Stop illicit trade of tobacco products

Carolyn Kavita Tauro, CNS Special Correspondent
Tobacco kills 6 million people annually of whom more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from passive smoking. More than 80% of these preventable deaths in the future will be among people living in low-and middle-income countries. According to 5th edition of The Tobacco Atlas 2015, compared to other higher tobacco consumers, India has 106 million (>20%) adult males smoking daily (2013). India and China have 12.2 million daily females smokers, second only to US, which has 17.7 million.

Hitting roadblocks to tobacco endgame

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS 
With one person dying every six seconds from a tobacco-related disease -- almost 5.4 million deaths per year of which more than 600,000 are of non-smokers due to secondhand smoke-- the tobacco epidemic is a global public health threat. If current trends continue, by 2030 nearly 8 million people are expected to die annually from tobacco-related illnesses. More than 80% of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low-and middle-income countries.

Will countries 'walk the talk' to end the tobacco epidemic?

Despite unprecedented pressure from tobacco industry to delay, dilute or thwart progress on a range of tobacco control measures globally, considerable achievements have been made by governments over the past years to protect public health. The global tobacco treaty, which was the first corporate-accountability and public health internationally binding treaty of the World Health Organization (WHO), is one major leap forward to move the world towards ending game of tobacco.

Efforts to silence dissent dangerous for democracy

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
The decision by IIT Madras to de-recognise Ambedkar Periyar Student Circle is condemnable as it is clear violation of freedom of speech and expression, to form association or unions and to assemble peaceably and without arms as part of Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Criticising government policies like use of Hindi and ban on beef and ‘ghar wapsi’ programmes of RSS affiliated organisations cannot be construed as creating ‘hatred’ agasint the PM Narendra Modi or Hindus.

No relation between learning and examination

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
Photo credit: CNS:
Some of my teacher friends are quite concerned with the fact that I don’t conduct any examination in the courses that I teach and almost all students in my class get ‘A’ grade. I believe there is no relationship between learning and examination. If the purpose of teaching is to make students understand a subject the job of a teacher is not complete until the students have learned the subject. Any failure of student to learn should be considered a failure of the teacher to make his/her students understand the subject.

My first encounter with asthma

CNS image Library/2014
Diana Wangari, CNS Correspondent, Kenya
(First published in The Star, Kenya)
Do you remember when you were young and had discovered one day to your delight that feigning illness could be used as a get out of jail free card or so to speak? Or is it a phenomenon more prevalent with the Millennials? Nevertheless, it is amazing the number of illnesses our imagination can conjure up just to get out of a tight situation or simply to serve as an excuse. And it starts right from childhood-- it does not matter how much fun school was, or how many friends you had, there must have been at least a few Mondays that you woke up and thought ‘today is a perfect day not to go to school’.

"Hard work overcomes hard luck": Leela Shikhdar

Photo credit: Rahul/ CNS
Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS 
[CNS images] Leela Shikhdhar was born in a farmer’s family of village Gabia. She had to leave her studies midway after passing Class 8 as her mother got sick and the responsibility of managing the household chores and looking after her four siblings fell upon her. But after her marriage she managed to finish her high school. Leela was married at the age of 13 years, in a farmer’s household that owned 30 bighas of land. Her husband, the eldest of 3 male siblings, had studied till class 7 and was into farming.

Agenda packed 68th World Health Assembly comes to a close

Carolyn Kavita Tauro, CNS Correspondent
The 68th World Health Assembly (WHA) held over the past week, from 18th May to 26th May, at Geneva was declared closed last night by the Indian Minister of Health, Mr. Jagat Prakash Nadda, elected President of the Assembly this year. Mr. Nadda said:  “We need to think locally before we act globally. We must find out the strengths and weaknesses of each country; find out what gaps remain and then strategize accordingly.”

Nigeria needs to improve asthma control and management

Eranga Isaac, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
The most recently revised estimates of asthma suggest that as many as 334 million people are living with asthma worldwide, and that the burden of disability is high. Asthma is a chronic long term lung condition that is genetic in origin and can be affected by a host of environmental factors.

