International organizations are warning about a possible baby boom due to COVID-19 and restrictions on women’s reproductive girls, which will have significant implications for the world’s economy. In the age of global warming, the pandemic could lead to an additional 7 million unintended births, accelerating the growth of the world population.
A woman’s rights issue
According to the United Nations Population Fund estimates that the pandemic could cause millions of women to lose access to contraception, leading to at least 7 million unintended pregnancies.
The key projection by UNFPA was released in a statement on April 28, 2020:
“47 million women in 114 low- and middle-income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives and 7 million unintended pregnancies are expected to occur if the lockdown carries on for 6 months and there are major disruptions to health services. For every 3 months the lockdown continues, up to an additional 2 million women may be unable to use modern contraceptives.”
The research, conducted by UNFPA with contributions from Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University (USA), and Victoria University (Australia), predicts that the pandemic will also significantly impact current activities to combat gender-based violence, child marriages, and female genital mutilation.
It is clear that the pandemic has caused many countries to restrict women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights. Many are closing down clinics delivering essential family planning health services, especially in Pakistan, El Salvador, Zambia, Sudan, Colombia, Malaysia, Uganda, Ghana, Germany, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka. In total, 5,633 sexual and reproductive health care services have already closed around the world, according to an article by the International Planned Parenthood Association. It further states that the ones that do remain open are facing problems accessing contraception and other essential supplies.
In the United States, conservative politicians also are seizing upon the lockdown measures to cancel abortion procedures. In other countries, such as India, the officials recognize abortion as an essential health service but women cannot seem to access it due to the strict lockdown measures.
The rise of unintended or even unwanted pregnancies, often caused by rape, may also lead to a rise in maternal mortality. After the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, for example, more women died giving birth or delivered stillborn infants.
For women’s rights activists, the devastating impact of COVID-19 on women’s and girls’ reproductive health and rights in an illustration of how such rights are simply not considered important enough for politicians and policy-makers around the globe. Instead of investing in proper healthcare infrastructures, many middle to low-income countries are dependent on NGOs and other types of organizations for family planning. It might be a short-term fix, but the pandemic demonstrates the fragility of this system when a crisis hits.
The upsurge of unintended pregnancies, many of which bourne by underage girls, may also have long-term effects on gender equality. As more girls are forced into motherhood or marriage, women’s literacy and education rates are likely to fall. Furthermore, early pregnancies can cause damage to the bodies of young girls and lead to health problems during and after pregnancy.
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School closures impact girls’ rights
As schools are forced to close down as a health measure, many girls are left without the only place where they felt safe. Domestic violence has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic and sexual abuse can lead thousands of girls to face unwanted pregnancies, without access to specialized health care, and without the option to terminate the pregnancy.
According to a report by Save the Children, the Ebola outbreak had a dramatic impact on the safety of teenage girls:
“Sexual violence against girls was observed to have increased across all districts, and this was stated by both girls and boys. In nearly all of the FGDs where this issue was raised, children could relay a case of rape against a girl in their community, including attacks on girls in quarantine households. Data revealed that the risk of rape was highest when girls went to collect water, traveled long distances to trade in other villages, or when using the bush to go to the toilet.
Reports about fear of rape were mainly voiced by girls aged 15-18, but younger girls also shared their concerns. Boys were aware of this happening to their sisters and friends. Many children also spoke about links between increased abuse and higher teenage pregnancies: “yes, there is more abuse in the community now which has resulted in the increase of teenage pregnancy” – Girl aged 15-18, Kailahun
Telemedicine – a possible solution
As countries across the globe neglect sexual and reproductive health and rights and family planning, national and international non-governmental organizations are trying to come up with new solutions.
In the United States, Planned Parenthood expanded telehealth services to all 50 States. According to TIME, this initiative allows Americans to have access to, among other services:
“[T]esting and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), HIV testing and prevention, emergency contraception, hormone therapy, vasectomy counseling, abortion counseling, and—like the first responder—prescriptions for abortion pills”
The international organization Marie Stopes has also come up with the At Home Abortion Pills initiative and runs a 24/7 hotline for phone consultations. This will allow thousands of women access to abortion services while in quarantine, thus avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
Before the pandemic, many countries were reluctant to allow such services to be provided through telemedicine. But COVID-19 has eased restrictions and allowed organizations to reach beneficiaries with the aid of technology.
