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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:41 pm 
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Vietnamese woman says she had 18 abortions in bid to conceive son
29 May 2015

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Vietnamese woman says she had 18 abortions in bid to conceive son - © Frank Leonhardt, dpa

Hanoi (dpa) - The story of a Vietnamese woman who says she had 18 abortions in her unsuccessful quest for a son provoked sympathy among internet users Friday on sex-selection practices that officials say have reached an alarming level.

In a TV appearance this week with her face concealed, she described how after giving birth to four daughters, her husband's disappointment and her depression led her to repeatedly terminate pregnancies when the foetus was female. "I was very frustrated and wanted to commit suicide, to leave everything behind," the woman said. "My husband still goes out to find someone who can give birth a son for him."

Social media erupted with shock after the woman's story was aired. "How sad for this woman that she did not dare to oppose such a dated thought," one reader wrote on the Kenh14.vn news site.

Gender-based abortion, a long-recognized phenomenon in India and China, has soared in recent years in Vietnam. A recent survey showed that in some of Vietnam's rural provinces, the imbalance had reached 150 boys for every 100 girls. This contributed to national imbalance of 120 boys born for every 100 girls - up from a 111/100 ratio in 2011.

At the turn of the century, the gender birth ratio was close to the accepted international average of 104 boys to 100 girls. Easier access to clinics that can determine foetal sex early on and terminate pregnancies have contributed the growing imbalance. Authorities have tried to address the imbalance by forbidding clinicians from revealing whether it will be a boy or a girl. This rarely works in practice, as doctors use the euphemism "bird" for boy and "butterfly" for girl.

Source: dpa.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:16 pm 
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Nasa data shows the world is running out of water
by Todd C. Frankel
Wednesday, 17 June 2015

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California's drought has caused the state to pass its first extensive groundwater regulations. Getty Images

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.

Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.

Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.

Satellite system flags stressed aquifers

More than half of Earth's 37 largest aquifers are being depleted, according to gravitational data from the GRACE satellite system. “The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.

Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end.

The aquifers under the most stress are in poor, densely populated regions, such as northwest India, Pakistan and North Africa, where alternatives are limited and water shortages could quickly lead to instability.

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The researchers used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater aquifers. The satellites detected subtle changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, noting where the heavier weight of water exerted a greater pull on the orbiting spacecraft. Slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013. “This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the studies.

But the NASA satellites could not measure the total capacity of the aquifers. The size of these tucked-away water supplies remains something of a mystery. Still, the satellite data indicated that some aquifers may be much smaller than previously believed, and most estimates of aquifer reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the research.

Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snow melt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed. “The water table is dropping all over the world,” Famiglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”

The health of the world’s aquifers varied widely, mostly dependent on how they were used. In Australia, for example, the Canning Basin in the country’s western end had the third-highest rate of depletion in the world. But the Great Artesian Basin to the east was among the healthiest.

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Before and after pictures show the extent of California's drought (Getty)

The difference, the studies found, is likely attributable to heavy gold and iron ore mining and oil and gas exploration near the Canning Basin. Those are water-intensive activities.

The world’s most stressed aquifer — defined as suffering rapid depletion with little or no sign of recharging — was the Arabian Aquifer, a water source used by more than 60 million people. That was followed by the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan, then the Murzuk-Djado Basin in Libya and Niger.

California's Central Valley Aquifer was the most troubled in the United States. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields, where drought has led to an explosion in the number of water wells being drilled. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations. But the new law could take two decades to take full effect.

Source: Independent UK.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 5:39 am 
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Environment: over 40% of Cyprus at risk of desertification
17 June 2015

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(ANSAmed) - NICOSIA - Over 40% of Cyprus' territory is at risk from desertification, and 7% has already been irreversibly affected by the phenomenon, House President Yiannakis Omirou said on Wednesday quoting recent studies on the matter.

As Cyprus Mail online reports, Omirou was speaking in an address to the House environment committee as part of an event and exhibition on climate change and desertification. He cited studies that say 42% of the island was at risk. "The most worrying is that more than 7% of Cypriot territory has been irreversibly affected by the desertification process," he said, pointing to photographic evidence. "Under the models estimated for the mid-21st century, the areas at risk will increase to 71.4% and at the end of the century a frightening 84.7%."

He said desertification currently affects one-third of the Earth's surface threatening the survival and development of around one billion people. This year, he said the International Day against Desertification and Drought was focusing on "Achieving food security for all through sustainable food production systems." The rationale is based on an ecological model of land use, which would fight encroaching desertification and contribute to the effort to eradicate the hunger plaguing mostly dry and sub-humid areas.

