Inter Press ServiceHealth – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 00:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 The Right to Choosehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/the-right-to-choose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-choose http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/the-right-to-choose/#respond Sun, 21 Oct 2018 17:41:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158275 Reproductive choice can transform the world and our goals towards a sustainable society, a new report says. Every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) examines the state of the world population. In this year’s report, the agency focuses on the power of reproductive choice and the role it can play to promote social and […]

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Manes Feston, flanked by her children, holds her four-month-old son Fedson. He was one of triplets but his siblings died because of a lack of welfare support. High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman. Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 21 2018 (IPS)

Reproductive choice can transform the world and our goals towards a sustainable society, a new report says.

Every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) examines the state of the world population. In this year’s report, the agency focuses on the power of reproductive choice and the role it can play to promote social and economic development.

“Choice can change the world,” UNFPA’s executive director Natalia Kanem said in the report’s foreword.

“It can rapidly improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families, and accelerate global development,” she added.

While progress has been achieved, the international community still has a ways to go, UNFPA’s Washington D.C. director Sarah Craven told IPS.

“There is no country in the world where reproductive rights and choices are enjoyed by all people at all times,” she said.

The State of the World Population 2018 report examines global fertility trends and how they are influenced by choice or the lack thereof.

High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman.

Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception.

UNFPA found that over 20 percent of women in the region want to avoid a pregnancy but have an unmet need for family planning.

At the same time, almost 20 million—or 38 percent—of the region’s pregnancies each year are unintended.

Practices such as early marriage, which is associated to an early start to child bearing, is also common.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 38 percent of women are married by the age of 18. In Niger, 76 percent of girls marry by the age of 18.

Child marriage, which is accompanied with the end of education and the lack of opportunities for employment and thus reduced earnings in adulthood, denies girls’ decision-making power and their right to choose.

It also hinders progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as the elimination of poverty, achievement of good health and well-being, and access to decent work.

Countries with high fertility have faster population growth, which poses challenges for governments already struggling to make progress on the SDGs and to provide education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.

On the other hand, while there are trends towards lower birth rates as a result of greater access to services, some women are having fewer children due to constraints rather than choice.

“The gap between desired and actual family size suggests that women and men are not fully able to realise their reproductive rights,” the report states.

For instance, the culture of overwork in East Asia has made it difficult for many to have both a career and a family.

In South Korea, almost 20 percent of employed women worked more than 54 hours a week in 2014.

The East Asian nation has a fertility rate of 1.17 births per woman, below the recommended replacement level of 2.1 and the level needed to sustain the current size of the population.

In Japan, which also has concerning fertility levels, the demanding work environment has even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork.

In 2013, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

In an effort to address this problem, both countries have started to put policies in place to restrict work hours.

However, women with children also often face discrimination in the labour market, which can be seen in countries such as South Korea and Japan where mothers predominately hold low-salary positions and have limited career options, resulting in vast gender wage gaps.

With fewer children and young adults, the labour force has been shrinking contributing to weaker economies.

At the same time, as older people account for larger shares of the population, governments face challenges to cover health-care costs and social security systems, further weakening economies.

Among the recommendations in the report is to provide universal access to quality reproductive healthcare, including access to modern contraceptives, make available sexuality education, and achieve gender equality.

“Choice can be a reality everywhere. This is something that governments should prioritise,” Craven told IPS.

In high fertility countries, there is a need for education on reproductive rights and employment opportunities for rural women while low fertility countries should implement family-friendly policies such as child care services and parental leave.

Questions and challenges remain as to how governments should achieve such policies as the debate over reproductive choice in many countries is often grounded in religious beliefs.

In the United States, a new set of proposed rules will expand religious exemptions, allowing employers to deny health care access such as reproductive health coverage and access to contraception.

In Saudi Arabia, child marriage is still widespread and often justified by clerics.

Craven expressed concern over any policy that restricts individuals to access information and services, and highlighted the importance of reproductive choice.

“You will not achieve the SDGs if you don’t also achieve reproductive rights of your citizens,” she said.

Kanem echoed similar sentiments in the foreword of the report, stating: “The way forward is the full realisation of reproductive rights, for every individual and couple, no matter where or how they live, or how much they earn…the real measure of progress is people themselves: especially the well-being of women and girls, their enjoyment of their rights and full equality, and the life choices that they are free to make.”

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Zero Hunger: Our Actions Today Are Our Future Tomorrowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/zero-hunger-actions-today-future-tomorrow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zero-hunger-actions-today-future-tomorrow http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/zero-hunger-actions-today-future-tomorrow/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 16:32:07 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158187 This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16

 
José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Zolia Morán Tun, from Tucurú, in the department of Alta Verapaz, in Guatemala, implements the piling trays to produce local plants, which they consume at the family level and sell the surplus. Initiatives like these help to move towards the goal of zero hunger. Credit: Luis Sánchez Díaz / FAO

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

Just three years ago, in September 2015, all United Nations Member States approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition (Sustainable Development Goal number 2) was defined by world leaders as a cardinal objective of the Agenda, a sine qua non condition for a safer, fairer and more peaceful world.

Paradoxically, global hunger has only grown since then. According to the latest estimates, the number of undernourished people in the world increased in 2017, for the third consecutive year. Last year, 821 million people suffered from hunger (11 percent of the world population – one in nine people on the planet), most of them family and subsistence farmers living in poor rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

However, the growing rate of undernourished people is not the only big challenge we are facing. Other forms of malnutrition have also increased. In 2017, at least 1.5 billion people suffered from micronutrient deficiencies that undermine their health and lives, At the same time, the proportion of adult obesity continues to rise , from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 13.3 percent in 2016 (or 672.3 million people).

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

Hunger is mainly circumscribed to specific areas, namely those ravaged by conflicts, droughts and extreme poverty; yet obesity is everywhere, and it is increasing all around the world. As a matter of fact, we are witnessing the globalization of obesity. For example: obesity rates are climbing faster in Africa than any other region – eight of the 20 countries in the world with the fastest rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa. Furthermore, childhood overweight affected 38 million children under five years of age in 2017. About 46 percent of these children live in Asia, while 25 percent live in Africa.

If we do not call for urgent actions to halt the increasing obesity rates, we soon may have more obese than undernourished people in the world. The growing rate of obesity is happening at a huge socio-economic cost. Obesity is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. Estimates indicate that the global economic impact of obesity is about USD 2 trillion per year (2.8 percent of the global GDP). This is equivalent to the impacts of smoking or armed conflicts.

This year, World Food Day (celebrated every 16th of October) aims to remind the international community of its fundamental political commitment to humanity – the eradication of all forms of malnutrition – and raise awareness that achieving a Zero Hunger world by 2030 (so in 12 years-time) is still possible. The experience of Brazil is a good example to have in mind.

According to FAO estimates, hunger in Brazil was reduced from 10.6 percent of the total population (about 19 million people) at the beginning of the 2000s to less than 2.5 percent in the 2008-2010 triennium, which is the minimum value in which FAO can make meaningful statistical inference. This reduction in the number of undernourished people was mainly possible due to the firm commitment of former President Lula and the implementation of public policies and social protection programmes addressing extreme poverty and the impacts of prolonged droughts in the northeastern part of the country.

In fact, governments have the most fundamental role in achieving Zero Hunger by ensuring that vulnerable people have sufficient income to buy the food they need, or the means to produce it for themselves – even in times of conflict.

However, world leaders have to bear in mind that the concept of Zero Hunger is broader and not limited to the fight against undernourishment. It aims to provide people with the necessary nutrients for a healthy life. Zero Hunger encompasses the eradication of all forms of malnutrition. So it is not just about feeding people but nourishing people as well.

Current global food systems have increased the availability and accessibility of processed food that is very caloric and energy-dense, high in fat, sugar and salt. Food systems must be transformed in a way so that all people can consume healthy and nutritious food. We need to address obesity as a public issue, not as an individual problem. This requires the adoption of a multisectoral approach involving not only governments, but also international organizations, national institutions, civil society organizations, the private sector and citizens in general.

It must be a collective effort towards healthy diets that include, for instance, the creation of norms such as labelling and the banning of some harmful ingredients, the introduction of nutrition in the school curriculum, the adoption of methods to avoid food loss and waste, and the establishment of trade agreements that do not hamper access to locally grown, fresh and nutritious food from family farming.

“Our actions are our future” is the message of World Food Day 2018. It is time to renew our commitment and, even more important, the political support towards a sustainable world free from hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

The post Zero Hunger: Our Actions Today Are Our Future Tomorrow appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16

 
José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Women & Youth Key to Achieving Agenda 2030 in South-South Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 10:52:12 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158159 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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India and Kenya signed agreements in the field of agriculture during Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to New Delhi. Credit: G.N. Jha

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

By 2050 Africa will have 830 million young people. Many countries in the global south, India included are seeing a youth(men and women) bulge. To reap a demographic dividend countries in the global south need to share and exchange knowledge to leapfrog socio-economic transformation.

When the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation Amongst Developing Countries (BAPA) was adopted, few would have predicted that only 40 years later, developing countries would be accounting for the largest levels of global economic output.

It is an acknowledgement of the fact that new pillars of growth and influence have clearly emerged from the global south that the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stress the importance of South-South cooperation in implementing the 2030 agenda.

Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development stresses the role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in achieving the SDGs.

South-South Cooperation (SSC) is on the rise in scale and scope. It is recognized as crucial in collective efforts to address challenges such as poverty eradication, climate change, food security, social protection, public health and infrastructure development.

SSC is seen by various development actors as a vital complement to North-South Development Cooperation. It may also represent the fertilization of a debate on how Overseas Development Aid flows relate to broader financing for development flows.

This year, 49 of the 55 member states of the African Union signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will come into effect once 22 countries ratify it. It will be the largest free trade area that creates an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of US$2.5 trillion.

At the moment, infrastructure projects account for just over half of South-South cooperation, with China leading in this area. India is a considerable player, with projects such as the Pan African E-Network Project that will connect African countries by a satellite and a fibre-optic network for tele-education, tele–medicine, internet and videoconferencing.

Yet the feeling persists that the potential of this cooperation has not been fully leveraged, and a key topic of discourse being how south to south cooperation can contribute to sustainable development and what more needs to be done to scale-up and improve such cooperation for sustainable development.

How do we ensure that trade, investment, technology transfer and knowledge sharing address the needs of recipient countries as prioritized in their development strategies?

These are the kind of questions that will preoccupy organisations such as the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and United Nations Development Programme(UNDP). These two are leading efforts to establish the South-South Global Thinkers initiative that will enable joint research and knowledge sharing to inform global policy dialogues on South-South cooperation for the SDGs.

Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator emphasized UNDP’s role in addressing the knowledge gap that many countries face when confronting their poverty challenges and emphasized that South-South Cooperation has become a “way we conduct business on a daily basis” because it has proven to deliver results on the ground.

