Archive for September 2011


September 30, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The sordid, abominable bombing of a UN office in Nigeria by demonic jihadists claimed the lives of truly ennobled souls who were doing their sterling missions in Africa. A very shocking news indeed, as the jihadists have shown their total numbness and lack of compunction in killing their perceived enemies.

Only those possessed of the Demonic Mind will support terror groups and their abominable attacks on helpless people anywhere in our planet. The jihadists’ latest cruelty in Nigeria has all the more driven the global citizens to declare the ‘handwriting on the wall’ of religious fanaticism and intolerance.

Below is a list of names of the said bombing victims as released by the United Nations.

[Philippines, 28 September 2011]
UN releases names of Abuja bomb attack casualties
13 September 2011
Abuja, Nigeria – The United Nations in Nigeria today announced the complete list of names of 11 UN staff members among the 23 people who lost their lives in the 26 August bomb attack on the UN House in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Those killed in the attack were: Ms. Rahmat Abdullahi, UNDevelopment Programme (UNDP); Mr. Musa Ali, World Health Organization (WHO);Mr. Johnson Awotunde, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Dr. Edward Dede, WHO; Mr.Elisha Enaburekhan, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); Mr.Ahmed Abiodun Adewale Kareem, UNICEF; Ms. Ingrid Midtgaard, UN Office on Drugsand Crime; Mr. Iliya David Musa, UNDP; Mrs. Felicia Nkwuokwu, UNDP; Mr. StephenObamoh, UNDP; Mr. Abraham A. Osunsaya, WHO.
“These men and women devoted their lives to improving the living conditions of ordinary Nigerians across the country,” said Mr. Daouda Touré, UN Resident Coordinator. “We will never forget them. Nor will we forge tthe passion and courage with which they proudly served the mission and ideals of the United Nations.”
An additional 116 people were injured in the Abuja explosion, including 64 UN staff members, 36 non-UN staff and 16 who currently remain unidentified.
Since 26 August, the UN has focused attention on securingmedical care, counselling and other essential needs for staff members and theirrelatives. The Nigerian government has been ensuring medical coverage forinjured non-UN staff.
UN work in the country continues with a business-continuity plan and ongoing delivery of the organization’s 2011 programme focused on improving the lives of the poor, addressing hunger, disease and illiteracy, and promoting respect for civil rights and freedoms.
Contact Information
For more information, please contact:
• Charles Nosa Osazuwa, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Information Center (UNIC):; +234.803.402.2085
• Kelechi Onyemaobi, Communication Specialist, UNDP, +234.705.296.5692, ;
• Seyi Soremekun, Communication and Information Officer, UNESCO: ; +234.803.303.0002


September 30, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Where has the world gone to after the concurrence of the Kyoto Protocol? We can still recall how, after all the wrangling and quizzing for a ‘final solution’ to the global warming problem, when the USA as the expected leading nation to support the protocol behaved instead on the contrary!

The Northern powers who did so much of the backdoor squeeze to bamboozle developing countries into supporting the protocol, ended up being cold to their respective countries’ commitment to the Protocol’s jack-rabbit start. Look at all the stubborn resort to fossil fuel including nukes that have demonstrated their destructive powers when unleashed upon nature without control.

As of this writing, financial institutions across the globe have expressed grave concern over the post-Kyoto wrangling and lackadaisical commitments of the North to the full protocol execution. So much of forest reserves were already destroyed across the globe by the greed of market players, so the big challenged posed unto the market stakeholders and states is the stronger implementation of forestry-based carbon markets. Will the challenge ‘bite the dust’?

Below is a report from the UNDP about the latest developments on the subject.

[Philippines, 27 September 2011]
Financiers call for forestry-based carbon markets & warn of huge cost of failure
13 September 2011
Geneva – A coalition of the world’s foremost financial institutions brought together by the United Nations warns in a report released Tuesday against the huge financial and environmental losses that could stem from a post-Kyoto climate change deal that fails to spur private sector investment into deforestation and forest degradation reduction efforts.
With the new report, REDDy-Set-Grow Part II: Recommendations for international climate change negotiators, over 200 leading actors of the financial sector united under a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) call on country negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to follow through with their previous commitment, incorporated into the 2010 Cancun Agreements, to an international policy architecture for deforestation and forest degradation reduction in developing countries (a scheme known as REDD+).
The new study asserts that any post-Kyoto climate convention negotiated in Durban and beyond must include text that clarifies the fundamental role of private engagement and investment in funding REDD+, as well as effective measures to tackle the fundamental drivers of deforestation by shifting behavior in the private sector towards sustainable land-use. A positive outcome in Durban would also send an encouraging signal to Rio+20 in June next year with one of its two key themes being the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
The report highlights the huge costs for the world economy and the global environment of policy-makers coming short of fulfilling these criteria.
An ineffective climate change regime on forests would entail losses in the global economy of $1 trillion per year by 2100, and affect a good portion of the estimated 1 billion people who rely on forests for their livelihood, according to previous research (Eliasch Review, 2008).
In contrast, a healthy forestry-based carbon market could achieve to mobilise investment for the protection and rehabilitation of natural forests in the order of $10+ billion by 2020 (The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity – TEEB, 2010).
“The fundamental reason for current levels of deforestation worldwide is that cleared forests translate into economic opportunity for farmers, local communities and governments while standing forests do not. There is a price for soybeans, palm oil, beef and other products grown on deforested lands, but not for the many critically important services provided by healthy forests, including the sequestration and storing of carbon,” said BNP Paribas’ Director – Environmental Markets & Forestry, Christian del Valle.
“With the possibility of a global funding mechanism for REDD+ we now have, at the global level, the unprecedented opportunity to address this imbalance. I hope we do not miss it so that natural forests are given the value they deserve,” he added.
Sufficient funding of REDD+ mechanisms, if achieved, could be a key boost to efforts to hold the global temperature rise below 2 Degrees Celsius – a target previously agreed by governments – by scaling up current efforts to protect carbon-absorbing forests.
The price tag associated with halving global deforestation and forest degradation at the required scale and speed to meet internationally agreed targets is steep, however, having previously been estimated to amount to a mammoth $17-$40 billion per year (Eliasch Review, 2008; UNEP Green Economy Report, 2010).
With total government pledges for REDD+ adding up to $7 billion, REDDy-Set-Grow Part II stresses that plugging this gaping funding hole will require the close involvement of private finance, which has so far been on the margins of the funding debate.
“The banks, insurers and investors that are members of the UNEP Finance Initiative are optimistic that governments, when meeting in Durban this December, will realise the importance of mobilising private capital to help reduce deforestation and forest degradation,” said Abyd Karmali, Managing Director and Global Head of Carbon Markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a member institution of UNEP FI.
“Without the systematic involvement of the private sector, ranging from institutional investors to local forest cooperatives, the REDD+ mechanism agreed to in Cancun risks being rendered ineffectual.”
REDDy-Set-Grow Part II further articulates the features which the private financial sector would like policy-makers to include in a new climate change treaty to summon sufficient funds.
Among the specific policy recommendations formulated in the report are the details of a policy scenario, coined as the “nested approach,” deemed most likely to close the REDD+ investment gap.
Under a nested approach, a future REDD+ funding mechanism would be:
• Inclusive: Private entities (such as forest concessionaries or forest cooperatives) as well as governments (at both the national and sub-national level; such as central governments or municipalities) would be eligible to develop and implement forest conservation, rehabilitation or reforestation activities and to receive payments based on performance for these initiatives, with the desired effects of both spurring the multiplication of REDD+ projects and reducing possible red tape and risks commonly associated with weak governments.
• Decentralised and reliable: Payments for REDD+ projects would come from the generation of REDD+ carbon credits and their trade on international carbon markets rather than from currently cash-strapped donor country budgets. In other words: the burden of reducing, halting and ultimately reversing deforestation would not be borne by tax payers in developed countries, but by carbon polluters (or emitters). In addition to increasing the reliability and potential volumes of performance-based payments, such a market-based system would provide a strong real-price signal.
• Leakage-proof: Risks that successful deforestation reduction efforts in a given region be used to justify increased deforestation in another one – a phenomenon commonly known as “leakage” – will be mitigated by the enforcement of a national baseline. The baseline will aggregate project-level performance indicators into a country-wide performance indicator.
The report also calls for reforms to forest-based projects under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the financial sector would like to see improved – namely with the creation of permanent carbon credits – in a post-Kyoto regulatory environment.
“Our position is simple: our involvement is direly needed, and we wish to get involved. But we cannot do so unless it makes basic commercial sense to us,” said Armin Sandhövel, CEO of Allianz Climate Solutions, another member institution of UNEP FI.
“With this report, we wish to state with one voice, as an industry, that policy-makers must urgently put in place viable avenues and formats for upscaled private sector investment and involvement in REDD+ by, firstly, redoubling efforts to agree on a climate change deal that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, and secondly, making policy decisions that will make investments in the protection, rehabilitation and creation of natural forests more competitive against conventional, unsustainable options. This report says how that can be done,” he added.
Part I of REDDy-Set-Grow, released earlier this year, cast a spotlight on the abundance of untapped opportunities in current and emerging forest-carbon markets.
Further Quotes
Paul Clements-Hunt, head of UNEP Finance Initiative: “The climate-change mitigation debate has not kept apace with the finance community’s rapidly growing understanding of its critical role in enabling and driving the shift to the green and low-carbon economy, with the result that the views of one of the world’s most economically influential sectors are currently largely unaccounted for in international climate change negotiations.”
“Private banks and investment funds can contribute to the global struggle to mitigate climate change. Our detailed recommendations on financing forest-based mitigation hopefully bode the beginning of a new dialogue between the finance community and governments,” he said.
Contact Information
Nick Nuttall
Acting Director Division of Communications and Public Information/UNEP Spokesperson
+254 733 632755
Sebastien Malo
UNEP FI Communications
+41 22 917 8465 / Mobile: +41 78 686 7022
Stanislav Saling
Communications Specialist
+ 1 212 906 5296
Related Links
• UN – REDD Programme
UNDP Environment and Energy
Related News
• 14 Sep: New guide to help developing countries speed up access to climate finance
• 13 Sep: Financiers call for forestry-based carbon markets & warn of huge cost of failure
• 22 Aug: Equator Prize opens call for sustainable development award nominations