There are now organizations providing such services more than ever, and hopefully, the trends will continue in order to reach women and girls who, even before the pandemic, could not access sexual and reproductive care in their own cities or countries.
One such organization is Women First Digital, which provides threefold services through three different websites. While Find My Method focuses on assisting women and girls to find the right type of contraceptive for them, safe2choose offers counseling services to those wondering whether they would like to carry on pregnancies or not. Finally, How to Use Abortion Pill explains, well, just that, in 24 different languages, making sure women and girls can safely terminate unwanted pregnancies at home.
Delhi Air Pollution: 18 Million People at the Risk of Severe Health Problems
Delhi Air Pollution: Delhi, the capital of India, is one of the most polluted cities in the world. But winter is especially cruel here. Each year, October, November, and December bring together an exceptionally dirty environment, where over 18 million people are forced to live with a quilt of smog covering the capital and nearing cities.
2022 is nothing different. With the Air Pollution Index (API) at 337, the condition of Delhi’s environment is worsening.
The big question now is: what causes such disastrous air pollution in Delhi? What are the inferno reasons that pollute the air of entire northern India? And how are Delhites coping with the pollution?
An Overview of the Problem: Delhi Air Pollution
According to an India Today Web Desk article, Delhi has topped the list of the most polluted cities worldwide for the fourth consecutive year. The survey was initiated by SoGA, where the organization listed 20 polluted cities around the world in which Delhi ranked in the first position.
The air quality here in Delhi gets so bad in winter that the government needs to declare a public health emergency in response to exacerbating air pollution.
Like every year, the state government shut down schools, stalled all construction and industrial activities, and implemented an odd-even scheme traffic rotation to prevent air pollution.
“We can’t see the skyline. The air is unbreathable and traveling to work is extremely dangerous as you can see anything after 2 meters in the smog. This is not severe! This is an emergency—the next level of severity.”Abhishek singh, a Delhi resident told mzemo
This condition happens every year when Delhi experiences a massive spike in air pollution—unfortunately, initiating the reason for two deaths in the country “EVERY MINUTE.”
What is Behind Delhi Air Pollution?
The unfortunate thing about the population of Delhi and the Delhi government is that they are not entirely responsible for the severe air pollution in their state.
According to SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), 48% of Delhi’s air pollution is responsible for stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana.
Delhi’s AQI has been in the severe zone (401-500) for seven days between October 20 and November 14 this year. The percentage of farm fires that contributed to Delhi’s PM 2.5 on each of these days ranged from 26% to 48%.
The primary contributors to the dangerous situation in Delhi include
Stubble Burners – The Deed Owners
Though stubble burning has been an agricultural practice for centuries, the combined mechanical harvesters leave behind the stalk of the crop in the soil, which is around 2 feet high.
Therefore, to save money and time, farmers, instead of cutting the remaining stalk, set fire to the entire field so that a new batch of crops could be grown as soon as possible.
After the year 2009, stubble burning became even more popular when the governments of Haryana and Punjab passed a law order to conserve water.
However, despite the concerning issue of air pollution in the past few years, the stubble-burning culture still continues.
The Himalayan Cool Winds Worsen the Delhi Air Pollution
The stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and Western UP creates fumes that blow away toward Delhi due to the strong winds during winter.
Combined with the cold winds coming from the Himalayas, this smoke gets trapped in Delhi’s air due to temperature inversion. The Himalayan mountain acts like a kind of barrier for Delhi, directing the smoke towards the capital.
Additionally, the weather also plays a significant role in worsening Delhi’s pollution. During the winters, cold mountain air rushes down from the Himalayas towards Delhi. Arriving cold air from the Himalayas beneath a layer of warm lowland air creates a dome over the state.
