Thursday, March 26, 2009

Purple Day!

Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy. Here is some information on how you can support the cause to bring more awareness to this condition.

A little bit about Purple Day...

Founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, Purple Day is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On March 26, people from around the globe are asked to wear purple and spread the word about epilepsy.

Why? Epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide. That's more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease combined.

Why purple? Lavender is the international colour for epilepsy.

The National Walk for Epilepsy will occur on Saturday March 28th 2009.
Each year more and more people gather in D.C. to bring awareness to the third most common neurological disorder in the United States—epilepsy. The National Walk for Epilepsy has grown to an event with 8,000 participants and, over the span of two years, has raised more than $2 million dollars.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

India Grows and So Does Child Hunger

While the US struggles with its economy and financial woes, India continues to grow and remain somewhat fiscally stable. In the midst of this growth, it is easy to forget about the various problems that continue to plague this democracy. The issue of malnutrition is covered in a recent NYTimes article.
Small, sick, listless children have long been India’s scourge — “a national shame,” in the words of its prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But even after a decade of galloping economic growth, child malnutrition rates are worse here than in many sub-Saharan African countries, and they stand out as a paradox in a proud democracy.
I was shocked to read that while China reduced child malnutrition to 7% (of its children under 5 years old are underweight), India's comparable number was 42.5%!
There are no simple explanations. Economists and public health experts say stubborn malnutrition rates point to a central failing in this democracy of the poor. Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize-winning economist, lamented that hunger was not enough of a political priority here. India’s public expenditure on health remains low, and in some places, financing for child nutrition programs remains unspent.
India does run the largest child feeding program in the world, however it is inadequately designed with poor infrastructure and has barely made a dent in the ranks of sick children in the past 10 years.
[M]ost experts agree that providing adequate nutrition to pregnant women and children under 2 years old is crucial — and the Indian program has not homed in on them adequately. Nor has it succeeded in sufficiently changing child feeding and hygiene practices. Many women here remain in ill health and are ill fed; they are prone to giving birth to low-weight babies and tend not to be aware of how best to feed them.
The article reports that while hunger persists in destitute states across India, the more "serious" rates of hunger exist in states of great economic growth.

Hat tip to KS for the article.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Child Marriages in India

Nearly half of Indian brides wed before they are 18-years-old, the legal age for marriage since 1978, a survey by the Lancet medical magazine says.
A recent BBC article discusses how child marriage continues to be a problem for rural, poor and less educated girls living in India. Dr. Anita Raj (a fellowship advisor of mine from grad school) led the study which discusses the adverse health consequences of child marriages.
"Child marriage has serious consequences for national development, stunting education and vocational opportunities for a large sector of the population," says the paper, led by Anita Raj, a doctor at Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts.
Even with regard to India's existing policies against such practices and the country's economic development, child marriage has failed to be eradicated from rural and poor populations. India first introduced laws against child marriage in 1929 and set the legal age for marriage at 12 years. The legal age for marriage was increased to 18 in 1978.
The survey says:
*Child brides are 37% more likely not to have used contraception before their first child was born
*Seven times likelier to have three or more births
*Three times likelier to have a repeat childbirth in less than 24 months
*Fifty percent likelier to have an abortion
*Six times likelier to seek sterilisation
The reason why there are such high levels of sterilization among young brides is because they have had their desired number of children at an earlier age. Researchers warned that this could reduce condom use in such couples, which would heighten the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Hat tip to KS for the article.

Roads Less Traveled

Humanitourism. Have you heard about it before? Humanitourism is a new catchphrase - a variant on the voluntourism experience. Various organizations are now catering humaitourist trips to those craving adventure and experiences on foreign shores and who don't want to feel guilty about it. It's a new (I guess more trendy?) thing to do - a new wave of philanthropy of sorts.
For years we’ve been dreaming of joining Relief Workers International on its medical trips through India. The work: helping doctors provide medical care to hundreds of people in several different villages. The rest: Accommodations are comfy tents in breathtaking surroundings with visits to ancient towns and old forts. The site will soon list upcoming trips; in the meantime, reading about the work is singularly inspiring.
HumaniTourism states that it
aims to develop new models of ethical global tourism by combining travel with community development, entrepreneurial education, and environmental stewardship to foster sustainable, community-based economic development while preserving cultural integrity.
Sounds like a great way to participate in social development, contribute to the local economy, and actually made a difference on a community.

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Powerful Noise

In honor of the upcoming International Women’s Day (March 8th), last night the documentary film A Powerful Noise was screened simultaneously in 450 theaters nationwide. A panel discussion followed the film, and included five individuals involved in some capacity in humanitarian work: Helene Gayle, President and CEO of Care; Natalie Portman, actress and activist; Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times columnist and author, Christie Turlington Burns, model, businesswoman, and CARE advocate; and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. It was a wonderful event and the town hall meeting allowed for some great discussion around women, health, education and poverty.

The event was sponsored by CARE, an organization focused on fighting global poverty by putting women at the center of the effort to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

The film profiled three women who personify the belief that, in developing nations, it is women who hold the keys to fighting poverty, improving economic circumstances, and real community activism.

To learn more about the documentary, click here.
To learn more about CARE, click here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fire a major killer of Indian women

A recent Lancet study discusses the use of fire against women in domestic abuse situations. According to the study, more than 100,000 young women were killed in fires in India in a single year. Read on,

Young Indian women are more than three times as likely to killed by fire as their male compatriots, according to an article published on the Web site of the British medical journal, The Lancet. The victims largely fell within a 15 to 34-year age group.

Domestic abuse is a serious problem in India. Women are sometimes killed in disputes over dowries; often in such disputes the victims are doused with gasoline and set ablaze, and their deaths are claimed as kitchen accidents.

In the first study of its kind and using the most recent data available, The Lancet analyzed death registrations, official questionnaires in rural areas and census figures to arrive at an estimate of 163,000 fire-related deaths in 2001, or 2 percent of all deaths. That number is six times higher than the number of such deaths reported by police. More than 106,000 of those, or 65 percent, were women.
You can read more about this article here.