Monday, March 30, 2009

Going dark for Global Warming

Saturday, March 28, at 8:30 pm, tens of millions of people in hundreds of cities around the world came together once again to make a bold statement about climate change, by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour.

Earth Hour was first celebrated two years ago in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million people and thousands of businesses turned out their lights, allowing the message about climate change to shine brightly (or not!).

88 countries and more than 4,000 cities joined Earth Hour 2009, a huge increase from the 35 countries that participated for Earth Hour 2008. One billion "votes" was the stated aim for Earth Hour 2009. Among the participants in 2009 was, for the first time, the United Nations headquarters in New York City!

An example of the energy saved was the Canadian province of Ontario, outside of Toronto, which saw a decrease of 6% of electricity while Toronto saw a decrease of 15.1% (nearly doubled from 8.7% the previous year) as many businesses darkened, including the landmark CN Tower.

Swedish electricity operator Svenska Kraftnät recorded a 5% decrease in consumption. This equals approximately half a million households out of the total 4.5 million households in Sweden.

For more information or pictures click here or here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whoa, Maama!

Ninsiima Judith just gave birth to a healthy 9-lb boy. Ninsiima is one of several hundred women in Ruhiira, a village in Southwestern Uganda, to give birth in a health institution. She delivered her previous children at home with the assistance of traditional midwives because health institutions lacked the essentials.

This is now changing rapidly. Ruhiira has placed child and maternal mortality among its highest priorities and is decreasing death rates dramatically. Now, thanks to a health kit disseminated by UNDP and known as the “Maama” Kit, the number of medically-supervised deliveries in Ruhiira has increased to 75%, up from 8% in December 2007. That’s 263 births per months, up from 51.

The “Maama” Kits are designed to help women deliver in clean conditions. They include baby sheets; soap; pads; gloves; a surgical blade; a sterilized chord for tying the umbilical cord and rehydration packages. The pack reduces the risk of vaginal and eye infections, tetanus and diarrhea, all of which may occur in bad hygiene conditions.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cutting Emissions and Saving Forests

Forests are one of our planet’s most precious resources. Unfortunately they are easily lost, and often must compete with other agricultural enterprises. Slowing deforestation is a frontline battle in the fight against climate change. Accounting for over 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation is second only to the energy sector as the largest source of emissions. Because of harmful practices like over-logging and slash and burn agriculture, the rate of deforestation has averaged 13 million hectares between 1990 and 2005. That’s more than 24 million football fields every year, mostly in the tropics! To take on this enormous challenge, the UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program (UN-REDD) supports nations as they implement sustainable forestry management programs which offer both environmental and economic benefits to their citizens.

UN-REDD has just approved $18 Million in funding to support the programs of five new nations that are ready to take on the challenge. Senior government representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Viet Nam recently came together to discuss and share plans on how to reduce emissions and save precious forest ecosystems. They join the four other pilot program nations of Bolivia, Panama, Paraguay, and Zambia which are already participating.

To find out more about how the UN is saving forests and fighting climate change click here

Friday, March 20, 2009

Women Conquer Everest!

Everest, the world’s highest peak at 29,000 feet (more than 8,800 meters), was successfully scaled by ten Nepali women last year. They overcame many obstacles including avalanches, extreme cold, sudden storms and low oxygen levels. They received support from the UNDP, the UN World Food Program and the Government of Denmark.

Now, seven of these women are touring schools and making presentations about their expedition in order to teach and inspire children. They focus on issues like gender equality, women’s empowerment, and global warming. The group is made up of women from very different backgrounds – a journalist, a fashion model and a woman who supported her family by washing clothes.

Click here for more information.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Watch your step!

Can you remember your parent telling you to “look both ways before crossing the street,” or remember those caution signs telling you to “watch your step”? For children living in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, taking safety precautions when walking to school was not enough to protect them from landmines that remained following the conflict in the 1990s. Since 1996, over 1,500 people have been killed or maimed as a result of landmines.

