Inter Press ServiceHealth – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:24:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 No Justice, No Peace for Yemeni Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:09:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151395 Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children. Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the […]

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'Zuhoor_Yemen' : One-year-old Zuhoor was forced to have the fingers of her right hand amputated after being seriously injured by an airstrikes near Sana'a. Credit: Mohammed Awadh/Save the Children

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children.

Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the UN to help protect children caught in the midst of the deadly two year-long conflict.

“Everywhere you go in Yemen you see the devastation caused by airstrikes…all parties have been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of children in Yemen, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is among them,” said Save the Children’s Yemen country director Tamer Kirolos.

“The UN Secretary-General must put the interests of children first – and hold all of those responsible to account,” he continued.

The human rights groups compiled evidence of “grave violations” in an effort to push Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to include the SLC in a report on child rights violations in conflict, expected to be released next month.

The annual Children and Armed Conflict report documents grave violations including the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. It also includes an annex which names and shames perpetrators of such violations.

The coalition was initially listed in the 2016 report, only to be removed a few days later after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs.

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said following the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he added.

The 2016 report found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of all recorded child deaths and injuries.

This pattern has only continued as Save the Children and Watchlist documented the killing and maiming of more than 120 children.

In one incident, multiple airstrikes on a market in Hajjah in March 2016 left 25 children dead and four injured.

Multiple bombings of schools and hospitals have also been recorded, including attacks on two different Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported hospitals.

Beyond the immediate and devastating effects on children, such attacks have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country including the “world’s worst cholera outbreak.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), children under the age of 15 account for 40 percent of the almost 300,000 suspected cholera cases and make up a quarter of cholera-related deaths.

The 1.8 million acutely malnourished children under five are particularly vulnerable to such communicable diseases.

However, the health system remains unable to respond to the needs of the population as only 45 percent of health facilities remain with limited functionality.

“As war grinds on and children’s lives are blighted not just in Yemen but around the world, the Secretary-General’s annual list has rarely been more important,” the organisations said in a briefing.

“It offers an opportunity to stand up for children caught in today’s brutal conflict to say that their lives and rights have value,” they continued.

In order to hold perpetrators accountable, the list must be “executed without fear or favour” where every party to the conflict that has committed grave violations is included, they added.

Though listing the SLC is not an end in itself, failure to include a key party to the conflict will set a “dangerous precedent” that others around the world will take note of.

“It would also betray the families whose loved ones were killed, the children who suffered life-changing injuries in airstrikes last year…Yemen’s children deserve accountability for the attacks committed against them,” Save the Children and Watchlist concluded.

The coalition is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. Because of an ongoing diplomatic rift, Qatar is no longer a part of the SLC.

More than 4,000 children have been killed or injured by all sides of the conflict.

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Pope Francis Donates to FAO for Drought, Conflict-Stricken East Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/pope-francis-donates-fao-drought-conflict-stricken-east-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pope-francis-donates-fao-drought-conflict-stricken-east-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/pope-francis-donates-fao-drought-conflict-stricken-east-africa/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:45:38 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151391 As an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa. Pope Francis said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of […]

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Children in the town of Embetyo, Eritrea. Credit: OCHA/Gemma Connell

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

As an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.

Pope Francis said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought.” See: East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

Pope Francis speaking at FAO in 2014. Credit: FAO

The Pontiff’s remarks were contained in a letter addressed to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva by Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN food agencies in Rome.

Pope Francis’ gesture stemmed from a pledge he made in a message to FAO’s Conference on 3 July 2017 and was “inspired also by the desire to encourage Governments,” Monsignor Chica stated in the letter.

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February and while the situation has eased after a significant scaling up in the humanitarian response, some 6 million people in the country are still struggling to find enough food every day.

Meanwhile the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in five other East African countries – Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – is currently estimated at about 16 million, which marks an increase of about 30 per cent since late 2016.

Pope Francis, who has made solidarity a major theme of his pontificate, is set to visit FAO’s headquarters on 16 October to mark World Food Day.

This year the event is being held under the slogan: “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”.

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WHO Urges Govt’s to Raise Taxes on Tobaccohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 21:27:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151369 Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today. Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.” […]

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Credit: IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today.

Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.”

He mentioned the adoption of core policies, called MPOWER, to monitor and protect people from tobacco smoke. At the highest level of implementation of these policies, countries will have eliminated tobacco-related deaths.

“The focus of the report is to monitor effective implementation of policies. The trend is good, but there’s room for vast improvement. Many countries are helping people to quit by putting out larger warning labels, but there’s no stringent action by measures of raising tax, for example,” said Dr. Prasad.

Still, there is good news—almost 71 countries have two or more of MPOWER policies in place, protecting a total of 3.2 billion people worldwide. In 2007, only 42 countries had some policy in place.

Every country, of course, follows a mix of different measures.

In terms of the newer countries on board, Afghanistan and Cambodia have adopted smoke-free laws in indoor public places and workplaces. Other countries have expanded existing measures—Nepal and Bangladesh passed laws at the national level for larger warning labels clearly demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking.

Still others, like Austria and Malta, have adopted the surest but politically most charged approach to combat the epidemic—raising taxes.

“The important issue is to support the benefit of raising taxes—it’ll bring down both demand and generate resources. In Philippines—which raised taxes in 2012—two things happened. The country generated extra revenue by as much as 5 billion dollars, and the use of tobacco declined. More governments have to understand this,” said Dr. Prasad.

The importance of raising taxes so that governments are able to spend that extra money on healthcare is a crucial and proven linkage, but has faltered after enormous pressure from powerful tobacco lobbyists to maintain the status quo.

“The countries which have shown progress are moving in the right direction. There needs to be greater political will because we have the evidence and the knowledge to back it up. We need to understand that the tobacco industry is not our friend,” Dr. Prasad explained.

Similarly, adoption of other effective measures like a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion also ranks low among countries. Mainly low and middle income countries, like Afghanistan and Senegal, among five others, have implemented the policy.

Combating a tobacco epidemic does not rest on curbing sale of cigarettes alone. Tobacco can be consumed in several other ways, such as its widespread consumption as khaini and bidis in India.

“Of the 300 million smokers in India, 72 million smoke bidis. The majority of the population consume khaini,” explained Dr. Prasad on the multifaceted tasks of fighting the tobacco industry.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development. Controlling tobacco is a key part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

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Educating Children One Radio Wave at a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/educating-children-one-radio-wave-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=educating-children-one-radio-wave-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/educating-children-one-radio-wave-time/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:40:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151366 Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario. Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region. “Boko Haram […]

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'Kidnappy' is one of the fears that Nigerian children shared as part of UNICEF's Education in Emergencies exercise. Thousands of young girls have been kidnapped and held for year by Boko Haram since the start of the insurgency in 2009. Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario.

Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region.

“Boko Haram has disrupted the lives of 1.3 million children with a radical insurgency that has burned villages, displaced people, and created a culture of fear,” said UNICEF’s Crisis Communications Specialist Patrick Rose.

Now entering its eight year, Boko Haram’s violent insurgency has intensified and spilled over in the Lake Chad region, displacing over 2 million people across four countries.

The group has particularly targeted education, destroying more than 900 schools and forcing at least 1,500 more to close.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 611 teachers have been killed and another 19,000 forced to flee. Boko Haram has also attacked students to keep them out of school and forcibly recruited students into its ranks.

Such targeted attacks and destruction have created an education gap in crisis-affected areas, especially where displaced communities have fled to.

“Short of going through and building new schools in all of those communities when we don’t know how long this conflict is going to last, we tried to develop ways that we could reach these children and deliver some sort of educational routine that will keep them at least learning,” Rose told IPS.

Created with support from the European Union (EU) and in partnership with the governments of Cameroon and Niger, UNICEF’s radio education programs serve as an alternative platform for the 200,000 children in the two countries unable to access schools.

It includes 44 episodes of educational programming on literacy and numeracy for various ages and will be broadcast through state channels in both French and the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde, and Hausa.

The curriculum also includes a child protection component such as psychosocial support, guiding teachers to create a space for children to share their experiences and learn how to manage their fears.

“When you have children who have been deeply disturbed by displacement, many of whom have witnessed the murders of their own families, and you create a situation in which they are expected to spend eight hours a day in a classroom that isn’t engaging at all with the reality that they are encountering outside, you get a fundamental dissonance and ultimately low engagement,” Rose said.

As part of its Education in Emergencies initiatives, UNICEF works closely with communities to identify the risks they face as individuals and schools as a whole.

In one such workshop about fears, one girl wrote “kidnappy,” reflecting the deep distress and risk of kidnapping that young girls face.

Not only does the radio program have the potential to decrease the likelihood of kidnapping as children listen from home, but it also creates a “positive” space that addresses children’s realities.

Discussions are underway with the governments of Cameroon and Niger to make radio courses certified, allowing children to receive a certification and pass the school year.

Rose called the approach to the complex crisis “unique,” as it moves from a focus on individual countries to a multi-country response.

He also highlighted the potential for the radio education program to be replicated in other regions of the world.

In 35 crisis-affected countries, humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises have disrupted the education of 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18.

“In the same way that radio played a key role in the Cold War and reaching people around the world with messages, it is the same sort of situation here—radio doesn’t respect the borders of conflicts,” Rose concluded.