Cyprus ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought in 1999, and in 2008 produced the relevant national plan of action Omirou said.

Source: ANSAmed.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 5:42 am 
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:yeahright:

Of course not a word about one of the main causes of desertification - HUMAN LOCUSTS.

Chop everything down, kill everything, move on. And now they've got an official name too: Climate Refugees!!

:yeahright:
:x

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:33 pm 
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Earth enters sixth extinction phase with many species – including our own – labelled 'the walking dead'
by Rose Troup Buchanan
Saturday, 20 June 2015

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Could humans be facing extinction? Getty

The planet is entering a new period of extinction with top scientists warning that species all over the world are “essentially the walking dead” – including our own.

The report, authored by scientists at Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley universities, found that vertebrates were vanishing at a rate 114 times faster than normal. In the damning report, published in the Science Advances journal, researchers note that the last similar event was 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs disappeared, most probably as a result of an asteroid. "We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event," one of the authors of the paper told the BBC. Gerardo Ceballos, lead author of the research, added: "If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on".

The research examined historic rates of extinction for vertebrates, finding that since 1900 more than 400 vertebrates have disappeared – an extinction rate 100 times higher than in other – non-extinction – periods.

"There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” said Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich. He added: "We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on." The research, which cites climate change, pollution and deforestation as causes for the rapid change, notes that a knock-on effect of the loss of entire ecosystems could be dire.

Critically endangered species

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Yangtze Finless Porpoise - There are as few as 1,000 of this highly intelligent dolphin from the Chinese river of Yangtze.

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Cross River Gorilla - There are around 200-300 left in the wild.

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The Amur Leopard - There are only around 30 left, exclusively in the Russian Far East.

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Black Rhino - Improving numbers, but with fewer than 5,000 left in central Africa, it is critically endangered.

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Hawskbill Sea Turtle - Mostly threatened by wildlife trade; their shells highly valued.

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Javan Rhino - The most threatened rhino species - there are as few as 35 in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

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Leatherback Turtle - Having lost many of its habitable beaches, and impacted by fishing operations, this seaturtle is considered by WWF to be 'critically endangered'.

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South China Tiger - It is believed to be 'functionally extinct', with none of the species left in the wild.

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Sumatran Elephant - There are between 2,400 - 2,800 of this elephant native to Borneo and Sumatra.

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Sumatran Orangutan - There are an est. 7,300 but the gradual deforestation of their Sumatran habitat may threaten further.

As our ecosystems unravel, the Centre for Biological Diversity has noted that we could face a “snowball” effect whereby individual species extinction ultimately fuels more losses.

The report, which builds on findings published by Duke University last year, does note that averting this loss is “still possible through intensified conservation effects,” but that “window of opportunity is rapid closing.”

Source: Independent UK.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:35 pm 
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UN: Expect 11.2 billion population by the end of the century
By CARA ANNA
29 June 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Move over: The world's population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, a new United Nations report says. And there should be 11.2 billion people on Earth by the end of this century.

Meanwhile, India's population is set to pass China's in size around 2022, according to the report released Wednesday. The population estimates play a huge role as the international community tries to figure out how to slow the danger of global warming, while pursuing the ambitious goals of eliminating both poverty and hunger. The current world population is 7.3 billion. China and India each have more than one billion people.

Nine countries are expected to make up half of the world's population growth between now and 2050: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the U.S., Indonesia and Ghana. The report says that by 2050 or so, Nigeria will pass the U.S. to have the world's third-largest population, behind India and China. Africa has the world's highest rate of population growth.

Global aging is also noted. The report says the number of people age 60 and above should more than double by 2050. The report says Europe will lead the way, with more than 34 percent of people there expected to be over 60 years old by 2050. The U.N. report updates previous population estimates with new data from national censuses in 2010 as well as recent health and demographic surveys.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2015 3:06 pm 
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China to let couples have two children as it ends one-child policy
By Joanna Chiu and Andreas Landwehr
29 October 2015

Beijing (dpa) - China is to abolish its one-child policy and allow all couples to have two children, the official Xinhua news agency reported Thursday from a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Beijing.

The proposal must be approved by the country's top legislature, which is meeting next in March, before it is enacted. The change in policy is intended to "balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population," Xinhua cited a communique from the four-day meeting as saying.

