Monday January 22, 2018

323 Million at Risk of Deadly Diseases from Dirty Water in Asia, Africa and Latin America, says UN Environment Program

It's estimated that up to 164 million people in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America were at risk of infection from the diseases

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FILE - A China Railway bullet train travels above a river polluted by leaked fuel in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, April 29, 2015. Image source: VOA
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More than 300 million people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are at risk of life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid because of the increasing pollution of water in rivers and lakes, the U.N. Environment Program said Tuesday.

Between 1990 and 2010, pollution caused by viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organisms, and long-lasting toxic pollutants like fertilizer or petrol, increased in more than half of rivers across the three continents, while salinity levels rose in nearly a third, UNEP said in a report.

Population growth, expansion of agriculture and an increased amount of raw sewage released into rivers and lakes were among the main reasons behind the increase of surface water pollution, putting 323 million people at risk of infection, UNEP said.

“The water quality problem at a global scale and the number of people affected by bad water quality are much more severe than we expected,” Dietrich Borchardt, lead author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, a significant number of rivers remain in good condition and need to be protected, he said by phone from Germany.

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About a quarter of rivers in Latin America, 10 percent to 25 percent in Africa and up to 50 percent in Asia were affected by severe pathogen pollution, largely caused by discharging untreated wastewater into rivers and lakes, the report said.

Millions of deaths yearly

About 3.4 million people die each year from diseases or conditions such as cholera, typhoid, polio or diarrhea, which are associated with pathogens in water, UNEP said.

It’s estimated that up to 164 million people in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America were at risk of infection from the diseases.

It said building more sewers was not enough to prevent infections and deaths, adding that the solution was to treat wastewater.

Organic pollution, which can cause water to be completely starved of oxygen, affects one of every seven kilometers of rivers (0.6 mile of every 4.4 miles) in Latin America, Africa and Asia, threatening freshwater fisheries, UNEP said.

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Severe and moderate salinity levels, caused by the disposal of salty water from mines, irrigation systems, and homes, affect one in 10 rivers on the three continents, making it harder for poor farmers to irrigate their crops, it said.

The trend of worsening water pollution was “critical,” Borchardt said.

“It is much more expensive to clean up surface water from severe pollution than to implement proper management, which includes prevention of pollution,” he said. “Tools are available but the challenge is to implement them.” (VOA)

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‘Everyday Africa’ Project to shatter African Stereotypes

Everyday Africa, an Instagram community of photographers who strive to capture ordinary moments of life, such as children picking flowers in a field, or girlfriends chatting at a coffee shop.

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Breaking stereotypes, one post on Instagram ,at a time. Pixabay
Breaking stereotypes, one post on Instagram ,at a time. Pixabay
  • ‘Everyday Africa’ is an Instagram project which aims at eliminating African stereotypes.
  • They photograph everyday life of common Africans to succeed in their initiative.
  •  With approximately 370,000 followers, it is one of the biggest visual libraries of a continent.

When schoolchildren in Washington, D.C., are asked to say the first thing that comes to mind about Africa, they use words like hot, desert, sand, poverty, hunger, war and Ebola.

These are all accurate things to say about that part of the world — but they reflect an “incomplete” picture, says writer Austin Merrill, who together with photojournalist Peter DiCampo has set out to document African reality beyond common stereotypes.

They are the founders of Everyday Africa, an Instagram community of photographers who strive to capture ordinary moments of life, such as children picking flowers in a field, or girlfriends chatting at a coffee shop. Their Instagram following has topped 370,000.

Africa is no more the poor country we think it is, it is time to break the stereotypes.
Africa is no more the poor country we think it is, it is time to break the stereotypes.

In addition to the Instagram feed, the book “Everyday Africa, 30 Photographers Re-Picturing the Continent,” recently hit bookstores in Europe, the United States and certain countries on the African continent. The book is filled with images documenting life in Africa that aim to shatter misconceptions often found in Western media.

Readers see a teenager rollerblading in the streets of Dakar, a DJ playing music in Lagos, a couple looking at the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town. The book displays the full diversity and visual richness of African life.

Both DiCampo and Merrill invited a diverse “community of photographers” from all over the continent to contribute to the Instagram project and the book. Some are professionals, while others are skilled amateurs.

Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste prologues the book in an essay focusing on the power of the ordinary. “We sometimes forget that no matter what is happening in our lives, ordinary moments find a way to move forward,” Mengiste writes.

Normality

Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill, both Americans, met while serving with the Peace Corps in Ivory Coast. In 2012, they received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington to cover the aftermath of Ivory Coast’s civil war.

While they were interviewing refugees and soldiers, Merrill remembers that around them “the vast majority of life was pretty normal, but that wasn’t coming through in the story that we were trying to put together.”

“We were seeing all these other moments, that were many sorts of truer to our daily life experience in that part of the world,” says DiCampo.

So, they took their cellphones and started to photograph what was around them. They felt, says Merrill, that the normal, everyday scenes of life “might be the most important thing we had to tell about that place, about that moment, instead of the crisis story.”

Media organizations tend to focus on breaking news, often triggered by an evolving crisis. Africa has many of those; but, as Di Campo puts it, “It’s quite difficult to have a global understanding when all you see of other parts of the world are really extreme stories.”

This is the gap that the “Everyday Africa” book is trying to fill; to look at the continent from the inside and from different perspectives.

DiCampo and Merrill, with the support of the Pulitzer Center, have also created media workshops that train elementary school students in the United States on how to document their lives and recognize stereotypes.

“We use the story of how we created Everyday Africa,” said DiCampo, “to engage the students in a discussion of how media representation affects them, their lives and their communities and we use our photography to teach basic photography lessons, so that by the end of the workshop, they have an everyday project for their own school or community.”

This social media model has hit a nerve. “The Everyday Africa platform on Instagram may very well be the biggest visual library of the continent,” writes Ghanaian photographer Nana Kofi Acquah.

“To task African photographers with the burden of changing how the continent is perceived, might be overwhelming,” writes Acquah; but, he adds, “a picture of the real Africa” is slowly emerging. VOA