If we are to keep our eyes on the overall goal of the SDGs – reduction of poverty – it is time to bring support to social sectors on the same level as infrastructure. It is time for investments to target the women and youth. Empowerment of these two groups provides the quickest pathway to poverty reduction especially in Africa, with agriculture-based investments the most promising sector.

Kenya’s economy is anchored on agriculture, where 70% of the population finds its upkeep. While in many regions crop yields have remained a step ahead of population growth, helping free them of hunger and famine, Africa has not managed to keep up with this trend; the impact of new technologies has been less apparent and agricultural productivity has stagnated, and even fallen in some areas.

In Africa’s agriculture sector, two-thirds of the labour force comprises women. Unfortunately, women farmers have less access to essential inputs—land, credit, fertilizers, new technologies and extension services. As a result, their yields tend to be less than optimum.

In addition, while African women are highly entrepreneurial and own about a third of all businesses across Africa, they are more likely to be running microenterprises in the informal sector, engaging in low-value-added activities that reap marginal returns.

If south-south investments are not deliberately designed for gender-responsiveness, the development course will continue to miss out on the multiplier effect that has been so well documented regarding women’s income. Women reinvest a much higher part of their earnings in their families and communities than men, spreading wealth and creating a positive impact on future development.

The World Bank says that agriculture will be a one trillion dollar business in Africa by 2030. Is there a better way to prepare to reap from part of this business than positioning the continent’s richest resource – the youth?

In his acceptance speech as the global champion of the youth agenda at the UN General Assembly 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “progress for the youth means progress for the entire humanity”.

In Kenya for example, one million young people join the work force every year. Of these young people, only about one in five is likely to find a formal job, with the rest either being unemployed or engaged in some non-wage earning occupation.

This means that Kenya needs a million new jobs every year for the next 10 years to keep up with the rapidly-expanding youth bulge. The median age of Kenyan farmers is 61, yet the median age of the population is 18. This is a potential force that must be involved in Agriculture.

To do this, creative and sustainable ways must be found to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture. With one of the fastest internet penetration rates, the youth in the country can be supported to exploit information technology for various value-addition ventures in agri-business.

This can be even more useful when focusing on areas with untapped potential, such as what is now known as the Blue Economy. Africa’s economies have continued to post remarkable growth rates, largely driven by the richness of its land-based natural resources, yet 38 of the continent’s 54 states are coastal.

India and Kenya have already made initial moves in this direction. Following the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kenya two years ago, the two governments agreed to pursue initiatives in the sustainable management and extraction of ocean-based resources.

India will be sharing with Kenya expertise on space-based applications to address natural resources management and weather forecasting, expertise that can be exploited to improve food output in the country.

The rise of SSC introduces new dynamics to international development cooperation. SSC challenges traditional donor aid relationships inasmuch as it promotes economic independence and collective self-reliance of developing countries, and aspires for cooperation on the basis of equality, solidarity and mutual benefit.

There is a need to re-orient SSDC, along with international development cooperation more broadly, to adhere to norms and guidelines that consistently takes into account human rights, equity, gender equality, decent work, ecological sustainability, democratic ownership and other key elements of social justice.

As President Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.”

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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TB Remains World’s Single Largest Infectious Killer, says WHOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/tb-remains-worlds-single-largest-infectious-killer-says/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tb-remains-worlds-single-largest-infectious-killer-says http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/tb-remains-worlds-single-largest-infectious-killer-says/#respond Wed, 10 Oct 2018 09:20:45 +0000 Mandy Slutsker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158091 Mandy Slutsker is the policy and advocacy manager for ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership’s Secretariat, Washington, D.C.

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A TB patient in a treatment facility in Liberia. Unlike him, many infected persons do not get the care they need. Credit: Francesco Pistilli

By Mandy Slutsker
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 10 2018 (IPS)

A disease that we know how to prevent, treat, and cure has become the world’s leading infectious killer: tuberculosis (TB), an airborne bacterial infection.

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), launched in New York on September 18, found for the fourth year in a row, that TB remains the world’s single largest infectious killer, responsible for 10 million infections and 1.6 million deaths in 2017.

Still, in many countries, the disease — and those who suffer from it — is overlooked as a normal part of poverty and treated as an unsolvable problem.

Such neglect is the real problem. Currently, we do not know the full extent of who is sick with TB. Out of the estimated 10 million people who became sick with the disease in in 2017, national health systems only identified 6.4 million.

This means they have failed to find and treat one out of every three people, or 3.6 million, with TB. In the TB community, we refer to these people as “missing”; they are real people out there suffering, who are undiagnosed or unreported, and where the quality of care – if there was care at all – is simply unknown.

How can we quell an epidemic where over one-third of people with the disease are missing? The truth is, we cannot. Infected with an airborne infectious disease, these “missing” people unknowingly spread TB to others. It is the responsibility of governments to invest the resources needed to find, treat, and prevent TB.

The good news is during the last two weeks, governments have taken historic steps to fight TB. On September 26, heads of state met in New York for the first-ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB and committed to finding all people with TB, including those who are “missing.”

The Political Declaration of the UNHLM calls on governments to find and treat 40 million people with TB by 2022 — a move that could finally change the course of history for the disease.

Recommendations for finding, treating, and preventing TB

To find the missing people, governments must take a few key actions.

To reach the missing millions, each government first needs to understand who is being missed and why. Many people with undiagnosed TB belong to vulnerable groups such as migrants, miners, refugees, children, and people living with HIV.

Sometimes, members of these groups are reluctant or unable to access healthcare due to stigma and fear of displacement. Others access care through the private sector, but their treatment is not reported to the Ministry of Health, so its quality cannot be assured.

Once a government knows who the system has missed, it should implement public health policies that focus on finding and treating those people. For example, if a large portion of missing TB cases are among children, policies should implement TB screening in places that serve children such as pediatric clinics, child care settings, and schools. Linking TB services with other health interventions (e.g., maternal and child health, nutrition, and HIV) can help identify and treat the sick.

Each government needs to improve the effectiveness of its TB program overall by adopting best practices and tools. Contact tracing is extremely effective in finding the missing people with TB. Starting with a person who has active TB, public health officials identify and screen for TB all those who have been in close contact with that person — family members, coworkers, or schoolmates – and screen them for TB.

Even if the contacts are not sick, they can take a prophylaxis that can prevent them from becoming sick with TB. Additionally, governments need to deploy appropriate tools. Microscopes often fail to detect TB in children, so chest X-rays may be a better option. Newer diagnostic tools such as GeneXpert and the LAM urine test have proven particularly effective at finding TB among people living with HIV.

Finally, when it comes to TB, the more you look, the more you find. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” Governments, donors, and the private sector need to back up policies for finding the missing people with funding to treat them.

Experts estimate that current investment in TB needs to be doubled to US$13 billion per year to effectively address TB — a target that countries have agreed to at the UNHLM.

Together, we can end TB

Each of us needs to hold our respective governments accountable to their UNHLM commitments by investing in either their national TB program budgets or foreign assistance.

Every government, as well as philanthropy and the private sector, has a role to play in reaching the UNHLM goal of finding and treating 40 million people with TB by 2022.

Countries that have prioritized finding their missing people, implementing effective policies, and increasing investments have had success. In 2011, the South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi rolled out the latest TB diagnostic tool, GeneXpert, as the first-line test to diagnose TB across the country.

Since then, the government has pushed TB screening among at-risk groups such a prisoners and mining communities with laudable results. As of 2017, all South African prisoners were screened for TB, and an estimated 90 percent of mines began routinely screening workers for the disease.

TB is preventable and curable and does not have to be the crisis that it is. By making commitments at the UNHLM on TB, governments have taken an important first step to correct this problem.

We in civil society and affected communities are ready to take the next steps with our governments. I am hopeful TB will soon be in the history books, on the list of deadly conditions eradicated from the human experience.

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Excerpt:

Mandy Slutsker is the policy and advocacy manager for ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership’s Secretariat, Washington, D.C.

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World Mental Health Day: IOM Honours Migrants’ Resilience During and After Difficult Journeyshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/world-mental-health-day-iom-honours-migrants-resilience-difficult-journeys/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-mental-health-day-iom-honours-migrants-resilience-difficult-journeys http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/world-mental-health-day-iom-honours-migrants-resilience-difficult-journeys/#respond Tue, 09 Oct 2018 15:00:52 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158099 Today, on World Mental Health Day, IOM would like to honour all the migrants who stand strong in the face of adversity and uphold human rights and values. Migration should be a positive experience, but often isn’t. As people move in search of opportunity, or in pursuit of new adventures, too often their journeys are […]

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Image courtesy of the World Federation for Mental Health. Source: Twitter @WMHDay

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Oct 9 2018 (IOM)

Today, on World Mental Health Day, IOM would like to honour all the migrants who stand strong in the face of adversity and uphold human rights and values. Migration should be a positive experience, but often isn’t. As people move in search of opportunity, or in pursuit of new adventures, too often their journeys are characterized by insecurity and sometimes physical danger, especially for those who are pushed to leave their countries of origin due to abuse or human rights violations that harm their mental health.

Studies show there is persistently high mental health vulnerability impacting migrants who experience physical and psychological trauma, torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Exploitation or other forms of abuse and violence during journeys also take their toll.[1] Even after reaching their destinations, some migrants come up against barriers to mental health care services, and experience high levels of distress due to discrimination and xenophobia, uncertain legal and economic status, family separation and poor housing conditions amongst other challenges.

Restrictive measures of migration management, such as prolonged detention, reportedly represent severe challenges for migrants’ mental health.[2] Scientific evidence shows the harmful impact of immigration detention on children.[3] Furthermore returns — particularly in the form of deportations — also can have a detrimental impact on a migrant’s mental health, leading to depression, anxiety and in some cases suicidal thoughts.[4]

The right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is explicitly described in several of the human rights treaties.[5] Yet more needs to be done to guarantee such a right in the migration context. Ensuring this right for migrants requires removing laws that restrict access to mental health-care based on migration status. Measures also need to be taken to address obstacles to access to mental health care services, such as language and cultural barriers, lack of health coverage and more. The right to good health is broader than access to health care and is interrelated to several other important rights such as the right to food, suitable housing, work, education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, the prohibition against torture, privacy, access to information, etc.[6]

Migrants’ mental health is improved when they feel safe, respected and productive. The vast majority of migrants contribute to making health care more affordable in countries of destination, and sometimes in countries of origin too.[7] There are also migrants who work as doctors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and care workers, serving with their expertise the improvement of overall health systems in their country of destination. A rights-based approach to migration management serves public health systems and societies at large. Together we can do more to translate this empirical evidence into reality.