Putting patients at the centre of asthma management

Babs Verblackt, CNS Correspondent, Belgium
For the past few years ‘You Can Control Your Asthma’ has been the recurrent theme of the annual World Asthma Day, celebrated annually on the 1st Tuesday of May. Though therapies are available, controlling their disease often remains a personal struggle for asthma patients worldwide. Their voices should be heard in any research and development of new ways to beat the chronic condition, feel international asthma organizations.

Is public financing of post-2015 development agenda possible?

Paul Quintos, IBON International
Photo credit: CNS:
Experts analyze that public financing of post-2015 development agenda is possible, and vested interests are propelling misconceptions that it is not feasible. Paul Quintos from IBON International debunked the myth that 'public finance is not enough'. "We need to examine how can we plug illegal financial flows. Sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Asia and the Pacific alone could cost well over US dollars 1 trillion per year. According to Asian Development Bank (ADB), infrastructure needs alone may require over US dollars 750 billion per year over 2010-2020."

Without real democracy, how will people hold governments to account?

One of the major failures of current times is how democratic systems are being made ineffective so that people with a 'power of one vote' are not able to hold elected representatives to account. How else can governments get away with making promises and not delivering? Rather often governments instead of delivering on pro-people promises, have harmed people's interests even more, thereby allowing corporations to siphon away profits and resources. With democracy failing the people to hold governments to account, it is no surprise that non-performing governments often get re-elected!

Through the people's lens: Modi's development model so far

Dr Rahul Pandey, Bobby Ramakant and Dr Sandeep Pandey
Story of Modi’s development model so far: Cutting health and education expenditure, forcing land acquisition, buying expensive jets and unsafe nuclear power, benefitting Big Business, diluting employment guarantee, fanning communal fires, exploiting Ganga, curbing dissent and shielding governance from public scrutiny.
If we separate Modi government’s actions from mere words and assess its priorities from the former, there is now enough evidence to form a clear picture. The picture that emerges is one of grossly skewed priorities.

"Nothing about us, without us"

Swapna Majumdar, CNS Special Correspondent
December 31, 2012, will always be a special day for Sheila Devi. It was the day the 21-year old played a pivotal role in the closure of a diagnostic centre suspected of misusing technology to eliminate girls. It was because of her participation in a decoy operation that the police was able to swoop down on the clinic located near her village in Bakshi Ka Talab block of Lucknow district in the most populous Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Call to register: Webinar for media in lead up to World No Tobacco Day

[Video recording of the webinar] We welcome you to register for an exclusive media webinar in the lead up to this year's World No Tobacco Day, where noted tobacco control experts will present and respond to questions live!

Bodily autonomy and sexual rights are integral to development justice

Susmita Choudhary, IPPF
The dream of development justice cannot be realized unless governments also recognize bodily autonomy and sexual rights for every human being, especially for those who are marginalized and seldom heard or 'visible'. If we look closely at the data, it will become evident that women and girls are among those key populations whose rights get violated when it comes to bodily integrity and sexual and reproductive health, and rights. Susmita Choudhary from International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) said that "sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are not only women's issues but also issues of other constituencies we work with, and different areas we work on, are also linked to SRHR. It is indeed a cross-cutting issue!"

"I could have been Mary Jane Veloso"

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, Indonesia
(First published in The Jakarta Post, 20th May 2015) 
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso was spared from execution at the last minute. She got a temporary reprieve but still faces execution. Veloso is a migrant Filipino domestic worker just like me. Like me, Veloso was forced to become a migrant domestic worker because of poverty, because of a commitment to support her family, because she had no other choice.

Asthma mortality rampant in developing countries

CNS image Library/2014
Clarity Sibanda, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
The statistics on asthma are indeed worrying, as it is estimated that globally nearly 300 million are living with the illness and nearly 250,000 are said to die prematurely every year from the condition. It is disheartening to note that this public health issue affects high and low income countries equally, but the burden of mortality falls most heavily on the developing world where some 80% of asthma-related deaths occur. Third world countries like Zimbabwe are ineptly facing the asthma scourge.

Will HLPF push for accountability in post-2015 development agenda?

Kate Lappin, APWLD
Without robust accountability and monitoring mechanisms, how will people ensure that their governments deliver on the promises they make towards post-2015 sustainable development agenda? Past experience tells us that governments may make promises at the global level but seldom translate them into ground realities back home! Even worse is when at times the commitments made by governments in one treaty are contradictory to their obligations in another! Profit-driven corporations often have a major influence in policy making and thwart measures that may harm business interests.

