The poor water quality in Venezuela has caused health concerns throughout the country.

Venezuela’s water has, in recent years, been very poor quality, even coming out of faucets with a yellow color, reports Ana Carvajal, a worker at the Universitario Hospital in Caracas specializing in infectious diseases. Venezuelans are seeing a spike in a variety of illnesses, especially diarrhea. The lack of clean water is also bringing about skin issues such as scabies and folliculitis. Stomach illnesses have also spread due to the water quality.

Beyond water pollution, the country is also facing a severe water shortage. The 2016 drought brought on by El Niño put major limits on water consumption, resulting in today’s current use of water trucks. However, as water official Tatiana Noguera accounts, these trucks are often robbed by gangs.

Unfortunately, it comes with little surprise that Venezuelans must resort to desperate measures in order to maintain water. Residents often purify water with vinegar, and carefully ‘recycle’ it from the kitchen to toilet. Some collect and recycle rainwater, as well.

Other consequences come in the form of limited electricity. Because 65 percent of Venezuela’s electricity relies on the Guri Dam, which has maintained low water levels, the country has undergone severe power shortages. Even Venezuela’s time zone has been altered in order to increase the amount of sunlight during the day by an extra 30 minutes.

Just like his predecessor Hugo Chavez, President Nicolas Maduro has not taken substantive action in order to counter this water pollution or shortage. Taxi driver Luis Felipe Pedroso comments on the lack of water: “On the days when it comes, it’s only for a few hours and it’s very dirty. This is unbelievable. The government hasn’t taken any measures to solve these problems.”

If the poor water quality in Venezuela is not addressed soon, diseases are likely to spread further. Given citizens’ limited access to medicine, this has seriously negative implications, especially considering the issue is one that is easily preventable. Therefore, the country’s leaders must take immediate action in order to secure the health of their citizens.

Gigi DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

In the 1950s, there were approximately 700 million people living in hunger, while the number of obese people was around 100 million, and a majority of the cases were found in countries with strong economies. Today, however, that is no longer the case.

In 2010, the number of hungry people in the world had slowly risen to 800 million while the number of obese citizens in the world sharply rose to 1.4 billion.

According to a documentary, “Globeisty: Fat’s New Frontier,” there has been not one country with a low or moderate income that has managed to reduce its number of hungry citizens without rapidly jumping to obesity.

However, obesity is not just limited to developed nations. Currently, there are more obese people in developing countries than there are people suffering from hunger in the same countries.

It is predicted that in India, around 100 million people will have diabetes some time in the foreseeable future. Currently, in the U.S. alone, eight obesity-related diseases are the cause for over 75% of healthcare costs. The diseases include, but are not limited to: Type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (or NAFLD), Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

One of the leading causes of this rise in obesity is linked to the increase in the consumption of soft drinks. There has been a direct correlation between the rise in obesity rates in developing countries and the sales of soft drinks. In Mexico, the largest consumer of carbonated soft drinks in the world, 71% of women and 65% of men are overweight.

In 1989, Mexico had a miniscule portion of its adult population overweight and had no overweight children. Over the span of 15 to 16 years, the citizens of Mexico have reached a level of diabetes equal to the level the U.S. had 10 to 20 years ago.

However, another leading cause of obesity is consumption of foods filled with carbohydrates. In the 1950s, most of the food globally consumed was locally grown and fresh. Now, the majority of food consumed in developed and developing nations is highly processed and filled with carbohydrates. When a person eats a carbohydrate-heavy meal and fails to move a sufficient enough amount to turn the carbohydrates into energy, they are turned into sugar and fat.

In “The World is Fat,” an article written in 2007, Barry Popkin stated that the “exponential change in a vast array of courses” have led to people moving less and eating more, resulting in an “unprecedented” rise in obesity.

One final cause of obesity can be linked to accessibility of certain types of food, drink and cooking material.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the citizens of China were readily able to access hydrogenated solid oils like Crisco and liquid oils. Now, a Chinese citizen consumes around 300 to 400 of their daily calories from vegetable oil. There has also been an increase in the consumption of dairy products, fish, poultry, beef and pork. In 1974, the price of 100 kilograms of beef was somewhere around $500 in developing nations. Today, the price has dropped to around one-fifth of that number.

There is a movement, though, to try to halt the rise of obesity. In Mexico, special fitness programs are available to try to encourage people to move more. These programs are offered for free to allow anyone who needs it the chance to prevent obesity. The Mexican Minister of Health also has proposed taxing items and taking more aggressive stands toward working to combat obesity.

– Monica Newell

Sources: Scientific American, Epoch Times, The Independent
Photo: SF Gate

Immigration in the United States has been an issue throughout this millennium. Reform for the immigration system has been discussed in various forms, yet presently there still seems to be no progress on the issue. This deadlock affects immigrants of all forms, but particularly for many potential immigrants in the West African region.

A recent PBS Newshour report detailed the plight of a family living in Baltimore struggling to deal with the intricacies of the immigration system. This family left their home in Mali after worries that their daughter would be subjected to the female genital mutilation (FGM) that is a common practice in that part of the world. The mother, who still suffers pain from her mutilation, says that at any time someone “can just come and take your daughter, and just do it.”

FGM is a practice that has deep roots in the West African region. The practice has been mentioned as far back as the Ancient Greek historians, like Herodotus. Community members consider it shameful for women to not undergo the process, leading to the sort of animosity that lead the Newshour profiled family to leave for the U.S.

Health issues and the difficulties in adjusting to a new country lead the family to miss the initial application for asylum that is required after one year of residency. Since they missed that initial application, the members of the family have no path to citizenship under the current system and are left to appeal annually for residency. There is still a definite risk that their requests could be denied by the courts, leading to their final deportation.

This difficulty in applying for asylum will remain until the immigration issue is finally settled in Congress. The Fofana family profiled by PBS Newshour is not alone in its struggles. Reports from the BBC describe Gambian women seeking asylum for the same reasons in the United Kingdom with hundreds being rejected for using the peril of mutilation as a basis.

The World Health Organization states that over 125 million females are living today after undergoing genital mutilation. Like the matriarch of the Fofana family, many times the procedure is involuntary and will cause the females lasting pain down the road. One can only imagine if this was a practice that was prevalent in the Western world and the outcry that would come about because of it.

Studies on the practice of genital mutilation show the benefits of educational programs in the areas that still carry it out. The Tostan program in Senegal shows how the end of the practice will provide health benefits for women and will bring about better overall respect for women in the community. However, programs like that one are few and have to be much more prevalent to have a serious impact in Western Africa.

For nations in the Western world, spreading education about the female body could bring benefits in Africa and the West. A successful program could lessen the immigration demands on the West and give women a better chance at being leaders in the communities of Africa. For the women that live in fear and pain due to this practice, funding by the nations of the Western world might go a long way towards improving the world as a whole.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Stanford University, BBC, World Health Organization, PBS
Photo: MintPress News

world map
Since the catastrophic earthquake four years ago, the number of people suffering from malnutrition in Haiti has risen dramatically. Even before the earthquake hit, people were struggling to eat a nutritious balance of food, with complications from malnutrition contributing to 60% of deaths in children and a relatively high mortality rate in adults.

Although children are the primary worry, the concern regarding malnourishment extends to those sick with HIV and tuberculosis, pregnant women and young adults. Poor sanitation also contributes to poor health by spreading disease, which can critically damage the immune system or cause severe dehydration. Other effects of malnutrition include hindered mental and physical growth, emotional changes (depression or anxiety) and difficulty learning or concentrating.

There are ways to help ebb malnutrition in Haiti.  Here are a couple of philanthropic causes that are focused on heightening nutrition in Haiti.

The Nourimanba Production Facility

Located in a modest two-story building in Haiti’s Central Plateau, the Nourimanba Production Facility is more than it appears on the outside. The facility is quite sophisticated, using top-of-the-line stainless steel devices to process peanuts and mix the peanut based paste with vitamins in order to create a nutritious and essential medicine. Andrew Marx, Director of Communications at Partners in Health (PIH) stated that this facility enables 350 tons of Nourimanba to reach 50,000 children a year, with each child taking the medicine daily for up to eight weeks.  The company supports local peanut farmers and opens up an incredibly convenient and dependable market for the community to yield both sales and even jobs.

Hunger Relief International (HRI)

HRI works with local farmers to provide three meals per day consisting of beans, rice, cornmeal and pasta, to 1,450 orphans in 28 different orphanages. HRI also helps children and women plant gardens at homes and schools, helps tackle malnutrition in Haiti, promotes healthy eating and forms new sources of income for the communities. The easy access to nutritional food will relieve the families of unnecessary spending, which will allow their money to be spent on education or school supplies, for example.

World Food Programme (WFP)

WFP is a leading agency in the fight to provide young children and mothers with the proper nutrients necessary during crucial developmental stages. The WFP is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to build a link between local smallholder farmers and the school meal system to produce a greater market for farmers and cut down on food insecurity. An estimated 3,000 metric tons of rice will be bought from Haitian farmers during the current school year in order to provide the National School Meals Programme with a supply large enough to sustain the 685,000 children in school. Milk is also bought from local smallholder farmers and distributed to 84 different schools.

With continued support from these various causes, Haiti is making strides to rebuild its health and economy. Farmers and the most vulnerable members of the community are also being given the necessary resources needed to help strengthen them and curb malnutrition in Haiti.

Becka Felcon

Sources: Partners in Health, Partners in Health, Hunger Relief International, World Food Programme