The war in Iraq has caused a
humanitarian emergency affecting 27 million people.
The conflict has obvious repercussions for a civilian
population that is already suffering the lack of health
care, food, water and housing, even if they are not
directly threatened by bombs and bullets.
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq
has triggered an international mobilization to gather
support and resources for operations aimed at alleviating
the suffering. The United
Nations has announced that efforts to benefit
civilian Iraqis will require at least 2.2 billion
Of that sum, 1.3 billion dollars
would be earmarked for a gigantic operation to distribute
essential items under the auspices of the World Food
On its web page about the war
in Iraq, WFP
warns that this could become the largest humanitarian
operation in history.
The alarm created by the scope
of the humanitarian emergency is evident on the Internet,
where specialized agencies of the UN, international
organizations and a veritable avalanche of news items
cover the issue, providing details of its emerging
characteristics and potential magnitude.
The web site of the Center for
Humanitarian Information on Iraq provides some of
this data, while the Yahoo!
directory allows web surfers access to a special
section on links to humanitarian organizations.
The Office of the UN
High Commissioner on Refugees has special operations
under way in neighboring countries, awaiting up to
600,000 people who could be displaced from Iraq by
Children’s Fund) has also issued a global
alert: The children of Iraq have been trapped by war
for the third time in 20 years. Nearly half the population
of that country is under age 20. At least 166 million
dollars are needed to provide them the assistance
Health Organization (WHO) also has a special section
of its web site dedicated to Iraq. There it announces
that resources totaling 300 million dollars will be
needed to confront the health challenges created by
The International Red Cross is
present on the Internet, underscoring the need to
respect international treaties in regards to treating
prisoners of war. Human
Rights Watch, meanwhile, expresses concern about
the human rights violations occurring in the context
of the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Food Program: Crisis in Iraq
Emergency in Iraq
the situation in Iraq
Rights Watch: Iraq
Iraq – Humanitarian Relief
The Mayan civilization for more
than 3,000 years shone throughout Mesoamerica, which
continues to be inhabited by its descendants. The
imprints, achievements and mysteries these ancient
peoples left can also be explored via cyberspace.
A great number of web sites in
various languages delve into this civilization and
its incredible culture. Some web sites focus on archeological
projects and invite interested browsers to join the
excavations -- if only virtually.
From this wondrous landscape
emerged a highly developed civilization, one that
flourished while Europe remained submerged in relative
darkness, comments the Mundo Maya portal.
Another site in Spanish, "a
light in the Mesoamerican jungles", says that
the "basis of Mayan philosophy was built upon
harmony: creativity and receptivity, earth and sky,
life and death, day and night, masculine and feminine,
good and evil."
development of the Maya allowed them to erect
enormous structures as part of their cities
in the middle of the jungle. The structures have endured
centuries -- even millennia -- and today remain a
source of constant awe.
Archeologists have also discovered
the great mathematical abilities of the Maya, their
very precise calendar,
details about their political organization into city-states,
and about their daily lives, including the games they
played. Some of these discoveries are explained on
the web site "Rabbit
in the Moon".
But we still do not know everything
about the Maya because a large portion of their legacy
was destroyed after the arrival of Europeans in the
"new world". Their history
becomes all the more interesting with the resulting
mysteries. How did the peoples who lived in the Mesoamerican
region achieve such a high level of development? What
caused the decline of this civilization?
The Mayan influence extended
over what are today southeast Mexico, the territories
of Guatemala and Belize, and western Honduras and
El Salvador. There are some 4.5 million people of
Mayan descent in the region, speaking languages that
are a legacy of that distant past.
Rabbit in the Moon
The Maya Calendar
of the Maya
- Maya culture
Anti-personnel landmines are
deadly devices that, hidden underground, lie in wait
of victims. Each year, thousands of innocent people
are maimed or killed by these "conventional weapons",
lethal objects whose threat is not diminished at the
end of a war. Although there is a major international
effort to eliminate landmines, the menace persists.
A great deal of information on
landmines and their impacts can be found on the Internet.
