Reduced Inequalities: Amid Protests in US, Pope Francis Urges Young People to ‘Shout’ #SDGs #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress #MarchForOurLives

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“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout.”

Pope Francis weighed in on the issue of youth activism on Sunday, following the student-led protests against gun violence that occurred in the US, according to the Independent.

The religious leader urged young people to keep protesting despite any opposition they may face. He spoke in front of tens of thousands of people who gathered in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday, CBS News reports.

“It is up to you not to keep quiet,” he told the crowd. “Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: will you cry out?”

Although Francis didn’t reference the gun violence protests directly, his comments seemed to allude to remarks aimed at March For Our Lives protesters, who have been criticized as naive and misguided, according to the Independent.

The pontiff said that efforts to discredit youth activists have a long history.

“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible,” he said. “Many ways to anaesthetise them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing.

“There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he added. “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout.”

The day before the pope spoke, anti-gun violence protests in the US and around the world drew more than 800,000 people and were led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the site of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Emma Gonzales, a 17-year-old senior from the school who has emerged as a champion of gun regulations, called for a moment of silence that lasted more than four minutes, to illustrate how long the high school shooting lasted.

It has been hailed as one of the most powerful moments in modern US political history.

Since the massacre, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have reinvigorated calls for gun regulations, breaking through what has been an intractable political issue in the US.

As a result, Florida has enacted some modest gun regulations and the Justice Department recently called for a ban on “bump stock” gun modifications, which a shooter used to kill 59 people and injure more than 500 from a hotel window during the Las Vegas concert massacre last October.

This isn’t the first time that students have led social movements.

Racial segregation in the U.S. began to be dismantled only after students challenged restaurant policies in the early 1960s. Similarly, the apartheid divestment campaign in the 1970s and 80s that led to the demise of South Africa’s bigoted political system was primarily driven by students.

Pope Francis also has a record of supporting protesters and wading into politically charged issues.

He has consistently railed against regressive refugee policies in Europe and beyond, called on countries to mitigate climate change, and denounced corruption.

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Reduced Inequalities: Human Trafficking Reports in the UK Reach Record High — & Children Are Suffering Most #ModernSlavery #HumanTrafficking #TraffickingInPersons

The figures “almost certainly” are an underestimate of the true scale of the problem.

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The number of potential victims of modern slavery in the has reached a record high — with more British nationals at risk than ever before.

In 2017, more than 5,000 cases were referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism, which identifies and supports victims.

This number represents a 35% increase on 2016, and is the highest since figures were first compiled in 2009, according to a report by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Of the 5,145 cases reported, British nationals made up the highest number of cases for the first time — with 819 potential British victims reported, up from 326 in 2016.

Albanian potential victims made up 777 of the cases, and Vietnamese made up 739 of cases. But 116 different nationalities appeared in the list of referred cases —  including China, Nigeria, Romania, Sudan, Eritrea, India, Poland, and Pakistan.

Worryingly, the number of children identified as potential victims rose by 66% from 2016 — up to 2,118 cases, from 1,278 the previous year.

“The reality is that there isn’t a region in the UK that isn’t affected,” Liam Vernon, a senior manager in the NCA’s modern slavery and human trafficking unit, told the Independent . “The number is shocking and our assessment is that this is an under-reported crime.”

According to the NCA, the increase in referrals was “driven by greater awareness” of the problem, reported the BBC . But it said that the figures “almost certainly represent an underestimate of the true scale” of the problem.

“We are now dealing with an evolving threat,” said Will Kerr, director of the NCA. “The criminals involved in these types of exploitation are going into online spaces, particularly adult services website, to enable their criminality.” 

The report comes on the third anniversary of the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 into law, on March 26.

The rise in the numbers of children involved, as well as the growing number of British nationals, is partly due to the growth of a drug supply route known as “county lines,” reported the BBC , which sees city-based gangs using young people to carry drugs like heroin and crack cocaine to rural areas.

