This is our regular round up of stories of progress from around the world. If you'd like to join the 48,000 people who get this in their inbox every week, you can subscribe for free below.
Good news you didn't hear about
Bangladesh has become the first country globally to officially eliminate visceral leishmaniasis, a life-threatening neglected tropical disease. The country achieved the WHO's elimination target of less than one case per 10,000 people in 2017 and has sustained it to date, despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. TDR
The WHO says that the endemic rubella virus has been eliminated from North Korea. The measles-rubella vaccine was introduced into childhood immunisation programmes in 2019, achieving more than 99.8% coverage in the target population of almost 6 million people. WHO
Onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness) is the world's second-leading infectious cause of blindness. Public health officials have been working for decades to address it, and efforts are starting to pay off. Treatment now reaches 400 million people a year; in 2023, Niger became the first country in Africa to eliminate it; and Senegal is now on track to become the second. WHO
Just gonna leave this one right here.
India is extending its free ration scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, for five more years, covering 800 million people. Under the scheme, which was started in April 2020 to help people deal with the pandemic, all poor families receive 5 kg of food grains every month. Reuters
The Ivory Coast has launched the second phase of its water programme, which will see the construction of 2,200 boreholes across the country. The new installations are expected to bring clean drinking water to an additional 900,000 people. Afrik21
In 1999, a cyclone killed more than 10,000 people in the state of Odisha, India. Since then it has built over 800 cyclone shelters and 120 coastal watchtowers; 1,200 coastal villages now receive warnings; more than 100,000 volunteers have been trained; and it has successfully managed through two super cyclones. World Bank
The US government is investing $16.4 billion into rail infrastructure between Boston and Washington, the largest rebuilding investment since the tracks were laid in the mid-19th century. The funding will help rebuild tunnels and bridges; upgrade tracks, station power systems, and signals; and advance projects to increase operating speed. Railway Age
London is now home to the largest low emissions zone in the world—1,500 km2 and covering nine million people—and it's making a real difference. There are 77,000 fewer higher-polluting cars a day compared to a year ago; NO2 levels have fallen by at least 18.4%; and cleaner air has already contributed to a 4.5% reduction in long-term health problems and an 8% decrease in respiratory issues.
The World Bank just approved $210 million to provide cash transfers and counseling services to improve nutrition and directly benefit about 1.7 million pregnant women and mothers of children under four years of age in vulnerable households in Bangladesh.
In 2010 Ethiopia made a commitment to ensure that all children had access to pre-primary education, particularly marginalized urban poor and rural children. In 2011 it launched O-Class, a one-year play-based preschool programme, and since then access to pre-primary education has increased from 5.3% to 44%. World Bank
Senegal is making great progress in public health. Since 1992, the country has cut its stunting rate in half; since 2000, the number of children who die before their 5th birthday has dropped by 70% percent; and since 2005, the number of women giving birth in healthcare facilities has increased from 62% to 80%. Gates Notes
It’s rare to get a standing ovation at a scientific conference. But on 22 October, cancer researcher Thomas Powles received two, after announcing a new combination of treatments that cuts the risk of death in people with advanced bladder cancer by more than half—an unprecedented result in a cancer for which survival rates have been almost unchanged since the 1980s. Nature
The only home we've ever known
To reverse the crisis requires reciprocity, giving more than we take. When reciprocity prevails, everyone benefits. When absent, injustice prevails. Regeneration means stitching together the broken strands that separate us from life and one another. The way to heal a system is to connect more of it to itself. This is true of an immune system, ecosystem, or social system.
~ Paul Hawken
If you're going to spend time with any piece of internet content this week, can we recommend Paul Hawken's just-released TED talk? The legendary environmentalist explains why regeneration matters, and why it's at the heart of our efforts to undo the damage we've done.
The Conkouati-Douli National Park in the Congo will be extended to include an ocean area off the Congolese coast. The marine extension will add 2,900 km2 to the existing land reserve, safeguarding marine turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales, and help reduce illegal fishing. Afrik21
Did you know that the UK has the fifth-largest protected marine estate in the world? Thanks to its Blue Belt Programme, over 4 million km2 of waters are protected, and the UK has also recently supported a moratorium on deep sea mining projects until sufficient scientific evidence is available to assess the impact of these activities. Prospect
Efforts by California, Arizona, and Nevada to reduce water use over the past year have improved conditions on the Colorado River. Arizona is on track to use about one-third less water, and California will be responsible for more than half of the total cuts. 'This is a victory for collaboration as an approach rather than conflict.' AP
The Klamath River is now flowing freely through Wards Canyon in Northern California, after crews finished removing the first of four dams this week as part of the world’s largest dam removal project. The other three dams slated for removal will come down next year. Politico
The return of 12,500 hectares of tribal land to the Penobscot Nation in Maine marks the largest contiguous tract that the tribe has acquired in more than four decades. It contains 85 km of streams in the watershed of the Penobscot River, which has been a traditional source of food and water. WBur
Good news for endangered plants! Conservation efforts on California’s Channel Islands have resulted in the Santa Cruz Island Dudleya and island bedstraw being declared fully recovered. And in the Northwest prairie, the Nelson’s checker-mallow has also made a comeback following a string of plant recoveries, including the Golden paintbrush and Bradshaw’s lomatium.
Cape Town is planning to extend 9 of its 19 nature reserves and create 6 new ones. Among the areas flagged for protection are the seaside resort of Soetwater, home to chacma baboons, and the Symphony Way Reserve near Cape Town airport. Cape Talk
Conservation financing is a gamechanger for halting ecosystem destruction. A $1 billion 'nature agreement' between British Columbia and Ottawa will protect the province’s old growth forests and serve as a model of collaboration with First Nations. Funding will also boost alternative economic opportunities for communities that rely on forestry for income. CBC
The ‘triumphant’ restoration of Wullar Lake, one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes, has resulted in the return of over 50,000 migratory birds last year. Among the sightings were black-headed gulls and long-tailed ducks, not spotted in the region since 1939. Kashmir Convenor
A growing movement of guerrilla rewilders across the UK is secretly breeding butterflies, birds, and beavers and releasing them across the country. Outraged by the government’s lack of action, the group takes credit for returning wild boars to southern Scotland and pine martens to the outskirts of London, after decades on the brink of extinction. Positive News
Bhutan has become the first country in the world to completely sterilise and vaccinate its entire stray dog population. A global animal charity, the Humane Society International, helped implement the programme, which has treated over 150,000 strays and microchipped 32,000 pet dogs since 2009, in an effort to control rabies and eliminate the suffering of abandoned dogs. Down To Earth
For the past two decades, a sea turtle rehabilitation project in Dubai has safely returned over 2,100 turtles to the Arabian Gulf. Annual figures have averaged over 100 rescues, mostly of critically-endangered Hawksbills and Green turtles. The centre also uses satellite technology to track rehabilitated turtles in order to support global research efforts. Media Centre
A massive initiative is underway to combine generations of Inuit knowledge and cutting-edge technology to protect and map 15,000 km2 of marine area off the coast of Torngat Mountains National Park. The area is a transition zone between Arctic and Atlantic habitats as well as a habitat for migrating ringed seals, narwhals, and minke whales. Narwhal
That's it for this edition, thanks for reading. We'll see you back here in exactly the same place next week!
Gus and Amy