[1] Kirmayer L. et. al., Common mental health problems in immigrants and refugees: general approach in primary care, CMAJ. 2011 Sep 6; 183(12): E959–E967.

[2] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, A/HRC/14/30, para 24.

[3] Lorek A, Ehntholt K, Nesbitt A, Wey E, Githinji C, Rossor E, et al. The mental and physical health difficulties of children held within a British immigration detention center: A pilot study. Child Abuse & Neglect 2009; 33:573–85; Steel Z, Momartin S, Bateman C, Hafshejani A, Silove DM. Psychiatric status of asylum seeker families held for a protracted period in a remote detention centre in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2004; 2(6):527–36; International Detention Coalition (2012) Captured Childhood Report, p. 49.

[4] Lersner et. al., Mental health of returnees: refugees in Germany prior to their state-sponsored repatriation, BMC International Health and Human Rights 2008, 8:8, p. 6 (URL: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-698X/8/8)

[5] Art. 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Art. 23 of the 1951 Refugee Convention; Art. 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); Arts 28 and 43, 45 (1) © of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990).

[6] Ibid, para. 3

[7] See for example: Is migration good for the economy? Migration Policy Debate, OECD May 2014; Sanket Mohapatra, Dilip Ratha, and Elina Scheja, Impact of Migration on Economic and Social Development: A review of evidence and emerging issues, World Bank Paper for the Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development 2010

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Over and Under Nutrition: Two Sides of an Unhealthy Coinhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/nutrition-two-sides-unhealthy-coin/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nutrition-two-sides-unhealthy-coin http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/nutrition-two-sides-unhealthy-coin/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 03:39:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157966 A dramatic shift in the way we eat and think about food is more urgent than ever to prevent further environmental degradation and an even larger health epidemic.    A diverse group of experts from academia, civil society, and United Nations agencies convened at the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the pervasive issue […]

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Poor dietary intake and lack of food varieties affect huge numbers of children, who mostly hail from large, impoverished families in Nepal. Malnutrition is a significant concern in Nepal as around one million children under 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition and 10 percent suffer from acute malnutrition. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2018 (IPS)

A dramatic shift in the way we eat and think about food is more urgent than ever to prevent further environmental degradation and an even larger health epidemic.   

A diverse group of experts from academia, civil society, and United Nations agencies convened at the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the pervasive issue of food insecurity and malnutrition and potential solutions to overhaul the system.“Sustainable food choices is starting to both look good and taste good which hasn’t been the story of the past.” -- founder of EAT Gunhild Stordalen

“It’s striking that we are still, despite all the advances we have seen in science and technology, we still have this big gap between those who eat too much and those who don’t have enough food to eat,” Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation’s head of media relations Luca Di Leo told IPS.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016, levels unseen for almost a decade.

At the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, obesity rates have rapidly increased over the last decade from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 13.2 percent in 2016. This means that in 2017, more than one in eight adults, or over 670 million people, in the world were obese.

Adult obesity and the rate of its increase is highest in North America, and increasing trends can now also be seen across Africa and Asia.

Participants at the International Forum on Food and Nutrition stressed the need to deal with both forms of malnutrition, and pointed to the lack of access to healthy food as the culprit.

“It’s not just what’s in the food, it’s what’s in the discourse about food…there is more than one way to eat badly,” said director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Centre David Katz.

However, many noted that there is a lack of a unified, factual consensus on what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system.

“Without goals to mobilise collective action, and also no mechanisms to either coordinate nor monitor progress, it is really hard to achieve large-scale system change,” said founder of EAT Foundation, a science-based global platform for food system transformation, Gunhild Stordalen.

Katz echoed similar sentiments, stating: “You will never get there if you can’t agree where there is…we must rally around a set of fundamental truths.”

Fighting the System

Among these truths is the need to overhaul the entire food and agricultural system.

Despite the notorious and shocking findings from the 2004 ‘Supersize Me’ documentary, the consumption of unhealthy processed foods and sugar has only increased.

According to the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, the United States had the highest sugar consumption out of 34 countries in 2017.

The average person in the U.S. consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day, twice the amount that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for daily intake.

This not only leads to increasing obesity rates, but it has also contributed to a rise in levels of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

“The number of lost years to nutritional deficiencies and cardiovascular diseases has been going up very sharply in the United States,” said Leo Abruzzese from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which develops the index.

“One of the U.S.’ less impressive exports has been bad nutrition…people aren’t necessarily dying but they are living pretty miserable lives. Under those circumstances, wouldn’t you think there has to be something done?” he told IPS.

The FSI also found that the U.S.’ consumption of meat and saturated fat is among the highest in the world, contributing to unhealthy diets and even climate change.

According to U.N. University, emissions from livestock account for almost 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and dairy alone make up 65 percent of all livestock emissions.

In fact, meat and dairy companies are on track to become the world’s biggest contributors to climate change, surpassing the fossil fuel industry.

However, Stordalen noted that delivering healthy and sustainable diets is within our reach.

Alternatives to meat have taken many countries by storm, and could slowly transform the fast food and meat industries. Consumers can now find the ‘impossible burger,’ a meatless plant-based burger, in many restaurants and fast food chains such as White Castle.

Recently, the U.S.-based vegan meat companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods was recently honoured by U.N. Environment with the Champions of the Earth award.

“Sustainable food choices is starting to both look good and taste good which hasn’t been the story of the past,” Stordalen said.

“Once people get the taste of better solutions, they not only start craving but even demanding  a better future. They come together to make it happen,” she added.

The FSI is also a crucial tool to guide governments and policymakers to pay attention to progress and weaknesses in their own country’s food systems.

“By collecting all of these [indicators] together, we essentially have a framework for what we think a good food system would look like,” Abruzzese said.

In some African countries even though there is enough food, it is the type of food that is available that counts. In Malawi, for instance, even though families had increased access to maize, nearly half the children are malnourished. In this dated picture, these children from south Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

A Problem of Power

The lack of access to healthy food and its consequences can also be seen at the other end of the food value chain: producers.

Women account for up to 60 percent of agricultural labour across Africa, yet still have poor access to quality seeds, fertiliser, and mechanical equipment. At the same time, they often look after the household, taking care of children and cooking meals.

Such gender inequality has been found to contribute to poorer household nutrition, including increases in stunting among children.

Forum participants highlighted the need to empower women farmers and address the gender inequalities in agriculture in order to advance food and nutrition security as well as establish sustainable societies.

“The opposite of hunger is power,” said University of Texas’ research professor Raj Patel, pointing to the case of Malawi.

In Malawi, more than half of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. The harvesting of corn, which is the southeastern African country’s main staple, is designated to women who are also tasked with care work.

“Even when there was more food, there was more malnutrition,” said Patel.

One northern Malawian village tackled the issue through the Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities Project and achieved extraordinary results.

Alongside actions to diversify crop, the project brought men and women together to share the workload such as cooking together and involving men in care work.

Not only did they achieve gender equality in agriculture, the village also saw dramatic decreases in infant malnutrition.

“We need to value women’s work,” Patel said.

Future of Food

Fixing the food and agricultural system is no easy task, but it has to be done, attendees said.

“We know what the problems are, we’ve also identified the potential solutions…and the main solution is each and every one of us,” Di Leo told IPS.

One of the key solutions is education and empowering people to be agents of change.

“Healthy production will come if the consumer ask for the healthy eating. And healthy eating will come if the consumer has the right education and information,” Di Leo said.

For instance, many do not see or know the link between food and climate change, he added.

In fact, a 2016 study found that there was a lack of awareness of the association between meat consumption and climate change and a resistance to the idea of reducing personal meat consumption.

“It’s a kind of change that needs a bottom-up approach,” Di Leo said.

Stordalen echoed Di Leo’s comments, calling for a global ‘dugnad’—a Norwegian word describing the act of a community uniting and working together to achieve a goal that will serve them all.

“The state of the global food system calls for new collaborative action,” she said.

“It’s time to officially ditch the saying that ‘the more cooks, the worse soup’ because we need everybody involved to serve our people and planet the right future.”

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Deaf or Dead? The Unbearable Choice for some TB Patientshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/deaf-dead-unbearable-choice-tb-patients/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deaf-dead-unbearable-choice-tb-patients http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/deaf-dead-unbearable-choice-tb-patients/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 14:54:41 +0000 Phumeza Tisile http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157950 Phumeza Tisile is a student at the University of Cape Town and an advocate working to help eradicate TB

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Phumeza Tisile is a student at the University of Cape Town and an advocate working to help eradicate TB

By Phumeza Tisile
CAPE TOWN, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Like death, hearing loss is irreversible. I never imagined that I would have to choose between the two until seven years ago when I became infected with tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease caused by an airborne bacterium.

TB is curable, but some strains are resistant to first line treatment, which can be the beginning of a nightmare for the infected person, as I found out in 2010. I was in the first year of undergraduate studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa. Life was normal. I had normal conversations with people. I listened to music and watched TV shows with no subtitles. I could hear.

Things changed when I began losing weight, rapidly enough to raise questions in my mind, I went to a doctor. After several rounds of testing, all of which came up negative for any serious ailments, the doctor recommended a chest X-ray. It showed that I had TB.

I took the prescribed medications but over time, the doctors were concerned that I was getting worse instead of improving. Another test showed that I had MDR-TB. The doctors said I would need to take up to 25 tablets a day for two years, including an injection called Kanamycin. That I would take once a day for at least six months. My normal life turned into distant memories.

I was a willing patient immediately, taking the treatment exactly as the doctors instructed. Kanamycin is a powder, to which water is added before it is injected into the muscle through a syringe. The sharp pain when the needle makes contact is nothing compared to the fiery feel of the drug entering the body. I endured it every day for four months until they were stopped for the worst possible reason.

I woke up one morning and something felt different but I could not immediately put my finger on what it was. Then I went to the bathroom; there was no sound of flushing toilet or water running from the tap. I reported this to the nurse and, as she talked back to me, I realized I could not hear her. My confusion deepened as I could not hear what I was saying either – could not hear my own voice!

The nurses took me to the audiology department at Brooklyn Chest Hospital for a hearing test—the first one I had ever had. I talked; the audiologist wrote down everything. They put headphones over my ears and played sounds. I heard buzzing. In large letters, the audiologist wrote “DEAF” on my folder.

I subsequently learned that I had extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB and that the kanamycin that had made me deaf did not work against the strain I had. I learned to lip read. I deleted the music on my phone. I found TV shows that had subtitles. This was my world for five years after I my TB was cured. When I became deaf my TB worsened. I was told I had Pre-XDR TB.

After an extended hospital stay and surgery, during which time I had suffered a broken rib and collapsed lung, I was discharged with directives to take my Pre-XDR tablets at home. Few months later I was told the medication was ineffective and that my chance of surviving was only 20 Percent.

