“Two weeks ago, torrential rains in Madagascar affected 120,000 people, cutting off roads, destroying 174 schools, forcibly displacing 16,000 people. The floods received little international coverage or funding, and national stakeholders, government and relief agencies in Madagascar, did their utmost using scarce resources to respond to the situation and meet emergency needs. “But the floods are not the story per se. They are just one example of the challenges faced by Madagascar’s children, which include natural disasters, drought, and pandemics all year long. These challenges are now being aggravated by climate change and they require far more international attention and support. “Results of the most recent national household survey that will be published soon show that conditions for children have not improved since the previous data collection exercise in 2012, and in many cases, are getting worse. “For example, because of poor access to sanitation, 40 per cent of the population still practice open defecation. As a consequence, 93 per cent – I repeat, 93 per cent – of drinking water in rural areas is contaminated by e-coli. This, coupled with widespread poverty and a generally poor diet, leads to one of the highest chronic malnutrition rates in the world: 42 per cent of children below five years old are stunted or chronically malnourished. “The country faces a dramatic learning crisis. Even before the floods destroyed schools, 2,500 classrooms were needed just to keep up with population growth. But recent surveys also show that just 7 per cent of children ages 7-14 have basic numeracy skills. “Fewer than a third of children are fully immunized. Annual pandemics including polio and plague, have weakened the capacity of the health system to improve and invest. New epidemics – such as the measles outbreak this year which killed more than 1,200 children– could further destabilize the system. “Two out of five girls get married before 18. And child labour is prevalent with more than a third of children considered to be working in dangerous conditions such as in mica mining. “We could list indicator after indicator showing how the entire country of 25 million people, half of whom are children, and over three-quarters of whom live in extreme poverty, is at risk. How in addition to the floods, cyclones and droughts, Madagascar is in a constant state of emergency because of poor development indicators and response capacity. “UNICEF and our partners are doing our utmost to respond to the needs of children. But actually improving conditions for Madagascar’s children requires long-term and consistent attention and support from the international community – not just during natural disasters and pandemics – which in themselves are barely supported and unfunded. “Don’t forget Madagascar’s children. They need more media coverage and international attention. They need help and will need help for a long time.”

As NASA prepares to launch American astronauts this year on American rockets from American soil to the International Space Station – with an eye toward the Moon and Mars – the agency is announcing it will accept applications March 2 to 31 for the next class of Artemis Generation astronauts.

Since the 1960s, NASA has selected 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its increasingly challenging missions to explore space. With 48 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, more will be needed to crew spacecraft bound for multiple destinations and propel exploration forward as part of Artemis missions and beyond.

“We’re celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit this year, and we’re on the verge of sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “For the handful of highly talented women and men we will hire to join our diverse astronaut corps, it’s an incredible time in human spaceflight to be an astronaut. We’re asking all eligible Americans if they have what it to takes to apply beginning March 2.”

The basic requirements to apply include United States citizenship and a master’s degree in a STEM field, including engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics, from an accredited institution. The requirement for the master’s degree can also be met by:

  • Two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a Ph.D. program in a related science, technology, engineering or math field;
  • A completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree;
  • Completion (or current enrollment that will result in completion by June 2021) of a nationally recognized test pilot school program.

Candidates also must have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical.

Americans may apply to #BeAnAstronaut at:


As part of the application process, applicants will, for the first time, be required to take an online assessment that will require up to two hours to complete.

After completing training, the new astronauts could launch on American rockets and spacecraft developed for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to live and work aboard the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth, where they will take part in experiments that benefit life at home and prepare us for more distant exploration.

They may also launch on NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, docking the spacecraft at the Gateway in lunar orbit before taking a new human landing system to the Moon’s surface. After returning humans to the Moon in 2024, NASA plans to establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Gaining new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.

NASA expects to select the new class of astronaut candidates in mid-2021 to begin training as the next class of Artemis Generation astronauts.

For more information about a career as a NASA astronaut, and application requirements, visit:


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