Refugees at risk of hunger and malnutrition, as relief hit in Eastern Africa

© UNICEF/Kate Holt: Women and children stand outside temporary tents at a refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border. (file photo)

According to WFP, over 2.7 million refugees in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and Djibouti have been impacted, with food or cash transfers reduced between 10 to 30 per cent, as the socio-economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic reduces vital funding from donors.

“Refugees are especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 because they are crowded together in camps with weak or inadequate shelter, health services and access to clean water and sanitation,” said Michael Dunford, WFP Eastern Africa Regional Director. 

In addition to COVID, the refugees, especially women, children and elderly, are also at risk of becoming malnourished, which can in turn impact their immune systems and increase their risk of being infected by disease, a tragic vicious cycle in the midst of a global pandemic. 

“With COVID yet to peak in East Africa, we cannot turn our backs on people forced to flee and stuck in remote camps,” added Mr. Dunford.  

Hard-won development gains at risk 

COVID-19 restrictions closed schools in refugee camps, meaning children missed out on vital school meals in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda. In these countries except in Rwanda, funding shortages meant that WFP was unable to provide take home rations to refugee children to help them study at home and stay nourished. 

Extended school closures can also expose children to additional challenges, including, teenage pregnancies, sexual abuse, early marriage, violence at home, child labour and high school dropouts, eroding hard-won development gains made over several years. 

Women and girl refugees are also at heightened risk of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, in addition to resorting to having sex for payment in order to survive. People with disabilities and unaccompanied or separated children are the most vulnerable, said the UN food relief agency. 

World cannot let the most disadvantaged suffer 

“Sadly, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged who suffer the most,” said Mr. Dunford, adding, “We simply cannot let this happen. COVID-19 cannot be an excuse for the world to turn its back on refugees at this terrible time.” 

Given the pressing situation, WFP is appealing both to traditional donors and new would-be donors, such as international financial institutions, to step forward and assist refugees precisely because their vulnerability only increased with COVID-19. 

The UN agency needs some $323 million to assist refugees in the East Africa region over the next six months, about 22 percent greater than during the same period in 2019. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1071062

Peru update: Covid-19 intensifies already extreme poverty

It certainly feels like a second plateau, without a down slope, three times as high as the first. The total number of cases of coronavirus tallied on 19 August in Peru was 558,420, with 53.8% in Lima and Callao, and 26,834 deaths. Gradually, with an increase in the Jungle and the mountains, the number of cases and deaths are almost equal between the capital and the rest of the country. For population size, we have the second highest death rate in the world! 25,500 children and adolescents have been affected, with 106 deaths and some children under five. The medical opinion here is that a child can spread the virus with much more impact, up to 100% more, so beware with the opening of schools!

We are now in a situation where we have to ride out the storm. Unfortunately, it looks as though it is going to last well into next year! The medical facilities available are overrun and the medical staff are exhausted. Covid-19 has increased to above 9,000 new cases daily. The number of deaths now averages 200 daily.

Those under 14 can go out for half an hour a day, accompanied by an adult, but those over 65 continue in lockdown. The curfew in Peru is from 10pm to 4am. Sundays have again been declared lockdown days and 6 departments (Arequipa, Ica, Junin, Madre de Dios, Huanaco and San Martin) are in full-time lockdown along with 34 provinces in other departments of the country. Family and other social gatherings have been banned and sporting events, which were to start, have been banned as are all religious ceremonies.

The cities in the Andes were not so badly hit until the inter-provincial bus services opened up in mid-July, and since then there has been a dramatic increase in cases. For example, in Cajamarca around 90,000 people returned there from Lima and Chiclayo. In the last two weeks the number of cases have doubled there and this is being repeated in many regions of the country, especially Loreto, Arequipa, Cusco, Puno and Ancash.

I accompany Manuel Duato Special Needs School, a Columban project. The teachers are in virtual contact with the parents and through them with nearly 400 children. We have helped 44 families on two occasions, as they have little to no income and are desperate. The teachers are exhausted and worried. Last week two fathers of our Manuel Duato’s Friends over-18 Club, died of covid-19, leaving their adult children without the support and love they need. Five students have had covid-19, with one still in danger. 26 parents have had covid-19, two fathers have died, two more are in intensive care, four have had relapses and the other 18 have recovered. 13 teachers have had covid-19, of whom two have had relapses and the remaining 11 have recovered.

