ROSEN, A GLOBALLY RECOGNIZED FIRM, Encourages Bright Health Group, Inc. Investors with Losses in Excess of $100K to Secure Counsel Before Important Deadline in Securities Class Action – BHG

NEW YORK, Jan. 12, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — WHY: Rosen Law Firm, a global investor rights law firm, announces the filing of a class action lawsuit on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Bright Health Group, Inc. (NYSE: BHG): (i) pursuant and/or traceable to the registration statement and prospectus (collectively, the "Registration Statement") issued in connection with the Company's June 24, 2021 initial public offering (the "IPO"); and/or (ii) between June 24, 2021 and November 10, 2021, inclusive (the "Class Period"). The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for Bright Health investors under the federal securities laws. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the Court no later than March 7, 2022.

SO WHAT: If you purchased Bright Health securities during the Class Period you may be entitled to compensation without payment of any out of pocket fees or costs through a contingency fee arrangement.

WHAT TO DO NEXT: To join the Bright Health class action, go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases–register–2236.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. toll–free at 866–767–3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or cases@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action. A class action lawsuit has already been filed. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the Court no later than March 7, 2022. A lead plaintiff is a representative party acting on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation.

WHY ROSEN LAW: We encourage investors to select qualified counsel with a track record of success in leadership roles. Often, firms issuing notices do not have comparable experience, resources or any meaningful peer recognition. Many of these firms do not actually litigate securities class actions. Be wise in selecting counsel. The Rosen Law Firm represents investors throughout the globe, concentrating its practice in securities class actions and shareholder derivative litigation. Rosen Law Firm has achieved the largest ever securities class action settlement against a Chinese Company. Rosen Law Firm was Ranked No. 1 by ISS Securities Class Action Services for number of securities class action settlements in 2017. The firm has been ranked in the top 4 each year since 2013 and has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for investors. In 2019 alone the firm secured over $438 million for investors. In 2020, founding partner Laurence Rosen was named by law360 as a Titan of Plaintiffs' Bar. Many of the firm's attorneys have been recognized by Lawdragon and Super Lawyers.

DETAILS OF THE CASE: The complaint alleges that the Offering Documents were negligently prepared and, as a result, contained untrue statements of material fact or omitted to state other facts necessary to make the statements made not misleading and were not prepared in accordance with the rules and regulations governing their preparation. Additionally, throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company's business, operations, and compliance policies. Specifically, the Offering Documents and Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) Bright Health had overstated its post–IPO business and financial prospects; (2) Bright Health was ill–equipped to handle the impact of COVID–19–related costs; (3) Bright Health was experiencing a decline in premium revenue because of a failure to capture risk adjustment on newly added lives; (4) all the foregoing was reasonably likely to have a material negative impact on Bright Health's business and financial condition; and (5) as a result, the Offering Documents and Defendants' public statements throughout the Class Period were materially false and/or misleading and failed to state information required to be stated therein.

To join the Bright Health class action, go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases–register–2236.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. toll–free at 866–767–3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or cases@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action.

No Class Has Been Certified. Until a class is certified, you are not represented by counsel unless you retain one. You may select counsel of your choice. You may also remain an absent class member and do nothing at this point. An investor's ability to share in any potential future recovery is not dependent upon serving as lead plaintiff.

Follow us for updates on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the–rosen–law–firm, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosen_firm or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosenlawfirm/.

Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Contact Information:

Laurence Rosen, Esq.
Phillip Kim, Esq.
The Rosen Law Firm, P.A.
275 Madison Avenue, 40th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 686–1060
Toll Free: (866) 767–3653
Fax: (212) 202–3827
lrosen@rosenlegal.com
pkim@rosenlegal.com
cases@rosenlegal.com
www.rosenlegal.com


ROSEN, A GLOBAL AND LEADING LAW FIRM, Encourages Meta Materials Inc. f/k/a Torchlight Energy Resources, Inc. Investors with Losses in Excess of $100K to Secure Counsel Before Important Deadline– MMAT, MMTLP, TRCH

NEW YORK, Jan. 12, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — WHY: Rosen Law Firm, a global investor rights law firm, reminds purchasers of the securities of Meta Materials Inc. f/k/a Torchlight Energy Resources, Inc. (NASDAQ: MMAT, TRCH) (OTC: MMTLP) between September 21, 2020 and December 14, 2021, both dates inclusive (the "Class Period"), of the important March 4, 2022 lead plaintiff deadline.

SO WHAT: If you purchased Meta securities during the Class Period you may be entitled to compensation without payment of any out of pocket fees or costs through a contingency fee arrangement.

WHAT TO DO NEXT: To join the Meta class action, go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases–register–2224.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. toll–free at 866–767–3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or cases@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action. A class action lawsuit has already been filed. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the Court no later than March 4, 2022. A lead plaintiff is a representative party acting on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation.