“They are enticed by wealth but quickly coerced by violence,” said the NCA’s deputy director, Tom Dowdall.

The NCA said that some of these exploited children have mental health issues, are drug users themselves, and some have been reported missing.

Of the total number of cases, almost half (2,352) involved forced labour, while a third (1,744) involved sexual exploitation. Some 1,595 — nearly a third — related to exploitation that was alleged to have happened overseas.

The vast majority (4,714) were passed to police forces in England; 207 in Scotland; 193 in Wales; and 31 in Northern Ireland.

Home Office minister for crime, Victoria Atkins, said the government is “ leading the world in our response to this horrendous crime.” She added that more potential victims were being “identified and protected” because of an “improved understanding of modern slavery.”

“We know there is more to do, and we are working to improve the system for identifying victims and supporting them to leave situations of exploitation and begin to recover and rebuild lives,” she said

In the UK, a government estimate in 2014 said that between 10,000 and 13,000 people were living in slavery. Of these, many are living in plain sight — working in nail bars, cannabis farms, prostitution, flower-picking, and hand car washes.

To report a suspected case of modern slavery, call the helpline on 0800 0121 700, or visit the website here .

Responsible Production And Consumption: ‘Reverse Vending Machines’ for Recycling Bottles and Cans Could Be Announced in Days: Report #SDGs #GlobalGoals

In countries that already have the scheme, recycling rates are higher than 90%.

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A leaked report suggests the UK’s long-awaited plastic bottle deposit return scheme could be announced in just days.

It could be a massive step in the fight against waste in Britain — where we get through 13 billion plastic bottles every year, with 7.5 billion ending up in landfill, being incinerated, or in the oceans.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove had previously asked for research to be carried out into how effective the scheme would be. And, according to the Daily Mail , the leaker report shows an unveiling could be imminent.

A Nordic-style deposit return scheme would involve customers being charged a small amount extra when they buy their drinks, which would then be paid back when they return them for recycling. 

A new network of “reverse vending machines” would be placed in shops where customers could return their bottles and cans — with an estimated set-up cost of £15 million.

Recycling experts Eunomia previously said that a deposit of 15p would be enough to ensure 85% of containers were returned.

It’s reported that Tesco, Iceland, and the Co-op would be the first to receive the machines — which would be able to recycle plastic bottles, aluminium cans, and glass bottles.

The report said that launching the scheme could reduce litter from bottles and cans by at least 70%. It has also predicted that launching a deposit return scheme in the UK would create between 3,000 and 4,300 full-time jobs.

In countries with deposit return schemes already in place, recycling rates are higher than 90%. At the end of last year, environment minister Therese Coffey visited Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to see how their systems work, according to an online post from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The system is also used widely across the US.

A DEFRA spokesperson said , in response to the Daily Mail article, that an independent working group had submitted its report to ministers, who would consider the evidence around deposit return schemes.

“We’ll announce a decision on next steps in due course,” they added. 

The news comes a week after a major new report published by the UK government warned that the amount of plastic in the ocean could triple in a decade, unless we make drastic changes.

The Environmental Audit Committee, an influential committee of MPs, said in December last year that a deposit return scheme would be “vital” in reducing plastic waste — and would cut the number of plastic bottles being thrown away by 700,000 every day. 

Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan also revealed this week the locations of the first four drinking fountains to be opened in the capital — in an effort to curb the amount of single-use plastic used by Londoners.

The first fountain was installed in Carnaby Street, while the next two will be set up in Liverpool Street station and another in Flat Iron Square in Southwark, reported the Guardian .

Food, Hunger & Malnutrition: Indonesia Measles Cases Prove Malnutrition Isn’t Just a Problem in Poor Countries #SDGs #GlobalGoals #Hunger #ZeroHunger #MalNutrition

Donors ignore malnutrition in middle-income countries, a new report finds.

