million to support more than 10 million vulnerable people affected by the pandemic, of which nearly US$ 60 million was raised. An additional US$ 10 million dollars was allocated by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, to construct a specialised 100 bed COVID 19 hospital in Nairobi, which will remain as additional capacity even after the pandemic is over.

The UN in Kenya has prepared a COVID-19 socioeconomic response and recovery plan to address the health care system, social protection, employment opportunities and social cohesion. The recovery plan will be implemented in the next two years and will cost $155 million to focus on recovering better from the pandemic for the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The country is still in the maelstrom of the pandemic. The devastating consequences of the pandemic have not fully played out and important challenges remain, some wrought by the pandemic but many that continued long before, such as high health care costs for millions of Kenyans, gender inequalities, widespread poverty, youth unemployment, environmental degradation, corruption and terrorism”.

The country must converge at every level to address these threats today or suffer the consequences tomorrow. Recovery will be made much tougher by the economic toll of COVID-19 as well as an exhausted and depleted health system.

Still, the pandemic has shown that Kenya can overcome partisanship, think anew and work on short and longer-term sustainable development priorities towards ‘building back better’, with more resilience to future shocks.

As the UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms Mohammed said, “I am convinced that Kenya will continue demonstrating that results and transformation are possible and I call upon all of you to double your efforts to invest at scale in those critical interventions that will unlock benefits across all the goals, to make bold choices, to take decisive action and to leave no one behind in your pursuit of a better future.

Kenyans can be fully assured of the commitment of the United Nations to overcome every adversity, leapfrog socio-economic recovery and progress to realise Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. This article was originally published in Forbes Africa.

 


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If I Didn’t Believe, I Wouldn’t Know How to Breathe

Liu Xiaodong (China), Refugees 4, 2015.

By Vijay Prashad
Oct 1 2020 (IPS-Partners)

Here’s a story that encapsulates the terrible situation of our world: Associated Press reporters were on a Turkish coast guard vessel which picked up 37 migrants, including 18 children, from two orange life-rafts in the Aegean Sea on 12 September. The refugees were from Afghanistan, a country that shudders from an endless war. One of the refugees, Omid Hussain Nabizada told the reporters that the Greek authorities held them in Lesbos, put them onto life rafts, and then sent them into the turbulent seas. They were left there to die.

Since 1 March, Greece has suspended the right of refugees to claim asylum. The authorities have placed refugees into makeshift camps. The Moria Reception and Identification Centre in Lesbos (Greece) was built to hold 3,500 people but at its height it housed 20,000 people (due to the pandemic, the population was reduced to 12,000). Four days before Nabizada and others were rescued from the Aegean Sea, a fire tore through the Moria camp. Around 9,400 people lost their overcrowded shelters. This camp was constructed in 2015 to briefly hold migrants as they made their way to Europe from Afghanistan, Syria, and other areas where the West has perpetuated its many wars.

When the other European countries began to shut their doors to refugees, Greece became Europe’s plug; the refugees got stuck in places such as Moria.

In August, the engine of a boat exploded off the coast of Zuwarah (Libya), killing 45 refugees from Chad, Mali, Ghana, and Senegal. Fortunately, 37 people survived the explosion. It was a reminder that the passage of refugees across the Mediterranean Sea has not abated. In fact, the UN Refugee Agency said that 2020 has seen a threefold increase in refugee traffic in Italy and Malta as compared to 2019. The numbers of those on the move has not slowed down, despite the pandemic.

During the Great Lockdown, as aircraft fly relatively empty across much of the world, rubber boats and old trucks continue to carry large numbers of the impoverished peoples of our planet in search of a better life.

Oweena Camille Fogarty (Mexico), Untitled.

