INDIA: Healthcare Inequities Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic

Migrant labourers wait in queues in Kashmir in order to travel back to their homes. The second wave of COVID-19 in India has seen masses of people leave cities and towns to return to their rural homes. Credit: Umer Asif/IPS

Migrant labourers wait in queues in Kashmir in order to travel back to their homes. The second wave of COVID-19 in India has seen masses of people leave cities and towns to return to their rural homes. Credit: Umer Asif/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Apr 29 2022 – Public health specialists say that an ongoing wrangle between the Indian government and the World Health Organization (WHO) over the COVID-19 death toll in this country is symptomatic of a long-ailing public health delivery system.

India has consistently challenged estimates published by leading scientific journals such as the Lancet, which placed the number of excess deaths in the country at four million from 1 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2021.

“You can argue till the cows come home but the figures are going to be in the range of four to five million deaths as shown in several studies and any contestation would require robust data rather than bland denials.”

On 16 April an official note from the Press Information Bureau in response to a New York Times article said, “India’s basic objection has not been with the results (whatever they might have been) but rather the methodology adopted for the same.”

India’s concern was that the projected estimates in the article, titled “India Is Stalling the WHO’s Efforts to Make Global COVID Death Toll Public,” for a country of its geographical size and population could not be done in the same way as for smaller countries. “Such one size fit all approach and models which are true for smaller countries like Tunisia may not be applicable to India with a population of 1.3 billion,” the official note said.

But independent public health specialists said that the concern was that India’s spat with the WHO was detracting from the more serious issue of the country’s tottering health delivery system failing to deal with the pandemic.

“Forget about the actual number of people who died of COVID-19 or because of comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease — the fact remains that an unusually large number of people died during the pandemic because the health delivery system was overwhelmed,” said Mira Shiva, founder-member of the international Peoples Health Movement.

“One could say that the pandemic worked like a stress test of how good healthcare services were, and they were found seriously wanting,” said Shiva. ”Unsurprisingly, it was the poor and marginalised groups that took the brunt of it all — many more died of undocumented causes than usual as reflected in the several calculations based on excess deaths.”

Shiva said that, at the best of times, a cause of death is not properly registered in India. “We can only guess from the very large number of bodies seen floating down the main Ganges and Yamuna rivers during the second wave of the pandemic in 2021. There were also widely-circulated images of bodies laid out in rows on the river banks — these were obviously of people whose relatives could not afford to buy the firewood for cremations.”

Says Satya Mohanty, former secretary in the government and currently adjunct professor of economics at Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi: “You can argue till the cows come home but the figures are going to be in the range of four to five million deaths as shown in several studies and any contestation would require robust data rather than bland denials.”

“If the crude death rate on average is one per thousand per month, anything above that average over a period of two years can be safely taken as deaths due to a differentiator – in this case the COVID and post-COVID effects,” says Mohanty. “There cannot be any other reason unless other differentiators were at play and to the best of our information there were no other differentiators.”

Sandhya Mahapatro, assistant professor at the A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies (ANSISS) in Patna, Bihar state, says “while India has made great strides in reducing inequalities in healthcare, large access gaps by socioeconomic status remain. Our studies show that 38 percent of outpatients in Bihar, a state with a population of 128 million, had no access to public healthcare.”

“There is growing concern about the distributive consequences of welfare initiatives on different socioeconomic groups,” Mahapatro added. “The historical disadvantages of healthcare access experienced by women and marginalised groups continue, with factors like caste, class and gender intersecting at various levels to create advantage for some sections and disadvantages for others,” she said.

A paper published by Mahapatro and her colleagues in the peer-reviewed journal Health Policy Open in December 2021 showed that social status clearly determined whether a person could access healthcare or not, despite pledges to ensure equity in healthcare provision and commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 3 — providing quality health services to all at an affordable cost.

“The issue of inequity played out during the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the poor and marginalised disproportionately,” said Mahapatro. “Internal migrants were greatly affected by the lockdowns with a staggering economic burden befalling them. The pre-existing inequality has widened and is expected to further widen as a result of the pandemic.”

Mahapatro said a study conducted at ANSISS during the post lockdown period found a familiar pattern of deprivation in healthcare services as in earlier studies. “The burden of unmet healthcare needs was substantially higher among the poor, women and people of low caste,” Mahapatro said. “Unmet healthcare needs were found to be particularly high among women of lower caste groups.”

“Importantly, our studies show that the pattern of health spending has remain unchanged over the decades and that the household remains the main source of financing healthcare before and during the pandemic,” she added.

 

A local priest and relative of a family member who died from Covid watching a pyre burn at the Garh Ganga Ghat in Mukteshwar, in Uttar Pradesh on 4 May, 2021. (Mukteshwar, Hapur/ File-Amit Sharma)

 

“The ongoing economic crisis due to the pandemic and inadequate healthcare capacity would obviously constrain healthcare utilisation by the marginalised sections of society, with internal migrants being the worst impacted as a result of the lockdowns,” Mahapatro said.

A staggering 450 million Indians are internal migrants according to the 2011 census, 37 percent of the total population. A national lockdown imposed with a four-hour notice on 24 March 2020 left most of these domestic migrants with no option but to undertake long treks back home with little money or food.

The national lockdown, considered among the tightest globally, went into three more phases with increasingly relaxed restrictions on economic and human activity until 7 June.