Chinese citizens reacted with an outpouring of support on social media. "Change it quick!" a female commenter said on the microblogging platform Weibo. "All my friends are waiting [to have more children]." Others called the policy an "evil law" and said the government should have abolished it long before rising living and education costs made it expensive to raise children. "Rich and powerful people can have dozens of children, but those with no money and no power will have problems having even just one child," one microblogger wrote.

On average, Chinese women have slightly fewer than 1.6 children, but a birth rate of 2.1 is needed for a stable population. The one-child policy was introduced in the 1970s to prevent a population explosion. Without the policy China would have about 300 million more people than now, according to estimates.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences earlier suggested a two-child solution to the problem of ageing population and a falling birth rate, media reports said. "This is a step in the right direction," said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch. "However it should not be mistaken with the full embrace of reproductive freedom. The state continues to get involved - in our view arbitrarily and unnecessary - in a person's reproductive rights," Richardson told dpa.

Chinese women remain at risk of intrusive forms of contraception and coerced or forced abortions, Amnesty International said. The government's invasive and punitive controls "amount to torture," said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty.

The US also welcomed the move as a "positive step," but the White House said it continues to have concerns about Beijing's human rights violations, including restrictions on reproductive freedoms. "We also look forward to the day when birth limts are abandoned altogether," spokesman Josh Earnest said. "The United States in our work around the world continues to oppose coercive birth limitation policies, including things liked forced abortion and sterilization." Despite a relaxing of the one-child policy earlier this year, Amnesty said it has continued to receive reports of coerced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Source: dpa

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:32 pm 
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Thousands to be sterilised in global 'vasectomy-athon'
By Sonny Tumbelaka
13 November 2015

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Some 750 doctors in 25 countries are to perform the procedure on over 3,000 volunteers to mark World Vasectomy Day (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)

Gianyar, Indonesia (AFP) - Thousands of men around the world are to be sterilised Friday in what organisers dubbed a global "vasectomy-athon", to encourage men to take a bigger role in family planning and combat resistance to the procedure.

Some 750 doctors in 25 countries are to perform the procedure on more than 3,000 volunteers to mark World Vasectomy Day, with many operations being provided for free or at discounted rates. "In helping to shoulder responsibility for family planning, men become heroes to their partners, to their families and to our future," said event co-founder Jonathan Stack.

The event is being held as a report from campaigners and donors warned efforts to get modern contraceptives to women in some of the world's poorest countries are not on track, with millions fewer reached than had been hoped. At a ceremony in a temple on the Indonesian island of Bali, the headquarters for World Vasectomy Day this year, the first six men to undergo the procedure were presented to an audience before being taken outside to mobile health clinics to be sterilised.

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A man shows his registration for a vasectomy operation in Gianyar on the island of Bali on November 13, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)

The men lay on an operating table in the clinics -- buses fitted out with medical equipment -- while doctors performed the short procedure, which involves cutting the tubes which transport sperm from the testicles, under a local anaesthetic. Vasectomies were also being carried out to mark the day in countries including India, the United States and Spain.

Around four in 10 pregnancies worldwide are unplanned and event organisers said that family planning is still too often left to women, who are the ones who must deal with the consequences of unintended pregnancies. In many countries, less than one percent of men get vasectomies, despite the fact the procedure is safe and in the majority of cases has no effect on sex life, the organisers said.

In Muslim-majority Indonesia, efforts to persuade men to get vasectomies have been hampered after the country's top Islamic clerical body several years ago declared the procedure "haram", or against Islamic law. Other attempts to encourage vasectomies have backfired. A district on Sumatra announced in 2012 it would hand out cash to civil servants who underwent the procedure -- only for the move to spark anger from women who feared their sterilised husbands would have affairs.

Elsewhere around the world the procedure is burdened by controversies, and in many countries campaigners have to overcome the misguided belief that it impairs a man's virility. Iran recently eliminated free vasectomies, as it seeks to improve its birth rate, and there has even been resistance from experts in sub-Saharan Africa, who have expressed concern that widespread use of vasectomy would lead to lower usage of condoms and so higher HIV rates.

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A medical staffer explains a vasectomy operation to a Balinese man in Gianyar on Bali island on November 13, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)

Prominent vasectomy doctor Doug Stein, who has performed the procedure on more than 30,000 men and founded World Vasectomy Day with Stack, told the Bali audience that the operation was positive for men, their families and societies. "It seems to be a wonderful option for men who have had as many children as they want," he said.

