The UN embraces the Digital Age: Text Messaging for Change
Pop!Tech, the global technology conference, was held last week, unveiling new projects designed to effect global change through technology. This conference displayed ways in which technology developed in countries of abundance could be used to ease the burdens in countries of scarce resources. One of these innovations is as simple as making text messaging more accessible to organizations working in developing countries. Ken Banks demonstrated FrontlineSMS, free software designed to harness the power of text messaging. Humanitarian groups and NGO’s can download this free software and use it to send information to people working in the field, so necessary information is never far away. The UN is using this technology to send security alerts in Afghanistan, while MercyCorps is using this software to send market prices to farmers and power a healthcare network in Malawi.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday October 24th, the UN celebrated its birthday, marking 63 years to the date since its mandate began in 1945. Like the rest of the world, the UN has evolved quite rapidly over these years, containing 192 member states and thousands of programs. The occasion was celebrated in an array of events throughout the whole world, which included film screenings in DC, blood drives in Namibia, concerts in New York, and tree-planting in Darfur; The UN Yearbook was also launched and a ceremony was held in Moscow honoring 60 years of UN presence in Russia.
We might ask, what does UN Day really mean? Well, this day celebrates the UN’s success throughout time. It also promotes the values inscribed within the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as honoring the everyday struggle to make this a peaceful and just world.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
As the situation in Somalia is still extremely dire, Children are some of the hardest hit, and proper nutrition is a serious issue. Malnutrition is one of the largest problems confronting children in the east African nation, and the United Nations is taking revolutionary proactive steps in providing for those who can't provide for themselves. Internally displaced peoples in Somalia make up a large portion of those who are suffering from malnutrition. Partnering with the World Bank, the UN is set to distribute a product called "Supplementary Plumpy" to more than 64,000 children over the next six months. The product is a peanut based paste that requires no preparation to consume. Studies show that malnourished children who consume the paste are able to recover from malnourishment in two months, and protect themselves for another four. This aid comes at a time of increased conflict and tension concerning the pirate situation off the coast, and increased international attention to the area.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Children in Kyrgyzstan, the second poorest nation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, will receive increased attention and assistance thanks to UNICEF. In a country where over fifty percent of the population lives in poverty, and more than twenty-five percent live in extreme poverty, children are some of the hardest hit. About half of Kyrgyz babies between six months and two years old are anemic, and many children under five years old show signs of stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. However, UNICEF has elected to step up funding to help improve the dire situation in Kyrgyzstan after Ann Veneman, the agency’s Executive Director, visited the nation recently. Pledging $270,000 in additional funding, Veneman said, “Giving a child a solid nutritional start in life is critical to physical, mental and social development.”
Friday, October 17, 2008
Last year in the week of Oct. 17th more than 43 million people around the world Stood Up against poverty and broke the Guinness World Record for the largest stand up in a week. Today the movement to end extreme poverty is attempting to break that record and inspire 1% of the population (a massive 67 million!) to Stand Up and demand our world leaders to keep the promises and goals they set in 2000 and take action against poverty.
Given the challenges facing the international community such as halting and containing the effects of climate change, the rise in food prices, and the global economic crisis we must not forget about the world’s poor and how they are disproportionately affected by these issues. Not acting is no longer an option. We are half way to the finish line, and while tremendous achievements have been made, we (and our leaders) still have a long way to go.
So STAND UP and grasp the immense power YOU have to change the course of the world! STAND UP and give 5 minutes of your thoughts to positive ways in which we can tackle this problem! STAND UP! And don’t sit on it!
Across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, the global movement in support of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals continues to grow. Events ranging from concerts, dances, teach-ins, film screenings and prayer circles to raise awareness and urge people to take action. To find out how you can take part in the Stand Up Guinness Record- breaking attempt got to: www.standagainstpoverty.org
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is partnering with the European Professional Football League to launch a food awareness campaign. The coalition hopes to raise funds, as well as awareness, to fight global hunger and malnutrition. The number of undernourished has climbed to almost one billion people. FAO hopes that heightened awareness of the issue will help bring it to the forefront of European and global politics. The campaign is called “Professional Football Against Hunger” and represents more than 960 football leagues across Europe. Proceeds from the campaign will be used to finance micro-projects in developing countries. There are currently over 2600 projects in 130 countries.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Iran, a nation with twenty times the global average number of annual traffic deaths, is poised to benefit tremendously from a UNICEF led program aimed at reducing traffic mortality and injury. UNICEF’s campaign, which primarily focuses on the youth population, intends to raise awareness regarding important safety procedures and precautions, like reducing speed, wearing seatbelts, ensuring children are seated in proper restraints in the car’s back seat, and enforcing the use of helmets for bicycles and motorcycles. UNICEF will implement this program in partnership with various Iranian agencies and authorities with the hopes of dramatically reducing the number of young people who die as a result of traffic accidents. Currently, about 2,700 children under the age of fifteen and 28,000 people total die in auto-related accidents; an effectively employed effort by UNICEF will help protect the safety of Iranian children.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has pledged relentless commitment on behalf of the United Nations to combating global poverty, even in face of concrete challenges. Speaking from United Nation’s headquarters in New York City, he said, “Everyone has felt the earthquake on Wall Street. But it has not shaken our resolve. Banks may be failing. But the world’s bottom billion can bank on us.” Despite seriously troubled economic circumstances, in September, member nations pledged sixteen billion dollars to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, a positive sign that the goals may be met by their target year, 2015. A general consensus seems to exist among member states that hard economic times are no reason to slow poverty reduction and development efforts. In addition to continued financial support, Secretary General Ban also asserted the importance of progress in the Doha Round and the possibility of expanding the G-8. While the dramatically growing prices of food and fuel are not good news for anyone, the world’s poor can rest assured that the United Nations, as always, will strive to keep the battle against the global poverty pandemic at the forefront of the international agenda.
Friday, October 3, 2008
The Central African Republic (CAR), having been subjected to violence as a result of spill-over from Darfur, will receive money from the new United Nations Common Humanitarian Fund. The increasing instability in CAR, a result of the escalating violence neighboring Chad and Sudan’s Darfur region, has affected more than one million people in the country. 2.5 million dollars has been pledged by the United States, directing the funds to be focused on health care, access to water, survival of infants and young people, and aid to help those who have been displaced. The new funding will allow humanitarian action to be more efficient; it will be directed to the 110,000 displaced people and the one million others affected by the conflict. The influx of funds will allow those on the ground to respond to emergencies faster and more efficiently.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Thanks to UNICEF led initiatives in the Lira district of northern Uganda a sense of community and normalcy is beginning to reignite amongst the area’s youth, as schools reopen and efforts are made to rebuild a sense of community. Helping these children reacclimate to their surroundings is certainly no small task; many of them were held hostage and forced to fight by insurgents for many years. Others describe horrific ordeals including disease, death, and other occurrences many of the children deem unspeakable.
Fortunately, UNICEF is seeking unconventional ways to rehabilitate these children. Using sports, mainly soccer, volleyball, and basketball, and other bond-building activities, UNICEF hopes to encourage non-violent conflict resolution and a deep sense of community. UNICEF hopes such programs will also help keep kids back in school and help to ease negative memories. According to Alex Ochien, a parent of two students at the Angolocom School, “The sport competitions help the child to forget about the past, and help all of us in the community to focus on the present and the future.” A young participant in these UNICEF supported programs says, “sports and games have brought him together with new friends and opened his mind to think positive thoughts, stay out of trouble and do well in school.”
Though the reconstruction in every sense, of Northern Uganda will prove to be a challenge, the United Nations is making definitive strides in improving the lives of children in the region.