I contemplated learning sign language but could not make myself do it. I was not ready to confront my deafness then. Research convinced me that my hear loss was permanent and irreversible and I discovered cochlear implants. I despaired at the expense at first but succeeded at fundraising to cover the cost- over US$42,000 with help from the TB advocacy community.

It is a tragedy to me that although TB is preventable and treatable, it is also the leading cause of death in South Africa, and often life altering condition for those who survive.

TB made nearly half a million South Africans sick in 2016 and caused more than 33,000 deaths. More attention from the government is needed to reduce ongoing transmission, ensure rapid testing for drug resistance in all patients being evaluated for TB, expand access to new drugs and identify and treat those infected with the TB bacteria before they become sick.

Although we can and must do more with the tools we have, investing in research for better drugs and diagnostic tools is essential to defeat TB.

I hope for these changes in 2018 and I am counting on our leaders to make them happen following their presence and their strong commitments at the United Nations High-Level meeting on TB, alongside the General Assembly in New York on September 26.

I am now back at the University of Cape Town. I can socialize, watch TV shows with no subtitles and listen to music again.

In a world of difficult choices, taking bold steps to end a preventable and curable disease like TB should be an easy one by far. Worldwide, it would prevent extreme suffering and financial ruin for hundreds of thousands like me.

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Excerpt:

Phumeza Tisile is a student at the University of Cape Town and an advocate working to help eradicate TB

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Making Every Euro Count in the Fight Against Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/making-every-euro-count-fight-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-every-euro-count-fight-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/making-every-euro-count-fight-malnutrition/#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2018 14:23:12 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157946 More money, and better spent, is what we need to end hunger and malnutrition

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just as it’s not enough to buy seeds to assure a good harvest, allocating funds will not suffice to eradicate all forms of malnutrition. Achieving that goal lies in making sure that the public policies and actions we take are truly effective.

Graziano da Silva with a group of women who are participating in a vegetable-growing project in Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria. Credit: FAO/Carlos Laorden

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Everybody wants to end hunger. That is what all UN-member countries stated when signing the 2030 Agenda for a better world: the second of its 17 goals aims at eradicating all forms of malnutrition (which include overweight, obesity or micronutrient deficiencies) and ensuring that everybody has access to nutritious and healthy foods.

Along with these good intentions, we have in recent decades seen real efforts and concrete commitments that have led to steady progress in this battle. Recent reports produced by FAO and other UN agencies, however, give us little cause for celebration. In 2017, the world was home to 821 million hungry people, almost 2.2 billion overweight people and 670 million obese adults (and this number is rising). On top of that, at least 1.5 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies that undermine their health and lives.

What do we really need to do to eradicate all forms of malnutrition?

Governments can’t do it on their own, nor can those with deep pockets acting alone. The same applies to international agencies, NGOs, civil society and/or the private sector working. We really need to combine and align our efforts.

In the first place, we need to acknowledge that this battle should receive high priority. The fight against hunger should not slip down in the list of global priorities such as climate change, migrations or population growth.

Addressing those challenges must in no way mean that we put aside our efforts to guarantee every human’s fundamental right to food, especially as the latter has a strong impact on the other challenges.

Secondly, we need more funds. It takes money to make things happen and Governments —the real game-changers— need resources to pave the way towards environmentally, economically and socially sustainable food systems. With so many priorities arising, though, funding is not enough. (Some $24.7 billion were needed to address humanitarian emergencies in 2017 alone, according to UN estimates.)

Nevertheless, just as it’s not enough to buy seeds to assure a good harvest, allocating funds will not suffice to eradicate all forms of malnutrition. Achieving that goal lies in making sure that the public policies and actions we take are truly effective.

Investment effectiveness requires several preconditions: reliable and strong data that allow policymakers to make informed decisions and assess if things are really going in the right direction; qualified staff to put plans in practice; technical assistance and expertise…

In short, what’s needed is an enabling environment where funds can flourish and lead to significant progress. In other words, we do not just need to buy seeds, but to find fertile soil, prepare the ground, water the fields and take good care of them so that we gather big returns.

In this interconnected world, that is no task for anyone to do alone. Governments can’t do it on their own, nor can those with deep pockets acting alone. The same applies to international agencies, NGOs, civil society and/or the private sector working. We really need to combine and align our efforts. That is the aim, for example, of the FIRST Programme, which assists Governments to design policies and create environments where food and nutrition security can flourish.

In FIRST, an important partner like the European Union and FAO, join forces side by side with Government officials in around 30 countries (from Cambodia to Chad and from Honduras to Afghanistan).

Food production should be done in a way that is sustainable and generates dividends in other areas. Policies towards eradicating hunger need to address every element of the food system. For example, boosting Nile perch production and exports in Lake Victoria will have little positive effect on food security if the benefits of those activities do not reach local communities.

Likewise, giving Guatemalan family farmers technical and financial support will not contribute to alleviate undernourishment if it does not include a gender perspective and considers the challenges that female rural farmers face and their key role in their households’ nourishment. Similarly, focusing too much on producing staple foods like rice or forgetting to promote the availability of diverse and nutritious fresh foods will unlikely result in a better nutritional status.

Even when priorities pile up on our agendas, we must not leave aside food and nutrition, which lie at the heart of life, health and development. To be sure, we are equally obliged to make the most out of every euro we spend on this front, and ensure that it leads to sustainable and long-term positive effects that reach everybody, especially the most vulnerable. There is no time —nor money— to be wasted.

The post Making Every Euro Count in the Fight Against Malnutrition appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

More money, and better spent, is what we need to end hunger and malnutrition

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Local Communities in Mexico Show Ways to Fight Obesityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/local-communities-mexico-show-ways-fight-obesity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-mexico-show-ways-fight-obesity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/local-communities-mexico-show-ways-fight-obesity/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 00:09:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157913 Manuel Villegas is one of the peasant farmers who decided to start planting amaranth in Mexico, to complement their corn and bean crops and thus expand production for sale and self-consumption and, ultimately, contribute to improving the nutrition of their communities. “Amaranth arrived in this part of the country in 2009, and some farmers were […]

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A farmer harvests amaranth in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. This grain, of which two of the varieties originated in Mexico, is part of the country's traditional diet and can help boost nutrition among Mexicans, who have been affected by skyrocketing consumption of junk food. Credit: Courtesy of Bridge to Community Health

A farmer harvests amaranth in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. This grain, of which two of the varieties originated in Mexico, is part of the country's traditional diet and can help boost nutrition among Mexicans, who have been affected by skyrocketing consumption of junk food. Credit: Courtesy of Bridge to Community Health

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Oct 2 2018 (IPS)

Manuel Villegas is one of the peasant farmers who decided to start planting amaranth in Mexico, to complement their corn and bean crops and thus expand production for sale and self-consumption and, ultimately, contribute to improving the nutrition of their communities.

“Amaranth arrived in this part of the country in 2009, and some farmers were already growing it when I began to grow it in 2013. It’s growing, but slowly,” Villegas, who is coordinator of the non-governmental Amaranth Network in the Mixteca region, in the southern state of Oaxaca, told IPS.

This crop has produced benefits such as the organisation of farmers, processors and consumers, the obtaining of public funding, as well as improving the nutrition of both consumers and growers."There was an increase in availability and accessibility of overly-processed foods. The State failed to implement public prevention policies. Children live in an obesogenic environment (an environment that promotes gaining weight and is not conducive to weight loss). It's a vulnerable group and companies take advantage of that to increase their sales," -- Fiorella Espinosa

“We have made amaranth part of our daily diet. It improves the diet because of its nutritional qualities, combined with other high-protein seeds,” said Villegas, who lives in the rural area of the municipality of Tlaxiaco, with about 34,000 inhabitants.

The peasant farmers brought together by the network in their region plant some 40 hectares of amaranth, although the effects of climate change forced them to cut back production to 12 tons in 2017 and six this year, due to a drought affecting the area. To cover their self-consumption, they keep 10 percent of the annual harvest.

Native products such as amaranth, in addition to defending foods from the traditional Mexican diet, help to contain the advance of obesity, which has become an epidemic in this Latin American country of nearly 130 million people, with health, social and economic consequences.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states in “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018,” published in August, that the prevalence of overweight among children under five fell from nine percent to 5.2 percent between 2012 and 2017. That means that the number of overweight children under that age fell from one million to 600,000.

On the other hand, the prevalence of obesity among the adult population (18 years and older) increased, from 26 percent to 28.4 percent. The number of obese adults went from 20.5 million to 24.3 million during the period.

The consequences of the phenomenon are also clear. One example is that mortality from diabetes type 2, the most common, climbed from 70.8 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013 to 84.7 in 2016, according to an update of indicators published in May by several institutions, including the health ministry.

Another impact reported in the same study is that deaths from high blood pressure went up from 16 per 100,000 inhabitants to 18.5.

Members of the Alliance for Food Health, a collective of organisations and academics, called in Mexico for better regulation of advertising of junk food aimed at children and of food and beverage labelling, during the launch of the report "A childhood hooked on obesity" in Mexico City in August. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Members of the Alliance for Food Health, a collective of organisations and academics, called in Mexico for better regulation of advertising of junk food aimed at children and of food and beverage labelling, during the launch of the report “A childhood hooked on obesity” in Mexico City in August. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

But the most eloquent and worrying data is that one in three children is obese or overweight, according to a report published in August by the non-governmental Alliance for Food Health, a group of organisations and academics.

What lies behind

Specialists and activists agree that among the root causes of the phenomenon is the change in eating habits, where the traditional diet based on age-old products has gradually been replaced by junk food, high in sugar, salt, fats, artificial colorants and other ingredients, which is injected from childhood through exposure to poorly regulated advertising.

Government strategy

In 2013, the government established the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity and Diabetes.

Its measures include the promotion of healthy habits, the creation of the Mexican Observatory on Non-Communicable Diseases (OMENT), the timely identification of people with risk factors, taxes on sugary beverages and the establishment of a voluntary seal of nutritional quality.

But the only progress made so far has been the creation of the observatory and the tax on soft drinks, since neither the regulation of food labels or advertising has come about.

In 2014, the state-run Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks created guidelines for front labeling of food and beverages, but did so without the participation of experts and civil society organisations and without complying with international World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

For this reason, the non-governmental The Power of Consumers took legal action in 2015, and the following year a federal judge ruled that the measures violated consumers' rights to health and information. The Supreme Court is now debating the future of labelling.

For Simón Barquera, an authority in nutrition research in the country, the solution is "complex" and requires "multiple actions.” "Society is responsible for attacking the causes of disease. The industry cannot interfere in public policy," he said.

The latest National Health and Nutrition Survey found low proportions of regular consumption of most recommended food groups, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes, in all population groups. For example, 40 percent of the calories children ages one to five eat come from over-processed foods.