September 30, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We have been experiencing worldwide the upswings in disaster-conflict interface. In certain areas of the Horn of Africa, for instance, where hunger now stokes millions of refugees, the relief operations are severely hampered by jihadist groups that have undercut the supply lines between aid groups and hungry refugees.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts are of the opinion that governance is the key to an appreciable management of the disaster-conflict interface. “Governance is a Key Enabler,” goes the thesis of the UNDP, which this development stakeholder agrees with.

Below is the news report coming from the UNDP about the subject.

[Philippines, 27 September 2011]
Disaster-Conflict Interface: One Abets the Other, but ‘Governance is a Key Enabler’
12 September 2011

GENEVA—Disasters and conflicts frequently occur together, often devastating countries that are least able to sustain them, but good governance can speed recovery and lessen the likelihood of recurrence, according to a new UNDP study.
“In most instances, the disaster-conflict interface increased the risk of future crises and hampered crisis recovery efforts,” says Maxx Dilley, Officer in Charge of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Risk Reduction and RecoveryTeam and author of the study “Disaster-Conflict Interface.”
The report examines interactions between conflict and disasters associated with natural hazards. It presents an unprecedented survey of cases in which conflict and disaster coincide—each a complex phenomenon in its own right, as in the worsening Horn of Africa crisis.
In all case studies, conflict was found to have an adverse impact on disasters where both are present,” Dilley says. Taken together, these cases “highlight the importance of governance as a key enabler of both disaster reduction and conflict prevention.”
The study argues for developing an integrated pool of staff with expertise in conflict and disaster risk-management, but also including governance, environment, and poverty practitioners, he says.
The unfolding famine in the Horn of Africa—now facing its worst drought in 60 years—is a case in point. Long-running conflict has increased vulnerability to drought and severely hampered humanitarian access to the worst-affected areas, triggering a flood of famine refugees.
U.N. officials this week said Somalia’s famine has spread to a sixth region and warned at least 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the next four months in the absence of scaled-up aid. Tens of thousands have already died, mostly children.
“This makes the humanitarian response more complex, imposes additional stress on host communities which are themselves affected by the drought, and heightens the risk of conflict over resources,” Dilley says.“Increased inter-communal violence has been reported throughout the drought-affected rural areas due to the scarce availability of water and pastures.”
A comprehensive response must include scaled-up support for more responsive, accountable, and resilient governances, he said.
Following is an interview with Maxx Dilley, Officer in Charge of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery Team and author of the study “Disaster-Conflict Interface.”
What prompted this report?
“The Disaster-Conflict Interface study was undertaken as a joint effort to improve the evidence base for pursuing crisis prevention and recovery comprehensively when both disasters and conflicts, or related risks, are present. The study was intended to inform the broader practice of crisis prevention and recovery—in an environment in which disaster losses continue to rise: In 2010, 373 natural events, such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, and droughts, affected some 208 million people, causing 300,000 deaths, and producing economic losses estimated at US$110 billion.
“More than 80 countries are meanwhile identified as facing violent tensions, and 22 of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are in the midst of or emerging from violent conflict. As you can see right now in the Horn of Africa, many of these countries are highly exposed, and vulnerable, to natural hazards as well.
“In cases such as the Horn of Africa, where a major hazard event has occurred in a context of conflict and heightened conflict tensions, BCPR is working with UNDP Country Offices to ensure that their recovery and long-term risk reduction programmes address both conflict and disasters holistically.This includes, for example, addressing hazard-related risks through livelihood programmes that also promote conflict recovery, and addressing conflict risk factors through programmes that provide immediate drought recovery assistance.”
What do you want policy advisers to take away from this study?
“The case studies highlight the importance of governance as a key enabler of both disaster reduction and conflict prevention. Conflict-ridden countries have difficulty attaining the necessary level of social cohesion needed to address the root causes of disasters. Conflict inhibits development broadly, including increasing disaster risks and losses due to increased vulnerability to natural hazards. Conversely, reduction of disaster losses contributes to sustainable development and therefore—at least indirectly—to reduced conflict risk.
“The case studies suggest that potential exists for addressing the disaster-conflict interface more systematically. For example, the research for this study identified a significant variation in the capacities, approaches, and prioritization of these issues across the nine UNDP Country Offices. In most cases, staff were in the initial stages of learning about these issues and related programming approaches. Awareness-raising, advocacy, and capacity development must all be scaled up.”
What did you aim to achieve with this study? Has this nexus been studied at UNDP in the past?
“This bureau, BCPR, launched the study to explore the interface between conflicts and disasters through an empirical approach based on actual country cases—it’s the very first study on this topic undertaken in UNDP. BCPR is working in many developing countries that experience both disasters and conflict at the same time.
“Contexts in which conflicts and disasters overlap are daily realities for people who are affected, as well as for many humanitarian and development practitioners. Effective programmes to manage crisis interventions need to reflect conflict-disaster complexities and respond to them in a holistic and integrative manner. Experience has also shown that development interventions that fail to recognize the link between disasters and conflict in at-risk countries can worsen tensions and increase risk. While intuitively it makes sense to assume that the geographical overlap of both disaster and conflict worsens the impact of crises, evidence for this is limited. Analyses of concrete case study observations are also limited, and those that do exist come from different unconnected disciplines. In an effort to share the experience in operating in conflict-disaster interface settings, BCPR undertook this analysis in 2007.
“The study aims to achieve a comparative analysis of tendencies and experiences that stem from the relationship between disasters and conflict. It also analyses the relative success of existing relevant programming approaches adopted in-country. This will help identify practical approaches and disseminate good practice, helping to better equip UNDP Country Office staff who operate in complex environments in which disaster and conflict overlap.”
You focused on examples from nine countries. Which disaster-conflict interactions struck you most vividly? What did they have incommon?
“The study is based on experiences from nine selected case-study countries: Bolivia, Haiti, Indonesia (Aceh), Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Each case study analyses the dynamics of the interface, as well as strategies and interventions across agencies, and particularly focuses on UNDP approaches and good practices.
“A disaster-conflict interface happens when disasters (risks, events, and recovery) have a relationship with conflicts (risks, events, and recovery) and/or vice versa, beyond simple geographic/demographic co-location. Each interface is a complex phenomenon in its own right. But commonalities recur. In all case studies, conflict had a harmful impact on disasters. In most instances, the disaster-conflict interface increased the risk of future crises and hampered crisis recovery efforts. This was particularly obvious at the local level, with widespread examples of problematic interactions between disasters and conflict.
In most case studies examined, the interface of disasters and conflicts was overwhelmingly harmful, worsening the risk of future crises and hampering crisis recovery efforts. In all case studies, conflict was found to have an adverse impact on disasters.”
Related Links
• UNDP’s work in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Risk Management
• Somalia: The Epicentre of a Crisis
• Drought in Kenya: Current Crisis Calls for Long-term Solutions
Related documents
• Disaster-Conflict Interface
More publications



September 29, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A graciously good news has been coming out lately from the enclaves of international organizations as their respective institutions have been stretching out their tentacles and logistics in aid of the famine victims in the Horn of Africa.

In my past notes, I already shared the information about the interventions done by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the hungry 11 Millions of affected Africans. As of late, the World Bank and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have entered the scene in aid of the miserable millions.

