Air Pollution Kills 600,000 Children Each Year: World Health Organization

Geneva: Exposure to toxic air both indoors and out kills some 600,000 children under the age of 15 each year, the World Health Organization warned Monday.

Data from the UN health body shows that every day, 93 percent of children under the age of 15 -- a full 1.8 billion youngsters, including 630 million under the age of five -- breath dangerously polluted air.

This has tragic consequences: In 2016 alone, some 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air, the WHO report found.

"Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. 

"This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential."

According to WHO data, more than nine out of 10 people on the planet breath dangerously toxic air, causing some seven million premature deaths each year.

Air pollution is especially dangerous for children, and accounts for nearly one in 10 deaths among children under five around the globe, the report found.

WHO's study, which examined the health toll on children breathing health-hazardous levels of both outdoor and household air pollution, focused on dangerous particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).

These include toxins like sulfate and black carbon, which pose the greatest health risks since they can penetrate deep into the lungs or cardiovascular system.

The report found that children in poorer countries are far more at risk, with a full 98 percent of all children under five in low- and middle-income countries exposed to PM2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines.

That compares to 52 percent in high-income countrie, WHO said.

Triggers asthma, cancer

Together, household air pollution from cooking and outdoor air pollution cause more than half of all cases of acute lower respiratory infections in young children in low- and middle-income countries, WHO said.

The report, launched ahead of the WHO's first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, revealed that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely and have small, low birthweight children.

It found that children are often more vulnerable to the impact of air pollution since they breath more rapidly than adults, and thus absorb more pollutants at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.

They also live closer to the ground, where a number of pollutants reach peak concentrations, WHO said, pointing out that newborns and young children are also more susceptible to household air pollution in homes that use polluting fuels for cooking, heating and lighting.

Air pollution can impact a child's development and cognitive ability, and can trigger asthma and childhood cancer, WHO said.

Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may also be at greater risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease later in life, it said.

"Air pollution is stunting our children's brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected," warned Maria Neira, the head of the WHO's department of public health and environment.

The UN health body is calling for an acceleration of the switch to clean cooking and heating fuels, and for the promotion of cleaner transportation, lower emissions, and better waste management, among other measures.

"The world needs to reduce the overdependance we have on fossil (fuel), and accelerate to clean, renewable energy," Neira told reporters in a conference call.

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Ebola: WHO Chief Says No Need to Declare a Global Emergency

At least 33 people have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus in the past week.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called an emergency committee meeting to address the current surge in Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

RELATED: Those Killed by Ebola Outbreak in DR Congo Increase to 72

“The current spike in Ebola cases and deaths is extremely worrying,” a spokesperson for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) remarked, last week. 

At Wednesday's committee meeting, Ghebreyesus noted that there is no need for an international emergency to be declared but the cases in the DRC region are to be viewed as dangerous.

"I have accepted the Emergency Committee’s recommendation not to declare a public health emergency of international concern. But this does not mean WHO is not taking the #Ebola outbreak in #DRC seriously. We still have more than 250 people working in DRC to end this outbreak," the director general posted to Twitter.

About 130 people have died since July, which is the tenth outbreak to devastate the DRC over the last 40 years, more than doubling since September. Over 200 suspected cases of the virus, which causes a deadly hemorrhagic fever, have been reported in the latest outbreak, the country’s second this year.

@DrTedros I have accepted the Emergency Committee’s recommendation not to declare a public health emergency of international concern. But this does not mean WHO is not taking the outbreak in seriously. We still have more than 250 people working in DRC to end this outbreak.

“Conspiracy theories, fear and mistrust around the disease have caused people to resist help and hide symptoms,” Red Cross spokesman Euloge Ishimwe told Reuters. 

At least 33 people have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus in the past week, 24 of which have since passed away, according to the health ministry of the DRC.

Ebola spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals. 

The DRC Ministry of Health said 73 patients had received new trial treatments. About half recovered, 20 remain hospitalized and the others died.

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US Blockade on Cuba Is Unfair, WHO Says

The blockade imposed by the United States government on Cuba is unfair, Cristian Morales, representative in Havana of the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO), said today.

Therefore, we join the majority position of the countries at the time of the historic vote at the UN General Assembly, Morales told Prensa Latina in this capital.

That policy damages the development and health of the Cuban people, and forces national authorities to make double and triple efforts to keep the equipment running and guarantee medicines that are needed, he said.

Two thirds of those medicines consumed are produced in Cuba, but sometimes that amount needs raw materials coming from abroad, sometimes becomes a hindrance to this blockade, the UN official said.

There are some medications that are not produced on the island and need to be imported, but instead of being brought from Latin America, or the United States itself, they have to be purchased from China or Europe, he stated.

Also, those companies that sell them, have to make sure they do not have any U.S. component, because they can be subject to sanctions, he said.

In this way, the country is affected, including its health system, because it has to pay more for the same, the PAHO/WHO representative concluded.

The Cuban government will denounce on October 31 the worsening of the blockade at the UN General Assembly.