“Almost 80 percent of the migrant workers we surveyed had lost their jobs during the lockdowns,” said Mahapatro. This naturally affected their ability to access healthcare, with huge nutritional implications for them as well as their women and children.”

“If the unmet needs of such large and deprived social groups are not catered to then equity in healthcare and the UN SDGs on health will remain a distant dream,” Mahapatro added.

 

Breaking Vicious Cycle of Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation

Rural women are often targeted by human traffickers and taken across borders in Africa and forced to become sex workers. Credit: Aimable Twahirwa/IPS

By Aimable Twahirwa
KIGALI, Apr 29 2022 – Desperate to escape the rural area where she was engaged in the informal economy in Kayonza, a district in Eastern Rwanda, Sharon* made a long and arduous journey to Kenya in the hope of a well-paid job.

An unidentified individual contacted her, paid for her ticket, and gave her a modest amount of pocket money to travel to Kenya by road. The person told the 19-year-old she was traveling to take up an “employment opportunity”.

However, Sharon found herself in sexual servitude at a karaoke bar on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Sharon’s job was to bow elegantly to all customers at the door and usher them inside the bar.

“I was also hired as a nightclub dancer and sometimes forced by my employer to engage in sexual intercourse with clients to earn a living,” the high school graduate told IPS in an interview.

Like Sharon, activists say the number of young women from rural areas trafficked into the sex trade across many East African countries is growing. The young women are lured with the promise of good jobs or marriage. Instead, they are sold into prostitution in cities such as Nairobi (Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda).

Both activists and lawmakers warn that people with hidden agendas could target young women from Rwanda.

The process of trafficking most of these young women into neighboring countries is complex. It involves false promises to their families and victims in which they are promised a “better life”, activists say.

In many cases, traffickers lure young women from rural villages to neighboring countries with the promise of well-paid work. Then, victims are transferred to people who become their enslavers – especially in dubious hotels and karaoke bars.

While Rwanda has tried to combat human trafficking, law enforcement agencies stress that the main challenge revolves around the financial and other assistance for repatriated victims. Limited budgets of the institutions in charge of investigation and rehabilitation of the victims have meant that these programmes are not working optimally.

The chairperson of the East African Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution, Fatuma Ndangiza, warned that if no urgent measures are undertaken, the problem is likely to worsen.

“Most of these young women without employment were victims of a well-established human trafficking ring operating under the guise of employment agencies in the region,” Ndangiza told IPS.

The latest figures by Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) indicate that 119 cases of human trafficking, illegal migration, and smuggling of migrants in the region were investigated in the last three years.

These involved 215 victims, among whom 165 were females and 59 males.

Driven by the demand for cheap labor and commercial sex, trafficking rings across the East African region capitalize primarily on economic and social vulnerabilities to exploit their victims, experts said.

But estimates by the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM)  show that the lack of relevant legislation and needed administrative institutions across the East African region have continued to give traffickers and smugglers an undue advantage to carry on their activities.

To prevent human trafficking, Rwanda has adopted several measures, including passing a new law in 2018.

Under the current legislation, offenders face up to 15 years of imprisonment, but activists say this measure is not enough deterrent.

Although law enforcement officers were trained in combatting human trafficking, Evariste Murwanashyaka, a  fervent defender of human rights who is based in Kigali, told  IPS that enforcing laws is a challenge, mainly because it is hard to detect women who are engaged in sex work or other forms of sexual exploitation in neighboring countries.

Murwanashyaka is the Program Manager of Rwandan based Umbrella of Human Rights Organization known as ‘Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme’ (CLADHO)

“Young women are still more likely to become targets of trafficking due to the growing demand for sexual slavery across the region, ” he said.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, activists say there is not only a lack of awareness but people, especially youth, who are unaware they are victims of a human trafficking offense.

“Most informal job offers from abroad for these young people [from Rwanda] are  associated with illicit businesses, such as human trafficking, mainly of women, and their sexual and labor exploitation,” Murwanashyaka told IPS

According to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the increasing unemployment rates, malnourishment, and school closures have increased human trafficking.

Meanwhile, RIB spokesperson, Dr Thierry Murangira is convinced that human trafficking is a transnational organized crime.

“Transnational organized crimes require the involvement of more than one jurisdiction and regional cooperation to investigate and prosecute the crime,” he said.

This article is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.
The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7, which “takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms”.
The origins of the GSN come from the endeavors of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such as exploitation, forced labor, prostitution, human trafficking”.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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Government Ministries Must Collaborate to End Teenage Pregnancy Crisis in Kenya

Credit: Michael Duff/UNFPA

By Stephanie Musho
Apr 29 2022 – The Ministry of Health in Kenya recently reported there were 45,754 cases of adolescent pregnancies between January and February this year – that translates to 700 cases a day. Of the total number, at least 2000 of these cases resulted from sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), a figure which is likely lower than the reality.

What is more is that every week, 98 girls were reported to have contracted HIV in the study period.

Having been a teenage mother myself and now a sexual and reproductive health advocate, the worrisome statistics hit close to home. As Kenyans, we have cultivated and normalized a culture of public outcry on issues of concern and shortly thereafter, swiftly moving on.

This must change. We must pay attention to this crisis and address it. The price to pay if current trends continue is too high, as this directly touches on the lives of the future of our great Republic.