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By Andrew Green

Earlier this year, as many as 100 children died in Indonesia’s remote Papua province. They were suffering from malnutrition when they became infected during a measles outbreak. Their immune systems were too weak to fight off the disease.

“Measles is not dangerous, it’s a mild disease,” the province’s military spokesperson Muhammad Aidi told the media in the midst of the response. “But because those children are malnourished, they can’t cope in that condition.”

Indonesia’s government has made significant attempts to fight hunger in recent years, committing new financial resources to the effort, improving infrastructure to ease the flow of food to remote areas and taking a vocal role in regional efforts to end all forms of malnutrition. But the measles outbreak underscored the scale of the challenge Indonesia and other middle-income countries (MICs) face when it comes to grappling with malnutrition – particularly within the poorest communities.

Around eight of every 10 malnourished children in the world reside in MICs, according to new research released this week by RESULTS, a non-profit advocacy organization. And poor children, who have not benefited from their country’s developmental gains as it moves into middle-income status, are disproportionately affected.

With global funding for nutrition already limited and donors increasingly withdrawing their support from MICs, the governments of those countries are often left to bear the full burden of implementing malnutrition programs. But comprehensively addressing hunger, particularly in poor communities, requires a significant commitment from governments that have myriad competing priorities.

The result is that malnutrition remains rampant – and might even worsen – in countries making the transition from low- to middle-income status.

RESULTS analysed the malnutrition situation in 89 middle-income countries between June and December 2017. The researchers excluded 20 countries the World Bank classified as being in a “fragile situation,” primarily because of ongoing or recently concluded conflicts.

The researchers concluded that “economic growth in these countries has not acted as a guarantee for equitable improvements in nutrition, health and the lives of their populations.”

Nearly half of the hungry people in the world – roughly 363 million people in 2014 – live in just five MICs: China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Brazil, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Globally, RESULTS concluded there are 1.8 million child deaths annually in the 89 MICs they considered that are linked to malnutrition.

“Unless we address malnutrition in these countries, we are sure to miss the [Sustainable Development Goals], because this is where the true burden of malnutrition really is,” Anushree Shiroor, a senior policy advocacy officer with RESULTS and the author of the recent report, told News Deeply. The goals include ending hunger and achieving food security by 2030.

In the report, Shiroor outlined a number of factors that contribute to the high rates of malnutrition in MICs – and particularly lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) – and recommendations for how to begin to address the problem.

The report identifies two steps the countries, themselves, can take: Asserting greater ownership of the issue, which translates into political leadership and sustainable domestic financing, and creating a robust policy framework. In the review, RESULTS found that 58 percent of the LMICs had a valid nutrition policy or a development policy that prioritized nutrition. That number dropped to 39 percent among upper-middle-income countries.

Within the MICs, though, experts said country ownership was not enough to tackle the problem. In Indonesia, for instance, Dr. Diah Utari, an expert in nutrition at the University of Indonesia, said the government has been proactive about addressing malnutrition.

During the crisis in the Papua province, for instance, “the central government immediately sends aid in the form of food, health workers,” Utari told News Deeply. She also pointed to a bigger health budget and to the role Indonesian officials played in pushing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ commitment last year to rapidly expand its efforts to reduce malnutrition.

Even a committed government will struggle to address all of the factors that contribute to malnutrition, she said. In Indonesia and many MICs, malnutrition is particularly linked to the educational status of mothers. Utari also highlighted the need to improve infrastructure, so rural communities have better access to a variety of food, as well as to health services. Failing to address these issues means not just that malnutrition will continue, but that it will disproportionately affect the poorest communities.

The domestic resources to tackle such systemic problems are often unavailable, though, and there are increasingly few other places to look for funds.

RESULTS found that donor funding for “basic nutrition” – already less than one percent of total overseas development assistance (ODA) – actually decreased in recent years, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of ODA. And much of that funding is no longer available to countries as they transition to middle-income status, anyway, despite the entrenched, persistent inequalities that governments either can’t or won’t address.

