The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
Black Sea Grain Initiative has been renewed - for now. Credit: Ihor Oinua/Unsplash
- Given the complex interplay between geopolitics and financial markets, Russiaâs invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sent shockwaves across the global economy. Admittedly, the implications both within and between countries have varied. However, there were some common denominators, including higher commodity prices.
Price disruptions were particularly severe for âsoftâ agricultural commodities. During peacetime, Russia and Ukraine produced a large amount of the worldâs grain, supplying 28 percent of globally traded wheat and 75 percent of sunflower products. Before the war, they were also among the worldâs top providers of barley and corn.
After the start of hostilities, exports of grain were severely disrupted. For four months, Russian military vessels blocked Ukrainian ports. Supply constraints triggered market volatility and price rises. Wheat, for instance, reached a record high in March 2022. This left millions of people, particularly in developing countries, at the frontline of a food crisis.
Then, in July 2022, two agreements were signed: one was a memorandum of understanding between the UN and Moscow to facilitate global access for Russiaâs food and fertilizer exports; the second was the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), signed by Russia and Ukraine, facilitating the safe export of grain and other foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports via the Black Sea.
Brokered by the UN and Turkey, the BSGI opened a protected maritime corridor through Ukraine. The agreement assuaged concerns about global grain supplies and led to price declines. Over 900 ships of grain and other foodstuffsÂ have left Ukraineâs major ports since last summer.
Prior to the conflict, between 5-6 million tons of grain were exported from Ukraineâs seaports every month, according to the International Grains Council. By the end-2022, Ukraine had once again reached its historical exporting capacity (at just under 5 million tons). Production responses elsewhere also helped to increase global supplies.
Still, Ukrainian exports to developing countries remain below pre-war levels. And while unblocking the trade corridor did help to address food insecurity in 2022, export backlogs were significant. Today, grain prices (while they have come down in recent months) remain elevated.
Against this backdrop, negotiations between UN officials and Russian Federation representatives â headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin â kicked off in Geneva last Monday on a possible extension of the BSGI. Subsequent to a four-month renewal last year, the deal was set to expire on March 18th.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the dealâs importance. He stressed that âit contributed to lowering global food costs and offered critical relief to peopleâ¦, particularly in low-income countries.â Ukraineâs president, Volodymyr Zelensky, also called for the initiative to be extended.
A woman with tuberculosis in Pakistan went undiagnosed for five years because she could not afford the $2 transportation cost from her village to the Civil Hospital in Tharparkar. Credit: OCHA/Zinnia Bukhari
Each year, the UN commemorates World TB DayâMarch 24-- to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB) and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.
- Despite being both curable and preventable, the TB pandemic is a global health crisis and a leading cause of death worldwide. COVID-19 brought into sharp focus how women bear the brunt of pandemics. In 2021, over three million women and girls fell ill with TB, resulting in 450,000 needless deaths.
As women leaders in global health, on this 2023 World TB Day, we believe that systematic and sustained investment to tackle gender-related barriers is essential to get the world back on course and end TB by 2030.
We must confront the root causes of gender inequality and reshape the power dynamics across health systems, promoting the voice of women in their own care, to reach our global goals, for a safer, healthier world for all.
To better understand how gender norms and inequalities increase the burden, stigma and discrimination on women resulting in the failure to prevent, detect and treat TB infection, adopting an intersectional lens is a necessary step.
Differentiating the impact of TB based on the intersection of different determinants such as sex, gender, ethnicity, age, location and socioeconomic status can improve health planning, along with confronting legal, cultural and social barriers that are preventing improved health outcomes.
Using evidence-based knowledge, we can tailor interventions and care strategies for populations with increased vulnerabilities and curb the spread of the disease.
The Global Fund data has shown that women often face additional barriers to accessing TB diagnosis and treatment in countries with high rates of TB. Women generally wait longer than men for diagnosis and treatment, and may be discouraged from seeking care by a lack of privacy or child-care facilities in health services.
In some contexts, women have been less likely to undergo sputum smear examinations due to cultural norms and perceptions about femininity as well as gender dynamics of service provision. Young women in high HIV burden settings face increased TB risk.
The stigma, discrimination and exclusion associated with HIV amplifies and is amplified by TB-related stigma, especially for key populations. This impacts TB detection, access to reliable health services and treatment adherence.
Juma Kiboi displays pre-fermented animal feeds ready to be fed to dairy cows. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS
- Using naturally occurring microbes, a Kenyan entrepreneur has developed a molasses-based supplement that pre-ferments animal feeds to unlock all the necessary nutrients that would otherwise find a way out of the animal through cow dung, and dairy farmers have fallen in love with the product.