Ongoing insecurity has impeded humanitarian response in the Lake Chad basin, leaving children’s needs largely unmet.

UNICEF has so far received 50 percent of a 38.5-million-dollar appeal to meet the education needs of children in the region.

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East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Deadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/east-africas-poor-rains-hunger-worsened-crops-scorched-livestock-dead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=east-africas-poor-rains-hunger-worsened-crops-scorched-livestock-dead http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/east-africas-poor-rains-hunger-worsened-crops-scorched-livestock-dead/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 05:32:29 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151355 Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert. The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and […]

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Herders collect water with camels at one of the few remaining water points in drought-affected Bandarero village, Moyale County, Kenya. Credit: Rita Maingi/ OCHA

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert.

The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north-eastern and South-Western Uganda, according to a new alert by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The alert, issued on 14 July by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), warns that the third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.” – FAO chief

“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains – they are simply running out of ways to cope,” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon. “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.”

Increasing Humanitarian Need

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30 per cent since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure, the UN specialised body reported.

Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season, it added.

The food security situation for pastoralists is of particular concern, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where animal mortality rates are high and milk production from the surviving animals has declined sharply with negative consequences on food security and nutrition, FAO warned.

“When we know how critical milk is for the healthy development of children aged under five, and the irreversible damage its lack can create, it is evident that supporting pastoralists going through this drought is essential,” said Burgeon.

Poor Crop Prospects

On this, FAO provides the following detailed information:

In several cropping areas across the region, poor rains have caused sharp reductions in planting, and wilting of crops currently being harvested. Despite some late rainfall in May, damage to crops is irreversible.

In addition, fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.

In Somalia there are unfavourable prospects for this year’s main gu crops, after the gu rains were late with poor rainfall and erratic distribution over most areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, unfavourable belg rains in southern cropping areas are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls. Drought is also affecting yields in Kenya’s central, Southeastern and coastal areas.

In Tanzania, unfavourable rains are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls in northern and central areas; while in Uganda there are unfavourable production prospects are unfavourable for first season crops in the Southwestern and northern districts.

108 Million People Face Severe Acute Food Insecurity

Meanwhile, despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people living in 48 food-crisis countries were at high risk of or already facing severe acute food insecurity in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released on 31 March in Brussels.

Children lining up for their one meal per day at a school in Bandarero, Northern Kenya. Credit: OCHA/ Daniel Pfister


The report, whose compilation required integrating several measurement methodologies, represents a new and politically innovative collaboration between the European Union (EU) and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions together with UN agencies including the FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño. “

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the Global Report on Food Crises 2017.

By joining forces to deliver neutral analytical insights drawn from multiple institutions, the report – to be issued annually – enables better-informed planning decisions to respond to food crises in a more timely, global and coordinated way.

“This report highlights the critical need for prompt and targeted action to effectively respond to the food crises and to address their root causes. The EU has taken leadership in this response. In 2016, we allocated € 550 million already, followed by another € 165 million that we have just mobilized to assist the people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa,” said Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

“The report is the outcome of a joint effort and a concrete follow-up to the commitments the EU made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which identified the urgent need for transparent, independent but consensus-based analysis of crises,” added Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Most Critical Situations Worsening

This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria, the report warns.

Other countries that require massive levels of assistance because of widespread food insecurity are Iraq, Syria (including refugees in neighbouring countries) Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the absence of immediate and substantive action not only to save people’s lives, but also to pull them back from the brink of famine, the food security situation in these countries will continue to worsen in coming months, according to the report.

“The cost in human and resource terms only increases if we let situations deteriorate,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”

“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever -greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow’s security challenge,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

“It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation.”

The 108 million people reported to be facing severe food insecurity in 2016 represent those suffering from higher-than-usual acute malnutrition and a broad lack of minimally adequate food even with external assistance.

This includes households that can cope with their minimum food needs only by depleting seeds, livestock and agricultural assets needed to produce food in the future, the report adds.

“Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slipping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.”

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Digitizing Family Planning: The Way of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/digitizing-family-planning-way-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digitizing-family-planning-way-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/digitizing-family-planning-way-future/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:09:59 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151310 Online shopping may have its pros and cons, but when it comes to buying products that have an invisible morality tag, it’s the safest possible option, believes Franklin Paul. One of India’s most vocal advocates for youth rights to sexual health, education and products, Paul has spent over two years studying and introducing digital technologies […]

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Digitizing SRHR communication: some of the popular mobile phone apps currently used in India by the government and an NGO. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Digitizing SRHR communication: some of the popular mobile phone apps currently used in India by the government and an NGO. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
LONDON, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Online shopping may have its pros and cons, but when it comes to buying products that have an invisible morality tag, it’s the safest possible option, believes Franklin Paul.

One of India’s most vocal advocates for youth rights to sexual health, education and products, Paul has spent over two years studying and introducing digital technologies to India’s rural youths. “One day soon, nobody will have to walk into a store to buy condoms, face the nosey chemist and feel embarrassed. They will just order it from their mobile phone or tablet or laptop and and get it delivered on their doorstep,” he says ."Health workers themselves feel embarrassed to talk of sex and contraceptives, but if that information is available on the mobile screen, nobody will have to be embarrassed." --Kamla Mukhi

Talking to IPS on the sidelines of the London Family Planning Summit held last week, Paul shared his personal experiences of talking to youths in the East Champaran district of Bihar, one of India’s most underdeveloped states. The government has just introduced sex education in the state’s schools, but for young men and women, it is difficult to get the correct information on reproductive health.

To help them, Paul and his fellow youths launched a cellphone application called M Sathi. Available now on Google Play, the app provides information in a fun and interactive way where users can learn about sex and related issues through games and quizzes.

Digitizing SRHR

In India, the government is currently running a special campaign on expanding digital connectivity and providing quality e-Governance. Named “Digital India”, the campaign envisions transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

The campaign aligns well with the government’s plan to advance and improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the country, says Chandra Kumar Mishra, India’s secretary of health. “We are digitising our communication all along our supply chain,” he said, right after announcing that India would spend an additional one billion dollars in the next five years to provide better reproductive health care to its population.

With the new announcement, India’s commitment now stands at an impressive sum of three billion dollars.

There are 100 million women in India who use contraceptives, according to government data. But not every one receives what she needs. This causes not just an imbalance in the demand and supply system, but also becomes a hurdle in achieving the overall SRHR goal of the government: providing contraceptives to an additional 48 million women and also reduce and eradicate diseases and deaths.

Digital tools can help bridge the gap between the demand and the supply, says Mishra.

Citing the example of E-mitra, a mobile phone based communication service launched by the government, Mishra says that the rapid expansion of digital network in India is sparking greater use of internet phones, especially in the urban and semi-urban belt. Health service providers should leverage this opportunity to reach out more people and provide them with credible information through mobile phones and internet tools, he feels.

Cellphones for Better Information

Mishra’s words resonate with Kamla Mukhi, a 24-year-old young tribal woman community health campaigner in Daltongunj, a coal mining district in east India’s Jharkhand state. In Daltongunj, tribal women have to travel 20-25 kilometers to reach the nearest health center for their need – whether it is for information or a product.

A year ago, Mukhi visited one such health center. “An elderly woman health worker secretly slipped a box of condoms into a young woman’s hand. Later, the woman asked me, ‘Didi, how do I eat this? This is rubber.‘ I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The woman had earlier received cereals and birth control pills here, so she thought this new product was also for swallowing,“ Mukhi recalls.

With mobile phones, such situations would not occur because women can receive the information directly, without any added confusion, Mukhi says.“The health workers themselves feel embarrassed to talk of sex and contraceptives, but if that information is available on the mobile screen, nobody will have to be embarrassed.”

The digitized information system can also be a big boon for women and young people who live in conflict areas, says Mukhi, whose own village falls in an area partially controlled by Naxals, an ultra-communist rebel outfit fighting against the government.

“Women walk long miles to a health center. Then they find out it’s been closed because there was a security threat or an attack. If such information is shared on a mobile phone, they need not undergo such unnecessary hassles,“ says the young health activist.

Investing in Data

But while it’s rather easy to share and give away information, collecting accurate statistics about how that knowledge is put to use remains a huge challenge.

“Credible data is a very crucial area,” says Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who in 2016 had announced an 80-million-dollar fund for research and collection of reliable gender specific data. Such data, feels Gates, is vital to identify the economic and social issues affecting women and fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially goals 3 and 5.

“When a woman health center worker uses and shares data with the women in her community, she knows its valuable because its credible,“ Gates says.

Mishra agrees: “One of the technologies that we are using is Supply Chain Management, a software that will track the purchases and supply of all the reproductive healthcare commodities. We also have a current database on levels of contraceptive use which we are now going to digitize. Soon we will have an enormous volume of data and most of it we will make available to the public,” he says.

Currently, the government is partnering with the Gates Foundation in developing Kilkari, a mobile application that will provide customized information to new mothers, including notifying them on next vaccination dates. The government also has two other mobile apps – Emitra and Anmol – that are used to give free information on family planning.

