Good News on Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Poverty in Cambodia, and Barn Owls in the UK

Plus, gun violence in America, air pollution in Europe, shark conservation, global food prices, indigenous guardians in Canada and 'farmfluencers' in Vietnam.

Good News on Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Poverty in Cambodia, and Barn Owls in the UK
Credit: UNICEF

Good news for people

Incredible global progress on water, sanitation, and hygiene
Last week the WHO and UNICEF released a new report on global access to drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene in schools. You need to dig a little - but around halfway through they reveal that between 2015 and 2023, global access to clean drinking water in schools increased from 66% to 77%, basic sanitation increased from 68% to 78%, and basic hygiene rose from 58% to 67%.

This is a staggering achievement. In actual numbers, it means that well over 200 million schoolchildren have gained access to improved water, sanitation, or hygiene services in the last eight years, a period of time which includes the severe disruptions of the pandemic. If you can find a single story about this from any other news organisation in the world, let us know. We tried and failed.

Source: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (2024)

Millions of people gain access to oxygen thanks to COVID-19
A pandemic silver lining: in 2021, UNICEF launched a project aiming to install 130 oxygen plants in over 40 countries by 2025. As of May 2024, 57 plants have been set up in 21 countries. Once all 130 become fully operational, they will provide essential oxygen therapy to an estimated 400,000 sick children with hypoxemia each year and access to oxygen for millions. UNICEF

How free school meals in the United States went mainstream
Eight states have passed free meal legislation since 2022. Dozens more have introduced similar bills. Roughly 4 in 10 public schools are now enrolled in a federal program, and more than 21 million American children now attend schools that offer free meals to all—a tenfold increase from 2010. 'Introducing universal free meals is probably the best thing we ever did.' NYT

Europe’s crackdown on air pollution cuts heart disease deaths
Europe recorded the largest annual decline in PM2.5—the air pollution most closely linked to harmful health effects—of any region of the world between 2010 and 2019. As a result, deaths in the region from heart disease attributed to pollution fell by 19.2% and from strokes by 25.3%. This amounts to 88,880 fewer heart disease deaths and 34,317 fewer stroke deaths. FT

Cambodia lifts 2.8 million out of poverty in seven years
In a remarkable achievement, Cambodia has lifted around half of the country’s total poor out of poverty in the last seven and half years, according to the UNDP. This comes despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, which pushed half a million back into poverty. During the same time period, 148,000 people (46% of them women) have gained access to mine-free land.

Photo: Kimheang Tuon/UNDP Cambodia

Tobacco use falls dramatically in Africa
Tobacco use among teenagers in Africa declined by nearly 18% between 2020 and 2022—and by 46% among adults during the same period—thanks to stronger measures. In Africa, 37 countries now have bans on public smoking, and 14 of those have 100% smoke-free laws in all public places. This puts the region on track to achieve a 30% reduction in tobacco use by 2025 compared with 2010. WHO

Bereaved father wins change to parental leave law in 3 UK countries
A father who was left without the right to parental leave after his wife died in childbirth has won a change to the law in England, Wales, and Scotland on the last day of the current parliament. After a two-year campaign, the law was pushed through at the last minute after the surprise announcement of a 4 July general election. Guardian

Japan inches closer to same-sex marriage
Three cities in Japan will begin registering same-sex couples the same way that they register heterosexual couples in common-law marriages, the latest advancement in an ongoing struggle for legal recognition of same-sex couples in the East Asian nation. Meanwhile, hundreds of municipalities and 26 of Japan’s 47 prefectures have created partnership oath registries for same-sex couples. Asahi

Murder rates and gun violence in America are plummeting
Murder is down around 18.5% in more than 260 cities with available data for 2024 compared to the same time frame in 2023. It’s late enough in the year, with a large enough sample, to say that the country is on track for another historic annual decline. Gun violence is falling fast, too, with the overall number of shooting victims down around 12% relative to 2023. Jeff Asher

Source: Gun Violence Archive/Datawrapper
More good news you didn't hear about

Suicide rates in China have declined dramatically since the 1980s, down 66% in cities and 81% in rural areas. A program to improve education is coming to another 500 secondary schools and 1,000 primary schools in Cambodia. Zimbabwe turns the tide on both HIV and cholera. In the next five years, A$715 million will be spent to roll out preschool for three-year-olds in South Australia. A $350 million project will HELP provide water, sanitation, renewable energy, and disaster shelters for at least 645,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh. FIFA expands access to maternity leave for coaches and players. California is about to tax guns more like alcohol and tobacco. The first pill for postpartum depression is finally getting to patients (and it's working). Azerbaijan has made remarkable progress in enhancing immunisation services in the last three years. Relief might be coming: global wheat and maize prices have hit three-year lows during the first four months of 2024.

We have big plans this year to expand our mission at Fix The News. In particular we want to start commissioning our own, original solutions journalism to dig deeper into these stories of progress at ground-level.

In order to make this happen, we need to expand our resources. Which is why, starting next week, we’ll be featuring carefully curated advertisements in this newsletter. We will only work with brands that align with the content of this newsletter. Your personal data will remain private and will not be shared with any third parties who come on board.

