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World Wildlife Conference to Discuss Tackling Illegal Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora

Tackling the illegal trade in endangered wild fauna and flora and strengthening trade rules for fisheries, timber, and exotic pets

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FILE - Radiated tortoises, originally a native species of southern Madagascar, are on display during an annual flora and fauna expo in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 29, 2010. VOA

Tackling the illegal trade in endangered wild fauna and flora and strengthening trade rules for fisheries, timber, and exotic pets are just a few of the many controversial and emotional issues to be discussed over the next two weeks at a World Wildlife Conference opening in Geneva Saturday.

Thousands of delegates are expected to gather at Geneva’s cavernous Palexpo Exhibition center.  They will be lobbying for their pet wildlife projects through elaborate, imaginative displays and persuasive talk fests.

The 183 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is hosting this extravaganza.  CITES sets the rules for international trade in wild animals and plants.

Governments interested in changing the levels of protection that CITES provides have submitted 56 new proposals for discussion.  These, says CITES range from proposals to ensure trade in at-risk species remains sustainable to calls for a ban on trade in species threatened by extinction.

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FILE – Conference attendees walk by a display of elephants and other wildlife at The International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Honolulu. VOA

One of the hot button issues on the agenda is that of the conservation of African elephants.  Chief of CITES Scientific Services, Tom De Meulenaer, says the debate on trade in elephant ivory has been raging for 25 years.  He says three new proposals will be under debate.

“Two of them are coming from southern African countries and they seek to liberate or to open up trade in ivory again,” said De Meulenaer. “There is a third proposal from other countries in Africa, which is in competition with this one because it seeks to close all trade in ivory.  Obviously, these three proposals are not compatible and will be subject of deliberations by the COP (Conference of the Parties).”

The conference also will consider new wildlife trade rules on an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants.  A topic likely to generate a lot of interest is whether to exempt musical instruments made of precious wood from trees protected by CITES.

Bass guitars, violins, clarinets and other musical instruments are made wholly or partially from Rosewood and other precious woods.  Organizers promise a fascinating debate with prominent members of the music industry.

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One of the overarching problems threatening the survival of many wild animals and plants is that of illegal international trade in wildlife.  CITES warns the growing involvement of organized crime groups increases the risks faced by enforcement officers such as park rangers.

The conference is not just a talking shop.  It has teeth.  CITES is a legally binding treaty.  So, officials say anything decided at the conference will have a concrete impact on citizens, businesses and governments in 90 days when the new rules come into effect. (VOA)

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Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Behind All Other Regions in World in Reducing Child and Maternal Mortality

Estimates by the World Health Organization and U.N. children’s fund UNICEF reveal conflict, fragile health systems, and poverty

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Africa, World, Child
FILE - A woman sits beside her sick child in the pediatric ward at the general hospital in Man, western Ivory Coast, July 4, 2013. VOA

New U.N. data shows sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions in the world in reducing child and maternal mortality. Estimates by the World Health Organization and U.N. children’s fund UNICEF reveal conflict, fragile health systems, and poverty are some of the factors accounting for millions of preventable child and maternal deaths.

Presenting their report Thursday in Geneva, he two U.N. agencies said since 2000, child deaths have dropped by nearly one-half and that maternal deaths are down by more than one-third, mostly due to better access to affordable, quality health services.

The new estimates, however, show 6.2 million children under the age of 15 died last year and nearly 300,000 women died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. The agencies report a pregnant woman or newborn dies every 11 seconds somewhere in the world, mostly of preventable causes.

Peter Salama, WHO’s executive director of universal health coverage, says women and children in sub-Saharan Africa are at higher risk of death than in all other regions.

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New U.N. data shows sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions in the world in reducing child and maternal mortality. Pixabay

“In 2017, for the first time, half of all child deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of increasing fertility rates, we project that number to reach more than 60 percent of all global child deaths. For maternal deaths today, two-thirds occurred in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

Salama says the lifetime risk of a woman dying of pregnancy-related causes is about one in 37 in Africa, compared to one in 7,800 in Australia, his home country. He says the risk of delivering a baby in countries with a stable government is far than less in countries affected by conflict.

He says countries with modest means can make progress in reducing child and maternal mortality. He cites Belarus, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malawi and Zambia.

“It is clear one reason is they have made a heavy investment in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health. They are choosing the right programs and they are investing accordingly in them. But that is not the whole story.  They are investing in primary health care and in universal health coverage. In short, they are investing in more comprehensive and integrated systems,” Salama said.

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The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals aim to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births and under-five child mortality to at least 25 per 1000 live births by 2030.

WHO and UNICEF say the world must act now and invest the money needed to reduce these deaths. They warn that otherwise, 62 million children under the age of 5 will die between now and 2030, and more than a million maternal lives will be lost. (VOA)