WHY ROSEN LAW: We encourage investors to select qualified counsel with a track record of success in leadership roles. Often, firms issuing notices do not have comparable experience, resources or any meaningful peer recognition. Many of these firms do not actually litigate securities class actions. Be wise in selecting counsel. The Rosen Law Firm represents investors throughout the globe, concentrating its practice in securities class actions and shareholder derivative litigation. Rosen Law Firm has achieved the largest ever securities class action settlement against a Chinese Company. Rosen Law Firm was Ranked No. 1 by ISS Securities Class Action Services for number of securities class action settlements in 2017. The firm has been ranked in the top 4 each year since 2013 and has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for investors. In 2019 alone the firm secured over $438 million for investors. In 2020, founding partner Laurence Rosen was named by law360 as a Titan of Plaintiffs' Bar. Many of the firm's attorneys have been recognized by Lawdragon and Super Lawyers.

DETAILS OF THE CASE: According to the lawsuit, defendants throughout the Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose: (1) the business combination of Torchlight Energy Resources, Inc. and Metamaterial Inc. would result in an SEC investigation and subpoena in the matter captioned In the Matter of Torchlight Energy Resources, Inc.; (2) the Company has materially overstated its business connections and dealings; (3) the Company has materially overstated its ability to produce and commercialize its products; (4) the Company has materially overstated its products' novelty and capabilities; (5) the Company's products did not have the potential to be disruptive because, among other things, the Company priced its products too high; and (6) as a result, defendants' public statements were materially false and/or misleading at all relevant times. When the true details entered the market, the lawsuit claims that investors suffered damages.

To join the Meta class action, go to http://www.rosenlegal.com/cases–register–2224.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. toll–free at 866–767–3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or cases@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action.

No Class Has Been Certified. Until a class is certified, you are not represented by counsel unless you retain one. You may select counsel of your choice. You may also remain an absent class member and do nothing at this point. An investor's ability to share in any potential future recovery is not dependent upon serving as lead plaintiff.

Follow us for updates on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the–rosen–law–firm, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosen_firm or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosenlawfirm/.

Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Contact Information:

Laurence Rosen, Esq.
Phillip Kim, Esq.
The Rosen Law Firm, P.A.
275 Madison Avenue, 40th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 686–1060
Toll Free: (866) 767–3653
Fax: (212) 202–3827
lrosen@rosenlegal.com
pkim@rosenlegal.com
cases@rosenlegal.com
www.rosenlegal.com


Adagio Therapeutics Summarizes ADG20 Neutralizing Activity Against SARS-CoV-2 Variants and Outlines Initiatives to Address Omicron

Recent Publications by Several Independent Laboratories Show ADG20 Has Neutralizing Activity with Potency Comparable to Other Antibodies that Retain Activity Against Omicron

Multiple Efforts Underway to Address Omicron and Potential Future SARS–CoV–2 Variants

WALTHAM, Mass., Jan. 12, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Adagio Therapeutics, Inc., (Nasdaq: ADGI), a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of antibody–based solutions for infectious diseases with pandemic potential, today summarized recent findings reported in three separate publications that show ADG20, its lead monoclonal antibody (mAb), has neutralization activity against the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of SARS–CoV–2, and outlined initiatives to address current and future SARS–CoV–2 variants of concern. Adagio is evaluating ADG20 in its global Phase 2/3 clinical trials for both the prevention and treatment of COVID–19. Adagio is engaging with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding potential protocol updates to its global Phase 2/3 clinical trials, including an increased dose of ADG20 for the potential prevention and treatment of COVID–19 resulting from the Omicron variant.

ADG20 Neutralizing Activity Against Omicron
Recently published in vitro studies examined the neutralization potencies of large panels of mAbs against the Omicron variant in both authentic and pseudovirus assays. Findings across all three studies show that among mAbs in late–stage clinical development or with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), ADG20 is one of only a few mAbs that demonstrated neutralizing activity against Omicron. Across two distinct authentic neutralization assays against Omicron, the data show that ADG20 had an IC50, a measurement of neutralization potency, of approximately 0.4 to 1.1 g/mL, which is comparable with the two other active mAbs, sotrovimab and AZD7742.

"What is critical to assessing potential clinical effectiveness of SARS–CoV–2 mAbs is the neutralization potency by the mAb against a specific variant. While findings may show that ADG20 has reduced potency against Omicron when compared to its high potency against all other variants of concern, including Delta, the data support that ADG20 is among the few mAbs to demonstrate neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant and warrants its continued development," said Laura Walker, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and co–founder of Adagio.

These data add to previously reported in vitro data from a variety of preclinical studies that showed that ADG20 retains activity against other variants of concern including Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma, and that ADG20 retains neutralizing activity against a diverse panel of circulating SARS–CoV–2 variants, including the Lambda, Mu and Delta plus variants.

Clinical Trial Update to Address Omicron
Adagio is continuing evaluation of ADG20 in its EVADE and STAMP clinical trials. Adagio is engaging with the FDA on dosing strategy, including an increased dose of ADG20 and other protocol updates in light of the spread of the Omicron variant. Adagio is pausing the enrollment of new patients in the 300 mg dose arm in both clinical trials as the company updates its protocols. Follow–up and monitoring of patients previously administered ADG20 are continuing per the original protocols.

