From a demographic point of view, more than 9 billion people are expected to live on planet earth in 2050, two-thirds of them in cities. Actually, the entire anticipated population increase is to take place in urban areas, with over 90 percent in Africa, Asia, and Latin American and the Caribbean ; so, global urbanization has long since shifted to developing countries and emerging economies. Approximately 2.7 billion people live in urban agglomerations in developing and emerging economies today; in 2030, that number will rise to 3.9 billion – and reach 5.1 billion in 2050. Around 95 percent of this urban momentum is going to take place in metropolitan regions. Established mega regions like Sao Paulo or Mumbai, as well as urban agglomerations composed of rapidly growing small and medium-sized cities will become the key living and economic spaces of the urban millennium.
water and sanitation
At the 2012 World Bank Spring Meetings this weekend, government ministers, civil society representatives, policymakers and journalists are talking about how to “Close the Gap” for global inequality.
Nous étions assises sur des tapis de sol, dans la chaleur et la poussière du quartier Moustiquaire, le plus pauvre de Djibouti, pour parler des pratiques d’alimentation des enfants. Des voix se sont soudainement élevées dans le groupe. Plusieurs femmes insultaient et montraient du doigt l’une d’entre elles qui baissait honteusement la tête.
Mes homologues djiboutiennes m’ont expliqué que la femme embarrassée était critiquée parce que son fils ne parlait pas encore à 5 ans. Au lieu de donner de l’eau à boire à son nouveau-né comme le veut la tradition, elle avait choisi d’allaiter son dernier enfant au sein exclusivement jusqu’à l’âge de six mois. Le groupe pensait que ce choix expliquait les problèmes de développement de l’enfant.
Ma première réaction a été de me dire : « la pression du groupe est un véritable obstacle à la promotion des méthodes d’allaitement optimales à Djibouti ! »
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We were sitting on floor mats in the hot and dusty Quartier Moustiquaire, the poorest neighborhood of Djibouti City, observing a group of new mothers and their children discussing child feeding practices. All of a sudden, there was an uproar in the group. One woman had her head bent down in shame, and several other women shouted and pointed fingers at her.
My Djiboutian counterparts told me the embarrassed woman was being criticized because her 5-year-old son still doesn’t speak. Rather than follow the ancestral tradition of giving water to her newborn, she chose to exclusively breastfeed her last child until he was 6 months old. The group asserted that this choice had led to the child’s developmental problems.
My immediate reaction to the scene was, “Peer pressure is a true obstacle to promoting optimal breastfeeding in Djibouti!”
One of the most repulsive moments in cinematic history is the outhouse scene in the Oscar-winning films SlumdogMillionaire. The hero, Jamal, is trapped in an outhouse when his favorite celebrity lands nearby in a helicopter. The only way to see his hero is to jump into the excrement. Happily, he gets to see the star and get an autographed photo: nothing parts a crowd like a filth-covered child.
- water and sanitation
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” Lao Tzu
In the film Quantum of Solace, James Bond battles a corrupt environmentalist to prevent a company from taking over Bolivia’s water supply. The company planned to enrich itself by creating a monopoly and charging excessive rates for water. Fortunately, Bond foils the plot, and the people of Bolivia do not lose affordable access to their water resources.
Not long ago, I carried a 20-liter bottle of water three blocks to my apartment (there is an artesian well in a nearby park). At first it was easy. I lifted it up onto my shoulders and walked boldly along the street, drawing admiring looks from everyone I passed.
But it didn’t take long for my muscles to feel the burn. Then my back started to ache. By the time I got home, I was wiped out. Never again, I thought.
The United Nations seems to have a day for everything, from poetry (March 20) to families (May 15) to statistics (October 20). They even have a day for mountains (December 11). Most of these days come and go without much fuss or attention.
There is an ongoing conversation in the development community, certainly amongst donors, about the need to make sure that aid is well spent and reaches the people it is intended to help. Most recently the UK shared its vision for international development, highlighting Value for Money and the use of results-based approaches.
Apparently, Freedom from Hunger, the non-profit behind the End4Hunger campaign, didn't get the memo about making over-the-top claims on behalf of microcredit (let alone any type of aid). The ad below appeared in my Gmail account just a few hours ago.