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845 million people still need access to #DrinkingWater to meet 2030 UN goal

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Seven countries still provide less than half of their population with access to basic drinking water, while another 40 countries have no basic sanitation services for at least 50% of citizens, new research shows.

It comes to light after a new study, entitled Forward-Thinking Countries, reveals the most and least progressive nations based on key social, environmental and economic indicators. 

The proportion of the global population using safe drinking water services was reported to be 71% in 2017, with an additional 19% using basic services. This means that 785 million people still lacked access to even basic drinking water according to the latest available figures. 

Out of the 146 assessed countries, just four provide 100% of the population with access to at least basic drinking water and basic sanitation: New Zealand, Israel, Qatar and Singapore.

The UN has called for universal and equal access to safe and affordable drinking services by 2030, to reduce the preventable health risks caused by contaminated or polluted water. These risks include infectious diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid fever.

Analysis reveals that the countries with the poorest water provisions experience a higher number of deaths from infectious diseases compared to countries with better provisions. 

In countries where less than 70% of people have access to basic drinking water, an average of 486 deaths per 100,000 people were reported in 2018, compared to just 88.3 deaths per 100,000 people from countries with better drinking water services. 

Of the 146 countries with water provision data available, the Central African Republic experienced the most deaths from infectious diseases in 2018, with 1,209.3 reported per 100,000 people. Just 54% of the population has access to at least basic drinking water, and 25% has access to basic sanitation facilities. 

Countries with poor water provisions also experience a higher infant mortality rate. Countries where less than 70% of the population have access to basic drinking water reported 486 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to just 88.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in other locations.

Countries with the poorest water provisions: 

Country

Access to at Least Basic Drinking Water (% of Population)

Access to at Least Basic Sanitation Facilities (% of Population)

% of Population with Access to Basic Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation

Eritrea

19.29

11.26

2.17

Ethiopia

39.12

7.08

2.77

Chad

42.54

9.55

4.06

Madagascar

50.62

9.69

4.91

Niger

45.8

12.9

5.93

As well as assessing water provision and sanitation facilities, Forward-Thinking Countries analyzes reports from the United Nations, the Global Gender Gap Report, UNICEF and non-governmental organisations to reveal which countries have made the most progress towards global equality over the past five years.

The analysis shows that Norway is the most progressive country, having closed 83.5% of its gender gap and scoring 90.26 points out of 100 on the Social Progress Index. This measures indicators that feed into basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity. 

When compared to the target boundaries for key issues, the world underperforms in many aspects of social progress relative to economic resources. The largest area of under-performance is water and sanitation, which has only seen minor improvement (+1.61 points) over the past five years. 

The research is published ahead of World Water Week, which is organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute and starts on 25th August. The event aims to address global water issues such as provision, pollution and sanitation, and related international development goals. 

The results of the research.

Economy

#COVID-19 - ‘This year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas’

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Today (28 October) the European Commission presented its proposals for additional measures to tackle the COVID-19 ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, via videoconference, of European heads of government. 

The measures are aimed at a more coordinated approach to data sharing, testing, medical and non-medical equipment, to travel, and to vaccination strategies. President of the European Commission, von der Leyen, called for cooperation, coordination and solidarity. 

Von der Leyen said: “Today we are launching additional measures in our fight against the virus; from increasing access to fast testing and preparing vaccination campaigns, to facilitating safe travel when necessary. I call on the Member States to work closely together. Courageous steps taken now will help save lives and protect livelihoods. No Member State will emerge safely from this pandemic until everyone does.”

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said: “The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming. Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives and livelihoods, to alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems, and to control the spread of the virus.”

Professor Peter Piot, who is the lead scientist in the Commission’s panel of advisors echoed the President’s concerns, saying that there was no “silver bullet”. He said that Europe was paying a high price for relaxing measures in the summer, adding that measures like wearing the mask work as long as everyone does it.

He also warned against ‘corona fatigue’ and underlined that there was no trade-off between health and the economy. Pointing to a report in the Financial Times, he said that the health issue needed to be fixed to limit economic damage. 

The new efforts, look at many actions:

Improving the flow of information to allow informed decision-making: The sharing of accurate, comprehensive, comparable and timely information on epidemiological data, as well as on testing, contact tracing and public health surveillance, is essential to track how the coronavirus spreads at regional and national level and providing all relevant data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Commission.

