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World News In Brief: Water ‘Being Taken For Granted’, Global Teacher Crisis, Nipah In India Update

While some 2.4 billion people live in countries where the supply of water is limited, global water demand for agriculture is expected to increase by 35 per cent up to 2050, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday.

“We must stop taking water for granted,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said at the opening of the Rome Water Dialogue, focused on its critical role relating to soils, land, climate change, biodiversity and agriculture.

With agriculture accounting for more than 70 per cent of the planet’s freshwater withdrawals, “by increasing efficiency, reducing negative impacts and reusing wastewater, agriculture holds the solutions to the global water crisis”, he said.

FAO supports countries to develop technical solutions for rainwater harvesting and storage, map out irrigation needs, provide data on water scarcity and assess the impact of floods on rural areas.

The UN agency has indicated that this year’s World Food Day on 16 October will focus on the direct link between water and food security, highlighting ways to “produce more food and other essential agricultural commodities with less water, while ensuring water is distributed equally, our aquatic food systems are preserved, and nobody is left behind”.

World needs millions more teachers but profession deemed too ‘unattractive’

New data from the UN educational, social and cultural organisation (UNESCO) has revealed a global shortage of teachers as the profession faces a “major vocations crisis”.

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Ahead of Thursday’s World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO pointed to a gap of 44 million teachers without whom the world will not be able to provide primary and secondary education for all by 2030. The agency said that the problem lies not only in a lack of funding, but also in the “unattractiveness” of the profession.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underscored that that while some regions of the world lack candidates for the job, other regions face a very high dropout rate during the first few years of work.

“In both cases, the answer is the same: we must better value, better train and better support teachers,” she said.

Regional shortages

Southern Asia is experiencing the largest lack of teachers worldwide – 7.8 million – while sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for one in three of the current global shortfall.

In the 79 countries studied by UNESCO to better understand the reasons for the shortage, the attrition rate among primary school teachers almost doubled from 4.6 per cent in 2015 to 9 per cent in 2022.

The UN agency said that three main factors stand out: poor working conditions, high levels of stress and low pay.

UNESCO made a number of recommendations to countries to improve the status of teachers, including investment in competitive salaries and benefits, improved teacher education and mentorship programmes and access to mental health counselling.

India: Nipah virus outbreak update

In India, six laboratory-confirmed cases of Nipah virus, including two deaths, were reported over the course of three days in September, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Nipah virus infection is spread to humans through contact with infected animals such as bats and pigs, and less frequently, through direct contact with an infected individual.

WHO warned that symptoms are “severe” and may include acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis. Case fatality rates in past outbreaks across southern Asia have ranged from 40 to 100 per cent and there are no available therapies or vaccines.

“The only way to reduce or prevent infection in people is by raising awareness about the risk factors and preventive measures,” WHO said.

The cases, all in one district of Kerala, were reported between 12 and 15 September. Large-scale contact tracing was put in place by the health authorities and since 15 September, no new cases have been detected.

According to WHO, this is the sixth outbreak of Nipah virus in India since 2001.

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