Youth-Friendly Technologies

None of the government’s technologies are specifically targeting youths, Mishra admits, but says that his department is planning to address it soon. Franklin Paul says that to encourage youths to use the technologies, they need to be ‘youth-friendly.‘

“The government apps are very text-heavy. But young people love something that is interactive and visually appealing and stimulating. This is why we are about to add videos to our Msathi apps. Just as we need to give them a basket of contraceptive products to choose from, we also need to give them a basket of technologies to pick. So, instead of just text messages, we should offer a bouquet of ecommerce, multimedia and social media that will help expand SRHR services among youths,“ says Paul.

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2 Billion People Don’t Have Access To Clean Water, Opens up Fissures of Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:52:35 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151290 More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for […]

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More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On 9 February 2016 in central Ethiopia, children and women from a semi-pastoralist community wait their turn to fill jerrycans with clean water at a water point in Haro Huba Kebele in Fantale Woreda, in East Shoa Zone, Oromia Region. Credit: © UNICEF/UN011590/Ayene

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for drinking.

“Clean water and sanitation is central to other outcomes, for example, nutrition among children. While many countries like India have made it a top priority, many others haven’t been able to emphasise the issue yet,” Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, told IPS.

As many as 400 million people still rely on distant water sources—travelling to and fro from their homes to pick it up. Some 159 million people, according to the report, rely on untreated water from lakes and streams. This puts lives, especially of young children, at great risk.

“Every day, 800 children under the age of five die from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea. In fact, diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of death in the world.” Wijesekera added.

A lack of access to clean drinking water is also bad news for hygiene and sanitary levels. In many countries, open defecation due to the lack of in-house toilets poses a significant challenge.

“The sheer indignity of openly defecating, especially among young girls, takes a toll on other aspects of their lives—such as their poor attendance in school where there aren’t toilets,” Wijesekera explained.

This is especially true in rural areas. While the global drop in open defecation from 20 to 12 percent between 2000 and 2015 is a welcome fact, the rate of decline, at just .7 percent every year, puts pressure on governments to do more. To eliminate open defecation by 2030, for example, the rate of decline has to double.

Still, some countries like Ethiopia have combatted the issue of open defecation successfully.

“In Ethiopia, the percentage has dropped from 80 to 27 percent between 2000 and 2015. Critical building blocks like stronger policies at the government levels and dutiful allocation of funds can go a long way,” Wijesekera said.

These issues—from access to safe drinking water to sanitation supplies—mostly affect the poorest families. For example, Angola, which has performed better than other sub-Saharan African countries and achieved overall basic access to water for its citizens, still shows a gap of 40 percent between people who live in urban and rural areas.

Similarly, Panama’s capital city has achieved universal access to clean drinking water, but other sub regions in the country remain marginalized.

Meanwhile, the report has drawn criticism from other NGOs for being incomplete.

“The report is a good starting point but the current data only reflects 35 percent of the global population across 92 countries. Big countries like China and India have been left out,” Al-Hassan Adam, the international coordinator at End Water Poverty, a coalition organisation that campaigns for water rights and sanitation, told IPS.

“Bigger industries have to do more to protect water resources. In countries like Mexico, water is still contaminated. In other poorer countries, infrastructure to ensure safely managed water is missing in the first place,” he added.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN strongly focus on reducing inequality between and within countries, and commit member states to “leave no one behind.”

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 15:31:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151237
Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standards

Two women and a baby in a village near the city of Makeni, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

The world population has witnessed a remarkable growth during the recent decades. In 1965, it stood at 3.3 billion people. In 2017 –52 years later– the global population reached a staggering 7.5 billion people corresponding to more than a doubling of the Earth’s residents over the last half-century.

Humans have been blessed with access to natural resources such as water, food and rare minerals that have been indispensable to the evolution and to the progress of humanity since time immemorial.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase of the world population is raising again Malthusian concerns. The Earth’s resources are finite and cannot sustain the current population growth rate in the long run; the Earth’s population is set to grow to 9.8 billion people by 2050. “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

This is tantamount to saying that world population during the post WWII century will increase 3 times as much since man’s appearance on our planet. A Native American saying reminds us that uncontrolled population growth and excessive use of resources can leave the world empty-handed:

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

The 2017 World Population Day is an important occasion to raise awareness on contemporary unsustainable consumption patterns.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Population Day will coincide with the 2017 Family Planning Summit that will focus inter alia on family planning among the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable women.

Preventative family planning is a vehicle for promoting sustainable population growth and for enhancing the status of women.

The “Protection of the Family” resolution adopted on 22 June 2017 by the United Nations upholds international human rights standards on the right to life and the right to family life, and is a good starting-point to further promoting sustainable population growth through family planning.

Child marriage is considered as a major triggering factor worsening population pressure around the world. It is referred to as a major problem in numerous countries located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and even in Europe.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The charity “Girls not Brides“ estimates that 1 out of 3 girls in the developed world are married before the age of 18. It also estimates that approximately 700 million women alive today were married when they were children.

According to the World Bank and the International Centre for Research on Women, child marriage accelerates population growth as women marrying before the age of 18 are prone to having more children than women marrying at a later age.

Child marriage also discourages women from pursuing higher education as their prospects of completing education diminishes drastically. In many cases, girls marrying at an early age are left with no other option than to drop out of school. This impedes the prospects for achieving economic empowerment owing to the marginalization of girls and of women.

Lack of access to family planning also remains a major concern in many countries. The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon member states of the United Nations (UN) to improve access to family planning services in an effort to resolve issues related to overpopulation.

The 1994 Cairo Declaration on Population & Development likewise called for constrained efforts to strengthen family planning particularly in the developed world. Nonetheless, the UNFPA estimates that approximately 225 million women “are not using safe and effective family planning methods.”

In order to address these challenges, I appeal to UN member States to implement concrete plans to address target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target requires the world community to eliminate all forms of harmful practices including early and forced child marriage to advance the status of girls and women worldwide.

Addressing child marriage would further advance gender equality, increase access to education and improve the social status of girls and women. Child marriage is considered as a violation of human rights and must be eliminated in all its forms.

Enhancing family planning policies enables societies to cope with population pressures by bringing down the fertility rate to a sustainable level. This would improve the economic well-being of families and alleviate poverty and inequality. The economic burden on families would be reduced as there would be fewer mouths to feed.

However, countries should avoid implementing family planning policies reducing the fertility level below the 2.1 reproduction rate.

Addressing the depopulation of ageing advanced societies by fostering migration of population from high population growth developing countries is therefore key to optimizing growth potential and thus to move development forward.

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For India’s Urban Marginalized, Reproductive Healthcare Still a Distant Dreamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/indias-urban-marginalized-reproductive-healthcare-still-distant-dream/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-urban-marginalized-reproductive-healthcare-still-distant-dream http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/indias-urban-marginalized-reproductive-healthcare-still-distant-dream/#comments Tue, 11 Jul 2017 12:21:01 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151240 In a semi-lit room of a southern Chennai neighborhood, a group of women sit in a circle around a table surrounded by large cardboard boxes of “Nirodh” – India’s most popular condom. Clad in colorful saris, wearing toe rings and red dots on their foreheads, they look like ordinary housewives. Slowly, one of the women […]

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India is a part of the FP2020 – a partnership to achieve SDG 3 & 5 and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030

Sex workers in India’s Chennai city demonstrate their skills in slipping condoms on a phallus. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
CHENNAI/LONDON, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

In a semi-lit room of a southern Chennai neighborhood, a group of women sit in a circle around a table surrounded by large cardboard boxes of “Nirodh” – India’s most popular condom.

Clad in colorful saris, wearing toe rings and red dots on their foreheads, they look like ordinary housewives. Slowly, one of the women opens a box, takes out a handful of condoms and a wooden phallus. Sound of laughter fills the air as each woman takes her trurn to slip a condom over the phallus. It’s a rare, happy hour for these women who live a hard life as sex workers – a fact they carefully guard from their families.“In our community, over 90 percent of people survive by begging. How can they ever afford any of these treatments?" --Axom, a 26-year-old transsexual man

Baby, who only goes by the first name, is in her forties and the most experienced of all when it comes to demostrating condom skills. A peer educator, Baby has been teaching fellow sex workers all over the city of Chennai how to practice safe sex and protect themselves from both HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Thanks to constant training and a generation of awareness, condoms are now part and parcel of almost all of the city’s 6,300 sex workers’ lives, she says. But their sexual health and protection from diseases still completely depend on their clients’ willingness to use a condom.

“We try our best to help the client understand that it is very important to wear a condom because that will keep us both safe from HIV and other infections like gonorrhea. But it needs some convincing. Most of them wear it only grudgingly,“ says Baby.

Female condoms – a mirage

India is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of condoms in the world. The government-owned Hindustan Latest Limited (HLL) produces over a billion condoms annually, including Nirodh. Of these, 650 million Nirodh condoms are given away annually free of cost for the safe sex campaign. But when it comes to female condoms, there is no free lunch and one must buy the condoms from a store.

AJ Hariharan is the founder and CEO of the Chennai-based Indian Community Welfare Organization (ICWO), one of the largest NGOs in the country working for the welfare of sex workers. Hariharan says that female condoms could be of immense help for the sex workers, but are extremely hard to access because of steep pricing.

A pack of male condom costs around 25 rupees, while a female condom is priced at 59 and above. This is far beyond the reach of most sex workers whose daily earnings are 200-500 rupees, which goes to support their families.

“At the current price, a female condom is an out of reach luxury for poor women. They will never be able to able to use this which is a shame because the average sex workers really need female condoms,” Hariharan adds..

The reason behind the “great need” is both self-empowerment and money, he explains: it takes some time to explain to a client why he must wear a condom and then help him put it on. But this requires time and often, the couple may have to wait before the man has an erection again. With a female condom, business can be done faster as she can save both her time and energy and serve him quick. For those women who rent a place for work, this can be very helpful as she can be with multiple clients in few hours and spend less on rent.

Organizations like ICWO have asked the government for a free supply of female condoms, says Hariharan, but have not received any so far. “This is one of the biggest unmet needs and it must be looked seriously into,” he says.

Despite their inability to afford female condoms, the sex worker community is luckier than other marginalized people of the city as they regularly access sexual and reproductive health services.

“There are eight hospitals in the city where we can go for a regular health check-up that includes having an HIV and STI test and take condoms,” says Vasanthi, a sex worker.

Healthcare for the Transgender

But for another sexual minority – the 450,000 strong transgender community – even a regular health check-up remains a struggle.

“One of the biggest challenges is finding a doctor who can and is willing to understand our problems,” reveals Axom, a 26-year-old transsexual man.

“The moment you walk into a hospital or a private clinic, the doctor will start judging your character and rebuke you for your sexual choice, instead of advising you what to do. It always starts with ‘why do you choose to be this way?’ After this, obviously you will never feel like opening up about your health issues,” Axom says.

Besides the moral policing, transgender community members also face uphill battles to afford healthcare including feminizing and masculinizing hormonal treatment.

Axom has been undergoing hormonal treatment. He hopes to have sex reassignment surgery – a multilayered medical treatment that will give him a prosthetic penis – and is spending over 10,000 dollars on the treatment. Thanks to his job in one of the world‘s biggest e-commerce firms, he can afford it, but for most others, such procedures remain a distant dream.

“In our community, over 90 percent of people survive by begging,” Axom says. “How can they ever afford any of these treatments?“

FP2020, Commitments and Gaps

In 2012, India became a part of the FP2020 – a global partnership to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5 and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030. India had committed among other things to invest two billion dollars over eight years to reduce the unmet need and address “equity so that the poorest and most vulnerable population have more access to quality services and supplies.“

On July 11, representatives from the FP2020 partner countries are participating in a summit in London again to inform and analyse the current status of delivering those commitments made four years ago.

For India, this is a good chance to tell the world what it has really done and recommit to achieve the goals that it had set, says Lester Coutinho, Deputy Director of Family Planning at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Governments, including India, are now responding to the gaps in the commitments that they made. Adolescents and youths are one area, supply chain is another, money for purchasing commodities is the third. Giving counseling and information to women and young people is another. There are tangible solutions in these areas that the government can adopt,” says Coutinho.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, transsexual men and woman like Axom hope that one day the government will subsidize the SRS and hormonal treatment for transgenders.

“The Supreme Court of India recognized the transpeople as a third gender in 2014, so we are now entitled to equal rights and facilities as other citizens do. If the government can offer free surgeries for life-threatening diseases, why can’t we expect it to offer us subsidies on treatments that can remove threats to our identities and the restoration of a normality in our life?” asks Axom.

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Will the UN “Leave No One Behind” and Improve LGBTI Health and Well-Being?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-the-un-leave-no-one-behind-and-improve-lgbti-health-and-well-being/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-un-leave-no-one-behind-and-improve-lgbti-health-and-well-being http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-the-un-leave-no-one-behind-and-improve-lgbti-health-and-well-being/#respond Mon, 10 Jul 2017 13:18:10 +0000 FelicityDaly http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151227 Dr Felicity Daly is the Global Research Coordinator for OutRight Action International

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Will the UN “leave no one behind” and improve LGBTI health and well-being?

Participants at a gay pride celebration in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Dr Felicity Daly
NEW YORK, Jul 10 2017 (IPS)

While there has been progress in researching the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people and responding to certain emerging health threats in high-income countries – elsewhere in the world such research is inadequate and incomplete.

A new report published by OutRight Action International, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV highlights that wherever research has been conducted, LGBTI people’s health is shown to be consistently poorer than the general population.

Agenda 2030 for LGBTI Health and Well-Being, has been written in advance of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development which convenes from 10-19 July 2017 at the United Nations in New York. At this meeting UN Member States will review progress on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals – a plan of action for “people, planet and prosperity”.

The aspiration of the SDGs to “leave no one behind” can be utilized to improve the health and well-being of LGBTI. UN officials, former Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, have made it clear that the SDGs are inclusive of all people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.

A new report published by OutRight Action International, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV highlights that wherever research has been conducted, LGBTI people’s health is shown to be consistently poorer than the general population.

A new report published by OutRight Action International, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV highlights that wherever research has been conducted, LGBTI people’s health is shown to be consistently poorer than the general population.

LGBTI people have the right to health – the same as all other people, and thus LGBTI health concerns should be included in the implementation of the health goal – SDG 3.

Agenda 2030 for LGBTI Health and Well-Being reviews data from low- and middle-income countries, which shows that compared with the general population gay, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV and transgender women are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV.

The report notes that the health concerns of lesbian and bisexual women, trans and intersex people have all too often been overlooked and presents data which demonstrates that LGBTI people also experience: poor mental health, higher prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, and inadequate funding for inclusive and effective health interventions.

The common drivers behind these health disparities are violence, criminalization, social exclusion and discrimination, including widespread discrimination LGBTI people experience in health care settings.

Ironically, this means that very often LGBTI people are rendered invisible in efforts to collect health data, which do not include questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics.

The lack of data poses problems in effectively targeting health services to help those in most need. While some high-income countries have effectively used research to inform HIV prevention and care for gay and bisexual men, and other affected populations this has not been the case in most countries.

Missing health data makes it harder for LGBTI people to advocate for resources they need and becomes an excuse for governments hostile to LGBTI populations to ignore the health needs of LGBTI people.

A systematic review of general population studies conducted in Australia, Europe, and North America found that compared with heterosexual people, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are at higher risk for mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation and deliberate self-harm
Moreover, data about LGBTI health overwhelmingly represents research conducted in high income countries where there has been social and legal progress for some sexual and gender minorities.

For example, a systematic review of general population studies conducted in Australia, Europe, and North America found that compared with heterosexual people, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are at higher risk for mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation and deliberate self-harm.

Data gaps are starkest in countries where discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and sex characteristics is entrenched in law.

There are no specific indicators in the SDG framework that measure the health specifically for LGBTI people. Nevertheless, states can voluntarily report on progress and we urge them to do so in order to live up to the commitment to “leave no one behind.”

Agenda 2030 for LGBTI Health and Well-Being details the type of data UN Member States should collect to effectively monitor implementation of the targets of SDG 3 in a way that improves the health and well-being of LGBTI people.

We want to ensure Member States ask the right questions in order to understand and monitor health and well-being among LGBTI people. We urge that they also focus on ending stigma and discrimination, which has a major detrimental impact on health and well-being, and also poses barriers to accessing health care services that LGBTI people need.

We stress that all Member States must repeal the laws, policies, and practices that criminalise same sex behaviour and limit the ability of people to express, and have legally recognised, their gender identity.

States must also prohibit non-consensual medical procedures, including intersex genital mutilation, forced sterilizations as requirements for gender recognition, and forced anal examinations.

LGBTI people are well aware of the health disparities taking hold and stealing lives in their communities, but insufficient evidence makes it harder to make a convincing case for health services to respond to these needs.

We hope more countries will accelerate a research revolution for LGBTI inclusion, which improves the health and well-being of these communities.

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Three-Zone Biosecurity Offers New Hope to Indonesian Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/three-zone-biosecurity-offers-new-hope-indonesian-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-zone-biosecurity-offers-new-hope-indonesian-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/three-zone-biosecurity-offers-new-hope-indonesian-farmers/#respond Mon, 10 Jul 2017 00:01:38 +0000 Kanis Dursin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151136 Poultry farmer Bambang Sutrisno Setiawan had long heard about biosecurity but never gave serious thought to it, even when the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 forced him to cull thousands of his layer chickens in 2003 and 2009. Eighteen years into the business, however, Bambang, who is called Ilung by friends, is now converting his […]

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A lab technician at the Disease Investigation Centre near Yogyakarta, Indonesia checks for the avian flu virus in samples taken from poultry. Credit: FAO

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Jul 10 2017 (IPS)

Poultry farmer Bambang Sutrisno Setiawan had long heard about biosecurity but never gave serious thought to it, even when the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 forced him to cull thousands of his layer chickens in 2003 and 2009.

Eighteen years into the business, however, Bambang, who is called Ilung by friends, is now converting his second farm into a three-zone biosecurity poultry with a strong conviction that it is the only way to save his business amid continued threats of bird flu and other animal diseases.Indonesia detected its first bird flu case in 2003. Since then, the H5N1 virus has killed millions of poultry in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces.

“My second poultry biosecurity will soon operate, hopefully in July,” Ilung told IPS by phone from Semarang, Central Java, a one-hour flight east of the capital Jakarta, in mid-June.

