Inter Press Service » Health News and Views from the Global South Sat, 30 Apr 2016 22:04:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 World Farmers’ Organisation Meeting Eyes New Markets, Fresh Investment Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:52:52 +0000 Friday Phiri 0 Can the UN Security Council Stop Hospitals Being Targets in War? Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:41:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands The Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHH) in Bajaur Agency, shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb attack in 2013. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

The Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHH) in Bajaur Agency, shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb attack in 2013. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

Hospitals, health care workers and patients in war zones are supposed to be protected under international humanitarian law yet recent attacks from Syria to Afghanistan suggest that they have become targets.

The seeming lack of respect for the sanctity of health care in war zones has prompted UN Security Council members in New York to consider a new resolution designed to find new ways to halt these attacks.

The Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution on May 3, just days after Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo, Syria was bombed. Twenty seven staff and patients were killed in the airstrike on the hospital on Wednesday night, Dr Hatem, the director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo told The Syria Campaign.

Among the victims was Dr Muhammad Waseem Maaz, who Dr Hatem described as “the city’s most qualified paediatrician.”

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria told journalists in Geneva Wednesday that Dr Maaz was the last paediatric doctor left in Aleppo, although IPS understands there is another paediatrician in the Aleppo countryside.

Dr Hatem said that Dr Maaz used to work at the children’s hospital during the day and attend to emergencies at the Al Quds hospital at night time.

“Dr Maaz stayed in Aleppo, the most dangerous city in the world, because of his devotion to his patients,” said Dr Hatem.

Dr Hatem said that “hospitals are often targeted by government and Russian air forces.”

“When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them,” he said.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia will be expected to vote on the proposed new resolution reinforcing the protection of hospitals, doctors and patients in war zones.

“When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them.” -- Dr Hatem, director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo.

Another Security Council Member accused of bombing a hospital, the United States, is expected to release its report Friday of its own investigation into the attack on the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Oct. 3 2015.

MSF say that 42 people we killed in the sustained bombing of the hospital, including 24 patients and 18 staff.

Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, permanent representative of Spain to the UN said that the “the wake up call (for the Security Council resolution) came from organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres who are forced to stay out of certain areas or countries due to the lack of protection on the ground.”

“Attacks against the provision of health care are becoming so frequent that humanitarian actors face serious limitations to do their jobs,” said Marchesi at an event held to discuss the proposed resolution at the International Peace Institute earlier this month.

The event brought together representatives from the medical community with the five Security Council members drafting the resolution, Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and Uruguay.

Speaking on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose hospitals have come under frequent attacks in recent months and years, Jason Cone, Executive Director of MSF America called for greater accountability.

“As of today suspected perpetrators get away with self-investigating and there’s no independent follow-up of attacks,” said Cone.

“It is a critical moment for member states to reaffirm the sanctity of the medical act in armed conflict,” he said.

The current situation does not reflect the respect given to health care in war from the earliest stages of the Geneva conventions, Stéphane Ojeda, Deputy Permanent Observer to the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross told the meeting.

“The protection of the wounded and sick has been at the heart of International Humanitarian Law since the start,” said Ojeda.

“Indeed the wounded and sick and the medical personnel taking care of them were the first categories of protected persons under international humanitarian law because in the 1864 first Geneva Convention,” he said.

The principle that health care personnel should not be punished for caring for the wounded and sick also needs to be respected, said Ojeda.

“If you start questioning this that’s a whole pillar of humanity starting to collapse,” he said.

Cone also added to Ojeda’s calls for the duties of doctors in caring for the wounded and sick to be respected.

“We can not accept any criminalisation of the medical act, any resolution should reinforce and strengthen protection for medical ethics,” he said.

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Playing Ping Pong with Disability Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:53:51 +0000 Silvia Boarini 0 What Can Be Done for Victims Still Fighting for Survival? Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:35:55 +0000 Sheikh Nazmul and John Richards By Sheikh Nazmul Huda, Desdemona Khan, Labin Rahman and John Richards
Apr 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Three years have elapsed since the collapse of Rana Plaza, Savar, on a fine morning of April 24, 2013. The disaster, one of the deadliest in the world’s industrial history in two centuries, claimed the lives of 1,135 men and women and injured another 2,500, nearly 200 of whom severe enough to keep them hospitalised for months.

Photo: rahul-talukder

Photo: rahul-talukder

In the months following the accident, we, along with other colleagues, surveyed many such survivors with serious injuries. The victims were in the prime of their lives, their mean age being only 26. Two thirds were female and they were much younger than their male counterparts. Over 60 percent of the victims were married and 12 percent were either widows or divorcees.

Currently, we are following up with another survey, contacting as many as possible of those we had met in the summer of 2013. As may be apprehended, given the severity of the disaster, many survivors now face grave difficulties. It is encapsulated by Jorina’s bitter comment : “I think it would have been better if they had cut off my legs. These legs are now the bane of my life. I am completely unable to walk and they are heavy. I can’t move about as I wish to. All the time I have to use a wheelchair.” She comes from Naogaon, a northern district. There was nobody to look after her. “My daughter and son-in-law stay with me. I have two grand-daughters too, but there is not enough room for all of us to stay together in a one-room house. So I live on the verandah, I have to also sleep there.”

Soon after the collapse, the United Nations reviewed Dhaka’s capacity for undertaking a major rescue operation and offered to help out. The Bangladesh Government expressed their confidence in managing the situation and refused their offer. A large number of deeply motivated but untrained volunteers played a key role in medical evacuation and rescue operations there. The Army, the fire service and other national agencies were also active part of these efforts.

Though the rescue operations continued for more than two weeks, almost three fourths of our respondents, fortunately, got rescued on the first day, namely on April 24, 2013. A good 10 percent were rescued on the second day and on the third day another 10 percent of our respondents were dragged out of the debris. According to our data, more than one-third of the victims were found unconscious on rescue. As many as 30 percent of the injured had fractures of one or more limbs.

Approximately 20 percent had spinal or head injury. One-fifth of the seriously injured required amputation of one or more limbs.

Hospitals and clinics in the neighbourhood proved the best; these institutions, coming out of everywhere, provided critical services to the survivors. Enam Medical College Hospital, Savar, has been the most common destination of the injured. Approximately half were directly taken to this non-governmental establishment. Less than 20 percent were taken to CMH (Combined Military Hospital) Savar, devoted exclusively to the armed services of the nation otherwise. After four weeks of the tragedy, we encountered many victims being transferred to CRP (Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed), Savar, one of the best centres in Bangladesh for treatment of spinal injuries.

Approximately one fourth of the seriously injured suffered spinal injuries. Initial medical assessments diagnosed nearly half of these downright. However, only three were referred to CRP for initial treatment. Despite close reach and access to CRP, some complicated cases were sent to smaller hospitals where neither requisite skills nor logistics for advanced care of spinal fractures and other complications were handy. Spinal injuries, for instance, need immediate immobilisation for minimising neurological and other kinds of damage. In many cases that did not happen. The victims often had other injuries (like bleeding, soft tissue infections, fractured limb etc.) that could be handled in multi-disciplinary hospitals. Nevertheless, immediate mobilisation after the rescue could perhaps have prevented paralysis in some cases. Optimal emergency treatment requires effective triage (a process for quick assessment of the type or the urgency of medical problems) where many cases are brought in for treatment. It seems the triage at the site of Rana Plaza could have been better.

Immediate medical care was provided generously by hospitals, community organisations and people in general. This is less evident in terms of long-term care, however. Three years into the catastrophe, we encountered many victims in need of physical and occupational therapy. Others are experiencing post-trauma stress disorder and stand in need of psychiatric help. Many are not gainfully employed anymore. Most have returned to their native villages, taking with them the trauma and consequences of the catastrophe.

Among the survivors we recently met, was a woman, whose arm was amputated from her shoulder. While under treatment she became pregnant. Her baby is now less than three years old and it is very difficult for the mother to take care of her child with only one arm. Once, while taking the baby for vaccination, the baby fell and was injured. No one in the hospital had counselled her on the techniques of managing with one arm only. This case serves to illustrate the importance of addressing the long-term needs of survivors.

What is missing is a systematic initiative for their long-term rehabilitation and wellbeing. It’s a shared responsibility no one can ignore. The garments industry, state health services, NGOs and, not least, civil society itself, can neither deny nor evade their call of duty.

The writers are members of a research collective directed by Prof. John Richards, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Poverty Puzzles Fri, 22 Apr 2016 16:35:45 +0000 Faisal Bari By Faisal Bari
Apr 22 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Whichever way you parse the data we have it shows that poverty headcount in Pakistan over the last decade and a half to two decades has decreased substantially. Initially, it was thought the data was not good enough, that it had been manipulated and so on, but even after multiple rounds of national surveys, the same trends are evident. And though the actual percentage of the poor may vary with the method one uses, the trend of falling poverty remains invariant. There must be something to this trend.

Poverty headcount, by the old line, has reduced to below 10pc in recent surveys. It is common practice, when poverty headcount goes below 10pc odd, to rebase the poverty line so that it gives some meaningful numbers. Social policy, if it has to work with less than 10pc odd of the population, is not as effective and/or useful. When all sorts of analyses confirmed that Pakistan`s poverty headcount had indeed gone below 10pc, the ministries of finance and planning, with help from the World Bank, decided to rebase the poverty line. This rebasing was announced a few weeks back.

