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UN: 15-year push ends extreme POVERTY for a billion people





Ban Ki-moon hails achievements of millennium development goals but warns world still riven by inequality


The millennium development goals (MDGs) have driven “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history” and brought more than a billion people out of extreme penury, but their achievements have been mixed and the world remains deeply riven by inequality, the UN’s final report on the goals has concluded.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said that while the 15-year push to meet the eight goals – on poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, the environment and global partnership – had yielded some astonishing results, it had left too many people behind.

“The MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before and to protect our planet,” he said.

“Yet for all the remarkable gains, I am keenly aware that inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.”

While the world has reduced the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015, the target of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger was narrowly missed.

Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of undernourished people fell from 23.3% to 12.9%. Current estimates suggest around 795 million people are undernourished – the overwhelming majority of them in developing regions. Progress has been hindered by higher food and energy prices, extreme weather, natural disasters, political instability, humanitarian crises and the economic recession of the late 1990s and in 2008-2009.

Ban noted that in 2011, nearly 60% of the world’s extremely poor people lived in five countries – India, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and that familiar divisions and inequities were as stark as ever.

“Too many women continue to die during pregnancy or from childbirth-related complications,” he said. “Progress tends to bypass women and those who are lowest on the economic ladder or are disadvantaged because of their age, disability or ethnicity. Disparities between rural and urban areas remain pronounced.” MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education.

Progress on education has been mixed: the goal of achieving universal primary education has also just been missed, with the net enrolment rate rising from 83% in 2000 to 91% this year. The literacy rate for those aged 15 to 24 showed an identical rise, while the number of out-of-school children fell from 100 million 15 years ago to 57 million today.

Despite having to contend with a rising population, high levels of poverty and armed conflicts, sub-Saharan Africa made the greatest progress in primary school enrolment of all the developing regions, with its rate growing from 52% in 1990 to 78% in 2012.

The push for gender equality and to empower women has led to about two-thirds of developing countries achieving gender parity in primary education – underlining the fact that the aspiration of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education has not been met.

When it comes to employment outside the agricultural sector, women now constitute 41% of paid workers, up from 35% in 1990. Although the proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years, only one in every five seats is held by a woman. Efforts to narrow the gender divide continue to be stymied by discrimination in law and practice, violence against women and girls, unequal employment opportunities and unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work.

While the child mortality rate has declined by more than half over the past 25 years – falling from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births – it has not declined by the MDG aim of two-thirds. Vaccination helped to prevent nearly 15.6m deaths from measles between 2000 and 2013, but that progress has slowed since 2010, with an estimated 21.6 million infants not receiving the vaccine in 2013. The biggest preventable causes of death for children under five are pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, which between them claim 16,000 lives a day. MDG 4: Reduce child mortality


The aspiration of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters has not been realised, with the ratio falling by nearly half (from 380 deaths per 100,000 live births to 210). Today, only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal visits, and a quarter of babies worldwide are delivered without skilled care. Postpartum haemorrhage accounted for 27% of maternal deaths in developing regions between 2003 and 2009; other major complications were high blood pressure during pregnancy, complications from delivery and unsafe abortion.

Progress on combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases has also varied. The target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015 has not been met, although the number of new HIV infections fell by around 40% between 2000 and 2013, from 3.5 million cases to 2.1 million. The fight is being hindered by risky sexual behaviour and a lack of basic knowledge about HIV among young people in many countries.

The target of halting and reversing the incidence of malaria has been achieved thanks to a tenfold increase in international financing since 2000 and sustained malaria prevention and treatment initiatives. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying, diagnostic testing and the use of effective drugs have helped prevent more than 6.2m deaths from the disease between 2000 and 2015. The global malaria incidence rate has fallen by more than a third and the mortality rate by more than half. Significant progress has been made in the fight against tuberculosis: improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment saved an estimated 37m lives between 2000 and 2013.

The push for environmental sustainability has brought some 2.6 billion people access to improved drinking water since 1990, meaning that the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water was achieved in 2010 – five years ahead of schedule. However, 663 million are still without improved drinking water. MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability.