Additional Efforts to Address Omicron and Future Variants
In addition to its clinical trial updates, Adagio is pursuing multiple strategies to address both Omicron and potential future variants that may emerge. Leveraging its exclusive partnership with Adimab LLC, a global leader in antibody engineering, Adagio is exploring the potential to engineer ADG20 to further improve binding to the Omicron variant to enhance its neutralization potency against Omicron while retaining its broad neutralization against other SARS–CoV–2 variants of concern. In parallel, Adagio is assessing several hundred mAbs from its proprietary library of previously isolated SARS–CoV–2 antibodies for their neutralization potency against Omicron. Such an additional neutralizing mAb could be developed as a stand–alone product or as part of a combination approach. These efforts are underway, and the company anticipates preliminary findings from its research in the first quarter of 2022.

"SARS–CoV–2 is a quickly evolving virus, and at Adagio, we are committed to adapting just as quickly. It is abundantly clear that no single product will fully address the evolving nature of the COVID–19 pandemic, and that multiple preventative and therapeutic solutions are needed. Based on both in–house data and third–party findings, we are confident that ADG20 can be an important tool in the fight against this virus," added Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D., co–founder and chief executive officer of Adagio.

About ADG20
ADG20, an investigational monoclonal antibody targeting the spike protein of SARS–CoV–2 and related coronaviruses, is being evaluated in global clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of COVID–19, the disease caused by SARS–CoV–2. ADG20 was designed to possess high potency and broad neutralization activity against SARS–CoV–2 and additional clade 1 sarbecoviruses by targeting a highly conserved epitope in the receptor binding domain. ADG20 was further engineered to provide an extended half–life for durable protection. In vitro data from a variety of preclinical studies have shown that ADG20 retains neutralizing activity against all known SARS–CoV–2 variants of concern. In a Phase 1 trial, ADG20 was well–tolerated with no safety signals identified through a minimum of three months follow–up across all cohorts. ADG20 has not been approved for use in any country, and safety and efficacy have not yet been established.

About Adagio Therapeutics
Adagio (Nasdaq: ADGI) is a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of antibody–based solutions for infectious diseases with pandemic potential, including COVID–19 and influenza. The company's portfolio of antibodies has been optimized using Adimab's industry–leading antibody engineering capabilities and is designed to provide patients and clinicians with the potential for a powerful combination of potency, breadth, durable protection (via half–life extension), manufacturability and affordability. Adagio's portfolio of SARS–CoV–2 antibodies includes multiple non–competing, broadly neutralizing antibodies with distinct binding epitopes, led by ADG20. Adagio has secured manufacturing capacity for the production of ADG20 with third–party contract manufacturers to support the completion of clinical trials and initial commercial launch, ensuring the potential for broad accessibility to people around the world, if authorized or approved for use. For more information, please visit www.adagiotx.com.

Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains forward–looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as "anticipates," "believes," "expects," "intends," "projects," and "future" or similar expressions are intended to identify forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements include statements concerning, among other things, the timing, progress and results of our preclinical studies and clinical trials of ADG20, including the initiation, modification and completion of studies or trials and related preparatory work, including our plans to evaluate dosing regimens and other protocol updates in our clinical trials, the period during which the results of our clinical trials and other studies and research activities will become available, and our research and development programs; our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for our product candidates; our pursuit of other strategies to address the Omicron variant, including modification of clinical trial protocols; and other statements that are not historical fact. We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward–looking statements and you should not place undue reliance on our forward–looking statements. These forward–looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from the results described in or implied by the forward–looking statements, including, without limitation, the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic on our business, clinical trials and financial position, unexpected safety or efficacy data observed during preclinical studies or clinical trials, the predictability of clinical success of ADG20 based on neutralizing activity in pre–clinical studies, variability of results in models used to predict activity against SARS–CoV–2 variants of concern, clinical trial site activation or enrollment rates that are lower than expected, changes in expected or existing competition, changes in the regulatory environment, and the uncertainties and timing of the regulatory approval process, including the outcome of our discussions with regulatory authorities concerning our Phase 2/3 clinical trials. Other factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward–looking statements in this press release are described under the heading "Risk Factors" in Adagio's Quarterly Report on Form 10–Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2021 and in Adagio's future reports to be filed with the SEC. Such risks may be amplified by the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic. Forward–looking statements contained in this press release are made as of this date, and Adagio undertakes no duty to update such information except as required under applicable law.

Contacts:
Media Contact:
Dan Budwick, 1AB
Dan@1abmedia.com

Investor Contact:
Monique Allaire, THRUST Strategic Communications
monique@thrustsc.com


Climate Action Incomplete Without Women’s Contribution

Women make up 75 percent of the agricultural labour force in Kenya. Women are increasingly exposed to the effects of climate change, and a Commonwealth report shows that without their inputs, climate action policies compound inequality. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

By Joyce Chimbi
Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 12 2022 – Judy Wangari is one of an estimated 800,000 smallholder potato farmers who, according to the National Potato Council of Kenya, contribute at least 83 percent of the total potato production.

