Friday, October 13, 2006

::SEVA:: The (RED) Manifesto and the Nobel Peace Prize

All Seva is worthy of acknowledgment. I'm highlighting two for today.

Today marks the launch of (RED) products which will be available at Gap, Motorola, Converse, and Apple stores. (RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund by teaming up with the world's most iconic brands to produce (PRODUCT) RED branded products. A percentage of each (PRODUCT) RED product sold is given to The Global Fund. The money helps women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

What's the meaning of the parentheses or brackets? Well, we call them "the embrace." Each company that becomes (RED) places its logo in this embrace and is then elevated to the power of red. Thus the name -- (PRODUCT)RED.

Secondly, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammed Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker. Here is some more information about him from a profile on the BBC:

Muhammad Yunus is often referred to as "the world's banker to the poor". His life's work has been to prove that the poor are credit-worthy. His revolutionary Grameen (Village) banking system is estimated to have extended credit to more than seven million of the world's poor, most of them in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations in the world. The vast majority of the beneficiaries are women.

His "micro-finance" initiative reaches out to people shunned by conventional banking systems - people so poor they have no collateral to guarantee a loan, should they be unable to repay it.

Mr Yunus' has tried to tranform the vicious circle of "low-income, low saving and low investment" into a virtuous circle of "low income, injection of credit, investment, more income, more savings, more investment, more income".

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iraqi Dead May Total 600,000, Study Says

Here is a look at a public health study that brings everything into perspective. As I understand it, the US, UK, and Iraqi governments all think these numbers are incorrect (they claim the actual numbers are much lower). Regardless of whether it's 50,000 or 600,000 -- it's still a lot of lives that have been lost.

(On another note, a sound study should be designed to assess the number of deaths resulting from the events of 1984 in Punjab).

A team of American and Iraqi public health researchers has estimated that 600,000 civilians have died in violence across Iraq since the 2003 American invasion, the highest estimate ever for the toll of the war here.

The figure breaks down to about 15,000 violent deaths a month, a number that is quadruple the one for July given by Iraqi government hospitals and the morgue in Baghdad and published last month in a
United Nations report in Iraq. That month was the highest for Iraqi civilian deaths since the American invasion. But it is an estimate and not a precise count, and researchers acknowledged a margin of error that ranged from 426,369 to 793,663 deaths.

It is the second study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It uses samples of casualties from Iraqi households to extrapolate an overall figure of 601,027 Iraqis dead from violence between March 2003 and July 2006.

The findings of the previous study, published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, in 2004, had been criticized as high, in part because of its relatively narrow sampling of about 1,000 families, and because it carried a large margin of error.

The new study is more representative, its researchers said, and the sampling is broader: it surveyed 1,849 Iraqi families in 47 different neighborhoods across Iraq. The selection of geographical areas in 18 regions across Iraq was based on population size, not on the level of violence, they said.

The study uses a method similar to that employed in estimates of casualty figures in other conflict areas like Darfur and Congo. It sought to measure the number of deaths that occurred as a result of the war.

It argues that absolute numbers of dead, like morgue figures, could not give a full picture of the “burden of conflict on an entire population,” because they were often incomplete.

The mortality rate before the American invasion was about 5.5 people per 1,000 per year, the study found. That rate rose to 19.8 deaths per 1,000 people in the year ending in June.

Additional links:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Punjab Development - Water Crisis

An important aspect of health is the concept of development. People are often surprised that Punjab is experiencing such a large burden of disease, considering it is known to be one of the most prosperous states in India. Recently, it was even named the best state by India Today. This is all surprising to me, especially since evidence suggests that unemployment rates are at its highest, suicide rates are increasing, mental health and substance abuse issues are still prevalent. There has recently been much attention given to the water crisis occuring in Punjab that is leading to the a decrease in the development of the area. At the Spinning Wheel Film Festival, a short film by Navdeep Singh Kandola was screened, "Eco Punjab - Five Rivers Run Dry" which discussed the topic. Punjab relies heavily on agriculture and without an adequate water supply, the whole economic and development of the state is in question. When the development of a community is compromised so is their health. It has been shown through public health efforts that without a clean water supply, illness is inevitable.

According to the World Watch report, the mythic ‘Land of Five Rivers’ will be a desert in 20 years.

Here are some points made in a recent article from SikhSangat news:

The situation is more pitiful in southern districts of state in Malwa region, but situation is fast becoming all most same in entire Punjab. There are news of public demonstrations, road-blocks, dharnas and civil unrest on the issue of water. Students boycotting the classes and even an engineering collage near Malout have forced to declare vacations for three days as there is no water supply to the institute in April 2006. Students at ITI Moga went on strike to protest against non-availability of drinking water.

Water crisis is so pitiable that village Buladewala with population of 6000 is getting water from 2 hand pumps only. Situation is so grim that in urban and sub-urban areas people are forced to install expensive submersible pumps to fetch water. More is the depth more it costs on drilling and then it needs further higher capacity motor to fetch water and more power bill; it is unending process now in most parts of the Punjab.

Even villagers' drinking water from sub-human system has no other option left "It is better to drink unfit water then die of thirst- says Barjinder Singh a farmer from village Malsingh wala.

It is irony that water is selling in that very land which has abundance water resources once and it is more tragic that this commercialization of water is done not by any company it is being commercialized by villagers themselves. This is erosion of value-system related to water. It is new trend that now farmers in Punjab are committing suicide as their tube wells are going dry. As water level is going down drastically day by day the farmers are forced to spend money to get water from new depth. In some of areas this is very common phenomenon. This also adds more debt burden on Punjabi farmers.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dengue Outbreak in India - epidemic?

Federal Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss urged people not to panic, saying the situation was under control. He was speaking after talks in the capital, Delhi, where 14 of 28 recent dengue deaths have occurred. Nearly 500 cases of dengue have been reported. Sixteen new cases were announced in Delhi on Tuesday, a day after a massive drive to contain dengue was launched. Dengue fever - carried by mosquitoes - can lead to headaches, high fever and other flu-like symptoms, and even to brain haemorrhage. Meanwhile, the southern state of Kerala is battling a massive outbreak of another mosquito-borne infection - chikungunya disease. Up to 20,000 people are affected in the worst-hit district of the state, authorities say.

Of particular concern in the dengue outbreak has been the fact that India's leading state hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, was found to be a central breeding ground for mosquitoes. More than 30 people have been affected by dengue, including 18 medical staff. One doctor has died. But Mr Ramadoss denied the dengue outbreak amounted to an epidemic. "There is no need to panic," he told reporters in the capital. "That is the most important information I want to give to the general public. "The total number of cases we have recorded so far is about 497 and we will get an update on the figures by the municipal corporation by evening." As well as the deaths in Delhi, Rajasthan state has confirmed seven deaths, Uttar Pradesh four, and Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana one each in recent weeks. Mr Ramadoss called a meeting of health officials from all affected states on Thursday for a detailed assessment of the situation.

With no preventive vaccines available for dengue fever, the authorities are concentrating on cleaning up affected areas before the situation gets out of hand. The state government in Rajasthan has announced free tests for dengue and increased vigilance. Health authorities in Punjab and Haryana issued fresh instructions on mosquito-control and pre-stocking of medicines and intravenous fluids in all hospitals.

Story from BBC