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Global Hunger Index

These Countries Have the Worst “Hidden Hunger”

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The Global Hunger Index released its annual report of micronutrient deficiency, otherwise known as “hidden hunger.” In all 16 countries have “alarming” levels of this undernourishment. Burundi, which tops the Global Hunger Index for the third year in a row, is followed by Eritrea, East Timor and Comoros. Some 805 million people around the world are still chronically undernourished, according to the report, despite progress in combating hunger – three years ago, the index recorded 26 countries with “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels. South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa face the highest levels of hunger. Countries showing the largest improvement since 1990 include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand and Vietnam.” (Reuters

Trouble for Tanzania…”International donors have suspended nearly $500 million in budget support to Tanzania in response to claims that senior government officials siphoned off funds from the country’s central bank under the guise of energy contracts.” (Guardian

Today’s Quote of the Day is cause for concern:  I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries.” — WHO Director Margaret Chan.  (NYT

And in brighter news…George Mitchell is on Mark’s Global Dispatches Podcast! He’s one of his generation’s greatest peacemakers (as in the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland) and tells Mark his life story.


Many Liberian health care workers on the frontline of the battle against Ebola ignored calls on Monday to strike over poor pay and working conditions, and most hospitals and clinics were operating normally, officials and charity workers said. (Reuters

As Liberia tries to end a months-long Ebola crisis, local and international media rights groups report an intensifying crackdown on journalists in the country. But some of those journalists say this is only a continuation of Liberia’s bad record on press freedom. (VOA

Women and children in South Sudan have been the victims of horrific sexual violence since the country plunged into conflict 10 months ago, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, said after a week-long visit. (VOA

One of Sudan’s main opposition parties will boycott elections set for April because a lack of democracy will not allow a fair vote, a senior party official said on Monday, diminishing the credibility of the ballot. (Reuters

Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo party and its presidential candidate look likely to win elections this week despite voters’ dissatisfaction with graft and inequality in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies that boasts abundant energy reserves. (Reuters

Madagascar’s former president has been arrested, just hours after he returned to the country following more than five years in exile. (VOA

Ugandan health officials said Monday that they are continuing to monitor five people feared to have contracted the Ebola-like Marburg virus, even though all suspected cases so far have tested negative. (AP

Somalia’s government remains riddled with corruption while Shabab Islamists are as deadly as ever, United Nations investigators warned in a damning report seen by AFP Monday. (AFP

Thousands of northerners who experienced human rights abuses during the occupation of Mali’s north are struggling to find redress amidst concerns that a climate of impunity is continuing and the government’s control in many areas of the north is at best shaky. (IRIN


International donors pledged $5.4bn towards the rebuilding of Gaza after the recent 50-day war, but 100,000 Palestinians will still be homeless in the territory as winter arrives. (Guardian

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is chastising Israel for allowing settlements to advance in east Jerusalem and calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for leadership to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. (VOA

Kurdish defenders held off Islamic State militants in Syria’s border town of Kobani, but the fighters struck with deadly bombings in Iraq, killing dozens of Kurds in the north and assassinating a provincial police commander in the west. (GlobalPost

Pledges of $2.7 billion for reconstructing the Gaza Strip may seem impressive, but huge challenges lie ahead as the Palestinian government had asked for more and its prime minister questioned Monday whether all of the money would actually arrive. (AP

United Nations aid convoys cannot reach vast areas of Syrian territory under Islamic State control, a senior U.N. official told Reuters, although the Damascus government is allowing better access to besieged areas elsewhere. (Reuters


Activists and supporters of Pakistani political parties October 12 took to streets of the southern port city of Karachi to protest against shelling on Pakistani border villages by neighbor India. (VOA

Three of the Philippines largest child rights organizations, Save the Children, Plan International, and World Vision, unite to push passage of House Bill 5062 or the “Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act,” which calls for a comprehensive plan to be put in place to protect the rights of children in disasters and emergencies.​

Hong Kong authorities were accused for the second time of hiring thugs after clashes at democracy protest site. (GlobalPost

The death toll from a powerful cyclone which battered India’s eastern coastline rose to 24 on Monday, as the storm weakened and moved inland, leaving a swathe of destruction and triggering fears heavy rains would bring flash floods. (Reuters

The Americas

A Texas health worker has contracted Ebola after treating a Liberian who died of the disease in Dallas last week, raising concern about how U.S. medical guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of the disease were breached. (Reuters

Severe drought has struck California for a third year. The lack of water is affecting farms, cities and small communities. California’s Central Valley is usually fertile. (VOA

Scientists here are warning Caribbean countries, where the fisheries sector is an important source of livelihoods and sustenance, that they should pay close attention to a new international report on ocean acidification. (IPS


The Priest, the Killers, and a Looming Genocide (The New Yorker

Visualizing how Syria’s war undermines health (Humanosphere

A risky business: Aid workers in danger (Devex

Understanding the World Bank’s Estimate of the Economic Damage of Ebola to West Africa (Center For Global Development