Friday's event was the third World Vasectomy Day, with the first held in 2013 and headquartered in Australia. Organisers chose to base this year's event in Bali to coincide with an international family planning conference that had been due to take place on the island, but which was postponed after volcanic ash closed Bali airport for days. A report that had been intended for release at the Bali event on Friday showed that over 24 million more women and girls in poor countries now have access to contraceptives since a 2012 commitment by donors and campaigners to make them more available. But this is 10 million fewer women than had been hoped, according to the progress report.

Source: Yahoo! AFP

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 11:08 pm 
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UN warns of rapid Palestinian population growth
By FARES AKRAM
20 December 2016

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- A new U.N. study projecting rapid growth in the Palestinian population should serve as a "wake up call" to Israel and the international community, a senior U.N. official said Tuesday.

The report said that without international attention, growth in the Palestinian population, particularly Gaza, will lead to an even greater crisis in unemployment, overwhelm a strained infrastructure and increase the lure of militant groups. "We are on a downward spiral, especially in Gaza, and things are getting worse by the day," said Anders Thomsen, director of the U.N. Population Fund's office in the Palestinian territories. "If that continues, you can of course only imagine that this will be an environment ripe for radicalization and for the conflicts, so I think that should be avoided."

The population in the Palestinian territories will double to 9.5 million by 2050, according to the U.N. study. By 2030, the Palestinian territories would need 1 million new jobs just to keep unemployment at the rate it is now, the study found. Unemployment is currently 43 percent in Gaza and 18 percent in West Bank.

It will be difficult to create new jobs to meet the growth in population, and unemployment numbers will likely soar, possibly becoming among the world's highest. "The report is a wake-up call for both Palestinian planners, for the international community but also for Israel," said Thomsen. Currently, about three million Palestinians live in the West Bank, and nearly two million live in the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have stalled over creating a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are internally divided, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party in a longstanding dispute with Hamas, classified as a terrorist group by Israel, United States and much of Europe. Hamas overtook Gaza in 2007 after routing troops loyal to Abbas in bloody street battles. Palestinians have since been divided between Gaza under Hamas and Abbas governing parts of the West Bank.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas took over Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from getting weapons while critics say it amounts to collective punishment. The blockade and Palestinian infighting have contributed to difficult living conditions in Gaza.

In the 140-square-mile enclave, 60 percent of youth are out of jobs, and there is a severe electricity outage, unpotable water, a faltering economy and a poor health system. The projected population boom would likely exacerbate the electricity shortage in Gaza, where today households receive 4-6 hours of electricity a day, as well as complicate efforts to resolve Gaza's water crisis.

An increase in early marriages and low contraceptive usage contribute to the high fertility rate in the Palestinian territories. Only 55 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank, and 48 percent in Gaza, use contraceptives, according to the study. It is not uncommon for Palestinian families in Gaza to have five or six children. The study said there should be more efforts in the Palestinian territories to promote contraception use and to encourage waiting longer between pregnancies.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:57 pm 
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China's birthrate rises after one-child policy loosened
23 January 2017

BEIJING (AP) -- The number of births in China has risen nearly 8 percent in the year after the government loosened its unpopular one-child policy.

China's National Health and Family Planning Commission said this week that 17.86 million children were born last year, an increase of 1.31 million from 2015. Nearly half of the children born were to couples who already had a child, the commission said.

China enacted its one-child policy in 1979 to control population growth, enforced with fines and in some cases state-mandated abortions. But it now faces a rapidly aging workforce and the prospect of not having enough younger workers to support them. It has gradually allowed more exemptions to the policy, such as allowing rural couples to have a second child if their first was a girl, before moving to let all married couples to have two children beginning in 2016.

The commission acknowledged that families remain reluctant to have a second child for financial reasons, with spiraling real estate costs and the intense demand for places in China's best schools driving many parents to high-priced private institutions. An increase in births also places pressure on China's already strained health system for pregnant women. The commission said it would aim to train and hire 140,000 maternity health workers "in the coming years," according to state media reports.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:10 pm 
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Census shows Pakistan's population rises to 207.7 million
25 August 2017

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan's government says results from a recently conducted national census show the country's population has risen to 207.7 million.

Friday's government statement says Pakistan's population was just over 132 million in 1998 when the last census was done. The results of the national census, which was conducted by officials by going door-to-door from March to May, were announced by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's office. Abbasi has praised the army and government officials for successfully conducting the census.

