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Response to study published in BMJ Global Health “Secular trends in the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting among girls: a systematic analysis”

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Amref Health Africa, the largest African-led international organisation on the continent, welcomes the recent findings published in BMJ Global Health that the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting of girls under the age of 14 has fallen significantly in the 29 countries in Africa that were part of the study.

Using Demographic Health Survey (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data sets from Africa, the study finds that the prevalence of FGM/C for girls under 14 dropped the most in East Africa where it went from 71.4% in 1995 to 8.0% in 2016.

“It is very encouraging to see that decades of effort by organisations, communities and governments in Africa has helped lead to such a significant reduction in the prevalence of FGM/C among this age group,” said Peter Nguura, Director, Amref Health Africa’s End FGM/C Centre of Excellence, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“In the past 10 years alone, we have certainly seen an increasing number of communities in Kenya and Tanzania abandon the practice through community-led initiatives, such as Alternative Rites of Passage.”

The study also corroborates earlier findings from UNICEF’s report of 2013, another extensive regional study on FGM/C whose data came from 29 countries with the highest FGM/C prevalence. UNICEF’s report revealed that the majority of the populations in these countries actually want FGM/C to end and further projected that some countries in Africa may be capable of attaining total abandonment of FGM/C by 2030.

“This recent study should give the movement to abandon FGM/C in the East Africa region new momentum, and result in combined efforts to accelerate progress,” Mr. Nguura said. “If this does not happen, the reverse could be the case, where the findings give the communities, donors and other stakeholders a reason to relax thereby reversing the gains attained so far.”

As the researchers of the study underline themselves, even though the findings are based upon large quantitative research (90 sets of survey data, covering 208,195 girls) caution is urged in interpreting these figures. The study is limited to girls under the age of 14, leaving out an untold number of girls aged 14 and older who undergo FGM/C as teenagers, often as part of a cultural ritual that marks their transition from girl to woman.

In countries where Amref Health Africa currently works with communities to end the practice of FGM/C, national prevalence rates for girls/woman aged 15 to 49 are still high –  Kenya 21% , Tanzania 10%, Senegal 25% , for example. It is also important to note that prevalence rates vary greatly across each country, with some communities having rates in the range of 80 to 90%.

In addition, gathering reliable responses from respondents to surveys, like the Demographic Health Survey, for very sensitive issues such as FGM/C can be challenging. When young girls are asked questions, such as: ‘Have you been subjected to female genital cutting?’ their responses may be affected by the fact that FGM/C is prohibited by law in many of the countries in Africa that were part of the study. An under-reporting may occur due to fear that answering the question in the positive will lead to prosecution of relatives if disclosure were to be made about their FGM/C status.

“We agree with the study’s authors that further efforts are urgently needed to eradicate the practice of FGM/C wherever it is happening,” said Mr. Nguura.

“Governments, communities and organisations like Amref Health Africa must use the results of this study as a rallying point to redouble our work to ensure we meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending FGM/C by 2030. Communities must be supported to take leadership and ownership of the movement to end FGM/C, and young people must also receive support to work together with their cultural and religious leaders in transgenerational partnerships to mobilise their communities towards abandonment of FGM/C. Implementers need to work in partnerships that empower communities to lead the change of harmful social norms.”

Amref Health Africa is working to end FGM/C in sub-Saharan Africa through solutions created and led by communities themselves, with a focus on ensuring the health and human rights of girls and women are upheld. The organisation does this by supporting communities to hold structured community dialogues where they can freely and deeply interrogate the harmful norms without judgement, and to explore and adopt culturally acceptable alternatives for FGM/C that come without the harmful cut.

To date, more than 16,000 girls in Kenya and Tanzania in communities Amref Health Africa partners with have undergone a community-led Alternative Rite of Passage that does not include FGM/C. The organisation is also committed to partnering with researchers to add to contextual approaches and interventions to bring an end to FGM/C (see Amref Health Africa’s qualitative study published in ‘Culture, Health and Sexuality.’), and has created a vision to end FGM/C in Africa by 2030.

To share lessons it has learned partnering with African communities in supporting them to take leadership and ownership of ending FGM/C, Amref Health Africa has launched its End FGM/C Centre of Excellence. The centre is working towards mobilising diverse partners to strengthen collaboration and global commitments to a world free of FGM/C.

– Amref Health Africa

NGOs - SDGs

Nestlé ESAR announces industry-first pilot that reduces carbon dioxide emissions and recycles wastewater

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Nestlé ESAR industry-first pilot launch (Image: Supplied)

In partnership with The Emissions Capture Company, Nestlé has successfully piloted leading machine learning-based technology in Babelegi, at industrial scale, to deliver significant Scope 1 emission reductions, and wastewater recycling.

Today, Nestlé – ESAR East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) unveiled an industrial scale pilot project that has successfully tested a global-first, Artificial Intelligence technology in Africa that reduces emissions and saves water, at its Babelegi factory in Pretoria. The industrial scale pilot project is a partnership with The Emissions Capture Company (ECCO) using its proprietary WhiteBoxTM technology, a machine-learning based system that captures Scope 1 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and recycles wastewater.