The 44-year-old has two poultry farms, each accommodating around 30,000 layers, and one day-old chick site that can hold 10,000 chicks.

Ilung converted one of his farms into biosecurity poultry in November 2015 after attending seminars and trainings organized by local Livestock and Animal Health Services and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD).

Three-zone biosecurity is one of programs ECTAD Indonesia is promoting to contain the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that continues to plague the country of 250 million people since its first detection in 2003.

The model divides a farm into three separate areas: a red zone for high disease risk external areas, yellow zone for medium risk service areas, and green zone for clean and highly secure access-restricted area where the chicken flock is located. Access from the red zone to the yellow zone requires showering and a complete change of clothing and footwear, while further inward access to the green zone requires a second change of footwear to maintain biosecurity standards.

According to Ilung, biosecurity keeps animal diseases out and cuts disinfectant and medicine costs by 30 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

“Production also rises to 60 kilograms per 1,000 layers now, compare to 50 kilograms previously, and more importantly, I have not had disease outbreaks since November 2015,” said Ilung.

In 2009, Ilung culled half of his layer chickens after bird flu struck his farms for the second time. Prior to that, the father of two was forced to prematurely sell 11,000 chickens to cut losses after 300 layers were found to have died of H5N1 in 2003. He has been in the poultry business since 1999.

Robby Susanto, a 62-year-old poultry farmer in Solo, Central Jaw said biosecurity has proven to bring a lot of benefits to poultry farmers like him.

“Our net profit has increased by between 11 percent and 35 percent since practicing biosecurity poultry,” he told IPS by phone from Solo, an 80-minute flight east of Jakarta.

Susanto started his poultry farming in 2010 after participating in ECTAD’s biosecurity pilot projects together with five other farmers.

“Biosecurity keeps avian influenza and other animal diseases out of his 100,000 layer chickens and help maintain production of five tons of eggs per day,” he said.

A study by ECTAD Indonesia shows that for every cent spent on three-zone biosecurity, poultry farmers gain as much as 12 cents in profit.

Ilung said he spent around 5,000 dollars for each biosecurity farm.

Indonesia has been listed as one of the global hotspots for human H5N1 avian influenza infections since 2005, prompting ECTAD to open an office in the country in 2006.

Three-zone biosecurity is one of programs ECTAD Indonesia is promoting to contain the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)

James McGrane, FAO ECTAD Indonesia Team Leader, at his office in Jakarta. Credit: Kanis Dursin/IPS

“Since 2005, Indonesia has been one of the global epicenters for human H5N1 avian influenza infections with more human cases and fatalities than any other country until 2014,” James McGrane, ECTAD Indonesia Team Leader, told IPS in an interview in Jakarta.

Indonesia detected its first bird flu case in 2003. Since then, the H5N1 virus has killed millions of poultry in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces, disrupting the livelihoods of large numbers of people dependent on poultry-keeping, according to ECTAD Indonesia.

Up until 2017, the World Health Organization has recorded 199 confirmed human cases of avian influenza in Indonesia, with 167 deaths. That figure is the highest in the world, with Egypt coming in second with 120 deaths out of 359 cases, and Vietnam third with 64 deaths of 127 cases.

Negligence on the part of poultry farmers – not wanting to follow proper security standards – has been cited as the main reason human deaths were high in Indonesia.

Aside from promoting biosecurity, ECTAD Indonesia helped the central and local governments develop and implement a community-based Participatory Disease Surveillance and Response (PDSR) system to contain HPAI in backyard poultry in 32 provinces.

By 2015, PDSR had 2,500 trained officers working in 350 districts in 30 provinces. The system, according to McGrane, was able to detect and attend to over 10,000 HPAI outbreaks over the years.

“In 2009, following an evaluation of the PDSR system, greater emphasis was placed on working with the commercial poultry sector, and a program was initiated to strengthen relations with and surveillance in the commercial industry,” said McGrane.

Since 2012, ECTAD has helped implement biosecurity poultry in six pilot commercial layer chicken farms.

Fadjar Sumping Tjatur Rasa, Animal Health Director of the Livestock and Animal Health Directorate General of the Ministry of Agriculture, said biosecurity has succeeded in reducing avian influenza cases in Indonesia.

“We still have bird flu cases every year but their number has continued to decrease every year,” Fadjar told IPS on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

The agriculture ministry recorded 255 H5N1 cases in 2016, compare to 123 cases in 2015, 343 in 2014, and 470 in 2013.

Indonesia suffered its worst avian influenza outbreak in 2007 with 2,751 confirmed cases before it went down to 2,293 cases in 2009 and 1,502 cases in 2010. The ministry of agriculture has so far recorded 94 cases in 2017.

Fadjar expressed optimism that bird flu cases would continue to fall now that Indonesia has adopted One Health approach in dealing with various human and animal diseases.

One Health recognizes that the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems are interrelated and thus any potential or existing health risk calls for collaborative efforts between health practitioners (including vets, doctors, public health officers, epidemiologists, ecologists, toxicologists) and related institutions to attain optimum health for people, animals, wildlife and the environment.

“Now the ministry of health alerts us [the Ministry of Agriculture] and other stakeholders if they suspect a patient is suffering from an avian influenza virus. We too have to inform the ministry of health and other stakeholders about suspected bird flu outbreaks,” said Fadjar.

ECTAD Indonesia also helped the government establish the Influenza Virus Monitoring (IVM) Online platform to monitor circulating HPAI and other influenza viruses. According to McGrane, since its launch in 2014, the platform has seen increases, among other things, in the number of H5N1 isolates being uploaded to IVM Online, isolates that have been antigenically and genetically characterized, and improved knowledge on circulating AI viruses in Indonesia.

“Influenza virus monitoring and characterization is crucial for the development of local vaccines, effective against the circulating strains of HPAI in Indonesia,” said McGrane, adding: “The selected challenge strains are used to test the efficacy of new vaccines developed by local commercial vaccine companies.”

“ECTAD today continues to support the control of HPAI and other endemic zoonotic diseases such as rabies and anthrax, while also focusing on new or re-emerging global health threats which spill over into humans from animal populations, such as Ebola, MERS-CoV and Zika,” said McGrane.

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Is Religion the New Colonial Frontier in International Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development/#respond Tue, 04 Jul 2017 06:30:40 +0000 Azza Karam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151158 Azza Karam is Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

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Azza Karam is Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

By Azza Karam
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 4 2017 (IPS)

A decade ago, it was difficult to get Western policy makers in governments to be interested in the role of religious organizations in human development. The secular mind-set was such that religion was perceived, at best, as a private affair. At worst, religion was deemed the cause of harmful social practices, an obstacle to the “sacred” nature of universal human rights, and/or the root cause of terrorism. In short, religion belonged in the ‘basket of deplorables’.

Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Yet, starting in the mid-1990s with then President of the World Bank, James Wolfenson, and celebrated in 2000 under then UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan when the Millenium Development Goals were agreed to, a number of religiously-inspired initiatives coalesced, all trying to move ‘religion’ to international development’s ‘basket of desirables’.

The arguments used to begin to generate positive interest in the role of religious NGOs in international multilateral fora were relatively straightforward. Today they are almost a cliche: religious institutions are the oldest social service providers known to human kind, and several basic health and educational institutions of today, are administered or influenced to some extent, by religious entities.

So if we are serious about strengthening health systems and universal access to healthcare, enhancing educational institutions, content and accessibility, protecting our environment, safeguarding the rights of marginlised and vulnerable populations, countering social exclusion and ensuring human dignity, then – the argument is – we have to work with those who influence minds, hearts, and continue to provide and manage significant amounts of social services in most countries. Facts and figures as to how many social services are provided by/through religious institutions continue to be provided and roundly disputed.

The number of initiatives within the secular multilaterals – like the UN – which focused on ‘religion and development’ began to slowly attract the attention (and the money) of some western donor governments such as Switzerland and Norway, both of whom were keen on mobilising religious support for women’s rights in particular. Some governments (such as the USA and the UK) dabbled in engaging with religious NGOs both at home in their own countries, and supporting some of them in their development and humanitarian work abroad.

Nevertheless, from a multilateral perspective, the larger tapestry of western donor support to efforts around religion, tended to be marginal – dipping toes in the water rather than taking a plunge.

With the increasing presence of al-Qaeda on the world stage in 2001, and the subsequent war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world witnessed the emerging gruesome hydras of religious extremism, at once fueling, and being fueled by, the phenomena of ultra nationalism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. Some western governments spoke openly of engaging religious actors in counter-terrorism, but this narrative was fraught with political tensions.

It was only when migrants appeared to ‘flood’ European shores (albeit in numbers which are only a fraction of those ending up in developing countries), that there was a noticeable surge of keen interest by several western governments in ‘this religion thing’.

For the UN developmental entities who had invested significantly to generate the interest of their largest western donors in the relevance of religions to development, spurred by the learning from the MDGs and with a view to realizing Agenda 2030, there was a noticeable volte face which was taking place right under their noses.

Almost overnight, UN-steered initiatives to engage with religious actors and enhance partnerships around health, education, environment, women’s rights, humanitarian work, all of which had been painstakingly prepared and backed by years of research, consultations, networking and shared practice (as the work of the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development testifies) became the object of desire by some governments.