As of this writing, the World Bank and UNHCR jointly reported that their synergy will benefit approximately 550,000 famine victims. That represents 5% of the total of 11 Millions of pauperized hungry refugees, though it is already appreciable a move as other organizations, inclusive of international NGOs, are also on the move to aid others.

Below is a summary of the aid coming from the World Bank news rooms.

[Philippines, 26 September 2011]


World Bank, UNHCR Join Efforts in an Emergency Response to Malnutrition and Disease in Horn of Africa Refugee Camps

Press Release No:2012/074/AFR

Some 550,000 people, mostly women and children, expected to benefit

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – Over half a million people, mostly women and children, will be able to access nutrition, health and sanitation services in refugee settlements along the Somali border in Kenya and Ethiopia as a result of a US$30 million grant which the World Bank announced today.

The grant is drawn from the $250 million earmarked for the Horn of Africa drought through the Crisis Response Window (CRW) recently established as part of the International Development Association (IDA)—the World Bank Group’s fund for the world’s 80 poorest countries—to respond in a timely manner to emerging crises in low-income countries.

The $30 million grant will be administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under the Horn of Africa Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, which is one of several initiatives undertaken by the World Bank to respond to one of the worst droughts in the Horn of Africa sub-region in more than half a century.

The drought has caused deaths, widespread hunger, massive displacement, and loss of means to survive in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, where the United Nations has declared a famine. Nearly 13.3 million people across the sub-region are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

Specifically, the grant will help reinforce ongoing UNHCR relief efforts with an emphasis on the most vulnerable, notably women and children. Targeted activities include measures to combat malnutrition (such as nutritious food and micronutrient supplements); basic health services, including pediatric and maternal care; and immunization. In addition, grant resources will be used to expand access to safe water and sanitation services, and to prevent and treat common illnesses such as diarrhea, measles, and malaria.

“When communicable diseases are addressed in densely populated environments such as refugee settlements, it is not only refugees who benefit, but also their host communities,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The funds granted today will allow us to expand coverage of essential health, nutrition, and sanitation services in the largest refugee camps in the Horn of Africa.”

Over the 18-month span of the project, it will help address the immediate needs of refugees in targeted camps, including those in the Dadaab complex in Kenya and the Dollo Ado area of Ethiopia, where there are nearly 600,000 Somali refugees.

Data collected at the camps shows alarming rates of severe acute malnutrition, especially among children under five years of age. Water shortages are also frequent. New refugees arriving at these sites are weak and prone to illness, and children are particularly at risk of dying of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases.

“The scale and severity of the Horn of Africa drought compels development agencies, governments, and NGOs to work in close collaboration in ways that maximize the comparative advantage of all partners,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region. “This approach ensures that we do not lose sight of the links between short-term crisis mitigation and the long term development outlook.”

The deadly nature of the drought has prompted the World Bank’s Board to allow unprecedented measures. This is the first grant through the Crisis Response Window issued directly to a UN agency. It is also the first time that the implementing entity’s procedures – not World Bank procedures – will be used through the life of this project, thus enabling an exceptional application of the 2008 Fiduciary Principles Accord signed between the Bank and the United Nations to this IDA operation.

World Bank: Kavita Watsa, (+1) 202 473 8302,
UNHCR: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, (+41) 79 249 3483,

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September 29, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The Arab Spring has revealed the chasm that divides the youth and older generations in the Middle East & North Africa or MENA. The development gains across the MENA has been very uneven to say the least, with state weaknesses singled out as the greatest bottlenecks to prosperity.

Beyond the surface however lies even greater realities about weak institutions in the MENA. Such weaknesses could have generated the disappointments and frustrations of the pan-Arab youth, frustrations that have erupted to social turmoil that called for the overthrow of established regimes.

It is even further revealing to note the weak financial institutions across the MENA, which could baffles us somehow. MENA was among those that introduced zero-interest financing in antiquity, a framework and ‘best practice’ that drove wealth generation to successes of immense proportions.

Below is a special report from the World Bank’s news rooms concerning the rather baffling financial weaknesses in the MENA. The clear challenge to Arabs of the day is: reform your financial institutions!

[Philippines, 26 September 2011]


Building Financial Institutions as Solutions to Frustration and Exclusion

Press Release No:2012/072/MENA

An agenda for the Middle East and North Africa

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – Financial systems across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) proved resilient during the global financial crisis and subsequent political shocks but have failed to provide access to finance, contributing to the region’s relatively weak growth performance and inability to generate jobs. This in turn has contributed to the deep-seated frustrations of the region’s large youth populations, say the findings of a new World Bank report.

“We began work on this report with our partners in the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the Union of Arab Banks, well before the Arab Spring,” says Roberto R. Rocha, Senior Adviser and principal author of Financial Access and Stability: A Road Map for the Middle East and North Africa. “Many of our findings now have even sharper relevance in the light of the protests that have reflected popular discontent with systems where opportunities are few, competition limited and access to finance constrained.”

The report describes MENA’s financial sectors as dominated by large, well-capitalized banks, but largely undiversified and uncompetitive. Essential non-banking financial institutions such as insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, leasing, and factoring, are not well developed with few exceptions. Equity markets are large in many countries, but mainly dominated by financial institutions and infrastructure companies. Private fixed-income instruments and markets remain negligible.

And notably, the region’s banking systems have failed to provide broad, sound and equitable access to finance. They have very high loan concentration ratios, reflecting the focus of banks on providing loans to large and well-connected enterprises and industrial groups while only 20 percent of MENA’s small and medium enterprises have a bank loan or a line of credit, one of the lowest shares among emerging regions. This has constrained their capacity to grow and generate jobs.

The number of deposits and loan accounts per adult are also low by international standards and microfinance penetration remains disappointing. The lack of access to finance is also reflected in the low share of mortgage loans in loan portfolios.

“We see large numbers of university graduates who don’t have access to opportunities and jobs; we see young couples who can‘t get married because the housing finance market is almost non-existent,” says Loic Chiquier, Director of Finance at the World Bank. “All this just increases the sense of economic exclusion and political discontent.”

The lack of access to finance is due to weaknesses in financial infrastructure, insufficient competition in the banking sector, and gaps in the legal framework preventing the development of alternative sources of finance. The report recognizes that the structure of MENA’s banking systems is evolving in the right direction, but that levels of competition are still weak. The reduction in the share of state banks bodes well for the future, says Rocha but banking systems remain less competitive than those in other regions, due to a massive presence of the state in some countries, stricter entry requirements, weak credit information systems preventing a level playing field between small and large banks, weak regulation of large exposures and connected lending, and lack of competition from capital markets and non-banking institutions.

“We’ve had a fantastic working relationship with our partners in building the statistical and analytical basis for these findings and conclusions and I think there is wide acceptance that while the financial sector is now part of the problem, it needs to be – and can be – part of the solution,” says Rocha.

This would mean implementing a comprehensive and integrated agenda for improving access and preserving stability, he adds. The report examines how this agenda needs to include three sets of mutually reinforcing reforms to be successful: the strengthening of financial infrastructure, improvements in bank competition, and the development of non-banking institutions and financial instruments. Critical though is complementing these reforms with a financial stability agenda ensuring that financial systems remain resilient as access is expanded and new risks emerge. Experience from elsewhere, notably central Europe, had shown the dangers of quickly improving access to finance without shoring up stability.

In Washington: Tina Taheri, (202) 725-0719,;
Esther Lee Rosen, (248) 935-0510,

For a link to the report, please click here.

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September 25, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A special report came out of the news rooms of the World Bank very recently that carries the alarming news of diseases threatening development. Necessarily, poor and middle income countries are most hardly hit, or those classified as ‘developing countries’ and ‘emerging markets’.

Obesity, diabetes and heart attacks emblazoned the title of the news report, with other ailments also on the list. The ailments situation complicates matters in the Horn of Africa where drought and famine led to hunger problems of 11 millions of poor Africans.

Below is the very alarming news coming from the World Bank.

[Philippines, 25 September 2011]


Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Attacks, and Other Chronic Diseases Threaten Health and Economies in Poor and Middle-Income Countries – World Bank Report

Press Release No:2012/071/HDN

Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, way above high-income countries

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – The World Bank warned today that heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increasingly threaten the health and economic security of many lower- and middle-income countries, and that most countries lack the money and health services to be able to ‘treat their way out’ of the NCD crisis. On the eve of a special United Nations summit on NCDs in New York, the Bank said the rise of chronic diseases, especially among young working adults in these countries, was a danger that warranted immediate global attention.

According to the new report−The Growing Danger of Non-Communicable Diseases: Acting Now to Reverse Course−Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, in excess of those in high-income countries where NCDs have long been the leading cause of death and illness.

Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, way above high-income countries

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – The World Bank warned today that heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increasingly threaten the health and economic security of many lower- and middle-income countries, and that most countries lack the money and health services to be able to ‘treat their way out’ of the NCD crisis. On the eve of a special United Nations summit on NCDs in New York, the Bank said the rise of chronic diseases, especially among young working adults in these countries, was a danger that warranted immediate global attention.

According to the new report−The Growing Danger of Non-Communicable Diseases: Acting Now to Reverse Course−Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, in excess of those in high-income countries where NCDs have long been the leading cause of death and illness.

For example, in South Asia, where cardiovascular disease is already a major cause of death and disability, people have their first heart attacks at an average age of 53 compared with 59 in the rest of the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, NCDs are growing among women and adolescents, driven by factors unrelated to age, such as growing rates of obesity and smoking. And ominously, one in four people in Ukraine between the ages of 18 and 65 has a chronic disease with growing numbers of young people being affected, prompting the conclusion that the country could ‘lose the next generation to chronic disease.’

If current trends persist, the new report says that Sub-Saharan Africa will be the region hardest-hit by the NCDs crisis. If left unchecked, chronic diseases will account for 46 percent of all deaths by 2030, up from 28 percent in 2008. South Asia could see the share of deaths from NCDs increase from 51 to 72 percent during the same period. More than 30 percent of these deaths will be premature and preventable. At the same time, these countries will continue to grapple with the widespread prevalence of communicable diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and mother and child conditions, thus facing a “double burden” of disease not experienced by wealthier nations.

“What makes the development impact of chronic diseases so daunting for lower and middle income countries is that they don’t have the money and the health systems to treat their way out of this crisis, and they’re facing it at far earlier stages of economic progress than their better-off OECD neighbors had to,” says Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, the Bank’s Vice President for Human Development.

Prevention is vital to stop and reverse NCDs

The Bank reports says that much of the rise in chronic diseases in developing countries can be traced to individual risk factors such as physical inactivity, malnutrition in the first thousand days of life, unhealthy diet (including excessive salt, fat, and sugar intake), tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and exposure to environmental pollution.

Country evidence suggests that more than half of the NCD burden could be avoided through effective health promotion and disease prevention programs that tackle such risk factors. Particularly effective at very low costs are measures to curb tobacco, such as taxes, as indicated in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and to reduce salt in processed and semi-processed foods.

In India this has meant, among other things, subsidizing and promoting kitchen stoves that use clean fuels and do not cause respiratory disease. In Bogotá, Colombia, the city government has built cycle paths across the city and has started a community exercise program that takes place every Sunday and now draws the active participation of more than a million pedestrians and cyclists each week.

The report notes that a compelling OECD example comes from New York City, where the mayor brought the health sector and hospitality industries together to reduce smoking and ban the use of trans-fats. The proportion of restaurants using trans-fats fell from 50 percent to less than 2 percent in two years, while the percentage of adult New Yorker smokers fell from 21.5 percent to 15.8 percent during the same period.

“The good news is that with prevention first, the reduction of risk factors such as smoking through the use of tobacco taxes, and the right political and community leadership in place, countries can stem the rise of chronic diseases and cushion their financial and social effects,” says Dr. Cristian Baeza, the Bank’s Director of Health, Nutrition, and Population, whose team produced the new report.

Baeza says it will be vital to prepare health systems in developing countries to deliver cost-effective and fiscally sustainable health NCDs care for poor people, and that comprehensive prevention programs can target a number of risk factors at the same time. For example, a prevention program in Finland’s North Karelia province, which targeted diet, exercise, and smoking, showed that between 1972 and 2006, the province’s yearly deaths from chronic heart disease fell by some 85 percent. An anti-smoking effort in Uruguay, championed by the country’s president, banned smoking in public places and workplaces and reduced air nicotine concentrations in the capital city by 91 percent over five years.

Anti-NCD measures can work quickly

On the eve of the special UN summit on NCDs in New York, the new Bank report says that the best examples of anti-NCD measures show that these can improve health faster than commonly thought—within a few years of eliminating people’s exposure to risk factors. As the report notes in conclusion, “Leaders at the national and local level have the power to save many lives, avoid widespread suffering, and forestall major human and economic cost, all within a short space of time. Now is the time to act.”

In fiscal year 2011, the Bank mobilized $2.96 billion in financing for health, nutrition, and population. The portfolio is at a historic high of $ 10.8 billion, more than half of which goes to the world’s poorest countries.

Washington Press Contacts:

Phil Hay Work (202) 473-1796; Cell (202) 409-2909;

Melanie Mayhew Work (202) 458-7891; Cell (202) 406-0504;

To read the new report, and see more of the World Bank’s work in non-communicable diseases, and its wider engagement in health, nutrition, and population, please visit:

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September 25, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Development initiatives aimed at inducing health for the people while at the same time building a strong economy is a tough job to do. More so if the key strategy for attaining such goals is better environmental management.

Such challenges already faced the development experts and stakeholders in my own country the Philippines when I began my own profession as a development specialist in the early 80s. Environmentalism wasn’t even an in thing in my country, though the cudgels for eco-advocacy was taken by my first employer the Ministry of Human Settlements. The agency operated on a framework of ‘basic needs’ among which were health, livelihood and ecological balance.

Among continents to search for exemplars of successful integration of the key result areas—livelihood, health and environmental management—is South America. Here the humble nation of Colombia shows the positive results of such development initiatives, thus erasing the largely negative image the nation sustained due to drug cartel operations in the past.

Below is a special report from the World Bank about the Colombia experiences.

[Philippines, 25 September 2011]


Colombia: Healthier People, A Stronger Economy Through Better Environmental Management

With the support of the World Bank, Colombia introduced a number of reforms that reduced air pollution levels in large cities and introduced new instruments for improved environmental management, potentially benefitting both the health of its people and also its economy. The Government increased public participation in environmental decision-making, and prepared critical policies and laws related to sustainable development, air quality, water quality, solid waste management, and environmental licensing.

• Programmatic Development Policy Loan for Sustainable Development – P081397 (2005-2006)
• Second Programmatic Development Policy Loan for Sustainable Development – P095877 (2007-2008)
• Third Programmatic Development Policy Loan for Sustainable Development – P101301 (2008-2009)

In 2006 it was estimated that the costs of environmental degradation – such as urban air pollution, and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene – amounted to 3.7 percent of Colombia’s gross domestic product, compromising Colombia’s potential for sustainable economic growth. Outdoor air pollution, especially fine particulate matter such as sulfur in transport fuels, was recorded as an important cause of respiratory illness, especially among women and children, contributing to approximately 6,000 deaths in Colombia per year. Costs associated with intestinal morbidity from contaminated water and inadequate hygiene was high, particularly in children. The 2006 Country Environmental Analysis found that priority-setting and institutional coordination to address environmental issues was weak; there was no direct correlation between national priorities, and investments by local environmental authorities.

The Sustainable Development Policy Loan (DPL) series from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) was designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Colombia’s National Environmental System, and to integrate principles of sustainable development into key sectors, with a particular emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable groups. Prior preparation and additional IBRD support helped the Program to both set and achieve these objectives. The policy reforms undertaken by the Government of Colombia were based on a solid analytical foundation that included a Country Environmental Analysis from 2006, which highlighted priority areas for reform in that sector. The analytical work also persuaded the Government to act as the primary force in reforming the sector, and the program was integrated in its National Development Plan for 2006-2010. Additional support, totaling US$7 million, from the IBRD’s Sustainable Development Investment Project has financed targeted actions and investments to support the development and implementation of the DPL program’s policy reforms.

Successive IDA financing of US$16 million, US$45 million, and US$20 provided vital flood control structures in the city of Taiz and its surrounding areas. By the closing of the second phase in June 2008, major parts of Taiz city, including downtown Taiz, were transformed into livable and flash flood-secure neighborhoods and the impact of the projects on the lives and livelihoods of the people in these areas is substantial. The structures built under these successive phases include:
• Colombia approved national policies for environmental health (2008), air quality (2008), and water (2010);
• It also passed a law on fuel quality in 2008 that reduced sulfur content in diesel from 1,000 parts per million to 500 ppm in Colombia’s largest cities;
• It established an air quality monitoring network for in 21 cities;
• The government created a Water Resources Group in the Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development, which is the first centralized group responsible for planning and budgeting activities related to water resources management in Colombia;
• At least 25 municipalities adopted watershed management plans in areas of water scarcity in order to better manage and monitor valuable natural resources;
• Colombia undertook a hygiene and hand-washing campaign to reduce incidence of water-related disease, especially amongst children and the poor;
• It passed an Urban Environmental Policy in 2008 that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of local environmental authorities;
• The government created a system for the regular management reporting of local environmental authorities, with reports made available to the public;
• It also established a monitoring and evaluation system for environmental policies, providing input into environmental management decisions.
Bank Contribution
IBRD provided US$300,000 for the 2006 Country Environmental Analysis that was critical in establishing an analytical framework for the Sustainable Development DPL program, which consisted of a series of three operations between 2005 and 2010. IBRD support for the program totaled US$800 million. In addition, the Sustainable Development Investment Loan for US$7 million, which became effective in 2006, has financed key activities to support implementation of the program. The World Bank is currently working toward the provision of an additional US$10 million to further support this operation.