There is also an opportunity, she said, to look for alternative solutions, including financing approaches that might spur and multiply domestic investments and innovations like improved crop systems.

One of the first goals, though, is to ensure the global community understands this is something that needs to be addressed. “We need to get attention to the fact that malnutrition in middle-income countries is a huge problem,” she said.

“The examples of countries beginning to mobilize and momentum around malnutrition is increasing,” Shiroor said. “But that does not mean donors can just step away from their role on addressing nutrition in these countries.” Instead, she called for them to establish a clear, reasonable transition process that was realistic about domestic capabilities.

This article originally appeared on Malnutrition Deeply. You can find the original here

Women & Girls: Saudi Arabia Has Given Women Opportunities — But Its Human Rights Record Remains Abysmal #SDGs #GlobalGoals #SaidiArabia

There are still dozens of capital offenses in Saudi Arabia.

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As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits the United States, he’s advertising what seems to be a new, progressive Saudi Arabia.

Women are “absolutely” equal to men, he declared in a “60 Minutes” interview, and went on to describe the new rights women enjoy in Saudi Arabia, including the right to drive, pursue new careers, run for office, and more.

These steps toward gender equality have been described as harbingers of a new era of openness and tolerance.

But looking beyond these headline-grabbing moments — many of which remain unrealized — the Saudi Arabia of 2018 doesn’t look much different than it did in years past.

Prince Salman has introduced an ambitious “Vision 2030” plan that seeks to transform the country’s economic and civic realms, but in the past few years the kingdom’s human rights abuses have only been intensifying.

Take the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a US-backed coalition to defeat the Houthi rebels who gained power during the country’s civil war, creating what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world by the United Nations.

More than 10,000 civilian deaths have been recorded throughout the war, the majority from coalition airstrikes.

Many of these airstrikes have targeted weddings, funerals, and family gatherings, as has been vividly recounted in the New York Times, The Intercept, and the New Yorker.

Such indiscriminate bombing has largely destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure, leading to a lack of water and sanitation throughout the country, which has, in turn, caused an unprecedented cholera crisis affecting more than a million people.

The Saudi-led coalition has also blockaded ports throughout Yemen, preventing humanitarian aid from reaching communities and deepening a famine that affects millions of people.

This blatant disregard for human rights is mirrored back in Saudi Arabia.

Executions in the country have doubled over the past eight months as a crackdown on dissent sweeps the country. Recently, Indonesia unsuccessfully tried to stay the execution of a migrant worker who was allegedly coerced into admitting that he murdered his employer.

There are dozens of capital offenses in Saudi Arabia, including homosexuality, atheism, and adultery.

Migrant workers, who have for years faced routine employment abuses, are being deported by the hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, dozens of humans rights advocates are serving long prison sentences.

Earlier this year, Prince Salman allegedly ordered the detention of scores of wealthy businessmen and seized their assets.

And while Prince Salman said that the country is close to achieving gender equality, the reality is that women are still second-class citizens who, for a staggering array of everyday activities, need to first get male permission, and who face segregation in restaurants, clothing stores, and in most public spaces.

When a woman took a picture without a face covering last year, for example, she received countless death threats.

In his “60 Minutes interview,” Prince Salman said, regarding women’s rights, “we have come a very long way and have a short way to go.”

Every new right for women in the country is undoubtedly important, but, in reality, the country has come a short way and has a long way to go.

Quality Education: 9 Facts to Know About Education Around the World {SHOCKER} #Education #SDGs #GlobalGoals #Nigeria

#showup for education.

Millions of children and adults around the world lack the access to education for various reasons — some live in conflict zones, others aren’t allowed to attend school because they’re girls, or they don’t attend because their families need them to work and bring in income to support the family. But because education promotes the understanding of social justice, interdependence, and identity, it is key to eradicating global poverty by 2030. Here are nine facts you need to know about global education.

