The UN refugee agency on Nov. 14 launched an annual Christmas fund-raising campaign aimed at providing shelter, succor and schooling for refugee children around the world. Reuters reports the web-based Star Appeal is in its third year and UNHCR hopes to surpass the impressive total of USD 560,000 that was raised last year. The campaign is also about drawing attention to the suffering and needs of millions of young refugees, including many separated from families, during the festive season.

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said early this week it has approved 73 new grants worth more than USD 1.1 billion dollars in developing countries over the next two years. The new grants mean the Fund’s budget is now 32 percent higher than the USD 846 million initially forecast for 2007. AIDS projects make up 48 percent of the total, malaria 42 percent and TB 10 percent, the Fund said. Two thirds of the projects are in Africa, 13 percent in Asia, 13 percent in the Middle East and 5 percent in Latin America.

Africa’s small-scale farmers growing local crops can lead a belated green revolution on the world’s poorest continent. Higher output of foods such as cassava, sorghum and yams could help reduce imports of rice, wheat and maize, said Amos Namanga Ngongi, named the first president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on Nov. 14.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has chosen the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the official charity partner for the EURO 2008 football championship to be held in Austria and Switzerland. UEFA President Michel Platini and ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger officially announced the partnership Nov. 14 at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. A key aspect of the partnership will be an online funding campaign, Score for the Red Cross.

Potential conflicts between bioenergy production and the protection of the environment, sustainable development, food security of the rural poor and the economic development of countries supplying feedstock should be urgently addressed, said Alexander Muller, Assistant Director-General of Food and Agricultural Organization’s Natural Resources Management and Environment Department at the World Energy Congress in Rome.

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