In a good season, her two acres in Molo in Kenya’s Rift Valley region produce between 60 to 80 90kg bags of potato per acre. Due to drastic and erratic weather patterns, Wangari tells IPS that a good season is often not guaranteed.

“We have two potato planting seasons, and we plant before the rains begin. Sometimes we plant too early and other times too late because we are not able to properly read the weather.”

“The rains come too early or too late. Two years after I started potato farming back in 2018, I lost all my potatoes to heavy rainfall,” she says.

Women make up 75 percent of the agricultural labour force in this East African nation.

Overall, women also manage approximately 40 percent of the smallholder farms. As pillars of food production and largely lacking in financial and technical support, women are increasingly exposed to the effects of climate change and consequent land degradation.

“We may be in the same storm, but we are definitely not in the same boat. Nowhere is this truer than for women in the face of climate change,” says Patricia Scotland, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

A Commonwealth report titled Gender Integration for Climate Action: A Review of Commonwealth Member Country Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), presented at the recent UN climate summit COP26, shows how underrepresentation of women in climate policies and plans, poor access to climate finance, technologies, and lack of capacity for effective decision-making compounds inequality.

The lack of representation also creates a barrier to women fully contributing to climate action, reinforcing the circle, and continuing vulnerability.

However, the report also showed that countries are increasingly acknowledging the vulnerability and inequality of women in climate action, taking concrete steps to address it.

At the heart of the review is a macro-level overview of the extent of gender integration in NDCs – the technical term for national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement – in Commonwealth member countries. The study covered both ‘intended’ NDCs, and new or revised NDCs submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before 26 July 2021.

Overall, 65 percent of Commonwealth countries included gender as a cross-cutting or mainstreaming priority in new or updated NDCs.

“Without women, these commitments to limit global warming won’t be reached,” says Scotland, adding that the Commonwealth Secretariat has undertaken to strengthen gender engagement within the respective NDCs of its 54 member states.

Countries have also identified challenges, particularly in finance, where international support is urgently needed.

“The Kingdom of Eswatini recognises gender as a cross-cutting issue with the National Development Strategy and National Development Policy calling for the mainstreaming of gender equity,” says Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina, Director of the Eswatini Meteorological Service in the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

“In developing the NDC, we specifically engaged gender and women groups. This included having a session with Women in Parliament in October 2020 and another on Climate Change and Gender in November 2020.”

These activities encouraged women politicians to plant trees in the country’s capital. They also initiated the idea of a women’s group to increase women’s involvement in climate action and ensure it is gender sensitive.

Furthermore, Nhlengethwa-Masina tells IPS that a gender assessment of policies was undertaken and baselines and indicators for gender-sensitive mitigation and adaptation developed.

“A National Gender Policy was developed in 2021, and climate change was incorporated into this, through support from the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub,” Nhlengethwa-Masina confirms.

Similarly, small island nations such as Saint Lucia recognise the crucial link between climate action, gender, and women’s empowerment.

Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer, Annette Rattigan-Leo, says that “gender and women feature more prominently in climate action interventions and strategies.”

Country-wide policies, including the NDC, the National Adaptation Plan and sectoral strategies, clearly state the need to consider gender-related factors. At the same time, the Department of Gender has drafted a National Gender Equality Policy and Strategy to mainstream the issue across various sectors.

Saint Lucia is currently implementing a project to mainstream gender in disaster recovery and climate resilience while improving women’s economic autonomy, supported by Canada and the UK.

The role of women in smart agriculture practices, including agro-processing, is now embraced nationally. While not the main economic stay, agriculture contributes significantly to the country’s revenue.

“Noteworthy, women have assumed entrepreneurial roles over regular farming skills, in women-only farming groups. Consequently, as entrepreneurs, women can actively influence the strategic decision-making requirements necessary for the agriculture sector to become more climate-resilient,” says Rattigan-Leo.

In Namibia, the head of the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit at the Environmental Investment Fund, Aina-Maria Iteta, hopes to strengthen ongoing efforts to emphasise gender inclusivity in the country’s National Climate Change Policy and implementation strategy.

Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has appointed a UNFCCC National Focal Point on Gender. However, “a lot still needs to be done from creating awareness, developing an action plan, and ensuring a budget to support such initiatives is in place,” she tells IPS.

Experts such as Iteta are quick to point out that even though the review finds considerable progress towards gender representation in policies, plans and strategies, additional financial and technical support is needed.

“There is a gap on the budgeting of climate action on gender, overall. Gender initiatives or actions are always planned and funded on an ad hoc basis making it difficult to ensure this goal of gender mainstreaming in climate action is achieved,” Iteta says. “The Commonwealth can facilitate access to financing gender climate-action initiatives.”

