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Rising humidity could be linked to increase in suicides, report finds | Global development

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More frequent spells of intense humidity caused by the climate crisis are more likely than heatwaves to be linked to increased rates of suicide, according to new research.

The study found that women and young people were particularly affected by levels of humidity, the intensity and frequency of which are increasing because of global heating.

Based on data from 60 countries between 1979 and 2016, the study, by researchers at the universities of the UN, Sussex and Geneva, as well as University College London, found that periods of intense humidity were more strongly linked to suicide than high temperatures.

Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, who co-authored the research, said humidity interfered with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature and that this increased discomfort could exacerbate conditions for people already struggling with mental illnesses.

“If you talk about mental health there are quite a lot of links – there’s anxiety, it’s hard to sleep, it becomes unbearable,” she said. “Sleep deprivation is a massive thing … It’s difficult to sleep when it’s hot and even more when it’s humid.”

Those already struggling with their mental health could be more affected by increased humidity than other people because antidepressants can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, she added.

According to the study, 40 countries had a particularly strong link between suicide and humidity. The list included hot countries such as Thailand and Guyana, but also European countries that were less used to higher heat and humidity, including Sweden, Belgium and Luxemburg.

“It’s the shock of going from colder temperatures to extreme temperatures that is dangerous to mental health,” said Ayeb-Karlsson.

Ayeb-Karlsson said this was the first time such a study had been carried out on a global scale rather than on a country basis. She said it showed the impact that the climate crisis had on mental health and the threat posed to the World Health Organization’s aim to reduce suicide rates by a third by 2030. There are currently more than 700,000 suicides every year.

“The study found interesting trends related to the increased suicide rates among, particularly, women and youth in relation to humidity. Women and children are known to be suffering disproportionately from the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events due to social structures and power relations. We need to look further into these relations and the contextual reasons behind this in diverse geographical areas and social groups,” she said.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. The charity Mind is available on 0300 123 3393 and ChildLine on 0800 1111. In the US, Mental Health America is available on 800-273-8255. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 or chat for support. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

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Belgium might close schools and cultural activities

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Today, Friday, Belgian governments are meeting again in order to decide on new Covid measures in order to stop the spreading of the virus as numbers are spiking. This time the concertation committee is gathering on the request of the Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon who suggested to close down all indoor events, including all concerts and theatre productions. The closing of schools is also on the agenda.

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El Salvador ‘responsible for death of woman jailed after miscarriage’ | Global development

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The Inter-American court of human rights has ruled that El Salvador was responsible for the death of Manuela, a woman who was jailed in 2008 for killing her baby when she suffered a miscarriage.

The court has ordered the Central American country to reform its draconian policies on reproductive health.

The decision on Tuesday marked the first time an international court has ruled on El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws and was celebrated by women’s rights activists, who believe it could open doors for change across the region.

Since 1998, abortion in El Salvador has been banned without exception, even in cases of rape and incest. Over the past two decades, more than 180 women have been jailed for murder for having an abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies, according to rights groups.

The case of Manuela v El Salvador was brought after the 33-year-old mother of two from the countryside died from cancer after receiving inadequate medical diagnosis and treatment, leaving her two children orphaned. She had been serving a 30-year prison sentence for aggravated homicide after a miscarriage.

When Manuela – whose full name has never been made public in El Salvador – went to the hospital after miscarrying, staff failed to provide her with timely treatment and instead subjected her to verbal abuse and accused her of having an abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Manuela was handcuffed to her bed and denied access to a lawyer while police interrogated her.

“There is no doubt that Manuela suffered an obstetric emergency,” the landmark court ruling stated. “Such situations, as they are medical conditions, cannot lead to a criminal sanction.”

The court also ruled that the state must pay reparations to Manuela’s family, and should develop comprehensive sexual education policies and guarantee doctor-patient confidentiality.

“The Inter-American court has done justice by recognising Manuela was another victim of an unjust legal context that originates in the absolute prohibition of abortion,” said Morena Herrera, at the Feminist Collective for Local Development, one of the parties in the case supporting Manuela’s family.

“Manuela’s story is a sad one, but it represents a change and becomes a path of justice and hope for all women in Latin America and the Caribbean who are criminalised for obstetric events.”

Most countries in the region respect the Inter-American court’s jurisdiction, opening the door for sweeping change, activists said.

“This is a huge advance for reproductive rights, not only in El Salvador but across Latin America,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, another party in the case. “This is a standard we can apply to the constitutions and states across the region.”

Martínez Coral added that while the ruling was to be celebrated, the issue of poverty affecting access to reproductive rights remained a challenge.

“There are over 180 cases of women in jail, or that have been jailed, over these issues,” said Martínez Coral, who also worked as a litigator on the case against the Salvadorean state.

“What that means is we’re dealing with a state that criminalises women and, above all, criminalises poor women in the most rural and impoverished areas,” she said.

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EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems

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The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a proposal to digitalise EU cross-border justice systems, aiming at making them more accessible and effective. Under the new draft law, the EU executive wants to tackle inefficiencies affecting cross-border judicial cooperation and barriers to access to justice in cross-border cases. Shifting paper-based communications to electronic formats would save up to €25m per year across the EU in postage and paper costs.

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