Good News on Electricity in Rwanda, Child Mortality in Morocco and Conservation in Peru

Plus, democracy in Senegal, human rights in the EU, wetland restoration in California, and a 'seismic' shift in US conservation.

Good News on Electricity in Rwanda, Child Mortality in Morocco and Conservation in Peru
Red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) found in Peru's new conservation concession. ©AMPA

Good news for people

Global life expectancy has increased, especially in Africa
Over the past three decades, global life expectancy has increased by 6.2 years, due to reductions in leading killers like chronic respiratory diseases, stroke, and cancer. Eastern sub-Saharan Africa had the largest net increase, gaining 10.7 years, followed by South Asia, with 7.8 years, thanks to steep declines in deaths from diarrhoeal diseases. IHME

A landmark moment for intersex rights
In a historic vote, the UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution to combat discrimination, violence, and harmful practices against intersex people. It’s estimated that 1.7% of the world’s population is born with intersex traits, and activists are now focused on using the resolution to lobby for legislation and improve medical and mental health services. UN

America to close gun show loophole
Under a new ruling, dealers who sell weapons at gun shows or online will face the same requirements as gun stores, including federal licenses and background checks on would-be buyers. With an estimated 23,000 individuals engaged in unlicensed gun dealing in the US, the new measures will impact tens of thousands of gun sales per year. Reuters

Ghana’s free high school policy is working
In 2017, Ghana made high school free for all students following an election campaign, and over the next four years the country spent $392 million on implementing the policy. It worked. For both girls and boys, the policy increased the completion of senior high school by 14.9%. The Conversation

Removing cost barriers helps girls get a secondary education. Credit: Stephan Bachenheimer

Democracy wins in Senegal
More on what might be the best world politics story of 2024 so far. Despite attempted delays and imprisonments by the former president, Senegal pulled off a free and fair election and a peaceful transfer of power to Bassirou Diomaye Faye. The victory was secured by young voters, indicating the rise of a new political class that will play a key role in democratic trends. Vox

“2024 is the biggest global election year in history and the future of democracy is on every ballot.”

EU votes for abortion as a fundamental right
The EU parliament has approved a proposal to include access to abortion in its Charter of Fundamental Rights, with 336 votes in favour and 163 against. While the resolution is a significant first step, it requires the green light from all 27 member states in order to take effect. Euro News

Nepal achieves unprecedented decline in poverty
National household survey data from the Nepal Living Standard Survey 2022/23 shows a large decline in poverty, from 25% to just 3.6% between 2011 and 2023 (using the 2011 National Poverty Line). The prosperity gap and inequality also decreased over the same period. World Bank

Rwanda is on track to light up every household
Over the past 15 years, Rwanda has significantly increased its electricity access from 6% in 2009 to 75% as of March 2024. It’s one of the fastest expansions in the world and is thanks in part to investment in renewables and off-grid solutions like solar home systems. The country has also connected 100% of healthcare centres and 84% of schools and small businesses. World Bank

A roundup of global health news
Between 2011 and 2021, the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths across Africa decreased by 44% and 55%, respectively, and the number of TB deaths decreased by 26%. Nigeria is the first country in the world to roll out the 'revolutionary' new Men5CV vaccine for meningitis. A portable X-ray machine is helping the Philippines combat tuberculosis. Morocco has also reduced its under-five mortality rates from 81 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 17 in 2022. Clinics are starting to offer AI model-supported mammograms to help detect cancer earlier than standard methods. The Gambia has completely transformed its health system by registering more than half its population and issuing national health insurance cards.

More good news you didn't hear about

India plans to transition from a minimum wage to a living wage by 2025 to ensure all basic needs are met. How Jamaica halved its debt in just 10 years. The Netherlands has upgraded prison healthcare to address mental health disorders. Kenya has increased access to electricity from 5% to 71% in the past 25 years. An historic victory for the protection of civil rights activists  in Colombia. Kosovo rolls out the HPV vaccine. The incredible story of how Egypt won its battle against Hepatitis C. A new rapid diagnostic test to ramp up the fight against cholera. Early childhood interventions have benefited 14 million mothers and children in Senegal through education and nutrition services. Western Australia has extended its provision of free period products to public primary schools. Find out more about the legislative reforms that made Spain a pioneer in combating gender violence.