The warm air keeps pollution trapped on the ground with nowhere to go. So when stubble fire smoke reaches Delhi, it blends with urban pollution and forms toxic smog.
All these reasons combined, Delhi experiences dangerous air pollution that is so high that even air quality meters cannot accurately gauge its level.
The Co-Partners of Stubble Burners
During October-November, India celebrates their premier festival of Diwali, where lighting crackers worsen the situation in Delhi.
When the weather was considered, the survey discovered increases in PM2.5 concentrations, one of the most dangerous particles for human health, to approximately 40% high on the second day of the festival.
The Delhi government, however, made significant efforts to reduce the effects of burning crackers in Delhi pollution but failed to implement it thoroughly.
Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana peaks in October end- and November. While the contribution of Diwali crackers significantly affects the air quality of Delhi.
Nevertheless, the contribution of stubble burning is Delhi’s primary cause of air pollution.
Delhi Air Pollution: The Solution
The unique geographical location of Delhi, coupled with its huge population, puts the state in a fragile position. In the interview with Mzemo, Abhishek said that the condition is getting worse every year.
However, there are a few solutions.
The controllable thing for Delhi is to use public transport, the Metro, or trains to travel. Secondly, reduce the waste or bifurcate the plastics and dry waste from wet. Third, implement strict rules and regulations against the Punjab and Haryana governments.
And most importantly, the government needs to come up with policies that to restore quality air in Delhi, especially when the life of 18 million people are at risk.
Palestine is Entrenched In the Heart of Qatar World Cup
Almost every match of the Qatar 2022 World Cup has witnessed signs of having Palestine entrenched in the heart of World Cup’s fans by either raising the Palestinian flag, wearing a Palestinian kufiyah or chanting slogans in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Palestine is a kind of country that is physically absent but spiritually present in the heart of the World Cup in Qatar. There is hardly a match, event, or promotional activity without the presence of the Palestinian flag, even though its team does not participate in the tournament. This edition of the World Cup tournaments is, by all means, different and holds significant importance since its beginning 92 years ago for the Arabs and the Palestinians. Since the beginning of the tournaments, Palestinians have been looking forward to spreading awareness about their suffering and getting their voice heard on a large scale.
What is in the heart, is in the heart
Arabs’ unity at its best in supporting Palestinians is present in a chilling way in the Mondial. This is almost the first time for Muslims, Arabs, and especially Palestinians to have their powerful platform to speak aloud. They need to speak loudly about their suffering in the largest gathering ever. The Palestinian flag has been flown with pride at stadiums across Doha since the tournament kicked off.
The unifying power of football has been unmistakably displayed, with Palestinians eager to throw their support behind Arab teams upsetting football’s international elite. On the other hand, Arabs have also shown signs of solidarity with the Palestinians during the tournaments. “My friends and I have been exchanging videos posted online showing Arab people waving the Palestinian flag, it’s a testament that we are one and Palestine is alive in the hearts and minds of all Arabs,” a fan said. Furthermore, Arab activists on “Twitter” launched a campaign to boycott companies supporting the “Israeli” occupation, and widely raised Palestinian flags during the World Cup Qatar 2022. Beautifully, Tunisian fans chanted for Palestine and raised the Palestinian flag outside the stadiums beautifully displaying Palestine entrenched in the heart of the World Cup.
Qatar encapsulates timeless universal solidarity with Palestine
It is not surprising to see the Qatari fans’ support for the Palestinians in the Mondial. On top of all supporting countries, Qatar has always shown solidarity with the Palestinian question whether spiritually or financially. Significantly, Qatar has seized the chance not only to spread Islamic culture and history but also the Palestinian question as well. Likewise, a Qatari man filmed a video on social media showing him distributing Palestinian armbands.