For Fiorella Espinosa, a researcher on dietary health at the civil association The Power of Consumers, the liberalisation of trade in Mexico since the 1990s, the lack of regulation of advertising and nutritional labels of products, the displacement of native foods and the prioritisation of extensive farming over traditional farming are factors that led to the crisis.

“There was an increase in availability and accessibility of overly-processed foods. The State failed to implement public prevention policies. Children live in an obesogenic environment (an environment that promotes gaining weight and is not conducive to weight loss). It’s a vulnerable group and companies take advantage of that to increase their sales,” she told IPS.

The 2017 Food Sustainability Index, produced by the Italian non-governmental Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), showed that this country, the second-largest in terms of population and economy in Latin America, has indicators reflecting a prevalence of over-eating, low physical activity and inadequate dietary patterns.

The index, which ranks France first, followed by Japan and Germany, analyses 34 nations with respect to sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food loss and waste.

Obesity “is an epidemic that cannot be solved by nutrition education alone. It has structural determinants, such as the political environment, international trade, the environment and culture. It has social and economic barriers,” Simón Barquera, director of the Nutrition and Health Research Centre at the state-run National Institute of Public Health, told IPS.

Therefore, the Alliance for Food Health proposes a comprehensive strategy against overweight and obesity, which includes a law that incorporates increased taxes on unhealthy products, adequate labelling, better regulation of advertising and promotion of breastfeeding, among other measures.

The contribution of lifesaver crops such as amaranth

The organisations dedicated to the issue also highlight the recovery underway in communities in several states of traditional crops such as amaranth, a plant present in local food for 5,000 years and highly appreciated in the past because its grain contains twice the protein of corn and rice in addition to being rich in vitamins.

“We are looking for ways to generate changes at the community level in agriculture, food and family economy, focused on the cultivation of amaranth. We have realised that there has been a devaluation of the countryside and its role in adequate nutrition,” said Mauricio Villar, director of Social Economy for the non-governmental organisation Bridge to Nutritional Health.

Villar, also the coordinator of the Liaison Group for the Promotion of Amaranth in Mexico ,explained to IPS that “we are increasing our appreciation of peasant life and production, with impacts at different levels on nutrition,” to correct bad eating habits.

But according to Yatziri Zepeda, founder of the non-governmental AliMente Project, these local experiences, no matter how valuable their contribution, are limited in scope.

“These initiatives may generate changes at the local level and address some of the problems, but they are not sufficient to protect the right to health, among others. Obesity is not a matter of individual decisions, but of public policy. It is a political issue, there are very important corporate interests. It is multicausal and systemic,” she told IPS.

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Entrepreneurial about Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurial-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:00:41 +0000 Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157901 Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

By Hong Joo Hahm
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific needs more women entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality depend on it, as does the inclusive economic growth needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This drives a new initiative by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, generously supported by Global Affairs Canada, focused on improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance in our region.

Hong Joo Hahm

Establishing a business can be life-changing. Particularly for women in developing countries where it’s a passport to financial independence: a means of breaking out of poverty. More women in employment gives families financial security. It helps guarantee children a good diet, a solid education and reliable healthcare. And because women employ other women and spend more on their families, women entrepreneurs create more inclusive economies and prosperous communities. Potential GDP gains from gender equality in the workplace are enormous, up to 50 percent in parts of South Asia.

But for all this potential, businesswomen face considerable obstacles in Asia and the Pacific. Representation on company boards is lower than in any other region and women CEOs are precious few. Gender bias runs through inheritance, labour and social security laws. Many women work in the informal economy with no social protection and societal prejudice frustrates women’s entrepreneurial potential. Across Asia, women give up to six hours of unpaid care work a day: thwarting educational attainment and career prospects.

For women wanting to start or expand a business, access to finance is key. 70 percent of women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Women struggle to borrow in a region where land is required as collateral but where very few are landowners. So women-owned enterprises are consistently smaller and concentrated in less profitable sectors.

To overcome these challenges, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is launching a new initiative with generous financial support from Global Affairs Canada. Its goal: to support financing for women entrepreneurs and innovators, improve their access to information and communication technology (ICT), and create a policy environment in which their businesses can flourish. It will give twenty thousand women entrepreneurs greater access to ICT and finance.

ICT and innovative financing lie at the heart of the initiative. We want to support businesswomen mainstream ICT across business operations; to make their financial management more robust and their outlook more responsive to new technologies. We plan to launch “women bonds” for women entrepreneurs, channeling private sector investment from developed markets to support gender equality in the developing world. We will work with impact investment funds to target women-led investments. And encourage financial technology (fintech) solutions through advice on regulatory frameworks, training to help women access fintech services and new credit lines to support innovators.

Deeper gender analysis of the MSME sector will complement these activities. To inform policies which strengthen women’s rights and access to justice; reforms which update inheritance and property regimes; and legislation which stops credit being extended according to gender or marital status. For such a broad challenge, we will bring women entrepreneurs and policy makers together, to build a gender sensitive response across policy areas and governments.

The case for investing in women entrepreneurs is overwhelming. They are true agents of change whose innovation can lift communities, companies and countries. We are committed to improving their prospects, to unleashing women entrepreneurs’ full potential and putting gender equality squarely at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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A UN High-Level Meeting May See Hopes to End Tuberculosishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-high-level-meeting-may-see-hopes-end-tuberculosis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-high-level-meeting-may-see-hopes-end-tuberculosis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-high-level-meeting-may-see-hopes-end-tuberculosis/#respond Fri, 28 Sep 2018 09:51:27 +0000 Bobby John MD http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157834 Bobby John is a New Delhi based physician and global health advocate.

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Bobby John is a New Delhi based physician and global health advocate.

By Bobby John, MD
NEW DELHI, Sep 28 2018 (IPS)

In the early months of 1993, there was frenetic activity within the Geneva headquartered WHO’s Communicable Diseases program, to get Tuberculosis designated as a Global Emergency.

While countries like India had instituted TB Control programs as early as 1962, and Tanzania in the late 1970’s had shown field level evidence of programmatic innovations like directly observed treatment would reduce TB related mortality, the global reality was things were not going too well as far as reducing incidence and mortality for this age-old disease.

Frighteningly, for the western world at least, the disease had made a dramatic comeback, showing up in a drug resistant avatar in New York between 1991-92.

Fast forward 25 years – it is 2018: Tagged the world largest TB burden country, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed to India eliminating TB by 2025; and at last, TB had a special UN High Level Meeting on September 27th.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Delhi End TB Summit, March 13, 2018

The intervening 25 years since the declaration of the “Global TB Emergency” has seen robust growth of national TB control programs. The WHO expanded the list of 22 high burden countries of the late 1990s to include many more countries and three different categories of burden.

India, Indonesia, and Nigeria remain hosts to a large proportion of the global TB burden and represent the best opportunities for making the largest impact to it. Though Brazil, South Africa, and China also have sizeable TB burdens, they have remarkably responsive TB control programs in place already.

The toolkit to combat TB has changed somewhat too. There is a growing awareness that old diagnostic tools will not help. Newer technologies, available but still not entirely affordable by lower income countries at scale, need to be deployed extensively.

Advances in information technologies are also reshaping the use of old tools like chest X Rays, digitizing and transmitting them to cloud based servers where they are analyzed and reported back in minutes, without waiting on radiologists.

There is growing understanding that in the battle against bacilli, there will be the need to prevent the emergence of resistance, and where already present, manage with appropriate drug regimens. This is expensive, but no longer optional, and will require the same collective bargaining power that institutions like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria brought to the fore to bring down anti-malarial drug prices in the mid 2000’s.

While the bio-medical toolkit to combat TB will change, and it will – with enough urgent support and resources directed towards research and development, the greatest change needs to be in focusing political capital to the elimination of this age-old disease.

Tuberculosis in the community, like the mycobacterium bacilli inside the human lung, is to be found where there is little chance of it being discovered and dislodged easily. In real terms, communities and individuals who are on the margins of society, geographically or socially, are most likely to be where the disease continues to find its long-term incubatory refuge.

Without adequate political capital to reach, diagnose and treat those at the social and geographical margins, even the best new toolkit and operational innovation to fight TB will fail. Which is why Prime Minister Modi’s public statement on March 13th this year at the Delhi EndTB Summit is both welcome, and necessary to be replicated at sub-national and local levels, and in every other country where TB currently takes a toll.

When a disease elimination program is politically led, resources are eventually found. The Global Polio Elimination Initiative over the past 20 years showed us that. Tuberculosis has that moment in 2018.

The technical and TB program community, ably marshalled by the Stop TB Partnership, needs to provide the required assurances to those whose careers are electorally determined, that TB is a winning proposition, both from a public health perspective and from the good that it does to restoring individual productivity.

It is estimated that a dollar invested on TB control in today’s terms returns over $43 in cumulative productivity gains. It is the technical and program implementers community, from the WHO at global, regional and national levels, national health programs, partners like the World Bank and the Global Fund, and the myriad civil society organizations and voluntary groups who need to provide robust encouragement to, and backstop, the commitments political leaders make to their communities.

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis bacilli are notoriously insidious growers, taking their own time to make dramatic, debilitating appearances. One hopes that the growth features of the bacilli is a metaphor for the global movement against TB –long in the making, but truly dramatic in the way things change to eliminate the epidemic.

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Excerpt:

Bobby John is a New Delhi based physician and global health advocate.

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India Uses Tech to Power its New Battle Against Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 16:30:29 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157795 Kanaklata Raula from Kaptipada village in India’s Mayurbhanj District is on duty 24×7. The 52-year-old community health worker from Odisha state rides a bicycle for hours each day, visiting community members who need nutrition and reproductive healthcare. Raula’s main job is to ensure that the women and young children in her community are using the […]

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A mother and a child in Melghat district, an area in India with high rates of malnourishment. The government’s new POSHAN campaign aims to curb malnutrition by a significant margin by also using smartphones to collect relevant data. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
MAYURBHANJ DISTRICT, India, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Kanaklata Raula from Kaptipada village in India’s Mayurbhanj District is on duty 24×7. The 52-year-old community health worker from Odisha state rides a bicycle for hours each day, visiting community members who need nutrition and reproductive healthcare.

Raula’s main job is to ensure that the women and young children in her community are using the integrated free basic healthcare and nutrition services at the government-run community health and nutrition centre, locally known as Anganwadi.“Technology alone is not enough, we need to also reach the unreached population like the migrants who are too poor to afford a nutritious meal.” -- Laila Garda, the director of the KEM Hospital Research Centre in Pune city.

Raula monitors the health of all children under the age of six, checks their weight and their growth, ensures they are immunised and advises their mothers and other pregnant and nursing women on basic healthcare and nutrition. She then encourages them to regularly visit the Anganwadi.

But most important of all her duties, Raula is the record keeper of the community and notes, through numbers and statistics, the health of her patients. She then submits regular reports on the health of the community to the government.