According to the new poverty line and numbers, poverty headcount is around 29pc of the population.

At the same time, the perception in the country is that poverty, if it has not gone up, has not decreased. How does one square this circle? There are other puzzles here too. While the poverty reduction trend seems to be robust, malnutrition and stunting incidence, especially in children, seem to be on the increase.

If the population is able to meet their basic caloric needs, as well as purchase other necessities, why are malnutrition and stunting incidence increasing? Are people choosing to eat and feed their children poorly? Why would that be the case? There are some systematic changes in buying patterns in terms of a shift from non-processed food to processed food, an increase in meat consumption compared to lentil consumption, but these do not explain the malnutrition increase phenomenon.This is a very important puzzle to resolve.

Infant mortality and maternal mortality numbers have also been, more or less, stagnating over the same period. If poverty has come down, why is itnot translatinginto better health and longevity outcomes for people? One possible explanation here is that health outcomes are not only tied to the income level of a household but to availability of good quality public goods: water and sanitation facilities, healthcare facilities, and environmental conditions. Even if the income of a household increases, they might still be drinking poor quality water or using pits for waste water disposal and/or living in an environment where solid waste is not collected from the streets.

We know that a lot of Pakistani children suffer from diarrhoea and have worms in their digestive tracts and one major reason for both of the above is the fecal-to-oral route. We also know that drinking water quality, across the country, has been deteriorating. So, stagnation in health outcomes might have to do with lack of provision of needed public goods. And it might not be possible, now, to move on infant and maternal mortality and health outcome issues without major investments in public goods provision.

An even more interesting issue is that we do not really know why poverty has come down in Pakistan. What have been the determinants of reducing poverty and what has been driving it? It is definitely not tied to GDP growth in Pakistan.

Over the last 15 odd years only two to three were reasonable-to-high GDP growth years (2004-2007).

In other years, growth rates have been quite poor.

But poverty, even over slow-growth years, has continued to decline. At the same time, we have also seen increases in inequality in Pakistan. And the government has not been very active on the redistributive side as well. so, if the economy is not growing fast, and there is no redistribution of existing resources happening, how is poverty coming down?There are a couple of promising hypotheses here. Some researchers think remittance flows have been increasing substantially and they might explain the reduction in poverty. This, to me, does not sound too promising an explanation.

Remittance numbers are not that large, but more importantly, remittance flows are unevenly distributed across Pakistan andit should be possible, through careful analysis, to see if higher poverty reduction has been achieved in areas where remittance flows have been larger.

Some researchers think that it is growth of the informal economy, over the last decade and a half, that explains the reduction in poverty. Our GDP series does not capture the informal economy very well.

So, if there has been growth in the informal economy, it is possible to see reductions in poverty without seeing a significant connection with GDP growth rates. We need much more detailed micro level work here to see if growth in the informal sector is indeed what is driving the reduction in poverty.

Poverty has reduced but we do not understand why and we do not understand the movement, or lack thereof, in correlates. Why has inequality increased? How come poverty reduction and GDP growth rates are not related? Why has malnutrition increased even as poverty has come down? Why are we not seeing reductions in infant and maternal mortality and why are health outcomes not improving? What other investments, in public goods, are needed to move correlates in a desirable direction? It is time the poverty debate in Pakistan moves beyond the numbers issue. We need to understand the dynamics of poverty and poverty reduction better. This is imperative for designing effective social-sector policies.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Healthcare solutions that are smart Thu, 21 Apr 2016 16:35:31 +0000 Bjorn Lomborg Photo:


By Bjørn Lomborg
Apr 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Every hour, tuberculosis kills nine Bangladeshis. Another seven die each hour from arsenic in drinking water. Simple and cheap solutions are available to avoid almost all these deaths.

Bangladesh has made incredible progress over recent years on many health indicators. But the country continues to face great challenges, like tuberculosis (TB) and arsenic, two of the biggest killers. Many other grave health issues remain too, including factors that threaten mothers and their children.

Bangladesh Priorities can help identify the smartest solutions to national health challenges, as well as many other development issues.

TB kills 80,000 Bangladeshis each year, constituting about nine percent of all deaths. New research by Anna Vasssall, a senior lecturer in health economics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, outlines a cost-effective TB treatment strategy using community health clinics.

There are well-established ways to treat TB at low cost. Standard drugs for TB treatment and follow-up through community clinics cost Tk. 7,850 per patient. By treating one person for TB, you also prevent that person from infecting others, which makes treatment an even better investment. In total, each taka spent will do Tk. 21 of good.

Some strains of TB, however, are so-called “multi-drug resistant,” meaning that traditional treatments are not effective. Nationally, there are about 4,700 cases of this type of TB each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) is piloting a “Bangladesh regimen” trial in the country that shortens treatment time for these strains from 24 months to just nine months. But because multi-drug resistant TB is up to 45 times more expensive to treat, each taka spent will do just Tk. 3 of good. This shows that it can be much more effective to help the larger group of people who can be treated with conventional methods.

Even though 98 percent of Bangladeshis have access to either piped water or a well, 25 percent of households’ water sources contain arsenic levels that exceed the WHO guideline. New research investigates three water supply options that can largely prevent arsenic exposure: deep tube wells, rainwater harvesting, and pond sand filters. These options would cost between Tk. 1,250 to 1,850 annually per affected household and avert virtually all deaths related to arsenic. It would do about Tk. 7 of good per taka spent. Focusing efforts on the 20 percent worst affected, however, can do even more good—up to Tk.17 in benefits for each taka spent. And because much progress has already been made toward improving sanitation and hygiene, it turns out further investments in these areas would not be nearly as cost-effective as preventing arsenic exposure.

Another pressing health concern is child and maternal mortality. Even though Bangladesh has greatly reduced these deaths, the progress has been uneven. According to the World Bank, the mortality rates are nearly twice as high for infants and young children in the poorest 20 percent of the population compared to those in the richest 20 percent.

New research by Jahangir A.M. Khan, senior lecturer in health economics at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Sayem Ahmed, research investigator at The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, looks first at making births safer. Getting more women to deliver in medical facilities, which only half do now, could help.

It would cost an estimated Tk. 6,000 per delivery but is not practical for everyone, particularly in remote areas. The experts estimate that total spending of Tk. 8.94 billion (Tk. 894 crore) could move 80 percent of currently unattended births, or 1.5 million deliveries, into medical facilities. This would avert an estimated 3,260 maternal deaths and 34,467 neonatal deaths. Overall, each taka spent would do Tk. 8 of good.

An even more effective option is for community health workers to visit mothers at home both before and after birth. This option is very cheap – just Tk. 850 over the course of a pregnancy. Nearly 750,000 pregnant women could be targeted, and in all, homecare visits could save lives of more than 8,900 infants. Benefits for each taka of spending would be an impressive Tk. 27.

Lastly, the experts look at vaccinations. While 85 percent of children aged 12-23 months are fully immunised, that figure is just 51 percent for children in remote rural areas and just 43 percent for those in urban slums. Vaccinations cost Tk. 1,400-1,900 per child and could save more than 4,100 lives each year. Each taka spent immunising children would do Tk. 10 of good.

These new studies suggest some of the smartest solutions for the health challenges that still plague the country. Would these strategies be some of your top priorities for Bangladesh? Let us hear from you at We want to continue the conversation about how to do the most good for every taka spent.

The writer is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, ranking the smartest solutions to the world’s biggest problems by cost-benefit. He was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Laws Criminalizing Drug Possession Can Cause More Harm Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:40:56 +0000 Tenu Avafia and Rebecca Schleifer Tenu Avafia is a policy adviser on law, human rights and treatment access issues in the HIV, Health and Development Group at the United Nations Development Programme

Rebecca Schleifer is a consultant at the United Nations Development Programme working on HIV, drug policies, disability and sexual rights issues.]]>

Tenu Avafia is a policy adviser on law, human rights and treatment access issues in the HIV, Health and Development Group at the United Nations Development Programme

Rebecca Schleifer is a consultant at the United Nations Development Programme working on HIV, drug policies, disability and sexual rights issues.

By Tenu Avafia and Rebecca Schleifer

In many countries, a criminal record, even for a minor offense can have serious implications. Being convicted of a criminal offence renders one ineligible for certain jobs, social grants or benefits or from even being able to exercise one’s right to vote. It can also severely limit the ability to travel to certain countries and can result in the loss of custody of minor children. As prison conditions are often poor and health care services limited, a custodial sentence can have implications on the health outcomes of individuals.

Laws criminalizing drug possession for personal use and other non-violent, low-level drug offences drive people away from harm reduction services, placing them at increased risk of HIV, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis and death by overdose. Prison sentences for women may result in the incarceration of their infants and young children, who stay with them for all or part of their sentence.

Another area where the shortcoming of many drug control policies is evident is that of controlled medicines. Overly restrictive drug control regulations and practices, have effectively excluded 5.5 billion people – or approximately 75 percent of the world’s population – from access to essential medicines like morphine to treat pain.

