World Hunger: Crisis and a plan of action

According to UN food and agriculture agencies, the number of hungry people in the world has fallen over the past decade. However, the number still stands at 805 million, a figure representing one ninth of the global population.

Some countries have been able to improve their domestic figures, but the number of undernourished people is a still a problem that needs urgent international attention.

Crisis

The fight against world hunger in 2014 has had numerous setbacks. For instance, the Ebola virus has taken its toll on food supplies reaching the affected countries.

Elsewhere, conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic have increased hunger in those countries; with the need for aid clear to see.

Plan of action

Solving the issue of world hunger is not just in the interests of those affected, but is also good for the rest of the world. When a country is suffering from hunger throughout its people, this can cause a basic lack of productivity.

Economically, this hinders trading opportunities, costs millions of dollars and is eventually leads to even worse poverty. The desperation caused by such situations can lead to conflict, an issue, which can cost intervening parties millions of their own.

Looking after our own

However, it is not merely out of self-interest that it is important to try and fight world hunger. Humankind must learn to protect each other from all harm. Is world hunger an issue you want on your conscience? Or do you want to beat it?

We can help

There is no straightforward solution to combating this issue, every suffering country has troubles to contend with, and privileged nations must be willing to help.

Countries affected by disease must receive more medical attention. Only by getting the healthy back on their feet can the fight against hunger begin.

Development

In underdeveloped countries, where there is not enough food to go around, aid packages are a necessity; it is also important to promote sustainability.

We must make sure that people are taught how to gather their own food and treat their sick, so they can survive once the aid packages cease to arrive.

Finally, governments must learn to stand up to those who oppress their people. The issue of countries with economic wealth, yet a huge divide between rich and poor, need to be addressed. There is no reason for millions of people to be starving every day.

The death of 43 missing Mexican students

On the 26th September this year, 43 student teachers travelled to the town of Iguala, Mexico to raise funds, and disappeared after violent clashes with municipal police. In the six weeks following that day, evidence has been unearthed to prove that police, the mayor, and gang members were all involved in the mass kidnapping. On 7 November, three gang members confessed to the killing of all 43, explaining how the bodies were then burnt at a landfill site, and the remains thrown in the river.

Human rights abuse
Decades of drug related violence has made this Central-American country one of the most dangerous in the world to live, and it was always a matter of time before such an incident took place. In this case, the most shocking factor is that the police, whose primary function should be to protect civilians, seem to have been heavily involved in the supposed murders – with eyewitnesses reporting that the students were bundled in their cars after the initial altercation.

Corruption
The mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, has been arrested along with the town’s police chief – and the governor of the Guerrero region has also resigned. The repercussions are being felt at the highest level, with protestors setting fires outside the presidential palace in Mexico City. The Mexican people have had enough of the continued corruption and violence, and the government needs to act decisively in dealing with the core issues of the crimes.

Continued violence
The story has shocked the world, shining a spotlight on the issues seen in the country on a daily basis. How can Mexico change? What will fix this country which struggles with its burden of being the centre point between North and South America? Is there an answer?

Strength in power
There is no simple solution: the drug cartels are ruthless and have terrifying power over politicians and police throughout the country. The answer lies at the top of the political hierarchy, President Peña Nieto has to be stronger. He has to make sure his appointments are morally sound and he must remove the elements of outside influence from any position of power.

Global assistance
The rest of the world must support him in order for this to happen, as the cartels have become too strong for the state to handle alone. Violence and corruption have grown immeasurably because characters such as Abarca, with links to organised crime, are able to sit in positions of power and neglect their responsibilities. Purging the system of corrupt politicians and fighting the cartels is likely to be a long and difficult project, but with the support of the world Mexico can at least try to reach that goal and give its 122 million citizens renewed hope.

Climate change: an urgent need to act

Climate change has become a global issue and residents of countries across the world are beginning to stand up and voice their opinions on perceived lack of action. The constant back and forth between world superpowers over the issue turned it in to a problem that many governments are too willing to place far down their list of priorities.

The problem
Global warming is happening because carbon dioxide and other gases produced by humans are collecting in the atmosphere, causing the world to slowly heat up. The effects of the problem are already beginning to show, with world temperatures rising in the past 50 years at the quickest rates ever recorded. Issues caused by the problem are likely to affect our water resources, agricultural capabilities, energy supplies, transportation and ecosystems.

Protests
On the 21st of September 2014, in over 200 locations worldwide, thousands of people came out to protest at lack of global action, with a 310,000 strong rally in New York attended by UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. These demonstrations wanted countries to cut carbon emissions, but the question is did any world leaders take notice? Will they make a change?

World leaders
Next year the United Nations will meet in Paris to discuss a plan for a global agreement on climate change. For the first time in 20 years it is expected that countries, including the worst offenders for carbon emissions, will make a binding legal agreement on how to make a change.

