The Human Impact

Menstruation taboo puts 300 mln women in India at risk – experts

More than 300 million women and girls in India do not have access to safe menstrual hygiene products, endangering their health, curtailing their education and putting their livelihoods at risk, say experts at the Geneva-based Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

At least 23 percent of girls in India leave school when they start menstruating and the rest miss an average of five days during each monthly menstrual period between the ages of 12 and 18, according to WSSCC, a partnership run by government, non-governmental organisation (NGO) members and a United  Nations-hosted secretariat.

“From a taboo standpoint they are ostracised – it’s an awkward situation to be in if you are having your monthly period and you simply do not want to be seen by others because they may perceive you as either dirty or unhygienic in some way,” said Chris Williams, executive director of WSSCC.

“It touches on human rights and equity. It touches on issues of preventative health and positive health outcomes,” he told AlertNet.

Many women and girls in India are forced to use such materials as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers every month because they lack access to essential sanitary products, according to WSSCC, which works to achieve sustainable water supply, sanitation and hygiene worldwide.

Think local on post-2015 U.N. global water-security goals – study

Policymakers debating water security must consider how the world’s most vulnerable people cope with variable access to water or the next global development goals will fail to lift rural areas out of poverty, say the authors of a new study.

Ignoring the humanitarian aspects of water security sidesteps important socio-political, economic and environmental factors related to rainfall levels, according to the report from international charity WaterAid and the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Often the term “water security” refers to global water availability shortages or reflects concerns about securing water for companies or at a national level, WaterAid’s Daniel Yeo told AlertNet.

New data show fall in female genital mutilation – UN agencies

Changing attitudes have resulted in a decline in female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is most prevalent, according to United Nations data released on Wednesday.

In 29 countries in those two regions, an average of 36 percent of girls aged 15-19 have been subjected to FGM, the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, compared with an estimated 53 percent of women aged 45-49.

In Kenya, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19, the U.N. data, released on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, show.

Q+A – Child-friendly toilets key in fight to improve global sanitation

If toilets meet children’s needs, this will keep them in school longer, reduce the spread of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases and help meet development goals, according to the charity Water For People.

At least 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have proper sanitation facilities. The combined effects of improper sanitation, unsafe water supply and poor hygiene are estimated to cause almost 2,000 child deaths per day, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, reports.

“Allowing youth to become comfortable using toilets and practising good hygiene from a young age, means that as they grow up there are fewer people to educate and convince of the reasons that improved toilets are important,” said Kate Fogelberg, Water For People’s regional manager in South America.

New interactive web atlas pinpoints water risk hotspots

A new online mapping tool for monitoring global water resources will improve water-risk management by showing patterns of water stress, flooding, drought and areas of water access, its creators say.

The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, developed by environmental think-tank World Resources Institute (WRI) and an alliance of businesses and governments, can be customised by users to reflect a range of data with a few clicks of a computer mouse.

It combines 12 water-risk indicators to create maps showing where water problems might exist.

Lack of toilets, clean water costs world $260 bln each year – Liberia president

Poor access to sanitation and clean water costs the global economy $260 billion each year, according to Liberia’s president who is leading work to craft proposals for a new set of global anti-poverty goals.

They are intended to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed in 2000 and expire in 2015.

“$260 billion in economic losses annually is directly linked to inadequate water supply and sanitation around the world,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told a meeting on the post-2015 development agenda in the capital Monrovia this week. “We must take this issue more seriously.”

Toronto S-21 photo exhibition urges vigilance against genocide-curator

Black-and-white photographs of 103 inmates of a secret prison in the Cambodian capital propel viewers into a complex confrontation with genocide.

The haunting pictures on show at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto were originally attached to interrogation documents and portray a few of the estimated 14,000 prisoners detained, tortured and killed at S-21, a prison in Phnom Penh, between 1975 and 1979 under Pol Pot’s communist Khmer Rouge regime.

S-21, now the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, was where people linked with the Khmer Rouge but accused of being enemies of the state were held captive. It was discovered after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1978 and captured Phnom Penh in 1979.

Notes from weather-battered eastern Mindanao

A loud bang woke me. I realised after a few seconds it was the sound of the long bamboo pole that held down the tarpaulins sheltering me banging against the balcony outside my room with ferocious force.

Then came the piercing sound of the wind. It was here in eastern Mindanao – in a small two-storey house recently repaired after Typhoon Bopha blew away its roof – that I truly understood what a “howling” wind was.

As my phone buzzed with text messages warning of a Signal 1 storm (defined by the Philippine agency that forecasts and monitors storms as a tropical cyclone with winds of 30 to 60 km per hour) I watched people in flimsier shelters struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Some tarpaulins that had been weighed down by stones and bamboo or nailed onto roofs were coming off and flapping in the wind.

Feminism alive and kicking in Germany as #aufschrei campaign makes waves

A boss who offers a female employee to work sitting on his lap because there is no desk available for her;  a guest who tells the waitress he wants to eat “pussy” when she asks him what he’d like to order; a man who wonders why a woman works in computing even though “she is pretty”.

Germany has been abuzz with tweets, newspaper headlines, radio programmes and TV debates about everyday sexism since last week when a reporter at Stern magazine published an article alleging that a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition made sexist comments about her breasts.

Headlined “Gentleman’s Humour”, Laura Himmelreich described in her article how Rainer Bruederle, the 67-year-old leader of the Free Democrats, junior partners in the government, allegedly told her during drinks at a party event that she could “really fill a dirndl”, the low cut Bavarian traditional dress,  with her breasts.

IF campaign to end hunger seems a bit iffy

By Maria Caspani

Techno music and revolving images of hungry babies were among the most disheartening, not to say disturbing aspects of the event that kicked off the ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF’ campaign at London’s Somerset House this week.

The catchphrase – ‘There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet 2 million children die from malnutrition every year’ – was repeated so many times during the hour-long event on Wednesday evening that, by the end of it, I felt like the words had lost their meaning.

This might just be me cynically bantering about what I perceived to be the patronising attitude of people in the so-called Western world when they try hard to do good and put an end to the suffering of poor people in the so-called developing world.

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