Many countries are exploring or initiating law and policy reforms with the aim of giving greater prominence to the Sustainable Development Goals as adopted by UN Members States in September 2015 or as enshrined in numerous human rights treaties. Some of these reforms will address the social harms of traditional drug policies on the poor and most marginalized. These include providing alternatives to arrest and incarceration for minor drug offences, harm reduction programmes, decriminalization of drug users and small farmers and increased access to pain medication.

One such example is the case of Jamaica, which decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis and legalized its cultivation and consumption for religious, medicinal and research purposes. Jamaica also reformed its legislation to permit expungement of convictions for the personal possession or use of small quantities of cannabis. These decisions were prompted, in part, by concerns about the serious harmful consequences of criminalization on the long term prospects of young men who otherwise would be ensnared in a legal system that could undermine access to for example decent employment and economic growth as envisioned by Sustainable Development Goal Eight.

Jamaica’s reforms recognize that the connection between drugs and crime is not so straightforward. They put people first and in turn promote its citizens human development. The implications of this measure, together with others described in a recent discussion paper released by UNDP will be important as more countries look to make evidence informed, development sensitive changes to drug policy.


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HIV Time Bomb Ticks On Thu, 21 Apr 2016 06:48:39 +0000 Naimul Haq 0 Arsenic Threat Looms Large in India: Well Switching Provides the Way Forward Wed, 20 Apr 2016 13:16:20 +0000 Chander Kumar Singh Assistant Professor, Department of Regional Water Studies, TERI University ]]>

Assistant Professor, Department of Regional Water Studies, TERI University

By Chander Kumar Singh
TERI University, New Delhi, India, Apr 20 2016 (IPS)

An Indian Govt. Parliamentary Committee on Estimates on “Occurrence of High Arsenic (As) content in Groundwater” in December, 2014 stated that more than 70 million people in 96 districts in India is under threat due to As occurrence in groundwater.

Chander Kumar Singh

Chander Kumar Singh

A new finding suggests that it’s not only Indo-Gangetic plain that is under serious threat of As contamination in groundwater in India. An ongoing study funded by PEER Science grant from USAID and National Academy of Sciences, USA in collaboration with Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York and TERI University, New Delhi tested 12790 handpumps/tubewells in 180 villages in Indus Basin of Punjab, India using field test kits. Out of these 25% of wells were found to be having As and Nitrate concentrations above WHO standards, while 8% of samples were found to be high in terms of fluoride. These results were attached on the handpumps/tubewells in the form of metal placards depicting whether it’s safe or unsafe for drinking.

The groundwater contaminations with respect to geogenic contaminants specifically As is spatially heterogeneous and is confined to specific regions. Based on studies conducted elsewhere in South Asia, chronic exposure to As at levels encountered in groundwater of Punjab is likely to have markedly increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and cancers of the liver, bladder, and lungs. It has also been linked to infant mortality and impaired intellectual and motor function in children.

Chronic excess intake of F, more than the WHO standards (1.5 mg/L), can cause severe dental and skeletal fluorosis which might lead to bilateral lameness and stiffness of gait. Excess intake of NO3 can result in blue baby syndrome which is frequently observed in Punjab.

The most effective policy intervention and mitigation to reduce the health risks of chronic As, F and NO3 exposure is to avoid the source of exposure, in this case unsafe hand pumps, and switch to either safe wells. Our ongoing work in Bihar funded by International Growth Centre and some other studies have shown that if the households are made aware of the hand pumps/tube wells testing results, along with health implications of As in drinking water, leads to a substantial portion of households to switch to a nearby low-As well, markedly reducing exposure to As. However socio-cultural barriers are found to prohibiting well sharing within the communities. This is clearly an undesirable situation that needs to be and can be remedied. The main obstacle to well-switching and exposure reduction for millions of villagers is therefore lack of information: the vast majority of wells have never been tested.

There is presently, however, no organizational structure in India to deploy field kits at scale and with the necessary level of quality control, nor is there sufficient scientific understanding of the mechanisms controlling As levels in groundwater to determine where the deployment of such kits should be prioritized.

Testing wells for As provides information that is not substitutable. Because the distribution of Asincidence in groundwater is difficult to predict, and varies greatly even over small distances, the safety of a well cannot be predicted without a test. A well that meets guidelines for As in drinking water may be found in the immediate neighbourhood of a very unsafe well. Nor is there an easy way to design wells to be both safe and affordable: within shallow ( 100 m) aquifers tapped by most private wells, there is no systematic and predictable relationship between and As and well depth. At the same time, precisely because As contamination varies greatly over small distances, well tests make available an effective way to avoid exposure, namely by switching to a nearby safe well.

If the findings compliment the ongoing finding of the Bihar study then this mechanism can be replicated in most of the South-South East Asian nations which are facing this crisis. A thorough study recently conducted in Bangladesh has shown that if the member switches to a safe well then he would increase his earning by 9% (Pitt et al., 2012). Reducing exposure could therefore also increase economic growth in India for decades to come. Our findings from a different region in India, suggests that approximately 40% of the population is willing to switch to safe wells if they are informed and educated about their well status and potential health impacts of As and F consumption through groundwater.

Considering that there are approximately one million tube wells/hand pumps in Punjab and 28 people are dependent on each of the well; (population of Punjab, 28 million) and half of them turnout to be unsafe in terms of As/F and nitrate when informed 37% of people dependent on each well switch to safe well (result from ongoing study in Bihar) will alone cause lowering of exposure to a population of 5.5 million.


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Desert Locust Invading Yemen, More Arab States Wed, 13 Apr 2016 16:32:31 +0000 Kareem Ezzat Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

By Kareem Ezzat
CAIRO, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Now that Yemenis begin to hope that their year-long armed conflict may come to an end as a result of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations sponsored round of talks between the parties in dispute, scheduled on 18 April in Kuwait, a new threat to their already desperate humanitarian crisis has just appeared in the form of a much feared massive desert locust invasion.

“The presence of recently discovered Desert Locust infestations in Yemen, where conflict is severely hampering control operations, poses a potential threat to crops in the region,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned.

On 12 April the FAO also urged neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, to mobilise survey and control teams and to take all necessary measures to prevent the destructive insects from reaching breeding areas situated in their respective territories.

The desert locust threat poses high risks not only to the Southern region of the Gulf, but also to North of Africa, FAO said and warned that strict vigilance is also required in Morocco and Algeria, especially in areas south of the Atlas Mountains, which could become possible breeding grounds for Desert Locust that have gathered in parts of the Western Sahara, Morocco and Mauritania.

Climate change appears among the major causes of the destructive plague, as groups of juvenile wingless hoppers and adults as well as hopper bands and at least one swarm formed on the southern coast of Yemen in March where heavy rains associated with tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh fell in November 2015.

“The extent of current Desert Locust breeding in Yemen is not fully known since survey teams are unable to access most areas. However, as vegetation dries out along the coast, more groups, bands and small swarms are likely to form,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer.

Cressman noted that a moderate risk exists that Desert Locusts will move into the interior of southern Yemen, perhaps reaching spring breeding areas in the interior of central Saudi Arabia and northern Oman.

There is a possibility that this movement could continue to the United Arab Emirates where a few small swarms may appear and transit through the country before arriving in areas of recent rainfall in southeast Iran.

For its part, the Cairo-based FAO Regional office for the Middle East and North of Africa reported that the organisation is currently assisting technical teams from Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in conducting field survey and control operations in infested coastal areas.

As for the North of Africa, the UN agency has also warned that in the North Western region, small groups and perhaps a few small swarms could find suitable breeding areas in Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. In addition, some small-scale Desert Locust breeding is likely to occur in South Western Libya, but numbers should remain low.

Elsewhere, the situation remains calm with only low numbers of adults present in northern Mali and Niger, South West Libya, southeast Egypt and North East Oman.

A Force of Nature?

Desert Locust hoppers can form vast ground-based bands. These can eventually turn into adult locust swarms, which, numbering in the tens of millions can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind.

Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day — about two grams every day.

A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Locust monitoring, early warning and preventive control measures are believed to have played an important role in the decline in the frequency and duration of plagues since the 1960s; however, today climate change is leading to more frequent, unpredictable and extreme weather and poses fresh challenges on how to monitor and respond to locust activity.

FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives data from locust-affected countries. This information is regularly analysed together with weather and habitat data and satellite imagery in order to assess the current locust situation, provide forecasts up to six weeks in advance and if required issue warnings and alerts.

It also undertakes field assessment missions and coordinates survey and control operations as well as assistance during locust emergencies. Its three regional locust commissions provide regular training and strengthen national capacities in survey, control and planning.

A Disastrous Year

2015 was a disastrous year for Yemen, which is home to around 27 million people living over an area of more than 528,000 km2. Already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, the rise of the Houthi insurgency and Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes intended to oust them from power led to a full-blown humanitarian disaster. And then in November, coastal regions were hit by the most powerful storm in decades, causing displacement and flooding.

Services are the largest economic sector in Yemen (61.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product-GDP), followed by the industrial sector (30.9 per cent), and agriculture (7.7 per cent). Of these, petroleum production represents around 25 per cent of GDP and 63 per cent of the State revenue.