The problem that is expected to happen at the conference is that superpowers such as the USA, India and Russia will make unreasonable demands for emissions allowances. In preparation for this, Mr Moon tried to organise an informal discussion on the 26 September 2014, but many world leaders failed to attend. Are countries not taking the issue seriously enough? What are the best solutions to the problem? Will the Paris conference make a difference?

Taking action
In the end, it is in the hands of the people of the world to make sure their governments are taking it seriously. For instance, in the UK, voters must make sure that a dedication to climate change is in the winning party’s manifesto at the 2015 general election.

Climate change is not an impossible problem, there are technologies being developed all the time which will harness natural resources to create energy. Wind farming, solar power and hydroelectricity are underused; it is a global dedication to change which is needed to move away from fossil fuels.

Whether or not the Paris conference has a positive outcome, or leaves the worst culprits of carbon emission in a position to continue poisoning the earth remains to be seen.

Ebola death toll: are we doing enough?

Since March this year, over 3500 people in western Africa have been affected by the Ebola virus, with over 1,800 people suffering fatalities. The virus, which is contagious, has affected the countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone in this most recent outbreak.

Discovered in 1976, the causes for Ebola are not clearly defined, but are said to involve contact with an infected animal’s bodily fluids. Amongst humans, the disease is spread by bodily fluids and secretions – and because there is no vaccine, measures must be taken to slow contagion.

What more can we do?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), £360m is the very least needed to combat the current outbreak. They have warned that up to 20,000 people could be infected before the virus is brought under control.

Medecin Sans Frontiers (MSF), the international medical aid group, has stated that the global response to the crisis has been inadequate and that military intervention is necessary in the fight against Ebola. MSF believe that the only way to bring the outbreak under control is for military and civilian teams capable of dealing with a biological disaster to be immediately deployed.

These calls have been heeded by the French, who have sent 20 experts to the infected area – the UK must follow suit.  Although the foreign office has already donated well over £3m to the relief effort, more expertise and personnel is needed in the region.

Will there ever be a cure?

Ebola outbreaks have been sporadically appearing across Africa for over 35 years, yet the search for a vaccine is still ongoing. New medical research has uncovered possible ideas for trials, but there is no answer yet.

How can we stop the death toll?

If Western powers join together to provided financial aid and personnel then the death toll will slowly decrease. As the disease is not spread by regular everyday contact (such as shaking hands), in theory it is relatively simple to slow the transmission of the disease. This has not proved to be the case, primarily because the people in the region are afraid and do not know the correct preventative measures. These residents should be educated in how to stop the spread of the disease.

World superpowers should be investing their resources in Western Africa, because there is no telling how far the virus could spread. The region needs to be able to both treat and educate its people, and they cannot do it on their own.

Tony Blair: False information and war

Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and ‘Middle East Peace Envoy’, has urged the government to take action in Iraq or face terror attacks on British soil. These comments sound strikingly familiar as the legacy of 2003’s invasion is highlighted by mass-killing in the Middle East. Indeed, the former PM sent tens of thousands of British troops to Iraq while warning the UK about weapons of mass destruction. However, Blair rejects claims that he is partly responsible for the current destruction taking place in Iraq and the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of humans.

“We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this. We haven’t. We can argue as to whether our policies at points have helped or not: and whether action or inaction is the best policy. But the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside it,” writes Blair in a recent essay.

Blair is correct in saying that issues within Iraq – such as religious extremism – have fuelled the carnage, but didn’t he have a role in lighting the match?
Blair took the UK to war, following the lead of the Bush Administration, on the account of Saddam Hussein’s alleged ability to launch weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at 45 minutes notice and the links to terrorism. This has proven to be false, however, and it seems that the intelligence was either dangerously flawed or hugely exaggerated to gain public backing.

The French government didn’t believe it and President Jacques Chirac refused to back the UN because the US-UK claims of WMD weren’t backed up by a shred of evidence. Across 600 cities, almost 10 million people protested against the invasion on one single day. London was the one of these cities and Londoners, in general, have rejected the war which has led to the death of many British Soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Now as militants cause bloodshed across the fragile nation and there is a real risk of destabilising the whole middle east which will lead to more human suffering, Blair has called for a ‘selective use of air power’ while washing his hands of any responsibility. “Even if you had left Saddam in place in 2003, with the Arab revolutions in 2011, you would have still had a major problem in Iraq,” he said. “You can see what happens when you leave a dictator in place, as has happened with Assad now. The problems don’t go away,” continued Blair.

The former PM is probably right, the problems don’t go away. It is unlikely, however, that the problem would be a brutal sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias. The current events in Iraq raise the question of whether it is time for leaders like Blair to rethink our stance on intervention. Is it time to make a case for choosing between the more palatable of two problem situations, rather than always intervening with force?