The Warmi Huasi project accompanies children at risk in both San Benito, in the district of Carabayllo, and in the Province of Paucar de Sara Sara, high up in the Andes mountains in the department of Ayacucho. The Province of Paucar de Sara Sara is getting its first cases of covid-19, about 10 in all.

In Ayacucho, our Warmi Huasi team is in touch constantly with the parents, teachers and municipal officials about the welfare of the children. We have just spent two weeks with a virtual training program for all teachers of the Province of Paucar de Sara Sara on bio-security for themselves and in turn for them to communicate the same message to all their students, mostly by whatsapp. We have given out all the books from the reading clubs so that the children have the books to read at home. We also have radio with the children, telling stories and getting them to send in their stories.

In San Benito, the mothers of the four homework clubs have started communal kitchens and a key local community leader started another communal kitchen. The number of families helped in the five communal kitchens has increased to 190, with an average of five per family, so you have 950 people receiving a meal each day. In the communal kitchen run out of the chapel in San Benito, they have a number of social cases: 10 elderly people and a single mother with her five children. There are a number of cases of covid-19 in San Benito – four of the parents of the children in the homework and reading clubs have recovered.

We are in the middle of winter and with the help of friends, we have managed to distribute second-hand clothes to families in need in San Benito and a bed to one family who were sleeping on the floor. Often, I am told, that the children there are the ones reminding their mothers to put on their masks before going out, so our training through WhatsApp is working!

I am in touch with groups of Venezuelan families, and one of these – a family of six – is in desperate straits. They lost their accommodation and have been sleeping on the floor, a third storey flat roof, with just a plastic covering and some old blankets to keep them dry and warm. With friends, we are trying to find them somewhere to stay. I have been able to offer them three months’ rent, hopefully to tide them over this difficult moment.

The people try to be resilient; they keep going and many share what they have with others when the need arises. Many Peruvians started their lives in poverty and gradually improved their lot, but now many of the 70% whose work is in the informal sector, are destined to return to poverty.

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/40335

‘Momentous milestone’ as Africa eradicates wild poliovirus

UNICEF Angola: Angola polio vaccination campaign.

The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared that the 47 countries in the UN World Health Organization (WHO) African Region are free of the virus, with no cases reported for four years.

“This is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. 

Polio is a viral disease that can cause paralysis, and mainly affects children under five.  

The virus is transmitted from person to person, mostly through contact with infected faeces, or less frequently through contaminated water or food. It enters the body through the mouth and multiplies inside the intestines. 

While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through a simple and effective oral vaccine, thus protecting a child for life.  

‘A historic day for Africa’ 

The ARCC certification entailed a decades-long process of documentation and analysis of polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity, as well as field verification visits to each country in the region. 

The last case of wild poliovirus in the region was detected in Nigeria in 2016. 

“Today is a historic day for Africa,” said Professor Rose Gana Fomban Leke, ARCC Chairperson, announcing the certification. 

 A commitment by leaders 

The journey to eradication began with a promise made in 1996 by Heads of State during the 32nd session of the Organization of African Unity held in Yaoundé, Cameroon,  where they pledged to stamp out polio, which was paralyzing an estimated 75,000 children annually on the continent. 

That same year, the late Nelson Mandela jumpstarted Africa’s commitment to polio eradication by launching the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign, supported by Rotary International, which mobilized nations to step up efforts to ensure every child received the polio vaccine. 

Nearly two million spared  

Since then, polio eradication efforts have spared up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis, and saved approximately 180,000 lives, WHO reported. 

“This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists,” said Dr. Moeti.  

“I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives, for this noble cause.” 

Always remain vigilant 

However, Dr. Moeti warned that Africa must remain vigilant against a resurgence of the wild poliovirus.  

Keeping vaccination rates up also wards against the continued threat of vaccine-derived polio, or cVDPV2. 

WHO explained that while rare, vaccine-derived polioviruses can occur when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine passes among populations with low levels of immunization.  Over time, the virus mutates to a form that can cause paralysis.  

Adequate immunization thus protects against wild polio and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses, the UN agency said. 