Several Qataris wore armbands featuring a pro-Palestinian design at the Mondial, according to photos posted on Twitter. The armbands bore the black-and-white design of the kufiyah scarf that is synonymous with the Palestinian cause. They were an apparent response to players and officials protesting FIFA’s players who wear the gay armband on the pitch. On top of all of that, Winterhill Hospitality, the official Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup hospitality-booking site, has put ‘Occupied Palestinian territories’ as a country option, without mentioning ‘Israel’ on its list. Moreover, it launched a popular campaign called “The Palestinian Dream” in Qatar. It aims to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause and the crimes of the occupation. It also has another aim: taking advantage of the major global event “World Cup”.
In addition, a Qatari man appeared in a video refusing to talk to an Israeli reporter as a way of showing solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Not only him, but also many Qataris showed refusing to interact with Israeli reporters. They also held the Palestinian flags high in every street, car, and stadium.
Israel is hopelessly isolated as Palestine is entrenched in the heart of the masses
As a sign and a result of showing solidarity with Palestinians, the masses have hopelessly outcasted and isolated Israeli media in front of the world. The Israeli media appeared isolated amidst large numbers of Arab fans. Whenever knowing their Israeli identity and hear their broken Arab accent, pro-Palestinians rally around them with dozens of Palestinian flags. For more, click here. “We feel hated, surrounded by hostility and unwanted,” an Israeli journalist said. Another Israeli reporter interviewing a Saudi fan burst into anger shouting that “Israel stays for doomsday.” This is a sign of covering up the distress and anger in which he is. This Mondial has proved the hatred of Arabs, Muslims, and some Westerners worldwide for the Israelis. A Saudi fan was overwhelmed in a video telling an Israeli reporter that he is not welcome here.
As a result, Israeli media started to flounder for being a redundant intolerable guest. “After a while, we decided to claim we were Ecuadorian when someone would ask us where we were from,” an Israeli reporter said. Read more on this: Is anti-Semitism essential for the survival and growth of Zionism and Jewish peoplehood?
The Yemeni, Saudi, and Tunisian masses gave a harsh lesson to the Israeli journalist Jay Hochmann. This happened when he stood among their groups to impose himself among them, so they cheered “Palestine”. Furthermore, Yediot Ahrnot said that their coverage of the World Cup showed the magnitude of the Arabs’ hatred of Israel. It also noted that Iranian, Qatari, Jordanian, Moroccan, Syrian, Lebanese, and Egyptian fans were looking at them with hate looks.
Summing up, it is the instinct of Arabic peoples to show such solidarity with Palestinians. All the presented signs show that Palestine is entrenched in the heart of World Cup fans. Through their unity and awareness, the Palestinian question is strongly dominant in the scene. Most importantly, let us not forget the enormous efforts of Qatar of supporting Palestinians in all circumstances. One of the most critical factors to make full benefit of the Qatar World Cup in support of the Palestinian cause is to communicate directly with match commentators, presenters, and influencers. This can be via television, radio channels, or social media sites to highlight, talk about, and address the Palestinian issue during their comments on the games.
In addition to the need to interact on social media sites via several tags, most notably Palestine in the World Cup, to get the issue to the extreme and the most significant gatherings. This interaction proved that the question of Palestine is still alive and still entrenched in the hearts of all Arabs and Islamic peoples in the World Cup. Qatar World Cup FIFA has become the main platform to convey the Palestinian question to the whole world. On the other hand, negligence and outcast, at least, are what Israelis got due to their bloody deeds against Palestinians. From our platform, we announce our support for Qatar and the Palestinian question as well.
The UK Economy Braces for 2-Year Long Recession: What Went Wrong?
The UK economy is witnessing one of the worst crises in its history. The downfall of the pound, war-infused energy crisis, skyrocketing electricity bills, collapsing stock market, changing Prime ministers, and whatnot?
Nothing has gone in the UK’s favor since the passing of the Queen. And now the country is bracing for a prolonged two-year recession with contracting third quarters.
But what went wrong in the first place? How did this trigger an economic catastrophe in the UK? And can Rishi Sunak save the UK?
Here is a detailed explainer:
UK Economy: An Overview of the Problem
With the political upheaval and the pandemic, the already suffering economy of the UK reached its brim when the Russia-Ukraine war ignited.