We know this is a change. But it’s a necessary step that will help us remain independent. We’re a small team and we love what we do, which is why we will always go above and beyond to deliver good news to as many people as a possible. Few organisations have given out as much of their work for free as we have for so many years. However, if we are to grow and stay in the game, we need to evolve. 

Good news for the planet

A new $300 million plan to clean up industrial sites in the US
The EPA has announced new funding to redevelop 200 industrial sites across the country, and an additional $14 million will be invested into a brownfields job training program. The redevelopments will improve air, water, and soil quality and add tens of millions of dollars in local tax revenues. The Guardian

China ramps up clean water efforts
For the first time, China has issued national-level regulations on water conservation to help manage shortages across nearly two-thirds of its cities. A total of 145 national water-saving cities have been established, focusing on wastewater reuse and 'sponge city' construction—which emphasises flood management through green infrastructure rather than relying on drainage systems. China Daily 

New protected area in Bolivia
The Puerta Amazónica municipal conservation area in Guanay will protect 426 km2 of tropical Yungas forests, which are home to several vulnerable species, including the harpy eagle, the giant anteater, and the giant armadillo. The designation will protect the area from gold mining and support water security for the 26 communities located within the reserve. Andes Amazon Fund

Map of the protected area, with nearby protected areas shown in tan and yellow. Credit: Natura Bolivia

$400 million project for resilient forests in Türkiye
The Türkiye Climate Resilient Forests Project will strengthen wildfire management for the 14 provinces that are most at risk of wildfires. In 2021, Türkiye’s southern and western regions experienced their worst wildfires ever recorded. The selected provinces are home to about 20 million people, many of whom depend on the forest for their livelihoods.

The restoration of Bear River kicks off
The restoration of Wuda Ogwa, the site of the 1893 Bear River Massacre, has begun. In 2018 the Northwestern Band of Shoshone acquired land around the massacre site to restore the land, improve water quality, and send an additional 13,000 acre-feet of water to the Great Salt Lake every year. 'Cultural healing is the reason we started… to heal that land there.' Great Salt Lake Collaborative

The incredible comeback of barn owls in Britain
Collaborative efforts of conservationists and communities have drastically increased barn owl populations across the British Isles from 4,000 breeding pairs in 1980 to around 12,000 breeding pairs today. One of the key strategies has been the installation of nest boxes, which provide safe nesting sites in areas where natural sites are scarce. Restore Our Planet

'The story is an inspiring case of how small groups of dedicated conservationists and communities, with a little ingenuity and effort, can have extraordinarily positive effects on one species.'
Barn owl in flight in 2018. Photo Credit: Peter Burian

Marine protected areas shown to conserve sharks
Drowning in a sea of bad news? A global survey of 66 MPAs across 36 countries found that there were twice as many reef sharks in protected areas compared with fished areas—and the conservation benefits of MPAs double when combined with fisheries management. Nature

Good news for a small Australian native fish
Over the past eight years the population of the red-finned blue-eye, once Australia’s rarest freshwater fish, has grown from 1,000 to 5,000 on a special wildlife reserve in Queensland. The former cattle station is home to 26 fish species that are found nowhere else in the world, which 'helps us understand how life functions, how diversity is created, how our world has changed.' The Guardian

Vietnamese ‘farmfluencers’ are making rice fields more sustainable
In Vietnam, 1,645 rice farmers have adopted more sustainable methods thanks to a 'train-the-trainer' programme that has helped 20 influential farmers encourage communities to reduce burning and pesticide use and improve water management. To date, 90% of farmers involved in the project have reduced crop burning, with 57% ceasing the burning of rice straw and stubble altogether. RTBC

Paris has reduced air pollution by 40% thanks to urban renewal
Paris has closed more than 100 streets to motor vehicles, tripled parking fees for SUVs, removed roughly 50,000 parking spots, and constructed more than 1,700 km of bike lanes since Mayor Anne Hidalgo took office in 2014. 'How did we achieve this? By assuming a major and radical rupture: the end of car-dependence.' NBC

Minister Delegate for Industry and Energy Roland Lescure, left, and Minister Delegate for Transport Patrice Vergriete in the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers on the 22nd of April. Credit: Nicolas Messyasz/AP
More music for those who will listen

The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people are collaborating with conservationists to create a wildlife corridor between the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Sustainable projects are offering new hope for the Mekong River. The population of a tiny desert fish hit a 25-year population high in the Mojave Desert. A decade after its pest eradication programme, Macquarie Island is ‘flourishing.’ Fish stocks in the Yangtze River are up 25.6% following the introduction of a 10-year fishing ban in 2021. A forest restoration project is bringing birdlife back to Angola’s highest mountain. A record 27 Mexican wolf pups have been fostered into wild dens. Seoul has banned a popular pesticide in order to protect honeybees. Atlantic rainforest restoration in Scotland surpassed its 2023-2024 target by 40%. Environmental education is thriving across Latin America. Across California and Oregon, 1.2 million acres of critical habitat for the Pacific marten have been protected. The US has invested $240 million in new fish passage projects to support conservation efforts. Colombia has banned bullfighting across the country from 2027. Meet the First Nations guardians protecting Canada’s shoreline.

Drone footage of Bella Coola, British Columbia.

That's it for this edition, thank you as always for reading.

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