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ON THE AGENDA: Himalayan catastrophe and the economics of reproductive health

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:32 GMT
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Posters of missing people, caused by the flash floods and landslides, are placed on a gate as an Indian Air Force helicopter lands at a base in Dehradun, in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
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A sneak peek at what’s on our radar this week…

It’s been a month since the heaviest rainfall on record lashed India’s Himalayan region of Uttarakhand, forcing glacier lakes and rivers to overflow and inundate towns and villages. Authorities say the almost 6,000 people registered as missing are now “presumed dead”. That makes the disaster the deadliest ever in the Himalayas.

Our South Asia correspondent, Nita Bhalla, has taken considerable risk to travel to the epicentre of an emergency dubbed the “Himalayan tsunami”. Conditions permitting, she’ll be reporting from there all week.

Her first dispatch comes from the town of Dehradun, where the painful search for the thousands of missing continues for families who refuse to give up hope. On Tuesday, Nita will examine the challenges of distributing aid to hundreds of villages that have been cut off by landslides in the mountainous region, where heavy rains are still hampering work.

Later she’ll explore how environmental destruction of the Himalayas has contributed to the disaster through the building of dams, unregulated construction and deforestation. Expect also blogs, exclusive pictures and a video talking point from the scene. In other words, comprehensive coverage of this most under-reported of crises.

Two thousand miles away in Southeast Asia, another under-reported crisis has been unfolding in obscurity. We’ll have a special multimedia report on the plight of the Rohingya – stateless Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar for the relative safety of surrounding countries.

I say relative because life in exile can be dangerous and deadly. Many Rohingya end up trafficked into slavery. Others perish on rickety ships. Sickness and malnutrition are widespread. We’ll provide an intimate look at life for one of the world’s most marginalised people.

On Wednesday, we’ll shine a light on reproductive health – and the high cost of ignoring it. A relatively modest investment in women’s sexual and reproductive health can yield stunningly high returns in both the physical and economic health of a nation. So why aren’t more countries making it a priority?

Women’s Rights Editor Lisa Anderson will be chairing Sex, Money and Birth Control, an online event jointly organised by Thomson Reuters Foundation and the World Bank. Be sure to tune in at 10 a.m EST/3 p.m. BST on July 17. You can submit comments or questions to our panellists using the Twitter hashtag #reprohealthinvest. Look out also for a video talking point on the subject from Astrid Zweynert and a “five facts” info-graphic on reproductive health.

Finally, we’ll put humanitarian aid funding under the microscope this week. Megan Rowling will be scrutinising just how much (or little) aid money goes to the most vulnerable people. She’ll also be investigating how work is progressing on a new set of standards to make sure aid agencies are accountable and effective.

Stay tuned for this and much more.

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