Global Austerity Alert: Looming Budget Cuts in 2021-25 and Alternatives

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Opinion

Map of countries with projected austerity cuts in 2021-2022, in terms of GDP, based on IMF fiscal projections. Credit: I. Ortiz and M. Cummins, 2021

NEW YORK and NAIROBI, Apr 15 2021 (IPS) – Last week Ministers of Finance met virtually at the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to discuss policies to tackle the pandemic and socio-economic recovery.


But a global study just published by the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, international trade unions and civil society organizations, sounds an alert of an emerging austerity shock: Most governments are imposing budget cuts, precisely at a time when their citizens and economies are in greater need of public support.

Analysis of IMF fiscal projections shows that budget cuts are expected in 154 countries this year, and as many as 159 countries in 2022. This means that 6.6 billion people or 85% of the global population will be living under austerity conditions by next year, a trend likely to continue at least until 2025.

The high levels of expenditures needed to cope with the pandemic have left governments with growing fiscal deficit and debt. However, rather than exploring financing options to provide direly-needed support for socio-economic recovery, governments—advised by the IMF, the G20 and others—are opting for austerity.

The post-pandemic fiscal shock appears to be far more intense than the one that followed the global financial and economic crisis a decade ago. The average expenditure contraction in 2021 is estimated at 3.3% of GDP, which is nearly double the size of the previous crisis. More than 40 governments are forecasted to spend less than the (already low) pre-pandemic levels, with budgets 12% smaller on average in 2021-22 than those in 2018-19 before COVID-19, including countries with high developmental needs like Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Libya, Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The dangers of early and overly aggressive austerity are clear from the past decade of adjustment. From 2010 to 2019, billions of people were affected by reduced pensions and social security benefits; by lower subsidies, including for food, agricultural inputs and fuel; by wage bill cuts and caps, which hampered the delivery of public services like education, health, social work, water and public transport; by the rationalization and narrow-targeting of social protection programs so that only the poorest populations received smaller and smaller benefits, while most people were excluded; and by less employment security for workers, as labor regulations were dismantled. Many governments also introduced regressive taxes, like consumption taxes, which further lowered disposable household income. In many countries, public services were downsized or privatized, including health. Austerity proved to be a deadly policy. The weak state of public health systems—overburdened, underfunded and understaffed from a decade of austerity—aggravated health inequalities and made populations more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Today, it is imperative to watch out for austerity measures with negative social outcomes. After COVID-19’s devastating impacts, austerity will only cause more unnecessary suffering and hardship.

Austerity is bad policy. There are, in fact, alternatives even in the poorest countries. Instead of slashing spending, governments can and must explore financing options to increase public budgets.

First, governments can increase tax revenues on wealth, property, and corporate income, including on the financial sector that remains generally untaxed. For example, Bolivia, Mongolia and Zambia are financing universal pensions, child benefits and other schemes from mining and gas taxes; Brazil introduced a tax on financial transactions to expand social protection coverage.

Second, more than sixty governments have successfully restructured/reduced their debt obligations to free up resources for development. Third, addressing illicit financial flows such as tax evasion and money laundering is a huge opportunity to generate revenue. Fourth, governments can simply decide to reprioritize their spending, away from low social impact investments areas like defense and bank/corporate bailouts; for example, Costa Rica and Thailand redirected military expenditures to public health.

Fifth, another financing option is to use accumulated fiscal and foreign reserves in Central Banks. Sixth, attract greater transfers/development assistance or concessional loans. A seventh option is to adopt more accommodative macroeconomic frameworks. And eighth, governments can formalize workers in the informal economy with good contracts and wages, which increases the contribution pool and expands social protection coverage.

Expenditure and financing decisions that affect the lives of millions of people cannot be taken behind closed doors at the Ministry of Finance. All options should be carefully examined in an inclusive national social dialogue with representatives from trade unions, employers, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders.

#EndAusterity is a global campaign to stop austerity measures that have negative social impacts. Since 2020, more than 500 organizations and academics from 87 countries have called on the IMF and Ministries of Finance to immediately stop austerity, and instead prioritize policies that advance gender justice, reduce inequality, and put people and planet first.