“I am in charge of five villages. There are 300 families and more than 80 percent of them are poor tribal people. Without Anganwadi they will not be able to get proper nutrition for their children or necessary health supplements for themselves,” Raula, who received the best Anganwadi worker award in July by Plan India, the Indian arm of Plan International, tells IPS.

Life has gotten a little easier for Raula as the ministry of women and child development has decided to provide Anganwadi workers with smartphones or tablets with software especially designed to make their record-keeping and reporting easier.

India currently has the fourth-highest number of stunted people in the workforce in the world. Of these, 66 percent of  stunting is a result of childhood malnutrition, says a new World Bank report.

The recent National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 shows that while there is a declining trend in child stunting, the levels remain high at 38.4 percent in 2015/2016.

The survey noted increased levels of child wasting (where one’s weight is too low for their height); from 19.8 percent in 2005/2006 to 21 percent in 2015/2016. The country also has high levels of anaemia among children–58.4 percent of children under the age of six are anaemic.

To curb the alarming rate of malnutrition and stunting, India launched a new nutrition drive last November called Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonise Action for Nutrition (POSHAN). With a total budget of nine billion rupees (USD126 million), the campaign has an ambitious goal: to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weights by about two to three percent per annum.

According to information shared in national parliament by India’s minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi, POSHAN is using:

  • a mobile application that is made available to the community healthcare workers and is pre-loaded on mobile phones and,
  • a six-tier monitoring dashboard for desktops.

 

IT for ground data

But how will smartphones be used by the Anganwadi workers while in the field?

Pramila Rani Brahma, the social welfare minister for Assam state, in north eastern India, explains that the phones will be loaded with software called the Common Application System or CAS, which was specially built for the POSHAN campaign and developed in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Anganwadi workers will use the software to enter the details of their patients, including the number of children they see, their health updates, weight etc., and will send this report to headquarters.

Data on service delivery and its impact on nutrition outcomes will also be collected.

The desktop monitoring system will be used to monitor the delivery of services to children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. It will analyse the ground data and map the weight efficiency, height and nutrition status of children under five years.

“There are a total 11 registers which I have to regularly maintain. It [usually] takes many hours. I think it will save me a lot of time, which I can spend on serving the community better. I think it will also help send the information much more quickly to the higher officials,” Raula tells IPS.

According to Brahma, the 61,000-strong Anganwadi workers in Assam state have been struggling to submit their daily reports and even demanded computers or laptops.

There are currently nearly 1.3 million Anganwadi workers across India – all of whom will receive a simple, android data-enabled smartphone, according to the government. The phones will be distributed by the respective state governments, while the federal government and its ministry of women and child development will provide the funds.

“I was informed that, there are provisions to provide smartphones to the Anganwadi workers and several other states have already taken this initiative. We will provide the smartphones to the Anganwadi workers within a short period of time,” Brahma said to a group of journalists – which included IPS – at a state-organised workshop on nutrition in Guwahati, Assam.

An early success story

The IT-enabled nutrition campaign has already reaped some results, when it was first rolled out in June.

“We have given over 50,000 cellphones to Anganwadi workers through which they give us daily reports on how many children were provided food, how many were weighed, etc,” Gandhi said at press conference in New Delhi. “Until now, we have identified 12,000 children (as severely underweight) and we are following up on their status with the district officials,” she said.

Besides collecting numbers, Anganwadi workers are also using the smartphones for  surveying houses in their neighbourhoods and even sending photos of children eating a hot cooked meal at the Anganwadi.

An uphill task ahead

However, despite the new campaign, the road ahead for India to become malnutrition-neutral remains a difficult one.

One of the main reasons for this is that the country still has a huge population that continues to face acute hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation’s report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018, some 159 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people are undernourished.

The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 ranks 34 countries across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste. India ranks close to bottom on the index at 33. According to the index India ranks 32 in the world in food sustainability and human development. The centre will be hosting an international forum on food and nutrition this week as a side event to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday Sept. 28. One of the topics to be discussed is food and migration.

Kavita, a 22 year old domestic worker in Hyderabad’s Uppal neighbourhood, presents a perfect example of this.

She is a migrant labourer from Mahbubnagar—a rural district some 150 km away from Hyderabad—and despite labouring for nearly 12 hours each day, she is unable to afford a nutritious meal for her and her 18-month old daughter.

Every day Kavita cooks a simple meal of rice and tomato chutney for her and her child. Both the mother and daughter appear underweight and malnourished with a yellowish tinge to their hair and dark circles under their eyes. But the mother says that she has no time to visit an Anganwadi.

“I start working at 5 am and finish only at 4 pm. I have to work seven days a week. If I take one holiday, my employers will fire me. I heard that at the Anganwadi they give dhal, curry and even eggs to children. But I can’t afford to leave work and take my child there,” she tells IPS.

There are millions of poor migrants and floating workers like Kavita across urban India who are not aware of the government facilities or the POSHAN campaign and continue to be left out of these initiatives. According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there were 326 million internal migrants in the country as of 2007/2008.

Unless this huge population is covered, it will be difficult to achieve the targets of the POSHAN campaign, says Laila Garda, the director of the KEM Hospital Research Centre in Pune city, Maharashtra.

“Technology alone is not enough, we need to also reach the unreached population like the migrants who are too poor to afford a nutritious meal,” Garda, who has been working in community health for nearly two decades, tells IPS.

Chuna Ram, a community reporter and nutrition activist in Barmer, Rajastahan—one of the states in the country with the highest rate of malnutrition—says that government action must go beyond the rhetoric.

In Rajasthan, he says, the government has talked of providing smartphones  to the Anganwadi workers, but it has not happened yet.

“The general election is going to take place in 2019, so the government is making a lot of promises to woo the voters. But how much of these promises will actually be kept will decide how far the situation will change,” he tells IPS.

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End Tuberculosis by Empowering Community Health Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/end-tuberculosis-empowering-community-health-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=end-tuberculosis-empowering-community-health-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/end-tuberculosis-empowering-community-health-workers/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 10:26:07 +0000 David Bryden http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157729 “I’m alive because of support from my family and the community health worker who brought medicine directly to my house, accompanied me during treatment and gave me hope. Without care and human support, there’s no way I could be here today,” says Melquiades Huauya, a survivor of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from Peru. From his […]

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Credit: Nichole Sobecki / The Global Fund

By David Bryden
WASHINGTON DC, Sep 24 2018 (IPS)

“I’m alive because of support from my family and the community health worker who brought medicine directly to my house, accompanied me during treatment and gave me hope. Without care and human support, there’s no way I could be here today,” says Melquiades Huauya, a survivor of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from Peru.

From his harrowing experience with tuberculosis (TB), Huauya now knows a lot about how to stop it, the world’s biggest infectious disease killer. The disease, which claims about 4300 lives a day, is the subject of a United Nations’ High-Level Meeting on September 26 in New York, alongside the 73rd General Assembly.

Tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial infection that is preventable and curable, with the right medication. But, as Melquiades Huauya experienced, in addition to appropriate medication, it is “human support” that makes the difference between life and death.

Miriam Were, a noted Kenyan medical doctor and public health expert, states in a recent online presentation that community health workers are essential to providing culturally sensitive care and overcoming the distrust and “social distance” that keeps people from accessing the formal health care system and getting cured of diseases like TB.

Health facilities can also be many hours away from people’s homes, a common barrier to accessing care. As a result, of the 10 million people developing TB every year, 3.6 million are “missed” by the formal system and are unreported, and likely going untreated. In ten of the countries with high TB burdens, more than 45 percent of the people with TB are “missed.”

This includes children, who are highly vulnerable to TB. By fully tapping the potential of community health workers, we can identify and locate these people, connect them to care, and, ultimately, reduce and prevent further TB infections and other health conditions.

Consider the investment case by the South African Medical Research Council, issued in May 2018, entitled “Saving lives, saving costs.” The researchers found that an expanded and well-supported network of community health workers would have enormous benefits for South Africa, translating into 33,064 MDR-TB averted cases and saving 60,642 livesover a 10-year period.

According to the researchers, while such a strategy requires significant financial investment initially, the cost-saving will, ultimately, be more than offset by preventing the disease and costly hospitalization.

By recruiting previously unemployed people from the same disadvantaged communities to visit the homes of TB patients and seek out others in need of TB screening, the economy will also benefit. And, according to the analysis, other health issues can also be addressed through this approach, including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and hypertension.

Several countries are already using an expanded network of community health workers to stop TB, similar to the program in Peru, which was so crucial to Huauya’s recovery. In 2003, Ethiopia began training and employing female village-based health workers, called health extension workers, to regularly visit households in their villages to implement basic packages of healthcare.

These visits have identified people with TB and given essential support to patients already taking the long course of treatment. This has helped deliver very impressive results, with the country seeing a significant reduction in TB. Pakistan and Bangladesh have also successfully used community health workers to reduce TB.

Still, there are also major challenges facing community health workers. Were says most abandon their jobs when they realize it is a dead-end, without prospects of advancement; attrition is as high as 70 percent in some places.

She emphasizes that community health workers need adequate training, supervision, and remuneration to keep serving their communities. They also need back-up from qualified nurses and doctors to whom they can refer patients.

Care-givers also need care themselves. Frontline health workers are frequently exposed to TB and other health risks due to inadequate protection, such as masks and respirators, or environmental measures to lessen the danger.

The result is that healthcare personnel have significantly higher rates of developing TB, including often-deadly MDR-TB , as documented by the South African organization, TB Proof.

Facing a three to six times increased risk, related inadequate working conditions and a lack of supplies or equipment, can lead to poor morale and high rates of attrition, further adversely affecting the quality of care.

Tuberculosis cannot be defeated unless these challenges are addressed head-on. For the UN High Level Meeting, all member states have agreed on a Political Declaration on the Fight Against Tuberculosis, and it contains a key promise: that they “Commit to find the missing people with tuberculosis.”

To keep this promise, governments must lay out specific and costed plans for training, protecting and compensating the frontline health care workers who do the hard work of going out into the community, even going door-to-door, to find people in need and give them hope. As Were puts it, “If it doesn’t happen in the community, it doesn’t happen.”

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Worldwide Effects of Asbestos Usehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/worldwide-effects-asbestos-use/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-effects-asbestos-use http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/worldwide-effects-asbestos-use/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 14:53:45 +0000 Emily Walsh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157623 Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen. Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the linings of internal organs.

By Emily Walsh
WALLINGFORD, CT, US, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen. Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the linings of internal organs.

What is a Significant New Use Rule?

A SNUR can be required when chemical substances or mixtures are under review for new uses that may cause changes to current policy, or create concerns around environmental health. There are four criteria to determine whether a SNUR is in order. They are volume, type of human or environmental exposure, extent of human or environmental exposure, and method or manner of processing and distribution of the substance.