The Disturbing Expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex (IPS

Why the IMF’s poor forecasting matters (The Interpreter

“Should I go into international development?” (Lessons I Learned

What does the Ebola crisis mean for long-term progress in Sierra Leone and Liberia? (The Guardian

Leading global banks hop aboard infrastructure train (Humanosphere

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Sen George Mitchell

Episode 36: George Mitchell

Most people know George Mitchell for overseeing successful peace talks in Northern Ireland and his celebrated tenure in the United States Senate. He’s led an incredible life. He grew up in Maine in relative poverty, and emerged as one of his generations greatest politicians and peacemakers. Mitchell discusses his life story, including how a military posting in post-war Berlin led to law school in Washington, DC, and how his mentor Edmund Muskie helped launch his political career. Sen Mitchell and I kick off with a conversation about his work as President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. This was a great episode.

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Malala at the UN

Malala Gave the Greatest Speech EVER in the United Nations 69 Year History

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi are the winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize!

It’s a well deserved recognition for two child rights activists–one of whom is still a child. The fact that the Nobel committee decided to reach across a highly militarized border to show the common humanity of two exemplar citizens was an equally inspired choice.

Malala Yousafzai is one of the single most brave and articulate human beings in the planet. On June 12, 2013–her 16th birthday–she made her first public appearance since being shot one year earlier. The occasion was the launch of a new UN Global Eduction initiative. The speech she delivered was arguably one of the most powerful speeches ever spoken on the grounds of the United Nations in its 69 year history. It’s 19 minutes long. I promise you will get chills–and inspiration.  


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Defence of Mr Kenyatta at the beginnng of the Status Conference. Credit: ICC-CPI

A Huge Moment for the International Criminal Court

For the first time in the history of the world, a sitting head of state is attending his trial for crimes against humanity. The head of state is Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta. The venue is the International Criminal Court.

The stakes are high, but the case against him is troubled. I speak with Mark Kersten of the LSE and SOAS, and author of the blog Justice in Conflict about the case against Kenyatta. We discuss its significance the ICC, and why it’s exceedingly difficult to build a case against a serving head of state.


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UNDP's Logo

And the Most Transparent Aid Donor Is…UNDP

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The UN Development Program is atop a new list published by the International Aid Transparency Index. And in case you were wondering, China is on the bottom. Overall, donor countries are off pace to meet their promise to join the transparency standard by the end of 2015. “A lot of progress was made at the political level in the early days of aid transparency, including a promise to publish aid information to an internationally-agreed common standard by the end of 2015,” said Rachel Rank, Director of Publish What You Fund. (Humanopshere

Man who brought Ebola to USA Dies…Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died on Wednesday morning at a Dallas hospital. This was the first death of an ebola patient in the developed world. “Duncan became ill after arriving in the Texas city from Liberia on Sept. 20 to visit family, heightening concerns the world’s worst Ebola outbreak on record could spread outside of the three worst-hit West African countries. About 48 people with whom Duncan had been in contact are being monitored.” (Reuters

Most of the world’s governments are taking measures to reduce the worst and most hazardous forms of child labor, according to a major report released by the U.S. Labour Department. (IPS


Britain will send 750 troops to West African state Sierra Leone to help build an Ebola treatment centre, the BBC reported on Wednesday following a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron. (BBC

The deadly Ebola epidemic could deal a $32 billion-plus blow to the West African economy over the next year if officials cannot get it under control, the World Bank warned Wednesday. (AFP

Sierra Leone burial teams have gone back to work one day after organizing a strike over pay and abandoning the dead bodies of Ebola victims in the capital. (AP

Travelers arriving in the United States from Ebola-stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will face mandatory screening measures for the deadly virus as soon as this weekend, according to a media report on Wednesday. (CNN

The United Nations mission in Liberia says a second member of its staff has contracted Ebola. In a statement Wednesday, the mission said the international medical official is undergoing treatment, but did not specify their nationality. (VOA


An angry crowd killed a Muslim man in the capital of Central African Republic overnight, decapitating and burning his corpse, and in revenge Muslims killed a taxi driver, witnesses said on Wednesday. (Reuters

A court in Tanzania granted bail to an opposition member of parliament on Wednesday and eight others after charging them with illegal protests for demonstrating last week against a draft constitution. (Reuters

The new head of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Loej, called for “the guns to fall silent” in South Sudan to allow the United Nations and aid agencies to stop focussing on protecting people from violence and start helping the young country to grow. (VOA

Somalia’s first-ever cash withdrawal machine has been installed in the capital, Mogadishu. (VOA


The governments of Europe and the United States have criticized Israel for announcing it will build 2,600 new housing units in a sensitive part of East Jerusalem. (VOA

The U.N. refugee agency on Wednesday said it was urging the European Union to overhaul its policy toward Syrian refugees, warning the number of fatal accidents at sea could rise further as winter approaches. (AP


Pakistan is losing ground in the battle against polio, with the country suffering its worst outbreaks in more than a decade, but suspicions about the vaccine itself are also proving an obstacle. (VOA