Isabel Ortiz is Director of the Global Social Justice Program at Joseph Stiglitz’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, former Director at the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF
Matthew Cummins is senior economist who has worked at UNDP, UNICEF and the World Bank.

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Debt Moratoria in the Next Pandemic: Be Prepared, and Be Fair

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Opinion

Credit: Temilade Adelaja via Communication for Development Ltd/CGAP, Washington DC

WASHINGTON DC, Mar 25 2021 (IPS) – Imagine it is 2025 and that, unfortunately, another pandemic is sweeping the world. Much like in the 2020 crisis, borrowers have seen their livelihoods upended and are struggling to repay loans.


One of the questions before policy makers amid this new crisis is whether to extend moratoria to distressed borrowers. In search of answers, they reflect on the world’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic and whether moratoria were part of the solution. These policy makers conclude that they did some things right in 2020.

Just days into COVID-19 lockdowns, bank regulators in more than 115 countries granted special permission for financial services providers (FSPs) to extend moratoria to millions of borrowers, especially those with small business and consumer loans. These moratoria were the next best thing to cash in the wallet for borrowers who had lost their jobs or seen their business revenue plummet.

For lower-income countries, whose governments could ill afford welfare payments, moratoria became an important form of economic relief. And by relaxing provisioning on paused loans, these special moratoria also shored up FSPs’ balance sheets and prevented panic in financial systems.

Through the moratoria, the world’s economies put the shock-absorbing capacity of financial systems to good use.

But these policy makers also see that moratoria could have worked better in some respects. So, in 2025, as the world once again turns to moratoria, they are determined to learn the lessons of the past and make moratoria work even better. What do they do differently?

Fair burden sharing

As public health authorities shutter the economy to stop the new pandemic, advocates for lower-income people are already calling on policy makers to spread the economic burden among those better able to bear it.

Policy makers know that moratoria on small loans (as well as evictions and mortgages) will shift some economic pain from lower-income families and small businesses onto banks and landlords — at least, temporarily.

But they recall that, in 2020, FSPs shifted the pain back to small borrowers by allowing interest to accrue and compound during moratoria. Ultimately, borrowers paid to pause their loans – often dearly.

Back in 2020, policy makers debated whether to shift some of the long-term burden of accrued and compounding interest away from borrowers, but it was difficult for them to find a workable solution.

In India, after much debate in the Supreme Court over who should pay this additional interest, the government found a remedy when it agreed to pay banks the compounding portion of borrowers’ interest incurred during moratoria. Implicitly, this decision made moratoria part of the government’s overall pandemic response while affirming the right of the banks to charge fully for delayed payments.

Fortunately, in 2025, several governments have included special provisions in their catastrophe protocols that pledge government funding for a portion of the interest that small loans accrue during moratoria.

This pledge helps to ensure policies intended to help low-income people don’t end up harming them. It has the added benefit of providing banks with a small amount of liquidity during the moratoria period.

Moratoria will also be fairer this time around because policy makers have universally agreed that borrowers should have the right to choose whether to accept or reject a moratorium offer. This was not always the case in 2020.

In some countries, regulators — anxious to prevent panic — and FSPs — wishing to avoid tedious case-by-case administration — promulgated blanket moratoria, even before obtaining agreement from borrowers.

However, some borrowers preferred to keep paying to avoid extra interest charges. In response to push back from borrowers on unilateral moratoria, authorities in Peru affirmed consumers’ right to unwind unwanted moratoria. Today, following this example, regulators the world over require FSPs to notify borrowers of moratoria offers and present them with the option to refuse.

Policy makers have also anticipated the challenge of maintaining borrowers’ standing with credit bureaus. When borrowers accept moratoria during a national emergency, it should not hurt their creditworthiness.

In 2020, there was confusion over how banks should report restructured loans to credit bureaus, how credit bureaus were to incorporate these loans into credit scores, and how new lenders were to use the information.

In India, FSPs simply didn’t report many loans for several months. Eventually, those problems were sorted out. Now, in 2025, credit bureaus follow well-understood protocols for handling loans in moratoria during emergencies.

