Friday, July 31, 2009

Tajikistan Tackles Trafficking (Tricky, isn’t it?)

Well, so is the issue of drug trafficking in this central Asian nation. Tajikistan sits on the crucial frontlines of the drug trafficking flow from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe. Fortunately, the UNDP and the EU have teamed up to develop the Central Asia Drug Action Programme to combat this illicit trade.

The trafficked drugs, such as heroin and opium, create significant health and development problems in central Asia and Europe – infected needles are a major contributing factor to the spread of HIV/AIDS. In addition to these problems, trafficking provides a major source of funding for terrorists and serves as a deterrent to legitimate economic activity and investment in Tajikistan.

Since its launch in 2004, the Central Asia Drug Action Programme has trained 23 members of Tajikistan’s major crime-fighting agencies to use specialized equipment such as endoscopes and test systems, as well as drug-sniffing dogs to root out drugs. And it’s been successful – 58 percent of all drug seizures in central Asia in 2008 were made in Tajikistan!

Want to learn more about Tajikistan’s Traffick-Tackling Program? Click Here!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feeling Ill? Egypt’s got a Plant for That.

When you think of Egypt, you think of arid desert right? But not all of Egypt is barren! St. Katherine’s Protectorate on the Sinai Peninsula is home to 37 species of plants that are endemic to Egypt alone! There are a total of 316 plant species in the area, 102 of which are actively used by the Egyptian people for medicinal purposes.

In a country with a dearth of arable land, how can Egypt make sure this valuable flora is protected? The United Nations Development Program has partnered with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) to achieve just this. In 2003, the Egypt-Conservation and Sustainable Use of Medicinal Plants in Arid and Semi-Arid Ecosystems was launched. The project has so far protected 12 endemic endangered species, created opportunities for generating income through the use of medicinal plants, created an encyclopedia about medicinal plants, and even taken measures to abolish over-grazing of the plants. Through projects like these, UNDP is working hard to ensure the conservation of biodiversity around the globe!

Read more about the project by clicking here.

Also, check UNDP-USA's Voices From the Field Blog to follow Executive Director, Elizabeth Latham and her team on their exciting fact-finding journey to Mozambique.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sew You Think You Can... Start Your Own Business?

Due to a longstanding historical prejudice against women in business and a lack of access to capital, it’s hard for most women in Bangladesh to be entrepreneurs of any kind. However, thanks to a UNDP initiative, women like Kakuli Aktar are taking business initiatives into their own hands, one pair of pants at a time.

After being widowed with a child at age 14 and with only a seventh grade education, Kakuli was an unlikely success story. However, she refused to become another helpless statistic, and learned how to sew through a UN-supported training program. In 2008, she took out a loan from her local Community Development Committee and opened up her own tailoring shop, which now boasts a thriving business.

Not only is she now able to provide for herself and her son, but Kakuli is currently teaching two other girls how to sew through a UN-sponsored apprentice program. These women’s involvement in their communities, with the help of the UNDP, is helping to significantly break down social barriers by lifting women out of their traditional roles, and out of poverty.

Want to learn more? Click Here!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Turning Brain Drain into Brain Gain!

Here in the US, we have some of the best medical professionals in the world. But what would happen if our aspiring doctors thought they could get a better education outside of the United States, and ended up settling down and practicing abroad? Unfortunately, this is what’s happening in Lebanon – some of the best and brightest in the fields of medicine, law, economics and the environment are leaving Lebanon, taking with them their expertise, innovation and ambition.

Fortunately, the UNDP is turning this brain drain into a brain gain by bringing accomplished Lebanese individuals back to Lebanon so that they can use their expertise to help their fellow countrymen. Through the TOKTEN project (Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals), the UNDP is facilitating the return of these talented expatriates to work as volunteer consultants on development projects in several Lebanese ministries.

The TOKTEN project has been especially effective in the treatment of cancer in Lebanon. After the Ministry of Public Health expressed a need for the development of cancer treatments, TOKTEN volunteers implemented a “National Chemotherapy Protocols” project, through which they are helping to improve, regulate and monitor oncology protocols for ailing patients.