The rule states, “the Agency has found no information indicating that the following uses are ongoing, and therefore, the following uses are subject to this proposed SNUR,” before going on to list a number of uses that had previously been regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act because of the health threats posed by asbestos in these capacities.

Though sixty five countries around the world have banned asbestos, heavy hitters like Russia, China, and the United States have not

Any person or corporation wishing to take advantage of the relaxation of asbestos regulations must notify the EPA at least 90 days prior to manufacturing.

After the news of this new rule was released to the American public, news outlets recoiled from the rule, pointing out that by opening up asbestos production to a case-by-case basis, it would create a backlog of EPA notifications and lead to more production of the dangerous mineral.

EPA spokesman James Hewitt told NBC News that this interpretation of the rule was inaccurate.

“Without [the SNUR], the EPA would not have a regulatory basis to restrict manufacturing and processing for the new asbestos uses covered by the rule,” Hewitt said. “The EPA action would prohibit companies from manufacturing, importing, or processing for these new uses of asbestos unless they receive approval from the EPA.”

Of course, without the SNUR, there would be no opening for manufacturing, and therefore no need for a regulatory basis to restrict it. Organizations like the Asbestos Disease and Awareness Organization (ADAO) are pushing for a full scale ban of the material as an amendment to the Toxic Substance Control Act.

It seems that the only way to responsibly use asbestos is to not use it at all.

 

Asbestos Use Worldwide

Though many countries have banned or severely restricted the use of asbestos, it still remains a threat to human and environmental health around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos in the workplace alone. This mineral can also be found in the home, the environment, or even just walking by a construction site. The WHO also estimated that, “several thousand deaths annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.”

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals, divided into six types, all of which are carcinogenic to humans. The mineral is used mainly in construction materials for its valuable properties of insulation, sound absorption, and fire retardancy.

In 2007 the World Health Assembly (WHA) endorsed a worldwide action plan for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases, by way of increased regulation of all forms of asbestos. However, this plan doesn’t give the WHA any actual regulatory power in member states.

This “action plan” may be an effective framework for countries wishing to invest time into asbestos regulation and reduction, but doesn’t attain concrete goals of a worldwide asbestos ban. That often falls to the member states themselves.

Though sixty five countries around the world have banned asbestos, heavy hitters like Russia, China, and the United States have not.

 

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen. Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the linings of internal organs.

 

Why is Asbestos a Problem?

Asbestos remains a problem because of its continued use and horrifying effects. This mineral can cause health problems like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. All of these are dangerous diseases with far reaching consequences and health repercussions.

Mesothelioma, which takes 2,500 lives per year in the United States alone, is a devastating disease. This cancer has a long latency and then moves quickly and ruthlessly once fully developed. It can take 10 to 50 years for mesothelioma to appear, and only 7-9% of patients live longer than a year from diagnosis.

There are three types of mesothelioma, each occurring in the internal lining of a different part of the body. Pleural mesothelioma takes residence in the lungs and is the most common form of mesothelioma, pericardial lives in the heart’s lining, and peritoneal forms in the abdominal wall.

Typically cancer is measured in percentages of 5-year survival rates, but because of the extremely aggressive nature of mesothelioma, one year percentages are a more apt descriptor. Survival rates for each form of mesothelioma get lower the longer someone has the disease, and vary across pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial, with pericardial being consistently the lowest.

It is estimated that this disease takes up to 43,000 lives annually worldwide. This is a global issue, that should be treated as a serious public health concern.

 

The Canadian Example

Canada can be looked to as an example of how asbestos should be treated and mitigated. As recently as 2011, the country was a major exporter of the material and even headquartered The Chrysotile Institute in Quebec. Chrysotile Asbestos is the most common form of the mineral and is still mined around the world today.

By January of 2018, a full plan to prohibit the sale, use, import and export of the mineral was proposed and sponsored by the federal health and environment departments of the Canadian government.

This pivot from asbestos industry hub to shining example of how to implement a full asbestos ban was precipitated by many factors, which should be studied and replicated around the globe.

The Jeffrey mine, located in the town of Asbestos in Quebec, Canada was once the world’s largest asbestos mine, and was fully functional until 2011. The government in power at that time, the Quebec Liberal Party, had promised a $58 million loan in June of 2012 to reopen the mine.

When the party was defeated in September 2012 by the Parti Québécois, the loan was canceled and the Jeffrey mine, as well as the LAB Chrysotile mine closed down. Without the partisan support and financial support of the government, the asbestos industry was put at a standstill in Canada.

Concern around asbestos in Canada quieted down after the loan was canceled and the mines closed, until 2016 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party along with the Quebec National Assembly announced that a full ban on asbestos would be passed by 2018.

Leading up to the cancellation of the 2012 loan were petitions written by scientists expressing the financial and public health impacts of continued asbestos use and production, as well as citizen and nonprofit campaigns on the issue.

Basing these campaigns on solid scientific evidence drew the attention of the Parti Québécois, who noticed that asbestos regulation would be an advantageous campaign to support, which in turn cut off the financial support the industry so desperately needed.

 

What Can Be Done?

Looking to other countries around the world, lessons can be gained from Canada’s example. The first step in the Canadian change of wind was the attention of citizen and scientific organizations to the issue, which made asbestos reform an attractive political platform.

After citizen support garnered political attention and the political leaders found a way to cut off financial support, the asbestos industry had little to no chance of recovering in Canada. Replicating, or at least drawing lessons from this example, could be valuable for a worldwide asbestos ban.

This September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Taking this day to reflect on Canada’s example and educate the public about the threat of asbestos in the home and workplace are vitally important to the eradication of this disease.

 

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Excerpt:

Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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Global Warming Threatens Europe’s Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:16:43 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157598 Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent. This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are […]

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Parched olive groves in northern Croatia, where West Nile Virus has already claimed one victim this year. West Nile Virus infections have sharply increased in Europe this year, the World Health Organisation says, largely due to a longer transmission season in the region which this year saw high temperatures and extended rainy spells followed by dry weather, helping mosquito breeding and propagation. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent.

This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are left parched.

It has also, though, seen a spike in cases of the West Nile Virus – which by early September had claimed 71 lives – and the dramatic spread of the potentially lethal vibrio bacteria in an exceptionally warm Baltic Sea. The West Nile Virus is a viral infection spread by mosquitos and can cause neurological disease and death. Various species of vibrio bacteria cause Vibriosis, which can sometimes lead to deadly skin infections or gastrointestinal disease.“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.” -- Anne Stauffer, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

And there have been warnings that global warming has increased the risk of tick-borne diseases on the continent and that the geographical range of mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, is also expanding.

While disease experts are keen to stress that climate change is just one factor involved in the greater incidence of tropical diseases in Europe – increasing global travel, unplanned urbanisation and others factors are also involved – they do, however, agree that changes to temperature, rainfall and humidity make it easier for mosquitoes and other vectors to spread, survive and pass on infections.

Meanwhile, the incidences of vibrio infections – which can cause lethal illnesses in some people with compromised immune systems – reported in the Baltic Sea this year do appear to be directly linked to higher temperatures.

Jan Semenza, acting head of Section Scientific Assessment at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told IPS: “The warming of the Baltic Sea is clearly related to global climate change and the increase in sea surface temperatures there is linked to [the increase in] vibrio bacteria.

“There seems to be a link with a warming climate and vibrio infections in the Baltic Sea.”

He added: “Climate change projections for sea surface temperature ….. indicate a marked upward trend during the summer months and an increase in the relative risk of  these infections in the coming decades.”

Groups dealing with the impact of climate change on health say that this year has been a watershed in European perception of climate change and its effects.

Anne Stauffer, director of Strategy at the non-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) group which addresses the effects of climate change on human health, told IPS: “In terms of public awareness this summer’s heatwave has really made people see that climate change is happening in Europe and that we are facing threats.

“In previous years people thought about the effects of climate change only in terms of what’s happened in Africa and other places, not Europe, but now they see that Europe is affected and that Europe is facing challenges.”

But while public awareness of the health threats of climate change in Europe has improved over the last decade, it is still lacking, she says.

Experts on tropical diseases agree that in some countries, people are, perhaps understandably, ignorant of even the presence of certain diseases in Europe.

Rachel Lowe, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told IPS: “It would probably not occur to a lot of people in, say the [United Kingdom], to think about West Nile Virus when they go to Romania.”

Indeed, some tropical diseases have been present in Europe for many years, but confined to very southerly latitudes, while ticks, some of which can carry lyme disease (results in flu-like symptoms and a rash) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain through an infection), are present in many parts of the continent.

But this year has seen a rise in cases of tick-borne encephalitis in central and southern Europe.

But with temperatures rising, that could change in the future. Cases of West Nile Virus, which have been reported in some parts of Europe for many years now, were much higher this year than in recent years and were seen much earlier than previously. This has been put down, in large part, to higher temperatures earlier in the year.

At the same time, there has been a documented expansion in the range of disease-carrying ticks in recent years to more northerly latitudes and higher elevations. Hot summers and mild winters have also been reported to be linked, along with other factors, to high incidence of tick-borne disease in certain parts of central and northern Europe.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) told IPS: “Increases in temperatures in Europe might allow the establishment of tropical and semitropical vector species, permitting transmission of diseases in areas where low temperatures have hitherto prevented their over-wintering.”

Facing this potential threat, the WHO’s European Region Office has devoted increasing attention over recent years to what it says is the “emerging challenge of vector-borne diseases”.

It has developed a regional framework for surveillance and control of mosquitoes and recommends involving a mix of action, including, among others, political commitment supported with adequate financial resources as well as community engagement for both personal protection against insect bites and vector control activities.

But experts say that general awareness of the presence and threat of tropical diseases in Europe needs to be raised, especially as climate change models see similar long, hot summers as well as milder winters becoming more common across the continent in future and countries could suddenly face outbreaks of diseases they have not had to deal with in the past.

The WHO spokesperson told IPS: “Due to globalisation, increasing volume and pace of travel and trade and weather patterns, vector-borne disease may spread to new areas, thus affecting new populations never exposed to them before.

“In these areas, low general awareness about diseases such as West Nile Virus, dengue or chikungunya among the public and both human and animal health professionals might challenge early detection of cases.”

And Lowe told IPS: “People need to be more aware of this [tropical diseases in Europe]. People are becoming more aware of infectious diseases in general, but probably not so aware of the fact there are certain infectious diseases in Europe.”

It is not just public awareness, though, which will help Europe deal with the health threats posed by a changing climate. Whether, for example, mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, would be successfully contained, would depend on a number of factors. “This would include factors such as surveillance of mosquito spread, mosquito control as well as general public awareness,” Lowe told IPS.