Credit: Alejandro Navarro Bustamante

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Good news for the planet

The US just prioritised conservation on a tenth of its land
The Department of the Interior has introduced a rule prioritizing conservation, recreation, and renewable energy over traditional resource extraction on public lands, representing a seismic shift in the management of roughly 245 million acres of public property, one-tenth of the nation's land mass. WaPo

Suspension of Chinook salmon fishing in Yukon River
Canada and Alaska have agreed to a seven-year moratorium on fishing Chinook salmon in the Yukon River. Last year only 15,000 fish reached Canadian spawning waters; the new agreement has a target of 71,000 Canadian-origin fish reaching their spawning grounds each year for the next seven years. CBC

Deforestation in Brazil keeps declining, despite fires
Over the past year, forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon hit its lowest level since May 2019, totalling 5,010 square kilometres. The decline continues even as fires and hotspots increase due to severe drought, particularly in Roraima. One of the biggest drivers of the change? Community peace building. Mongabay

Paris is officially a cycle city
A recent survey has found that cyclists now outnumber motorists for trips from the outskirts of Paris to the city centre, a huge change from just five years ago. The revolution is thanks to an increase in cycleways and numerous anti-motoring measures, including the closure of some major roads to motorists. Forbes

New EPA regulation to limit pollution from chemical plants
A new EPA rule will force over 200 chemical plants across the US to reduce toxic air pollutants to decrease cancer risks for nearby residents. It’s the first regulation in nearly two decades to target ethylene oxide and chloroprene, which are used to sterilise medical equipment and make rubber for shoes. The new measures will reduce an estimated 6,200 tons of toxic pollutants each year. NYT

EPA sets limit for ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water
The EPA has set new drinking water standards to reduce exposure to PFAS, a group of human-made chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer and other health conditions. It’s the first time a drinking water standard has been set for a new contaminant since 1996 and is expected to reduce PFAS exposure in drinking water for about 100 million people. Washington Post

Peru announces largest conservation concession
The new Cotuhé Conservation concession in Peru will protect 198,743 hectares of Amazon rainforest, securing a bio-cultural corridor that benefits local communities. The concession also safeguards the buffer zone of Yaguas National Park, home to the largest number of normal and black jaguars in the country and some of the last populations of Amazonian manatees. Andes Amazon Fund

Vulnerable Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis). Credit: AMPA

South Africa bans captive breeding of lions and rhinos
The controversial practice of breeding lions and rhinos in captivity has finally been banned in South Africa, following more than a decade of advocacy. The move will also end the commercial exploitation of lions, including ‘canned’ hunts, which release tame big cats into small enclosures for hunting. Bloomberg

NY is suing the world’s biggest meat company
New York is suing JBS, the world's largest meat company, for misleading customers on its climate commitments. The company’s lack of concrete emission reduction steps and misleading claims make it a fraud case with high chances of success. It’s part of a wave of lawsuits against big businesses for greenwashing sustainability claims. The Guardian

A 50-year project to restore the wetlands of the California coastline
The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project will restore over 15,000 acres of tidal wetlands after 150 years of commercial salt production. Since 2003 the project has recovered over 3,000 acres of shoreline, while keeping some of the man-made salt ponds to support the ducks and shorebirds that rely on them. Reasons to be Cheerful

Levees separating salt ponds. Credit: Cris Benton
More music for those who will listen

Certified forests in the Congo Basin have increased populations of gorillas and forest elephants. France and Brazil announce a $1.1 billion green investment plan for the Amazon rainforest. Brazil’s Cerrado grasslands, a megadiverse savanna biome, is the main beneficiary of a COP26 initiative to end deforestation. Norway and Canada create new emission control areas in their Arctic waters to reduce harmful pollutants from shipping vessels. Former gold miners are helping restore parts of the Peruvian Amazon destroyed by illegal mining. How an English castle became Britain’s first stork breeding ground in 600 years. A UK rewilding network is restoring 155,248 hectares of land and 506 square kilometres of seabed. A 20-year tree-planting project in central Victoria has transformed degraded farmland into a lush paradise. The Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming is buying up privatised land as a home for wild bison.

Eastern Shoshone Tribe Buffalo Manager Jason Baldes checks the herd at the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative. Credit: Sofia Jaramillo

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