Stephanie Musho

The effects of teenage pregnancy are often deleterious affecting that affect the social and, economic aspects of young mothers. Consider that often, teenage mothers drop out of school due to the stigma, and are inadequately supported postpartum to return to school in their new status of motherhood.

Disruptions in education ultimately perpetuate a vicious economic dependency cycle, often on people who abuse their vulnerability. There are also health risks involved like infections and obstetric fistula among others – as well as mental health challenges including anxiety and depression.  Additionally, babies born to adolescents are more likely to have low birth weight and severe neonatal conditions.

The startling figures from earlier this year point to two scenarios. On the one hand is that adolescents are engaging in consensual sex amongst themselves. This could be attributed to curiosity and the raging hormonal changes that come flooding in at puberty.

On the other hand, incidents could point to a sexual and gender based violence crisis that is perpetuating the teenage pregnancy crisis in the country. For both scenarios, Kenya has a robust legal and policy framework to prevent these crises that must be better employed.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, explicitly guarantees the right to reproductive health in Article 43. This is working in tandem with the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy (2015) that employs a preventive approach to teenage pregnancy through, among others, the access to correct sexual and reproductive health information.

Additionally, is the Return to School Policy that provides guidelines on the reintegration of adolescent mothers to school, postpartum. Additionally, the Children’s Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Penal Code all prescribe strict punishment for sexual and gender based violence.

These are complemented by the Kenya School Health Policy which ideally safeguards learners from the same.

So, there are laws, but the problem lies in the implementation – or lack thereof, of these solid frameworks.

Implementation is additionally hindered when duty bearers misinterpret or are unaware of their own policies. Just recently, a senior Ministry of Health official publicly stated that giving contraceptives to minors is a criminal offense punishable by a jail term of up to 20 years.

This is however not a true representation of the existing legal and policy framework. In his erroneous statement that pointed to a draft policy that is yet to be passed, the ministry official misled millions of Kenyans.

The crisis at hand shows how critical it is for adolescents to receive correct information on sexual and reproductive health, products and services to make wise decisions.  Opponents argue that this would increase promiscuity among adolescents.

However, that perspective remains an inadequate rejoinder because the fact of the matter is that whether we like it or not, teenagers are having sex – a lot of it too.  They therefore need to freely make informed decisions that protect their health and their future.

As we move into the month of May which is dedicated to preventing and ending teenage pregnancies worldwide, the Kenyan government must intentionally work on ending the scourge that has persisted over the years.

The Ministry of Health must provide products and services for prevention and mitigation in accordance with the law. The Ministry of Education must work to standardize and deliver comprehensive sexuality education across the country.

To galvanize this, Kenya must reaffirm the regional Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Adolescents and Young People in Eastern and Southern Africa which it signed in 2013 but shied away from recommitting to in December 2021.

The Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government under which security falls, must work to investigate and provide evidence for the prosecution of perpetrators.

The Ministry of Culture must also fight against harmful traditional practices that feed into the crises. This should all be in collaboration with the relevant ministries that house the youth affairs and gender affairs dockets respectively.  Until then, the health, life and future of Kenyan girls hang in the balance.

Stephanie Musho is a human rights lawyer and a Senior New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute

Biodiversity: Indigenous Peoples, the Last Custodians

An ethnic matriarch in India’s Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Apr 29 2022 – Every now and then, experts remind that the Indigenous Peoples are the best (and last?) custodians of the essential web of life: biodiversity.

There are more than 370 million self-identified peoples in some 70 countries around the world. In Latin America alone there are over 400 groups, each with a distinct language and culture, though the biggest concentration is in Asia and the Pacific– with an estimated 70 per cent.

And their traditional lands guard over 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.

Although they comprise less than 5% of the world population, Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands, and marine environments in which they have lived for centuries
Indigenous Peoples have rich and ancient cultures and view their social, economic, environmental and spiritual systems as interdependent. And they make valuable contributions to the world’s heritage thanks to their traditional knowledge and their understanding of ecosystem management

 

They know how to connect with Nature

No wonder they play such an essential role: over the millennia, indigenous peoples around the world have developed practices that safeguard their environments and honour the interconnectedness of people and nature.

Their food systems are rooted in their environment. Living deeply intertwined with their ecosystems, imdigenous peoples have learned how to harvest and produce what they need sustainably, reminds, once more, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The Fund, which delivers grants and loans to the poor farmers and rural population worldwide, with nearly zero interest and the facility of repayment in long periods of time, also provides the following information.

For example, we’ve seen time and again that, when forests are governed by indigenous peoples, there’s less deforestation and biodiversity loss. It’s no wonder that their role as responsible environmental stewards has been documented on every inhabited continent.

 

Yet, they are more and more vulnerable

Yet indigenous peoples disproportionately struggle with poverty. In the 23 countries where most of the world’s indigenous peoples live, they make up 9.3% of the population, but over 18% of those in extreme poverty.

Meanwhile, IFAD explained on 22 April 2022, that their contributions are frequently ‘overlooked and devalued.’ All too often, indigenous peoples’ communities aren’t able to participate in economic and food systems without giving up their traditions and knowledge.

“They’re left out of decision-making about the lands and resources they know better than anyone. They don’t have the agency, financial resources or capacity to take charge.”

 

Does anybody care?

And today, with climate change affecting every part of the globe, their knowledge and practices are more important than ever.

The Fund works with indigenous peoples to support them in overcoming poverty and showing the way to meeting global challenges through building on their identities and cultures.

