Good News Stories From 2020 To Make You Smile

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Good News Stories From 2020 To Make You Smile

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Most of us had our heads buried in the sand like ostriches for a large part of 2020. Daily reminders of the Covid-19 pandemic kept us vigilant and anxious. Our priority was to keep our loved ones safe. Fair enough.

It would have been easy to miss the good things that have happened. Here are a few good news stories to remind you to smile and reflect on the positive. Think about how much more we can achieve in 2021. 

3 Species Make a Comeback

Whilst 2020 has been a tough year for humans, less human interference has seen some good news in the animal kingdom. According to the UN, one million species of animal and plants are facing extinction. Here are three that have made a comeback this year.

Happy stories, gorillas
A Mountain Gorilla family. Photo Credit: Uganda Wildlife Authority
1. Baby Boom for Mountain Gorillas in Uganda

Uganda is home to about half of the worlds remaining Mountain Gorillas. There are just over a 1000 surviving Mountain Gorillas in the wild. They do not thrive under captivity. The rest live in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 2020 saw seven babies born in Uganda, double of that in 2019. Although the status of the species was changed from ‘Critically Endangered’ to ‘Endangered’ in 2018 on the IUCN Red List, conservationists are concerned for their continued survival. Activities from poachers have increased due to the economic slow-down, and COVID-19 poses a very real threat to the gorillas due to the shared DNA with humans.

Tasmanian devil, good news
The Tasmanian devil is the size of a small dog and is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial CHEN WU/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
2. Endangered Tasmanian Devils are finally back on mainland Australia after 3000 years 

26 Tasmanian devils were released in March and September 2020 in Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Australia from the island state of Tasmania. These marsupials are native to Australia but were wiped out on the mainland likely due to the introduction of dingoes about 4000 years ago. 

Until their recent re-introduction, they were found only on Tasmania. Their population on Tasmania declined sharply from 140,000 to 20,000 in the mid-1990s due to contagious facial cancer. Since then, they have been classified as ‘endangered’. Experts hope that by bringing them back to Australia mainland, they will not only thrive but help stabilize the continent’s delicate ecosystem. If all goes well, 40 more are planned to be released in the next 2 years.

elephant shrew
The Elephant Shrew gets its name from the resemblance of its long nose to the trunk of an elephant. They are not shrews but are in fact more closely related to elephants, manatees and aardvarks.
3. The Elephant Shrew Makes a Re-Appearance after 50 years

The Elephant Shrew or Somali Sengi was thought to be endemic to Somali and well, extinct! They not been seen for over 50 years. Researchers have however spotted them alive and well in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. 

These mouse-sized mammals are insectivorous and may fit in the palm of your hand but catching one will not be easy. These little creatures are fast runners and have been recorded to reach speeds of up to 30km/h. 

3 Steps Forward for Gender Equality 

Malala Yousafzai, good news
Malala Yousafzai graduates from Oxford 8 years after Taliban shooting. Photo Credit: Malala @Instagram.com
1. Malala Yousafzai graduates from the University of Oxford

At 17 years of age, Malala Yousafzai was the youngest to receive a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2014. She was just 10 years old in 2007 when the Taliban took control of her hometown in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and girls were banned from attending school. That did not stop her from going to school or campaigning for girls’ rights to education. She was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011. 

Her public profile and attention in the media attracted the inevitable attention of the Taliban. In 2012, they retaliated by shooting her on a bus on the way back from school. She suffered serious injuries but recovered after multiple surgeries and resumed her studies less than a year after.

8 years after the young activist was shot for speaking out in the media about women’s rights to education, Malala Yousafzai completes her Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree at the University of Oxford.

Malala continues to be a staunch advocate for the right of every girl to education and their empowerment for social and economic change. 

2. Sudan Outlaws Female Genital Mutilation

A significant move in April 2020 saw the transitional government in Sudan criminalise Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM is the practice of cutting or removal of the inner and out labia, and sometimes even the clitoris. This can lead to infections, infertility, pain during intercourse, sometimes death and psychological problems. Anyone who performs FGM is now punishable by 3 years in jail and a fine. 

FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights but it is often deeply entrenched in cultural and religious practices. 

Genital mutilation is practised in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. According to the UN’s Global Database on Violence against Women, Sudan has the highest rate of FGM in the world – 87% of girls and women. The passing of the law in Sudan is not only a victory for the protection of women in Sudan but also a signal for the other countries to start following suit. It does not mean we cannot have rites of passage, but this custom can be substituted with alternative initiation ceremonies that empower rather than subjugate women.

marriage, good news
650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, according to UNICEF. Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlo @ Unsplash
3. Child Marriage Banned in Saudi Arabia and Palestine

Marriage before the age of 18 is seen as a violation of human rights. Even if it has decreased globally by 15 per cent in the last decade, 117 countries in the world (including the United States) still allow child marriages. 