Learning from polio eradication 

WHO officials in Africa believe that the experience in eradicating wild poliovirus has other benefits for health on the continent. 

Despite weak health systems, and significant logistical and operational challenges, countries collaborated effectively to achieve the milestone, according to Dr. Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the region. 

“With the innovations and expertise that the polio programme has established, I am confident that we can sustain the gains, post-certification, and eliminate cVDPV2,” he said. 

The experience also will inform response to other challenges, both new and ongoing, Dr. Moeti added. 

“The expertise gained from polio eradication will continue to assist the African region in tackling COVID-19 and other health problems that have plagued the continent for so many years and ultimately move the continent toward universal health coverage,” she said. “This will be the true legacy of polio eradication in Africa.” 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1071022

Punished for being poor? Mexico child labor case makes poverty a crime, critics say

A Central American migrant child is silhouetted at the Pan de Vida migrant shelter at Anapra neighborhood, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

MEXICO CITY, – The arrest of three Mexican women accused of trafficking more than 20 children from within their extended family has been criticized by rights activists, who say they are being punished for being poor.

Prosecutors found the malnourished children during a raid last month on a house in Chiapas, the country’s poorest state, and said they were being forced by their relatives to hawk souvenirs and other trinkets in the streets.

But campaigners and family members reject the trafficking charges, saying the three indigenous women – who are mothers to some of the children – simply took the youngsters to work with them occasionally, as many low-income parents do in Mexico.

“Lots of families… go out selling with their daughters and sons because there isn’t anywhere to leave them,” said Jennifer Haza, director of Chiapas children’s rights nonprofit Melel Xojobal.

“For us, there isn’t evidence of human trafficking,” she said, adding that instead of pursuing prosecutions in such cases, the state government should be looking at ways to give vulnerable children a better start in life.

Mother-of-five Enereida Gomez, sister of one of the detained women, said they sometimes had no choice but to take the children with them onto the streets while they sold handicrafts.

“We’re not criminals,” Gomez said, sobbing at a recent news conference on the case, which has received international media attention.

Another local nonprofit Colectiva Cereza has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) to ask for its intervention in the case, citing what it called inconsistencies in the investigation.

But Chiapas State Attorney General Jorge Llaven has defended the prosecutions, saying children can be trafficked by their parents and that being poor cannot be an excuse for crime.

“Exploitation, of course, is a crime that is closely linked with poverty, but we can’t use poverty to justify a crime or else we would become ungovernable,” he told reporters earlier this month.

“We also aren’t criminalizing poverty, I want to make that clear,” he said.

The prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request for further comment about the case, which received renewed scrutiny following the death in custody of Adolfo Gomez, an indigenous Tzotzil man and the grandfather of most of the children.

His wife was also detained.

TRAFFICKING LAW REFORM?

Labor trafficking expert Monica Salazar said it was important to consider the conditions that the three detained mothers were living in themselves, and what benefit they got from the situation.

Mexican law uses a very broad definition of trafficking, which has led to calls for it to be changed, including from the current government.

Salazar, who supports reforming the law, said it should be updated to reflect the reality of poor families.

“It’s not the same to talk about a ‘benefit’ that no one dies of hunger in a family versus organized crime taking advantage,” said Salazar, the founder of nonprofit Dignificando El Trabajo (DITRAC).

More than three quarters of people live in poverty in Chiapas, a southern state bordering Guatemala.

Thousands of children, including some of those found in the raid, do not have birth certificates or go to school, Haza said.

Twenty of the children who were found are now in a government shelter and Melel Xojobal is trying to reunite them with grandparents and other relatives. The other three are babies, so are with their mothers in prison, Haza said.

Prosecutors raided the house in Chiapas after Adolfo Gomez, the grandfather, was detained in a separate case linked to the disappearance of a two-year-old boy.

The missing boy was eventually found safe and well but Gomez died in prison within two weeks of his arrest. Relatives say prison authorities told them he had died by suicide, but they claim his body showed signs of torture.

Chiapas prosecutors said last week they had arrested two public servants for breaches of their duty of care of Gomez.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200825093239-fnkmv/

UN: Nearly 500 million children excluded from remote schooling

UNICEF report says even children with adequate access may face other obstacles to distance education [Ali Hashisho/Reuters]

An estimated 463 million children have been unable to access remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic and widespread school closures, according to the United Nations children’s fund.