In 2018, a World Bank study showed that half the world’s population – 3.4 billion people – live below the poverty line, a number that increased during the pandemic. The Bank used the measure that a person who makes less than $5.50 per day is poor. Over the course of the past half century, states have increasingly privatised the delivery of key social services, such as education, childcare, health care, sanitation, and housing. These social costs are now borne by people with meagre means. That is why, in 2006, economist Lant Pritchett suggested that the threshold for measuring the poverty line be lifted to $10 a day. But even at this level, it is just not possible to cover the basic costs in a privatised society. Nonetheless, based on this threshold, Pritchett published an important paper which suggested that 88% of the world’s population lived in poverty.

The crushing weight of the Great Lockdown during the pandemic has worsened the social and economic condition of the vast majority of the world’s population. In June, the World Bank estimated that around 177 million people will slip into ‘extreme poverty’, the first such slip in thirty years. Half of those who will fall under the poverty line due to the pandemic will be in South Asia, while a third will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A new study from the International Labour Organisation shows that the working people around the planet lost 10.7% of their income in the first nine months of 2020; this equals a loss of $3.5 trillion. Workers in the poorer states bore the brunt, with losses of around 15% of their income, while workers in the richer countries saw losses of 9% of their income. The ILO found steady cuts in employment in the first two quarters of the year, with every indication that these losses will continue for the rest of the year, if not permanently.

Maysa Yousef (Palestine), Identity of the Soul, 2014.

Migrants like Omid Hussain Nabizada leave their homes where employment has collapsed and make perilous journeys. If they survive the passage, they at best find menial jobs (if they are able to find employment at all), earn a pittance, save that money, and then send it home. In 2019, such migrants sent $554 billion in remittances to their families in their countries of origin. Some countries – such as Haiti, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan – rely on these remittances for more than a quarter of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In April 2020, the World Bank estimated the ‘sharpest decline of remittances in recent history’, dropping by 19.7% to $445 billion. These declines, along with a decline in foreign direct investment and the collapse of exports for many of the countries of the Global South, have already created a dangerous balance of payments problems in many countries.

Refusal by wealthy bondholders (London Club), and the countries that back them (Paris Club), to allow for debt cancellation or even proper debt suspension puts immense pressure on these states as well as on the families that will lose an important source of basic income.

The lack of basic services – particularly health care in the midst of this pandemic – will create deeper distress. In 2017, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation warned that half of the world’s population did not have access to essential health services and that, each year, 100 million people are driven into poverty by the lack of income to pay for health care costs. This number is conservative, since in India alone – according to the national survey on social consumption – 55 million Indians were impoverished due to health care costs in 2011-12. That warning was not heeded.

Francisco Amighetti (Costa Rica), La Niña y el viento, 1969.

On 10 September 2020, World Suicide Prevention Day, the WHO’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus reminded us that every forty seconds someone somewhere dies by suicide. Importantly, he noted that the means by which many commit suicide must be kept away from people, ‘including pesticides and firearms’. The mention of pesticides points a finger at the endless suicide epidemic in rural India, where hundreds of thousands of farmers and agricultural workers have taken their lives; this was revealed in a series of powerful reports by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research Senior Fellow P. Sainath. The National Crime Records Bureau in India showed that, in 2019 – before the pandemic – every fourth suicide was committed by daily wage earners. These are the people hardest hit by the pandemic and the Great Lockdown; we have to wait until next year’s report to grasp the full impact of the deep social impact on farmers, agricultural workers, and daily wage earners, all of whom will be struck by the three pro-agribusiness farm bills foisted on the Indian population by its government this month.

Last week, the foreign correspondent Andre Vlteck (1962-2020) died in Istanbul. A few years ago, André introduced me to the Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez, particularly his song La Maza. Here are a few lines from Silvio, in honour of Andre:
If I didn’t believe in what I believe
If I didn’t believe in something pure
If I didn’t believe in every wound

If I didn’t believe in what hurts
If I didn’t believe in what stays
If I didn’t believe in what fights

What would my heart be?
What would the mason’s hammer be without a quarry?