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Cuba increases actions to control AIDS epidemic

Cuba develops multiples actions to face AIDS epidemic, geared at reducing the new infections, late diagnosis and deaths caused by that disease, as well as to improve the quality of life of people living with the disease.

In conversation with the CAN, Dr. Maria Isela Lantero Abreu, head of the Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STI) /HIV /AIDS, of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), explained that by 2020 the 90-90-90 Goals of the region hope to expand testing and treatment services.

“This is a commitment made by UN member countries, related to having diagnosed by that year 90 percent of the people living with HIV in the population”, she asserted.

“Likewise, it foresees that equal percentage is guaranteed the continuous antiretroviral treatment and that 90 percent of those receiving that procedure manage to suppress the viral load, as late diagnoses are reduced”, she added.

“These goals are essential aimed at achieving the commitment to eliminate HIV epidemic as a global health problem by 2030”, the MINSAP expert remarked.

“With a view to achieving that goal, Cuba strengthens prevention actions and although the results are still preliminary today, 81 percent of those people are under treatment”, she stated.

The country has diagnosed about 28,000 people with that disease since the onset of the epidemic in 1986, and currently some 23,000 are living with that condition.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), since the appearance of the first cases, the disease has killed over 34 million people globally and at present some 37 million people are living with HIV.

“In 2005, Cuba became the first country in the world to validate the elimination of the mother-to-child HIV and congenital syphilis, certification that remains nowadays”, the specialist announced.

“By 2018, the basic strategies continue to be the promotion of condom use, prevention, the work among sectors and with key groups, the training of promoters, and training”, specified the official, who participates at the 6th International Seminar on HIV/AIDS infection in Cuba.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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WHO splurges more on posh travel than it spends on fighting AIDS & malaria – report

The UN’s World Health Organization ponies up some $200 million a year for luxury travel, including first-class tickets and posh hotels – much more than it spends on combatting AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria, the AP has revealed.

According to internal files obtained by the news agency, since 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has allocated $803 million for travel – approximately $200 million per year. The WHO’s two-billion-dollar annual budget is made up of contributions made by 194 member countries, of which the US is the largest sponsor.

© RT

Last year, the WHO allocated just over $60 million to tackling malaria and $59 million to containing the spread of tuberculosis, while $71 million was spent on fighting AIDS and hepatitis. Programs aimed at containing certain diseases, such as polio, do get considerably larger funding, however, with $450 million allocated annually.

Though the organization has been struggling to achieve its goals, while at the same time appealing for more financing, its employees and top brass apparently do not shy away from booking first-class airline tickets and rooms in luxurious five-star hotels.

In particular, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Executive Director Bruce Aylward are first and second on the list of the agency’s top spenders, according to a confidential 25-page analysis of the WHO’s expenses seen by AP.

When Chan recently went to Guinea following a successful effort to stop an outbreak of Ebola there, she stayed in the biggest presidential suite at the Palm Camayenne hotel in Conakry, with the price per night amounting to €900 ($1,008). To avoid bumpy roads, Aylward opted to use a chopper to reach clinics on several occasions. 

During the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the WHO allocated $234 million to employee travel. Some experts told AP the agency should have sent more money to the poor region – where authorities couldn’t even afford protective gear or soap for medical staff or body bags for the victims – rather than deploy its own staff at such a high cost.

Reuters/Charles Platiau

“There’s a huge inequality between the people at the top who are getting helicopters and business class and everyone else who just has to make do,” said Sophie Harman, a global health politics expert at London-based Queen Mary University.

The UN agency admits that its budget policy had allowed for the director-general to fly first class until February, but said the spending rules have been changed and the first-class option has been effectively eliminated.

However, the organization’s own findings suggest that traveling in comfort is widespread among employees. One internal memorandum sent to WHO executives reported that compliance with a rule requiring all travel to be booked in advance was “very low.” An internal analysis accessed by the AP stated that only two of seven WHO departments at the Geneva headquarters had met their budget targets.

Interestingly, other aid agencies spend less on travel. For instance, Doctors Without Borders explicitly forbids its staff from traveling business class, and even its president flies economy class, a spokeswoman told AP.

Employing about 37,000 aid workers, Doctors Without Borders spends about $43 million a year on travel. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it does not normally allow staffers to book business class flights and only sanctions it in special cases, such as medical emergencies.

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Antibiotics not effective for clinically infected eczema in children

Estimates suggest that 40 percent of eczema flares are treated with topical antibiotics, but findings from a study led by Cardiff University suggest there is no meaningful benefit from the use of either oral or topical antibiotics for milder clinically infected eczema in children.

Eczema is a common condition, especially in young children, and affects around 1 in 5 children in the UK. Eczema sometimes gets worse, or 'flares', and having particular bacteria on the skin may contribute to causing some of these flares. Quite often eczema flares are treated with antibiotics, although there was very little research to show whether antibiotics are helpful or not.

