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  • Written by World and Media

"Incredible progress in the fight against poverty" but funding is falling

Helen does her homework with her brother Jacob in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Primary school enrolment in sub-Saharan Africa is now 76%. Worldwide, there are now as many girls attending as boys. Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN.A number of new figures and reports suggest that large strides are being made in reducing poverty but European aid commitments have started to fall, while the World Food Programme has been cutting refugee rations in half, due to funding shortfalls. A new UN report examines innovative ways to increase development financing, while a UK think-tank asks whether aid agencies need to adapt or become obsolete.

African economies ...and children are growing. Under-5 mortality has dropped rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 20 years and several African countries are now among the fastest growing in the world.

The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day is now less than half what it was in 1990, estimates the UN in a new report. Access to safe water has improved and the proportion of urban residents in developing countries living in slums has dropped. Primary school enrolment has increased in sub-Saharan Africa (to 76%) and, worldwide, there are now as many girls attending as boys.

However, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that there is no cause for complacency as we approach 2015 -- the target date for the UN Millennium Development Goals:

“Projections indicate that in 2015 more than 600 million people worldwide will still lack access to safe drinking water, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth, and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. Hunger remains a global challenge, and ensuring that all children are able to complete primary education remains a fundamental, but unfulfilled, target that has an impact on all the other goals. Lack of safe sanitation is hampering progress in health and nutrition … and greenhouse gas emissions continue to pose a major threat to people and ecosystems.”

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

A tale of two populations: India and Macedonia

Abhirami. Photo: 'Changing face of Indian Youth' Flickr/freebird (bobinson). More than 600 million Indians are aged 24 or younger.Niamh Griffin explores the different population challenges and opportunities facing India and Macedonia highlighted in a new UN report.

People aged 24 years or younger make up almost half of the world’s population say the authors of the latest United Nations population report.

Researchers for “People and possibilities in a world of 7 billion” talked to people in nine countries - China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, India, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – to find the real impact of this population growth.

The annual report carried out by the United National Population Fund (UNFPA) found “some of these countries are coping with high fertility rates and others are facing rates so low that governments are already looking for ways to increase population size.”

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Poverty drives high population growth, says Minister

Irish Minister for Development Jan O’Sullivan (right) with Jacqueline Mahon, UNFPA senior policy advisor on Global Health and Health Systems. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan Photography, Dublin.This week the world’s population will reach seven billion; this is a challenge governments need to meet by focusing on sexual health according to a United Nations population expert.

Speaking at the launch of the United National Population Fund (UNFPA) report “People and possibilities in a world of 7 billion” in Dublin Jacqueline Mahon said shifting the focus “from numbers to human rights” is necessary.

“There are 215 million women of child-bearing age in developing countries who would use family planning if they had access to it … we must tear down economic, legal, social and cultural barriers to put women and men and girls and boys on an equal footing,” the senior policy advisor said.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

We are 7 billion

Resident of one of Agar Ethiopia's shelters for elderly women. Photo: UNFPA/Antonio Fiorente.There are now 7 billion humans on the planet, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which has launched a report this week.

The world's population at a glance

In 2011, say the UNFPA, 60 per cent of the world’s population lives in Asia (4.2 billion), and 15 per cent in Africa (1 billion)

The Americas, Europe and Oceania combined have a population of 1.7 billion with Europe’s population expected to peak at 0.74 billion in 2025.

On average women are having less children than in the 1960s but the global population continues to rise

  • Written by Senan Hogan

Relationships between major religions a 'huge issue' for development agencies

Major denominations and religions of the world. Predominant religions by country. Original: wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.Tensions between world religions in countries like Pakistan are creating challenges for development agencies working abroad, a leading NGO figure has said.

Concern Worldwide CEO Tom Arnold was speaking during the final of a series of debates hosted by Irish Aid in Dublin on Irish missionaries and was addressing the topic of their legacy and future in the developing world. Concern is a nondenominational organisation and works in a number of Muslim countries, including Sudan, Chad, Niger and Pakistan. It also has a large presence in Somalia where it is currently helping 200,000 people affected by drought and famine.