But even when there is a plan: Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development converts its commitment into action through the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, the key role of indigenous people in safeguarding biodiversity is too often neglected, if ever taken seriously into account.

In fact, for the last 15 years, the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) has served as IFAD’s flagship funding instrument for indigenous peoples, putting the power to find and implement solutions directly into their hands.

The IPAF aims at empowering indigenous peoples’ organisations. It helps them access climate finance so they can direct funds where they see the greatest need, and promotes the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights frameworks, in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

Indigenous Peoples fight for the Planet

For its part, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has reiterated that by fighting for their lands, Indigenous peoples are fighting to save the planet.

Although they comprise less than 5% of the world population, Indigenous peoples protect 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands, and marine environments in which they have lived for centuries, WWF goes on.

“However, despite their critical role in ensuring a resilient and healthy planet for people and nature, there is very little acknowledgment of, or support for, their efforts, especially in Africa.”

Our planet is facing a deep crisis rooted in a number of interconnected, global challenges that include infectious diseases like COVID-19, but also climate change, biodiversity loss, and financial collapse, according to WWF, one of the world’s leading conservation organisations, working in nearly 100 countries.

“These challenges do not observe national or physical borders and primarily result from human activities such as deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, the expansion of agricultural land, and the increased hunting and trading of wildlife.”

 

Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Continuous non-recognition, abuse

Most of these activities are undertaken, habitually, in Indigenous peoples’ territories without their free, prior, and informed consent, it explains.

“The continued non-recognition and abuse of Indigenous peoples’ land rights, and consequently the dismissal of 80% of global biodiversity, should be placed at the centre of present and future global challenges.”

Now, scientists, specialists and experts from all over the world are working to prepare for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), which is scheduled to take place later this year in Kunming, China.

Indedigenous Peoples will surely be present and their voice will be heard, but will it be ‘listened to’?

UN Aims at People-Centered Governance in a Post-Pandemic World

A rescued boat woman and her two children eat some welcome food at a centre in Kuala Cangkoi, Indonesia. The UN urges ‘people-centred’ approach to migrants and refugees in Southeast Asia. Credit: UNHCR

By Simone Galimberti
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Apr 29 2022 – The recently disseminated Zero Draft Ministerial Declaration of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)– the main UN event to track the member states’ progress to achieve the Agenda 2030 slated to be held in the first half of July– is a disappointment.

For all its comprehensiveness, the document neglected to mention one of the most significant elements that could help the world navigate the next pandemic while successfully tackling climate change and biodiversity loss and excruciating levels of inequalities.

It was in July 2020 when the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, an important speech focusing on eliminating inequalities and injustices.

It is also where the idea of a New Social Contract emerged strongly.

Seen as an indispensable antidote against raising inequalities and injustices that the pandemic both exposed and further expanded, the Secretary General was not only remarkable for recalling the sins of colonialism perpetuated by Europeans like him in the past.

He was also bold for proposing a “New Social Contract, between Governments, people, civil society, business and more, must integrate employment, sustainable development and social protection, based on equal rights and opportunities for all”.

The concept of reinventing the social contract wasn’t’ particularly new in truth.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Oslo Governance Centre (OGC), the Friedrich-Ebert- Stiftung (FES) in Berlin and New York, the Julian J. Studley Fund of the Graduate Program of International Affairs at The New School had been working on a global research study on resilient social contracts.

The outcome of this research was “Forging Resilient Social Contracts: Preventing Violent Conflict and Sustaining Peace, an11-country research and policy dialogue” that looked at the drivers that can either lead to stability and shared prosperity or the opposite, more insecurity and a continued state of violence.

The OECD has been also looking at the issue of state’s legitimacy with a groundbreaking report in 2010, The State’s Legitimacy in Fragile Situations unpacking complexity, a document that highlighted the risks of thinking from a western only perspective while supporting the extremely complex process of nation building.

Hybridity forms of governance that rely on local contexts and traditions, were highlighted as promising, though certainly not perfect, spaces of decision making, able to effectively hold together elements of bottom up decision making.

With the idea of top down nation building projects disintegrating following the Afghan’s debacle, strengthening local legitimacy is turning again to the fore.

Without it, it is impossible to shape and deliver effective and inclusive institutions that are so important now more than ever and, as to speak, not only in traditionally fragile political systems.

That’s why Guterres’s lecture in 2020 was so transformational because he was able to shift the focus on the social contract from a narrow peace building frame related to developing nations emerging from conflicts to a much broader context that significantly affects also more established democracies.

The stress and tensions that democratic systems have been experiencing in the last decade are supporting dynamics that risk to tear apart the fabric of many prosperous nations founded on a liberal political system.

Yet the Zero Draft Ministerial Declaration seems to totally forget the day-to-day relevance of establishing a new social contract, a new model based on civic engagement and people’s participation where citizens co-own the process of policy making.

Is this happening because the matter in discussion is so sensitive that some members of the United Nations might feel uneasy about getting engaged in a serious discussion about people’s involvement in shaping the public good?

For example the draft just mentions the role of Voluntary Local Review, the central process around which the SDGs can be localized, a dynamic that has been recognized as central to advance the overall Agenda 2030 and instrumental to build a new civic rapport between the citizenry and the state.

On the positive side, at least there is a mention of the UN Youth 2030, the global youth blue print that is supposed to play a big role in advancing a UN system that is more youth centered.