In response to Ukraine’s invasion, Britain halted the import of fuel, gas, or coal from Russia since June for the first time in the past 25 years.
As a result, Russia stopped its critical gas pipeline to Europe, thus creating an energy crisis.
All this led to the UK’s economic downfall.
Today, inflation is at an all-time high of 9.9%, a 40-year high. Energy bills are shot up by almost 80%despite capping. Finally, and most importantly, the pound has become one of the worst-performing currencies, with its value dropping by 24% against the dollar.
The Mini Budget Turmoil
With such disruptive environments in the UK, former Prime Minister Liz Truss came up with the mini-budget. The mini-budget baskets a slew of tax changes, including the elimination of the high rate of income tax for the wealthy and the energy subsidies policy platform.
However, the mini-budget backfired and now has snowballed from an energy crisis into debt, housing, currency, and even a banking crisis.
The pointer mentioned in the mini-budget has been so terrifying that it shook the economy of the UK and plunged the London Stock Exchange horribly.
With such an unstable situation inside the UK economy, Truss changed her mind about company taxes after days of adamantly defending her budget and firing finance Minister Kwarteng.
“I still agree with my policies, but I’ve sacked my finance minister because he announced them, and the market didn’t like them.”She said
A Cold and Long Winters Awaits the UK
The three major events that make the incoming winter snug for the UK are:
- First, Russia has entirely cut off gas, which causes the cost of electricity to shoot up by almost 80%.
- Secondly, on top of the existing gas storage, the incoming winter energy consumption is about to hit a new peak from September to December.
- Third, even if Europe had 90% of its Energy storage complete in September 2022, it could take only 90 days for it to reach dangerously low levels.
Long story short, a gas shortage during a peak consumption time, with no storage option, will further increase energy prices. It has already been shot up at extreme levels resulting in high electricity bills that eventually heated inflation and the economy of the UK.
Even though the UK is receiving help from the US and other countries, gas prices are still very high. Hence the cost of production and inflation has hit a record 9.9%.
“It is going to be tough. But protecting the vulnerable – and people’s jobs, mortgages, and bills – will be at the front of our minds as we work to restore stability, confidence, and long-term growth,”British finance minister Jeremy Hunt twitted
Bond Market Crisis with Collapsing Pound
The UK’s property market, pension industry, and overall economy are at risk of recession. The reason behind this is the decline in the price of UK government bonds and the ensuing rise in interest rates.
10-year bond rates in the UK have gone above almost 300%, going from just about 1% to 4.11% in just nine months.
Even though the bonds yield a 4% interest, the currency has depreciated to such an extent that it has become a disaster for foreign investors. As a result, foreign investors are quitting the UK market, further decreasing the demand for the pound.
Such a crisis in the bond market resulted in currency depreciation further, and the sterling slid against the US dollar. Furthermore, during the Ukraine-Russia war, Russia cut off gas supplies, and oversized reliance on imports further surge Euro.
Rishi, the Third Prime Minister in Three Months
After the resignation of Boris Johnson with 27 ministers, the office was handed over to Liz Truss. When Boris left the office, there was a sensation in the UK that it was time for stability and competence.
However, due to poor politics and policies, Liz Truss abruptly resigned from the post of Prime Minister within 45 days. The shortest and most disastrous spell that slung the economy of the UK and crashed the pound forced Liz Truss to step down from the post.
With the resignation of Liz Truss, the reign was entrusted to Rishi Sunak, the third PM of the UK in the last three months. Sunak’s appointment ended another period of political unrest in the UK.
But many analysts and Westminster observers are still of the opinion that there will soon be another crisis. With the opposition Labor Party presently leading in the polls, all opposition parties are pleading for a general election.
Can Rishi Sunak Save UK Economy?
The political unpredictability has led the UK economy into a two-year-long recession. The previous two prime ministers were unqualified to steer the UK economy’s flimsy ship. Hence Rishi has some challenging tasks to do.
Now, everything will depend on how Rishi approaches the challenging work of rescuing the UK economy from disaster, and it will be interesting to watch how he advances.
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