Close coordination with other donors was an integral part of preparation of the DPL program. The program is designed to complement the Inter-American Development Bank’s Urban Social Housing and National Environmental System projects, which support strengthening of environmental institutions. The Bank also collaborated with officials from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Colombia, who have prepared an environmental program that supports institutional strengthening within Colombia’s National Environmental System and the country’s wider conservation efforts. The World Bank team worked closely with the Dutch embassy and other partners to ensure that all donor activities in this sector were complementary.

Moving Forward
The Government has requested several pieces of analytical work that build on the foundations of the DPL Program, and which will examine a range of other key issues, including: incentives to achieve reductions in emissions from mobile sources; biodiversity management; an estimation of environmental and health costs from illegal mining; an analysis of the impacts of urban air pollution; and mechanisms to incorporate environmental management into key sectors. The Government has also requested the expansion of the Sustainable Development Investment Project through an additional financing of US$10 million, currently under preparation, which will continue to provide support to the objectives of the original DPL program.

The Sustainable Development DPL program aimed to benefit not only individual communities, or even cities, but the entire Colombian population. By making improvements across the entire environmental sector, ranging from reduced air and water pollution to improved transparency and governance in environmental management, the DPL was able to benefit people across social and economic strata and has successfully improved the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

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September 24, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!

Herding, the hallmark of pastoral economies, can considerably damage the natural ecology of pastoral lands. Several regions across Asia has already been noted for the pattern of over-grazing, the damages of which can deteriorate into desertification in the long run.

Herding engagements, however, can also be conceived as contributing to sustainable pastoralism. Such being the case, herding can contribute to ecological balance and food security in the short run. It need not be over-stressed that herding done sustainably can empower the pockets of the herders or pastors.

Below is a special report on interventions done to help herders and conserve natural habitats at the same.
[Philippines, 24 September 2011]
Project Profile: Restoring Grasslands and Improving Herders’ Livelihood
August 2, 2011
• China takes third place after Australia and Russia in grassland area. However, the grassland degradation in western China is very serious.
• Xinjiang and Gansu’s population make up 15 percent of China’s total poor. Widespread poverty inhibits livestock development as well as the capacity of the region to seize new economic opportunities.
• A Bank-financed project restored grasslands in Xinjiang and Gansu and increased herders’ income from 2,806 yuan to 7,328 yuan in six years.
China: Restoring Grasslands and Improving Herders’ Livelihood
The Gansu and Xinjiang Pastoral Development Project, launched in 2004 and completed in June 2010, assisted in the government’s efforts to improve the capacity of pastoral areas to support biodiversity and livestock and raise the living standards of the population living in those areas.
About 35,000 households or 140,000 people in Gansu and Xinjiang were primary beneficiaries of the project. And a total of about 120,000 households or 600,000 benefited from improved public sector services such as improved breeding stock, artificial insemination, veterinary and extension services. Many of the beneficiaries are ethnic minorities and women. The project was successful in halting and reversing degradation of pastures and in improving the productivity and quality of livestock in the areas covered.
As a result of the project, per capita net income of the beneficiaries increased significantly from 2806 yuan in 2003, before the project, to 7,328 yuan in 2009.
China takes third place after Australia and Russia in grassland area. However, the grassland degradation in western China is very serious. Over the period from 1989 to 1998, the total area of degraded grassland almost doubled. Reasons for this degradation include increasing conversion of grassland to cultivation, overstocking and overgrazing, as well as high levels of poverty, poor management, and natural factors such as rodent and insect infestation.
Gansu and Xinjiang are major regions of grassland and livestock. They account for one quarter of the territory of China and 30 percent of the country’s wool production. They are also critical environmental areas, both listed as priority areas in the Biodiversity Review of China, because they contain many grassland endangered species.
Xinjiang and Gansu also has a concentration of the poor, together making up almost 15 percent of China’s total poor. Widespread poverty inhibits livestock development as well as the capacity of the region to seize new economic opportunities.
The project was designed to support grassland resource management through establishing improved livestock production and marketing systems that would increase the income of herders and farmers in the project areas. By empowering farmer and herder households to better manage their grassland resources and improve forage and feed production on arable lands, the project aimed to help them increase their incomes through more efficient and quality focused livestock production – which should be sufficient to generate marketable surplus to improve living standards.
As women traditionally play a significant role in livestock production activities, they naturally constituted the majority of beneficiaries of the project. Women were encouraged to participate in the implementation of project activities, and specific training and capacity building activities were organized for them.
Between 2004 and mid-2010, the results achieved by the project include the following:
• 35,000 families or 140,000 people in the two project provinces directly benefited from the project. 39 percent of them were ethnic minorities.
• An additional 85,000 households or 460,000 people benefited from improved breeding stock, artificial insemination, veterinary and extension services. The total number of beneficiaries in the two provinces reached about 120,000 households of 600,000 people.
• Annual per capita income of farmers and herders in the project areas increased from 2806 yuan in 2003 to 7,328 yuan in 2009.
• 200,000 hectares of grassland were brought under integrated grassland management. Of this total area, 120,000 hectares were fenced and reseeded.
• Demonstration sites of deferred rotational grazing showed that it could increase ground cover by about 5 percent and biomass by 10 percent, thus encouraging herders to participate in grassland management.
• Surveys conducted in the two provinces resulted in a grassland management database, survey reports and grassland resource maps, providing policymakers with up-to-date information on the status of the grassland resources.
• 76,000 hectares of forage crops were planted. This, together with provision of forage processing equipment, construction of silage pits and feeding in pens, reduced farmer and herder’s reliance on natural pastures. Improved nutrition from the planted forage and better pasture also resulted in higher reproductive rates.
• 27 new wool shearing stations helped upgrade wool packaging, baling and grading system and improved wool production efficiency.
• 36 new or renovated livestock markets increased incomes of farmers and herders and contributed to orderly development of the livestock sector through expanded access to markets, better market information and higher market efficiency.
• The introduction and extension of new technologies increased the efficiency of management of natural grasslands, artificial production of forage, breeding and raising of livestock, and production of high quality livestock products.
• The project provided training to over 600,000 farmers, herders and technicians, and supported public information campaigns on grassland conservation in schools and communities.
Bank Contribution
The Bank supported the project with a loan of US$66.27 million. In addition, the Bank contributed to the continuation of China’s reform process towards a liberalized rural economy with strong, supportive market institutions. The research and policy studies analyzed the incentives and disincentives that influence how farmers and herders make management decisions regarding grassland use, which provided input for the policy and institutional reform in sustainable grassland resource management. The project piloted new, participatory approaches that seek to manage livestock in a manner that conserves biodiversity in the production landscape. Policy and institutional reform implementation support at county and township levels enabled biodiversity conservation by encouraging collaborative approaches across sectors, leading to the development of an integrated approach to grassland management by local institutions.
The central and local governments provided 340 million yuan in counterpart funding.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided a grant of US$10.5 million in technical assistance to implement community-based grassland management, mitigate grassland degradation and conserve globally important biodiversity.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provided support to the training activities of the project.
Moving Forward
The household livestock operations have proven to be sustainable as they are financially attractive to individual farmers and herders, economically beneficial to society as whole and also environmentally sound.
For the veterinary, artificial insemination and breeding improvement services, both the central and local governments have committed substantial public resources to ensure their efficient operations and good maintenance.
Furthermore, the governments at various levels continue to support and promote the successful experiences of livestock production developed under the project. Both Gansu Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are currently formulating various domestic projects to upscale the good practices.
The primary beneficiaries were herders and farmers whose average annual income was substantially below the country’s average per capita income. 39 percent of the beneficiaries were ethnic minorities. Women constituted the majority of beneficiaries of the project.
“In the last few years we have improved sheep breeding, changed to electric shearing, and adopted wool grading, sorting and packaging systems. The quality of wool has improved a lot, and the yield of clean wool has increased by five to eight percent. Now we can earn eight to ten yuan more from each sheep,” said An Xuelong and An Jinlin, herders in Gansu’s Sunan County.


September 24, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Ecofascist anarchy is on the rise across the planet. Its advocates are largely obscurantists who most likely suffer from sociopathy, and who are in search of ideological castings that can give them the drug fix of sorts to satiate their sadistic bloodlusts.