One web site, titled "The
Silent Shout", of the United Nations Children's
Fund (UNICEF), explains -- by the numbers -- the scope
of the problem: in 68 countries there are 115 million
landmines in the ground. Once these devices are in
place, they can remain active for decades.
There are as many as 100 million landmines in stock
and an average 2.5 million are "planted"
each year. The creation of a minefield renders land
useless and complicates efforts to establish peace
processes. But worst of all, landmines cause an estimated
2,000 injuries or deaths each month. And 30 to 40
percent of victims are children. UNICEF calculates
that, worldwide, there is one anti-personnel mine
for every dozen children.
Landmines can be manufactured
for a mere three dollars each, says the UNICEF web
site. But to eliminate these devices requires an outlay
of about 1,000 dollars apiece.
A landmine can be described as
a hollow object with an explosive charge inside and
a detonator that is activated under the pressure of
a minimum weight.
The landmine problem is characterized
by its magnitude, which has led to the signing of
on the matter, which according to the information
available on its related web site had 146 signatory
nations and 131 ratifications
as of January 2002.
The Convention commits the states
party to the treaty to not use anti-personnel mines
and to eliminate or to verify the elimination of all
such existing weapons.
International Committee of the Red Cross stresses
that the countries which have adopted the Convention
have two key dates to remember: by the end of 2003
most will have to destroy all of their antipersonnel
mine reserves, and by the end of 2009 they must have
cleared all minefields within their territories.
The main Internet clearinghouse
for information on the humanitarian crisis caused
by the indiscriminate use of landmines is the International
Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Campaign to Ban Landmines
Ban Treaty text
Committee of the Red Cross - landmines
Council of Churches: landmines campaign
The silent shout
When we say the word "drought"
we think of what is lacking: water. And images are
brought to mind of its consequences, which can be
devastating to the environment, to the economy and
to human life.
"Drought is one of the fundamental
causes of disasters on the global scale," says
a web site about drought in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean,
where the past 30 years have seen an increase in frequency
and intensity of this phenomenon.
Early warning of drought is a
top priority, because it can allow populations and
governments to prepare for this natural and recurrent
The drought web site of the United
States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
explains that drought can be categorized four ways:
meteorological, when precipitation is below normal;
agricultural, when soil moisture is insufficient for
growing crops; hydrological, when surface and subsurface
water supplies are below normal; and socioeconomic,
when water shortages affect people directly.
Droughts have historically been
powerful phenomena, decimating populations through
starvation, forcing massive migrations and causing
severe economic, social and political crises.
Droughts can also be triggered
by special climatic situations, as occurs with El
Niño, which appears every three to seven
years and causes torrential rains in some places and
severe drought in others.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture
has a web site with a special section on the issue
of droughts, which if they persist, might end up producing
desertification, drought and their consequences
monitor in the U.S.
Yourself: El Niño
The banana is a crucial fruit
for human beings. But the production of this food
-- essential for hundreds of millions of people around
the world -- is faced with the serious threat of plagues,
particularly the black sigatoka fungus and Panama
could dramatically hurt the production capacity of
some banana varieties that are highly popular among
consumers if a formula is not found to keep them from
spreading. Researchers are delving into areas like
manipulation and cross-pollination to produce
resistant banana hybrids, and biological control of
But what is the story behind
these plagues? On the Internet there is abundant information
about the topic. It is a matter of the future
of the banana.
Even if you are not a regular
eater of bananas, there are at least 500 million people
who depend on this fruit -- particularly in Africa
and Asia -- as their main source of protein. On the
commercial scale, the banana is the most popular and
most consumed fruit in the world, says the author
of the web site Banana
There, too, it is noted that
the two principal threats are Panama disease, caused
by the fusarium oxysporum fungus that attacks the
banana tree's vascular system, and black sigatoka,
caused by Mycosphaerella fijiensis.
Panama disease is a major plague
on banana plantations around the world, causing great
losses in revenues, particularly in normally high-production
areas like Central America.