The greatest tyrant in our time is a social system that impoverishes the majority of the world’s people, such as the people who drowned recently in the Mediterranean Sea, so that a small minority can live a life of luxury. If I didn’t believe in another world, I would find it hard to breathe.

Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

Water Security in Jordan is Crucial to Maintaining Stability in the Country

A child from the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan raised a flag to represent Goal 6, Safe Water and Sanitation. Credit: UNICEF Jordan/badran

By Rabiya Jaffery
AMMAN, Jordan, Oct 1 2020 – Jordan is one of the driest countries in the world, raking the fifth most water-stressed nation in an analysis by the World Resources Institute.

The middle eastern country gets 60% of its water from aquifers that lie in a dozen groundwater basins. And 10 of them are currently being pumped at a deficit.

“Not all aquifers are renewable and the ones that are storing rainwater that is released by springs,” says George Stacey, an analyst working with Norvergence, an environmental advocacy NGO. “No aquifer holds an endless amount of water and Jordan is extracting more water each year is getting replenished by rain.”

Three-quarters of Jordan is desert and desert steppe and is one of the countries that receive the least amount of annual precipitation.

“Climate change has made Jordan drier and the coming decades will see temperatures rising further and rain becoming more unpredictable,” adds Stacey. “Water scarcity is only going to get much worse in the coming years.”

And while rising temperatures and reducing rainfall reduce the available water supply, Jordan’s demand for water is increasing due to a rise in the country’s population as it continues to take in refugees from nearby countries.

Jordan became a state in 1946 and has since absorbed millions of refugees – mainly from Palestine, Iraq, and Syria as well as a number of Yemenis, Sudanese, and Somalis. There are currently 750, 000 refugees registered in Jordan but government figures estimate that the total number, including unregistered migrants, exceeds a million and excludes those who have gained citizenship.

“Water scarcity in Jordan will affect both refugees and Jordanians,” says Lilly Carlisle, from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – Jordan. “The increase in population and resulting increase in water demand have caused enormous pressure on the limited water resources and created a chronic poor water supply and demand imbalance.”

Although some government players have stated that the large influx of refugees in the country is worsening water scarcity in the country and opinions in many amongst the public and the media have implied that refugees threaten Jordan’s water security, experts disagree.

“The vast majority of refugees in Jordan come from Syria and from the Southern Governorate of Dar’a. With similar cultures and availability of water to where they now live in Northern Jordan, refugees are well aware of the need for water conservation,” says Carlisle.

“Added to this, over the past ten years of the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis, UNHCR and partners have enacted various campaigns to promote water conservation.”

In Zaatari Camp, for example, UNHCR has been running hydroponics projects since 2017 to educate refugees about water consumption within agriculture and establish new practices among refugees working in the agricultural sector to reduce water usage.

Roughly 45% of the water used in Jordan goes to agriculture and one of the key points on Jordan’s 2008–22 National Water Strategy has been efforts to stop over-pumping groundwater through reducing the amount of water that is given for free to farmers as well as water theft.

Water theft has been a regular problem in the country and, in 2013, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation launched a dedicated campaign to crack down on water violations. Between 2013 and 2017, over 30,000 violations on water mains and resources had been prevented and millions of cubic meters of stolen water have been retrieved.

Carlisle stated that the UNHCR is jointly tackling with the Jordanian Government and partners to “ensure that all people who live in Jordan, refugees and Jordanians alike, continue to have access and are aware of steps they have to take towards water conservation”.

Other solutions that the government is looking into include desalinated water from the Red Sea, which makes up 27 kilometers of coastline in Jordan, but the process requires a high amount of energy and the country lacks the necessary oil and gas deposits.

The country has, however, been in the talks with Israel for a joint mega-project, the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, that would bring desalinated water from the Red Sea to Jordan and dump the brine into the Dead Sea through a canal to stabilize the shrinking lake.

The agreement for the joint project was first signed by Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority, in 2013 but the work has been stalled several times. When completed, the Red-to-Dead canal would contribute roughly 10% of the country’s water needs.