Efforts on sanitation have fared far less well: 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation (a toilet that hygienically separates faeces from human contact) since 1990, leaving the target of halving the number of people without access to basic sanitation short by nearly 700 million people.

Some 2.4 billion people in developing countries – a third of humanity – still lack access to improved sanitation facilities, while 946 million people still practise open defecation.

The differences between rural and urban areas are often considerable. While four out of five people in urban areas have access to piped drinking water, the figure for those in rural areas is just one in three. Nearly half of those in rural areas lack access to improved sanitation facilities compared with less than a fifth of those in urban areas.

Moves to improve the way the world works together on development have been aided by an increase in the amount of official development assistance (ODA) that rich countries give to developing nations. Between 2000 and 2014, ODA increased by 66% in real terms and hit a record high of $134.8bn (£80.3bn) in 2013.

Ban said that lessons had to be learned from the MDGs as the world prepares to agree their successors, the sustainable development goals, which will set the agenda for the next 15 years.

“We need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development,” he said.

“Reflecting on the MDGs and looking ahead to the next 15 years, there is no question that we can deliver on our shared responsibility to end poverty, leave no one behind and create a world of dignity for all.”

© 2015, . All rights reserved.


Letter from Africa: Can Nigeria avoid repeating past mistakes?



In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that many of the hopes Nigerians had at independence have been dashed.

Of all the stories I have heard of the day when Nigeria gained independence from Britain on 1 October 1960, the most memorable is the one told by my friend’s father, Onye Kamanu, who had spent the preceding night at Tafawa Balewa Square in the then capital, Lagos.

Sitting on the surrounding walls and bare ground were thousands of Nigerians, who, like him, could hardly wait to usher in the day that their country would finally be free from colonial rule.
‘Joy and pride’

With tears in his eyes, Mr Kamanu recalled the occasion, describing the deafening bellow of triumph that went up from the teeming crowd when the British Union Jack finally went down and the green-white-green Nigerian flag was hoisted.

Nigeria’s then Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa captured the mood of the entire nation during his Independence Day speech.

“This is a wonderful day and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience. Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these constitutional instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s independence,” he said.

“It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country,” he added.

Shortly after witnessing the historic event, Mr Kamanu received a scholarship to study at an American university. Throughout the journey by sea, he was fed little else but macaroni and cheese, hence his subsequent lifelong abhorrence of the meal.
‘Full splendour’

Once in the US, he boasted to his classmates about the future of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state.

“Nigeria is going to be a world power in the next few years,” he said. “Oh, you just wait and see.”

Mr Kamanu was certain that, with the coloniser gone and with the advent of self-rule, Nigeria would soon bound forth like a racehorse released from its stall.

That same year, a total of 17 African states celebrated their independence from the UK, France and Belgium.

I understand that a cartoon at the time depicted the map of Africa as a growing giant bursting out of its chains.

Nigeria: Key facts

*1960: Independence from Britain
*1966: Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa (above, right) killed in a coup
*1967: Civil war breaks out over secessionist attempt in south-east
*1999: Military government hands over power after elections
*2009: Militant Islamist group Boko Haram launches insurgency in north-east
*2015: Muhammadu Buhari wins presidential election; first opposition candidate to do so

Clearly, Mr Kamanu was not the only one with high hopes. Others also expected that a continent, blessed with natural resources and hard-working people, would arise in her full splendour and shine.

About 40 years after independence, Mr Kamanu travelled from Nigeria to attend his college reunion in the US. His classmates remembered how loudly he had boasted.

“I thought you said Nigeria was going to be a world power?” they asked, giggling and nudging one another. “So, Onye, what happened?”

A lot happened.

Within six years of his emotional speech, Mr Balewa was assassinated in a coup.

About a year later, Nigeria plunged into a civil war after member of the Igbo ethnic group tried to secede and form the breakaway state of Biafra in the south-east.

Three years of war eventually ended and three decades of coups and dictatorships followed.

Human rights abuses and pillaging of the nation’s vast resources by those in power carried on with little restraint.

Nigeria finally found her way back on to her feet with the return to democracy in 1999.

