Monday, August 27, 2007

Empowering Women with HIV

In many affected countries, women with HIV are particularly prone to the detrimental economic and social effects of the debilitating disease. But as Mr. Mechai Viravaidya, Founder and Chairman of Thailand’s Population and Community Development Association (PDA), says of combating the disease:

We all must think out of the box.
It is with such innovation that UNDP and PDA have partnered to launch a “Women and Wealth Project (WWP)” in Cambodia, China and India. The project allows women living with HIV to become entrepreneurs in their own right, with not only technical and marketing support from PDA, UNDP, international agencies and the private sector, but also business management training. The women work together and are empowered to develop their own small social enterprises, in an effort to restore self-confidence and dignity to an often negatively-stigmatized disease. It also provides the women with sustainable economic stability and a sustainable socially-focused business.
When each business is generating sufficient revenue, the net profits will be pooled into initiating a micro-credit program specifically designed for people living with HIV and based on PDA’s “Positive Partnership Project (PPP)."
Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, Regional HIV/AIDS Team Leader and Programme Coordinator of UNDP Regional HIV and Development Programme, concludes:
In a rapidly feminizing epidemic, the socio-economic independence of women is essential – it enables women to cope with the devastating impact of the epidemic on their family life and sources of livelihood. Smart skills and regular incomes can reduce situations of HIV-vulnerability and helps positive women live with dignity and security.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

8.7 Million Reasons for Hope

The United Nations understands better than most organizations that you cannot deal with aspects of a crisis in isolation. In the case of Sudan, it's becoming increasingly clear that environmental problems have a huge impact on the growing humanitarian crisis. Most recently, devastating floods have left 150,000 people homeless, with the potential to affect many more.

To respond to crises of this kind, the UN created the Central Emergency Response Fund. CERF functions as a stand-by fund to enable timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts. $8.7 million from this fund has been allocated to the crisis in Sudan in order to help 1.5 million people.

Response to this disaster has also brought out the best in UN coordination. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working together to use their allocated funds to respond to all the needs of the flood victims. From health care to access to food and water, the UN has it covered.

Even though disasters of this kind are difficult to predict, the UN has a clear mechanism for obtaining funds and necessary resources to help people on the ground as soon as they need it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The UN on TV

Continuing on the theme of UN information and media, I wanted to draw attention to the UN’s Multimedia website. On it you’ll find links to:

  • News Center
  • UN Radio
  • UN Television
  • UN Photos

Few people know these excellent resources exist, so start spreading the word!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tell us what the UN does, daily

The UN, a large and complex organization, accomplishes an incredible amount in one day. To let everyone else know what's been happening in the NY headquarters and around the world, Michele Montas serves as the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The Noon Briefing, announced daily, summarizes new and ongoing projects and initiatives.

Today, the United Nations:

  • Stands ready to support relief efforts with other measures, including the release of emergency funds for Hurricane Dean,
  • Allocated 8.7 million dollars to support the ongoing humanitarian response for flood victims in Sudan,
  • Inaugurated the new Implementation Support Unit for the convention on Biological Weapons.
To find out more about the daily ccomplishments and business of the UN, click here. (Slightly less reader friendly are the UN's daily press releases, but give them a go if you're looking for day-to-day minutiae.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What if you couldn't go home?

Thousands of Burundians face this problem every day, anxiously awaiting their turn to go home, free of the fear of persecution. Sometimes, this can takes years.

But there is both hope and help on the way. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has assisted 350,000 Burundians in leaving the camps and returning to their country after years of dangerous war.

Though going home is a great achievement, UNHCR's work is only beginning. Though many Burundians are glad to return , they are hindered by the lack of basic services when they reach their former communities. The process of reintegration is very complex and must take this reality into account.

To bridge this gap between relief and development initiatives, UNHCR has

built more than 51,000 houses since 2003... and another 6,750 will be finished this year. UNHCR also rehabilitated 13 health centers and built or renovated some 500 classrooms in areas of return between 2002 and 2006.
The reality of a refugee can be incredibly difficult, but resilience ensures that life can also get better. Click here if you want to help UNHCR provide more services of this kind.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let Children Run the Country

Who says children shouldn't take the law into their own hands? In fact, with their openness to different points of view and eagerness to help people who suffer, they almost seem perfect for this job.