In recent decade, agriculture represented between 18–27% of the GDP, but this percentage has been shrinking due to emigration of rural labour, among others. Main agricultural commodities produced in Yemen include grain, vegetables, fruits, pulses, gat, coffee, cotton, dairy products, fish, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), and poultry.

Nevertheless, most Yemenis are employed in agriculture. Sorghum is the most common crop. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with `mangoes being the most valuable.

Regarding the on-going humanitarian crisis, one year on into the conflict in Yemen, tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured, one in 10 are displaced and nearly the entire population is in urgent need of aid, the top UN humanitarian official in the country stated on 22 March 2016.

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN

“It has been a terrible year for Yemen, during which a war peppered with airstrikes, shelling and violence had raged on in the already impoverished country,” added Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

Shelling of ports and airports, resulting in blockades and congestion, is one of the drivers of the humanitarian crisis, McGoldrick said, noting that health workers cannot reach patients and some 90 per cent of the food has to be imported.

“The country had extremely high levels of poverty before the war, and currently, the war has escalated, in an already fragile environment,” said the aid official.

Some 6,400 people have been killed in the past year, half of them civilians, and more than 30,000 are injured, with 2.5 million people displaced, according to figures from the UN World Health Organization (WHO). And more than 20 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, require some form of aid – about 14 million people in need of food and even more in need of water or sanitation.

The UN has appealed for 1.8 billion dollars for food, water, health care and shelter and protection issues, but only 12 per cent has been funded so far.

Bettina Luescher, senior communications officer for the World Food Programme (WFP) recently said in Geneva that shortages have forced the agency to cut rations to 75 per cent of a full ratio so that enough people could eat. “Yemen should not be forgotten, with all the attention focused on the Syria crisis,” she said.


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Gender Equality and Equity in Health Will Anchor Drive Towards a Sustainable National Development Wed, 13 Apr 2016 15:37:56 +0000 Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee Sicily K. Kariuki, (Mrs), CBS is the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in the Government of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya.]]> Sicily K. Kariuki.  Photo Credit: @UNFPA

Sicily K. Kariuki. Photo Credit: @UNFPA

By Sicily K. Kariuki, CBS and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Last month, the Government of Kenya (GoK) in partnership with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at the sidelines of the 60th Session of the UN Commission of Women in New York, launched the report on the ‘Assessment of the UNFPA Campaign to End Preventable Maternal and New-born Mortality in support of the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa’

The assessment report by Deloitte Consulting captures the important strides the country has made to significantly address disparities in advancing maternal and new-born health at all levels.

These findings manifests Government’s commitment and determination to address inequalities as envisioned by one of the key principles of Agenda 2030, by ensuring that no one is left behind.

The cornerstone of the Government’s commitment is to strengthen the partnerships between GoK, development partners, and other stakeholders nationally, regionally and globally.

This manifested in March 2015, His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta opened a high-level meeting in Nairobi which engaged religious leaders as key partners in fighting against social and cultural drivers that inhibit women’s empowerment, many of which contribute to their poor sexual and reproductive health.

That advocacy drive by the Government of Kenya and UNFPA has culminated in an innovative project that is now being implemented in six of the forty seven counties with the highest maternal and child deaths.

The program in Kenya’s underserved counties by public and private partners together with UN agencies is a good benchmark in identifying the sub-populations that are not obtaining health care, the reasons for those barriers, and the actions that can be taken to remove them.

The project recognizes that to achieve health equity, gender equality, and fulfil the right to health as guaranteed in the Constitution, it is essential to identify the underlying causes of health inequalities. This calls for a need to look inwards, rather than global indicators. It is only by identifying the disadvantaged or excluded groups, that evidence-based policies, programs and practices can be designed and inequalities tackled effectively.

The focus on 15 counties that bear 98.7% of all maternal deaths in the country was preceded by a survey undertaken by one of Kenya’s premier institution of higher learning -University of Nairobi, which revealed the multiple challenges faced by these communities. These challenges include various historical and cultural reasons that disadvantage the most vulnerable, invariably female, poor, rural and thus voiceless and marginalized.

In short, while national averages are important for monitoring overall progress, it is time to realize that these national indicators do not provide the complete picture. One example should suffice: in 2014, the national female genital mutilation prevalence rate in Kenya dropped to 21% from 27% in 2009. However, in the principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- no one can be left behind, focus should remain on the communities where prevalence rate still stands as high as 98%.

The SDGs now emphasize the need for active focus on equity, gender and human rights, specifically Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 10 on reducing inequality within and among countries and the role of health services in securing national and global peace. There is general consensus that health can serve as a bridge for peace and can have collateral benefits, including nipping in the bud some of the drivers of violent extremism.

It is also apt because some of the counties with high maternal death burden are also prone to internal conflicts, feelings of exclusion and poverty that drive extremism.

Reproductive health complications represent a hideous feedback loop, as they are not only the result of poverty, but also contribute to poverty.

In addressing access to reproductive health matters and gender equality, there is no space for complacency. We are talking about sheer survival not just of the women but of the entire nation. Healthier women mean healthier children and that means thriving societies.

As the UNDP Administrator, Ms Helen Clark remarked, “Women are powerful agents of change – and empowering women benefits whole societies.” A good place to begin is empowering Kenya’s youth, especially girls. The multiplier effect of girls’ education on several aspects of development is now well documented. Education reduces high fertility rates, lowers infant and child mortality rates, lowers maternal mortality rates and increases labour force participation.

Empowering, educating and employing Kenya’s women and girls will launch our economy to new heights and ensure Kenya reaps a demographic dividend. His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta, has stressed that “Progress for women is progress for all …….”

For development to be sustainable and resilient, it must be inclusive and equitable, given that half of humanity are women, their empowerment is a must and not an option.


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Plan for Poorer Countries to Fund HIV Response Raises Concerns Mon, 11 Apr 2016 19:58:18 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands In Zimbabwe, four out of 10 sexually active girls aged 15-19 reported taking an HIV test in the last 12 months. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

In Zimbabwe, four out of 10 sexually active girls aged 15-19 reported taking an HIV test in the last 12 months. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands

Calls for low and middle income countries to contribute an additional 6.1 billion dollars to the global HIV response by 2020 could see some vulnerable groups left behind, said HIV activists meeting at the United Nations last week.

A report recently published by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, calls for low and middle income countries to increase their funding for the global HIV response by 6.1 billion by 2020, versus only an additional 2.8 billion requested from wealthy countries.

The proposed changes to funding could affect vulnerable groups, including adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who now make up 74 percent of new HIV infections in the 15 to 24 age group according to UNAIDS.

Annah Sango, from Zimbabwe, a Youth Advisor with the Global Network for Young People Living with HIV told IPS that these figures partially reflect how hard it is for young women to negotiate safe sex, even within a marriage.

“It leaves young women and girls vulnerable to STIs, vulnerable to unintended pregnancies, vulnerable to HIV, and also vulnerable to gender based violence,” she said.

Some 2000 girls and young women are being infected with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa each week, Marama Pala Chair of the international community of women living with HIV global told journalists at the UN here last week.

A reduction in resources could see addressing the complex social and cultural causes of the rise in infections among young women in Sub-Saharan Africa become a lesser priority, said Pala.

Javier Hourcade Bellocq of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance who along with Pala co-chairs the civil society task force at the United Nations said that a reliance on domestic funding could see some vulnerable groups left out.

“The overarching question is would a government in Asia or Latin America be able to provide funding for a female sex worker organisation, for advocacy, for a watchdog (group)? — probably not,” said Bellocq.

However Bellocq said that domestic finances are an important part of a sustainable HIV response and that low and middle income countries have already been slowly increasing their investment.

“Often civil society organisations and activists have been perceived as putting pressure on international donors and wealthy and developed countries where in fact it’s not true, most of our work is putting stress on domestic funding,” he said.

Bellocq said that it was important not to presume that all governments with the same income classification had the same capacity to contribute to the HIV and AIDS response.

The classifications do “not reflect income inequalities and internal debt that many middle income countries currently face,” he said.

Jamila Headley, Managing Director of the Health Global Access Project, told IPS that UNAIDS analysis of the fiscal space used to justify the increased financing from low and middle income countries was based on inaccurate information.

For example, she said, “In Malawi the government has just had to cut several health care workers from the budget because they don’t have funds.”

Headley also said that the proposed changes “undercut our efforts to push governments in the West to support as much as they can.”

The Global HIV response has shown “unprecedented mobilization of solidarity across countries,” she said, “we’ve come so far and so to come to this place where we can actually see an end in sight and to then talk about scaling back that solidarity is hugely disappointing to us.”

In a statement provided to IPS, UNAIDS said that its approach is to encourage low and middle income countries to “increase country ownership by increasing domestic spending on HIV.”

“However, the international community ​​has a responsibility to ensure that ​HIV ​programs​ are able to reach the communities that are most vulnerable to HIV​ ​in countries that have the least ability to fully fund a comprehensive HIV response,” the statement said.

Meanwhile Headley said that the proposed changes in funding could affect groups requiring special attention including adolescent girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The rising rates of incidence among women aged 14 to 25 in Sub-Saharan Africa is exactly why we need full funding to support targeted, high impact prevention,” she said.