Rattigan-Leo adds that St Lucia is looking to adopt “gender budgeting” into the development of the annual national budget/estimates.

“Capacity building specific to strategic gender budget approaches is an area that can benefit from the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub’s expertise. With the country’s existing financial constraints, especially in the face of COVID-19 related recovery efforts, it would help to determine the best entry points,” she says.

Nhlengethwa-Masina also welcomed more technical assistance in line with the specific needs of relevant agencies and women groups in Eswatini.

For local farmers such as Wangari, the help cannot come soon enough because they continue to struggle to survive and provide for their families on the front lines of climate change.

“If we do not tackle climate change with sufficient urgency and success, those on the wrong end of inequalities, especially women, will bear the hardest burden,” Secretary-General Scotland concluded.

“Climate action is, therefore, incomplete without the contribution of women.”

 


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Can Barter System Work in Today’s India?

Amid a cash crunch and market shutdowns during COVID-19 many rural communities in India used barter to meet their needs—showing us why this form of exchange still works

Barter opens up avenues for rural women who often do not have access to cash and markets. | Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

By External Source
MUMBAI, India, Jan 12 2022 – When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, it affected every aspect of people’s lives. For many from the most marginalised sections of society, it meant loss of employment and lack of access to education, food, and the market, among other things.

Farmers in rural India were dealing with a peculiar problem. They had their produce, but since markets were shut during the lockdown there was no place to sell. Further, many bank branches were closed and ATMs were far away. With restrictions on travel, cash was practically out of reach, which curtailed people’s buying power.

Communities had to look for alternate modes of survival. One approach that some of them took was a return to the barter system—a solution they were familiar with. People bartered perishable goods such as vegetables, kirana stores in villages provided essentials in exchange for wheat, and food grains became a currency to pay children’s tuition fees. Those who did not have goods offered physical labour in exchange.

 

How did the transition happen?

Communities in rural India have been practising barter for centuries. In states such as Assam, where barter was extremely popular during the pandemic, it has been celebrated in the form of a fair called Jonbeel Mela for more than five centuries now.

Markets have evolved, and there have been many changes in the way business transactions work, but barter continues to thrive in the close-knit communities of the villages. This is because villages unlike cities are driven by producers as much as consumers and the rural societies survive on trust.

Amid a cash crunch and market shutdowns during COVID-19 many rural communities in India used barter to meet their needs—showing us why this form of exchange still works

The close relationships that people share also allow for easier collectivisation and mobilisation. This was evident during the pandemic when people navigated various COVID-19 safety norms to meet individual and community needs.

Beauty Dutta Borah, a farmer and a grocery store owner in Kawoimari, Sivasagar district, Assam, says that during the pandemic she bartered not only goods, but also services such as getting people to reap and thresh the rice crop. “In most instances I had to just call out to a neighbour for this,” she explains. Dutta Borah adds that goods from various wholesale stores like hers moved across districts often in a single transport vehicle from the village. “A car goes from our village across Sivasagar district twice a week. It can be my car or anyone else’s from the locality. We collect goods from the various local stores and sell it to people at once,” she adds.

A resident of Chetti Thirukonam in Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu, R Raja compares barter to debit and credit card payments that people in the cities use. He calls it an ‘older form of cashless payment’ that rural communities returned to.

 

New meanings of an old concept

Nonprofits working in the livelihoods sector in rural India are aware of this well-oiled barter machinery. This has allowed them to work with communities for their sustenance—especially in spaces where income alone is not enough for survival. However, since barter is a localised form of exchange, the organisations have also had to develop a nuanced understanding of cultural contexts and histories.

When Drishtee, a nonprofit that works with rural entrepreneurs, developed a mobile barter application during the pandemic, they chose Sivasagar district to start with. The nonprofit’s regional head of the Northeast, Paragdhar Konwar, said that it was a conscious decision considering the region’s history. “Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahom dynasty, which ruled Assam for six centuries. People here have followed the same age-old practices, including that of barter, for a long time now.”

As a result, there was pre-existing community knowledge waiting to be harvested. Konwar adds, “We told people that you will be continuing with the binimoy protha (exchange tradition) before explaining the renewed importance of barter during the pandemic.” The mobile application was used by people in Assam to exchange rice for oil and ducks for chicken eggs and to avail tractor-operated-rice-mill services when mills nearby were shutting down.

For Goonj, a nonprofit that works on community development, barter is core to their work, and a philosophy it embraced even before the pandemic. The names of its initiatives such as Vaapsi (giving back) and ideas such as ‘cloth for work’—aimed at building sustainable livelihoods—are borrowed from the cultural vocabulary of India. Thus, in times of crisis when Goonj mobilises people, it does so from a place of wanting to revive extant concepts rather than introducing jargon that communities might find difficult to comprehend.

Anshu Gupta, founder director at Goonj, says, “I believe we aren’t doing anything new. We are valuing what already exists. Village wisdom has always been valued in the villages, perhaps it wasn’t by people like us. We are just working with that community knowledge and recognising it.”