The WHO told IPS that public health advice needs to be communicated to people for self-protection and while authorities need to make sure mosquito breeding sites are drained so that they do not become breeding grounds for mosquitos while doctors need to be regularly trained to recognise diseases which were uncommon in Europe.

But what some other experts suggest is, rather than trying to deal with outbreaks of diseases, governments should be working to halt climate change and prevent disease outbreaks happening in the first place.

Stauffer told IPS: “There are still unknowns with regards to the health threats potentially posed by climate change and we do not know how they will play out… but the lesson learnt from this summer is that we need to strengthen efforts to tackle climate change – not just adapting healthcare to cope with a warmer climate but also acting to reduce emissions.

“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.”

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

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Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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Why India’s Solar Water-Drawing ATMs and Irrigation Pumping Systems Offer Replicable Strategieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indias-solar-water-drawing-atms-irrigation-pumping-systems-offer-replicable-strategies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-solar-water-drawing-atms-irrigation-pumping-systems-offer-replicable-strategies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indias-solar-water-drawing-atms-irrigation-pumping-systems-offer-replicable-strategies/#respond Tue, 28 Aug 2018 08:54:18 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157362 At New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement, waterborne diseases have become less frequent thanks to solar-powered water ATMs that were installed here as a social enterprise venture three years ago. “The water is cheap, reliable and fresh-tasting,” Saeeda, a mother of three who lives close to an ATM, tells IPS. Each day, Saeeda collects up […]

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A man draws water from a solar-powered water ATM in New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement. Thanks to these machines, which allow users to withdraw water with a rechargeable card, waterborne diseases have become less frequent here. Credit: Ranjit Devraj/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DEHLI, Aug 28 2018 (IPS)

At New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement, waterborne diseases have become less frequent thanks to solar-powered water ATMs that were installed here as a social enterprise venture three years ago.

“The water is cheap, reliable and fresh-tasting,” Saeeda, a mother of three who lives close to an ATM, tells IPS. Each day, Saeeda collects up to 15 litres of water from the ATM, paying 30 paisa per litre for the water with a rechargeable card. It means she pays 4.5 Rupees (about 6 US cents) for 15 litres of pure drinking water. It is convenient and cheap as bottled drinking water costs about 20 Rupees (about 30 US cents).Over the last 25 years India’s ministry of new and renewable energy, a GGGI partner, has developed specialised programmes for both drinking water as well as irrigation systems using solar water pumping systems of which there are now an estimated 15,000 units.

Installed by Piramal Sarvajal, as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, the decentralised drinking water project for urban slums now provides access to clean water to some 10,000 families in six slum clusters, Amit Mishra, the project’s operations manager, tells IPS.

Mishra says that each water ATM, though locally operated through a franchise system and powered using solar panels, is centrally controlled through cloud technology that integrates 1,100 touch points in 16 states. The result is reduced costs that allow round-the-clock provision of pure drinking water to underserved communities.

Sarvajal Piramal is not the only group that has set up solar-powered water ATMs in New Delhi or other parts of Delhi. Solar-powered water ATMs are part of a plan to use solar power to supply water for India’s vast 1.3 billion people, not only for drinking, but also for agricultural use.

“This is the kind of decentralised, neighbourhood solutions that the Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) is interested in,” the Netherlands-based group’s deputy director and water sector lead, Peter Vos, tells IPS. “However, solutions of this type may not be ideal in all situations, since the networks may require a lot of maintenance and can be costly.”

GGGI, says Vos, is interested in promoting policies that allow efficient use of limited water resources sustainably and at reasonable cost. “We do this by embedding ourselves in key ministries concerned with renewable energy, rural development as well as water and sanitation.”

Currently, GGGI has an approved budget of USD 1.37 million dollars for knowledge sharing, transfer of green technologies and capacity building in order to meet global commitments towards implementation of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris agreement. “Facilitating the flow of domestic and international climate finance and investment would be a key contribution to support India’s NDC implementation,” Vos says.

India’s setting up of the International Solar Alliance, an alliance that facilitates cooperation among sun-rich countries, provides GGGI an opportunity to disseminate renewable energy best practices with 18 GGGI member countries and seven partner countries—India and China are partner countries and prospective members.

As a predominantly agricultural country, with the world’s largest irrigated area serviced by some 26 million groundwater pumps mostly run on diesel or electricity, GGGI is keenly interested in India’s plans to switch to the use of solar power for irrigation.

Electric pumps are considered unreliable and diesel is costly. To keep them running, India spends about USD 6 million in annual subsidies that create their own distortions. Farmers tend to waste electricity as well as water thanks to the subsidies, Vos explains.

Under India’s National Solar Mission programme, farmers are now supported with capital cost subsidies for solar pump systems. A credit-linked subsidy scheme invites local institutions across the country to provide loans to reduce the subsidy burden on the government and make the system affordable for farmers.

According to a GGGI study released in 2017, the ‘context-specific delivery models’ used in the solar pump programme have resulted in noteworthy initial successes in terms of economic and social benefits, emission reductions, reduced reliance on subsides, increased agricultural output, development of new businesses, job-creation and improved incomes and livelihoods in rural areas.

India’s models offer replicable strategies to support solar irrigation pumping systems in other countries where GGGI has a presence, says Vos. In fact, the Indian government has plans to export solar pumping systems and expertise to countries interested in greener alternatives for irrigation.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), irrigation is becoming an important part of global agricultural production, consuming about 70 percent of global freshwater resources and reliable irrigation. However, using solar-powered systems can increase crop yields four-fold and can be key to national objectives like achieving food security.

Over the last 25 years India’s ministry of new and renewable energy, a GGGI partner, has developed specialised programmes for both drinking water as well as irrigation systems using solar water pumping systems of which there are now an estimated 15,000 units.

The progress has not been entirely without a hitch and, so far, the solar water-pumping market has remained relatively small primarily due to high up-front capital costs and low awareness among farmers as well as users of drinking water provided through ATMs.

A study of the Savda Ghevra slum showed that it took 18 months before the first ATM could be provided to Piramal Sarvajal. And then only 37 percent of the residents were using the ATMs as a primary or secondary source of potable water.

The study found that the ATMs were more than covering operating costs and generating revenue for Piramal Sarvajal, and could reach a wider population with government or other support, especially in the rural areas. The monies generated by Piramal Sarvajal are used to pay salaries and to maintain the machines.

According to the government’s own figures, presented in parliament in 2017; out of 167.8 million households in rural India only 2.9 million or 16 percent have access to safe drinking water. GGGI with its  considerable experience and expertise around the world is well-placed to step in, says Vos.

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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Making the Case for Investing in Water, Sanitation & Hygienehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/making-case-investing-water-sanitation-hygiene/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-case-investing-water-sanitation-hygiene http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/making-case-investing-water-sanitation-hygiene/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 15:06:56 +0000 Ruth Romer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157353 Ruth Romer is Private Sector Advisor, WaterAid UK

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Making the Case for Investing in Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Credit: Abir Abdullah/WaterAid

By Ruth Romer
LONDON, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

Tea picker Bina, 45 from Sylhet, Bangladesh, used to walk for an hour each day to collect water from a well, also using water from a nearby stream, which was contaminated. Bina and her children were often sick as a result; leading to missed work and a loss of income.

WaterAid worked with the owner of the tea estate to introduce clean water and toilets in the tea gardens and surrounding areas. The new pumps and latrines have transformed Bina’s life, and have benefitted the estate too. A tea garden manager said: “Waterborne diseases have reduced so we pay fewer sick days. Efficiency has increased.”

It is clear that access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) increases productivity and results in economic benefits. There are fewer illnesses and deaths due to diarrhoeal disease, time benefits as staff seek less healthcare, and greater productivity.

In macro-economic terms, it is estimated that every dollar invested in sanitation returns US$5.5 in benefits and every dollar invested in drinking water supply returns US$2. Yet 844 million of people still don’t have access to this vital resource.
In macro-economic terms, it is estimated that every dollar invested in sanitation returns US$5.5 in benefits and every dollar invested in drinking water supply returns US$2. Yet 844 million of people still don’t have access to this vital resource.

Business must be part of the solution to the global WASH crisis; no one organisation or sector will be able to tackle it alone.

The global challenge and the role of business

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 is clean water and sanitation for all by 2030, and currently, the world is on course to fail to reach this. Good governance and partnerships are vital for progress.

Globalised operations and supply chains mean businesses are often operating where the lack of access to WASH is most serious. In a report released by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, water is posed as both a risk and an opportunity for businesses. And while it commends the 47 companies that have committed to providing access to clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene to their employees, it calls on more to get on board.

Some companies are starting to recognise there are business benefits from investing in WASH, which go beyond the moral commitments of companies to invest and contribute to the human rights, health and safety of workers like Bina in the tea gardens.

Making the business case for WASH

However, one key problem is there is not enough company-level data to build a compelling case for business action on WASH. There is a growing body of positive case studies, but the evidence remains largely anecdotal and unquantified. To drive action at the speed required to reach everyone everywhere by 2030, the sector needs more robust evidence showing the financial value.

In response, WaterAid has launched a new guide, which has been championed by Diageo, Gap Inc. and Unilever, and endorsed by the initiative WASH4Work. The guide will help companies provide evidence of the benefits and financial value, or return on investment, of their WASH programmes, and make the case for greater investment in it within the company and beyond. It provides an opportunity for progressive companies to lead and showcase the incentives for business investment on these basic facilities whilst catalysing action.

It also responds to the growing need for the evidence that improving access to clean water, good sanitation and hygiene should be more than a philanthropic measure or means to tick a corporate social responsibility box; it should be a core business priority.

Diageo, Gap Inc., Unilever and HSBC are already leading the charge and investing in WASH. Diageo is rolling out the guide in Ethiopia, HSBC in India and Bangladesh. Gap Inc. is exploring current opportunities to test the guide in its supply chain as is Unilever.

The new guide launched at World Water Week in Stockholm this August and calls for companies to use the guide – test it, learn from it and share your results with us. We will be developing a community of learning via WASH4Work and we will plan to compile the data and share a consolidated business case in due course.

For real change to be made, more companies need to scale up their WASH investments in the workplace, communities and in supply chains.  Sustainability is no longer a fringe ‘green’ issue.

It has moved from the corporate margins into the mainstream, and it’s time for SDG thinking to be absorbed into business-as-usual. As far as citizens are concerned, waiting isn’t an option – nor is leaving SDGs for others to achieve.

The post Making the Case for Investing in Water, Sanitation & Hygiene appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Ruth Romer is Private Sector Advisor, WaterAid UK

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The Fight for the Right to Abortion Spreads in Latin America Despite Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:41:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157331 The Argentine Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalise abortion did not stop a Latin American movement, which is on the streets and is expanding in an increasingly coordinated manner among women’s organisations in the region with the most restrictive laws and policies against pregnant women’s right to choose. Approved in Argentina by the Chamber […]

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