However, environmentalists are concerned about the damage to coral reefs and other species in the Red Sea and Dead Sea if the project is completed.

“Water scarcity results in food shortage, internal migration, and can create conflicts between groups,” says Stacey. “These conflicts can also pore out to nearby countries – this is why ensuring water security in Jordan a matter of regional security.”

In 2017, a report by the Atlantic Council highlighted how water scarcity had been an indirect factor that lead to increasing tensions in, both, Yemen and Syria.

“The regional and international community needs to come together to work on sustainable solutions to Jordan’s water crisis to maintain the relative stability it has in a region that has seen multiple conflicts in the past few decades,” says Stacey.

“The country is already facing many major economic and political challenges and if the government does not adapt and implemented an effective policy to solve the water crisis, the situation will significantly worsen.”

Social frustrations about the country’s economic crisis, stemming from the IMF-backed austerity adopted by the government to tackle the country’s growing debt, have increased in the past few years. In 2018, as increasing youth unemployment and price hikes, and also resulted in a series of protests.

https://www.unicef.org/jordan/stories/water-security-critical-issue-children-jordan-today-and-future-generations

 


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MDBriefcase Acquires OncologyEducation to Significantly Advance its Oncology Platform

TORONTO, Oct. 01, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — MDBriefcase Group Inc. (MDBC), Canada's leading provider of online continuing medical education and professional development for healthcare providers, is excited to announce the acquisition of OncologyEducation. OncologyEducation is a comprehensive online platform providing evidence–based oncology content, developed and authored by a leading, international faculty of oncology professionals.

"We are excited to add OncologyEducation to our family of online educational resources for healthcare professionals," said Jason Flowerday, CEO of MDBC. "This acquisition aligns with our commitment to investing in critical therapeutic areas to provide our worldwide members with the latest scientific resources for informed healthcare decision–making. Together, MDBriefcase and OncologyEducation serves to provide the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors with improved access and reach to innovative medical education opportunities and programming."

"OncologyEducation was founded on the principle of improving patient care by providing oncology professionals worldwide with the latest oncology information resources," said Dr. Berry, co–founder of OncologyEducation. "We are a global organization that has grown to have strong credibility among healthcare professionals around the world, and we are confident that MDBriefcase's track record of global success can further expand the reach and impact of quality oncology education through its innovative offerings."

Since 2001, MDBC has delivered interactive, peer–reviewed, and evidence–based programs to more that 250,000 members around the world. Committed to enhancing quality of care and healthcare decision–making, MDBC offers educational resources for healthcare professionals in Canada, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe. Through this critical acquisition, MDBC can provide a growing number of members with access to the most current oncology information and resources available.

Delivering educational content to healthcare professionals in over twenty countries, MDBC is proud to welcome OncologyEducation into the fold during a time that brings even more opportunity for innovation in health education.

For further information: Megan Chapman, Director of Marketing, MDBriefcase Group Inc., T: 416–488–5500 x292, E: mchapman@mdbriefcase.com

About MDBriefcase Group Inc.
MDBriefCase Group Inc. specializes in developing online, accredited and unaccredited continuing professional development for healthcare professionals. The company partners with prestigious regional and international medical associations to ensure its innovative education programs reflect the local experiences of healthcare professionals around the world. Its programs are peer–reviewed by clinical specialists to ensure balance and applicability to practice. Over 250,000 healthcare professionals have access to the latest evidence–based information and guidelines to improve local patient care. For more information, visit the MDBC's website at: www.mdbriefcase.com

About OncologyEducation
OncologyEducation is led by Dr. Scott Berry, a medical oncologist, Professor and Head of the Queen's University Department of Oncology. Dr. Berry is the Medical Director at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre. Dr. Berry co–found OncologyEducation with the goal to provide rich, timely and unbiased physician–authored resources to thousands of oncology professionals worldwide. OncologyEducation connects a global community that includes thousands of physicians, specialists, nurses, pharmacists, students, residents and researchers. Its mission is to improve patient care through education, in particular knowledge resources, innovative practices and networking opportunities. For more information, visit the OncologyEducation's website at: www.oncologyeducation.com