It is not that there is not enough discussions on partnerships, an essential element if we are serious about rethinking the process of decision making from the ground up.

For example, The Mexico Partnership Forum held in Merida on 17-18 March 2022, served as a “platform to strengthen engagement and relationships across all relevant stakeholders and sectors, while building back better from COVID-19, leading to more transformational whole-of-society approach to partnerships for advancing SDGs in Mexico”.

In another instance, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the International Development Law Organization, and the Government of Italy are organizing the SDG 16 Conference 2022, People-Centered Governance in Post Pandemic World that was held from 21 to 22 April.

In addition, we should not forget that the UN Habitat promoted New Urban Agenda is based on stronger level of collaborations and partnerships to redefine, through the lens of shared prosperity and equity, our existence in cities across the world.

Perhaps it is just easy to talk about partnerships and collaborations among different stakeholders but ultimately the SDG16 that embraces partnerships at its core, should be seen in a much broader and progressive way.

In Pathways for Peace Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict, a joint publication between the World Bank and the United Nations released in 2018, it is remarkably clear the fundamental role of inclusive decision making.

First, “societies that offer more opportunities for youth participation in the political and economic realms and provide routes for social mobility for youth tend to experience less violence”.

Second “Inclusive decision making is fundamental to sustaining peace at all levels, as are long-term policies to address economic, social, and political aspirations”.

The reports continues: “Fostering the participation of young people as well as of the organizations, movements, and networks that represent them is crucial”.

Good governance does not happen with a stroke of raise in international aid to fragile nations.

International aid could enable and support certain dynamics especially if resources reach out effective non state actors but it is a very tricky business that could also result in more corruption and lack of accountability and perpetuation of exclusive power generation.

Genuine localized good governance instead is all about a local leadership able to nurturing through a self-strengthening loop, resilience and inclusion on the ground, though, in many cases such loop is too weakened to bear fruits.

Social protection policies, difficult to design and hard to deliver and certainly very expensive, are the key ingredient capable of enabling a sense of agency for those who have been the most neglected in the society.

Yet intervening in the economic space, as difficult as it is, along won’t suffice.

We need to offer real and meaningful opportunities for people to participate regardless of the political systems in place.

If one party nations do hesitate to foster this new sense of participation, then their entire foundations upon which their legitimacy is based, could crumble while dealing with any future crises and by now, we know well that we will experience more and more of them.

That’s why that speech of Antonio Guterres in 2020 was so important and should not be left forgotten.

It is also not enough to talk about the New Social Contract from a perspective of volunteerism as valuably done by UNV with the State of the World Volunteering Report 2022.

We need to deeper into discussing effective ways to empower the citizenry, starting from those left behind.

Hopefully this challenge, one of the biggest of those we face as humanity, would be adequately discussed by the United Nations.

The upcoming conference on Power, Politics and Peace, scheduled for May 31 by the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre, could offer an opportunity to do so.

Power, politics and peace, are, after all, the defining treats of the New Social Contract and if we forget it, it would be at a very high cost for all of us.

Simone Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. He writes on civic engagement, development and regional integration and politics. Opinions expressed are personal.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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World Press Freedom Faces a Perfect Storm

The UN will be commemorating World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The following article is part of a series of IPS features and opinion pieces focused on media freedom globally.

By Farhana Haque Rahman
TORONTO, Canada, Apr 29 2022 – Empowered by a global pandemic and the drum beats of war, the strongest despots are growing more despotic, and criminal cartels even more brazen in their violence. Extremists of various hues are also stepping out of the shadows.

Just when the world most needs press freedom to thrive, the liberties that societies only really treasure when they are emasculated are coming under more pressure from different directions, old and new.

Farhana Haque Rahman

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index measured by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) declined last year, and is 12% down since first issued in 2013. RSF reported “a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage”. The coronavirus pandemic was cited as widely used to block journalists’ access to information.

Lest you think that this deterioration is the preserve of less developed countries under autocratic rule, RSF noted an increase in attacks against journalists and arbitrary arrests in Germany, France, Italy and several other European states.

This year –as we approach World Press Freedom Day on May 3 — is measurably worse already, notably in Russia and China, but also in Mexico with an escalation of targeted killings of journalists by suspected drug traffickers.

Some 200 Russian journalists and several dozen foreign reporters have left Russia since the passing of a draconian media law on March 4 which criminalises “deliberately false” information. It outlaws calling the invasion of Ukraine a “war”. In addition Russia is still applying its “foreign agents” legislation to punish and intimidate critical media outlets, including PASMI dedicated exclusively to fighting corruption.

“The Russian authorities’ crackdown on independent media is escalating at breakneck speed. Evidently unsatisfied with merely blocking critical news sites or forcing reporters into exile, the Kremlin now seeks to incarcerate journalists who report on anti-war protests or Russian soldiers who refuse to fight in Ukraine,” Amnesty International said on April 14 commenting on the arrests of two journalists in the Russian republics of Altay and Khakassia.

“Apart from state propaganda, there is no media landscape in Russia,” Journalist Alexey Kovalyov, now based in Riga, told Al Jazeera. The power of that propaganda must not be underestimated. Accounts are widespread of people living in Ukraine telling relatives in Russia that they are being bombed by the Russian army but their own family members refuse to believe them.