 

What does barter do for the communities?

Apart from facilitating hyperlocal markets during emergencies, barter also has other advantages for communities. Nonprofits using barter during the pandemic found that it was particularly popular among low-income households and women in rural India.

In cash-poor regions, barter helps people meet their needs locally—be it for immediate necessities, such as food grains, or a used smartphone. Additionally, barter is a viable way for local producers to sell their products. These are producers who cannot avail the benefits of e-commerce platforms or access urban markets, which are driven by large production volumes, standardised packaging, and homogenised aesthetics.

People have also used barter to work on community issues such as lack of water, sanitation, and infrastructure. Goonj, for instance, has used barter as a reward for labour. Villagers work on solving local problems on their own, and are rewarded in the form of goods that often travel from cities to them. Gupta says, “Typically people wait for access to a government scheme to address their local-level problems. Meanwhile, there are unused materials in the city, for which there is demand in villages.”

The nonprofit connects these two. Gupta adds, “Just imagine a situation: You give a person a shirt and the next day you say, ‘This is mine,’ he will say, ‘Yes, it is yours.’ But if a person is building a road or working on a water body for his village and you give him a shirt as a reward, he will say, ‘It might be yours, but I have earned it.’”

Barter opens up avenues for rural women who often do not have access to cash and markets. Satyan Mishra, co-founder and managing director at Drishtee, says, “Women who were earlier making things just for themselves saw barter as a big opportunity.” They started exchanging hand-made products for goods that they or their families wanted.

In Varanasi, women were found bartering hair for goods. Monixa Bordoloi, a resident of Dhekeria Gaon, Sonitpur district, Assam, asserts that she will continue to barter whether or not there is a pandemic. She says, “Women barter things they need, not what they already have.”

 

Can barter replace cash?

Despite the many innovative ways in which people have used barter, cash remains a necessity for many of people’s needs. For instance, while parents of students in Begusarai district, Bihar, have been able to use barter for their children’s education, they have not been able to pay their medical bills using the same method.

The world is therefore unlikely to shift overnight to a system of social exchange. Most aspects of our lives will continue to be defined by abstract monetary currencies. There will also be people’s aspirations that can only be met with money.

For this we will need jobs, job securities, equal opportunities for education, affordable health care, and more. But as many rural communities using barter confirm, it will coexist as a parallel economy embodying the many intangibles of a human society, such as trust, goodwill, and resistance.

 

Debojit Dutta is an editorial associate at India Development Review

 

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

Disparities in the Arab Region: Hunger Doubles, Indebtedness Triggers, Recovery Uneven

Tents and makeshift shelters at an IDP camp in Yemen. Credit: UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jan 12 2022 – The panorama is bleak: hunger in the Arab region continues to rise, with more than 90% increase since 2000, while indebtedness is growing, and the economic recovery is tenuous and uneven.

The 2021 Near East and North Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition shows that the number of hungry people in the region reached 69 million people in 2020, “triggered by protracted crises, social unrests and exposure to multiple shocks and stresses such as conflicts, poverty, inequality, climate change, scarce natural resources and the economic repercussions associated with the recent COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the report, nearly one-third of the Arab region’s population, – or 141 million people – experienced “moderate or severe food insecurity” in 2020, a more than 10 million increase from the previous year.

Barely four out of the major Arab oil producers (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait), enjoy an income that allows them to overcome the worsening hunger crisis in the region.

The other 18 Arab countries –some of them are also oil and gas producers, like Algeria, Iraq, and Libya– are facing “health, food and nutritional insecurities.”

The Arab Region includes: Algeria; Bahrain; the Comoros; Djibouti; Egypt; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Mauritania; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; Syria; Tunisia; the United Arab Emirates; Yemen, as well as Palestine. Their combined population totals nearly 450 million inhabitants.

Barely four out of the major Arab oil producers (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait), enjoy an income that allows them to overcome the worsening hunger crisis in the region.

The other 18 Arab countries –some of them are also oil and gas producers, like Algeria, Iraq, and Libya– are facing “health, food and nutritional insecurities.”

 

Sharp contrasts

In the case of Yemen, for example, with 30 million inhabitants, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is as low as 19 billion US dollars, compared to the United Arab Emirates (10 million inhabitants), with its GDP amounting to 100 billion US dollars, that’s over five folds that of Yemen with just a third of population.

Another example is the case of Saudi Arabia (33 million inhabitants), with its GDP reaching 700 billion US dollars, compared to Egypt (102 million inhabitants), whose population tripling that of Saudi Arabia, but with just one third of its GDP amounting to less than half of it: to 280 billion US dollars.

 

Conflicts cause hunger for 53 million-plus people

Conflicts continue to be one of the leading causes of hunger in the region, with approximately 53.4 million people facing hunger in countries and areas affected by conflict, which is more than six times higher than in non-conflict countries, says Abdulhakim Elwaer, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa.

“There may be no visible improvement in the situation this year since hunger’s primary drivers will continue to drag the situation further down the road.”

