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Pulitzer Center Update May 19, 2014

This Week: Turkey's Coal Problem


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Turkey Under Protest

When protests flooded Turkey, they revealed deep problems. Police brutality, authoritarianism, and a...

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Images of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abullah Gul, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk loom over a gathering to unveil an Istanbul development project. Erdogan has made the development of Turkey a key mission. Image by Jenna Krajeski. Turkey, 2013.


Last week Turkey began burying the dead from the country's worst-ever coal mining disaster. The toll is expected to exceed 300. But as Pulitzer Center grantee Jenna Krajeski notes in her story for The New Yorker, "[T]there have been at least thirteen "major" mining accidents in Turkey since 1983, most due to methane explosions. Last year, a reported thirteen thousand miners suffered workplace accidents. Prior to Tuesday, the largest such incident, a gas explosion in 1992, took two hundred and sixty-three lives."

Coal has been the prime source of energy behind Turkey's dynamic economic growth, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's A.K.P. party has close ties to the industry. Enforcement of safety regulations, however, tends to be lax.

When the prime minister traveled to Soma, the scene of the disaster, he was greeted by angry jeers and taunts from relatives of the miners. "Erdoğan and the A.K.P. have, of late, weathered many political firestorms, including mass protests and corruption accusations, to come out on top in local elections," writes Jenna, but she notes that the mining disaster—and the feeling of neglect in the heartland of A.K.P.'s grassroots support—could have deeper, more lasting consequences.


The disease spreads easily, but the cure is straightforward: clean water and simple sanitation. In a report for The Lancet, Pulitzer Center grantee Sam Loewenberg looks at Uganda's struggle to rid itself of schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted via human waste. The chronic infection can result in anemia, stunted growth, and inhibited cognitive development.

The World Health Organization has labeled schistosomiasis "a disease of poverty," and in Uganda some 4 million people are estimated to be infected while 55 percent of the population of 36 million are thought to be at risk.

Alan Fenwick, a professor of tropical parasitology at Imperial College, London, tells Sam "there is no doubt in my mind that schistosomiasis will only disappear from this planet when everyone has access to clean water and sanitation."

But spending on sanitation is a low priority both for the Ugandan government and international donors. In Kampala, the capital, only 5 percent of the city has sewage coverage. The rest of the population relies on overflowing pit latrines.


Photojournalist and grantee Shiho Fukada's acclaimed portraits of Japan's "disposable workers" feature in a new short documentary produced by MediaStorm in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center.

Shiho's images of workers who have suffered through the transformation of an economic system that once guaranteed lifetime employment but now discards unwanted labor have appeared in The New York Times, Le Monde, The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek and on CNN and NPR. The MediaStorm documentary, released today, is available for licensing or embedding.





teal halftone illustration of a construction worker holding a helmet under their arm


Labor Rights

Labor Rights