Establishing more effective and rapid testing: The Commission is proposing directly purchase rapid antigen tests and delivering them to Member States, using €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument. In parallel, the Commission is launching a joint procurement to ensure a second stream of access. Travellers should be offered the possibility to undergo a test after arrival. If negative COVID-19 tests are to be required or recommended for any activity, mutual recognition of tests is essential, in particular in the context of travel.

Making full use of contact tracing and warning apps across borders:  EU member states have developed 19 national contact tracing and warning apps, downloaded more than 52 million times. The Commission recently launched a solution for linking national apps across the EU through a ‘European Federation Gateway Service'. Three national apps (Germany, Ireland, and Italy) were first linked on 19 October when the system came online. The Commission calls on all states to set up effective and compatible apps and reinforce their communication efforts to promote their uptake.

Effective vaccination: The development and uptake of safe and effective vaccines is a priority effort to quickly end the crisis. Member States need to take to be fully prepared, which includes the development of national vaccination strategies. The Commission will put in place a common reporting framework and a platform to monitor the effectiveness of national vaccine strategies. To share the best practices, the conclusions of the first review on national vaccination plans will be presented in November 2020.

Effective communication to citizens: Clear communication is essential for the public health response to be successful, the Commission is calling on all Member States to relaunch communication campaigns to counter false, misleading and dangerous information that continues to circulate, and to address the risk of “pandemic fatigue”. Vaccination is a specific area where public authorities need to step up their actions to tackle misinformation and secure public trust, as there will be no compromise on safety or effectiveness under Europe's robust vaccine authorization system. 

Securing essential supplies: The Commission has launched a new joint procurement for medical equipment for vaccination.

Facilitating safe travel: The Commission calls on member states to fully implement the Recommendation adopted by the Council for a common and coordinated approach to restrictions to free movement. Citizens and businesses want clarity and predictability. Any remaining COVID-19 related internal border control measures should be lifted.

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EU

European minimum wage: Commission proposal welcome but falls short on ambition to fight poverty and inequality say Greens

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The European Commission has just released its draft directive on a European minimum wage. The proposal sets out minimum standards and uniform criteria for the level of EU-wide minimum wages. The European Commission is calling on EU governments to involve social partners and trade unions in negotiations on minimum wages and to close gaps where collective agreements do not apply.

For the Greens/EFA group, the European Commission's proposal falls short of its stated ambition to fight poverty and inequality. Kira Peter-Hansen MEP, Greens/EFA co-ordinator in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, said: "Too many Europeans earn a wage they cannot live on and the number of ‘working poor’ is likely to grow during the current COVID-19 crisis. That's why it's welcome that the Commission is attempting to tackle the issue of in-work poverty, but unfortunately this proposal fails to tackle the issue.

"If a European framework on minimum wages is to make a real difference then this proposal is not up to the job. As it stands, this Directive will still see workers on as little as two euros an hour. Wages must be enough to live on across the whole of the EU.

"We welcome the proposal to guarantee wages based on collective agreements in public procurement. However, more needs to be done to give social partners the means to strengthen collective bargaining and we need to secure that the proposal do not harm well-functioning collective bargaining models European workers need access to poverty-proof wages and for the eradication of discrimination of any kind, and for all EU citizens to have a minimum income - that’s what a true Social Europe is about."

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China

Samsung Display gets US licenses to supply some panels to Huawei

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Samsung Electronics’ display unit has received licenses from US authorities to continue supplying certain display panel products to Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday (27 October).

With US-China ties at their worst in decades, Washington has been pushing governments around the world to squeeze out Huawei, arguing that the telecom giant would hand data to the Chinese government for spying. Huawei denies it spies for China.

From 15 September, new curbs have barred US companies from supplying or serving Huawei.

Samsung Display, which counts Samsung Electronics and Apple as major customers for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display screens, declined comment.

Huawei was not immediately available for comment.

It is still unclear whether Samsung Display will be able to export its OLED panels to Huawei as other firms in the supply chain making components necessary to manufacture panels would also have to get U.S. licences.

Samsung’s cross-town rival LG Display said that it and other companies, including most semiconductor companies, need to get licences to resume business with Huawei.

Last month, Intel Corp said it had received licences from US authorities to continue supplying certain products to Huawei.

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