Mr Arnold told the audience: "Relationships with Islam and some of the other great religions is one of the huge issues for us…Somehow or other we are going to have to find ways of bridging these gaps."

He added: "The challenge is that we face the complexities of the societies where we work and religion is the source of great division at the moment and we need to find ways of dialoging with each other and living with each other and finding a way forward."

  • Written by World and Media

Are missionaries accurately represented in the media?

Dubliner Fr Tony Byrne, a Holy Ghost priest known as the “Green Pimpernel” for running a daring airlift operation into Biafra during its civil war with Nigeria.Are missionaries being fairly and accurately represented in the media? This was one of the questions discussed at the second of three public debates examining the past, present and future of Irish missionaries. The debate took place this month at the Irish Aid Centre in Dublin.

The chair was Joe Humphreys, Irish Times journalist, advisor to and author of God’s Entrepreneurs: How Irish Missionaries Tried to Change the World. He remarked that much of what the public knows about the missionaries has been through religious and secular literature, documentaries and press coverage.

He asked whether we have an accurate picture of missionary work and indeed whether missionaries wanted us to have one. He gave the example of an incident from the preface to his book. A fellow journalist had spent an extraordinary day with a nun in South Africa in a high security prison where she worked, meeting prisoners, many on death row, only to be told "now, you know, you can't write about any of this. I don't want my name in the paper."

Humility is not the only reason why many are wary of journalists. However, Fr Gerry O’Connor, CSsR, told that if the Irish missionary movement is to have a future, it needs to be asked difficult questions: "The only way change comes about is if people ask questions you don't want to hear."

  • Written by Priya Shetty

Opposition to urbanisation is misguided – academic

Nigeria cityscape. Photo: World BankEN | ES [LONDON] Growing urbanisation does not have to spell disaster for either human health or the environment, and both research and underused technologies can help mitigate its negative effects, a conference has heard.

Developing nations must accept that urbanisation is inevitable, and invest in research and infrastructure to support their growing populations, Cecilia Tacoli, a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), told delegates at the Population Footprints conference in London last week (25–26 May).

The conference, organised by University College London and the Leverhulme Trust, both based in United Kingdom, looked at the effects of population growth and dynamics on health and climate change.

Much of the world's population growth will be in cities in Asia and Africa, whose urban populations are set to double between 2000–2030 to 3.4 billion, according to the 2007 UN Population Fund's report 'State of World Population: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth'.

Yet developing countries refuse to engage with the process of urbanisation and keep passing policies that hamper migration to cities, Tacoli told SciDev.Net. Their urban infrastructure is therefore poorly equipped to provide basic services such as healthcare, food, water and fuel.

  • Written by IRIN kz/bp/mw

International search and rescue group "has come a long way in 20 years"

Rescuer's best friend: dogs take the lead in earthquake search and rescue operations, as seen here in Haiti in January 2010. Photo: Phuong Tran/IRIN.[GENEVA] When Mexico City was hit by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1985, disaster response teams searched the same buildings over and over again. During search and rescue efforts for the 1986 El Salvador earthquake, two European rescue teams clashed over the appropriate approach.

Twenty years ago, international search and rescue was "very chaotic indeed", said Joe Bishop, an emergency management consultant. "It was a free-for-all, there was no commonality at all... the tools were totally inappropriate for the job, all to the detriment of the affected people."

That changed with the development of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) 20 years ago in December. "I think there's still a lot to be done, but we've made major inroads since the earthquake in Mexico in 1985," said Bishop.

Jens Kristensen, a UN official who was rescued from the rubble five days after the 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, agreed: "INSARAG has come a long way in 20 years."

The international response to the Haiti earthquake was the largest ever. "The best outcome," observed Kjell Larsson, a senior adviser to the Swedish government, "was that the USAR [urban search and rescue] teams saved more lives than any other earthquake response in the past 10, 20 years.

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