Saddam Husain will rightly be remembered as a murderous war criminal. However, Iraq’s current crisis only highlights the fact that the country was more stable under his dictatorship than it is now. This alarming realisation demonstrates how the invasion of Iraq, based on false information, was a complete failure. Perhaps Blair should be pointing the UK away from another war. We still do not know the Blair’s agenda behind the war…but can we still trust him? Or is he simply a war criminal? If so, then why is he not being prosecuted for war crimes and only judged by history.

HIFA2015: to achieve goals – more support is required

“Our shared vision is a world where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge.” Statement on HIFA2015 website.

HIFA2015 (Healthcare Information for All by 2015) is a global network of more than 10,000 members which aims to improve the availability of lifesaving information in developing nations. Based in the United Kingdom, HIFA2015 is now supported across 167 countries by at least 2,000 separate organisations. These include the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Midwives and Publication Integrity & Ethics (PIE).

The aim is to stop thousands of people dying each day for want of simple, low-cost interventions. HIFA2015 not only recognises the need to provide professionals with improved information – it also promotes the value of educating anyone who provides basic care. Campaigners behind the organisation believe that access to relevant, reliable and user-friendly health information is vital in meeting both the World Health Organisation’s goal of ‘Health For All’ and the United Nation’s ‘Millennium Development Goals’.

Are these goals achievable? Will every mother, care worker and doctor of the worlds’ poorest countries really have access to sufficient information?

According to several key figures in the medical world, the answer is yes. These people include BMJ editor Fiona Goodlee who wrote an essay calling for universal healthcare information in 2004 and partly inspired the foundation of the group. This is only possible, however, if more support is gained and adequate funding is secured.

The good work that HIFA2015 promotes can already be seen taking immediate effect with the start-up of several other organisations. Just one example of this is Doctoori. This UK-based organisation focuses on the development of the healthcare sector in the Arab nations with online content provided by the NHS. “HIFA has been a massive inspiration in founding www.doctoori.net. It has reinforced the need to bring high quality, reliable and accessible health information into the Arabic language,” said Dr Zain Sikafi, CEO and Founder of Doctoori.

As a proud supporter of HIFA2015, the Publication Integrity & Ethics believes that the organisation needs a much stronger backing if it is to achieve its lifesaving ambitions. The HIFA strategy can only succeed in improving global healthcare knowledge in 2015 and beyond if the message is spread on a mass scale.

Just one of the statements on the HIFA2015 website states that 7 out of 10 African children with malaria receive mismanaged treatment. That is 2,000 young lives lost each day in Africa alone. HIFA2015’s mission is not only important, it is urgent.

Educating women in the third world: what is the socio-economic impact?

Educating women is purported to be one of the most valuable investments a developing country can make. Research has found that nations that educate girls to the same degree as boys benefit from longer life expectancies, lower birth rates and higher economic growth. Evidence also shows that educating girls reduces child malnutrition rates and lowers the risk of HIV infection. So, if educating women is such a good idea, what is holding the third world back?

One of the most obvious reasons is financial constraint. For many families it is still a priority to educate boys; they see the son as the main future breadwinner who will therefore support his parents in their old age. The extra cost of educating females is not seen as necessary because a daughter will eventually be financially supported by her husband. In addition, with unemployment rates so high, wouldn’t educating girls bring more competitors to the employment sectors and only make conditions worse?

Other issues which limit education for women are cultural constraints. The lack of employment opportunities for women in developing countries, often stemming from social and religious traditions, devalues the need for equal education.

This point is highlighted by UNICEF’s (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) Damien Personnaz: “There are a lot of religious leaders who do not think that to send a girl to school is a big priority. This is actually the most difficult barrier to overcome, but we’ve been doing so in working with the communities involved in many countries in South Asia, in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.”

Government oppression is another factor. During the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, almost half of the nations’ schools were destroyed; under the regime, females were completely banned from academic study.

With so many obstacles to overcome, can anything be done to improve the situation?

It could be argued that foreign assistance might help. For an example, in Afghanistan, since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, the UN (United Nations) and other groups have invested in opening education facilities such as the Women’s ICT Centres. The number of girls attending school has increased by over 30% since 2001, and literacy levels have greatly improved.  The ability to read and write has given many more women the chance to vote under the nation’s new political rights.

Educating girls creates educated mothers and has a huge socio-economic impact. Women will pass on knowledge, and a greater financial freedom, to their children. It is a cycle built for prosperity, but can only function if enough employment is available for the newly educated work-force. Women who are educated can not only help build a stronger economy, they are able to better protect themselves from disease, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. For a country to prosper in the modern world, both men and women must break from the tradition which states ‘girls belong at home’.