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Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

India: Formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children

Posted by African Press International on October 27, 2013

The kerala high court held that the recommendations of the law commission of India for formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children deserves immediate attention by all stake holders who are interested in the welfare of women and children.

The court made it clear that sale of children should be termed as an offence by incorporating a penal provision after bringing in suitable amendment to the Indian penal code.Justice S.S Satheesh chandran made the observation while granting bail to prima of kasaragod,an accused in a case related to the selling of her two children when they were three months and six months old.

The allegation was that two tender children were sold by first accused Ratheesh with the support of the second accused prema.The first child was sold for a sum of 50000 rupees while the second child for 1 lakh. The court observed that the incident of parent selling two infants after receiving money was shocking and revolting. The court held that the statutes contained no provision to penalise a person for sale of woman and children.

The law commission of India after taking in to account the social evils of sale of women and children had recommended penal provisions including punishment by amending the IPC. The recommendation is yet to be adopted and deserves immediate attention by all stake holders,the court mentioned.

End

 

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Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, Redi Tlhabi chats to Yutaka Yoshizawa, Japan’s ambassador to South Africa, and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD.

Posted by African Press International on May 30, 2013

This Friday on Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, Redi Tlhabi chats to Yutaka Yoshizawa, Japan’s ambassador to South Africa, and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the former prime minister of Niger, who is currently CEO of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development, also known as NEPAD.

www.africanpress.me/ - Dr-Ibrahim-Mayaki

http://www.africanpress.me/ – Dr-Ibrahim-Mayaki

 

“As the Tokyo International Conference on African Development kicks off, we’ll look at how Africa can best benefit from its current economic boom,” says Redi. “In just ten years Africa has become one of the most dynamic regions in the world. A combination of natural and human resources has fuelled huge investments from both traditional and emerging powers. But can we turn this current boom into a repeat of Asia’s economic miracle?”

What role has NEPAD played in driving Africa’s growth? Why is NEPAD’s strategy for ongoing growth focused on national partnerships, development finance, and ownership? Is the era of aid dead? What can the lions of Africa can learn from Asia’s tiger economies?  What role did education play in driving Asia’s economic boom and how is this being repeated (or not) in Africa? Who actually benefits from economic booms and can the wealth distribution be managed?

 

During the discussion with the two prominent personalities, Redi will ask the important questions on this week’s episode of South 2 North, which premieres at 19:30 GMT on Friday, 31 May 2013. The same will be screened Saturday at 14h30, Sunday 04h30 and Monday 08h30. This is a very interesting event that should not be missed.

Here below you can Catch up on last week’s episode, where Redi discussed Africa’s cultures of ‘magic’ and healing.

End

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Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is endemic

Posted by African Press International on May 19, 2013

Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is endemic

LAHORE/DUBAI, – Hamza Mazhar, a 35-year-old teacher from Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, says he never wants to see the inside of a government hospital again.

“My mother was taken to the hospital with an upper respiratory tract infection in February this year and doctors said she needed care in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU),” he told IRIN.

But the doctors in charge wanted the family to pay a bribe to get into the ICU, which had plenty of spare beds. They could not afford to pay. His mother was unable to get the treatment she needed and in March she died.

Health care in Pakistan is identified as one of the country’s most corrupt sectors, according to surveys by Transparency International; general surveys suggest the majority of Pakistanis are unhappy with the health services they are offered.

This is just one of the many challenges facing Pakistan’s health system, as identified in the first ever comprehensive assessment of the sector, published in the medical journal The Lancet and launched today in Islamabad.

Entitled Health Transitions in Pakistan, the series of articles says Pakistan’s health sector lags behind 12 countries in the region with cultural, economic and geographic similarities.

Pakistan has no national health insurance system and 78 percent of the population pay health care expenses themselves. It is the only country in the world without a National Health Ministry.

The report authors say the recently elected government has a unique opportunity to push through reforms and take advantage of recent constitutional changes that devolve health care to the provinces.

The findings are not entirely negative. Progress has been made on all health indicators in the past 20 years. The rates of child deaths and maternal mortality have fallen, and the community-based Lady Health Workers programme is singled out for praise.

