Poll: 81% of Americans cannot identify Arab world on map

Updated 03 May 2017
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Poll: 81% of Americans cannot identify Arab world on map

DUBAI: Most Americans have scant knowledge of the Arab world, with eight in 10 unable to point out the region on a map, a wide-ranging Arab News/YouGov poll has found.
The survey of 2,057 people in the US revealed an alarmingly low level of awareness about the Middle East and North Africa, but also a desire for more media coverage of the region.
More than a fifth of respondents said Agrabah — the fictional city from “Aladdin” — is a real part of the Arab world. An even higher proportion — 38 percent — would be happy with a US travel ban on citizens of Agrabah should they be proven a threat.
The US public’s knowledge gap does, however, extend far beyond Disney fiction.
The “The Arab Image in the US” poll, conducted March 17-21, found that 65 percent of respondents admitted to knowing little about the Arab World, with 30 percent having no interest in understanding the region further.
Over three-quarters of respondents said they would not consider traveling to the Arab world, with 39 percent saying the whole region is too dangerous to visit.
The results of the poll are published today to coincide with the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai. An Arab News panel discussion on “The Arab Image in the West” will be held today, the second day of the forum, to discuss the media’s role in addressing the region’s perception problem.
This is significant as a low engagement in news about the Arab world was seen as one factor behind the vast gap in Americans’ knowledge exposed by the Arab News/YouGov poll.
Almost eight in 10 of the respondents said they follow international news, but of those only 24 percent tune into news about the Arab world. But half of the respondents said they think US media do not provide sufficient coverage of the region.
Stephan Shakespeare, the chief executive of polling firm YouGov, said the findings are significant and a cause for concern, especially at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up the US involvement in the Arab world.
“America appears more isolationist since the advent of President Trump and yet at the same time more willing to intervene fast with military action, defying Russia with a surprise attack in Syria,” Shakespeare said.


“Whatever one’s views of these situations, everyone surely hopes for increased understanding between the peoples of the world.”
Shakespeare did, however, point to some “more hopeful” signs from the poll findings.
For example, when it comes to immigration — one of the key talking points during in last year’s US election — the results were generally positive.
The survey found that 63 percent of respondents believe Arab immigrants have made efforts to integrate themselves in US and Western societies.
And Shakespeare also pointed to the desire of US citizens to learn more about the Middle East, something on the agenda at the Arab Media Forum.
“About a third (of respondents said) they would like to see more media coverage about social, cultural and scientific aspects of the region,” Shakespeare wrote. “There appears to be some readiness to consider broader and more positive types of news.”


Clean water for all is still centuries away, aid group warns

Water, sanitation and hygiene is a global crisis. (AFP)
Updated 57 min 58 sec ago
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Clean water for all is still centuries away, aid group warns

  • By the 2030 deadline, “a significant number of people” in 80 countries are unlikely to have access to clean water, while poor sanitation is expected to persist in more than 100 nations
  • Namibians would have to wait until 2246 for everyone to have clean water, while all Eritreans would not get it until 2507 and Nicaraguans not until 2180

TEPIC, Mexico: Supplying clean water and toilets for all could take hundreds of years in countries like Eritrea and Namibia unless governments step up funding to tackle the problem and its harmful effects on health, an international development agency warned on Monday.
WaterAid — which says nearly 850 million people lack clean water — predicted the world will miss a global goal to provide drinking water and adequate sanitation for everyone by 2030.
Meeting it will cost $28 billion per year, the non-profit said.
“Water, sanitation and hygiene is a global crisis,” said Savio Carvalho, WaterAid’s global advocacy director.
“We’re really calling for governments to pull up their socks,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from the United Nations in New York.
From July 9-18, governments are reviewing progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed at the United Nations in 2015, with a focus on six of the 17.
Last week, UN officials said barriers to achieving the 2030 water and sanitation targets range from conflict and water pollution to climate change, urging more efficient water use.
By the 2030 deadline, “a significant number of people” in 80 countries are unlikely to have access to clean water, while poor sanitation is expected to persist in more than 100 nations, WaterAid said.
Drawing on UN data, the UK-based group calculated some countries will need hundreds of years to provide safe drinking water and toilets for all their people, meaning countries collectively are thousands of years off track.
At current rates, Namibians would have to wait until 2246 for everyone to have clean water, while all Eritreans would not get it until 2507 and Nicaraguans not until 2180, WaterAid said.
It could be 500 years before every Romanian has access to a toilet, and 450 years for Ghanaians, it added.
Governments should fund water and sanitation provision from their own budgets, and work with utilities and private companies to reach people in isolated areas, said Carvalho.
“There’s money around — it’s just not allocated in the right way,” he said, urging international donors to increase spending on water and sanitation.
Other global goals to ensure healthy lives, reduce inequality and end poverty will be jeopardized until access to water and sanitation is prioritized, noted Carvalho.
WaterAid quoted World Bank data showing the knock-on effects of inadequate sanitation — which causes child deaths from poor hygiene and preventable disease — cost $220 billion in 2015.
Some countries, including Rwanda and India, have made substantial headway toward the water and sanitation goal, but sustaining progress remains a challenge, said Carvalho.
“For the nations collectively to be thousands of years off track in meeting these human rights is shocking,” WaterAid Chief Executive Tim Wainwright said in a statement. (Reporting by Sophie Hares; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit