16 April, 2013

ON THE AGENDA: Ten key questions from Haiti to Somaliland

ON THE AGENDA: Ten key questions from Haiti to Somaliland

By Tim Large 

A Haitian girl walks through a camp for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Swoan Parker

By Tim Large

Editor, Thomson Reuters Foundation news services

Here are just a few of the questions our correspondents will be asking this week as they report on humanitarian issues, women's rights, climate change, corruption and social innovation for our AlertNet and TrustLaw news services.

Remember that from April 24, you'll find all such stories on a single platform – our newtrust.org website, which will roll AlertNet, TrustLaw, TrustMedia and our other services into one. So no more jumping back and forth between sites.

Q. How much longer for Haiti's homeless?

The number of homeless earthquake survivors living in camps sprawled across Port-au-Prince has declined by nearly 80 percent from a peak of 1.5 million people, according to the latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration. But 320,000 Haitians who lost their homes in the quake more than three years ago still live in tent and tarpaulin camps in and around the capital, while almost 67,000 households "still have no prospect of moving out" of the makeshift settlements, the IOM says. Reporting for AlertNet, Anastasia Moloney will be looking at what if anything can be done for those whose lives remain upside-down.

Q. Why do 55 million people in India's Maharashtra state face hunger?

Two years of low rainfall and a history of poor management of water resources have left dams empty, farmland parched and cattle emaciated. Not to mention up to 55 million people at risk of food insecurity. Nita Bhalla will be exploring the environmental and human factors behind this underreported catastrophe in a state with the largest number of dams in the country and more than its fair share of thirsty golf courses.

Q. How is Britain leading the way in tackling statelessness?

The answer is simple – by taking the landmark step of allowing stateless people living on the margins of society to legalise their presence in the country. An estimated 12-15 million people worldwide are stateless, meaning they lack even the most basic rights. Statelessness exacerbates poverty, increases social tensions, breaks up families and destroys children's futures. Emma Batha will have the story.

Q. How are British taxpayers helping to displace half a million Kenyans and Ethiopians?

The answer boils down to the construction of a controversial dam that activists say is likely to uproot hundreds of thousands from their homes, exacerbate hunger and fuel conflict. The dam project is linked to a forcible resettlement programme that Survival International says is 'bankrolled' by British taxpayers. Katy Migiro has the story.

Q. As the plight of women worsens in Somalia, what progress is there in neighbouring Somaliland?

Katy Migiro will be pouring over UNICEF's latest survey on women and children in Somaliland and Puntland for evidence of progress in tackling issues such as female genital mutilation, child labour and women's literacy. Somaliland has been relatively peaceful since it broke away from Somalia, a country racked by decades of civil war. We'll be keen to see how far that peace has translated into better lives for women and children.

Q. Did someone mention global mental health?

The World Health Organisation is due to adopt its first ever global action plan on mental health at its assembly in Geneva next month. Katie Nguyen will be interviewing a WHO policymaker on the significance of the plan, why it's being launched now, why mental health continues to be a neglected area of health and whether there's any hope of mental health being included in post-2015 development goals.

Q. Is Nairobi set to become the world's latest tax haven?

The Kenyan government plans to create the Nairobi International Financial Centre, a regional hub for financial services along the lines of the City of London, which critics say risks becoming a tax haven. It is working with a British firm to set the development up. Katy Migiro will be exploring whether the centre really will enable the corrupt to hide illicit funds and evade taxes.

Q. Why do 400,000 "rape kits" remain untested in the United States?

A "rape kit" is used to collect DNA evidence from the body of a victim of sexual assault. It forms key police evidence. In the United States, the government estimates there is a backlog of some 400,000 "untested" rape kits in police and crime storage facilities. Lisa Anderson has an interview with Julie Smolyansky, founder of a campaign to end that backlog.

Q. How to end to poverty and other modest questions

Every spring, thousands of policymakers, activists, academics, business folks and journalists descend on Washington for the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It's a jamboree focusing on more issues than you can shake a white paper at, from international development to the global economy. Stella Dawson will be there. Among other things, she'll be asking what strategies the new president of the World Bank is pursuing in a budget-constrained, post-financial crisis environment and what impact the bank's anti-corruption programme has had on reducing graft. Expect interviews, stories and blogs a-plenty.

Q. Could Colombia's rebel landmine-layers become part of the clean-up squad?

Colombia has more landmine victims than any other country apart from Afghanistan. Most of these explosives were laid by the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during its nearly 50-year war against the government. Now the country's leading anti-mines NGO, the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines, is calling on the FARC to get involved in demining operations. Will they bite? Anastasia Moloney is looking into it.

For the answers to last week's key questions, see What we learned: Ten things we didn't know till now. And don't miss our special coverage of last week's Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford.

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