But improvements have been much slower coming than in other similar countries. IRIN picked out four major challenges from the health assessment.

1. Avoidably high child and maternal mortality

The assessment’s authors describe Pakistan’s progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals for reducing child and material mortality (4&5) as “unsatisfactory”.

Pakistan, with its population of 180 million, has more child, foetal and maternal deaths than all but two of the world’s nations.

The report calls child survival “the most devastating and large-scale public health and humanitarian crisis Pakistan faces”.

An estimated 423,000 children under-five die each year, almost half of them new-born babies. Family planning options are also limited and nearly a million women attempt unsafe abortions each year.

Simple measures like training more nurses and midwives (currently outnumbered by doctors 2:1) could save more than 200,000 women and child lives in 2015, the report’s authors say.

2. Nutrition

A lack of adequate nutrition for children contributes to the high number of child and maternal deaths. Nearly 40 percent of children under-five areunderweight and more than half are affected by stunting.

Poor nutrition weakens the body’s natural defence mechanisms.

But the report also says that malnutrition affects the Pakistani economy, with estimates that it costs the country 3 percent of GDP every year, particularly through reduced productivity in young adults.

3. “Lifestyle diseases

In Pakistan, as more widely throughout south Asia, non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart problems have replaced communicable diseases like malaria and diarrhoea in the past two decades as the leading causes of death and morbidity.

This general trend has not been matched by an adaptation in the Pakistani health system or government policy. Poor road safety, cheap cigarettes and high-levels of obesity (one in four adults) all lead to preventable deaths.

So-called “lifestyle diseases” could cost the country nearly US$300 million in 2025, according to the report’s authors.

They say the right government action, including higher excise taxes on cigarettes, new legislation, and information campaigns could cut the premature mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and respiratory diseases by 20 percent by 2025.

4. Low public spending

Humanitarian crises provoked by earthquakes, flooding and conflict over the past decade have mobilized large sums of money both internationally and within the country.

But corresponding sums have not been spent on underlying health services, which have the potential to save many more lives.

Public health spending has declined from 1.5 percent of GDP in the late 1980s to less than 1 percent, according to the report – equivalent to less than 4 percent of the government budget.

That has left Pakistanis with little support for medical costs, which are responsible for more than two-thirds of major economic shocks for poor families, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education.

Rapid population growth only makes what resources are spent on health care produce ever smaller results.

kh/jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Pakistan: Doctors wanted the family to pay a bribe to get into the Intensive Care Unit – corrupt system contribute to unnecessary deaths

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2013

LAHORE/DUBAI, – Hamza Mazhar, a 35-year-old teacher from Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, says he never wants to see the inside of a government hospital again.

“My mother was taken to the hospital with an upper respiratory tract infection in February this year and doctors said she needed care in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU),” he told IRIN.

But the doctors in charge wanted the family to pay a bribe to get into the ICU, which had plenty of spare beds. They could not afford to pay. His mother was unable to get the treatment she needed and in March she died.

Health care in Pakistan is identified as one of the country’s most corrupt sectors, according to surveys by Transparency International; general surveys suggest the majority of Pakistanis are unhappy with the health services they are offered.

This is just one of the many challenges facing Pakistan’s health system, as identified in the first ever comprehensive assessment of the sector, published in the medical journal The Lancet and launched today in Islamabad.

Entitled Health Transitions in Pakistan, the series of articles says Pakistan’s health sector lags behind 12 countries in the region with cultural, economic and geographic similarities.

Pakistan has no national health insurance system and 78 percent of the population pay health care expenses themselves. It is the only country in the world without a National Health Ministry.

The report authors say the recently elected government has a unique opportunity to push through reforms and take advantage of recent constitutional changes that devolve health care to the provinces.

The findings are not entirely negative. Progress has been made on all health indicators in the past 20 years. The rates of child deaths and maternal mortality have fallen, and the community-based Lady Health Workers programme is singled out for praise.

But improvements have been much slower coming than in other similar countries. IRIN picked out four major challenges from the health assessment.

1. Avoidably high child and maternal mortality

The assessment’s authors describe Pakistan’s progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals for reducing child and material mortality (4&5) as “unsatisfactory”.

