Good News on Clean Water in Vietnam, Stunting in Indonesia, and Conservation in Ecuador

Plus, primary education in the DRC, cancer screenings in the United States, reforestation in Ghana, a green corridor for Singapore, and a fur ban in California.

Good News on Clean Water in Vietnam, Stunting in Indonesia, and Conservation in Ecuador
Credit: Gravity Water
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Good news you probably didn't hear about

Have you heard about India's Ayushman Bharat scheme? It's the world’s largest free healthcare program, covering 1,300 illnesses including cancer and heart disease. Since 2018 it has provided free treatment to over 500 million people via 154,000 health and wellness centres, and the government just increased its funding by 12% in the latest budget.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress in reducing stunting (when a child does not have sufficient nutrition to grow and develop). Between 2018 and 2022, the national stunting rate saw an unprecedented decline, from 30.8% to 21.6%, benefiting 3.9 million mothers and 10.6 million children. Peru, Senegal, Thailand and Brazil have also all dramatically reduced stunting to below 20%. World Bank

Uganda's recently released poverty report shows that between 2017 and 2020, at least 1.52 million Ugandans joined the middle class, meaning "they secured better livelihoods compared to the previous period." The report also shows that poverty is on a long-running decrease, having fallen from 56% in 1993 to 20.3% in 2021. UNDP

One of the big worries during the pandemic was that a fall in cancer screenings in the United States would lead to a rise in diagnoses. Good news. It didn't happen. Around two million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, and about 600,000 will die of the disease, an overall reduction of 33% since 1991. WaPo

More than 33 million children in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have been vaccinated against polio since March 2022, thanks to an emergency response organised by the WHO. Vaccinations will continue “so that every child receives the protection they need." AP

The World Bank is launching a project in Vietnam to distribute 300,000 water purifiers to 8,000 schools and institutions across the country. It's expected to make clean water available to around two million children and to reduce carbon emissions by almost 3 million tons over the next five years (no more burning wood to boil water).

Last week, more than $6.2 billion was raised by Turkish citizens for earthquake relief efforts, thanks to a joint broadcast called Türkiye, One Heart that ran on more than 200 TV channels and over 500 radio stations. Support came from people in all walks of life, from the CEOs of huge corporations to children who donated the money in their piggy banks. Daily Sabah

Actors, singers and TV personalities at the "Türkiye One Heart" fundraising campaign held at Turkuvaz Media Center, Istanbul, Türkiye, Feb. 15, 2023. 

Gabon, Jamaica and Sri Lanka have joined forces to fight back against damaging beauty practices, launching a project to eliminate the centuries-old practice of using mercury to lighten the skin. “We are all beautiful, not in spite of our skin but because of it. We need a new ideal to follow, one which is equated with humanity and not the fairness of one’s skin.” WHO

A new report says that primary school completion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has increased from 47% in 2010 to 58% in 2020. Since 2016, the country has enacted ambitious reforms, including the introduction of free basic education, and the share of the budget allocated to education has increased considerably, from 11.5% in 2017 to 22.1% in 2021. UNESCO

A big leap forward for LGBTQI rights in South Korea: in a landmark ruling, the Seoul High Court has ruled that a government health insurer owes coverage to the spouse of a customer after the firm withdrew it when it found out the pair were gay. The court also found that denying benefits to same-sex couples amounted to discrimination. "This ruling offers hope that prejudice can be overcome." BBC

Utah's State Legislature has unanimously approved a bill that enshrines into law a ban on conversion therapy. “This is an extraordinary moment in Utah’s LGBTQ history. It is the first conversion therapy ban in the country to pass through both chambers unanimously.” Deseret

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Ecuador has a new reserve - the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka Reserve, 1,237,395 hectares of cloud forests, sandstone plateaus and floodplains that are home to over a thousand species of birds as well as jaguars, tapirs, and spectacled bears. It will be one of the largest reserves in the region thanks to local communities who campaigned for protections. Mongabay

A former railway line Singapore is being converted into a green corridor spanning 24 kilometres, from the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the north, to the city's central business district. The corridor will help preserve mangroves, forests and grassland, provide a safe haven for animals to traverse between green spaces, and will be ten times longer than the High Line in New York. Bloomberg

Bukit Timah Truss Bridge on the Rail Corridor.

Brazil's new president has vowed to protect all of Brazil’s biomes, including the Cerrado savannah, Atlantic Forest, Pampas grasslands and the Pantanal wetlands, by implementing the same strategies that reduced deforestation in the Amazon from 27,772 km2 in 2004 to 4,571 km2 in 2012. His efforts will be helped by America’s recent pledge to the Amazon Fund, of around $50 million. Mongabay

In the past six years Ghana has reforested over 628,000 hectares of land, putting the country seven years ahead of its target to restore 2 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. The success is attributed to an agroforestry programme that helps farmers plant trees on their land. Afrik21

British Columbia is changing its forest management approach to include greater participation of Indigenous communities in land-use decisions and accelerate the protection of old-growth forests. The new measures will herald the end of prioritising timber extraction over biodiversity and carbon storage. Narwhal

After decades of short-term and transactional thinking, we’re making significant changes in our approach to forestry in this province. The first step is putting Indigenous Peoples at the centre of land management decisions in their territories. The days of making decisions without Indigenous Peoples are over.
David Eby, Premier of British Columbia

A water program in Bolivia dreamed up by five people a decade ago has protected over 500,000 hectares of forest. The program helps farmers in upper watersheds provide urban residents with drinking water in exchange for protection of their water-producing forests. 24,000 farmers have joined the program, which will soon be replicated in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico. Mongabay

“Take care of your forest, turning it into a garden for you and for society. In exchange we will connect your home to clean water.” Image courtesy of Natura Foundation.

UN members are meeting in New York this week to forge a treaty to conserve marine life in international waters. It's the third round of  negotiations. If adopted, the legally binding treaty would outline measures to protect global ocean health, foster climate resilience as well as safeguard food security for people around the world. Oceanographic

Artisanal fishers in Chile’s Valparaíso region have started creating grassroots marine reserves to save their unprotected coastline. Although more than 40% of Chile’s maritime territory is protected, there is a lack of MPAs along the coast. The fishers have agreed not to harvest any resources in their reserves, and enthusiasm for their initiative has led to a rise in tourism. Mongabay

It’s a solution that comes from the communities, not from a desk in Santiago or an office in Valparaíso. Here, the community made the decision for ourselves, for our children and our grandchildren.
Rodrigo Sánchez, Executive Director of Fundación Capital Azul

California has become the first US state to ban the sale of new animal fur products both online and in-store. The law, which was introduced in 2019, was implemented on 1st January 2023. With fur farms now illegal in Norway, Croatia, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Czechia, activists believe the end of this cruel industry is in sight. Plant Based News

A big milestone for animal conservation in the EU, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein, with a new ban on bird hunting with lead shot in wetlands. An estimated one million waterbirds die of lead poisoning in the EU every year. Hunters will now only be able to use non-toxic ammunition within 100 metres of wetlands. Guardian

That's it for this week, thanks for reading. We're taking next week off for Gus's birthday - we'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,


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