Now, not only are the people of Lebanon healthier, but the presence of gifted doctors, lawyers and other expatriate professionals is helping improve and develop Lebanon itself!

Want to learn more about TOKTEN? Click Here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Forget the Old School, It’s All About the “e-School”

The internet is full of great information – it’s how you found this page, after all. But many children in the world cannot take advantage of the academic and social resources available to many in the Western world due to lack of internet access. UNDP in Albania is attempting to connect primary and secondary school students across the country with computer labs and internet access.

In addition to providing expanded resources, the hope of the program is to provide students and teachers with basic information technology skills – an expertise that will help them connect to a modern and changing global job market. Over 1,600 IT-trained teachers are now running classrooms in almost 1,200 schools, benefiting thousands of students every year.

Have a Facebook or Myspace account? Maybe now you can make an e-friend in Albania!

Monday, July 20, 2009

From Street Gangsters to Kings of Kitchen Science

16-year-old Nuria enjoys cooking low-fat porridges, curd pancakes, and various salads. Her friend Ravshan likes to prepare meat dishes. Both Ravshan and Nuria who were brought up in a Kyrgyz orphanage could have ended up in the street, but instead, with the help of UNDP, they are going to become professional cooks and find their own place under the sun.

In Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet Union country in Central Asia, children proved to be one of the most vulnerable to the blows of transition. Due to economic hardships, they drop out of schools, go to the streets to work and help their parents, or join gangs. Once children find themselves in the street, they suffer from poor nutrition, insufficient winter clothing, and accidents as they take over the tasks of adults.

One of the initiatives that UNDP-Kyrgyzstan proposed in order to address this problem is providing vocational education for such children. Analysis of the Kyrgyz labor market showed that the most demanded professions are those of cooks, builders, and carpenters. UNDP-Kyrgyzstan helped children from vulnerable families, orphanages, and shelters – just like Nuria and Ravshan – to get enrolled in culinary classes where they studied European and traditional Kyrgyz cuisine. Right after the completion of the courses, the cooks-to-be started receiving numerous job offers from the prospective employers.

Hopefully, as the program expands, more street children in Kyrgyzstan will be able to learn a good trade that will provide them with bread and help manage their lives.

Learn more about UNDP’s project “Vocational Education to Street Children in the Kyrgyz Republic” here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

They're on a Boat

Break out your swim trunks and your flippy floppies - fisherman in the poor, rural Arbaat region in Eastern Sudan are now sailing on a boat. The Recovery and Rehabilitation Program, managed by UNDP Sudan, recently donated three fishing boats to help the fishermen help themselves.

Although fishing is traditionally a way of life in the region, lately fishermen have had trouble finding the resources to bring home any fish at all, let alone make any kind of profit. Small, wooden shallow-water boats are few and far between and those which do exist have insufficient refrigeration on board, leading to spoiled fish and hungry mouths.

Now, 35 fishermen in the region operate in teams to share three motorized, fiberglass boats provided by the program. Not only can they catch a variety of previously inaccessible deepwater fish, three coolers onboard the ships guarantee that the fish can be taken back to the shore unspoiled. Truly a community program, the fishermen share all profits between them when the fish are sold at local markets.

Teach a man to fish and he’ll have food for life. Give a man a boat and he can feed the whole community!

Want to learn more? Click Here!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Excelling in Electoral Education

How important is the media in public elections? They are a lot more influential than you might think! As the main source of public information about candidates and the voting process in many countries, the media has a responsibility to understand local electoral practices and convey mass messages objectively. The UNDP, with its focus on democratic governance and capacity development, works to improve the practices of the media in the electoral processes of countries around the world, including in the nation of Turkmenistan.
In 2008, in response to a request made by the government of Turkmenistan, UNDP in partnership with the National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights launched a project entitled “Cooperation on Enhancing Electoral System and Processes in Turkmenistan.” As part of this project, UNDP and the NIDHR held a one-day workshop on June 30th for members of the Turkmen mass media from TV channels to regional print media to learn about electoral best practices and enhance the professionalism of electoral media coverage. By providing national media with the skills they need to do their job fairly, UNDP is empowering the Turkmen population to get out the vote!
Learn more about UNDP’s efforts to enhance the Turkmen electoral system here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Syrious about Environmental Protection