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  1. Around the world 59 million children of primary school age are being denied an education, and almost 65 million adolescents are without access to a secondary school.
  2. Conflict and natural disasters have disrupted the education of 75 million children.
  3. In one of three countries, less than three quarters of teachers are trained to national standards, resulting in 130 million children enrolled in school who are not even learning the basics.
  4. A child whose mother can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5
  5. Nearly 15 million girls of primary school age will never have the opportunity to learn to read and write in primary school, compared to about 10 million boys.
  6. It would take $39 billion (USD) every year to send all adolescents to school.  
  7. In 2012, there were 168 million child labor workers aged 5 to 17. This is one reason many children cannot attend school.
  8. Over 40 years, equitable access to quality education can help a country raise its gross domestic product per capita by 23 percent.
  9. If all women had a primary education, there would be 1.7 million fewer malnourished children.

Good Health And Well-Being: #Cervical #Cancer Will Double Across the Middle East Without HPV Vaccines #HPV #Vaccines #SDGs #GlobalGoals #CervicalCancer #Cancer

“Women’s health issues are not a priority in the region on a political level.”

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By Heba Kanso

BEIRUT, March 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Deaths from cervical cancer will double in the Middle East and North Africa by 2035 unless conservative nations vaccinate young women and tackle sexual taboos, a study said on Wednesday.

The Tunisian Centre for Public Health, an advocacy group, urged governments in the region to vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, and increase screening to save lives.

“There is no public awareness about it,” Zied Mhirsi, co-founder of the center, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“People in general don’t know there is a vaccine. Women’s health issues are not a priority in the region on a political level.”

Cervical cancer is the second most fatal cancer for women in the region, the centre said, predicting some 19,000 deaths in 2035, up from about 9,000 in 2012, without action.

HPV is among the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Most infections do not cause symptoms and go away on their own, but the virus is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide.

Mhirsi said that discussing sexually transmitted infections like HPV can be a “taboo” in conservative Muslim societies like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

But Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, has proven a regional leader by giving schoolgirls free vaccines for the past 10 years, he said.

Morocco was worst hit, with more than 2,000 cervical cancer deaths each year, he said.

Quality Education: A Teacher Who Speaks 35 Languages Just Won a $1 Million Teaching Prize “World Best Teacher?” #SDGs #GlobalGoals #2030Agenda #Agenda2030

She’s being called the “world’s best teacher.”

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She faced stiff competition — more than 30,000 applicants — but last night Andria Zafirakou came out on top.

On Sunday, Zafirakou, an art teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent, United Kingdom, just northwest of London, was crowned the winner of the fourth annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, landing her a $1 million prize and the unofficial title of “world’s best teacher.”

She beat out finalists from nine other countries around the world en route to being crowned the fourth winner of the award.

Among her notable teaching achievements, Zafirakou, 39, learned basic phrases in 35 languages, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Portuguese, Somali, Arabic, Romanian, Polish, Urdu, and Italian, to better communicate with students and parents whose first language is not English, Daily Mail reports.

She has become a leader in the community where she teaches, known as one of the most impoverished and dangerous in the UK, by reaching out to migrant parents.

“If you have somebody who can connect with you and appreciate your background, then that’s special,” Zafirakou said during her acceptance speech. 

According to the Daily Mail, Zafirakou not only reached out to parents, but also helped set up a Somali girls choir, and started girls-only sports programs for young women from conservative religious backgrounds. She was also known to stand alongside police officers to welcome kids into school in the mornings.

The award ceremony took place in Dubai, and featured several notable celebrities, such as actresses Charlize Theron and Priyanka Chopra; comedian Trevor Noah, who hosted the event; and Jennifer Hudson, who performed at it.

The Varkey Foundation, named after Indian entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, aims to “improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world,” according to its website. The organization has set up teacher training programs in Argentina, Ghana, and Uganda, among other countries. 