A new report published on Thursday by UNICEF said at least one-third of the world’s schoolchildren lack the equipment or electronic access that would allow them to pursue distance education. 

“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, said in a statement.

“The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come,” she said.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest disruption to education in history, with schools closed in some 160 countries in mid-July, affecting an estimated 1.5 billion students, according to the UN. 

A new report published in July by international charity Save the Children said nearly 10 million children may never go back to school because of deep budget cuts and rising poverty caused by the pandemic.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, many countries switched to online learning, but aid groups say this has only widened the learning gap between children from rich and poor families.

The UNICEF report underlined gaping geographical differences in children’s access to distance education, with far fewer affected in Europe, for example, than in Africa or parts of Asia.

The report is based on data gathered from roughly 100 countries, measuring public access to the internet, television and radio.

Even children with adequate access may face other obstacles to distance education – whether the lack of a good workspace at home, pressure to do other work for the family, or a lack of technical support when computer problems arise, the UNICEF report said.

Of the students around the world unable to access virtual education, 67 million are in Eastern and Southern Africa, 54 million in western and central Africa, 80 million in the Pacific and East Asia, 37 million in the Middle East and North Africa, 147 million in South Asia, and 13 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

No figures were given for Canada or the United States – the worst-affected country by the virus – where the issue of reopening of schools has sparked fierce political debate and concern among educators.

With the new school year soon to begin in many countries – including in-person classes in many places – UNICEF urged governments to “prioritise the safe reopening of schools when they begin easing lockdown restrictions”.

Where reopening is impossible, governments should arrange for “compensatory learning for lost instructional time”, the report said.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/500-million-children-excluded-remote-schooling-200827053540044.html

Rape victims ‘denied justice’ in Ghana by costly medical fees

Actress Ama K. Abebrese poses for a portrait, undated. Credit Ama K. Abebrese

ACCRA, – Reporting rape is traumatic for anyone, but having to pay two months’ wages to complete the medical form prevents many in Ghana from seeking justice, said a leading actress whose campaign to waive fees has reached the presidential palace.

British-Ghanaian actress Ama K. Abebrese – who starred with Idris Elba in the award-winning 2015 drama “Beasts of No Nation” – started a petition after hearing about the prohibitive charges in the West African nation where rape convictions are rare.

The minimum doctor’s fee for filling out a police medical form is 300 cedis ($52) – twice the average monthly earnings of informal workers, said Abebrese, one of Ghana’s most influential TV hosts who started out as a teenager presenter in London.

“If you can’t afford it, it is almost like you are denied justice on the basis of money,” said Abebrese, whose petition has attracted more than 14,000 signatures in a month.

“If you don’t get that medical report, essentially, the case to prosecute dies right there and then.”

Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are significantly underreported in Ghana and the police lack capacity to effectively investigate cases, which can take years to reach court, according to women’s rights groups.

Community leaders sometimes negotiate for rapists to pay compensation to victims’ families but they have come under fire in recent years for not taking the crime seriously enough.

Abebrese said she was hopeful that the government would scrap the medical fees after she met with Ghana’s first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who said the president had been made aware of the situation, and with gender minister Cynthia Morrison.

A gender ministry spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were “working on it”.

Police spokeswoman Sheilla Abayie-Buckman said many people could not afford to complete the medical form.

“It is quite expensive for an ordinary person. I guess not more than 50% are able to afford (it)” said Abayie-Buckman, who was unable to provide statistics on rape reports.

JUSTICE

Doctors charge 300 to 800 cedi to fill out police medical forms and 1,000 to 2,000 cedi for giving a medical opinion for legal purposes, according to a Ghana Medical Association (GMA) document seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Frank Ankobea, president of the GMA, which represents medics and sets the fees, said they were necessary to cover doctors’ transport and expenses if called to court.

“Professionals charge that and it is so with all other professions,” he said, adding, “the government can absorb (the cost) and make sure all these provisions are made.”

Since starting the campaign, Abebrese said she has received dozens of calls from victims of sexual assault who were unable to seek justice because of the cost.