Pala an indigenous woman from New Zealand living with HIV said that women can sometimes “get lost in the epidemic,” and that the response should be intersectional in nature. But she also said that activism by other more prominent groups affected by HIV has helped women, including herself.

“There is a very strong activism from the key populations and we needed that,” she said. “For myself living with HIV if that didn’t happen I wouldn’t have the medication and be alive today.”

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World Health Day: Rapidly Rising Diabetes Closely Linked to Poverty Thu, 07 Apr 2016 23:46:08 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands Diabetes test, Mauritius. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Diabetes test, Mauritius. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands

Diabetes, which now affects more than 400 million people worldwide, is closely linked to poverty in most regions of the world, World Health Organization Medical Officer Alessandro Demaio told IPS Thursday.

Demaio, who specialises in non-communicable conditions and nutrition, said that poverty is a risk factor for diabetes across low, middle and high income countries, disproportionately affecting poorer populations, apart from the absolute poor who mostly live in low income countries.

In light of the rapid increase in the disease, the WHO made diabetes the theme of this year’s World Health Day on April 7.

“We’ve had an enormous increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the past 30 years,” Francesco Branca, Director of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO told IPS.

As of 2014 there were 422 million people living with diabetes, compared to 108 million in 1980. Worryingly, Branca said that “half the people with diabetes don’t know,” particularly in developing countries where diagnoses can be limited and health services may not have the ability to do the required glucose blood tests. In some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, said Branca, health workers have been known to mistake the symptoms of diabetes for malaria which they are more accustomed to diagnosing.

The rapid increase in the prevalence of diabetes is in part due to “dramatic changes in diets around the world”, over the past few decades, said Demaio, as well as “changes in the environmental systems that deliver these foods.”

Many of the people affected are in so-called middle income countries, but they are often the urban poor. For example said, Branca there is “a very dire situation in countries like India” where people have been moving away from the country side to areas where they are exposed to different life conditions and a different diet.

For those in the poorest countries, getting access to treatment can be difficult. Insulin, which is an essential part of diabetes management, isn’t available at all in 23 percent of low income countries, said Branca. Health services in developing countries are also not equipped to treat the complications of diabetes, including limb amputations and kidney dialysis, and, said Branca, diabetes is now the leading cause of blindness.

The high cost of accessing health care for diabetes and the disability it causes means that diabetes can also lead to poverty, said Demaio, describing the relationship between diabetes and poverty as cyclical.

Branca and Demaio said that the sharp rise in non-communicable diseases has resulted in a different approach by the United Nations and the World Health Organization to nutrition and health-related issues.

The U.N. General Assembly recently declared the years 2016 to 2015 as the decade of action on nutrition.

The focus on nutrition now reflects a “a wider conceptualisation of nutrition”, said Demaio, recognising that conditions like obesity and diabetes are also related to poor nutrition.

According to a Lancet study published last week, there are now more people in the world who are obese than underweight. However, Branca added that it is possible to be both overweight and undernourished in important nutrients, particularly iron. There are other connections as well, for example in Latin America it is common for children who are stunted, short for their age, to be overweight.

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‘Little Boy’ Devouring African Food Thu, 07 Apr 2016 15:51:52 +0000 Jeff Williams Credit: Anne Holmes/IPS

Credit: Anne Holmes/IPS

By Jeff Williams
Mombasa, Kenya, Apr 7 2016 (IPS)

There is a ‘Little Boy’ who has nothing to do with the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. This time it is about another ‘Little Boy’ who has been devastating the harvests in many regions, especially in Africa.

This ‘Little Boy’ (from El Niño in Spanish) is a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific including the coasts of South America. In Latin America the term “El Niño” refers to the Child Jesus, so named because the pool of warm water in the Pacific near South America is often at its warmest around Christmas.

In other words, the current El Niño, which in 2015 and 2016 has been among the strongest on record, affects the climate world wide, unleashing more floods in some areas and longer periods of droughts in others, as well as stronger typhoons and cyclones.

The point is that developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected by ‘Little Boy’.

In the specific case of Africa, this adds a new, heavy burden on food production in this vast continent, which is home to 54 countries with a total combined population of more than 1,2 billion inhabitants. Why?

On the one hand, because while roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year —around 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted, these losses are particularly dramatic in Africa where 220 million people—one in five Africans, are estimated to be undernourished.

On the other hand, the collapse of commodities prices all over the world has severely impacted Africa, where agriculture still represents a major source of income.

The climate-induced crop failures -including those caused by the on-going El Niño phenomenon– have further compounded the food insecurity situation in the affected parts of Eastern and Southern Africa.

The UN agency in charge of food and agriculture on 24 March 2016 stressed in Harare the need for a shift in focus to not only increase productivity at farm level, but also to improve post-production handling among smallholder farmers and other value chain actors.

Shortly before, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on 12 February informed that Southern Africa was in the grip of an intense drought that has expanded and strengthened since the earliest stages of the 2015-2016 agricultural season, driven by one of the strongest El Niño events of the last 50 years.

Across large swathes of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Madagascar, the current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 years.

Dry, cracked soil. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Dry, cracked soil. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Agricultural areas in northern Namibia and southern Angola have also experienced high levels of water deficit, FAO said in a joint statement with Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET); the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Much of the southern African sub-region has consequently experienced significant delays in planting and very poor conditions for early crop development and pasture re-growth. In many areas, planting has not been possible due to 30 to 50 day delays in the onset of seasonal rains resulting in widespread crop failure.”

Little Hope

Although there has been some relief since mid-January in certain areas, the window of opportunity for the successful planting of crops under rain-fed conditions is nearly closed, FAO, WFP and FEWS NET alerted. Even assuming normal rainfall for the remainder of the season, crop-water balance models indicate poor performance of maize over a widespread area.

“Seasonal forecasts from a variety of sources are unanimous in predicting a continuation of below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures across most of the region for the remainder of the growing season.”

The combination of a poor 2014-2015 season, an extremely dry early season (October to December) and forecasts for continuing hot and drier-than-average conditions through mid-2016, suggest a scenario of extensive, regional-scale crop failure.

South Africa has issued a preliminary forecast of maize production for the coming harvest of 7.4 million tonnes, a drop of 25 per cent from the already poor production levels of last season and 36 per cent below the previous five-year average.

These conditions follow a 2014-2015 agricultural season that was similarly characterised by hot, dry conditions and a 23 percent drop in regional cereal production.

This drop has increased the region’s vulnerability due to the depletion of regional cereal stocks and higher-than-average food prices, and has substantially increased food insecurity, FAO and its partners reported.

For its part, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) stated that even before the current crisis began, the number of food-insecure people in the region (not including South Africa), already stood at 14 million.

As of early February, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) estimated that, of this total, at least 2.5 million people are in crisis and require urgent humanitarian assistance to protect livelihoods and household food consumption.

The numbers of the food insecure population are now increasing due to the current drought and high market prices (maize prices in South Africa and Malawi were at record highs in January).

Consequently, drought emergencies have been declared in most of South Africa’s provinces as well as in Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Water authorities in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Namibia are limiting water usage because of low water levels.

And power outages have been occurring in Zambia and Zimbabwe as water levels at the Kariba Dam have become much lower than usual.

“While it is too early to provide detailed estimates of the population likely to be food-insecure in 2016-2017, it is expected that the population in need of emergency food assistance and livelihood recovery support will increase significantly. Additional assistance will be required to help food-insecure households manage an extended 2016 lean season,” says the joint statement.

Ethiopia’s Worst Drought in 30 Years

This weather phenomenon, aggravated by climate change, has also strongly hit Eastern Africa. This is the case of Ethiopia, which has been battling its worst drought in 30 years due to the El Niño weather pattern, with 8.2 million people already in urgent need of food aid.

The United Nations sent an emergency health team to help support the Government’s response to a crisis that is expected to become even worse over the next eight months.

“The food security emergency is coming against a background of multiple on-going epidemics in the country,” the interim Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response at the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), said Michelle Gayer on 4 December 2015 in Geneva.

“This creates an additional burden for people’s health as well as the health system as malnutrition, especially in children, predisposes them to more severe infectious disease, which can kill quickly,” she added.

Ethiopia has experienced two poor growing seasons in 2015. Due to delayed rains attributed to El Niño, its main annual harvest was severely reduced.

Every month since January has seen an increase in the number of malnourished children, with 400,000 likely to face severe malnutrition in 2016, according to WHO. Moreover, some 700,000 expectant and new mothers are at risk for severe malnutrition.


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Want to Feel Fit? Eat Falafel, Dahl, Cow Pea and…! Wed, 06 Apr 2016 18:07:52 +0000 Osman Sharif Credit: Courtesy FAO

Credit: Courtesy FAO

By Osman Sharif
CASABLANCA, Morocco, Apr 6 2016 (IPS)

This is not a minor issue. Chickpea, faba bean, lentil, common bean, field pea, mung bean, black gram, pigeon pea, cowpea, and grass pea are the major pulse crops produced globally. And these especially play an important role in food and nutritional security and sustainable agricultural production systems in the drylands, which cover over 40 per cent of the world’s land area and are home to approximately 2.5 billion people.

