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Hunger and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean compounded by inequality

MD Staff

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For the third consecutive year, the number of those chronically hungry has increased in Latin America and the Caribbean, while 250 million – 60 percent of the regional population – are obese or overweight, representing the biggest  threat to nutritional health, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday.

Speaking at the launch of the 2018  Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security report in Santiago, Chile, FAO’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegue said it was an “appalling” threat to health overall, affecting women and indigenous groups the most.

The Panorama, published annually by FAO, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP), explores strategies to halt the health threats posed by hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the report, hunger, malnutrition, lack of micronutrients, and obesity largely affect lower income families, women, indigenous communities, Afro-descendants and rural families.

Principle causes of malnutrition amongst the most vulnerable, can be traced back to changes the food systems have experienced in the region, from production to consumption. With a greater strain on the demand for nutrient-rich food like milk and meats, many resort to less costly options which are often higher in fat, sugar and salt.

“Obesity is growing uncontrollably,” Mr. Berdegue said.

Maria Cristina Perceval, who serves at the regional director for UNICEF in the region, said stunting correlates closely to inequality and poverty levels, and being chronically overweight “is also increasingly affecting the poorest children,” highlighting that lower income families have unequal access to healthy diets.

Obesity has become the greatest threat to Latin America and the Caribbean when it comes to nutritional health conditions. Nearly one in four adults are obese and more than seven percent of children below the age of five are overweight—higher than the global average of 5.6 percent.

To address the exacerbation of hunger and obesity, a “multispectoral approach is needed,” Director of PAHO/WHO, Carissa Etienne said, adding that the solution requires addressing social factors just as well as water quality and access to health services.

In response to growing malnutrition, partner authors on the report call on countries to implement public policies that combat inequality while promoting health and sustainable food systems.

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New Social Compact

How It Happened by Shazaf Fatima Haider: Book Review

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The upcoming and present generations harbor and behold different assumptions, aspirations, worldviews, lifestyles, and ideologies than previous generations. However, they both view life through altered and these altered ideologies are well presented in the novel How It Happened (2012) by Shazaf Fatima Haider. The story is narrated by, youngest of all the family members, a 15-year old Saleha. This story revolves around a Shia ‘’Bandian’’ family progeny of the village of Bhakuraj in the Indian sub-continent who now lives in Karachi, Pakistan. Shazaf many a time speak tongue in cheek for Pakistani society and traditions. It is a noticeable fact that values, traditions, ideologies, and lifestyles keep on changing over time due to the change in worldviews and currently adopted concepts and ideals.

How It Happened, Penguin books, India.

In the novel, the re-adjustment process of a completely new culture stands quite distinguishable through social change, economical force, evolution, and constant general pressure as the cultural transition takes place. As can be seen in the novel that cultural transition has influenced within the same family but the remarkable impact was observed on the post generation of family through any of the above-mentioned factors. In the novel, from time to time we witness minor disagreements and contradictory views among all the family members but constant distress and confusion occur between the two female protagonists of the Bhakuraj family. There is a constant tug of war between both of the women (Dadi and Zeba). When Haroon, the elder son, wants to go to New York for his studies as he is a new graduate of IBADadi opposes the idea of studying abroad. She starts crying she has certain insecurities about him. Firstly, She thinks that he would marry abroad to a non-Muslim girl and their Bhakhurajian tradition of arrange marriage will decay. It was taken as taboo to marry a girl or boy of their liking. They were not given the right to choose their life partner although they claim to be the religious and honored families in society. Secondly, she has also fear deep inside her heart because Qurat who is Dadi’s cousin, her son married abroad to a converted Muslim and black girl. As she has no much social exposure, she thinks that everyone who goes abroad returns with a wife. But eventually, she agrees that it can only be possible if he promises that he would marry a girl approved by Dadi and whenever she wants. Zeba, the elder daughter of the family, has a different notion about it. She argues with Dadi and says: Dadi, you’re being unfair! Zebabaji protested. Haroon Bhai should have the freedom to marry someone he likes.

Upon this Dadi retorted “You be quiet! Listen to you! He should marry someone he likes….. Hussain! Look at what your daughter is saying!’’ (Ibid 29)

On another occasion, the subject is again the marriage of Haroon. Dadi puts forward a list of qualities that should be possessed by a prospective girl. When Dadi says: ‘’Arey Bhai, the younger they are, the more malleable!’’ Zeba is not of the same view, she again says this thought of her and says: ‘Dadi ‘, Zebabaji inquired, are we talking about women or plasticine?

