Pakistan’s deadly floods have affected more than 14 million people, with some estimates putting the figure considerably higher. The affected area covers 132,421 km, including 1.4 million acres of cropped land. Continuing rains have caused additional flooding and hindered relief activities.
- South Asia
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- National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)
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In 2008, I sat with a focus group of about 15 women in a rural village of Bagerhat district in southern Bangladesh. I and some colleagues had visited their village the day before and saw their desperate living conditions and the family conflicts that erupted because of it. This village, and many others, had been hit by cyclone Sidr four months earlier.
We asked the women about their aspirations; they responded with blank stares. But after just two hours of discussion, these women had absorbed and understood the importance of savings, of credit, of good governance, and how they could rebuild (and improve) their lives and livelihoods. At the end of the meeting, one woman told us, “We came here because we thought you would give us food, but we’re not hungry anymore. We have hope.”
The women in Bagerhat and 7 other districts are part of the Social Investment Program Project (SIPP), which has been working in Bangladesh since 2004, when it started as a US$18 million pilot, to introduce community driven development to the country’s rural communities.
Nepal has faced seven avian influenza outbreaks in animals since early-February this year. In the Central, Southern and Eastern Regions, these outbreaks were quickly spotted by field monitors and successfully contained by Rapid Response Teams, thanks to the Avian Influenza Control Project (AICP).
The project is helping the Government of Nepal to prepare, prevent and control avian influenza outbreaks together with our partner organizations, including USAID, FAO, OiE, WHO and UNICEF. Implemented jointly by the Departments of Livestock Services and Health Services, the project is strengthening surveillance, diagnostic capacity, and prevention and containment activities, improving bio-security in poultry production and trade, and raising awareness through communication activities.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) presented their Final Report on The Bangladesh Household Remittance Survey 2009 in a workshop held in Dhaka on May 12, 2010. This survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of 10,926 migrant households. The findings of the survey confirm most of what we know about migration and remittance based on smaller surveys and anecdotal evidence. In particular, the findings are in line with the ones from the World Bank Survey (2007), which was smaller in scope.
I summarize below what appears to me as some emerging stylized facts about the profile of Bangladeshi migrants and their remittance behavior.
Migrants tend to be young (32 years old on average) married males who have at least completed primary education (over 75 percent). They go to the Middle-East (nearly 73 percent) and Asia (22) with the help of relatives (55 percent) and intermediaries (45 percent) after obtaining a low skilled or semi skilled job contract (79 percent) for which they had to wait for about 6 months.
I had the opportunity to be a part of the launch of "Economic Challenges to Make South Asia Free from Poverty and Deprivation" in Washington and was truly inspired by the talent and knowledge of the students and the ideas and enthusiasm generated by the event across the region.
The event, coordinated across the region through video conference was moderated by Economic Adviser Shekhar Shah, who authored the foreward, and was exceptionally encouraging of the students and the issues discussed in the volume and organized by Hema Balasubramanian who heads the Public Information Center in New Delhi.
The unique student initiative that created the book, South Asia Economics Students’ Meet (SAESM), edited by Meeta Kumar and Mihir Pandey promotes budding economists to foster intellectual discourse with other students from the region. The annual conference, since 2004, has provided an opportunity for exceptional economic students to write, present, and share their academic papers on economic issues critical to the region.
…that too many children have died?
I adapt this from Dylan’s famous 1962 lyrics, but it is nowhere more true than for Adivasis or tribal peoples (called Scheduled Tribes) in India.
Come monsoon, the Indian media is rife with stories of child deaths in tribal areas, frequently reported as “malnutrition deaths”. Kalahandi district in Orissa for instance, had been a metaphor for starvation due to press reports dating back to the 1980s. Melghat area in Maharashtra has similarly surfaced in the press especially during the monsoon when migrant Adivasis return to their villages and to empty food stocks in the home. This is followed by public outrage, sometimes by public interest litigation and often a haggling over numbers.
We recently published a working paper that looks at child mortality among India’s adivasis – the starkest manifestation of their deprivation. We find that an average Indian child has a 25 percent lower likelihood of dying under the age of five compared to an adivasi child. In rural areas, where the majority of adivasi children live, they made up about 11 percent of all births but 23 percent of all deaths in the five years preceding the National Family Heath Survey 2005. While there has been progress in child survival over the years, and much greater vigilance, which often leads to these stories surfacing in the media at all, the fact remains that children in tribal areas are at much greater risk of dying than those in other areas.
|28 year old mum Sewdini with Kuveneshi. The future is theirs. Photograph © Chulie de Silva|
They come carrying babies in arms, toddlers in bicycle baskets, the disabled in wheel chairs, the old and the young, to gather under a tree to plan and build back their village and the community. The meeting at Jeyapuram South in the North of Sri Lanka is held under the Cash for Work Program (CfW) a component of the World Bank’s Emergency Northern Recovery Project (ENREP). The meeting of resettled villagers commences with songs of inspiration, with everyone joining in. The voices are strong, they sing in unison, and hands are raised, the spirits revived.
The CfW program is the only source of employment for a large number of the people in most of the resettled villages immediately after their return to their home villages. The program provides incomes to the returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) a minimum of 50 days of employment to rehabilitate their own houses and gardens, clean and repair wells, irrigation canals, roads, drains, schools, mosque and church buildings. The aim of the CfW is to bridge the income gap between the time of return of the returnees (after receiving emergency resettlement provisions) and until the IDPs are able to obtain an income from regular livelihoods.
In 2000, 192 countries and 23 international organizations agreed to work towards fulfilling the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Although progress has been uneven between regions and much remains to be done, global poverty rates have been reduced from 52% of the world’s population living under $1.25 a day in 1981 to 26% in 2008.
Bangladesh has been quite successful through taking a multifaceted approach into achieving these goals. Initiatives such as Notun Jibon which means “New Life” in Bengali not only have emphasized community driven development but also stresses the role of women in education and the community decision making process. The country has already achieved gender parity in primary and secondary schooling and is on track to meet the majority of the MDG’s such as halving infant and maternal mortality rates by 2015.
Climate change is real and likely to drive increasingly dramatic changes in our environment. While ecosystems and disease dispersion may be affected, some of the greatest impacts are anticipated due to increases of extreme climate events such as droughts, floods and storms. We are already seeing these changes but often do not connect them with our lives. The question arises, “should communities wait for our governments to plan, address, and find resources to respond to risks of climate change?" I believe not. Much can be done in small ways through local actions. Keeping this in mind, the Civil Society Fund in Sri Lanka is focusing on “Development and Climate Change – Building Community Resilience in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka”.