“These crops are the mainstay of agriculture and diets in these regions, constituting a major source of protein for billions. With an ever-growing health conscious population, the demand for pulses is increasing, says the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), while announcing its International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture for Drylands in Marrakesh, Morocco, 18-20 April 2016.

Coinciding with the 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP), the conference aims at sensitising main actors in pulse research and industries about the more recent scientific findings on health, nutrition and environmental benefits of producing, processing and eating pulses.

And the conference is expected to provide a platform to various stakeholders, including scientists, policy-makers, extension workers, traders and entrepreneurs, to discuss the various contributions of pulses to food and nutritional security and ecosystem health.

“Challenges ahead for driving greater production and benefits for all will be addressed with a focus on Central and West Asia, and North Africa,” says ICARDA and adds “a roadmap will be developed for increasing productivity and profitability of pulses through diversification and intensification of cereal/livestock-based cropping systems.

These, among others, are expected to be the main outcomes of this international conference, which is organised, along with the Moroccan National Institute forAgricultural Research (INRA), in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and other national and regional institutions.

How to Get kids to Eat Pulses?

But technical issues aside, the question is how to learn to eat pulses. One of the conference main co-organisers, FAO, apparently recommends to start from the very beginning, by posing this question: How to get kids to eat pulses?

Credit: Courtsey FAO

Credit: Courtesy FAO

And the response reminds parents and families at large that pulses are a highly versatile ingredient to cook with—as either a main meal or a side dish, they are the perfect complement to even the boldest of flavours.

But just like any new ingredient, convincing the pickiest eaters in the family to try these nutritious beans, peas and lentils can sometimes prove more than difficult.

For this, FAO presents some fun and creative suggestions for getting your kids excited about eating their pulses:

Start with the Familiar

Hummus is a widely popular dip made of chickpeas and many children love it. But did you know you can make it with almost any kind of cooked pulses?

Using your favourite hummus recipe, simply replace the chickpeas with cooked lentils or beans. Try serving with toasted pita or sliced veggies, or spread on a sandwich.

Burgers and meatballs are also a popular food with children, and lentils, beans or a mixture of the two can be substituted for meat to make delicious, homemade veggie patties and meatless meatballs.

Eliminate Mushiness

Many kids hate the “mushy” texture of beans. This can be eliminated by cooking with dried beans instead of canned beans, which produce a much more palatable texture. Dried beans should be soaked overnight before cooking.

Take the Hands-on Approach

Getting kids involved in the cooking process can excite them about trying the dishes they helped create. Take a trip to the market together and let your children choose the pulses that they want to eat.

When making veggie patties with pulses, let kids help you mix and shape the patties. You can also let kids build their own burritos or tacos using beans as an ingredient.

Play with Your Food

Beans, peas and lentils are easy to arrange on a plate to create different designs. Shape your beans into happy faces or your lentils into shooting stars—or let your children design their own plate of pulses.

What About the Grown-Ups?

For his part, Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of Nutrition at World Health Organization (WHO), knows much about how eating pulses can have a positive impact on nutrition and health.

Credit: Courtsey FAO

Credit: Courtesy FAO

Good nutrition is really important for physical and mental development, and it allows people to reach their full potential (e.g. in school and at work), he said in an interview. It also underpins a strong immune system, which protects us from both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Undernutrition is a major contributor to the burden of disease. Almost half (45%) of all deaths among children under the age of five are linked to under-nutrition.

Dr. Branca states that unhealthy diet is the greatest underlying cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for 11 million deaths each year. Another measure of the burden of disease is the disability-adjusted life year (DALY), which is the number of years lost due to poor health, disability or early death.

“Unhealthy diet is responsible for 241.4 million DALYs; child and maternal malnutrition accounts for 176.9 million DALYs; and obesity for 134 million DALYs.”

Pulses contain many nutrients, one of the most important of which is fibre. Asked to explain some of the health benefits of a diet rich in fibre?, Dr. Brabca said: When someone has a diet that is high in fibre, this can help prevent him or her from becoming obese, especially when s/he also does sports or other physical activity.

Studies suggest that one of the reasons that type 2 diabetes was relatively rare in rural Africa 40 years ago was because people there were eating a diet that was high in fibre. More recent studies in the United States also indicate that diets that are high in fibre reduce the chances of developing diabetes, he adds

“Eating foods like pulses that are high in fibre can help bring down blood glucose and insulin levels, which is crucial for people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.”

Many studies indicate that diets high in fibre can reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce blood pressure, according to D. Branca, who adds: “one of the ways this works is because many types of fibre reduce the levels of the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol in a person’s blood, which in turn lowers his or her risk of heart disease.’

There are many other health benefits of a diet rich in fibre, including some suggestion that it may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers and can protect from tooth decay, he said, explaining that in populations that are transitioning away from traditional diets that are high in fibre (e.g. the Mediterranean diet)—fibre intake is going down, spurring an increased risk of non-communicable diseases.


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Challenges of Polio Vaccination Tue, 29 Mar 2016 04:41:42 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai Noted religious scholar Maulana Samiul Haq administers oral polio vaccine to children. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Noted religious scholar Maulana Samiul Haq administers oral polio vaccine to children. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Mar 29 2016 (IPS)

Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two remaining polio-endemic countries, have joined forces to eradicate poliomyelitis by vaccinating their children in synchronised campaigns.

The two neighbouring countries — sharing a 2,400 kms long and porous border — have been bracketed as the stumbling block in the way of the global polio eradication drive. These militancy-riddled countries have been tackling Taliban’s opposition to the administration of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to children.

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one of Pakistan’s four provinces along with the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the adjoining Nangarhar province of Afghanistan has been declared a polio-endemic geographical block by the World Health Organisation.

Since January 2016, “we have started synchronised immunisation campaigns in KP, Fata and Afghanistan with a view to ensure vaccination of all children on both sides of the border”, KP’s health minister Shahram Tarakai told IPS.

“There are about 100,000 children who refuse vaccination on both sides of the border. They pose a threat to the polio eradication campaign. Each child should get vaccinated,” he said.

The government has enlisted support of religious scholars to do away with refusals against OPV, KP’s top polio officer Dr Ayub Roz told IPS.

Taliban have been campaigning against OPV because they consider it a ploy by the US to render recipients impotent, infertile and reduce the population of Muslims.

Ayub Roz says that top religious scholars have been involved in the vaccination campaigns to dispel the impression being created that OPV was against Islam and that it affected the capacity of people to produce children.

Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of famous Darul Uloom Haqqani, who has been tasked to counter Taliban’s anti-vaccine campaign told IPS that the religious scholars have been engaged to accompany the health workers and urge the parents that OPV was important for their kids to safeguard them against disabilities.

“It is the responsibility of the parents to protect their children against diseases and provide them with safe and healthy environments. We have convinced 10,000 parents since January on vaccination of their children,” he said.

Muhammad Rizwan, a resident of Nowshera, one of the 26 districts of KP, says that he had not been vaccinating his children so far under the misconception that it wasn’t allowed in Islam. “As a result, my eldest son, aged four years was diagnosed positive for polio. Now, upon the persuasion of religious leaders, I have been vaccinating my two other sons to let them grow healthy,” Rizwan, a farmer, said.

According to him, Taliban have been warning the people against polio vaccination in the areas but the local clerics have started to woo parents on vaccination. “Parents are responding to religious leaders and are bringing their children for immunisation in droves,” he says.

KP police chief Nasir Khan Durrani says they have been deploying more than 10,000 policemen for the security of health workers.

“Militants have killed 70 health workers during polio campaign from 2012 to 2015 but there were no such incidents in 2016,” he says. Taliban militants want vaccinators to stay away from polio vaccination but we have given them foolproof security, Durrani says.

A new case reported from Afghanistan in February from Kunar province bordering Fata and KP Pakistan has triggered alarm bells, prompting both countries to speed up the immunisation drive in border areas.

More than 60 polio cases reported in 2015 belonged to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Peshawar, capital of KP, registered 10 polio cases of KP’s total 18 in 2015 mainly because of free and unchecked movements of children from Afghanistan as well as Fata where quality vaccination was needed. Two of these polio cases had proven linkages to the virus in Afghanistan.

Dr Ikhtiar Ali, Fata polio officer told IPS that synchronised campaigns stared in Pakistan and Afghanistan from January has paid off.

“The number cases in Pakistan were six and one in Afghanistan as of March 16 2016 because 14 vaccination points on the border has improved vaccination,” he says. Special focus is being laid on strengthening border vaccination.

The quality of vaccination at Torkham, the main border point crossed by hundreds of children per day, wasn’t up to the desired level last year due to which infected children transported the virus across the border, they said.

Ahmed Barakzai, a polio officer in Afghanistan’s Nangrahar province near the border, says the situation with regard to vaccination has shown signs of improvement due to the advocacy campaigns launched with support of community elders and religious leaders.

We have brought down refusals against OPV from 60,000 in 2015 to only 22,000 in 2016, he says. The only way to cope with the poliomyelitis is the quality vaccination of children, he says.

Like KP and Fata, we have also engaged police and religious scholars in the campaign. “In some areas, we have been facing security problems because the vaccinators were sacred of militants but we are using religious leaders to cope with the situation,” he says.