A case in point of ecofascist attack was the one that targeted nanotech scientists in Mexico. The anarchic group claims that nanotech will render the Earth into a ‘grey goo’ (whatever that means). Their bombing campaign injured two professors at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education or ITESM.

The group calls itself Individuals Tending Towards Savagery, and published a blog statement where they claimed responsibility for the attack. The summary report about the bombing incident is shown below.

[Philippines, 24 September 2011]
Anti-nanotech group behind Mexican scientist bombings
Lucina Melesio Friedman
24 August 2011 | EN
[MEXICO CITY] Recent bomb attacks targeting Mexican scientists have been orchestrated by a radical group that opposes nanotechnology and may be planning further attacks against individual scientists, according to its manifesto.
Two professors were injured while opening a package containing a home-made bomb at one of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) campuses in Mexico earlier this month (8 August).
According to local authorities, the attack came from the group called ‘Individuals Tending Towards Savagery’, which took responsibility through a blog post detailing bomb construction that matched the evidence found by the police.
The group has published a 5,400 word manifesto, which claims that nanotechnology research will cause “the Earth [to] become a grey goo in which intelligent nano-machines will rule”.
“Many might say technology has improved medicine, and might label us as inhumane … but this is just a trap of the system,” the manifesto says, denouncing nanotechnology as global domination propaganda.
The declaration states that it targets individuals, rather than institutions, and it names five other nanotechnology scientists. The group has also claimed responsibility for two previous bomb attacks, in April and May, against Oscar Camacho, a researcher at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute.
ITESM has taken security measures such as installing metal detectors, using police dogs, and conducting vehicle and package inspections, but other research institutions are uncertain about how to react.
“The government’s response was slow, especially on stating a clearer and stronger message condemning these acts,” Manuel Torres, director of the Institute of Physics at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, told SciDev.Net.
But Torres added that the institute has received advice from the government on security measures, such as dealing with incoming mail and possible phone threats.
Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director for the ETC Group, which opposes unregulated nanotechnology products, told SciDev.Net: “We absolutely condemn these [bombing] acts”.
Ribeiro added that they instead promote open and informed debates involving scientists and society.
Arturo Barba, science journalist and director of the news agency Sapiens, told SciDev.Net that poor government support for research may be more harmful in the long run than such attacks.
“The Mexican government has already beaten these ‘savages’ to it by destroying Latin America’s most important nanotech lab,” he said, referring to the dismantling of a prestigious nanotechnology research group due to disagreements with the administration.
Barba said that factors such as insufficient media coverage of science; scientists with little interest in communicating their work; authorities that do not rely on scientific advice; and poor public education add up to “an ideal breeding ground for episodes like this”.
But he added that it is strange for such a group to strike in Mexico, because Mexico is not one of the best countries in nanotechnology; and even stranger to attack ITESM, as there are many more research centres that are more advanced in the subject.
Torres said: “I don’t believe we should change the way this kind of research is conducted — and even less consider giving up nanotechnology development. But, inevitably, we will have to think about how we communicate these topics”.



September 23, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The use of good old chemistry to annihilate malarial and related mosquitoes seems to be running its course down by the day. Reason: after decades of insecticide-based health campaigns, malaria keeps on re-surging back with a vengeance.

Let me add the case of dengue, where the aedes aegpyti mosquito kept on resurging back year after year amid the fogging by insecticide. Akin to the use of insecticide-immersed bednets in Africa, bednets are now being widely disseminated purportedly to stem the attacks of the aedes mosquito. But to no avail! Dengue is back, and it had killed hundreds of patients as of this writing, with tens of thousands of patients recorded.

I am of the opinion that biotech holds the greater salvation value for eradicating malaria, dengue and related mosquitoes that serve as vessels to disease-inducing parasites. Malaysia has already shown the way to breeding genetically modified mosquitoes that can catalyze the sterilization and death of breeder mosquitoes in the field, so it’s really just a matter of emulating the biotech way of Malaysia across nations.

Below is an update report about the insecticide resistance in Africa.

[Philippines, 23 September 2011]
Insecticide resistance linked to malaria resurgence
Emeka Johnkingsley
24 August 2011
[ABUJA] Scientists have linked growing insecticide resistance with a resurgence of malaria in Senegal.
Researchers working in the village of Dielmo warned that new approaches may be needed to fight the malaria scourge on the continent.
They found that in the two years (August 2008–2010) following the distribution of bednets treated with deltamethrin, a long-lasting insecticide recommended by the WHO, malaria cases significantly decreased.
But, in the following four months, cases increased to higher levels than those before the bednets were introduced. This increase in morbidity was therefore likely to be due to increased resistance by malaria-carrying mosquitoes to pyrethroid insecticides, said the authors, whose findings were published online in The Lancet Infectious Diseases last week (18 August).
Thirty-seven per cent of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes were resistant to deltamethrin in 2010, and the proportion of mosquitoes with the kdr mutation that confers resistance to pyrethroids insecticides in general increased from 8 per cent in 2007 to 48 per cent in 2010.
The authors said that the scale-up of bednet distribution programmes and indoor spraying campaigns has “led to a very rapid spread of pyrethroid resistance in the major malaria vectors”.
The study found that malaria resurged, in particular, in older children and adults, who are increasingly susceptible to the disease.
This susceptibility cannot be explained by increasing pyrethroid resistance, the authors said. They suggest that “either a recent increase in exposure to malaria vectors in older age groups or a decrease in protective immunity” could be responsible.
Pierre Druilhe, an author of the research and a researcher at the Malaria Vaccine Development Laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in France, said that the resurgence in malaria morbidity had been foreseen for a long time and goes beyond the problem of insecticide resistance.
He said that in areas that have a high incidence of the disease, exposure to malaria-carrying mosquitoes induces a strong immune response that protects individuals. While insecticide bednets do cut the number of bites from vectors, this in turn reduces acquired immunity — leading to a new equilibrium where the chance of an infectious bite causing malaria increases.
In an accompanying commentary, Joseph Keating and Thomas Eisele warned of the danger of generalising the research to the rest of the continent, particularly because of the short period of the study.
But Druilhe said: “This type of situation [pyrethroid resistance] can happen in all high transmission areas, which corresponds to the vast majority of malaria endemic areas in Africa”.
Link to full paper in The Lancet Infectious Diseases


September 23, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Too late an act!

Such would be an acerbic commentary about China boosting the numbers of women in the scientific R&D fields.

When the Communist Party took on the cudgels for modernizing China, part of the modernization was the empowerment of the female gender in all fields. I still recall the diverse articles of the late Chairman Mao Zedong that drumbeat the empowerment of the social sectors, even as I was aware of the huge numbers of women in the Communist Party.

But that modernizing idea of women empowerment wasn’t sufficient a force to break the Old Order culture that saw women in subordinated status. The same fact is veritable enough in the scientific disciplines, where the number of men dwarf those of women in general. There must be more pro-active enabling policies and capacity-building efforts to address the problematic skewness of scientists towards the male polarity.

Below is a summary report of the initiatives currently undertaken to address that imbalanced development.

[Philippines, 23 September 2011]
China aims to boost number of women scientists
Li Jiao
23 August 2011
[BEIJING] The number of female scientists in China could rise as part of a ten-year plan by the Chinese government to develop the potential of the country’s women.
The ‘Outline for the Development of Chinese Women 2011–2020’, issued by the State Council earlier this month (8 August), aims to increase the proportion of women in the professions, including science and technology, to 35 per cent.
According to the outline, which replaces the previous ten-year plan, China will develop female technological talent primarily at the country’s national laboratories, which will run research projects to train women in professional skills.
Women already play important roles in China’s economic and social development, Song Xiuyan, deputy chair of the State Council’s National Working Committee on Children and Women, said at a news conference following the launch of the outline.
But she added: “We need to make great efforts to enhance social gender consciousness and realise the legal equality of men and women”.
Increasing the number of practising female scientists in the country will not be an easy task, according to Li Zhenzhen, a researcher at the Institute of Policy and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Although women students have almost the same opportunities as men to study for a PhD in science, they find it difficult to find jobs as researchers because of discrimination, Li said.
“Women have more family duties than men, which affects women in all fields of work.”
Li said that China should establish special policies for women scientists.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is looking to develop such a policy, having said in 2010 that women science researchers applying for funding should be prioritised.
Feng Jing, a female assistant researcher at the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said that she is excited about the NSFC’s position on women.
So far she has had to continue studying because of the difficulties in finding suitable work. “This is very unfair on women, but it is still part of Chinese culture,” she said.
Song added that China must monitor progress towards the new goals. All relevant departments should collect and analyse indicators in a timely fashion, she said.