The “world’s biggest jailer of press freedom defenders”, reports RSF, is however China, with 115 men and women currently incarcerated. China ranks 177 out of the 180 countries and territories surveyed. “Media freedom in China is declining at breakneck speed,” the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) stated in January. China has labelled the FCC an “illegal organisation” and appears in its rhetoric to be encouraging an exodus of foreign journalists.

Free media in Hong Kong, once among the freest in Asia, has been almost completely dismantled, according to Hong Kong Watch, a UK-based advocacy group. Its recent report followed the HK FCC’s announcement it would suspend its Human Rights Press Awards as it risked violating the city’s national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.

Whereas Russia and China are deploying “lawfare” against independent journalists and big companies in developed countries are stifling the press with “vexatious” lawsuits, it is more a legal wasteland or absence of the state that is killing journalists in Mexico, among others.

A wave of murders has targeted at least eight journalists so far this year, with seven killed in all of 2021, making Mexico under populist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador one of the most dangerous countries for the press. Journalists, in the words of Adela Navarro Bello, director of the Tijuana weekly Zeta, are “caught in the crossfire between the threats and bullets of narco-traffickers and organised crime and the threats and verbal attacks and attempts to morally annihilate us from the federal and state governments”.

International human rights organisation Article 19 says the Mexican government’s denial of what is happening “results in no urgent measures being taken to stop this brutal spiral of violence”.

A similar pattern is seen in Bangladesh where suspected narco-traffickers killed Bangladeshi journalist Mohiuddin Sarker Nayeem on April 13.

The Committee to Protect Journalists publishes an annual Global Impunity Index and notes that no one has been held to account in 81% of journalist murders worldwide over the past 10 years. Somalia tops the list, with Mexico ranked 6th and Bangladesh 11th.

State-sponsored or tolerated violence and political persecution aside, world press freedom is also being eroded in an insidious way in places where such freedoms are commonly understood to be vital in sustaining well-functioning democracies. Coupled with the apparently unstoppable rise of social media as a source of information – some surveys suggest 50% of adults in the US and UK get their news from social media – the state of much of the traditional press, digital or not, is far from healthy.

The annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found the US ranked last in media trust, at 29%, among 92,000 news consumers polled in 46 countries. (Finland came top).

Governments must not be passive while the same powerful corporate lobbies that have spent fortunes over decades spreading climate dis/misinformation in traditional media now feed on the rapacity of Big Tech social media, which are failing to disclose comprehensive policies to combat this. Climate disinformation as a threat to climate action is highlighted in the latest UN Climate Reports.

Press offices of international organisations, particularly the UN and large INGOs, also have a particular responsibility to uphold media freedom by eschewing the corporate dark arts of delay, denial and obfuscation.

A new proposal by the EU executive to protect journalists and campaigners from so-called vexatious lawsuits is highly welcome. The move would target “strategic lawsuits against public participation” known as Slapps, where the rich misuse legal means to silence troublesome investigative reporters and NGOs.

No press freedom, no democracy. Just like freedom of speech, that does not mean a free press can publish whatever it wants. Both need to be defined and, in these very dark times, defended.

Farhana Haque Rahman is Senior Vice President of IPS Inter Press Service and Executive Director IPS North America, including it’s UN Bureau; she served as the elected Director General of IPS from 2015-2019. A journalist and communications expert, she is a former senior official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Excerpt:

The UN will be commemorating World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The following article is part of a series of IPS features and opinion pieces focused on media freedom globally.

Commitment to African Medicines Agency Needs More Than Words

African Medicines Agency - To date, 19 countries have already ratified the treaty. However, this number remains far short of the 55 AU member states and excludes some of the region’s power houses such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Senegal. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

To date, 19 countries have already ratified the treaty. However, this number remains far short of the 55 AU member states and excludes some of the region’s power houses such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Senegal. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

By Johnpaul Omollo and Taonga Chilalika
NAIROBI/JOHANNESBURG, Apr 29 2022 – Across Africa, local manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies are responding to the urgent need for locally produced medical products and technologies despite the existing regulatory challenges. We can support manufacturing capacity by expediting the establishment and operationalisation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA).

In November 2021, after 15 countries signed and ratified the AMA treaty, the AMA became a specialised agency of the African Union (AU). To date, 19 countries — Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe — have ratified the treaty.

However, this number remains far short of the 55 AU member states and excludes some of the region’s power houses such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Senegal.

We need to move swiftly to ensure the entire continent is on board. By now, every AU member state should have approved and ratified the AMA by signing, ratifying, and depositing its instruments at the AU commission

Over the next five years, Africa’s health care sector, especially local pharmaceutical production, will be a key economic driver for the region—predicted to be about two percent of the global pharmaceutical market in 2022.

Harmonising health product regulations will make Africa a more attractive market for the pharmaceutical sector, for both research and development, as well as introduction of innovations.

These harmonisation efforts will further improve trade in support of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), by deepening African integration and enabling the development of markets for health commodities and technologies? Of most importance, the agency will coordinate joint assessments and inspections for a select group of products, and coordinate capacity building.

The next two years will be critical in setting up the agency, including selecting a host country, appointing the director general, recruiting staff, and setting up offices for AMA. Countries that have not yet ratified will not have an input into these key decisions which will bolster the medicines regulatory environment in the region.

This has been a long journey. The agency is derived from the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonisation (AMRH) initiative launched in 2012, led by African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) to address challenges faced in medicines regulation in Africa.