Saira Afzal Tarar says the synchronised campaigns have proved fruitful. “We are going to further strengthen vaccination in border areas,” she said.

Pakistan is home to at least 6 million Afghan refugees … In the past, Afghan children transported virus to Pakistan because of lack of vaccination back home, she says.

Now, every child is getting OPV at the border points due to which the chances of infection to local children have decreased, she says.


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Saving Children’s Lives Through Drones Mon, 28 Mar 2016 09:59:40 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri The drone took 10 minutes to cover 10 km. Photo Credit: UNICEF

The drone took 10 minutes to cover 10 km. Photo Credit: UNICEF

By Charity Chimungu Phiri
LILONGWE, Malawi, Mar 28 2016 (IPS)

The first successful test-flight of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone was an unhindered 10 km journey from a community health centre to the Kamuzu central hospital laboratory in the capital Lilongwe. Local community members watched with excitement as the drone rose into the sky, after being launched by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and government of Malawi at the area 25 health centre.

The first of its kind in southern Africa, the US manufactured machine was on trial till March 18 to determine if it could replace other modes of transporting dried blood samples from rural clinics to the main laboratories for early HIV screening in children.

UNICEF together with the manufacturer — Matternet — hope this innovation will help solve logistical problems in Malawi’s rural areas due to the bad state of roads and high costs of diesel fuel, among others.

Currently, motorcycles and ambulances are used to transport blood samples between clinics and take up to 11 days to reach the respective testing centers and two months for the results to come back. The longer the delay between the test and results, the higher the default rate of the patient.

According to government figures, 10, 000 children died of Aids-related illnesses in Malawi in 2014. Screening of HIV in children with HIV positive mothers is a little more complicated than that of adults as it requires more sophisticated machinery, which is hard to access for most rural people due to distance.

UNICEF and the Malawi government expect this machine, which is operated through a mobile phone app, will in the long run replace motorbikes and reduce waiting times for results, thereby cutting costs in accessing test results (and later treatment) if children are found HIV positive.

Matternet’s machine will be carrying about 1 kg of the blood samples from rural clinics to main laboratories across the country. This is another innovation from UNICEF after it launched the rapid SMS programme in 2010 with the same aim of speeding up the process of HIV testing and treatment among children.

The drones are said to be cheaper to run than motorbikes because they only need electricity to recharge the battery, unlike motorbikes which use a lot of fuel and need constant maintenance. Nevertheless, their purchasing costs could be a hindrance as each drone costs MK5 million (equivalent to US$7,000).

However, health authorities believe the advantages of drones outweigh the costs. The ninister of health, Peter Kumpalume, said “it is specialist testing that we do for youngsters. If you delay giving them treatment most of them won’t live beyond two years age. So the earlier the detection and the earlier the intervention, the longer they live and become productive citizens of the country.”

He added that this would not be the first time Malawi would be making history in the HIV sector: “Malawi has pioneered a number of innovations in the delivery of HIV services including the Option B+ policy which puts mothers on a simple, lifelong treatment regime. We have also pioneered the delivery of results from the central laboratory to the health facilities through text messages. We believe our partnering with UNICEF to test UAVs is another innovation and will help in our drive to achieve the country’s goals in HIV prevention and treatment.”

Kumpalume furthermore noted that the new innovation was in line with the Malawi government’s 90-90-90 agenda: “Government intends to achieve the 90-90-90 target where 90 per cent of Malawians know their HIV status, to have 90 per cent of all those diagnosed with HIV receive sustained anti-retroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of people on ART to have viral suppression”, he said.

UNICEF’s representative in Malawi, Mahimbo Mdoe, said HIV is still a barrier to development in Malawi. “In 2014, nearly 40,000 children in Malawi were born to HIV positive mothers. Quality care of these children depends on early diagnosis. We hope that UAVs can be part of the solution to reduce transportation time and ensure that children who need it, start their treatment early,” said Mdoe.

Malawi has a national HIV prevalence rate of 10 per cent — still one of the highest in the world. An estimated 1 million Malawians were living with HIV in 2013 and 48,000 died from HIV-related illnesses in the same year.

Whilst progress has been made, and today 90 per cent of pregnant women know their HIV status, here is still a drop off with testing and treating babies and children. The drone tests over the next week will measure the equipment’s performance with differing winds speeds, humidity and distance and if the results prove positive, the experiment will be expanded.

The test, which is using simulated samples, will have the potential to cut waiting times dramatically, and if successful, will be integrated into the health system alongside others mechanisms such as road transport and SMS.

UAVs have been used in the past for surveillance and assessments of disaster, but this is the first known use of UAVs on the continent for improvement of HIV services Matternet co-founder Paola Santana said it would be easier to use the machines in Malawi because of its closely located health structures. Apart from Malawi, UAVs are also being used in Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Switzerland.


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NGO Pledges $500 Million Towards Sustainable Development Goals Fri, 25 Mar 2016 17:10:50 +0000 Valentina Ieri On the right Bruce Wilkinson, President and CEO of CMMB - Healthier Lives Worldwide. Next to him (in the middle) stands Ambassador Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Zambia to the United Nations, at the CMMB conference on $500 million for the U.N. SDGs, event on March 21. Photo: CMMB

On the right Bruce Wilkinson, President and CEO of CMMB - Healthier Lives Worldwide. Next to him (in the middle) stands Ambassador Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Zambia to the United Nations, at the CMMB conference on $500 million for the U.N. SDGs, event on March 21. Photo: CMMB

By Valentina Ieri

CMMB -Healthier Lives Worldwide– a leading international nonprofit health non-governmental organisation (NGO) – has pledged 500 million dollars to help implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)– with a specific focus on maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health.

The commitment will be deployed through the NGO’s flagship initiatives CHAMPS– which is a maternal and child health program – and the Healing Help– which is a platform for the distribution of medications and health commodities in partnership with the pharmaceutical companies.

Bruce Wilinson, President and CEO of CMMB

Bruce Wilinson, President and CEO of CMMB

The announcement was made by CMMB’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Wilkinson, at a press conference at the U.N. Headquarters on March 21. Speaking along with him were the Permanent Representatives of the Missions of Zambia, Kenya, and Haiti.

“CMMB is taking a bold step by providing $500 million over the next five years for general support of the UN’s SDGs and the Every Woman Every Child campaign, in particular. We can take this important step because we work in partnership with so many equally dedicated organisations,” said Wilkinson.

The NGO’s new commitment, which is in line with the updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health– launched in 2015 by Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in order to end all forms of preventable death for women, children and adolescents – builds on a previous commitment made in 2014.

Initially, explained Wilkinson, CMMB committed to establish by 2020, 20 CHAMPS programs, whose acronym stands for Children and Mothers Partnerships,to provide long-term health care support and training in five developing countries: Haiti, Zambia, Kenya, Peru, and South Sudan.

The target of 20 CHAMPS by 2020 was presented with an initial pledge of 22 million dollar cash, and 33 million dollar in Gifts-in Kind, mostly pharmaceutical products.

“We are ahead of schedule and have already committed 8 million dollars to our pledge of 22 million,” commented Wilkinson, who remarked that eight CHAMPS programs have been successfully implemented in those countries, and the ninth one will be implemented this summer.

“Champs brings together the clinical and community aspects”, Wilkinson told IPS, “linking households in a tangible way to sustained public and clinical interventions based on real need. We are also able to track and measure effective health delivery which in the long run changes peoples demand for health services as a basic right.”

“Over 1,200 professional medical volunteers have been deployed,” he pointed out, including “680,000 (people) have been directly assisted of which 200,000 mothers and children under the age of five. 3,843 community health workers and clinicians have been trained and 165 medical facilities have been supported (through) the CHAMPS programming.”

Praising the long relationship between CMMB and local partners in Zambia, Ambassador Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Zambia to the U.N. congratulated CMMB for its renewal commitment to the U.N. 2030 Agenda.

“CMMB has been working to reach [remote] areas in (Zambia) and have been providing the much needed services, along with the economic empowerment for women in order to ensure that women and their families can live healthy lives […] We are asking for others to join the partnerships that have already been created by CMMB.”

Paul Mikov, CMMB’s Vice President for Institutional Partnerships, said that despite the immense progress made in reducing global maternal and child mortality rates through the implementation of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, and the new 17 SDGs adopted in 2015, “hundreds of thousands of mothers still die every single year while giving life at birth, and almost six million children under 5years of age die every year from preventable causes.”

Figures from the World Health Organisation show that since the 1990s global maternal mortality has dropped by 43 percent. However, in 2015, 303 000 women were estimated to die due to childbirth complications, diseases, or infections. Currently, around 830 women die every day, 99 percent of whom live in developing countries.

For over a century, CMMB-Healthier Lives Worldwide has been fighting on the front lines for global health, equality, environmental protection, access to safe and clean water, and women’s empowerment, Wilkinson remarked, while also leading several health relief activities in the highest burden countries, where women and children in local communities lacked access to adequate health services.

According to the data provided by the NGO, over the last ten years, the organisation has provided over two billion dollars in medicines and health and medical supplies to local healthcare partners in 120 countries. In 2015, CMMB collaborated with more than 220 institutional partners worldwide.