Ever wanted to frolic with an Arabian Oryx? How about swim with a Mediterranean Monk Seal? Thanks to the work of the Syrian government in conjunction with the UNDP’s Global Biodiversity Programme, you might still get that chance. After facing the negative impact of more than fifty years of climate change, Syria has had enough – no more environmental damage! The Oryx and Monk Seal along with about twenty other rare and endangered species are now being protected through the project for Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Area Management, a seven year initiative implemented through the work of Syrian ministries and the UNDP.

Efforts to protect the environment don’t stop with the Syrian government. Children are being taught to make toys out of recycled garbage! Volunteers are working with UN agencies to clean up streets! Environmental art competitions are getting youth involved in the fight against pollution! By empowering the local people to take an active interest in the protection of the land which they call home, the UNDP is building sustainable conservation efforts in Syria.

To learn more about conservation efforts and progress in Syria click here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UNite for Women's Rights!

Gender inequity and violence against women have been major problems for centuries. In the United States, women’s rights became an issue to be addressed in the late 19th century when the outspoken Susan B. Anthony launched the women’s suffrage movement. Even then, Anthony’s efforts only came to fruition fourteen years after her death with the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Fortunately, in most Western societies today, women are considered equal to their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, gender-based violence and the mistreatment of women remains a harsh reality in many countries around the world. A report released today by the United Nations shows that violence against Afghan women, for example, is widespread and often goes unpunished. To make matters worse, the Afghan government does nothing to address the impunity with which these crimes occur; within the state structure, no legislation protecting women’s rights exist, thus allowing rape and other acts of discrimination to continue.

Women actively involved in sectors of public life are most frequently attacked. Political leaders within Afghanistan must do more to address this issue and ensure that women and girls do not have to live in a state of perpetual fear. It is time that someone like Susan B. Anthony stands up against these abhorrent acts and condemns gender inequity wherever it takes place.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Is São Paulo the New Venice?

There’s a new way to commute to work in São Paulo—by water. Far from a Venetian gondola, Latin America’s first hydrogen-powered bus carries 63 passengers while releasing only water vapor into the air, rather than carbon dioxide.

Four years or research and partnership of the United Nations Development Programme, the Brazilian Mines and Energy Ministry, and the city of o Paulo’s Urban Transportation Company have made such a feat possible. While on a two-month trial basis, the city will monitor the bus with hopes that it can expand the program in coming years.

As the world seeks an alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen is proving to be a promising alternative. Carlos Zündt, planning manager of the Sao Paulo Urban Transportation Company and coordinator of the hydro bus project, asserts, "By 2080, 90 percent of the world’s vehicles will be run by hydrogen." To find out more about the hydrogen bus project click here or hydrogen-fueled technology click here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nasty Nematodes Beware!

Can you imagine never seeing the sun rise? How about never seeing the smile on your child’s face? Thanks to a new drug called Moxidectin, some 100 million people across the African continent will be saved from such a dire reality. These individuals currently suffer from river blindness, a debilitating disease caused by the worm Onchocerca volvulus. Transmitted by the bite of the Black Fly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers, these nasty parasites spread rapidly and can survive for up to fifteen years in the human body.

At present, the drug ivormectin is used to control river blindness endemic in African countries. Unfortunately, the drug only kills the worm larvae, which means that annual treatments are required for anywhere from 11-14 years to prevent further reproduction and transmission. On Wednesday, however, the UN health agency announced the launch of a clinical trial of Moxidectin in Ghana, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is believed this drug will kill not only the worm larvae, but also the adult worms, halting the disease cycle within six annual rounds of treatment.

Some 1,500 individuals are currently enrolled in the clinical trial, which will last approximately 2.5 years.