Preparedness

The emergency protocols that the world’s banking authorities and FSPs put in place after the COVID-19 pandemic also address operational continuity and communications.

Back in 2020, economic lockdowns prevented in-person interactions between lenders and borrowers and often led to breakdowns in communication. In Uganda, loan officers could not meet with customers in the field, and transport restrictions prevented adequate staffing of branches and even call centers. FSPs transacting mainly in cash were caught especially flat-footed.

Thankfully, this problem is behind us now. The pandemic accelerated FSPs’ digitization plans across the world, and record numbers of borrowers started using mobile technology. FSPs serving lower-income customers now routinely communicate and transact digitally.

They have also upgraded their internal systems to handle the irregular schedules of loans in moratoria. And the expansion of digital infrastructure during and after COVID-19 now allows staff to work from home.

Consumer protection

As financial regulators and supervisors prepare for the new moratoria in 2025, they are better equipped to mitigate some of the consumer risks that appeared in 2020. They now use market monitoring tools, such as suptech, consumer phone surveys and mystery shopping, to assess consumer risks in real time. They can quickly spot issues such as abusive collections practices.

Nevertheless, both financial authorities and FSPs have learned from the previous crisis that ensuring good communication and transparency will be challenging. Moratoria are unfamiliar concepts, and the math is complicated.

Learning from 2020, when poor communication led to misunderstandings, mistakes and abuse, regulators have already issued consumer protection rules to ensure the public fully understands moratoria offers and their consequences.

Additionally, communications now flow not just to customers, but also from them. Policy makers are widely using tools that give consumers a collective voice and reveal what they are experiencing.

Several regulators have put consultative bodies in place to have a regular dialogue with consumers, and consumer associations regularly convey issues to them. Such tools proved useful in 2020.

In Peru, for example, the consumer protection agency INDECOPI listened systematically to customers and alerted regulators and FSPs to emerging abuses so that they could respond quickly.

Agility

The COVID-19 pandemic lasted much longer than anyone foresaw, and unanticipated implementation challenges arose. If policy makers learned one thing, was is that you can never anticipate all the ways an emergency will unfold.

Accordingly, the countries that were best prepared for the next pandemic were those that had established channels for authorities and FSPs to work together to respond to evolving conditions.

Source: Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is a global partnership of more than 30 leading development organizations that works to advance the lives of poor people through financial inclusion.

*Elisabeth is the former managing director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion. She is a visiting fellow at the Financial Access Initiative and a consultant at CGAP.

*Eric Duflos, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, leads CGAP’s work on consumer protection, from policy, industry and customer perspectives, ensuring that financial services have positive outcomes for customers.

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The UN Food Systems Summit: How Not to Respond to the Urgency of Reform

Aid, Civil Society, Food & Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

At a critical juncture on the road to the UN Food Systems Summit, three UN rights experts warn that it will fail to be a ‘people’s summit’ unless it is urgently rethought.

NEW YORK, Mar 22 2021 (IPS) – Global food systems have been failing most people for a long time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made a critical situation even worse. 265 million people are threatened by famine, up 50% on last year; 700 million suffer from chronic hunger; and 2 billion more from malnutrition, with obesity and associated diet-related diseases increasing in all world regions.


Michael Fakhri

Everyone agrees that we need urgent solutions and action. The convening of this year’s UN Food Systems Summit by Secretary General António Guterres was therefore welcome. However, as we move towards critical junctures on the road to the Summit, we remain deeply concerned that this ‘people’s summit’ will fail the people it claims to be serving.

After more than a year of deliberations, the Summit participants will meet this October in New York to present “principles to guide governments and other stakeholders looking to leverage their food systems” to support the Sustainable Development Goals. We will be told that the outcomes have been endorsed by the civil society groups who took part, with ‘solutions’ crowd-sourced from tens of thousands of people around the world. And if other solutions are not there, we will be told that this is because their proponents refused to come to the table.

But coming to the table to discuss ‘solutions’ is not as simple as it sounds. What if the table is already set, the seating plan non-negotiable, the menu highly limited? And what if the real conversation is actually happening at a different table?

These concerns are still as pressing today as they were on day one.