The giant of Africa leaped several steps forward in March 2015 when the government of Goodluck Jonathan was voted out, the will of the people prevailing, for the first time, over the power of an incumbent.

That historic election of President Muhammadu Buhari led many Nigerians to be as optimistic as Mr Kamanu was in 1960 about the country’s future.

But barely two years later, some of the forces that derailed Nigeria then are once again flashing their sharp talons.

Particularly alarming are the ethnic agitations sounding from almost all parts of the country, especially from the south-east where clashes between the military and the separatist group, the Independent Peoples of Biafra (Ipob), have led to the loss of life and property.

In the media and in daily conversation, Nigerians continue to express their fears about how much more ferocious the crisis could become if not handled with immense care.

This is one déjà vu that Nigeria cannot afford. The giant of Africa has marched too far to be suddenly crippled by the same old mistakes.

As my country celebrates her 57th year of independence, my prayer is that the Nigerian government will handle these agitations with compassion and great wisdom.

Surely none of us wants to look back at this era of hope and struggle to answer the question: “What happened?”

© 2017, Sunday Emmanuel. All rights reserved.

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Cameroon bans pro-independence rallies in Anglophone area



Cameroon has banned public meetings and travel in a mainly English-speaking region ahead of a protest to demand independence for the area.

The South-West region’s border with Nigeria has also been shut to block “infiltration” by people threatening Cameroon’s unity, officials said.

Pro-independence marches have been planned for Sunday, the 56th anniversary of Cameroon’s unification.

English speakers accuse the Francophone majority of discrimination.

They say they are often excluded from top civil service jobs, and that the French language and legal system have been imposed on them.

The government denies the allegations and insists that it treats all citizens equally.

The divisions in the central African state date back to the post-colonial settlement.

Cameroon was colonised by Germany and then split into British and French areas after World War One.

Following a referendum, British-run Southern Cameroons joined the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon in 1961.

It is now divided into the South-West and North-West regions.

Demands for independence have grown in the two regions in recent years and tension has been escalating ahead of Sunday’s planned protests, reports the BBC’s Randy Joe Sa’ah from the capital, Yaoundé.

The South-West region’s governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, has called protest organisers “dogs”, and has warned them that they will be met by troops if they take to the streets on Sunday, our correspondent adds.

At least six protesters were killed and dozens arrested during protests earlier this year. Access to the internet in the Anglophone regions was also blocked from January to April.

Announcing the new security measures, Mr Bilai said there would be a ban on gatherings of more than four people, and travel between towns, from 20:00 GMT on Friday until 08:00 GMT on Monday.

The region’s border with Nigeria would also be closed during this time “following persistent threats of destabilisation” by individuals based outside Cameroon, he added.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN said Secretary-General António Guterres was concerned about tensions ahead of Sunday’s protests.

He urged Cameroon’s government to address the grievances of its Anglophone population, and to take steps to promote national reconciliation, it said.

“The Secretary-General supports upholding the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon and urges all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to an escalation of tension and violence,” the statement added


© 2017, Sunday Emmanuel. All rights reserved.

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When does cultural borrowing turn into cultural appropriation?



Blankets from Lesotho are at the centre of controversy in the fashion world, with some arguing that powerful people are appropriating them for their own benefit. BBC Africa’s Mayeni Jones reports from Cape Town.

At a home in a quiet suburb of Cape Town city, fashion designer Thabo Makhetha shows me her latest collection.

Originally from Lesotho, she uses traditional blankets from the small landlocked country to make modern garments, including trendy capes, coats, trousers and skirts.

The blankets are known as Basotho blankets, after the people of Lesotho.

Made from thick wool, their intricate and colourful patterns each tell a different story of the Basotho people’s history. They wear them as shawls at special events and give them as gifts.

Ms Makhetha was inspired to use these blankets and turn them into modern creations six years ago, after she decided to design a coat for herself to wear at the Durban July, the main horse-racing event in South Africa.

Her attire was very well received. She got so many compliments that she decided to create her own fashion line.

The popularity of the coat also made her question why the traditional African fabric was often absent from day-to-day modern life.