In order to prevent further deaths as a result of landmine detonation, Bosnia and Herzegovina have acquired two new mine clearing machines to clear up to one million landmines. Each machine is valued at $600,000.

Since 2003, the UNDP has worked with a mine awareness project that includes mine clearing training, education projects on mine risks, technical expertise and funds for mine clearance equipment. UNDP’s work has drastically reduced the number of children hurt by mines. UNDP is also working to create economic opportunities away from mine locations so that the risk of being injured is also decreased.

To find out more about UNDP’s commitment to mine removal, click here. Also be sure to check out International Mine Awareness and Assistance Day on April 4, a day the United Nations has dedicated to raising awareness of the global hazards of landmines.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Better Opportunities in Moldova

Can you imagine living in a country where you are not given the same access to opportunities as your friends? After gaining its independence, Moldova suffered a decline in its economy and many of its citizens were displaced and without jobs. Moldovan orphans, children without families, single mothers and expectant mothers are among the beneficiaries of a new UNDP program entitled, “Better Opportunities for Women and Youth,” that will provide psychological and social services, life skills classes, and job-preparation coaching.

By educating Moldova's underprivileged youth and women, the country hopes to improve its economy by providing more citizens the opportunity to participate. After completing classes and job-preparation coaching, adults will be able to apply for jobs in seven newly created partnerships with private businesses. By having the incentive to receive higher education and effectively change their futures, underprivileged youth be rewarded with job opportunities upon the completion of their programs.

To find out more about the "Better Opportunities for Women and Youth" in Moldova, click here

Monday, March 9, 2009

Alien Fish Take Over Ponds!

Breaking News: Alien fish species may be invading a river near you! Keep your eyes peeled for unnatural sea creatures lurking about!
On March 2, 2009, an alliance was launched to combat the alien menace – the Global Industry Alliance (GIA), which includes the International Maritime Organization, UNDP, the Global Environment Facility and four major private shipping corporations.
Each year, 10 billion tons of ballast water is taken onboard by cargo ships at the start of trips and pumped out upon arrival at their destinations. Ballast water is carried in cargo ships to provide needed stability. Some organisms survive the trip in the ballast and go on to flourish in their new environments – often at the detriment of that environment. For example, the growth of the zebra mussel, introduced into the Great Lakes from southeast Russia, has led to multibillion dollar control and cleaning projects of underwater structures and pipelines.

Friday, March 6, 2009

UNFPA Lobby Day

Did you know that every minute another woman will die from complications associated with childbirth? Without access to health care and education about pregnancy and contraception, women living in developing nations have a greater risk of dying from giving birth. In Africa, where women are 184 times more likely to die from a pregnancy related complication than women living in the US, 1 woman out of 26 will die each year due to preventable complications. Every year, UNFPA which provides women with prenatal health care and health education, relies on the financial support of the US and other nations.

To help educate legislators about UNFPA, I attended Lobby Day on Friday March 6th in Washington, DC. By educating legislators about the need for congressional funding for UNFPA programs, $50 million dollars was allocated to UNFPA for 2009. As a result of this valuable funding, the UN will be able to implement women-empowering programs that focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, humanitarian relief following a crisis, family planning, and better access to maternal healthcare.

To find out more about UNFPA, click here

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh! The Aches and Pains!

Couldn’t we all use a massage now and then to get out all the knots and kinks from a long night of studying or a difficult day in the office?

With funding from a UNHCR program aimed at teaching local and refugee women the skills they need to work as community rehabilitation workers, 29 women are learning how to treat disease, injury and deformity through exercise and physical methods at the Physiotherapy Educational Institute in Peshwar, Pakistan. Of these women, 22 are refugees from Afghanistan, who hope to apply their new skills in Afghanistan if they return.

The course is part of UNHCR’s Refugee Affected Hosting Areas (RAHA) program. There are 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. After the devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan in 2005, which affected both Pakistanis and Afghans, the program was necessary because few people had the skills to help the thousands of people in need of rehabilitation.

For more information, check out this article.