From the beginning, we encounter this argumentation between the two protagonists for Zeba has a different social background and she has a different literal and economic background. Zeba has been brought up in a different social circle. She has grown in the city of Karachi, a different and liberal environment from the village of Bhakuraj where Dadi had been brought up. There is a big difference in a city and a village. Social factors have a great impact on the mindset of a person. Zeba believes that a person should be entitled right to choose her life partner as she has been inclined to this view socially. She has acquired it from society and the environment that a person has the right to his life, he has the right of expression, and he has the right to live his life the way he likes. She is courageous enough to argue with the matriarch of the family. Though no one is allowed to argue with Dadi, Zeba’s grooming does not allow her to remain quiet on the matters they don’t think are right. On the contrary, Dadi has been brought up were talking or arguing is considered as an offensive act towards the embedded taboos. Though economically sound but socially isolated, Dadi has been brought up in isolation in such away. They had been taught that they had no right especially girls to express their thoughts when elders discuss any topic or decide a matter of importance because they are taken as unwise. They have been taught that girls from respected families do not speak, they just listen and obey what they are told. Dadi had no schooling and another social circle. What she learned at home was all regarding education. She has been traditionally trained at home. She has been taught that a girl has to raise children and to keep the house no more. The women who do this duty of housekeeping and raising children well are characterized as respectable and successful women. In the novel, Dadi frequently expresses her thoughts proudly that a girl should be seen and not heard, a girl should be able to cook well, a girl should like this and that. Zeba says that women should be treated as human and not any material thing. They are living human beings, they breathe, they are not dumb, they can speak then why they should not be heard and only seen. They can differentiate between right and wrong and from their childhood they have been taught these things at home as well as in society.

The youngsters of the family have their style of living. Zeba, being a student of literature, keeps different views about everything. In the novel, she is depicted as a sharp-minded and disobedient girl of the family. Zeba is treated as the rebel of the family because she has set her principles for leading an ideal life. She is never inclined to follow the embedded customs, principles and traditions set by the Bhakurajian family. She seems to be interested to listen to the folks told by Dadi but she has no convictions to spend her own life as old-fashioned as Dadi`s. She is driven by the social norms of modern-day and by the conflicting differences between both traditions and viewpoints as she progresses in her educational life. 

In the novel changing roles of women have been portrayed greatly. Saima(Haroon’s wife) represents the ability of women to work in the man’s world. Fattiphups is playing the role of a liberal woman, who’s is leading a life in accord with her mindset. 

Based on given arguments and analysis it is found that as change is permanent in human life, a shift in culture is certain in this mobile society and Shazaf has justified the that with her wit. As Dadi had to agree with new trends, everyone has to accept the fact. Sooner or later culture has to decay and a new culture has to emerge according to social, political and economic changes that take place with the time. This novel proves this fact by presenting three generations in the same family. The shift of culture takes the gap of a generation but at last, it happens, the way old traditions of the Bakhuraj family come to its end by the marriage of Zeba ( a Shia girl) to a Sunni boy. So How It Happened can be taken as comic satire on the Pakistani society.

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New Social Compact

Five ways to protect health workers during the COVID-19 crisis

Christiane Wiskow

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Authors: Christiane Wiskow and Maren Hopfe*

In many cities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak a nightly ritual has been taking place whereby people applaud and bang pots and pans from their windows and their balconies to show gratitude to the many health workers braving the battle against COVID-19.

Health workers around the world are at the frontline of the daily battle to contain the virus and save lives. Pictures of them, exhausted, fighting to save patients have touched the world. The occupational safety and health of health workers is fundamental to enable them doing their jobs during this crisis. Their protection must be a priority.

So what needs to be done?

1. Keep health workers safe

Ensuring the safety and health of health workers and support personnel (e.g. laundry staff, cleaners and workers dealing with medical waste) is of the utmost importance.

Information on the transmission of the disease should be shared with health workers as widely and as quickly as possible, including information on the most recent guidelines, measures to prevent contagion and how they should be implemented. Dialogue between health workers and employers can ensure policies and procedures are being implemented in an appropriate manner.

The availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical, as well as training and education on how to use such equipment correctly. Moreover, testing for COVID-19 infection should be made available for health workers as widely as possible, to support both worker health and patient safety.

2. Protect their mental health

The pandemic confronts health workers with exceptionally demanding situations. In addition to a heavy workload, and at times traumatic situations with difficult decisions and unprecedented mortality rates, health workers must cope with the fear of contracting the disease or spreading it to their family and friends.

Lessons from other outbreaks, such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, showed that health workers may experience discrimination and stigma, due to the public’s fear of contracting the disease.

Providing social support within teams, families and friends, along with information and guidance for health workers on how to deal with stress and post-traumatic stress counselling, needs to be an integral part of the response.

3. Monitoring hours of work

In emergency situations, health workers are required to work under irregular and sometimes atypical conditions. In response to the outbreak many health workers are facing heavy additional workloads, long working hours and a lack of rest periods.

With many countries shutting down schools and public life, they also have to organize their private lives and look after dependants.

There should be appropriate working time arrangements to help health workers balance health service requirements with their care responsibilities at home and their own well-being.

4. Protect short-term recruits and volunteers

To fight the pandemic, several countries have reacted by seeking professional assistance from short-term recruits, volunteers, other sectors such as the military, retired health workers or medical and nursing students.

While these measures appear encouraging, because they secure the care needed, they should be carefully implemented to ensure these workers have the same employment protection as other workers.