These challenges include weak legislative frameworks, duplicative and slow medicine registration processes, and subsequent prolonged approval decisions, limited technical capacity, and weak supply chain control. As COVID-19 has shown, these challenges pose both a public health and economic risk to the continent.

To improve the fragmented regulatory system for medical product registration in Africa, the vision is to gradually move from a country-focused approach, with 55 countries acting independently to a collaborative regional one, with five Regional Economic Communities supporting one Agency.

AMA will review regional policies and identify new sources of funding to enhance national capacity to regulate medicines, as well as try to simplify the complex requirements from regional and global level standards and guidelines.

Member states also need to be cognizant of the extensive operationalization process required to set up the agency’s administrative and technical workstreams. For instance, as part of the administrative workstream, they need to select a host country, appoint a Director General, recruit staff, set up office space, and register the treaty with the UN Secretary General.

We need to move swiftly to ensure the entire continent is on board. By now, every AU member state should have approved and ratified the AMA by signing, ratifying, and depositing its instruments at the AU commission.

Member states need to commit resources to co-finance the operations of the agency as top priority, building on the already existing commitment of more than €100 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Union.

With the vision of preparing Africa to facilitate the production of 60 percent of vaccines needed on the continent by 2040, the establishment of AMA is a clarion call to countries and regulators. We must urgently put in place the tools needed to realise the optimal operationalisation of the Agency by the end of 2022.

We applaud the 19 member states that have ratified the AMA. We urge these states to be champions by promoting the benefits of the agency all over the continent to encourage and motivate the rest to come on board and ratify the Africa Medicines Agency.

Johnpaul Omollo is a Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer at PATH in Kenya. Follow him on Twitter @JPmcOmollo

Taonga Chilalika is a Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate at PATH in South Africa. Follow her on Twitter @TaongaChilalika.

 

Nyxoah to Release First Quarter 2022 Financial Results on May 9 and Host Conference Call on May 10, 2022

Nyxoah to Release First Quarter 2022 Financial Results on May 9 and Host Conference Call on May 10, 2022

Mont–Saint–Guibert, Belgium "" April 28, 2022, 10:30pm CET / 4:30pm ET "" Nyxoah SA (Euronext Brussels/Nasdaq: NYXH)("Nyxoah" or the "Company"), a medical technology company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative solutions to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), today announced that the Company will release financial results for the first quarter of 2022 on Monday, May 9, 2022, after the market close. Company management will host a conference call to discuss financial results on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, beginning at 2:00pm CET / 8:00am ET.

Investors interested in listening to the conference call may do so by dialing (844) 260–3718 for those in the U.S., 0800 73264 for those in Belgium, or (929) 517–0938 for international callers, followed by Conference ID 8444917. A live and archived webcast of the event will be available on the Company's investor relations website at https://investors.nyxoah.com.

About Nyxoah
Nyxoah is a medical technology company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative solutions to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Nyxoah's lead solution is the Genio system, a patient–centered, leadless and battery–free hypoglossal neurostimulation therapy for OSA, the world's most common sleep disordered breathing condition that is associated with increased mortality risk and cardiovascular comorbidities. Nyxoah is driven by the vision that OSA patients should enjoy restful nights and feel enabled to live their life to its fullest.

Following the successful completion of the BLAST OSA study, the Genio system received its European CE Mark in 2019. Nyxoah completed two successful IPOs: on Euronext Brussels in September 2020 and NASDAQ in July 2021. Following the positive outcomes of the BETTER SLEEP study, Nyxoah received CE mark approval for the expansion of its therapeutic indications to Complete Concentric Collapse (CCC) patients, currently contraindicated in competitors' therapy. Additionally, the Company is currently conducting the DREAM IDE pivotal study for FDA and US commercialization approval.

For more information, please visit http://www.nyxoah.com/

Caution "" CE marked since 2019. Investigational device in the United States. Limited by U.S. federal law to investigational use in the United States.

Contacts:
Nyxoah
Loic Moreau, Chief Financial Officer
corporate@nyxoah.com
+32 473 33 19 80

Jeremy Feffer, VP IR and Corporate Communications
jeremy.feffer@nyxoah.com
+1 917 749 1494

Attachment


Bombardier to Report First Quarter 2022 Financial Results and Hold Virtual Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders on Thursday, May 5, 2022

MONTREAL, April 28, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Bombardier (TSX: BBD.B) will publish its financial results for the first quarter of 2022 on May 5, 2022. On the same day, Bombardier will hold its Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders ("Meeting") in a virtual format.

Quarterly Conference Call

On May 5, 2022, at 8:00 a.m. EDT, Bombardier will hold a webcast/conference call intended for investors and financial analysts to review the company's financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022.

A live webcast of the call and relevant financial charts will be available at https://ir.bombardier.com

Stakeholders wishing to listen to the presentation and subsequent question–and–answer period by telephone may dial one of the following conference call numbers:

In English:

Toll–free dial–in number (Canada/U.S.): 1–800–898–3989
Local dial–in number: 514–861–3304
International dial–in numbers

Participant passcode: 2230833#

In French (with translation):
Toll–free dial–in number (Canada/U.S.): 1–877–395–0279
Local dial–in number: 514–392–1587
International dial–in numbers

Participant passcode: 4427560#

Media Call

May 5, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. EDT, members of the media are invited to dial in to a short Question and Answer session following our quarterly earnings call and before the virtual Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders. ric Martel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bombardier, will be available to answer your questions related to the Q1 2022 financial results.