Despite Saudi Arabia’s deeply conservative legacy, the Ministry of Justice has passed a law banning marriages for those under 18 years of age. Some interpretations of Islamic law allow girls to marry as soon as they reach puberty, and many tribal customs are supporting this practice. This is a great leap forward. The Kingdom is taking bold steps to improve gender equality.

Palestine has committed to eliminating child and forced marriage by 2030. The eligible age in the West Bank previously was 15 years old for a female and 16 years old for a male. 

The practice is most prevalent in African and South Asia countries. Niger and Chad being the top 2. 1 in 3 of the world’s child brides live in India. In Bangladesh, 51 per cent of women were married before the age of 18. In 2010, it was at 64 per cent. 

The prevalence of child marriages within a country is not evenly spread either. It is proportionally higher in rural areas, for those coming from poorer households or with less education.

The world is making progress. Nevertheless, to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target of eliminating child marriage by 2030, we need to increase our effort of the last decade by 17 times! 

3 Things Making the World a Better Place

Malaria
The Anopheles genus of mosquito is the only species of mosquitoes that can transmit malaria.
1. Malaria numbers take a Dive

The World Health Organization reports that malaria deaths are in its lowest in 2020. 

Since 2000, 1.5 billion malaria cases and 7.6 million malaria-related deaths have been averted. The WHO’s Global Malaria Strategy program adopted in 2015 by the World Health Assembly aims to reduce global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030. The disease has been eliminated in 10 out of 97 affected countries since the start of the program.

The mosquito-borne disease is preventable and treatable. Although malaria still occurs in 87 countries, it disproportionately affects the poor with limited or no access to health care.  It is estimated that 90% of all malaria-related deaths occur in the African Region. 

Preventive measures, diagnostic and treatment facilities are set up to reduce and eliminate the disease. The next milestone is to reduce malaria mortality rates by 75% by 2025 compared to figures in 2015.

COVID-19
From health care and supermarket workers to delivery personnel, these people in the frontline bear higher risks of infections whilst doing their job. Photo credit: Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash
2. Unsung Heroes in our Workforce are in the Spotlight

COVID 19 has brought attention to a large part of the workforce almost invisible to many of us in our daily interactions. However inconvenient it may be, most white-collared workers were able to adapt and continue working remotely from the safety of their homes, with the support of their companies.

Since the pandemic began, essential workers in more ‘low prestige jobs’ have been brought into the spotlight, and rightly so. Without this workforce, the economy would cease to function and our lives would come to a halt.

These include those who work in critical infrastructure and logistics like maintenance or repair technicians, warehouse workers, delivery and transport personnel, trash collectors and cleaners. They may be employees in grocery stores and pharmacies, or health care workers and home caregivers. Most lack the benefits and security of higher-paying and prestigious jobs. Even though these people are in the frontline, with the highest risk of contracting the virus, many do not have the proper conditions or equipment to work safely. It is time we gave them due respect and appreciation. It is time for governments to have a closer look at better security and support for those who have been taking care of our needs, and who are more vulnerable. The next time a plumber turns up at our home or a cleaner passes us by in the office, look them in the eye and voice your appreciation. It is the least we can do.

The arctic sea
The Arctic sea ice is at the second-lowest since the record low in 2012. It has been declining at a rate of 13.1 per cent relative to the 1981-2010 average. If this continues, there could be no ice in the Arctic in the summer of 2040. Photo Credit: Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

3. Increased Global Solidarity to reach 2050 net-zero emissions goal

More than 110 countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan and the Republic of Korea have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050. 

South Korea is the first East Asian country to make the pledge, followed by Japan. Coal provides 40% of South Korea’s energy, making it the seventh-largest carbon emitter. It intends to phase coal out by 2029. Japan is the fifth-biggest carbon emitter and it aims to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. 

China, by far the world’s highest emitter, has stepped up and pledged its intention to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Previously it had committed only to aim for peak emissions by 2030. China burns half the world’s coal and currently produces about 25 per cent in global emissions. It is also the largest investor and consumer of renewable energy. It plans to utilise clean technology and reduce emissions by 90 per cent to reach its goals. If China delivers on its pledge, it will have a significant impact in the fight for climate change.

Recently on 17 December, The EU announced that they will also accelerate their efforts. Its Member States plan to reduce emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 (compared to 1990)

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