Missed COP targets to Yemen famine – 2018 in review

Yemen Cholera - Main image
Copyright: Panos

Speed read

  • People in Yemen at stage five of UN food security index
  • COP climate deal ‘let down poor countries’
  • Young women largely absent from HIV research efforts

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From missed climate targets to famine in Yemen, 2018 has been a dramatic year in global development. We look back at some of our leading stories of the year.
The year started with an ongoing story — that of African dams. On 4 January we reported how large dam-building projects in East and Central Africa could disrupt electricity supplies, as droughts lead to lower water levels. This news story built on several SciDev.Net investigations into dam-building and water supply, including our interactive data feature.
Gender equality — and lack thereof — was another ongoing story in 2018. In March, we reported on a project to encourage more women to embark on science careers, a theme we picked up throughout the year with our Role Model series.
But the impact of inequality on women’s health and wellbeing also mattered to our readers. May’s story on the online gender gap caused a stir. In July, during the UNAIDS conference in Amsterdam, it emerged that young women were largely absent from HIV research efforts. And in November, an influential study showed the extent of illegal family planning, due to women’s lack of sexual enfranchisement.
Climate change and its impacts yielded a slew of stories throughout the year. One of the biggest was an April story on a project that turned climate accounting on its head, by counting how many lives would be saved by sticking to the global target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above normal. The theme continued with the UN’s 12-year deadline to crush climate change, issued in October, and culminated in our last big climate story of the year — the less-than-perfect deal hammered out during COP 24 in Katowice in December.

In March this year, we covered a crucial survey on anti-vaccination attitudes, which found that education levels — previously thought to signal whether a person is for or against vaccines – only play a marginal role. We also covered imminent health threats: May’s cholera outbreak in Yemen and a wave of ’super-typhoid’ in Pakistan.
But there was some good news, too. On Ebola, 2018 saw great progress, with an experimental vaccine trial getting underway in May. A one-dose cholera application, trialed in Zambia in March, showed great promise. And in October global leaders agreed on a five-year strategy to bring to market a vaccine against HIV/AIDS.
The situation in Yemen, however, went from bad to worse, with thousands of people forced to survive on leaves, putting them in the most critical fifth stage of the UN’s Food Security Index.
Among these topical stories, SciDev.Net also covered a fair share of quirky news. One of those stories was Roger Morton’s invention of a decontamination jacket to help doctors and aid staff respond to chemical attacks, presented to the world in June. Another story covered Brazilian efforts to use genetic ‘barcoding’ to combat illegal fishing and save sharks. And in February, a group of Egyptian innovators developed a truck that weighs and prices wheat to combat loss during transport.