Pakistan, with its population of 180 million, has more child, foetal and maternal deaths than all but two of the world’s nations.

The report calls child survival “the most devastating and large-scale public health and humanitarian crisis Pakistan faces”.

An estimated 423,000 children under-five die each year, almost half of them new-born babies. Family planning options are also limited and nearly a million women attempt unsafe abortions each year.

Simple measures like training more nurses and midwives (currently outnumbered by doctors 2:1) could save more than 200,000 women and child lives in 2015, the report’s authors say.

2. Nutrition

A lack of adequate nutrition for children contributes to the high number of child and maternal deaths. Nearly 40 percent of children under-five are underweight and more than half are affected by stunting.

Poor nutrition weakens the body’s natural defence mechanisms.

But the report also says that malnutrition affects the Pakistani economy, with estimates that it costs the country 3 percent of GDP every year, particularly through reduced productivity in young adults.

3. “Lifestyle diseases

In Pakistan, as more widely throughout south Asia, non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart problems have replaced communicable diseases like malaria and diarrhoea in the past two decades as the leading causes of death and morbidity.

This general trend has not been matched by an adaptation in the Pakistani health system or government policy. Poor road safety, cheap cigarettes and high-levels of obesity (one in four adults) all lead to preventable deaths.

So-called “lifestyle diseases” could cost the country nearly US$300 million in 2025, according to the report’s authors.

They say the right government action, including higher excise taxes on cigarettes, new legislation, and information campaigns could cut the premature mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and respiratory diseases by 20 percent by 2025.

4. Low public spending

Humanitarian crises provoked by earthquakes, flooding and conflict over the past decade have mobilized large sums of money both internationally and within the country.

But corresponding sums have not been spent on underlying health services, which have the potential to save many more lives.

Public health spending has declined from 1.5 percent of GDP in the late 1980s to less than 1 percent, according to the report – equivalent to less than 4 percent of the government budget.

That has left Pakistanis with little support for medical costs, which are responsible for more than two-thirds of major economic shocks for poor families, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education.

Rapid population growth only makes what resources are spent on health care produce ever smaller results.

kh/jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Boosting global malaria?

Posted by African Press International on May 14, 2013

Artemisinin is usually extracted from the sweet wormwood tree, mainly grown in Asia (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – The UN World Health Organization has accepted the first semi-synthetic version of artemisinin, the key ingredient for malaria treatment globally, for use in the manufacture of drugs, boosting hopes that more people will have access to life-saving medication.

With an estimated 219 million malaria infections and 660,000 deaths – mainly children under five – annually, the disease is one of the world’s biggest killers.

Until now, artemisinin, the key ingredient in the WHO-recommended first-line malaria treatment artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT), has only been available by extraction from the sweet wormwood tree, native to Asia. However, climatic factors have meant it has suffered from uneven supply over the years.

“Normally, artemisinin is sourced from a plant, which is affected by seasonal factors – now, we have a man-made source, which ensures a constant supply of the drug,” Anthony Fake, active pharmaceutical ingredients focal point for WHO’s prequalification of medicines programme, told IRIN.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, scientists at the University of Berkeley, California, were able to genetically engineer a strain of baker’s yeast to mass-produce the semi-synthetic artemisinin.

French pharmaceutical firm, Sanofi, which manufactures the semi-synthetic artemisinin, recently announced that it planned to “produce 35 tonnes of artemisinin in 2013 and, on average, 50 to 60 tonnes per year by 2014, which corresponds to between 80 and 150 million ACT treatments”.

Agencies involved in fighting malaria say they have big expectations for the new product.

“The production of semi-synthetic artemisinin will help secure part of the world’s supply and maintain the cost of this raw material at acceptable levels for public health authorities around the world and ultimately benefit patients… Having multiple sources of high-quality artemisinin will strengthen the artemisinin supply chain, contribute to a more stable price, and ultimately ensure greater availability of treatment to people suffering from malaria,” Scott Filler, senior technical adviser for malaria at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, told IRIN via email.

According to Martin de Smet, who heads up Médecins Sans Frontières’ working group on malaria, the uncertainty of natural artemisinin’s availability has led to bulk buying and speculation in the market, leading to the price of the raw product varying widely – from US$400 per kg to $1,000 per kg – over the years.