Five Afghan men were hanged on Wednesday for the gang rape of four women despite the United Nations and human rights groups criticising the trial and urging new president Ashraf Ghani to stay the executions. (AFP

Authorities sealed off villages in Myanmar’s only Muslim-majority region and in some cases beat and arrested people who refused to register with immigration officials, residents and activists say, in what may be the most aggressive effort yet to force Rohingya to indicate they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. (AP

Indian PM Modi, in his biggest attempt at fiscal change since he swept to power in May, has been less bold than some would wish, steering clear of reforming the most sensitive and costly benefits – food and fertilisers. (Reuters

Rescuers and fishermen found eight survivors and 17 bodies Wednesday after two days of searching for a motorboat lost since its captain reported an engine failure off Indonesia’s main island of Java. (AP

Cambodia enacted a regulation Wednesday to protect nightclub hostesses and other adult entertainment workers under the same laws that protect other workers’ rights, a move that was hailed by the U.N.’s labor body. (AP

Protracted fighting in northern Myanmar is displacing entire villages, including those of ethnic Palaung, who say they need more help to build up local civil society groups to allow aid to flow more effectively to their people. (IRIN

The Americas

Colombia must invest at least $44.4 billion to implement a peace deal with Marxist rebels to end a 50-year conflict, says a senator who backs the current peace talks, adding the amount is much less than the cost of waging war. (Reuters

As sea levels rise, tidal flooding along the U.S. coast is likely to become so common that parts of many communities, including the nation’s capital, could become unusable within three decades, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. (Reuters


Meet the Company That’s Bringing the LED Revolution to the Developing World (UN Dispatch

When it comes to aid, learn from those who know what poverty is really like (Guardian Supermarket for torture devices? (GlobalPost

A big deal in the ICC: 6 questions with GlobalPost’s Tristan McConnell

Rethinking US Foreign Assistance: MCC Tops US Government in Aid Transparency Again (CGD

Alternatives to refugee camps: Can policy become practice? (IRIN

Marine Protection as Stand-Alone Goal for Post-2015 Agenda? (IPS

How do donors imagine more effective humanitarian aid? (OECD

Africa On the Rise – a Myth or Reality? (New Times

Journalists Must Avoid Mass Hysteria Over Ebola (allAfrica

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WakaWaka in action 4

Meet the Company That’s Bringing the LED Revolution to the Developing World

Yesterday three physicists won the Nobel Prize in Physics for creating blue-light LEDs, which makes the LED white lights we find everywhere possible. We experience the LED revolution through computer and smartphone screens, household lighting and greenhouse grow bulbs. But for over a billion people in the world, access to light is something that they cannot rely on. One company, WakaWaka, is working to bring the LED revolution to people who live off grid and on less than $2 a day.

In many ways, WakaWaka came about by accident. Founders Maurits Groen and Camille van Gestel won a competition by the South African government to “green” the 2010 World Cup through carbon tax exchanges and LED lights. However, they soon discovered that many South Africans who lived in the townships of the host cities could not participate because they lived off grid. Instead, most people living in the townships relied on kerosene lamps to light their households after dark, which produce 14 times more black carbon than burning wood.

Looking at this reality, Groen and van Gestel decided to create a product that could efficiently light up off grid households without adding to the black carbon and carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change. Two years later, the first WakaWaka light was created using new solar technology to power high efficiency LED lights. Since then the company has come out with WakaWaka Power, adding phone charging capabilities to the original light unit, and recently announced a crowdfunding campaign for the WakaWaka base that can charge multiple smartphones and provide power for up to a week.

Although the initial motivation behind the LED units was combatting climate change, there are numerous benefits of replacing kerosene lamps besides reducing carbon emissions. Indeed, van Gestel told UN Dispatch that the socio-economic benefits of WakaWaka lights far outstrip the outcomes for climate mediation. From improving school grades to increasing economic productivity, access to light has the ability to change lives for the better. Access to light touches upon six of the eight Millennium Development Goals and will likely contribute to the post-2015 framework as well. Electricity and power is something that most of us take for granted but the world still has a long way to go before we can all count on.

Numerous other products and initiatives have come out over the years that aim to do the same thing. What makes WakaWaka different from most of these projects is the quality of the product and the willingness to innovate to meet the needs of those living in poverty. The high quality and user-friendly characteristics of the units means that WakaWaka has unexpectedly become popular in the West. This allows WakaWaka to use Western sales to subsidize the costs of units sold in the developing world, making it more affordable for the target market. WakaWaka is also preparing for a pilot project in Rwanda that will combine mobile banking to create a pay-as-you-go model to help users spread out payments on their unit and make it more accessible for the poorest citizens.

WakaWaka is just one product but it demonstrates how simple devices have the potential to change the lives of millions. In the fight against both climate change and extreme poverty, there is no “silver bullet”; problems that took generations of choice to arise will take a multitude of approaches to fix. Portable and adaptable solutions like WakaWaka may be a small step but shows how innovation – even with existing technologies – can take us a step in the right direction.

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