Rather than seek to support the UN in continuing to engage with this work and the critical partnerships developed and labored over for years, however, the objective of these governments is to seek to directly manage the convening, networking and funding roles of faith-based entities, ostensibly with the same objectives of achieving the SDGs.

But there is a critical difference between the UN convening and working with faith-based organizations and religious leaders, and one or a handful of governments doing so. To survive, to thrive, and to protect human rights, the agenda of multilateral entities has to remain distinct from the national self-interest of any one government – or a handful thereof – no matter how powerful this government (or these governments), may be.

This applies to all issues, constituencies and types of partnerships outlined in SDG 17. But the argument here is even more powerful: that where religions are concerned, the need for unbiased and non-partisan engagement with religious actors, distinct from any one nation’s self-interest, is crucial.

If there is suspicion about the role of a non-western government in supporting religious actors in countries outside of its own, then why do we not also suspect western governments of involving themselves in supporting religious efforts in countries other than their own?

This question becomes especially pertinent when we begin to look at the religious composition of the western governments now keen on ‘supporting religion and development’ abroad – they are mostly Christian. And if we look at the governments viewed with much suspicion who have long been supporting religious engagement overseas (also for development and humanitarian purposes, one might add), they tend to be Muslim. A coincidence perhaps?

To avoid these kinds of questions, it would behoove all concerned parties interested in achieving the significant targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, and with a view to endorsing the United Nations’ mandate of safeguarding peace and security and protecting human rights, to support the efforts of the UN system in engaging the whole of civil society.

Rather than efforts driven by some governments, to work with select religious actors, in some countries, the challenge (which is fully achievable) is to strengthen the multi-faith and broad-based civic coalitions of legally registered, bona fide NGOs, working with and known to their governments and to the UN entities, at national, regional and global levels, to deliver for the world.

Otherwise, the danger is that such efforts will be misconstrued as the new colonial enterprise in international development, playing into rising religious tensions globally. History is replete with examples where mobilizing religious actors in other countries, no matter how well-intentioned, can create some rather unholy alliances.

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Progress on World Hunger Has Reversedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/progress-world-hunger-reversed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=progress-world-hunger-reversed http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/progress-world-hunger-reversed/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 16:10:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151156 World hunger has increased, reversing years of progress, said a UN specialised agency. During its biennial conference held in Rome, Italy from 3-8 July, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that the world is facing it’s worst food crisis since World War II. “I wish I could announce here today some good news regarding […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

World hunger has increased, reversing years of progress, said a UN specialised agency.

During its biennial conference held in Rome, Italy from 3-8 July, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that the world is facing it’s worst food crisis since World War II.

World hunger has increased, reversing years of progress, said FAO: the world is facing its worst food crisis since World War II

Credit: FAO/Carlo Perla

“I wish I could announce here today some good news regarding the global fight against hunger…but, unfortunately, it is not the case,” said FAO’s Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva to member states at the opening of the meeting.

FAO has identified 19 countries facing severe food crises due to a combination of conflict and climate change including South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen where nearly 20 million are affected.

Though South Sudan recently declared that it no longer has areas in famine, millions are still on the brink of starvation as violence and insecurity ensues.

In fact, almost 60 percent of hungry people around the world live in areas affected by conflicts and climate change. With no relief to be seen, many turn to migration, contributing to the doubling of global displacement, said Graziano da Silva.

The concerning trends comes just two years after the adoption the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals which includes targets to eradicate hunger by 2030.

“Strong political commitment to eradicate hunger is fundamental, but it is not enough. Hunger will only be defeated if countries translate their pledges into concrete action, especially at national and local levels,” said Graziano da Silva.

Though peace is important to end these crises, the international community cannot wait for peace in order to take action, he added.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni similarly called for “renewed and extraordinary efforts” during a keynote address, particularly pointing to the influx of migrants into the European Union (EU) country’s shores.

Italy is one of the major destinations for migrants who embark on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean sea. In the first six months of 2017, Italy has taken in over 82,000 migrants. In the past week alone, more than 10,000 migrants have been rescued from overcrowded, unstable boats by the country’s coastguard.

Overwhelmed by the numbers, the country has threatened to close their ports to rescue ships unless other EU countries share responsibility and help take in migrants.

However, responding to emergencies alone will not be sufficient.

“To save lives, we have to save their livelihoods. We cannot save people and put them in camps,” said Graziano da Silva.

FAO has highlighted the importance of work around climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agricultural production, migration, and support of conflict-affected rural livelihoods among its key priorities.

“There is no peace without sustainable development, and there is no sustainable development without peace. Vulnerable people, rural people cannot be left behind…we have to build the conditions for them to thrive, for them to have hope, for them to exercise their human right to food,” Graziano da Silva concluded.

Around 1000 participants are expected to attend the 40th session of FAO’s conference, including a 176 member delegation. Participants will address pressing policy issues related to global food security and will review and vote on FAO Director-General’s proposed program of work and budget for 2018-2019.

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Ending Child Marriage Could Add Trillions to World Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ending-child-marriage-add-trillions-world-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-child-marriage-add-trillions-world-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ending-child-marriage-add-trillions-world-economy/#respond Fri, 30 Jun 2017 06:07:19 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151120 The benefits of ending child marriage are many—boosting a young girl’s morale and increasing her chances of education and work, and by that virtue, curbing high population rates in developing economies and boosting growth. Still, more than 15 million children, under 18 years of age, are married each year. A new study published by the […]

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In Nepal, many children who suffer from malnutrition belong to young mothers. In fact, teen marriages and pregnancies are common and over 23 percent of women give birth before they are 18 years old. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 30 2017 (IPS)

The benefits of ending child marriage are many—boosting a young girl’s morale and increasing her chances of education and work, and by that virtue, curbing high population rates in developing economies and boosting growth.

Still, more than 15 million children, under 18 years of age, are married each year.

A new study published by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) estimates that from now until 2030, the largely outlawed practice of child marriage is going to cost developing countries trillions of dollars.

“We haven’t seen real investments needed to end the practise. Policy makers have increasingly acknowledged child marriage as a human rights abuse, but we didn’t have a sense of the economic impact, which we thought might spur increased funding by donors and governments,” Suzanne Petroni, one of the lead authors of the report, told IPS.

The burden is borne mainly by poor economies with a large population of children under 18. The UN estimates that Africa, by the end of 2050, will be home to the largest population of children under 18.

In the Republic of Niger, for instance, 77 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 22 were married before they turned 18.

Given the high numbers, Niger also stands to curb its population growth by as much as 5 percent if it ended the practice, and trigger growth of 1.7 billion dollars in additional welfare, 327 million in savings to the education budget, and 34 million through reduced infant mortality.

Similarly, In Uganda, the economy stands to gain 2.4 billion dollars by curbing its population growth, as does Nepal, which stands to gain almost a billion dollars.

Globally, the amount adds up to 500 billion dollars, picked up by related benefits—fewer instances of malnutrition, for example—by the end of 2030.

“Many countries have laws on the books. In Bangladesh, for instance, half of the girls are married before 18, even though the country has banned child marriage since 1929. So clearly, laws are not sufficient to create change,” Petroni explained.

Besides the glaring benefits of a surge in economic growth in developing countries, ending the practise will ensure better prospects for young girls— better education, higher incomes, and finally, as better decision makers.

In fact, child marriage and higher school dropout rates hamper the chances of earning better wages by 9 percent on average.

The UN aims to abolish the practise by 2030, as a part of its broader mission to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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More Bang for Your Buck: Saving Lives by Investing in the Pooresthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/bang-buck-saving-lives-investing-poorest/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 07:01:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151079 Investing in the health of the poorest communities saves almost twice as many lives, according to a UN agency’s analysis. In a new report titled “Narrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) found that increased access to health among poor communities saves more lives and is […]

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Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030

Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) Noah Chipeta rides his bicycle from the Chanthunthu community clinic to the nearest health centre, which is 17 kilometres away, in order to restock medical supplies at the clinic in rural Kasungu District, Malawi | Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2017 (IPS)

Investing in the health of the poorest communities saves almost twice as many lives, according to a UN agency’s analysis.

In a new report titled “Narrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Poorest Children,” the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) found that increased access to health among poor communities saves more lives and is more cost-effective than in non-poor communities.

“It is critical to focus on the poorer populations, especially in terms of health and nutrition,” Senior Advisor for UNICEF and the report’s author Carlos Carrera told IPS.

Impoverished children are nearly twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthday than children growing up in better circumstances. A majority of these deaths are preventable, but lack of access to critical health services make them all too common.

However, UNICEF has found that health gaps between poor and non-poor communities have narrowed in over 50 countries and that improved access to health interventions among poor communities have helped decrease child mortality three times faster than among non-poor groups.

Since birth rates are higher among the poor, the reduction in the under-five mortality rate translates into 4.2 more lives saved for every million people.

In fact, over one million people, a majority of whom lived in poverty, were saved during the final year of the 51 countries studied.

Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030

UNICEF-supported mobile health team providing essential basic health services to remote and isolated communities, with a special focus on maternal and neonatal care | Credit: UNICEF

Such live-saving health interventions include increased provision of basic medication, skilled birth attendance, full immunisation programmes, and even free health services.