“(For) so many people, their cases were never prosecuted, it has really opened my eyes,” she said.

“You think you have an idea but you have no idea the magnitude,” said Abebrese, who recently called for a relationship expert who said in an interview that “every rape victim enjoys the act” to be banned from Ghanaian television.

Most Ghanaians believe that women are to blame for rape if they wear revealing clothes, according to a government survey.

Rape victims also struggle to access justice in other African countries, said Jean-Paul Murunga, a Nairobi-based programme officer for the women’s rights group Equality Now.

He said that rape survivors in Kenya have to pay $10 to $15 for a medical report and free post-rape care is only available in centres run by charities in many countries.

Murunga called on African governments to live up to legally binding promises, made in a pan-African women’s rights pact known as the Maputo Protocol, to ensure access to justice.

“The protocol … obliges African states to provide budgetary and other resources for preventing and eradicating violence against women,” he said. “This is yet to be realised.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200807081227-osrgp/

Virginia shines as solar hot spot in Catholic Energies expansion

In July, a 421-kilowatt solar system was installed at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, in Falls Church, Virginia. The rooftop solar array is projected to offset almost 90% of the parish’s energy use and save it upwards of $1.3 million over 25 years. (Catholic Energies)

A quick scan of the parishes and groups partnering with Catholic Energies reveals a noticeable geographic pattern: Virginia is a growing hotbed of solar activity.

Last month, three parishes in the Arlington Diocese powered up new solar installations, each developed and financed through Catholic Energies, the burgeoning program of the Catholic Climate Covenant that helps church institutions find outside funding to take on energy initiatives without the initial burden of hefty upfront costs.

With the new installations, the parishes — St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Falls Church, St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Springfield and Nativity Catholic Church in Burke — will collectively offset the carbon dioxide emissions produced by powering 3,500 homes for a year or burning 15,000 tons of coal. Just as attractive to their finance councils, the solar projects came at no cost and forecast sizeable savings.

At St. Anthony of Padua, the 421-kilowatt rooftop solar system — the largest of the three parishes — is expected to cover almost 90% of the parish’s energy demand. The solar panels, along with LED lighting upgrades, are projected to save St. Anthony upwards of $1.3 million over the 25-year term of the power purchase agreement.

The rooftop panels at Nativity are part of several green initiatives under way at the parish. Its creation care ministry has also begun a community vegetable garden, and its school is developing an outdoor learning space with native plants and species. In bulletins this summer, the ministry team and pastor Fr. Robert Cilinski included reflections on “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical. While the panels will save the parish money — more than $200,000 — they also reflect Christian values to safeguard creation.

“Our solar panels are on the rooftop shouting the wisdom of Laudato Si’, the social teaching of the church,” Cilinski recently told the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper.

With each Richmond parish, none paid any upfront costs, an arrangement made possible by Catholic Energies.

The program first works with groups to determine if solar is a fit, then seeks funding, primarily through power purchase agreements. In those deals, an outside investor finances the project and sets a fixed rate for energy usage, often lower than local utility rates, which is paid directly to the investor.

Since launching in fall 2017, Catholic Energies has completed 11 solar projects in the past 13 months. Eleven more are under contract and expected to be completed by the end of 2020. By then, the program will have footprints in eight states, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

But the biggest business for Catholic Energies so far has been the region around Virginia. Of the 22 solar installations in all it expects to have completed by the end of the year, 10 are in the Old Dominion and two are in the Washington, D.C., area, where it is also working to finalize contracts with three more Catholic clients.

The completed projects include the 2-megawatt solar installation for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, the largest solar project in the city and to date the largest completed by Catholic Energies, which is based in the District of Columbia. The array’s 5,000 panels began producing power in April. Since then, the electricity it has generated from the sun has offset roughly 1 million pounds of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of planting 25,000 trees, according to Catholic Energies.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/virginia-shines-solar-hot-spot-catholic-energies-expansion

Coronavirus Pandemic Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks, But It’s Not Sustainable

Humanity now consumes around 60% more than Earth can yield in a year, meaning we need 1.6 planets to sustain us. elenabs / Getty Images

Back in 1970, the earth’s biocapacity was more than enough to meet annual human demand for resources. But in the half century since, we have steadily outgrown our single planet. Humanity now consumes around 60% more than Earth can yield in a year, meaning we need 1.6 planets to sustain us.

