Abused and destitute: Wars fuel rise in global number of widows

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Attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on the Myanmar security forces in Rakhine state triggered a response by the army and Buddhist vigilantes so brutal a senior UN official denounced it as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. (REUTERS)
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Rohingya Muslim women, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect sanitary products distributed by aid agencies near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP)
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Displaced Sunni women fleeing the violence in Ramadi, carry bags as they walk on the outskirts of Baghdad, May 24, 2015. (REUTERS)
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This combo photo comprises of portraits of some of the Rohingya Muslim women taken during an interview with The Associated Press in November 2017 in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Abused and destitute: Wars fuel rise in global number of widows

  • One in seven widows globally — 38 million — lives in extreme poverty
  • Deaths through conflict and disease contributed to a 9 percent increase in the number of widows between 2010 and 2015

LONDON: Millions of widows worldwide suffer crushing poverty and persecution, their numbers swelled by a proliferation of conflicts from Syria to Myanmar.
International Widows’ Day on June 23 aims to raise awareness of the often hidden injustices they face.
Many are robbed of their inheritance, while others are enslaved by in-laws, accused of witchcraft or forced into abusive sexual rituals. Here are some facts:
- Experts estimated there were 258.5 million widows globally in 2015, but say the number is likely to have risen.
- Deaths through conflict and disease contributed to a 9 percent increase in the number of widows between 2010 and 2015.
- The biggest jump has been in the Middle East and North Africa, where the estimated number of widows rose 24 percent between 2010 and 2015, partly due to the Syrian war and other conflicts.
- One in seven widows globally — 38 million — lives in extreme poverty.
- One in 10 women of marital age is widowed. The proportion is about one in five in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
- A third of widows worldwide live in India or China. India, with an estimated 46 million widows in 2015, has overtaken China (44.6 million) to become the country with the largest number of widows.
- Widow “cleansing” rituals in some sub-Saharan countries may require a widow to drink the water used to wash her dead husband’s body or to have sex with an in-law, village “cleanser” or stranger.
- Campaigners for widows’ rights say such rituals, which are intended to rid a widow of her husband’s spirit, spread disease and are a violation of dignity.
- Widows are regularly accused of killing their husbands either deliberately or through neglect — including by transmitting HIV/AIDS — in India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Property seizures and evictions by the late husband’s family are widespread in many places including Angola, Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
- A significant number of girls are widowed in childhood — a reflection of the prevalence of child marriage in developing countries and the custom of marrying off young girls to much older men.


UN envoy: 1.1 billion people face risks from lack of cooling

Rachel Kyte. (Twitter)
Updated 23 sec ago
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UN envoy: 1.1 billion people face risks from lack of cooling

  • “Access to cooling is not a luxury. Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity”
  • For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016

UNITED NATIONS: New data from 52 countries in hot climates reveals that over 1.1 billion people face “significant risks” from lack of access to cooling including death, a UN envoy said Monday.
Rachel Kyte told a press conference that “millions of people die every year from lack of cooling access, whether from food losses, damaged vaccines, or severe heat impact.”
The UN envoy, who is promoting the United Nations goal of providing sustainable energy for all people by 2030, said nine countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with the biggest populations that face major risks are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan.
Kyte stressed that “’cooling for all’” doesn’t mean “putting an air conditioner in every home.”
She said an urgent effort is needed to clarify cooling needs, engage governments and the private sector, and develop and test possible new solutions.
Kyte spoke on the sidelines of this week’s high-level event assessing progress on six of the 17 UN goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 to combat poverty, promote development and preserve the environment by 2030. One of the goals is universal access to sustainable energy.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the opening session that there has been progress on reducing maternal and child mortality, tackling childhood marriage, expanding access to electricity, addressing global unemployment, and cutting the rate of forest loss around the globe.
But Mohammed said in other areas “we are either moving too slowly, or losing momentum.”
“For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 — fundamentally undermining our commitment to leaving no one behind,” she said.
Young people remain three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, most of the world’s extreme poor are projected to live in urban settings by 2035, and basic sanitation remains “off track,” she said. And “we are seeing alarming decline in biodiversity, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases” that cause global warming.
As for access to energy including renewable energy, Mohammed said the rate of progress “is not fast enough to meet our target.”
“We need to also double our efforts on energy efficiency,” she said. “250 million more people in Africa have no access to clean fuels for cooking compared to 2015.”
Kyte, who is also CEO of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Energy for All, stressed that without ensuring access to cooling for all people, the UN goal of universal access to energy will not be achieved.
She stressed that “access to cooling is not a luxury” but “a fundamental issue of equity. And as temperatures hit record levels, this could mean the difference between life and death for some.”
While 1.1 billion people lack access to cooling, Kyte said another 2.3 billion people present “a different kind of cooling risk.”
They represent “a growing lower-middle class who can only afford to buy cheaper, less efficient air conditioners, which could spike global energy demand and have profound climate impacts,” she said.
As examples of other hurdles that must be overcome in the next 12 years, she said, 470 million people in poor rural areas don’t have access to safe food and medicines and 630 million people in hotter, poor urban slums “have little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves.”
In India, Kyte said, “nearly 20 percent of temperature-sensitive health care products arrive damaged or degraded because of broken or insufficient cold chains, including a quarter of vaccines.”