September 21, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gender sensitivity in research has been a long standing practice in the social sciences. This isn’t the case though for the biomedical sciences, most specially with respect to observing sex differences in pharmaceutical drugs.

The inclusion of gender factor into research protocols have been quite a current in the biomedical fields though seemingly slow in response to the challenges. The University of the Philippines – Manila and the Department of Health have been spearheading the advocacy for such new protocols since the late 80s yet, an advocacy that came simultaneously with those for traditional and alternative medicine.

The awareness for such sex-factored protocols have reached global scale to date. Let’s just hope there would be quicker resolutions about the matter, and see diagnostics and medications modified accordingly.

A summary discussion on the subject is shown below.

[Philippines, 21 September 2011]
Biomed Analysis: Target sex differences in research
Priya Shetty
18 August 2011
Diseases, and drugs used to treat them, behave differently in men and women. Drug development needs to account for this, says Priya Shetty.
That men and women are biologically distinct is obvious, but this is not limited to physical or hormonal differences. Sex is strongly linked both to how diseases manifest themselves — their symptoms and severity, for instance — and to how drugs interact with the body.
Sex differences clearly have implications for biomedical research, especially drug development. Over the past 10–15 years, major research funding institutions such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have encouraged inclusion of these factors into research protocols, and more journals such as the Journal of the American Association of Cardiology are now asking authors to incorporate sex differences into their analysis.
But last December, a cross-disciplinary review [1] of scientific research papers showed that while some progress had been made, the pace has been sluggish, especially in translating the findings from clinical research to practice.
And the need to account for sex differences in research has growing relevance for developing countries, where an increasing number of clinical trials are taking place.
This month, geneticists discovered striking sex-linked metabolic differences between men and women [2], which could affect disease onset and progression. A person’s metabolic profile informs gene expression patterns, which in turn affect chronic diseases that are rising rapidly in poor countries.
Women’s woes
Women tend to be worst affected by research that doesn’t distinguish between the sexes. Through incorrect dosing they have suffered serious side-effects more often than men both during clinical trials and when treated with approved drugs.
Dosing tends to be adjusted by body weight. But the percentage of fat in the body, which is naturally higher for women, also affects how it processes a drug. This is not taken into account in deciding standard doses, or in the information provided on product labels, so women can fare worse after treatment.
Understanding such differences is vital. For instance, in the 1990s, data showed that women under 55 years of age were twice as likely to die after a heart attack than men in the same age group; now, mortality is only slightly higher in women than in men.
This drop in women’s mortality stemmed in part from doctors’ growing awareness that they might not have the same response to drugs like statins. They realised that heart disease can manifest differently in men and women — they may have different risk profiles, symptoms, or treatment needs on admission to hospital.
The roots of this biomedical bias against women seem to start in basic research, the precursor of clinical trials. This type of research has usually used male animals, to avoid the complexities of the hormonal and reproductive systems of female animals, which would require larger sample sizes to achieve a comparable result.
Challenges in action
Research-funding agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the NIH have guidelines to ensure that researchers guard against this bias, and indeed actively try and redress it with targeted research.
But this is hardly an area of focus for biomedical researchers in the developing world, and WHO guidelines tend to focus on different gender issues (such as making trials culturally appropriate for women).
And even where guidelines exist, there are challenges in implementing them. For one thing, since the terms ‘sex’ (which is a biological definition) and ‘gender’ (social) are often incorrectly used interchangeably, many journals and institutions still think of this as a social science issue, particularly since the current focus on the issue stems from women’s rights movements.
Few funders devote any cash to the hard science of underlying biological mechanisms that might explain why men and women respond differently to drugs.
And accounting for sex-specific differences in research protocols, and running the subsequent data through finely-grained analyses that are stratified according to sex, will inevitably lengthen a research project. This can use up precious resources and delay the sharing of potentially useful results.
Focus on women’s health
It is now well established that major diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and several cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other mental illness, differ in how they manifest, and how they should be treated, in women.
All these diseases are now a significant strain on the health systems of developing countries, and public health scientists expect that this will only get worse in coming years. As countries and donors allocate resources to meet the challenge, they should note that research into chronic diseases will be incomplete if it ignores sex differences.
Personalised medicine, which promises to tailor treatment to people according to their genetic risk profiles and environmental factors, will also need to incorporate biological sex differences.
But the goal is not to provide nuanced disease diagnosis and management for the sake of it — treatment can always be improved, after all. It is to ensure that women’s health is taken seriously.
Researchers must not shortcut around the issues of biological sex differences. Focusing only on implementing health programmes that suit women culturally is not enough. Medical research shouldn’t keep pushing forward without addressing this fundamental flaw.
Journalist Priya Shetty specialises in developing world issues including health, climate change and human rights. She writes a blog, Science Safari, on these issues. She has worked as an editor at New Scientist, The Lancet and SciDev.Net.
[1] Oertelt-Prigione et al. Analysis of sex and gender-specific research reveals a common increase in publications and marked differences between disciplines. BMC Medicine doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-70 (2010)
[2] Mittelstrass K, et al. Discovery of sexual dimorphisms in metabolic and genetic biomarkers. PLoS Genetics doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002215 (2011)
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September 21, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The risks posed by technological innovations and interventions have proved to be very fatal for affected stakeholders. This is especially true for China, where techno-risks have been scaling up such as shown by the cases of SARS outbreaks and the gargantuan floods that have buried whole towns.

Among the latest additions to technological risks is the accident involving the bullet train engineered and built by China. Though reputably the world’s fastest, as they are capable of running up to 450 kilometers per hour, the hazard they pose on riders seem to outweigh their benefits at this juncture.

China thus earned the flaks from various quarters within and outside its territorial bounds. The innovation stakeholders of China must take technological hazards more seriously, and shouldn’t wait for more floods to take place before reconsidering new giant projects as huge as the controversial 3 Gorges Dam and the nuclear plants.

Below is a discussion concerning the subject.

[Philippines, 21 September 2011]

China urged to take technological risk more seriously
Li Jiao
12 August 2011
The recent nuclear scare in Japan has reinforced pressure in China to raise its awareness of the risks of new technologies. Li Jiao reports.
[BEIJING] Like many other countries, China is currently reviewing the safety of its nuclear power programme following the damage caused by Japan’s tsunami to the Fukushima nuclear plant in March, promising that ‘full safety checks’ of existing reactors would be carried out.
Although the government has also suspended approval of future nuclear projects until a new nuclear safety plan is published — currently expected before the end of the year — it is widely anticipated that its construction programme for nuclear power plants will resume at that point.
At the same time, however, the potential dangers highlighted by the Fukushima accident have reinforced growing demands for the country to strengthen its approach to risk management for all types of technological emergencies.
Critics believe that despite some recent signs of progress, there are still serious gaps in the government’s preparedness plans for such situations. They argue that risk evaluation needs to be increased across the board, from areas such as genetically modified (GM) crops to the impact of human-induced global warming on food production.
Their argument is that, too often, safety concerns have fallen victim to cost-cutting and even corruption in the country’s headlong pursuit of economic growth.
As Li Daguang, director of the Science Communication Centre at the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), says: “Generally, China doesn’t consider the potential risks of technology because economic benefit is the top consideration.”
Nuclear power safety
China already has four operating nuclear power plants, with 13 projects involving 27 separate reactors currently under construction. While several are along the coast, others are due to be located near large cities.
The country’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, told a climate change policy forum in Canberra, Australia, in March that the Fukushima disaster is expected to lead to new safety measures in the country’s nuclear programme,.
Reflecting this commitment, China will spend about 150 million yuan (US$23 million) this year to carry out the review of the safety of both existing power plants and new ones (in contrast, last year’s budget did not even explicitly mention nuclear safety.)
“Operating plants and plants that are under construction will soon be inspected and reviewed by a group of experts,” Lin Chengge, a senior expert at the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation Ltd and former deputy director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, told China Daily.
“The results of the inspection will be provided to the government so it can decide if safety improvements are needed.”
Some improvements have already been seen …
The response is becoming a familiar one. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, for example, the government set up an emergency working group under the State Council, the country’s highest administrative body, indicating that it considered the risks associated with the outbreak to be a high political priority.
Further evidence that the government has begun to take technological risks seriously was the creation in 2004 of a risk analysis committee — the first government organisation specialising in evaluating risk — under the Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management of the Ministry of Civil Affairs and Ministry of Education.
Risk assessment has certainly improved in the last ten years. Modern attitudes towards risk reduction and the concept of risk management have surfaced, and the government has introduced a number of laws and policies, such as emergency measures for nuclear accidents at power plants, and the regulation of emergency public health situations.
… but more is to be done
But not everyone is convinced that this action is sufficient.
Safety expert Bao Ou, of the Institute of Science, Technology and Society at Tsinghua University, Beijing, told SciDev.Net that, until recently, economic benefits had been given precedence over safety issues, adding that defects in technology have only been exposed after accidents have happened.
There are still serious limitations, such as a lack of centralised management for risk as well as a lack of civil participation, Bao adds. She points out that there is still “no special ministry dealing with national risk reduction and management on the Chinese mainland,” and that there are few researchers and institutions specialising in risk.
To rectify this situation, some of the country’s scientists and engineers, for example, have suggested setting up an institute for nuclear safety.
Another area in which concern exists about the lack of research into risks is in the field of GM crops. At the International Biosafety Forum in Beijing in April, for example, researchers urged China to strengthen risk research and evaluation on such crops.
In 2008, the government provided US$3.5 billion in funding for research into GM crops. Out of this sum, however, it has allocated a mere US$1.5 million over the five years for GM risk evaluation and public engagement.
“Although GM risk funding is increasing, it’s far from being enough,” says Wei Wei, an ecologist at CAS’s Institute of Botany, in Beijing. “In particular, ecological risks should not be underestimated.”
Natural risks are also an issue
Other concerns focus on the lack of adequate research into the risks of climate change, despite the fact that water scarcity is affecting 184,000 square kilometres of farmland as the worst drought in half a century grips the country.
It has put the risk of food insecurity back on the agenda, and revealed a lack of investment in agricultural land, says Jiang Gaoming of CAS’s Institute of Botany.
China “should be concerned about the risk in many areas, such as nuclear power, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and droughts,” adds Chen I-wan, advisor to the state-run China Disaster Prevention Association led by the China Earthquake Administration.
Bao told SciDev.Net that China should study the experiences of other countries, set up institutions to research risk management, devise appropriate legislation and adopt effective counter-measures.


September 21, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

NigeriaSat-X, the first satellite designed and built by Africans, was launched into orbit just recently. This is a milestone event for Africans, so let me express my Big Kudos!

That Africa’s mainstream black peoples are able to design and build satellites totally negates all those defamatory pejoratives cast upon them by bigoted Whites in Europe and America. To recall, the Blacks were stigmatized as “halfway between man and monkeys,” Mandingos who were worthy only of becoming slaves, “brainless Niggers!” and more.

While those days of White domination are way behind us now, with colored Asians leading the way in showing how the West (Whites) can be overtaken in the science & technology fields (2007 was year of technology overtake), too many White folks are still of the bigoted fascistic mindsets in their perceptions of the colored peoples.

At any rate, let the colored peoples notably the Blacks of Africa show their prowess in the different fields of endeavor. As the satellite news below has shown, the Africans have already overcome the cognitive barriers imposed upon them by White enslavement, colonialism and imperialism.

[Philippines, 20 September 2011]

Nigeria launches first satellite built by Africans
Emeka Johnkingsley
19 August 2011
[ABUJA] Nigeria successfully launched NigeriaSat-X, the first satellite to be designed and built by Africans, into orbit this week (17 August).
NigeriaSat-X was launched along with another small satellite, NigeriaSat-2, from Yasny in southern Russia.
The satellite is the result of a transfer training agreement between Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, a satellite developer based in the United Kingdom. It brought 26 young scientists from NASRDA to work on the satellite for 18 months, under the supervision of experts in Surrey.
NigeriaSat-X will be used for resource management, and for mapping of the country that will feed into food security through crop monitoring, urban planning and disaster management. It will also facilitate the development of Nigeria’s space capability and engineering skills for new technologies.
In a national broadcast, President Goodluck Jonathan praised “the resourceful Nigerians who made this history possible”.
Jonathan, a scientist by training, said: “Today marks another milestone in our nation’s effort to solve national problems through space technologies.”
Nigeria’s national space policy was approved in 2001 and culminated in the launch of the country’s first satellite, NigeriaSat-1, in 2003.
Its 25-year space mission roadmap, approved by the government in 2006, aims to produce a Nigerian astronaut by 2015; launch a satellite built in Nigeria between 2018 and 2030; and be part of the moon mission by 2030.
Oye Ibidapo-Obe, president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, told SciDev.Net: “This is a remarkable feat that puts our nation in the well-deserved rank of scientifically capable countries. It is a glorious day for our country.”
But he added that the country now needs to develop capacity to build satellites locally.
Seidu Mohammed, director-general of NASRDA, said: “This [achievement] showcases the importance of capacity building as it is vigorously being pursued by NASRDA. In light of this, having the required environment, our engineers and scientists can handle any design with little or no supervision.”
Ajayi Boroffice, founding director-general of NASRDA, said: “Capacity building is central to the implementation of Nigeria’s space programme.
“Africa’s scientists and engineers need to rise up to the challenge of developing and applying invaluable space technology to tackle [their] countries’ problems.”
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September 21, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Many small planters across the globe are habitués of ecosystems that are replete with ecohazards. Add to that the risks posed by climate change patterns. Results: shrinking incomes, greater uncertainties of survival, possible deaths.

Sharing of climate data to the planter stakeholders could somehow dissipate any possibility of greater risks and damages. Information channels and data access are among the parameters that ought to be checked as enabling measures on the ground in aid of our small or marginal planters.

Senegal is among the developing countries that is addressing the challenges to data sharing and access in the area of climatology, that could then benefit farmers in the short run.

The update report on the Senegal precedent is shown below.

[Philippines, 20 September 2011]

How climate data is bringing benefits to Senegal’s farmers
Emeka Johnkingsley
11 August 2011
The InfoClim project, which distributes climate data to local communities, has helped Senegalese farmers adapt to climate change. SciDev.Net investigates.
Smallholder farmers have years of experience in assessing how climatic conditions, particularly rainfall, affect their crops. But as the climate changes, that knowledge — often gathered over a lifetime — may no longer be valid.
As a result, vulnerable farmers need help to adapt or fine-tune their practices. But as climate monitoring and research become more sophisticated, the gap between the technology and farming communities is getting wider.
A project in Senegal is now helping to bridge that gap.
The InfoClim project collects climate information and shares it with vulnerable populations, particularly farmers, to help them adjust their sowing, cultivation and other dates to suit the current climate.
The project’s advisors begin by analysing data from the Centre for Ecological Monitoring (CSE) in Dakar and its partners to assess the probability of climatic events.
These partners include Senegal’s National Meteorological Agency, which collects seasonal forecasts, and the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA), which contributes information on adapted crops. The Laboratory for Atmospheric Physics at the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar provides local climate models and scenarios.
Sharing knowledge
The scientific data are then shared with communities through four well-equipped regional ‘observatories’. Local people trained by the project use community radio stations and meetings to pass the climate information to farmers.
Innocent Butare of the Senegal office of Canada’s International Development Research Centre, which funded the InfoClim project, said the pilot project was intended to understand how to disseminate scientific information on adaptation to climate change to rural communities and local decision-makers.
The project provides farmers and local communities with climate data and soil statistics, and helps them share their knowledge to improve planting practices and ensure better yields.
Members of community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local decision-makers have learnt how to use agro-meteorological data to assess different options for adapting to climate change.
These include changing planting dates, using drought-resistant seeds, diversifying crops and planting perennial crops, improving water and soil management, fighting soil erosion, developing agro-forestry, integrating crops, livestock and trees, and finding alternative sources of income.
The success of the project has depended on building reliable networks between researchers and rural communities to share information on climate change.
“The project allowed the sharing of views on climate change and [highlighted] the importance of access to the information as a means of strengthening the capacity of rural communities to adapt to this phenomenon,” said Butare.
“We also involved people from the local administration, local political decision-makers, community-based organisations and NGO representatives,” said Butare. “Those forums are still working after the end of the project.”
Local planning
The three-year research project, which started in 2008, was due to end in December 2010 but was extended by six months, spreading across four communities: Fandène, Notto Diobass, Taiba Ndiaye and Thiès. Other regions of Senegal are now asking for similar projects to help them.
Butare added that the project, funded to the tune of more than US$443,000, is a good example of how local decision-makers can use scientific information to integrate climate-change concerns into local development plans.
Amadou Sall, project leader of InfoClim, told SciDev.Net that the project had showed that adaptation at the local level is a condition of success for a national policy of adaptation to climate change.
Ibrahima Thiao, programme coordinator at the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations of Senegal, said that InfoClim is one of the few innovative projects that provides opportunities for farmers, technicians and scientists to discuss common issues within a well-defined environment.
“Apart from the know-how, which the project inculcated in the partners, it scores a major point in securing the commitment of scientists and technicians to provide answers to farmers whenever they have questions about climate change as it relates to their work.
“It built the confidence of farmers by enhancing their knowledge and equipped them with the skills to be able to translate scientific and technical information into simple and understandable messages. Farmers want accurate information about the climate events that affect their crops,” said Thiao.
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