The event on March 21 was an occasion to celebrate CMMB-Healthier Lives Worldwide long-standing partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, which in many ways has operated as the backbone for this joint venture of bringing needed resources and services in high burden countries worldwide.

“Our long standing relationships with the pharmaceutical industry will be optimized to meet the needs especially in the highest burden countries where women and children experience the highest morbidity and mortality rates globally,” said Wilkinson.

Between 2016 and 2020, through the Healing Help platform, CMMB will deliver the 500 million U.S. dollars worth of medicines and health commodities, marking a 30 percent increase in medical products to countries such as Nigeria, India, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Burundi, Zambia, South Sudan, Kenya, Haiti, Malawi, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, explained Wilkinson.

On the occasion of renewing its commitment to the 17 SDGs, CMMB also launched its new visual identity and logo “CMMB Healthier Lives Worldwide“. Lara Villar, CMMB’s Senior Vice President for Strategy and Organizational Measurements, said:

“Our new logo expresses our newer vision and strategy, the way we work in partnership and our commitment to improve the life of women and children. This is an important step for CMMB to be seen as modern and relevant. […] Our visual identity illustrates who we are. It is a symbol of our faith our core values and our mission to achieve Healthier Lives Worldwide.”

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Corruption Swallows a Huge Dose of Water Tue, 22 Mar 2016 23:51:46 +0000 Jeff Williams A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Credit: UNDP Somalia

A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Credit: UNDP Somalia

By Jeff Williams
MOMBASA, Kenya, Mar 22 2016 (IPS)

While the United Nations marked this year’s World Water Day on March 22 focusing on the connection between water and jobs, a new report has rung loud alarm bells about the heavy impact of corruption on the massive investments being made in the water sector.

Each year, between 770 billion and 1,760 billion dollars are needed to develop water resources and services worldwide — yet the number of people without “safe” drinking water is about as large as those who lack access to basic sanitation: around 32 per cent of the world’s population in 2015, Transparency International on March 22 reported.

And asked how can so much be spent and yet such massive shortfalls still exist?

“One answer: About 10 per cent of water sector investment is lost to corruption.”

This striking information came out on the occasion of World Water Day 2016, as the Water Integrity Network (WIN) released a new report that documents the legacy of corruption in the water sector.

The WIN report reveals corruption’s costly impact on the world’s water resources. It also shows the degree to which poor water governance negatively affects the world’s most vulnerable populations – specifically women, children, and the landless.

Women carry gravel from the river to be taken to a construction site in Indonesia. Credit © Maillard J. /ILO

Women carry gravel from the river to be taken to a construction site in Indonesia. Credit © Maillard J. /ILO

While access to water and sanitation were formally recognised as human rights by the UN General Assembly in 2010, the reality is far from this goal, says WIN, a network of organisations and individuals promoting water integrity to reduce corruption and improve water sector performance.

“According to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, some 663 million people lack access to so-called “improved” drinking water sources globally… this contributes to 1.6 million deaths annually, most of whom are children under 5 years old.”

Although the UN’s new 2030 Agenda includes a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) on water and sanitation as well as a mandate for accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16), action is needed so that pervasive and systemic corruption do not continue to seep from the water sector, according to the report.

The study cites some specific cases. In 2013, Malawi’s reformed public financial management system was misused to divert 5 million dollars in public funds to the private accounts of officials.

Another case: in 2015, an audit of the 70 million euro phase II national water programme in Benin, which included 50 million euro from the Netherlands, revealed that 4 million euro had vanished. Dutch development cooperation with the Benin government was suspended thereafter to safeguard additional funds.

Corruption is, however, not limited to developing countries. In fact, WING cites an example from the United States. “In California, a member of the State Senate in 2015 declared a system of permits that allowed oil companies to discharge wastewater into underground aquifers to be corrupt.”

Further more, the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 (WIGO) shares examples of both corruption and good practices at all levels worldwide.

In this sense, WIGO demonstrates how improved governance and anti-corruption measures can win back an estimated 75 billion dollars for global investment in water services and infrastructure annually.

It therefore highlights and draws lessons from those examples of where governments, companies, and community groups have won gains for water consumers and environmental protection.

“The report proposes to build ‘integrity walls’ from building blocks of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption measures,” says Frank van der Valk, the Water Integrity Network’s executive director. “Urgent action by all stakeholders is required.”

WIN works to raise awareness on the impact of corruption especially on the poor and disenfranchised assesses risk and promotes practical responses. Its vision is a world with equitable and sustained access to water and a clean environment, which is no longer, threatened by corruption, greed, dishonesty and willful malpractice.

Formerly hosted by Transparency International, the WIN global network is formally led by the WIN association and supported by the WIN Secretariat in Berlin.


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Build Healthy, Sustainable Food Systems to Fight Malnutrition Tue, 22 Mar 2016 14:44:02 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Mar 22 2016 (IPS)

Creating healthy and sustainable food systems is key to overcoming hunger and all forms of malnutrition (undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies, obesity) around the world. Food production has tripled since 1945 while average food availability per person has risen by 40 per cent. Current food systems are not delivering well on ensuring healthy diets for all. We have to fix the problem. The most efficient and sustainable approach will be to reshape and strengthen food systems that support healthy diets for all.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The international community is facing several nutrition-related challenges. The health of more than half the world’s over seven billion people is compromised by malnutrition. Despite abundant food supplies, almost 800 million people (or one in nine) still go hungry every day. The health of at least another two billion people is compromised by various micronutrient deficiencies. Another 2.1 billion people are overweight, of whom about a third are obese, consuming more food than their bodies need, and exposing themselves to greater risk of diabetes, heart problems and other diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Malnutrition in all its forms is an intolerable burden, not only on national health systems, but on the entire cultural, social and economic fabric of nations. It is a major impediment to development and the full realization of human potential. Many developing countries now face multiple burdens of malnutrition, with people living in the same communities—sometimes even within the same households—suffering from hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Increased food output has put greater stress on natural resources, degrading soils, polluting and exhausting fresh water supplies, encroaching on forests, depleting wild fish stocks and reducing biodiversity. More intensive farming, combined with massive food wastage, have also made the problems worse.

Healthy and sustainable food systems for healthier people

Current approaches to food production are simply not sustainable today, let alone in 2050, when we will have to feed nine billion people. Fortunately, we have the means to transform our production systems and consumption patterns to ensure nutrition-sensitive food systems.

A food system approach – from production to processing, storage, transportation, marketing, retailing and consumption – is key to promoting healthy diets and improving nutrition as isolated interventions have limited impacts. Creating strong and resilient food systems is the most practical, cost-efficient and sustainable way to address all forms of malnutrition. It must recognize that the vast majority of family farmers today are women, typically also the primary caregivers in homes.

We need to reshape food systems to sustainably produce foods and enable consumption conducive to better health while protecting and promoting the capacity of future generations to feed themselves. Nutrition must become one of the primary objectives of food system policies, interventions and investments, ensuring access to diverse and balanced diets.

Poor and monotonous diets—high in carbohydrate-rich staples, but lacking in diversity—are a major contributing factor to malnutrition. Since food systems have become increasingly complex and strongly influence people’s ability to consume healthy diets, coherent action and innovative food system solutions are needed to ensure access to sustainable, balanced and healthy diets for all.

These solutions should include the production, availability, accessibility and affordability of a variety of cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruits and animal source foods, including fish, meat, eggs and dairy products. Healthy diets contain adequate macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein), fibre and essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in line with World Health Organisation’s recommendations.

Consumption of meat, milk and eggs is growing rapidly in developing countries, providing more nutritious diets to populations than was previously the case. In addition, the livestock sector improves livelihoods and contributes to economic growth and incomes in rural economies. We must manage livestock production sustainably, since it contributes to climate change, environmental stress, transmission of diseases and other health issues due to increasing meat consumption. At every stage, resources must be used more efficiently, with less adverse impacts. Getting more and better food from water, land, and labour saves resources for the future and makes food systems more sustainable.

Greater commitment, better governance

All key sectors and players throughout the food system must be involved to make better use of food systems for improved nutrition. This requires better governance, a common vision and, above all, political commitment and coherent leadership, fostering participation and consultation among all stakeholders.

Globally, about a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In developing countries, most losses occur at the farm level and along the supply chain before reaching consumers. Reducing such losses, by improving harvesting, storage, processing and distribution practices, could increase food supplies, reduce food prices and reduce pressure on land and other scarce resources. In developed countries, the bulk of food waste occurs after purchase, so greater focus should be placed on consumer education and information.

There is the need to create an enabling environment to make it easier for consumers to make healthier food choices. Promoting healthier lifestyles through nutrition education, information and examples must be more effective. Changes in practices can reduce food waste and contribute to sustainable resource use.

Investing in better nutrition offers high economic returns. If US$1.2 billion per year is invested for five years to reduce micronutrient deficiencies, thus ensuring better health, less child deaths and stunting, as well as increased future earnings, generating annual economic gains to society worth around US$15 billion – a benefit to cost ratio of almost 13 to one.

The Second International Conference on Nutrition, held in Rome in late 2014, galvanised political commitment to enhance nutrition for all through better policies and international cooperation. Broad participation by all interested stakeholders in a coordinated and sustained effort over the next decade can be decisive for success.


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