“I started to ask myself, why is it that when we leave home and we move into the cities we tend to leave our culture behind?” Ms Makhetha told me.

Louis Vuitton controversy

She decided to make clothes that would allow people to wear the Basotho blanket in the corporate world, and at formal functions and family events.

Ms Makhetha is not the only one to have seen the fashion potential in the Basotho blankets.

In 2012, French luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton released a menswear design for its autumn/winter collection featuring large scarves inspired by the Basotho patterns.

And this year, the brand released a menswear collection called “Basotho Plaid”. The line includes shirts with Basotho-style prints. A men’s silk shirt is priced at more than $2,400 (£1,790).

However, the designs caused an outcry, with many criticising them as mere copies. Nevertheless, the collection rapidly sold out in South Africa.

Ms Makhetha told me it would have been better had Louis Vuitton collaborated with the Basotho people when developing its collections.

“We’ve seen this happen a lot of times where big fashion brands take cultural items and turn them into fashion pieces without really talking to the people whose culture they’re using, or incorporating them in it, and I think that needs to change.”

Many of those who are opposed to cultural appropriation say the main problem is that the originators of the designs often do not get credit or financial remuneration for their creations.

However, others point out that many artefacts we think of as being African may have in fact originated from other parts of the world.

‘Homage to an ancient kingdom’

Dutch wax fabrics worn across West and Central Africa originally come from the Netherlands and were initially intended for the Indonesian market.

University of Cape Town academic Adam Haupt says that as language and culture are hybrids, often built with many different influences, it becomes impossible to categorically claim that something is “originally” African or European.

In his view, it is much more useful to look at the issue from the perspective of global power relations, especially “between people who colonised the global South and people who are economically and politically dispossessed and marginalised”.

According to this view, companies like Louis Vuitton, or British artists like Damien Hirst, who was criticised earlier this year for exhibiting a golden sculpted head which bore a striking resemblance to a 14th Century bust from the ancient Ife kingdom in Nigeria, reflect the history of cultural looting.

“It’s easy to say let’s just get over the past,” says Cape Town artist and photographer, Thania Peterson, “but we can’t because the past, and how we feel. is so deeply ingrained in us… So when we see Damien Hirst, a British artist, using African art in his work, what he represents to us is a nation and an empire that has only taken.”

But, in a statement by his spokesperson, Hirst said he was very clear about his sources and was in fact paying homage to the Kingdom of Ife.

Many artists and designers argue that in a globalised world, being inspired by a different culture does not necessarily equate to exploiting it.

‘Taking control’

Thai fashion designer Chu Suwannapha has lived in South Africa for 15 years. His bright designs, using a variety of African fabrics. have earned him the nickname “King of prints”.

He says he is constantly inspired by the boldness and beauty of African culture, but that he is always respectful in the way he uses his sources of inspiration.

“Louis Vuitton made a shirt, they only used the Basotho blankets as inspiration. I don’t think their intentions were bad. Those prints are Louis Vuitton’s creation, they were inspired by the Basotho blankets but they created something different,” he adds.

Some commentators suggest that the solution to protecting artworks may lie in trade-marking them.

But intellectual property expert Caroline Ncube warns this may not be easy.

“The law, as we know it, is conceptualised from a certain viewpoint. It’s a global North viewpoint. It’s about individual ownership of things and that doesn’t normally fit with the culture that’s being appropriated.

“The culture that is most frequently appropriated is traditional indigenous culture, and that doesn’t fit into the neat boxes of intellectual property law. The law doesn’t actually allow us to own cultural heritage,” Ms Ncube says.

Ms Makhetha says that Africans have to take control of how their culture is perceived and used.

“A lot of people, especially in Africa, do not appreciate our own culture. We need to bring the awareness that our culture is valuable. We can modify it. We can add things to it and we can tell the world our own story because people want to hear our story. The world wants to hear our story,” she adds.

© 2017, Sunday Emmanuel. All rights reserved.

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“Beautiful Ones (Acoustic)” from Beautiful Ones (Acoustic) – Single by Hurts. Released: 2017. Track 1 of 1. Genre: Pop.