First, the Summit initially bypassed the bodies already doing the very hard work of governing global food systems. The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) already has the structure that the Summit organizers have been hastily reconstructing: a space for discussing the future of food systems, a comprehensive commitment to the right to food, mechanisms for involving civil society and the private sector on their own terms, and a panel of experts regularly providing cutting-edge reports. In other words, everyone is already at the table. The Summit has flagrantly – and perhaps deliberately – shifted governments’ attention away from the CFS.

Hilal Elver

Second, the Summit’s rules of engagement were determined by a small set of actors. The private sector, organizations serving the private sector (notably the World Economic Forum), scientists, and economists initiated the process. The table was set with their perspectives, knowledge, interests and biases. Investors and entrepreneurs working in partnership with scientists framed the agenda, and governments and civil society actors were invited to work within those parameters. Inevitably, that has meant a focus on what the small group saw as scalable, investment-friendly, ‘game-changing’ solutions – the bread and butter of Davos. Reading between the lines, this means AI-controlled farming systems, gene editing, and other high-tech solutions geared towards large-scale agriculture.

As a result, the ideas that should have been the starting point for a ‘people’s summit’ have effectively been shut out. For over a decade, farmers, fishers, pastoralists, and food workers have been demanding a food system transformation rooted in food sovereignty and agroecology. This vision is based on redesigning, re-diversifying, and re-localizing farming systems. It requires that economic assumptions be questioned, human rights be protected, and power be rebalanced.

Some concessions have been made on the road to the Summit. But these changes have been too late, or too cosmetic, to impact meaningfully the process. Only in November was the CFS added to the Summit’s Advisory Committee. And only this month was the FAO’s Right to Food office invited to participate (with a limited mandate). Presumably there will be further changes at the margins: human rights will be mentioned in general terms, agroecology will be included as one of many solutions.

Olivier De Schutter

But this will not be enough to make the Summit outcomes legitimate for those of us — inside and outside the process — who remain skeptical. Having all served as UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, we have witnessed first-hand the importance of improving accountability and democracy in food systems, and the value of people’s local and traditional knowledge. It is deeply concerning that we had to spend a year persuading the convenors that human rights matter for this UN Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit. It is also highly problematic that issues of power, participation, and accountability (i.e. how and by whom will the outcomes be delivered) remain unresolved.

Those of us who came to the Summit table did so in the hope that we could fundamentally change the course. As the end-game approaches, we still hope that this is possible. But radical change is needed:

    ● The right to food must be central to all aspects of the Summit, with attention on holding those with power accountable;
    ● Agroecology should be recognized as a paradigm (if not the paradigm) for transforming food systems, alongside actionable recommendations to support agroecological transition;
    ● The CFS should be designated as the home of the Summit outcomes, and the place where it is discussed and implemented, using its inclusive participation mechanisms.

In other words, to make this a people’s summit, the table needs to be urgently re-set.

Michael Fakhri is the current UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
Hilal Elver served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2014-2020.
Olivier De Schutter served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2008-2014, and is the current UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and co-chair of IPES-Food.

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Global Solidarity & Effective Cooperation in the Face of COVID-19

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Opinion

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka is Assistant Secretary-General and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Partnerships; Robert Piper is Assistant Secretary-General, Director of Development Coordination Office; and Ulrika Modéer is Assistant Administrator of UNDP & Director of Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy.

Coronavirus pandemic threatens crises-ravaged communities as UN appeals for global support. Credit: United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 9 2020 (IPS) – The COVID-19 pandemic upended almost every aspects of life as we know it. Even those countries that are supposed to have the means to manage the spread and mitigate the effects are struggling.


Besides the $5 trillion stimulus package that the G20 economies agreed to deal with the pandemic, individual countries are also devising various measures to shore up their health care systems, stabilize their economies, and assist affected workers and businesses.

Even before the full brunt of the coronavirus outbreak reached some of the poorest countries, the economic impacts are already being felt. With declining global demand for raw materials, breakdown of global supply chain, and mounting debt burden, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to exceed $220 billion.