Black sigatoka, a disease that
causes spots on the banana tree leaves, dramatically
reduces the leaf's photosynthesis, cuts fruit yields
by as much as 50 percent and causes premature aging,
a serious problem for fruit destined for export.
on banana diseases
Banana Wars against Fungus
will not save the banana"
Yourself: Bananas and Plantains
for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain
Bananas could split for good
Parties to War
The drums of war have been sounding
louder and louder during the past few months, and
their echo is felt worldwide. Although an official
conflict has not been declared, the tensions are evident,
and have led to an avalanche of information on the
The stage for this war would
be the Persian Gulf, and the protagonists of the climate
of discord are the United
States, which has announced attack plans for non-compliance
with international weapons treaties, and Iraq.
The reasons behind a war are
often seen as incomprehensible -- and even unconscionable
-- by the world's "ordinary people".
The conflict between the United
States and Iraq had its first chapter in the 1991
Gulf War. Since then, disagreements and tensions have
been ongoing, as a detailed timeline
of events proves.
Those in search of explanations
for the causes of war have a daunting task ahead,
keeping up-to-date with the wide array of news agencies
with an Internet presence.
U.S.-based media outlets tend
to follow more closely the news coming out of Washington,
but Iraq also has its on version of events.
And there are media that offer
a unique perspective on the conflict and the surrounding
tensions, such as Inter
Press Service's special web page dedicated to
the Iraq crisis.
News agency web sites provide
a great deal of information about a war that has not
yet begun. And they have also made evident the wide
range of opinions on the conflict, including mobilizing
the increasing population that favors peace.
Press Service: Iraq - special edition
Conflict with Iraq
New York Times: Iraq
U.S. Department of
Timeline Iraq - A decade of tensions
Wheat is one of the basic grains
that gave rise to civilization. Wheat cultivation
is profoundly linked to ancient and modern history.
This grain is milled into flour and used to make a
food that is essential to millions around the world:
A quick search on the Internet
shows just how important wheat is today. To begin,
it is the raw material for bread
in much of the world, and historians say it has been
cultivated for at least the last 10,000 years. The
of the cereal is due to the fact that it is a
key source of nutritional
There are numerous varieties
within the wheat family, but the most commonly used
today are Triticum durum and Triticum compactum.
Wheat, like other cereals such
as rice in Asia or maize in certain parts of Latin
America, served as a trigger for the development of
The most widely cultivated crop
in the world, wheat feeds a large portion of the global
population, meaning it is also the focus of studies
to improve crop yields and increase nutritional properties,
according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture
And around the world, this grain
is part of a very active market. All would indicate
that there is enough wheat grown, but that it is not
fairly distributed among the global population.
nutrition info center
Context: Myths about Food and Hunger
Weapons for Sale
The weapons market evokes the
dark side of world trade because it is ultimately
a deadly business that moves billions of dollars each
year. Some of the consequences are predictable: conflict,
The existence of the arms trade
does not go unnoticed, as there are several organizations
that monitor it and denounce illegal activity. Many
groups have an Internet presence, like the Federation
of American Scientists, which reports that weapons
deals are worth more than 20 billion dollars annually.
Amnesty International warns that
transfers of weapons and military services can foment
and exacerbate human rights abuses. The United
Nations is carrying out an intense campaign for
considered a high priority in a world that often seems
armed to the teeth.
Activists are particularly concerned
about small and light weapons, which are more easily
smuggled across borders and disseminated throughout
the population. Such weapons cause the deaths of some
500,000 people each year, of which 200,000 are victims
of homicide, suicide, crime and accidents.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)
maintains a website/exhibit denouncing small weapons,
providing abundant information to underscore the harmful
impacts of arms proliferation.
The Internet is a good place
to learn more about efforts to fight weapons trafficking,
legal documents like the
Inter-American Convention against illicit weapons
deals, and more links
aimed at creating a more peaceful world.
Taking Aim at Small Arms
Convention against the illicit manufacturing of and
trafficking in firearms, ammunition explosives and
other related materials
UN: peace and
security through disarmament
Federation of American
UNIDIR - UN Institute
for Disarmament Research
- Connect Yourself: Disarmament
Bananas and plantains are fruits
thousands of years old that have become an important
food for humans. The banana trade is a dynamic market
and has led to scientific delving into its genetics
and its possibilities for ecological production.