Speaking on the partnership, Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé ESAR, said: “Our global commitment to reduce our impact on the environment influences every part of our business today. This partnership with ECCO demonstrates a significant evolution of our production processes to embrace circular principles at every step. We are extremely proud to be pioneering this industry-first technology on the African continent. This success takes us to the next phase, where we will be looking to scale this operation to other factories to deliver significant reductions in Scope 1 emissions in ESAR.”

The WhiteBoxTM set-up in Babelegi has been in successful operation for over 8,000 hours.  The technology captures CO2 from flue gas emissions, recycles industrial wastewater and creates sustainable green products. The green products can be sold directly (for animal feed, human food, consumer goods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals) or used to eliminate sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions without the need for water. Data collected from the industrial scale pilot coupled with industry-first machine learning techniques, demonstrates that the WhiteBoxTM can be calibrated to capture between 25% to 70% of Scope 1 CO2 emissions and recycle available industrial wastewater per site. Much of this is done through direct air capture and energy-efficient gas processing, using low-fuel consumption methods.

“We are proud to have partnered with Nestlé in successfully demonstrating  the capabilities of our cutting-edge technology set. ECCO uses green chemistry and Artificial Intelligence to extract CO2 from emissions, using it as an ingredient in everyday products. This partnership helps pave the way for a green economy. Our approach was holistic, ensuring that pollution remediation was key, along with other considerations such as water recycling and low fuel consumption. By design, the shift from legacy technologies to low carbon emission processes also improves livelihoods through employment creation, training, and upskilling,” says Thomas F Darden, ECCO’s CEO and founding board member of William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and board member for Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

“The industrial scale pilot project directly upskilled and employed 15 people from the local community and has the potential to create more jobs when scaled.  Part of the operation has also included skills development for the rest of our staff at the facility to ensure a just transition to low emission operations, with no one left behind,” concluded Tohlang.

ECCO’s WhiteBoxTM joins several ongoing long-term projects under Nestlé’s RE sustainability initiative, that reinforces the company’s sustainability initiatives, strategies as well as its resources to help mitigate sustainability challenges such as waste reduction.

 

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Nestlé launches RE Pilot Project to empower informal waste reclaimers in Tembisa, Gauteng

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In celebration of National Recycling Week and Let’s Do It World Clean-up Day 2021, Nestlé East & Southern Africa Region joined forces with Kudoti, a waste tech start-up, to launch its ‘RE-Imagine Tomorrow’ pilot project in Tembisa to demonstrate how the circular economy is a viable solution for tackling the waste problem.

By working with Kudoti and Destination Green, the implementation partner and buy back centre, Nestlé will enable 100 waste reclaimers to use technology to track the amount of waste collected and find buyers through Kudoti’s technology platform and network. The waste collectors will be empowered and trained on how to make an income and will receive a monthly stipend through a subsidy by Nestlé.  Training will include business and finance education to equip the waste reclaimers to further boost their incomes along with the provision of physical resources such as protective gear.  One of the other elements contributed by Nestlé will be the purchase of a forklift to further assist the operation in the long run.

The ‘RE-Imagine Tomorrow’ pilot project will be a phased intervention for the community of Mqantsa, Tembisa. The beginning of the phase is about awakening a focused increase of waste collection through the informal waste reclaimers. Engage will include educating the community on rethinking their relationship with waste and reducing their own waste footprint.  Finally, the sustain phase will bring to life repurposing by creating beauty out of waste for the benefit of the community through public furniture created from the waste collected. The circular economy model aims to use waste streams as secondary resources and recover waste for reuse and recycling. This approach is expected to achieve efficient economic growth while minimising negative environmental impact.

Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR),adds . “Informal waste reclaimers play an important role in the management of waste. It is important that we appreciate their role as heroes and find ways in which we can empower them further as we strive for a waste free future. This pilot project is part of our broader RE sustainability initiative which focuses on the pillars of rethink reduce and repurpose. Through working with a tech start-up, waste collectors, recyclers and the community, we believe we are engaging key stakeholders in the waste management cycle to be able to RE-imagine tomorrow. We hope that through this pilot project our partners and the community of Tembisa will see that there are opportunities that can be found in what we see as waste.”

The RE initiative encourages society to RETHINK, REDUCE and REPURPOSE. The RETHINK pillar is about encouraging broader society to rethink its relationship with the environment. Nestlé will educate the public about ways to change their behaviour to serve the environment through responsible practices such as recycling. The REDUCE pillar highlights Nestlé’s commitment towards reducing its environmental impact to zero carbon emissions by 2030. Lastly, the REPURPOSE pillar focuses on upcycling and reusing materials which are crucial to driving a circular economy.

“Through this initiative, we hope to drive a paradigm shift by formulating and implementing solutions that will safeguard the environment. We hope that initiatives such as RE will encourage people not only in Tembisa, but across the country, to play their part and RETHINK, REDUCE and REPURPOSE,” concluded Tohlang.