The urgent shouldn’t crowd out the important

With greater uncertainty and fear of global recession looming large, governments are looking for resources needed to lessen the socio-economic pains of the crisis. In this process, official development assistance (ODA) won’t be spared and could come under increased scrutiny.

Decisions made now will have potentially devastating – or transformative – impact for years to come. Despite the economic and political pressure, we must protect ODA, which is needed more than ever.

The spread of COVID-19, especially in places with weak governance and health infrastructures, is expected to be overwhelming if the international community does not act now.

For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, many countries have the lowest number of physicians per capita in the world while some experience ongoing conflicts, making it difficult to fight the virus.

Credit: UNFPA

The collateral impact of COVID-19 on health, education and nutrition systems will be extremely damaging, and in many cases irreversible, for children and society at large. And when the world opens up again, the resilience of the weakest health systems will dictate how well we do against future threats.

The UN Secretary General argued that “this human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action—and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

It is critical for the international community to fulfil the humanitarian appeal for COVID-19 response while protecting existing commitments to long-term development and other ‘silent’ emergencies.

Doing so will help protect the most vulnerable people from being exposed to the effects of COVID-19 and preserve hard-earned development gains in fighting global poverty and expanding basic services.

Left to their own devises, fragile nations may risk the breakdown of socio-political order, civil unrest and state collapse, further exacerbating the dire situation.

Flexible funding key to tackling COVID-19

COVID-19 is not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a development crisis. Development agencies are supporting countries to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the crisis.

The effectiveness of their response to certain degree depends on the flexibility afforded to them in funding and operational procedures.

To tackle this uniquely complex health and development crisis, the adequacy and flexibility of funding to development agencies are pivotal. Flexible “core” funding is already making a difference in the COVID-19 response to reach people in need faster, empower local actors, deploy essential supplies to the frontline, and protect the most vulnerable – children, refugees, women.

This enabled the affected communities to practice due diligence and self-driven discretion to immediately respond to threats of the pandemic, while waiting for the pledged assistance to arrive. For instance, in Nigeria, funding flexibility allowed UNICEF to come up with an innovative solution to fight misinformation around COVID-19 while UNDP was able to support the government double the ventilator capacity in the country.

Collaboration, not competition

The COVID-19 pandemic is a devastating crisis in history. But it also posits an opportunity to remind the global community why multilateralism is vital to securing the world’s peace, security, and prosperity.

We witness how the health crisis of today’s globalized world interlinks global economy, geopolitics, and social values. Our effective response to the public health crisis should be seen as key to resolving the ensuing economic, humanitarian, and development challenges.

Understanding this interlinked and complex reality of COVID-19, governments need to work together closely to take coordinated actions and share scientific information, resources and expertise.

It is this strong motion for collaboration that underpins the UN agencies commitment to reinforce the humanitarian-development nexus to jointly respond to the COVID-19 crisis, working closely through the UN Crisis team, humanitarian response plan, UN Response and Recovery Fund for COVID-19.

For example, in Guinea-Bissau, WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, and IOM joined hands to help build isolation facilities and triage space, and procure necessary equipment for COVID-19, both for the national hospital as well as for the re-modelling of the UN clinic.

With strong solidarity and effective cooperation, the international community will not only arrest COVID-19, but also use the emergency to build back better health systems and a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

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Water, Climate, Conflict & Migration: Coping with 1 Billion People on the Move by 2050

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Opinion

Nidhi Nagabhatla is Principal Researcher, Water Security at the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, funded by the Government of Canada and hosted by McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada

Padma River Basin, Bangladesh Credit: Nidhi Nagabhatla

HAMILTON, Canada, Jun 8 2020 (IPS) – Do migrants willingly choose to flee their homes, or is migration the only option available?

There is no clear, one-size-fits-all explanation for a decision to migrate — a choice that will be made today by many people worldwide, and by an ever-rising number in years to come because of a lack of access to water, climate disasters, a health crisis and other problems.


Data are scarce on the multiple causes, or “push factors,” limiting our understanding of migration. What we can say, though, is that context is everything.

UN University researchers and others far beyond have been looking for direct and indirect links between migration and the water crisis, which has different faces — unsafe water in many places, chronic flooding or drought in others.