In Bangladesh, new policies including the establishment of free community clinics and targeted sanitation and hygiene interventions have helped decrease under-five mortality by almost 75 percent.

Carrera pointed to Sierra Leone as another successful example as it introduced services targeting the major killers of vulnerable children and women, including insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, birth attendance, and immunisation.

Between 2000 and 2013, the West African nation achieved up to 25 percent increases in some intervention coverages among the poor.

“By combining all of these different methods, they managed to improve coverage of all these high impact interventions in poor populations,” Carrera stated.

However, the 2014-2015 Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone potentially set back decades of progress in the country, and serves as a reminder for the need for sustained investment in community health systems.

Though it is more expensive to reach marginalised populations due to barriers such as distance and lack of roads or infrastructure, the benefits outweigh the costs, Carrera noted.

For every one million dollars invested, the number of deaths averted is 1.8 times higher among the poor than the non-poor.

“It is more costly, we accept that, but it is so much more effective because of the higher burden of diseases and higher risk for the health of poor children and women that it saves many more lives,” Carrera told IPS.

As a result, he advised governments to utilise an equity approach to identify populations and causes of death in order to design targeted interventions to reach and include the most vulnerable.

“That will be the most efficient way to use their resources—not just the most equitable, but also the most efficient,” Carrera added, noting that this is the only way for governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The internationally adopted SDGs, whose motto is to ‘leave no one behind’ includes targets to reduce preventable deaths of children and provide equitable access to quality and affordable health care services for all, especially those who have not been reached.

Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, which can only be achieved with focus and additional investment in the poor, almost 70 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030.

“With so much at stake – and so many lives hanging in the balance – we cannot afford to ignore this new evidence,” UNICEF stated.

UNICEF’s study draws on data from 2003 to 2016 in 51 countries where around 80 percent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur.

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Working Toward a World Without Parkinson’s Diseasehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/working-toward-world-without-parkinsons-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-toward-world-without-parkinsons-disease http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/working-toward-world-without-parkinsons-disease/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:12:34 +0000 John Lehr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151068 John L. Lehr is chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

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John L. Lehr is chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

By John L. Lehr
NEW YORK, Jun 27 2017 (IPS)

As one expert recently noted, if Parkinson’s were an infectious disease, we would call it an epidemic. Worldwide, 10 million people live with Parkinson’s disease, a number expected to double in the next 20 years. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s and no proven way to slow its progression, there is new reason to hope for a world without Parkinson’s.

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and no proven way to slow its progression, there is new reason to hope for a world without Parkinson’s

John L. Lehr

The varied symptoms of Parkinson’s – including tremor, slowness, fatigue and cognitive difficulties – develop slowly and progress over years and decades. Parkinson’s mainly affects people over the age of 60. Ultimately, in its advanced stages, it disables people, leaving them unable to care for themselves.

Today, the needs of the Parkinson’s community are greater than ever, but so is the potential of science to help meet these needs and eradicate the disease. At a June symposium marking the 60th anniversary of the Parkinson’s Foundation, leading researchers reviewed recent scientific progress toward that goal and charted a path to the future.

The symposium included discussion of the disparities that prevent many people with Parkinson’s from receiving the best care. In the US, only a small percentage of people with Parkinson’s receive the specialist care that can help them live well. Women living with Parkinson’s are less likely than men to see a specialist. Few people of color participate in clinical trials for new therapies. And around the world, people in dozens of countries do not have access even to today’s gold-standard medical therapy, levodopa.

How can we advance research for new therapies while ensuring that people with Parkinson’s worldwide can live their best lives today?

First, a better definition of Parkinson’s is helping us diagnose the disease and search for new treatments. Increasingly, scientists and doctors recognize that “Parkinson’s” is an umbrella term for a spectrum of diseases. People with Parkinson’s have different sets of symptoms that develop and progress at different rates. The brain changes that underlie Parkinson’s begin long before a person notices movement symptoms. But there is no simple blood test or brain scan that can diagnose the disease.

A clearer understanding of genetics, immunology, and the bacteria that line the gut are helping scientists to define different manifestations of Parkinson’s — and develop tests to diagnose them. Having biomarkers for the disease will speed the development of new therapies, because we will be able to identify people who are most likely to benefit from drugs aimed at specific Parkinson’s “types.”

Next, new technologies — many in the hands of people with Parkinson’s — are helping researchers to better understand Parkinson’s and improve lives. Smartphone apps may help scientists gather data on subtle early symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as changes in a person’s voice. Online communities where people enter data about their own symptoms can help researchers track and understand disease progression in large numbers of people.

Ideally, people with Parkinson’s should seek treatment by a neurologist who is an expert in movement disorders. But many people live far from the medical centers where such specialists work. The movement problems associated with Parkinson’s can make it difficult for those with advanced disease to access care. The good news is that telemedicine — virtual house calls — also hold promise for providing better care. Telemedicine could potentially provide people with better access to their doctors, and doctors with the opportunity to assess their patient’s on their home turf rather than in the artificial environment of the office.

The future also holds potential for a new generation of Parkinson’s therapies that may stop or slow disease progression and transform the quality-of-life issues that many people living with Parkinson’s face. Decades of investment in biomedical research have yielded promising new drug targets that are being tested in clinical trials. Advances in deep brain stimulation techniques are fine-tuning a therapy that is already improving the lives of many worldwide.

As these advances unfold, the Parkinson’s Foundation will remain at the forefront of medical research to reveal the causes of Parkinson’s and find ways to end it. We also will continue to support the community and address disparities through education, outreach and advocacy. As Parkinson’s reaches epidemic-like proportions, it’s clear that this work is more important than ever.

Many obstacles to a world without Parkinson’s remain. We will continue to invest in research and improving lives until that world is within our reach.

John L. Lehr is chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation. To learn more visit www.parkinsonsfoundation.org

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The High Cost of Ageinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/high-cost-ageing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=high-cost-ageing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/high-cost-ageing/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:32:54 +0000 Veena Kulkarni Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151029 Veena S. Kulkarni is Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Sociology, & Geography, Arkansas State University, U.S.; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England

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Veena S. Kulkarni is Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Sociology, & Geography, Arkansas State University, U.S.; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England

By Veena S. Kulkarni, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

Evidence shows that health systems must be recast to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention.

Evidence shows that health systems must be recast to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention, morbidities associated to ageing

Disability is the umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. (Representational image) | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The National Health Policy (NHP), 2017, is long on banalities and short on specifics. In a somewhat glaring omission, little has been said about the rapid rise in the share of the old — i.e. 60 years or more — and associated morbidities, especially sharply rising non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and disabilities. In the context of declining family support and severely limited old-age income security, catastrophic consequences for destitutes afflicted with these conditions can’t be ruled out. Besides, continuing neglect and failure to anticipate these demographic and epidemiological shifts — from infectious diseases to NCDs — may result in enormously costlier policy challenges. An estimate provided for the 2014 World Economic Forum suggests that NCDs may cost as much as $4.3 trillion in productivity losses and health-care expenditure between 2012 and 2030, twice India’s annual GDP.

Detailed projections of the old in India by the United Nations Population Division (UN 2011) show that India’s population, ages 60 and older, will climb from 8% in 2010 to 19% in 2050. By mid-century, their number is expected to be 323 million.

Population dynamics and a rapidly changing age structure reflect the combined impact of increasing life expectancy and declining fertility. Life expectancy at birth in India climbed from 37 years in 1950 to 65 years in 2011, stemming from declines in infant mortality and survival at older ages due to public health improvements. The key question is whether longer lives have translated into healthier lives. Our evidence raises serious doubts.

Evidence shows that health systems must be recast to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention, morbidities associated to ageing

Vani S. Kulkarni

Evidence from IHDS survey
Our analysis, based on the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2015, the only nation-wide panel survey covering the period 2005-2012, throws new light on these issues. A major advantage of the panel survey is that the same individuals are tracked over a period of seven years.

The prevalence of high blood pressure among the old almost doubled over the period 2005-12; that of heart disease rose 1.7 times; the prevalence of cancer rose 1.2 times; that of diabetes more than doubled, as also that of asthma; other NCDs rose more rapidly (i.e. by two and a half times).

A related question is whether multi-morbidity (i.e. co-occurrence of two or more NCDs) also rose over this period. Often multi-morbidities occur non-randomly or systematically. The prevalence of high blood pressure and heart disease rose more than twice while that of high blood pressure and diabetes nearly doubled.

Evidence shows that health systems must be recast to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention, morbidities associated to ageing

Veena S. Kulkarni

Wealth quartiles were constructed to examine whether prevalence of NCDs varied across them and over time. Often it is asserted that the burden of NCDs is increasingly borne by less affluent sections. of the population. In other words, wealth and health deprivations have a larger overlap because of more sedentary life-styles, dietary shifts towards more fatty and processed foods, rising obesity, high rates of smoking and alcohol consumption, rural-urban migration and changing age structure. The burden of NCDs shifted from the most affluent to the least affluent over this period. In both the first (least wealthy) and fourth (wealthiest) quartiles, the prevalence rose sharply in most cases but in all the rises were faster among the least wealthy. The ratio of high blood pressure in the first quartile relative to the fourth rose from 0.36 in 2005 to 0.40 in 2012; that of heart disease rose from 0.31 to 0.38; that of diabetes from 0.23 to 0.34; and that of blood pressure and heart disease rose from 0.11 to 0.58. As NCDs are associated with a large majority of deaths among the old — about 93% of the total deaths among 70 years or more in 2013 — they are now more vulnerable to mortality risk. In fact, the least wealthy have become more susceptible to this risk.