He noted that the new development would have gains wider than ACTs: “It also opens doors to other forms of artemisinin use other than ACT, for example, artemisinin injections for severe malaria.”

Not a replacement

De Smet said it would be important for the supply of the natural version of artemisinin to continue alongside the semi-synthetic production.

“We hope that the message will not be that it will replace the natural product, because this would act as a disincentive to the farmers, who could stop producing their crops. It should be complementary, with a growing share of the market,” he added. “Hopefully, we will see the price of ss artemisnin matching the lowest price available for the natural product.”

Both WHO’s Fake and MSF’s de Smet say there is no need for concern over differences in efficacy or safety, as drugs manufactured with both versions of artemisinin contained the same active chemical ingredient.

“There is still a lot to do – pharm companies need to formulate the end products that they will produce based on the semi-synthetic artemisinin, and these then need to be prequalified by WHO – a bureaucratic process but one which ensures that the drugs are safe and effective,” he said.

“We don’t expect to see change overnight, but rather a gradual increase in the market share by companies manufacturing drugs using the semi-synthetic artemisinin – even if we see them getting 10 percent and eventually 20 percent, this will help ease speculation about the product’s availability and stabilize prices.”

kr/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Why food can kill in Bangladesh By Mubashar Hasan

Posted by African Press International on April 18, 2013

By Mubashar Hasan 

Bright, fresh, green – but safety unknown

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Millions fall ill annually due to food, drink
  • Pesticide use excessive and unregulated
  • Food vendors operate illegally, without oversight
  • Current food control policies ineffective

DHAKA,  – Food can just as easily kill as it keeps people alive, experts have learned in Bangladesh, where excessive use of pesticide, unregulated street food and lack of awareness about food safety sicken millions annually.

“Every day we are eating dangerous foods, which are triggering deadly diseases,” said Kazi Faruque, president of the nonprofit Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB).

Children younger than five in Bangladesh are at the greatest risk from eating unsafe food, which causes at least 18 percent of deaths in that age group and 10 percent of adults’ deaths, according to a 2006 study cited by the US-based University of Minnesota’s Centre for Animal Health and Food Safety.

Shah M. Faruque, director of the Centre for Food and Waterborne Disease at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, told IRIN this trend has continued, and may worsen as urbanization strains clean water supply in the capital, Dhaka.

On average, he said from 300 to 1,000 patients visit his medical clinic in Dhaka daily, mostly because of diarrhoea or cholera, which are often traced back to food or drink.

Pesticides and poor planning

Experts say the farm is one starting point for how food can turn fatal.

“Many farmers in the country use an excessive amount of pesticide in agricultural products hoping to [boost] output, while ignoring [the] serious health impacts on consumers,” said Nurul Alam Masud, head of the Participatory Research and Action Network (PRAN), a local NGO.

Despite repeated warnings from the government about this issue, lack of coordination among public agencies has hampered effective controls, said Hasan Ahmmed Chowdhury, a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) advisor on food safety policies.

FAO is advocating a “farm to table” approach that addresses how food is grown or raised, to how it is collected, processed, packaged, sold and consumed.

Urban poor

In 2009, Bangladesh’s parliament passed the country’s first consumer protection law covering food safety and security. New standards included requiring food labels, creating safety testing standards, monitoring products for chemical and microbial hazards, and holding producers accountable by levying fines for violations.

This law joined several others aimed at regulating food quality: Bangladesh Pure Food Ordinance (1959), Fish and Fish Product Rules (1997) and the Radiation Protection Act (1987).

Safe and nutritious food for all is also guaranteed in the constitution – but on the streets, it is a different matter.

“Street vendors operating small, unregulated carts feed millions of people daily, offering no guarantee of safety, with approximately one in six people becoming ill after eating out,” said Sohana Sharmin Chowdhury, head of urban development and communicable diseases at the local NGO Eminence.

This risk makes life even harder for slum dwellers who rely on street food for its ease and affordability, she said. “Health care is already a challenge for [the] slum population. This disease burden from unsafe food consumption adds up to their misery.”