The challenge is separating those push factors from the social, economic, and political conditions that contribute to the multi-dimensional realities of vulnerable migrant populations, all of them simply striving for dignity, safety, stability, and sustainably in their lives.

A new report, ‘Water and Migration: A Global Overview,’ (https://bit.ly/3gxDgE7) from UNU’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, offers insights into water and migration interlinkages, and suggests how to tackle existing gaps and needs.

Its information can be understood easily by stakeholders and proposes ideas for better informed migration-related policymaking, including a three-dimensional framework applicable by scholars and planners at multiple scales and in various settings.

The Report also describes some discomforting patterns and trends, among them:

    • By 2050, a combination of water and climate-driven problems and conflicts will force 1 billion people to migrate, not by choice but as their only option;
    • Links to the climate change and water crises are becoming more evident in a dominant trend: rural-urban migration;
    • That said, there is a severe lack of quantitative information and understanding re. direct and indirect water and climate-related drivers of migration, limiting effective management options at local, national, regional, and global scales
    • Global agreements, institutions, and policies on migration are concerned mostly with response mechanisms. Needed is a balanced approach that addresses water, climate, and other environmental drivers of migration
    • Unregulated migration can lead to rapid, unplanned, and unsustainable settlements and urbanization, causing pressure on water demand and increasing the health risks and burdens for migrants as well as hosting states and communities
    • Migration should be formally recognized as an adaptation strategy for water and climate crises. While it is viewed as a ‘problem,’ in fact it forms part of a ‘solution’
    • Migration reflects the systemic inequalities and social justice issues pertaining to water rights and climate change adaptation. Lack of access to water, bad water quality, and a lack of support for those impacted by extreme water-related situations constitute barriers to a sustainable future for humankind.

Case studies in the report provide concrete examples of the migration consequences in water and climate troubled situations:

    • The shrinking of Lake Chad in Africa and the Aral Sea in Central Asia
    • The saga of Honduran refugees
    • The rapid urbanization of the Nile delta, and
    • The plight of island nations facing both rising seas and more frequent, more intense extreme weather events.

In addition, the added health burdens imposed on people and communities by water pollution and contamination create vicious cycles of poverty, inequality and forced mobility.

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda does not include an explicit migration target, its mitigation should be considered in the context of SDGs that aim to strengthen capacities related to water, gender, climate, and institutions. These issues resonate even as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent news stories have chronicled the plight of desperate migrant workers trapped in the COVID-19 crisis in India, and of displaced people in refugee camps where social distancing is unachievable, as is access to soap and water, the most basic preventive measure against the disease.

Add to that the stigma, discrimination, and xenophobia endured by migrants that continue to rise during the pandemic.

Even at this moment, with the world fixated on the pandemic crisis, we cannot afford to put migration’s long-term causes on the back burner.

While the cost of responses may cause concerns, the cost of no decisions will certainly surpass that. There may be no clear, simple solution but having up-to-date evidence and data will surely help.

On World Environment Day ( https://bit.ly/3dnKkks) last week (June 5), we were all encouraged to consider human interdependencies with nature.

Let us also acknowledge that water and climate-related disasters, ecological degradation and other environmental burdens causes economic, health and wellbeing disparities for migrants and populations living in vulnerable settings.

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Bangladesh Can Be Leprosy-Free by 2030 Says Leprosy Activist

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Health

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 11 2019 (IPS) – Despite its efforts to eliminate leprosy as a public health threat, Bangladesh’s leprosy burden ranks fourth-highest in the world. Four thousand new cases are detected annually – an average of 11 to 12 cases per day over the last 10 years.


Leprosy issues have taken centre stage at the National Conference 2019 on Zero Leprosy Initiatives by 2030 in Dhaka Bangladesh. The country’s National Leprosy Programme, in collaboration with the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation in Japan believes its key that every person with leprosy has access to the right medicines, diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion.

Akthar Ali is the Project Co-ordinator of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate (with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) Sisters) in Khulna in the south of Bangladesh and believes the country can be leprosy-free by 2030.

Crystal Orderson spoke Ali on the sidelines of the National Conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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