About Persistence Capital Partners
Persistence Capital Partners is Canada's leading private equity fund exclusively focused on high–growth opportunities in the healthcare field. With deep healthcare industry expertise, PCP aims to create significant long–term capital appreciation for its investors by identifying and developing attractive investment opportunities in the Canadian healthcare market. PCP has offices in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto, Ontario. www.persistencecapital.com

Restoring Ecosystems After Fire and Flooding: Forget Not the Beneficial Soil Microbes

Climate-linked disasters are robbing us of the same allies that are supposed to help us in fighting climate change: the beneficial soil microbes and the complex network of microorganisms inhabiting the soil

Soil stores nutrients, carbon and micro-organisms. Credit: Xavi Fernández de Castro/IPS

By Esther Ngumbi
ILLINOIS, United States, Oct 1 2020 – Recent months have brought all sorts of climate-linked disasters, from raging wildfires in California and Oregon to flooding in Alabama. As we think of the incalculable losses that are associated with these extremities linked to the changing climate, I cannot help but think of the belowground web of life that is burning, being flooded and washed away, affected, or lost.

Indeed, these climate-linked disasters present a less obvious challenge: they are robbing us of the same allies that are supposed to help us in fighting climate change: the allies are the beneficial soil microbes and the complex network of microorganisms inhabiting the soil, referred to as the soil microbiome.

Climate-linked disasters are robbing us of the same allies that are supposed to help us in fighting climate change: the beneficial soil microbes and the complex network of microorganisms inhabiting the soil
Unseen to the naked eye, the soil microbiome comprises of a web of microscopic life that includes trillions of bacteria, fungi, archaea, viruses, protozoa and fungi.  Research has shown that they teem in the soil near the roots of plants.

A growing body of scientific research has generated the evidence of the many benefits that are derived from the associations among microbes and crops such as corn, tomato, cotton and bell peppers. These benefits include improving soil healthpromoting plant growth, improving plants ability to absorb nutrients and enhancing the ability of plants to fight stressors such as flooding and extreme heat, and fending off attacking insects.

Moreover, recent reviews continue to demonstrate the many microbe conferred benefits while pointing to outstanding research questions that remain to be explored, to further facilitate the use of beneficial soil microbes in agriculture.

These important microorganisms are suffering in the current slew of disasters. For instance, what does fire do to microorganisms? According to research, fire alters the abundance, composition, and activity of both microbial and fungal communities.

The survivors of fire are left with a fundamentally different habitat. Depending on the conditions after fires, life can bounce back quickly, or that would be the end of it. And without a healthy and functional soil microbial community, the nutrients are not recycled, and insect pests can invade plants. Moreover, in the end, soils lacking these helpers become unhealthy.

Given all the devastation these climate crises are creating, concern about microorganisms is low on people’s lists. Indeed, understandably, humans tend to only care about visible things. We are yet to learn about losses of things unseen to the naked eye.

Yet, this web of microscopic life is no minor matter: its healing will provide the foundation for the recovery of ecosystems including agricultural ecosystems. We must be sure to address it in the coming months of recovery.

Importantly, there is need for more research to uncover the impact of fire and flooding on beneficial soil microbe’s communities and to further uncover the best approaches and strategies that can be used to help soils to recover from these climate-linked disasters that are projected to happen more frequently in the future.

As we seek to rebuild, we must not forget to incorporate efforts geared at restoring the life below ground. Doing so will help these important microorganisms that live in the soil to bounce back faster and to thrive and then deliver their many benefits.

 

Dr. Esther Ngumbi is an Assistant Professor at the Entomology Department and African American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is a Senior Food security fellow with the Aspen Institute.