Post-2015 development agenda cannot put 'some on the blind-spot'

Photo credit: CNS:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said earlier, "our goal must be a world of dignity, opportunity and well-being, where no-one is left behind." But there are specific communities that feel they are slipping on the blind-spot as post-2015 sustainable development agenda-setting process is moving forward - indigenous peoples and people in the Pacific nations are among them. "Why is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) working group document leaving us behind? That is why United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) has expressed specific concern over the way SDGs are again overlooking the rights of indigenous peoples" said Pranika Koyu from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

Without redistributive justice, some will remain 'more equal than others'

Photo credit: CNS:
"Inequality has grown so high and so obscene that 85 people in the world hold as much wealth as 3.5 billion - half the world's population; within the year just 1 per cent of the world's population will hold more weath than the remaining 99 per cent" - this was one of the key messages in a powerful poster exhibit calling for development justice, at the ongoing Asia Pacific CSOs Forum on Sustainable Development in Thailand.

Will post-2015 development agenda integrate economic, environmental and social pillars?

Photo credit: CNS:
Key consultative processes have been going on globally to gather the broadest voices with the intent to effectively shape the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. In the Asia Pacific region there is a considerable effort put in to engage different communities and sectors in these consultations. Representatives of 17 constituencies are in Thailand to take this dialogue further ahead and consolidate peoples' agenda for development justice before the regional intergovernmental meeting (Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development - APFSD) opens later this week.

Children with asthma: A mother’s nightmare

Alice Tembe, CNS Correspondent, Swaziland
“My worst fear is what will happen to my two children if I am ever unable to be around to take care of them”, says Khabonina Masina, a mother of 5 and 3 year old boys. Her children showed signs of asthma from as early as when they were 12 and 9 months old respectively, and since then her life has never been the same. Her daily routine has been disrupted by her children’s health, late night hospital visits, absenteeism at work to attend emergency calls from the children’s pre-school and the constant changing of child- minders who cannot manage the care and attention required by her children.

Xenophobia in South Africa: A game of politics

Alice Tembe, CNS Correspondent, Swaziland
The basis of winning in politics is to find a common enemy or cause that arouses deep seated emotions in a large population across religion, economic status or race. The leadership in South Africa has found Xenophobia as a uniting propaganda. If you are economically stable and staying in low density suburbs like Sandton you are made to believe you are not safe because foreigners are the “crime drivers” in your neighborhood since they do not have proper immigration papers to get good employment.

"Slow but steady wins the race": Lilawati

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Photo credit: Rahul/ CNS
[CNS Images] This is the inspirational story of Lilawati-a teacher cum farmer. The mother of 7 children—4 daughters and 3 sons, of whom one son died at the age of 25 years—66 years old Lilawati lives with her retired husband, 2 sons and their wives, a widowed daughter-in-law (who is a teacher) and 5 grandsons and 5 granddaughters. Lilawati, one of five siblings, lost her parents when she was very young. Her elder brother brought up the family. Lilawati could study only till Class 5 and was married off when she was just 15 years old.

Ministries urged to protect health policy from those with conflict of interest

Photo credit: CNS Image Library/2015
A petition campaign signed by over 70 noted public health experts have been sent to Union Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Law and Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, appealing them to permanently firewall health policy making from those with a conflict of interest.

With no cure in sight, controlling asthma is essential

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
With no cure in sight, experts believe that controlling asthma is essential to ensure good quality of life for those living with it. "It is Time to Control Your Asthma" is thus the sub-theme of this year's World Asthma Day, an annual event earmarked for the first Tuesday of May, which is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), in collaboration with healthcare groups to raise awareness about asthma care and control globally.

Controlling and managing asthma is key to live a normal life

CNS image Library/2014
Rahul Kumar Dwivedi - CNS
Living a normal life is possible if people with asthma can control and manage the condition well, say experts. This year's World Asthma Day theme is "You can control your asthma." Asthma is a chronic, long-term condition that varies in severity. It can be a serious and even life-threatening problem. Caused by the swelling of airways, asthma can hinder day-to-day life by limiting activity and reducing quality of life. Asthma can be called a condition of management. While there is no cure, proper treatment and routine check-ins with health professionals can provide patients with a higher quality of life.