The CREAM study was designed to find out if oral (taken by mouth) or topical (creams and ointments applied to the skin) antibiotics help improve eczema severity in children with infected eczema. All children also received standard eczema treatment with steroid creams and emollients (moisturiser) from their doctor.

Results from the analysis of data from 113 children with non-severely infected eczema, published in the Annals of Family Medicine journal, showed no significant difference between the groups in the resolution of eczema symptoms at two weeks, four weeks or three months.

Researchers found rapid resolution in response to mild-to-moderate strength topical corticosteroids and emollient treatment, and ruled out a clinically meaningful benefit from the addition of either oral or topical antibiotics.

Dr Nick Francis, Clinical Reader at Cardiff University and practicing GP, who led the study said: "Topical antibiotics, often in combination products with topical corticosteroids, are frequently used to treat eczema flares. Our research shows that even if there are signs of infection, children with milder eczema are unlikely to benefit from antibiotics, and their use can promote resistance and allergy or skin sensitization."

"Providing or stepping up the potency of topical corticosteroids and emollients should be the main focus in the care of milder clinically infected eczema flares."

Pollution Kills 1.7 Million Children Each Year: WHO

Generva: Each year, environmental pollutants lead to the death of an estimated 1.7 million children under five, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a new report on Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.

The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children one month to five years old, CNN reported.

"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement.

"Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases -- such as asthma -- for the rest of their lives, the report stated.

The global body also highlighted the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer from exposure to air pollution.

However, new report highlights that the most common causes -- diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia -- of child death are preventable through interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water, are already available to the communities most affected, reports CNN.

Other potential pollution prevention solutions mentioned in the report are removing mould and pests from housing, removing lead paint, ensuring sanitation and good nutrition at schools and using better urban planning to create more green spaces in cities.

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US exit from United Nations could become reality with fresh bill

A Republican-proposed House Resolution has quietly slipped past the public radar – proposing that the United States withdraw its membership from the United Nations, just as another bill was being concocted to cut US funding to the body.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), entitled American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017, seeks a complete US withdrawal from the UN, that the international body remove its headquarters from New York and that all participation be ceased with the World Health Organization as well.

Rogers and other prominent Republicans have repeatedly voiced the idea that US taxpayer money should not go to an organization that does not promote US interests – especially one that does not stick up for Israel together with the US. The new document is merely the latest manifestation of sentiment that has been brewing for some time.

The bill was quietly introduced on January 3 and was passed on to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. If approved, the bill would take two years to take effect. It would also repeal the United Nations Participation Act of 1945, signed in the aftermath of WWII.

“The President shall terminate all membership by the United States in the United Nations in any organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body of the United Nations...The United States Mission to the United Nations is closed. Any remaining functions of such office shall not be carried out,”according to the text of HR 193.

The bill would also prohibit “the authorization of funds for the US assessed or voluntary contribution to the UN,” which would also include any military or peacekeeping expenditures, the use of the US military by the UN, and the loss of “diplomatic immunity for UN officers or employees” on US soil.

Rogers had tried to pass the same bill in 2015, albeit unsuccessfully.

“Why should the American taxpayer bankroll an international organization that works against America's interests around the world?” Rogers asked at the time in defense of his idea.

“The time is now to restore and protect American sovereignty and get out of the United Nations.”

Another supporter of HR 193, Rend Paul (R-KY) also put it like this in January 2015: “I dislike paying for something that two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States… There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t like the UN, and I think I’d be happy to dissolve it,” added the Kentucky senator.

Later, in June 2015, Rogers had introduced his document – then named HR 1205, but essentially the same USExit idea he’s proposing now.

“The UN continues to prove it’s an inefficient bureaucracy and a complete waste of American tax dollars.” Rogers went on to name treaties and actions he believes “attack our rights as US citizens.” These included gun provisions, the imposition of international regulations on American fossil fuels – but more importantly, the UN attack on Israel, by voting to grant Palestine the non-member state ‘permanent observer’ status.

“Anyone who is not a friend to our ally Israel is not a friend to the United States.”

That same logic was used this January when House Republicans prepared a legislation that would decrease – even potentially eliminate – US funding to the UN. According to calculations by the conservative Heritage Foundation, the US provides over 22 percent of all UN funding.

The bill to cut the funding was introduced shortly after the UNSC voted 14-0 to condemn the continued construction of illegal Israeli settlements – the resolution Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered a backstab from the US, which declined to veto it, as per former President Barack Obama’s suddenly critical attitude to Israel at the end of his presidency.

Still, the resolution vote came the same year the Obama administration awarded Israel with its largest military aid package ever, signing a memorandum of understanding in September that would give it $38 billion over 10 years.

However, with Donald Trump now in power, many Republicans seem to be attacking the idea of participating in the UN or cutting funding with renewed fervor.

Each year, the US gives approximately $8 billion in mandatory payments and voluntary contributions to the international peace agency and its affiliated organizations. About $3 billion of that sum goes the UN’s regular peacekeeping budgets.

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