In 2019, we had already spent our resource budget for the year by July 31, the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever recorded by the Global Footprint Network, which has been calculating global and national ecological impacts for near three decades. In that time, humanity has overshot its biocapacity — defined as an “ecosystems’ capacity to produce biological materials used by people and to absorb waste material generated by humans” — by a few more days each year.

But due to the global coronavirus lockdown, 2020 has bucked the trend. This year, Earth Overshoot Day has moved back by more than three weeks to August 22.

Projections point to almost 15% reductions in CO2 emissions (around 60% of the total footprint) in 2020 as a result of the pandemic-related slowdown in fossil fuel use across the transport, power, industry, aviation and residential sectors. The global Earth Overshoot calculation, which uses data from the likes of the International Energy Agency, also includes forest production, which dipped nearly 9%, and our food footprint, which was steady.

One Planet Misery or Prosperity?

According to Mathis Wackernagel, founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, this year’s contraction is welcomed. But he says the fact that it is accidental means it is not sustainable.

“The tragedy of this year is that the reduction of carbon emissions is not based on a better infrastructure such as better electricity grids or more compact cities,” he told DW. “We need to move the date by design, not by disaster.”

To meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) targets to limit warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celcius, the current decline in the emissions curve would have to continue at the same rate for the next decade, Wackernagel points out. At present, however, this is being achieved through economic and social suffering.

“Not doing anything, being stuck at home. That’s not the kind of transformation we need. It’s not lasting,” Wackernagel said.

The goal must be to “systemically adjust to the physical budget we have available,” added the Swiss-born Global Footprint Network founder and 2018 World Sustainability Award winner. “Do you want one planet misery or one planet prosperity?”

Wackernagel argues that the coronavirus is itself a reflection of ecological stress. “These pressures that we see like pandemics, like famine, like climate change, like biodiversity loss, they’re all manifestations of an ecological imbalance,” he said.

Lowering Emissions for the Benefit of All  

A key side effect of disaster-driven emission reductions is the fact that “the pain is going to be unevenly distributed,” according Wackernagel. Marginalised groups, especially people of color, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s “huge economic impacts,” said Sarah George, a senior reporter with Edie, a UK media company that promotes sustainable business practices.

Edie conducted its first Earth Overshoot webinar in 2019, with the aim of educating organizations to reduce their resource footprint through business models that are sustainable for everyone in the long-term.

George says this year’s webinar on August 22 will also address the misnomer spread by some climate skeptics that a green, low-consumption future is only possible under the deprivations of a lockdown.

“They have used the situation to say that lockdown is ‘what green campaigners want,’ and that we cannot enjoy things like international travel, economic growth, etc. in a green future,” George told DW.

But post-lockdown, George says the goal is to create a one planet model through which businesses can couple “better economic and social outcomes” with “lower emissions and air pollution.”

https://www.ecowatch.com/earth-overshoot-day-2020-2647050359.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

Bringing Catholic social teaching to boys recovering from street life

Boys from the Bosco center in Nairobi, which is run by the Salesians, pose with their instructors.

Kartel is from Umoja slum in Nairobi. Another social worker and I found this 4-year old at a garbage dump site, shivering with cold. We took him to the hospital and then looked for his sole caretaker, a 14-year-old brother. They were living alone much of the time, but we later discovered their grandmother, also a street dweller, living in a mabati (an iron-sheet shelter) flooded with water. We could see where they huddled together with goats at night to keep warm. When we suggested that the boys join us, the grandmother was relieved to know Bosco Boys would care for her grandsons.

This is just one story that I have learned since 2017, when I began working as a social worker with boys like these two at Bosco Boys. Right now I volunteer there, as I am studying for my bachelor’s degree in sustainable human development at Tangaza University in Nairobi. The work at Bosco Boys is now part of my practicum requirement.

At the Bosco Boys informal school, I teach art and life skills and serve as counsellor and after-school tutor. This informal setting is a basic preparation for some of the boys to later attend Kuwinda, a primary boarding school. I like the boys and find them friendly and cooperative, and we have grown in mutual understanding and trust. I also find they are unusually responsible in doing their work, except at times when they fall behind in doing homework.

