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Pollution likely to cut 9 years of life expectancy of 40% of Indians

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(Last Updated On: September 1, 2021)

Air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40% of Indians by more than nine years, according to a report released by a U.S. research group on Wednesday.

More than 480 million people living in the vast swathes of central, eastern and northern India, including the capital, New Delhi, endure significantly high pollution levels, said the report prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

“Alarmingly, India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time,” the EPIC report said.

For example, air quality has significantly worsened in the western state of Maharashtra and the central state of Madhya Pradesh, it said.

Lauding India’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP), launched in 2019 to rein in dangerous pollution levels, the EPIC report said “achieving and sustaining” the NCAP goals would raise the country’s overall life expectancy by 1.7 years and that of New Delhi 3.1 years, Reuters reported.

The NCAP aims to reduce pollution in the 102 worst-affected cities by 20%-30% by 2024 by ensuring cuts in industrial emissions and vehicular exhaust, introducing stringent rules for transport fuels and biomass burning and reduce dust pollution. It will also entail better monitoring systems.

New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.

Last year, New Delhi’s 20 million residents, who breathed some of the cleanest air on record in the summer because of coronavirus lockdown curbs, battled toxic air in winter following a sharp increase in farm residue burning in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana, Reuters reported.

According to the EPIC’s findings, neighbouring Bangladesh could raise average life expectancy by 5.4 years if the country improves air quality to levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

To arrive at the life expectancy number, EPIC compared the health of people exposed to different levels of long-term air pollution and applied the results to various places in India and elsewhere.

Health

400 confirmed cases of cholera in Zabul: Health officials

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(Last Updated On: May 24, 2022)

As many as 400 cholera cases have been confirmed in recent months in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province, health officials said on Tuesday.

Javed Hazhir, a spokesman for Public Health Ministry, said that cases have been reported in other provinces but that more cases of cholera are reported in warmer provinces in the country.

“Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat, Helmand and Kandahar are among provinces with the most number of cases,” Hazhir said.

He advised citizens to wash their hand before having a meal and after every trip to the toilet.

The lack of access to health facilities, poverty and unemployment are said to be the major causes of the increase in the number of cholera cases.

“I request the Public Health Ministry to pay attention to the outbreak in order to prevent deaths,” said Rahmatullah, a resident of Zabul.

Subhanullah, another Zabul resident, said that people are poor and they can’t afford to buy medicines.

The cholera surge comes as Afghanistan is already grappling with the challenges of drought, poverty and an economic crisis.

Afghanistan is in the grips of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and international organizations have warned of the collapsing healthcare system.

The country is also facing multiple outbreaks of disease, including COVID-19, measles, and diarrhea, as well as acute malnutrition.

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Health

WHO says no urgent need for mass monkeypox vaccinations

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(Last Updated On: May 24, 2022)

The World Health Organization does not believe the monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa requires mass vaccinations as measures like good hygiene and safe sexual behaviour will help control its spread, a senior official said on Monday.

Richard Pebody, who leads the high-threat pathogen team at WHO Europe, also told Reuters in an interview that immediate supplies of vaccines and antivirals are relatively limited.

His comments came as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was in the process of releasing some Jynneos vaccine doses for use in monkeypox cases.

Germany’s government said on Monday that it was assessing options for vaccinations, while Britain has offered them to some healthcare workers.

Public health authorities in Europe and North America are investigating more than 100 suspected and confirmed cases of the viral infection in the worst outbreak of the virus outside of Africa, where it is endemic.

The primary measures to control the outbreak are contact tracing and isolation, Pebody said, noting that it is not a virus that spreads very easily, nor has it so far caused serious disease. The vaccines used to combat monkeypox can have some significant side-effects, he added.

It is unclear what is driving the outbreak, with scientists trying to understand the origin of the cases and whether anything about the virus has changed. There is no evidence the virus has mutated, a senior executive at the U.N. agency said separately on Monday.

Many – but not all – of the people who have been diagnosed in the current monkeypox outbreak have been men who have sex with men. But that may be because this demographic is likely to seek medical advice or access sexual health screening more readily, the WHO said earlier in the day.

Most of the confirmed cases have not been linked to travel to Africa, which suggests there may be large amounts of undetected cases, said Pebody. Some health authorities suspect there is some degree of community spread.

“So we’re only seeing … the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Given the pace of the outbreak, and lack of clarity around what is driving it, there has been worry that large events and parties this summer could make things much worse.

“I’m not saying to people don’t have a good time, don’t go to attend these events,” Pebody said.

“It’s rather around what people do at the parties that matters. So it’s about safe sexual behaviour, good hygiene, regular hand washing – all these sorts of things will help to limit the transmission of this virus.”

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Health

13 million children in need of humanitarian aid, over 5 million close to famine

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2022)

Save the Children said Monday, in its latest report on Afghanistan, that 24.4 million people, including 13 million children, need humanitarian assistance and that over five million children are close to famine.

In its April report, the organization said 19.7 million people, including 9.6 million children, are facing critical levels of hunger; “5.3 million children are one step away from famine” and 1.1 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished.

According to the report, 5.8 million internally displaced people and returnees remain in some form of displacement and close to 700,0000 people were internally displaced in 2021.

In addition to this, Save the Children said eight million children need support to access education in Afghanistan and 10 million children are at risk of dropping out of school if teacher salaries are not paid and crippling poverty levels continue.

The report also noted that 4.5 million children are in need of mental health and psychosocial support.

The organization stated that armed clashes continue in Baghlan, Takhar and Panjshir provinces, where Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) “authorities are being attacked”.

“Increased number of explosions in Kabul city killed and injured a number of civilians, including children. In addition, airstrikes by Pakistani Air Forces killed 41 civilians including six children in Khost and Kunar provinces” last month, the report stated.

Save the Children said the economic crisis continues to impact the finances of families and in a survey carried out by the organization, it was found the majority of the families reported loss of some or all of their income and are unable to afford the rising cost of food.

“93% of people in Afghanistan face insufficient food consumption due to the economic decline. 4.5million children and breastfeeding women are at risk of acute malnutrition in 2022,” the report stated.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile confirmed nearly 55,400 measles cases and more than 290 related deaths since the beginning of 2021, including more than 3,300 new cases and 21 related deaths confirmed between March 20 and 26-2022.

Of the total cases, approximately 80 percent have been children ages five years and younger, Save the Children organization said.

In conclusion, the report noted that the ban on secondary school girls attending classes, and the non-payment of teacher salaries has led to growing rates of teacher, and subsequently student, absenteeism and drop-out.

“Shortages of qualified female teachers serve as a barrier to girls’ access to education,” the report stated.

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