By age 60, the major burdens of disability and death arise from age-related losses in hearing, seeing or moving, and NCDs (WHO, 2015). Thus co-occurrence of disability and NCDs poses a higher risk of mortality.

Evidence shows that health systems must be recast to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention, morbidities associated to ageing

Raghav Gaiha

Assessing disability
Disability is the umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. An assessment of functioning in activities of daily living (ADLs) is one method widely used to assess disability in older persons. Disability is usually measured by a set of items on self-reported limitations with severity of disability ranked by the number of positively answered items. Disabilities in ADL show dependence of an individual on others, with need for assistance in daily life. The activities of feeding, dressing, bathing or showering, walking 1 km, hearing, transferring from bed and chair, normal vision, and continence are central to self-care and are called basic ADLs. The IHDS provides data on seven disabilities defined in this manner.

In select disabilities, there is a sharp rise with age and over time. Difficulty in walking was 1.7 times greater in the age group 70-plus years relative to 60-69 years in 2012. Over the period 2005-2012, overall prevalence rose 6.1 times. Difficulty in using toilet facilities was 2.3 times higher among the older group (70-plus years). Overall prevalence was five times higher in 2012. Difficulty in dressing was about 2.5 times higher in the older group. Overall prevalence jumped about five times between 2005-12. Hearing difficulty was just under twice as high among the older group in 2012, while the overall prevalence rose 4.7 times over this period.

To assess severity of disabilities, these are classified into counts of 1-4 and greater than 4. The proportion of old women was larger than that of males in both groups and years. At the aggregate level too, disabilities grew in both groups, especially in the group greater than 4. Thus both prevalence and severity of disabilities rose during 2005-2012.

As observed earlier, it is the co-occurrence of NCDs and disabilities that is more likely to be fatal. We find that in most cases there was an increase. Heart disease and disabilities (1-4) rose 1.3 times. Blood pressure and disabilities in this range rose 1.2 times, as also diabetes and disabilities. Blood pressure and heart disease and disabilities increased 1.4 times.

In brief, that the curse of old age has become worse is undeniable. Along with expansion of old age pension and health insurance, and public spending on programmes targeted to the health care of the old, careful attention must be given to reorient health systems to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention and control by enhancing the skills of health-care providers and equipping health-care facilities to provide services related to health promotion, risk detection, and risk reduction.

This story was originally published by The Hindu.

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UN Response Teams Underfunded as Costs Hit Staggering $23.5 Billionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-response-teams-underfunded-costs-hit-staggering-23-5-billion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-response-teams-underfunded-costs-hit-staggering-23-5-billion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-response-teams-underfunded-costs-hit-staggering-23-5-billion/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 05:24:11 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151009 UN response teams that help the most vulnerable people in the world are still largely underfunded, a new status report has revealed. The funding available to the teams is no match for the record number of people—141 million—who need assistance today. Newer and protracted conflicts have raised the bar of funding requirements to a staggering […]

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A wide view of a briefing on the humanitarian affairs segment (scheduled to take place in Geneva, 21 to 23 June) of the 2017 session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

UN response teams that help the most vulnerable people in the world are still largely underfunded, a new status report has revealed.

The funding available to the teams is no match for the record number of people—141 million—who need assistance today.

Newer and protracted conflicts have raised the bar of funding requirements to a staggering 23.5 billion dollars. International donors, since the launch of Humanitarian Appeal in 2016 by the UN and its partners, have contributed to a total of 6.2 billion dollars.

The lack of funding is especially worrying as many countries have seen a resurgence in violent conflicts – for instance, rapid escalation of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s central Kasai province. Many others are threatened by natural disasters, such as the drought in Kenya, or flooding in Peru. Still others, almost 20 million people, are at risk in countries at the brink of a famine, such as northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

However, teams have worked hard to reach people, and have provided crucial assistance to many. The numbers, although small in comparison to the people who need aid, is worthy of recognition to the commitment of the UN Humanitarian Appeal. Some 5.8 million people in war-torn Yemen, and 3 million people in famine-struck South Sudan have, for instance, received life-saving assistance.

“Funding to response plans is a high-impact investment as they are prioritized on the basis of thorough needs assessment and analysis. Supporting the plans also provides the most neutral and impartial aid,” said Stephen O’Brien, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

The report highlights the pressing need for financial aid to support people across 37 countries, and urges donors to step up their contributions.

“With generous donor support, humanitarian partners have swiftly scaled up to deliver record levels of life-saving assistance in challenging and often dangerous environments. Donors have invested in these efforts but we are in a race against time. People’s lives and well-being depend on increasing our collective support,” said O’Brien.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) brings together Member States, United Nations entities, humanitarian and development partners, private sectors and affected communities at the Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) to discuss urgent humanitarian issues each year in June. The event this year runs from 21st until 23rd June

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“Big Reflection” Needed on Opioid Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:26:39 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151003 Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency. In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world. In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at […]

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Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency UNODC

Intravenous drug users in Pakistan. Credit: Fahim Siddiqi/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency.

In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world.

In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at least once. Of these, almost 30 million suffered from drug use disorders including dependence. UNODC found that opioids were the most harmful drug type, accounting for 70 percent of negative health impacts associated with drug use disorders worldwide, and its production is only increasing.

“[Opioid use] is a really dramatic epidemic…they are really, in terms of burden of disease, at the top of the scale,” said UNODC’s Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch Gilberto Gerra to IPS.

The use of opioids, including heroin, morphine, and fentanyl, heighten the risks of acquiring diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C through unsafe injecting practices as well as overdoses and death.

Globally, there are an estimated minimum of 190,000 premature deaths related to drugs that were mostly avoidable. A large proportion of those deaths is attributed to the use of opioids.

Though affects many countries in the world, the opioid crisis is particularly prevalent in the United States.

Mostly driven by opioids, approximately one quarter of the estimated drug-related deaths worldwide occur in the U.S.

Overdose deaths in the North American nation more than tripled from almost 17,000 to over 52,000 annually between 1999 and 2015, and increased by 11 percent in the past year alone, reaching the highest level ever recorded.

In fact, more Americans died from the misuse of opioids in 2016 than in the entirety of the Vietnam War, noted Gerra.

In the state of Maryland, opioid-related deaths quadrupled since 2010 and deaths from fentanyl increased 38-fold in the past decade. In response to the crisis, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, stating: “We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency…this is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

Though some states have begun the place restrictions on the accessibility of pharmaceutical opioids, including a Florida bill that aims to restrict painkiller prescriptions to a five-day supply, Gerra stressed the importance of focusing on not only supply, but also the demand side of opioids.

“If so many people are consuming this opioid medication including legal opioids from the pharmacy, when you restrict the pharmacy’s opioid medication, they will start to turn to things like heroin,” he told IPS.

In the U.S., heroin use has increased significantly, and the Centers for Disease Control has suggested that it is linked to prescription opioid abuse.

“There needs to be a big reflection on this issue in North America,” Gerra said.

However, the potential changes in healthcare in the U.S. may impact access to treatment.

In particular, the current health care bill proposes cuts to expanded Medicaid, which is used by many states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic to boost their response by paying for medication, therapy, and other treatment services.

Health advocates criticised the proposed cuts during President Trump’s first meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which is charged with finding solutions for the epidemic.

“If we make it harder for people to get health care coverage, it is going to make this crisis worse,” said North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper.

A similar scenario is found around the world as availability of and access to treatment of drug use disorders remain limited. Fewer than one in six persons with drug use disorders are provided with treatment each year, UNODC found.

Gerra highlighted the importance of treatment, pointing to the need for personalised interventions and close supervision by doctors or therapists in order to avoid opioid misuse.

He also added that people possessing drugs for personal consumption should not be criminalised as it steers them away from seeking treatment for fear of punishment.

Though approaches to global drug policy have been contentious and diverse, countries in the General Assembly session on the world drug problem (UNGASS) in 2016 unanimously agreed for the first time to a people-centered approach which sees the drug problem as a health disorder rather than a criminal or moral issue.

“We cannot respond to people trapped by drugs with a punitive approach. We have to tell them that we are here, we are aware of your condition and behaviour, you are aware that you are in trouble, please come and we will do what we can to help you and your family to overcome this problem in a very humane and human-rights, science-based way,” Gerra told IPS.

Gerra called for a continuum of care approach to help keep people using drugs like heroin safe through services like needle exchange programs and to provide long-term accessible and affordable treatment once users are ready.

“No one should be left behind in the delivery of prevention and treatment interventions,” UNODC said in its report.

Gerra noted that prevention is by far the most cost-effective intervention in the long run, but approaches must be science-based in order to be effective.

“People don’t understand that there is a science behind prevention—they continue to use initiatives that are well-intentioned but completely not science-based [and] then they say prevention is not working,” he said, pointing to science-based methodologies such as life skills education and drug education to children.

The globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, whose motto is to leave no one behind, includes a target to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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