At least 5 percent of Bangladesh’s 170 million people live in illegal housing settlements. According to a 2008 Asian Development Bank study, poor people in Bangladesh, particularly those in cities, find it difficult to prepare food at home as they spend so much time outside the home earning a living.

“Many of them end up eating cheap [ready-made meals] of low quality purchased from small shops or street vendors,” Chowdhury said.

Even though street food sales are illegal, and therefore unregulated, unofficial estimates hold that authorities tolerate about 200,000 food carts selling everything from samuchas – deep fried minced meat or vegetables wrapped in flour – to yogurt “lassi” drinks.

Profit at any cost

Faruque of CAB said vendors’ “philosophy of making profit at any cost” puts consumers at risk.

A common practice among food vendors is to spray fish, fruits and vegetables with chemical preservatives including formalin – a commercial solution of formaldehyde and water – to boost food’s lifespan and appearance.

Formaldehyde is typically used to preserve human corpses, as well as leather and textile products, said Razibul Islam Razon, a medical doctor in the capital who has treated food poisoning.

The chemical’s short-term effects include: a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. As for potential long-term health consequences, formaldehyde has been identified as a human carcinogen.

Going to the source to boost food safety

Shah Monir Hossain, a senior adviser at FAO in Bangladesh, said renal failure, cancer and liver damage – all potentially fatal – can be linked to the consumption of unsafe food, but the “extent of food-borne illness is yet unknown”. He predicted the situation will improve with more oversight.

But the private sector is hitting back.

“We are using a special preservative detector machine to check food [for] formalin at our sourcing in order to make sure that our customers receive safe food,” said Sabbir Hasan Nasir, executive director of a company running 40 all-in-one shopping centres nationwide serving about 20,000 customers daily.

“Customers can even check foods in our store through a machine in order to detect formalin,” he added.

Meanwhile, the local NGO Citizens Solidarity recently sent a notice to the government requesting legal steps to force vendors to cease and desist unethical vending practices.

But even when vendors do not knowingly engage in unsafe food handling, their lack of knowledge, coupled with long work hours and their own precarious health, can sicken customers, according to a 2010 FAO-government initiative to boost healthy street food.

The projects’ researchers tested 426 food samples from Dhaka vendors who had not undergone any food hygiene training and 135 from those who had. Samples from untrained vendors had almost uniformly “overwhelming” high bacteria counts, while results from trained vendors largely fell within international safety standards.

The researchers called on the government to develop a policy to “assist, maintain and control” street food vending.

Government efforts

The government is set to create the Bangladesh Food Safety and Quality Control Authority to boost control of street food and to criminalize unsafe food handling, the Minister of Food and Disaster Management, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, told IRIN.

Under the National Food Safety and Quality Act 2013, this authority will be created within the next two months, said Ahmed Hossain Khan, director-general of the Directorate General of Food in the same ministry.

The draft act addresses weaknesses in the existing food safety regulatory system, including the scant enforcement of food control laws along the entire supply chain. It also introduces a national food-borne disease surveillance system and outlines an emergency response plan in case of a disease outbreak linked to food.

“We identified existing loopholes in our food safety system, and this act will help us radically improve our approach in food safety regulation,” Khan said.

But Nazrul Islam, an associate professor at the Dhaka School of Economics, said regulatory policies alone have failed to solve the food safety problem, and that the government needs to examine the economic roots of unsafe food: the underclass of farmers responsible for feeding the country.

One start, he suggested, is guaranteeing farmers fair prices, a longstanding grievance of producers who accuse middlemen traders and end consumers of profit gouging.

“This may encourage farmers not to go for unethical practices up to a certain extent,” said Islam, adding that better agricultural extension services, easier access to information for farmers and strict regulatory measures are equally important.

The Asian Development Bank is supporting private agribusiness production facilities that will pay guaranteed prices to 50,000 contracted farmers.

But more is needed, Islam said. “The biggest challenge the country is facing in ensuring a meaningful food security for its…people is food safety.”

The 2012 Global Hunger Index places the country’s hunger situation in an “alarming” range, with too few people being able to eat nutritious, life-sustaining food.

mh/pt/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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