Governments should consult with social partners to monitor and regulate such ad-hoc recruitments, as appropriate. As well as occupational safety and health, other terms and conditions of employment need to be addressed, such as social protection, remuneration, rest periods and working time arrangements.

5. Recruit and train more health workers

Investments need to be made in all health systems so that they can recruit, deploy and retain sufficient numbers of well-trained, supported and motivated health workers. The COVID-19 pandemic once again underlines the urgent need for a strong health workforce as an integral part of every resilient health system, and this is now recognized as essential foundation for the recovery of our societies and economies, and preparedness for future health emergencies.

*Maren Hopfe (Technical officer, health sector), Sectoral Policies Department

ILO

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New Social Compact

Is Earth in the recovery mode?

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Who would have thought just a few months ago that 2020 is going to be a turning point for whole of the world where every huge economy and countries with top security measures would be going to fight an unknown enemy?

Corona virus has almost been penetrated in every country of this planet. COVID19 is proliferating beyond the borders of the countries without any exception. Starting from the Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province of the China, this virus is affecting people mercilessly and have turned out to be fatal for the humankind. The material and human cost has been increasing every minute.

As the world has become a global village the extent of interdependence of nations on one another is also the major reason of the spread of the virus.

Juts few weeks ago things were not that alarming then they are today where the number of the patients affected globally had crossed 7 lacs with more than 38,000 deaths till now.

The rapid mounting of death rate in the Italy, Spain and Iran has changed the epicenter of virus from china to Europe. The deadly Corona is not bailing people out based ontheir nationality or racial link.  Be it any head of the state or the general masses, everyone is under the same degree of the risk.

If we erase Corona virus from the whole equation of the world affairs, today the headlines in the newspapers and on the tv screens would have been quite different.

America would have been busy in its presidential race; UK would have been engulfed in its Brexit policy and south Asia with its hopeless expectations pinned on the US and AfghanTaliban deal.

But now the whole world is only interested in one thing and that is “when will the vaccine be available?”

The world is at its peak of technological and scientific advancements but still no country has yet been able to achieve this milestone. The most alarming thing is that how the third world countries are going to manage the peak of their corona cases because even one of the most advanced health care systems have not been able to tackle that. We have roaring example of Italy in this regard.

IMF, last week, announced that they are going to write off debt for the poor states in this situation, but those nations also want monetary assistance to manage the worst-case scenarios. Iran is suffering most in this fight against Corona virus mainly due to sanctions. There is no doubt the initial recklessness by the Iranian Government is one of the main reasons of the outbreak but at this stage the severe sanctions are the biggest hurdles in their fight against the Corona virus. Many Iranian government officials have become the target of this virus in the recent few weeks. The most recent victims of this virus, as this article is being written, are the Prime Minister of UK Boris Johnson and Duke of Wales Prince Charles. The number of the patients of COVID19 are increasing every minute. The states that have enforced lockdown as a result of this microbe are not able to predict as in till when this situation is going to last.  Daily wagers in every economy are the biggest victim of this virus. The most vulnerable section would not be able to deal with this lockdown for a long time. Now this is up to the world community and various international organizations including IMF, WB and ADB to help the deserving governments in devising a bail out strategy for the most affected section of their respective populations.

After two months of lockdown, Wuhan city has been reopened few days ago. With China reducing its daily number if patients and death rate, the numbers are surging in USA, Iran and Italy. But the most dangerous and disheartening thing is that no country knows any tried and tested formula to curb the spread of this virus until the vaccine is invented.

Every educational institute in almost majority of the world is closed, industries have been shut down , markets have been closed, offices have started work from home policy in short, the life has been halted at the hands of the virus that is not visible to the naked eye. The busiest places in the world have been transformed into the most deserted spots. There is n o hustle bustle in the liveliest places of this world.

Every affected country is fighting an endless battle with this virus without knowing that when this is going to end. WHO emphasizes more and more testing but even the most richest countries on the face of this planet are not able to test every single person. The health workers: including doctors, nurses and the paramedics are combating of the frontline with the most exposure to the virus than anyone else. This also reminds us about the nobility and selflessness about their profession.

The abandoned beach of Miami, empty streets of Venice, vacant mosques of Mecca and Medina, unoccupied streets of Budapest, clear surroundings of Trevi fountain and the closed Louvre museum are the depiction of the consequences that this virus had bought down on the people of this planet. It has restricted people in their homes for God Knows till when.

The world is in the dire need of hope and optimism which unfortunately seems very far away right now. There is emptiness and pessimism all around where no one knows till when this stand still mode is going to be activated. This consistent shallowness presses a thought in one’s mind that is this planet fed up of the daily routine of its inhabitants or it wanted to take some break from the usual happenings of the mankind. Despite of that, the debate that this virus is going to change the social and personal norms of the mankind, is quite uncontested.

The more this present stalemate lasts the more this question persists in one’s  mind that Is Earth in the recovery mode?

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