Pakistan allocates seats in its 342-member lower house of parliament according to the population in the country's four provinces, tribal areas and elsewhere. The census results could also help the government formulate future plans in the health, education and other sectors.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:15 pm 
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The invisible millions: Third of the world's children lack birth record
By Rodney Muhumuza, Nirmala George and David Crary
16 September 2017

MASAKA, Uganda (AP) — Would a 15-year-old girl be married off by her parents in violation of the law? Would another girl, who looks even younger, get justice after an alleged statutory rape at the hands of an older man?

In their impoverished communities in Uganda, the answers hinged on the fact that one girl had a birth certificate and the other didn’t. Police foiled the planned marriage after locating paperwork that proved the first girl was not 18 as her parents claimed. The other girl could not prove she was under the age of consent; her aunt, who’s also her guardian, has struggled to press charges against the builder who seduced and impregnated her. “The police were asking me many questions about proof of the girl’s birth date. How old she is? Where she goes to school,” said the aunt, Percy Namirembe, sitting in her tin-roofed shantytown home in Masaka near the shores of Lake Victoria in south-central Uganda. “I don’t have evidence showing the victim is not yet 18.” As Namirembe spoke, in a room decorated with a collage of Christ and the Madonna, her niece sat beside her, her belly swollen and a vacant stare on her face.

In the developed world, birth certificates are often a bureaucratic certainty. However, across vast swaths of Africa and South Asia, tens of millions of children never get them, with potentially dire consequences in regard to education, health care, job prospects and legal rights. Young people without IDs are vulnerable to being coerced into early marriage, military service or the labor market before the legal age. In adulthood, they may struggle to assert their right to vote, inherit property or obtain a passport. “They could end up invisible,” said Joanne Dunn, a child protection specialist with UNICEF.

With the encouragement of UNICEF and various non-governmental organizations, many of the worst-affected countries have been striving to improve their birth registration rates. In Uganda, volunteers go house to house in targeted villages, looking for unregistered children. Many babies are born at home, with grandmothers acting as midwives, so they miss out on the registration procedures that are being modernized at hospitals and health centers.

By UNICEF’s latest count, in 2013, the births of about 230 million children under age 5 — 35 percent of the world’s total — had never been recorded. Later this year, UNICEF plans to release a new report showing that the figure has dropped to below 30 percent due to progress in countries ranging from Vietnam and Nepal to Uganda, Mali and Ivory Coast.

India is the biggest success story. It accounted for 71 million of the unregistered children in UNICEF’s 2013 report — more than half of all the Indian children in that age range. Thanks to concerted nationwide efforts, UNICEF says the number of unregistered children has dropped to 23 million — about 20 percent of all children under age 5.

Uganda is a potential success story as well, though very much a work in progress. UNICEF child protection officer Augustine Wassago estimates that the country’s registration rate for children under 5 is now about 60 percent, up from 30 percent in 2011.

While obtaining a birth certificate is routine for most parents in the West, it may not be a priority for African parents who worry about keeping a newborn alive and fed. Many parents wait several years, often until their children are ready for school exams, to tackle the paperwork.

Maria Nanyonga, who raises pigs and goats in Masaka, says lack of birth registration caused her to miss out on tuition subsidies for some of the seven nieces and nephews she is raising. “I tried my best to get the children’s certificates, but I didn’t even know where to start,” she said. “I didn’t know when they were born, and the officials needed that.” Even now, two years after losing out on the financial aid, Nanyonga is uncertain about the children’s ages. “I can only guess,” she said. “I think the oldest is 10 and the youngest is 5.”

Henry Segawa, a census worker in the Rakai administrative district, is among those who’ve been trained to do the registration outreach. Their efforts have been buttressed by public awareness campaigns; radio talk show hosts and priests have been encouraged to spread the word. “When you go to a home, you explain the benefits of birth registration, and people have been responding well,” Segawa said.

On one of his forays, Segawa was on hand in a remote village as a midwife delivered a baby at a decaying health center with a leaky roof, no running water and outhouse walls smeared with excrement. Upon hearing the newborn’s piercing bawls, Segawa strode toward the birth register to record the newborn’s details. The baby, Ben Ssekalunga, was the ninth child in his family, said his grandmother, Mauda Byarugaba. “I want this baby to be her last one,” she said of her daughter. “Nine children are too many.”

Birth registration plays a pivotal role in Uganda’s efforts to enforce laws setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage. Child marriage remains widespread, due largely to parents hoping to get a dowry from their daughters’ suitors. In the rare cases where the police are alerted, investigators face an uphill task pressing charges if they cannot prove, with a birth certificate or other official document, that the girl is a minor.