Media who would like to attend the Q&A session are asked to RSVP by emailing heather.neale@aero.bombardier.com.

Bilingual:

Toll–free dial–in number (Canada/U.S.): 1–800–952–5114
Local dial–in number: 416–406–0743
International dial–in numbers

Participant passcode: 2423914#

Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders

On May 5, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, Bombardier welcomes all registered shareholders and duly appointed proxyholders who wish to participate in the online Meeting to do so by joining the live webcast available at https://bombardier.com/en/agm2022. Only registered shareholders and duly appointed proxyholders will be allowed to vote and ask questions during the live Meeting. Non–registered shareholders, guests and media will be able to watch online via the live webcast available at the same link.

Instructions on how to vote and participate in the online Meeting, including submitting questions to management and to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bombardier, will be available on the Corporation's website here and on the online Meeting platform. Bombardier encourages shareholders to vote and submit their proxies prior to the Meeting.

The live webcast and relevant documents for both the Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders and the conference call will be available at https://bombardier.com/en/agm2022. A recording of the Meeting and the call will be posted on Bombardier's website shortly after the end of the webcast.

About Bombardier
Bombardier is a global leader in aviation, focused on designing, manufacturing and servicing the world's most exceptional business jets. Bombardier's Challenger and Global aircraft families are renowned for their cutting–edge innovation, cabin design, performance and reliability. Bombardier has a worldwide fleet of approximately 5,000 aircraft in service with a wide variety of multinational corporations, charter and fractional ownership providers, governments and private individuals. Bombardier aircraft are also trusted around the world in special–mission roles.

Headquartered in Montral, Qubec, Bombardier operates aerostructure, assembly and completion facilities in Canada, the United States and Mexico. The company's robust customer support network includes facilities in strategic locations in the United States and Canada, as well as in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, the UAE, Singapore, China and an Australian facility opening in 2022.

For corporate news and information, including Bombardier's Environmental, Social and Governance report, visit bombardier.com. Learn more about Bombardier's industry–leading products and customer service network at businessaircraft.bombardier.com. Follow us on Twitter @Bombardier.

Bombardier is a registered trademark of Bombardier Inc. or its subsidiaries.

For Information

Francis Richer de La Flche
Vice President
Financial Planning and Investor Relations
Bombardier
+514 855 5001 x13228
Anna Cristofaro
Manager
Communications
Bombardier
+1 514 855 8678


ScyllaDB gives customers higher NoSQL performance with support for new Amazon EC2 I4i instances

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 28, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — ScyllaDB, the company behind the ScyllaDB database for data–intensive applications that require high performance and low latency, announced that it is achieving staggering performance results on a range of new Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance types powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). This includes the Amazon EC2 I4i instances which are x86 processor based, and im4gn and is4gen instances which use AWS Arm–based Graviton2 processors.

ScyllaDB uses Amazon EC2 I4i Instances to provide customers with performance improvements
Amazon EC2 I4i instances are powered by 3rd generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors and feature up to 30 TB of local AWS Nitro Solid State Drives (SSD) storage. Nitro SSDs are Non–Volatile Memory Express (NVMe)–based and custom–designed by AWS to provide high I/O performance, low latency, minimal latency variability, and security with always–on encryption. Amazon EC2 Im4gn and Is4gen instances are next–generation, storage–optimized instances designed for running applications that require high throughput and low–latency access to large amounts of data on local SSD storage. They are powered by AWS Graviton2 processors and provide up to 30 TB of storage with AWS Nitro SSDs.

ScyllaDB's NoSQL database is built with deep architectural advancements (asynchronous, shared–nothing, shard–per–core) that enable teams to harness the ever–increasing computing power of modern infrastructures "" eliminating barriers to scale as data grows.

Benchmarking Performance: I4i vs i3
Results from benchmarking tests with ScyllaDB running on I4i family instances surpassed performance expectations.

“ScyllaDB is a high–performance NoSQL database that can take advantage of high–performance cloud computing instances. When we tested I4i instances, we observed up to 2.7x increase in throughput per vCPU compared to I3 instances for reads,” explained Avi Kivity, Chief Technology Officer and Co–Founder at ScyllaDB. “With an even mix of reads and writes, we observed 2.2x higher throughput per vCPU, with a 40% reduction in average latency than I3 instances. We are excited for the incredible performance and value these new instances will enable for our customers going forward.”

ScyllaDB's benchmark details can be reviewed in an on–demand presentation with ScyllaDB VP of Product, Tzach Livyatan, and Head of Specialized Solution Architects, Compute at AWS, Ken Krupa.

About ScyllaDB
ScyllaDB is the database for data–intensive apps that require high performance and low latency. It enables teams to harness the ever–increasing computing power of modern infrastructures "" eliminating barriers to scale as data grows. Unlike any other database, ScyllaDB is built with deep architectural advancements that enable exceptional end–user experiences at radically lower costs. Over 400 game–changing companies like Disney+ Hotstar, Expedia, FireEye, Discord, Zillow, Starbucks, Comcast, and Samsung use ScyllaDB for their toughest database challenges. ScyllaDB is available as free open source software, a fully–supported enterprise product, and a fully managed service on multiple cloud providers. For more information: ScyllaDB.com

Media Contact:
Wayne Ariola
wayne.ariola@scylladb.com