According to Henry Ambwere, the Nakuru-based entrepreneur who developed the organic supplement, the naturally occurring pro-life bacteria help in predigesting the animal feeds to make it easy for the animal to utilise all the nutrients, thereby increasing the body mass and milk production, but reducing the amount of the dung produced by the animal.
Juma Kiboi, the Dairy Farm Manager for Rawhide Ltd in Nakuru County, says that the use of the microbes has enabled his farm, which holds hundreds of lactating cows, double the milk production without increasing the amount of feeds.
âWhen Ambwere introduced this product, we were a bit hesitant to take it up because Bio Food Ltd, which is our main customer, is usually very strict when it comes to the quality of the milk,â said Kiboi. âBut he offered to try it on 10 animals, and in less than 24 hours, the milk volumes had improved tremendously, and further tests showed that the quality of the milk remained high,â said the manager.
Jean Claude Muhire, Rwanda Program Director of BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative, a flagship program at BRAC International, and Samuel Dusengiyumva, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government sign the MoU in Kigali, Rwanda. Credit BRAC UPGI.
- Against a brutally painful historical backdrop, a story of hope and resilience unfolds in Rwanda.
A story that lays bare Rwandaâs innovative approaches to empowering her people, for an estimated half of the population still lives in poverty. In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Rwanda ranked 102nd out of 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate last yearâs global hunger index score.
Within this context, BRAC International signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Rwanda under the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) to support efforts to empower people in extreme poverty to develop sustainable livelihoods and break the poverty trap long term. This is part of the Governmentâs broader efforts to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
âI am delighted to see the Government of Rwanda take a leadership role in addressing extreme poverty,â said Greg Chen, Managing Director of BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI), a flagship program at BRAC International.
Tbilisi, Georgiaâs capital, has been attracting hundreds of thousands of Russians since the war in Ukraine started in February 2022. The city is a favored destination where Russians can still travel visa-free.
- Since the war in Ukraine started in February last year, at least 1.5 million Russian citizens have crossed the Russia-Georgia border, official data states. However, as of today, it needs to be clarified how many of them stayed in the country, but walking the streets of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the presence of Russian nationals can be seen almost everywhere.
Right after the war started and even more when Russia announced a partial mobilization in September 2022, hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens â primarily men â traveled to countries where they could travel visa-free, including Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Turkey, and Georgia. Among those destinations, Georgia is among the most enticing because of its mild climate, wine, food, and nightlife-heavy capital. At the moment, Russian citizens can spend twelve renewable months in Georgia, and many of them are planning to stay in the long term, as the war seems would still last long.
"Drop by drop, this precious lifeblood is being poisoned by pollution and drained by vampiric overuse, with water demand expected to exceed supply by 40% by decadeâs end" Credit: Bigstock.
- Shockingly, the human suicidal war on Nature not only continues unabated but is also set to become even more virulent. Just to start with, please be reminded that groundwater accounts for 99% of all liquid freshwater on Earth, according to the 2022 UN World Water Development Report.
And that groundwater already provides half of the volume of water withdrawn for domestic use by the global population, including the drinking water for the vast majority of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them via public or private supply systems.
- Itâs one of the great injustices of this era that countries contributing negligible amounts to global carbon emissions are now feeling the most harrowing impacts of climate change.
Pakistan, which makes up less than 1 percent of the worldâs carbon footprint, had a third of its territory under water in last yearâs floods. Parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are experiencing the worst drought in 70 years of record-keeping, threatening millions with famine, even though the entire continent of Africa contributes less than 4 percent of global carbon emissions.
Small island developing countries such as Papua New Guinea account for less than 1 percent of global carbon emissions, yet they stand to lose the most when sea levels rise.
The World Bank and the donor countries that control it can do more to step up and tackle this generational challenge. To make the World Bank and other multilateral lending institutions fit for purpose in the 21st century, leaders need to figure out how to raise and leverage the massive amounts of capital that are going to be necessary in the coming years to help countries adapt to and mitigate a changing climate.
For years, climate financing took a back seat to the bankâs twin goals of reducing extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. Today, it is integral to achieving those goals. Helping the poorest of the poor will increasingly mean ensuring access to drought-resistant seeds and access to water as lakes dry up. In middle-income countries, promoting shared prosperity will increasingly mean expanding access to reliable, affordable clean energy.
The World Bank has played an active role in making progress in those areas. It has begun to help countries incorporate climate change into their overall economic development plans and should continue this necessary work.