The Internet is abundant with
information on this -- at least for now -- abundant
fruit. A good place to start is the banana
page of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
The sustainable increase in productivity
of banana plantations is a key objective of the International
Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain
(INIBAP), which reports that these fruits provide
an important part of the diet for 400 million people
in a hundred countries each day.
The website Bananas:
a musa species notes that the banana tree is currently
grown in all tropical regions of the world and the
fruits represent the fourth leading crop in the world,
after rice, maize and wheat.
The banana and plantain are originally
from the Indo-Malaya region, but the migration of
these species has been occurring since prehistoric
times. India and Brazil are the leading producers
of these fruits.
for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
a musa species
Bananas could split for good
on the web
Forests cover 3.87 billion hectares
of the earth’s surface, according to the latest
report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) on the State
of the World’s Forests
The 2001 report underlines that 95 percent of that
surface area corresponds to naturally occurring forests
and 5.0 percent to plantation forests. It also points
out that 14.2 million hectares are lost every year
to deforestation, and 5.2 million hectares are planted,
amounting to a net annual loss of 9.4 million hectares.
division states that progress was made towards
conservation goals in the 1990s, but warns that in
order to bring to life a vision based on sustainable
management, a number of factors are necessary, such
as the capacity to equitably finance the costs and
benefits of strides made in conservation, as well
as the materialisation of effective political commitments.
In September 2003 delegates from around the globe
will take part in the XII
World Forestry Congress to promote the conservation
of forests, a habitat that is home to 80 percent of
the planet’s biodiversity, as the conference
web site notes.
Although the surface area covered by forests may appear
extensive, the web site of the World Resources Institute
http://forests.wri.org/ shows an animated map that
clearly demonstrates the enormous reduction of forest
land over the past 8,000 years.
Deforestation is produced by the excessive use of
forestry resources, in other words the cutting of
trees by large logging interests as well as small
farmers who clear land to make way for their crops.
Other factors are natural catastrophes and forest
Abundant information can be found on the Internet
the characteristics of deforestation, especially
forests, which according to a web
site are home to 70 percent of the world’s
plant and animal species. There is also a large quantity
of specialised reports on the issue and web sites
information useful to outlining plans for the
management of forest ecosystems.
The State of the World’s Forests
World Forestry Congress
Tropical Forests in Decline/Canadian International
Solar radiation was essential
for the emergence of life on Earth, but today doctors
are issuing an alert: envrionmetnal and social changes
have turned the Sun's rays into dangerous company
when they shine too brightly.
The World Health Organization
(WHO) warns that the greatest danger lies in ultraviolet
(UV) rays, which are thought to be responsible for
the increase in cancer and ailments related to the
skin and eyes, the human organs most exposed to sunlight.
The United Nations health agency warns that these
rays are a threat to everyone.
Intersun portal is a cyberspace offshoot of the
WHO-sponsored Global UV Project that warns that these
rays play a role in the two to three million cases
of non-melanoma skin cancer and 132,000 cases of malignant
melanoma reported each year. The harmful radiation
could also contribute to the two million cases of
blindness arising from cataracts that are recorded
worldwide each year.
There has been an increase in
these cases. Why? On the one hand, there is a greater
tendency towards sun exposure, for aesthetic motives
like suntanning. But all sources on the Internet consulted
on this matter point out that the thinning of the
ozone layer, known as the ozone hole, is a factor
that affects a large portion of the Earth's surface.
The thinning of the ozone layer
is caused by pollutants produced by human activities,
such as the manufacture and use of chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs), and is a serious problem because this atmospheric
shield is what protects us from the potentially harmful
rays of the sun, like UV.
To combat the emissions of these
contaminants, many nations of the world have signed
Protocol, which is seen as successfully curbing
the production of CFCs and other ozone depleting substances.
But experts warn that the effects of the ozone hole
will continue for at least a half-century unless all
production of such substances is halted immediately.
Meanwhile, to protect ourselves,
information is helpful. Intersun posts a UV
index to categorise the danger of the suns rays.
Intersun The Global UV Project
Yourself: Ozone Hole - A Threatening Void
Yourself: Montreal Protocol on Ozone