Last year’s Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize winner worked with local Inuit communities in Canada, according to the BBC.

Zafirakou, for her part, plans to use the winnings to develop further opportunities for arts’ education in her local community.

“I say, whatever your circumstances, whatever your troubles, please know that you have the potential to succeed in whatever your dreams may be,” she said at the event, “and that is a right that nobody should take from you.”  

Peace, Justice And Strong Institutions: An Openly Gay Black Female Politician Was Murdered in Brazil — And Now Thousands Are Protesting #LGBT #LGBTQ #SDGs #GlobalGoals

Marielle Franco was critical of police brutality in Brazil’s impoverished favelas, where she grew up

 

Brazil’s capital of Rio de Janeiro is no stranger to violent crime. Thousands are killed every year, and many in the city have become numb to the shock of murder.

But the assassination of the woman who hoped to stem the violence, particularly in Brazil’s poorest communities, has struck a nerve.

Since Marielle Franco, a human rights activist and local politician, was killed on Thursday, tens of thousands of people in cities across Brazil have took to the streets in protest and mourning, the Guardian reported.

Franco, who grew up in one of Rio’s largest favelas, was highly critical of the policy change and police brutality,

According to local news reports, Franco was being followed and was on her way home from a meeting about empowering black women when her assailants open fired on her car, killing both the 38-year-old and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes.

Temer called Franco’s murder an “affront to the rule of law and an affront to democracy,” according to the New York Times, and said a “full investigation” into the killings will be carried out.

But the people of Brazil are devastated and outraged by the loss of the trailblazing, human rights champion — and inspired to carry on her fight in her memory.

“Of the few times my voice fails. Shocked. Horrified. All death kills me a bit. But this way it kills me more. Women, black, lesbian, activist, human rights advocate. Marielle Franco, your voice will echo in us. Let us shout,” tweeted Brazilian samba singer Elza Soares.

Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure: These Solar Panels Don’t Need Sun; They Harvest Energy From Rain #SDGs #CleanEnergy #GlobalGoals

They could even make raincoats that charge your phone.

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Solar panels are awesome.

But what happens when the sun goes down? Or it rains? Or when it’s technically spring, but it might snow again on the weekend because it’s Britain and you’ve forgotten what the warm touch of natural heat feels like?

New solar panels created by Chinese researchers take energy from the friction of falling raindrops, as well as the sun, so it’s an effective source of renewable energy all year round.

Although it’s still in the early stages of development, reports suggest that it could also be used to create raincoats that can charge your electronic devices as you wear it.

It’s British Science Week — so it’s a good time to make it rain with facts.

The researchers from Soochow University in eastern China have placed two transparent polymer layers on top of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell. Still with us? Basically, the solar cell still absorbs sunlight because of the top layer’s transparency. Meanwhile, that top layer collects the rain — and as it rolls down, the friction creates a static charge.

“Our device can always generate electricity in any daytime weather,” said Baoquan Sun from Soochow University — one of three scientists on the project who shares a surname with their actual work. “In addition, this device even provides electricity at night if there is rain.”

It’s a simpler form of something that already exists. Triboelectric nanogenerators were invented back in 2012, but the new technology is the first to include the polymer layers — and it’s more compact , too. All it needs now is a catchy name.

“Due to our unique device design, it becomes a lightweight device,” continued Sun. “In future, we are exploring integrating these into mobile and flexible devices, such as electronic clothes. However, the output power efficiency needs to be further improved before practical application.”

A prototype is expected within three to five years, according to the journal ACS Nano . The technology is also being used to experiment with wind power — which some experts believe is its most natural partner.

All this is super news for Britain — which, rumour has it, hasn’t seen the sun since England last won the World Cup. On a sunny day, the UK can produce 8GW of solar energy, a quarter of its total energy demand, but during the winter this can drop to just 1GW.

But a raincoat that can charge your iPhone? Did somebody say Glastonbury?