But in the recent case in Rakai, police detective Deborah Atwebembeire was able to prevail in a surprise raid on a wedding party because the bride-to-be’s birth certificate proved she was 15. “When we reached there, I heard one man say, ‘Ah, but the police have come. Let me hope the girl is not young,’” Atwebembeire recalled. The girls’ parents claimed she was born in March 1999, which would have made her old enough to consent. Yet only months before, the girl’s parents had told birth registration officials she was born in October 2001. The wedding was called off, and the parents spent a night in jail. “We achieved our objective, which was to stop the wedding,” Atwebembeire said.

The girl, Asimart Nakabanda, had dropped out of school before the planned marriage. “The man is out of my mind now. I don’t want him anymore,” she said. “I want to go back to school and study.”

The birth registration campaign in Uganda dates back only about five years and there’s still uncertainty as to whether the government will invest sufficient funds to expand and sustain it.

In India, by contrast, the major progress in birth registration results from a decades-long initiative. Public health workers, midwives, teachers and village councilors in remote areas have all been empowered to report births. In areas with internet connectivity, online registration has helped boost overall coverage.

Chhitaranjan Khaitan, an official with the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, said 15 of the country’s 29 states had reported a 100 percent birth registration rate, and seven more states surpassed 90 percent. Many states have successfully linked registration to a nationwide effort to provide every Indian citizen with an identification number.

An added motivation is India’s effort to stem its skewed gender ratio, due largely to families’ preference for sons. By requiring health workers and village officials to register all births, authorities hope fewer newborn girls will be killed by their families.

Pradeep Verma, a 28-year-old car mechanic in the village of Gram Mohdi in the central state of Chhattisgarh, was thrilled to obtain his daughter’s birth certificate earlier this year. “It was the first thing I did after my daughter was born,” Verma said. “My parents did not register my birth. It was not considered important or necessary in those days.”

Verma has had repeated problems with proving his identity, particularly in getting a government ration card that entitled him to cheap rice and sugar. “I know how difficult it has been to get an official identity document or enroll in government welfare programs, since I have no proof of birth,” said Verma, who dropped out of school in 10th grade. “My daughter will not have to face such hassles.”

Verma’s state of Chhattisgarh was recording just 55 percent of births in 2011. Amitabha Panda, the state’s top statistician, said reasons included lack of registration centers, outdated data collection methods and wariness of extending outreach to areas where Maoist rebels held sway.

In 2013, with help from UNICEF, the state government launched a campaign using street theater, graffiti and notices distributed at markets to get the word out. Today, the state says it registers virtually every birth.

The West African nation of Mali is another success story. It’s now reporting a birth registration rate of 87 percent — one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa — despite a long-running conflict involving Islamic extremists. Michelle Trombley, a UNICEF child protection officer in Mali, admires the parents and local officials who persisted with registration efforts even when their communities in the north were occupied by rebels. “They were so dedicated to having children registered, they would smuggle in the official registration books,” she said. “People were literally putting their lives at risk.”

For all of the progress, huge challenges remain for UNICEF and its partners to attain their goal of near-universal registration by 2030. In Somalia, wracked by famine and civil war, the most recent registration rate documented by UNICEF, based on data from 2006, was 3 percent — the lowest of any nation.

In Myanmar, the overall registration rate has surpassed 70 percent, but is much lower in the western state of Rakhine, base of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority. Human rights agencies say many thousands of Rohingya children there have no birth certificates because of discriminatory policies.

More broadly, there’s the massive problem of children without birth certificates or other identification who make up a significant portion of the millions of displaced people around the world, fleeing war, famine, persecution and poverty.

In Lebanon, tens of thousands of Syrian children have been born to refugee parents in recent years without being registered by any government. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has pushed Lebanese authorities to ease barriers to registration, such as requirements to present certain identity documents.

Major efforts to register refugee children also are under way in Thailand and Ethiopia.

Monika Sandvik-Nylund, a senior child protection adviser with UNHCR, said birth registration can be crucial to enabling refugee children to return to their home countries or to reunite after being separated from their parents. There are no comprehensive statistics on the extent of such separations, but Claudia Cappa, author of the upcoming UNICEF report, says they can be heartbreaking for a parent. “How can you claim your child if you don’t have proof he or she really existed?” she said. “Imagine how devastating this might be to a mother.”

Source: AP

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