I think their responsibility is a result of having to live on their own and fend for themselves. But the discipline of study is challenging for some because — coming from street life — their listening abilities are not well developed, and they are easily distracted.

One of the methodologies proven successful for rehabilitation at the center is play therapy. The boys spend several hours a day in games. One of my challenges in working with the boys is understanding their slang. It is like another language. I have to ask them to explain what they are saying in ordinary language.

The boys are organized into four group houses, and positive competition is encouraged; they are rewarded for good behavior and completed assignments. Although this system is a way to help them to discipline themselves, as they can keep each other from “messing up,” there are times when informal cliques erupt into fights, even over small issues.

Bosco Boys Langata rehabilitation center was established in 1994 by the Salesian Priests to help boys overcome addictions and behaviors learned on the street. Thirty-two boys ages 5 to 11 are undergoing rehabilitation at the moment, and more than 3,000 have benefited from this center. Some of the boys live at the center, but others are day students. The boys usually stay from one to two years, and a good number of them are successfully rehabilitated.

Most of the boys I work with are from the slums of Kibera (the largest Kenya slum), Mathare (the second largest slum), Rongai and other slums around the country. These very large slums are infamously tough, marked by widespread poverty, unemployment and high crime rates. It is not an easy place for children to grow up, although many do. Education is also limited because school fees are a luxury for most families living there.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/column/bringing-catholic-social-teaching-boys-recovering-street-life

Introducing EarthBeat’s ‘Lens on Creation’ series for the Season of Creation 2020

Celestina Fernandes da Silva, a Catholic activist, waters flowers in front of her home in the Wapishana indigenous village of Tabalascada, Brazil, April 3, 2019. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

When you think of God’s creation, what image comes to your mind?

Is it the sun at dawn peeking over a peaceful meadow filled with wildflowers? Or maybe a woman drawing water from a well in a parched landscape during a drought? Might you think of a vast forest charred to shades of gray and black by devastating wildfires?

Creation can mean many things to many people. Often, it depends upon the environment around you, as well as where you’ve been.

In his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis said that “contemplation of creation allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us.” He went on to say, “An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals.”

“If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs,” Francis wrote.

Throughout his career, photographer and journalist Paul Jeffrey certainly has experienced the awe and wonder of our world. He’s also witnessed the destruction that human activity can bring to ecosystems and those who call them home. With camera in hand, he has documented all these dimensions of creation, first as a missionary in Central America and then during years of globetrotting on assignment.

The contemplation of creation the pope describes is the jumping-off point for EarthBeat’s new spiritual reflection series, Lens on Creation. The series is timed to mark the ecumenical Season of Creation, which begins Sept. 1 and runs until Oct. 4.

In Lens on Creation, Jeffrey will lead readers on a visual expedition into some of the images of creation from his many travels. He tells the stories behind the images, introducing you to the people and environments they feature, along with the threats they face and their work to safeguard the natural worlds they call home.

“There is no way to separate caring for the planet from caring for the health and dignity of individual persons and families,” he writes in today’s opening reflection.

In Lens on Creation, Jeffrey will take readers to a post-typhoon Philippines, a city dump in India, the top of Washington’s Mt. Tahoma, and even his own backyard in Oregon.

Building on this year’s Season of Creation theme, “Jubilee for the Earth,” Jeffrey offers reflections on the consequences of human decisions on many of the corners of our world featured in the photos. He explores through people’s stories how climate change has made weather-related disasters more destructive, limited access to clean water, ruined coffee crops in Guatemala and led to conflict in Africa. At the same time, he poses examples of how strategic decisions can also renew life and flourishing for all.

He also brings those places close to home with suggestions for further study, reflection and action. Pope Francis also reminds us that we are all connected, with one another and with the world’s ecosystems. Our decision about purchases can affect people in distant places. And their struggles for environmental justice sometimes mirror those of people in our own neighborhoods — perhaps in places where we’ve never noticed them.

“We have a terrifying ability to mess up God’s creation,” Jeffrey writes. “But we also have the ability to confess our environmental sin and work to restore the integrity of the planet which we share with an amazing variety of animals and plants.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/introducing-earthbeats-lens-creation-series-season-creation-2020