 

Under-nutrition; over-nutrition

The coexistence of under and over-nutrition is a double burden that many families, communities and countries in the Arab region have to shoulder, especially for children under the age of five, according to the report, which informs that in 2020, 20.5% of children under the age of five are stunted and 7.8% are wasted in 2020.

“Childhood overweight remains a high public health problem in the region, exceeding the global average of 5.7% and reaching 10.7% in the region,” Elwaer adds.

 

Child malnutrition; adult obesity

According to the FAO’s Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, the Arab Region is not only struggling with child malnutrition but also with adult obesity.

The prevalence of obesity among adults has been increasing steadily in the region since 2000, reaching 28.8% in 2020, which is more than double the global average of 13.1% and ranks the region as the third most obese in the world, following Northern America with 36.7%, and Australia and New Zealand with 30.7%.

 

Uneven economic recovery

Meanwhile, a World Bank study reports that almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is tenuous and uneven.

“The performance of each of the region’s 20 economies depends on its individual exposure to oil-price fluctuations and how well it is managing the pandemic. Thus, forecasts for an average regional GDP growth rate of 2.8% in 2021 and a brighter 4.2% in 2022 if the pandemic recedes mask individual country differences.”

The study goes on saying that on top of its tragic human toll, the global health crisis of 2020/21 has shown the extent to which economic performance depends on pandemic control, “with MENA economies among those paying the price for decades of under-investment in public health.”

“Indeed, most MENA countries entered the pandemic overconfident and ill-prepared to cope and vaccination rates too will affect their economic recovery. Again, the outlook is uneven, with richer nations ahead of the field.”

 

Vaccine inequality

By early December, the United Arab Emirates had the world’s highest fully vaccinated population at 90%, while Yemen only fully vaccinated 1% of its population, according to the study, which adds that a more equitable rollout of vaccines across the region is “essential” for recovery.

“In parts of MENA, political instability, fragility, and conflict compound the challenges faced as governments try to handle the pandemic. In Lebanon, economic collapse has had a catastrophic impact on public utilities and people’s livelihoods. In Yemen and Syria, continued armed conflict has combined with the pandemic to plunge the countries deeper into crisis”.

 

Much Uncertainty

MENA’s modest economic recovery follows a contraction of 3.8% in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020, 0.6 of a percentage point higher than predicted in April that year.
“Overall, the region is facing a tenuous recovery, and one with much uncertainty, with the estimated cumulative cost of the pandemic in terms of GDP losses amounting to almost 200 US billion dollars by the end of the year.”

According to the World Bank, GDP per capita—often considered a more precise measure of the standard of living—conveys an even more sobering message. A projected increase of 1.1% in 2021, after a drop of about 5.4% in 2020, has left real GDP per capita 4.3% below its 2019 level.
Substantial Borrowing

The substantial borrowing that MENA governments have had to incur to finance emergency expenditure on health and social welfare has increased government debt dramatically.

“Average public debt in MENA countries is forecast to decline from 56.3% to 53.6%, while in the developing oil-importing countries, public debt-to-GDP is forecast to rise from 90.4% to 92.3% in 2021, as fiscal deficits remain large” concludes the World Bank.

 

Rapid accumulation of public debt

Parallelly, the accumulated cost of the pandemic is estimated to top 227 billion US dollars by end of 2021, according to another World Bank’s report.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long-standing development challenges in the Middle East and North Africa region, “contributing to a rise in poverty, a deterioration of public finances, an increase in debt vulnerabilities, and a further erosion of trust in government,” warns the report.

The World Bank’s latest regional economic update report details the “economic devastation” of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, the long-term ramifications of the resulting explosion in public debt, and the difficult choices governments will face, even as the public health crisis abates.

 

More spending, more indebtedness

The need to keep spending — and keep borrowing — will remain strong for the immediate future. MENA countries will have no choice but to continue spending on healthcare and social protection as long as the pandemic continues, according to the World Bank.

“Consequently, in a post-pandemic world, most MENA countries may find themselves stuck with debt service bills requiring resources that otherwise could be used for economic development.”

The Straw that Broke Kazakhstan’s Back

View of downtown Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Credit: World Bank/Shynar Jetpissova

By Paolo Sorbello
ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Jan 12 2022 – The most violent protests of the past 30 years have erupted across Kazakhstan — exposing decades of inequality, injustice, and corruption. The protests of an unprecedented scale have rocked cities across Kazakhstan for days, as the population grew increasingly dissatisfied with the country’s leadership.

The government initially tried a carrot-and-stick approach to the unrest, but later was pushed to call a state of emergency and ultimately to request military help from former Soviet allies.

On 6 January, foreign troops landed in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, with a mandate from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a NATO-like military alliance that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. This marked the first official deployment of CSTO forces in the organisation’s so-far unassertive existence.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for CSTO countries to send in military help and aid the country’s army and special forces in restoring public order. Although temporary and limited in its remit, the CSTO operation could be a cautionary tale regarding the capacity of the Kazakhstani leadership to maintain law and order in the country.