A group of 150 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) feel the same way, and with the help of the UN they set up a Children's Parliament to deal with any and all grievances brought forward by young Congolese people.

With no officers over the age of 17, the Parliament bases its advice to its clients on Congolese law and the UN's Convention of the Rights of the Child. The body deals with a surprising number of cases - 105 since January - ranging from neglected children to women who feel their husbands provide inadequate support for schooling and general care. According to Vice President Arthur Omar Kayumba, the Parliament has a growing sense of legitimacy, even amongst authorities such as the special police.

In 2002, UNICEF held a Special Session on Children, which capitalized on the fact that it is often a country's youth that can best identify problems, priorities and sometimes even solutions to challenges they collectively face. In the DRC, youth-centered decision making has proven to be an effective way of bypassing one of the country's most significant problems: corruption.

Sometimes, you've got to let kids have their way.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Youth Unite!

Few organizations have the power to unite people across the world in celebration of a common cause. The UN did just that on August 12 for International Youth Day, established 8 years ago to enable young people to become as politically and socially involved as possible in pressing global issues.

If you want to get involved

Youth organizations have a very refreshing take on how to take action on the Millennium Development Goals. I particularly recommend UNICEF's Voices of Youth for ideas and practical advice on where to begin on the road to advocacy.

Another great resource is TakingITGlobal, an interactive online community that connects you to others with similar interests and ideas. Create a profile and start sharing information today!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Congo Malaria Train

Malaria kills more children under five than any other disease in Africa, and yet it is completely preventable. In the Congo alone, it is responsible for nearly a quarter of child deaths.

At the end of last week, the UN began a two-day mission to deliver 300,000 malaria nets to the Congo via the Congo-Ocean railway. The initiative, spearheaded by UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) and the Congolese government, targets 10% of the population, mainly children in high risk areas.

The train will stop at several small towns along its journey to Brazzaville, the capital, where nets will be dropped off for distribution free of charge in health centers and hospitals.

UNICEF's work in Congo doesn't stop there. UNICEF and its partners have rehabilitated several health centers, facilitating the distribution of vaccines. A large number of wells and latrines have also been constructed to improve access to water and sanitation. In addition, several schools have been rebuilt and are now able to provide basic services to the youth population.

In helping to curb malaria and improve public services, the impact of these projects will significantly increase and improve the lives of thousands of Congolese.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

They Need To Eat

When the most recent flood disaster hit in South Asia earlier this month, the World Food Program (WFP) was one of the first UN agencies on the scene, providing immediate assistance to those in need. The flood has affected thousands in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.

From distributing high energy biscuits (left) to stopping the spread of water-born diseases, WFP does its best to make sure that the aftermath of the disaster is punctuated by as little human suffering as possible.

Also looking to the long-term, WFP will dedicate attention to rebuilding livelihoods based on crop production and animal rearing, thus restarting lives and ensuring that the rest of the population continues to receive food supplies.

WFP delivers $90 million in food aid every year, often working in the most severe crisis areas of the world. Learn more about its important work in this setting and many others.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Giving Women Their Rights

2-3 million girls worldwide undergo FGM/C (female genital mutilation or cutting) each year, defined by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) as the “partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.”

FGM/C is hard to talk about because it has a deeply entrenched cultural component. But the detrimental health effects on women can’t be ignored: pain, psychological trauma, infection, infertility and even death.

Today marks the end of a 4-day conference in Ethiopia convened by UNFPA devoted to understanding this practice and devising a strategy to protect those that suffer from FGM/C. Participants included many development experts, ranging from other UN agencies and NGOs to the World Bank and USAID. This gathering is meant to provide an opportunity for the intersection policy and ideas.

UNFPA is doing incredibly important work in ending harmful practices against women, while ensuring that men are also involved in this process, as well as discouraging all forms of gender-based violence.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

100 People

Sometimes it can be easy to get lost in talk of GDP, percentages, billions. This video does a great job breaking through the numbers and showing what achieving the Millennium Development Goals really means for all of humanity.