Members of the community and over 20 waste reclaimers, along with Nestlé, Kudoti, Destination Green and members of the media took part in a clean-up in Mqantsa, Tembisa on the day to strengthen its collective contribution to a waste-free future for the community.

 

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Innovative partnerships needed to tackle climate related disasters

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Drought Image (Supplied)

The devastating crisis in Madagascar sounds a stark warning of the need to take urgent action for Africa according to Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, Director General of the African Risk Capacity Group.

“Drought may well be the next pandemic after COVID-19 and there’s no vaccine to cure it.” If the words of Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction don’t compel us to take immediate action, Africa will continue to bear the scars of barren wastelands caused by climate change-induced drought. Southern Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa and now Madagascar are just the start. The short-term solution to building resilience requires a multi-faceted approach involving both private and public sectors, says Diong.

“Our affiliate, ARC Ltd, which recently received a BBB+ Insurer Financial Strength rating from Fitch, works with governments, NGOs and funders to provide customised parametric insurance. This  empowers African governments and NGOs to respond swiftly to natural disasters on the continent, but there’s a lot of work that needs to go into building distribution networks to ensure that we can reach as many people as possible. We need to build a coalition of the private and public sector,” Diong adds.

While governments are key in dealing with resilience to climate change, it’s the ability of the private sector to take action that will make all the difference, he says.

“Partnerships should extend beyond governments. The private sector is an essential partner for leveraging funding and experience demonstrates that private-sector entities are capable of rapidly taking up opportunities when and if these make sense from a business angle.”

There are several examples where a collaborative approach is already working well. Diong cites ARC Group’s partnerships with organisations such as the Start Network and World Food Programme (WFP), and funders such as the German Development Bank, UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and African Development Bank which are working to provide that resilience for African countries.

Shifting the disaster risk architecture

Emily Jones, as Climate and Disaster Risk Financing Advisor for WFP, highlights the challenges of convincing authorities to be more proactive than reactive when preventing human suffering and hardship when events like drought occur.

“Unfortunately, no one person or organisation can make the necessary shift alone. Change starts with building resilience and insurance plays a significant role in that, particularly in climate change,” says Jones.

Governments pay a premium every year and receive their agreed-upon pay-out if and when a predicted disaster occurs. “This money can then be used to help those people affected, with the remainder of the pay-out going towards covering other consequences that might not have been expected, such as conflict or a loss of progress in terms of important local development projects,” she says.

“Humanitarians are working on highlighting the need to predict crises and act before they manifest in an effort to avoid human suffering. After all, why wait if you don’t have to?”

Jones speaks about how most authorities in African countries perceive insurance as a gamble when it should rather be seen as a risk management tool. Unfortunately, many simply don’t have the necessary tools available to plan, which is where ARC comes in.

“It’s amazing that ARC Limited is offering this type of insurance. However, insurance is really only cost-effective for catastrophic events that happen infrequently – perhaps once every 10 years – and if the governments that they’re selling the insurance to don’t have other solutions, they’re going to be taking out insurance that’s less than optimal,” Jones explains.

“So, something that WFP, ARC, and the African Development Bank wants to work on in the coming years is a risk-layering approach. This would involve introducing other tools for coping with those medium-scale events so that we can optimise ARC and hopefully offer better products, as well as ensure improved buy-in, a greater understanding of the products’ importance, and a track record of success,” she adds.

Responding swiftly to natural disasters

Since ARC Limited was established in 2014, the company has paid out $65-million in drought-relief efforts to seven different countries.

“In particular, the collaboration between the African Development Bank and ARC shows how coming together makes a major difference. In 2020, the ARC drought-relief pay-outs to Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire totalled $6-million,” says Diong.

Madagascar received a payment of over $2,1-million, which was allocated to food assistance for 15,000 households, nutritional support to 2,000 children and 1,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, and water supplies to over 84,000 households.

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Reaching the most vulnerable, however, is difficult, adds Malvern Chirume, Chief Underwriting Officer ARC Limited.  “One of the big challenges is access to the final customer, bearing in mind that most of our beneficiaries of the programmes are small- to medium-scale farmers and therefore it’s not cost-effective to access them one at a time.” 

With climate change, we can expect extreme weather events to hit harder and more frequently in coming years. In a 1.5 degree warmer world, there is no doubt that drought will be a more regular event.

The GAR Special Report on Drought 2021 launched earlier this year is a call to action: we must act now if we are to meet the goals of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and create a safer, more resilient, risk-proofed future for all.

“Drought is not something that hits us suddenly, nor something that we can quarantine our way out of. Drought manifests over months, years, sometimes decades, and the results are felt just as long. Drought exhibits and exacerbates the social and economic inequalities that are deep-rooted within our systems and hits the most vulnerable the hardest,” says Chirume.

“While we may not be able to prevent it, we can certainly be prepared to deal with its impact by building resilience and providing swift support to those who are left vulnerable.”

Issued by ARC Limited

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