So far, official sources say there are hundreds of casualties, both among law enforcement agents and protesters, thousands were injured in clashes resulting in up to 164 deaths (the number of deaths is currently disputed by the authorities), that lasted multiple days in several cities. More than 6,044 were arrested during the violent confrontation.

The explosive mix of inflation and poverty

The spark that generated such a massive wave of protest originated in the sharp increase of the price of liquified petroleum gas (LPG), a type of fuel that is commonly used in the western regions of the vast Central Asian country.

Paolo Sorbello

Initially justified by the government as the unintended consequence of a decision to enhance competition in the fuel market, the price inflation was met with street protests in Aktau and Zhanaozen, major cities in the Mangistau region, on 2 and 3 January.

Importantly, Mangistau is also one of the main hydrocarbon-producing regions in the country and oil workers often take to the streets when they feel wronged by the companies or the government.

In 2011, for example, an eight-month strike in Zhanaozen was dispersed violently by special forces and police. Unarmed oil workers were shot and the government declared a state of emergency. In the aftermath, the regime did not allow an independent investigation of the matter and jailed three-dozen civilians, calling them guilty for the clashes that officially resulted in 16 deaths.

Up until the first days of January, ‘Zhanaozen’ was synonymous with ‘tragedy’ in Kazakhstan. And it is one of the darkest pages in the country’s three decades since independence. Afraid of even uttering the word, most people referred to the killing of oil workers as ‘the events’.

This time, however, the protests quickly spread to other urban centres across the country, reaching a peak on 4 January in Almaty, where thousands gathered near a sports arena before moving to the main square. Unsurprisingly, the protesters were met by a mass of special police forces that used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

The protest continued the next morning with a more belligerent crowd, which set ablaze the city government building and the presidential residence. Fires were reported in other cities as well.

Blind eye towards long-lasting discontent

Drivers in Almaty or the capital Nur-Sultan, however, do not use LPG to fuel their cars, which begs the question: Why did they protest? The answer is political dissatisfaction, which can be summarised in three words: inequality, injustice, and corruption.

After two years of hardship also caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kazakhstan’s socio-economic texture was damaged beyond repair. Inflation and a weak currency accompanied by worsening employment statistics is a recipe for disaster.

Four million people lost their jobs during the pandemic, a weaker oil price negatively influenced the Kazakh tenge/US dollar exchange rate, which saw the tenge weaken by 16 per cent in two years.

While the poor were getting poorer, the rich were getting richer. The Forbes list of billionaires grew from four to seven in 2021. And this does not include the riches accumulated by Tokayev’s predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country from its independence until his resignation in 2019.

Under Nazarbayev and Tokayev, political reforms lagged behind the people’s demands. Rule of law was an arbitrary concept and was considered a systemic cost by trans-national companies who were willing to invest.

A weak set of rules opened a significant space for corruption. The Kazakhstani elite is known for having used offshore vehicles to launder money, for having taking bribes, and for curbing competition in certain market sectors. The LPG market in the west of the country, for example, was rigged, and this was well known.

In 2019 and 2020, the promise of reform that came with the new leader was disattended, and the population reacted with a wave of protests that were once again brutally repressed. Already in 2021, an incessant wave of labour protests demonstrated how the government was unable to keep most sectors of the population satisfied.

The geopolitical angle

On 5 January, as tensions grew into urban violence in Almaty, to the south, and Aktobe, in the north of the country, Tokayev sacked and arrested long-time Nazarbayev loyalist Karim Massimov from his post as the chief of the KNB, the successor of the KGB. Tokayev also took charge of the position of head of the National Security Council, a post previously held by Nazarbayev.

In the meantime, the world had turned its eyes to Central Asia. When Tokayev asked for a deployment of CSTO troops, his legitimacy within the domestic power apparatus fell. It became clear that he needed both the material help and the approval of his neighbours and allies to stay in power.

This scenario seemed to be reasonable for Russia, which sent the first military contingent and equipment to the south of the border. After taking control of strategic logistics assets, such as the Almaty airport, which had been previously seized by protesters, the CSTO soldiers moved into the city and took part in the local army’s ‘special operation’ to quell the protests.

While the official explanation rests on the infiltration of ‘foreign-trained terrorists’, it is more likely that Russia decided to nudge the CSTO towards an intervention given the weakness of the Tokayev regime.
Speculations of a confrontation between great powers, with Russia and China as the neighbouring interested parties, and the West as the herald of democracy and business interests, seem to be premature.

It is yet unclear if and how Tokayev would retain power, what kind of concession will he or his successor be willing to make for the people – who still feel dissatisfied, marginalised, and betrayed – and what long-term reforms would be planned to make sure that the violence of January 2022 does not repeat.

Source: International Politics and Society which is published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

Dr Paolo Sorbello is a Research Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy) and holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow (UK). He also works as a freelance journalist in Kazakhstan covering labour topics and the political economy for several news outlets.

 


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