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Poor diets damaging children’s health worldwide, warns UNICEF

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NEW YORK, United States — An alarmingly high number of children are suffering the consequences of poor diets and a food system that is failing them, UNICEF warned in a new report on children, food and nutrition, to be released today.

The State of the World’s Children 2019: Children, food and nutrition finds that at least 1 in 3 children under five – or over 200 million – is either undernourished or overweight. Almost two in three children between six months and two years of age are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains. This puts them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death.

“Despite all the technological, cultural and social advances of the last few decades, we have lost sight of this most basic fact: If children eat poorly, they live poorly,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director.

“Millions of children subsist on an unhealthy diet because they simply do not have a better choice. The way we understand and respond to malnutrition needs to change: It is not just about getting children enough to eat; it is above all about getting them the right food to eat. That is our common challenge today,” she continued.

The report provides the most comprehensive assessment yet of 21st century child malnutrition in all its forms. It describes a triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential nutrients, and overweight among children under the age of five, noting that around the world:

• 149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age;

• 50 million children are wasted, or too thin for their height;

• 340 million children – or one in two – suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A and iron;

• 40 million children are overweight or obese.

The report warns that poor eating and feeding practices start from the earliest days of a child’s life. Though breastfeeding can save lives, for example, only 42 per cent of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed, and an increasing number of children are fed infant formula. Sales of milk-based formula grew by 72 per cent between 2008 and 2013 in upper middle-income countries such as Brazil, China and Turkey, largely due to inappropriate marketing and weak policies and programmes to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

As children begin transitioning to soft or solid foods around the six-month mark, too many are introduced to the wrong kind of diet, according to the report. Worldwide, close to 45 per cent of children between six months and two years of age are not fed any fruits or vegetables. Nearly 60 per cent do not eat any eggs, dairy, fish or meat.

As children grow older, their exposure to unhealthy food becomes alarming, driven largely by inappropriate marketing and advertising, the abundance of ultra-processed foods in cities but also in remote areas, and increasing access to fast food and highly sweetened beverages.

For example, the report shows that 42 per cent of school-going adolescents in low-and middle-income countries consume carbonated, sugary, soft drinks at least once a day and 46 per cent eat fast food at least once a week. Those rates go up to 62 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, for adolescents in high-income countries.

As a result, overweight and obesity levels in childhood and adolescence are increasing worldwide. From 2000 to 2016, the proportion of overweight children between 5 and 19 years of age doubled from 1 in 10 to almost 1 in 5. Ten times more girls and 12 times more boys in this age group suffer from obesity today than in 1975.

The greatest burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shouldered by children and adolescents from the poorest and most marginalised communities, the report notes. Only 1 in 5 children aged six months to two years from the poorest households eats a sufficiently diverse diet for healthy growth. Even in high-income countries such as the UK, the prevalence of overweight is more than twice as high in the poorest areas as in the richest areas.

The report also noted that climate-related disasters cause severe food crises. Drought, for example, is responsible for 80 per cent of damage and losses in agriculture, dramatically altering what food is available to children and families, as well as the quality and price of that food.

To address this growing malnutrition crisis in all its forms, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, the private sector, donors, parents, families and businesses to help children grow healthy by:

• empowering families, children and young people to demand nutritious food, including by improving nutrition education and using proven legislation – such as sugar taxes – to reduce demand for unhealthy foods;

• driving food suppliers to do the right thing for children, by incentivising the provision of healthy, convenient and affordable foods;

• building healthy food environments for children and adolescents by using proven approaches, such as accurate and easy-to-understand labelling and stronger controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods;

• mobilising supportive systems – health, water and sanitation, education and social protection – to scale up nutrition results for all children;

• collecting, analysing and using good-quality data and evidence to guide action and track progress.

“We are losing ground in the fight for healthy diets,” said Fore. “This is not a battle we can win on our own. We need governments, the private sector and civil society to prioritise child nutrition and work together to address the causes of unhealthy eating in all its forms.”

 

 

 

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Trump directed Ukraine quid pro quo, key witness says

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA (AP) — Ambassador Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators yesterday that he worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine at the “express direction” of President Donald Trump and pushed for a political “quid pro quo” with Kyiv because it was what Trump wanted.

“Mr Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president,” Sondland testified of his dealings with Trump’s personal attorney.

Sondland, the most highly anticipated witness in the public impeachment probe, made clear that he believed Trump was pursuing his desire for political investigations in return for an Oval Office meeting that the eastern European nation’s new president sought to bolster his alliance with the West.

Sondland said he later came to believe military aid that Ukraine relied on to counter Russia was also being held up until the investigations were launched.

In a blockbuster morning of testimony, Sondland’s opening remarks included several key details: He confirmed that he spoke with Trump on a cellphone from a busy Kyiv restaurant the day after the president prodded Ukraine’s leader to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

He also said he kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top administration officials aware of his dealings with Ukraine on the investigations Trump sought.

Sondland said he specifically told Vice-President Mike Pence he “had concerns” that US military aid to Ukraine “had become tied” to the investigations.

“Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland testified in opening remarks.

“It was no secret.”

A top Pence aide denied that the conversation between the vice-president and Sondland occurred.

It “never happened”, said Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, casting the impeachment inquiry as a politically motivated effort to push him from office.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House on yesterday, he said he wanted nothing from the Ukrainians and did not seek a quid pro quo. He also distanced himself from Sondland, a major donor to his inauguration.

“I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much,” Trump said, speaking from notes on the hearing, written with a black marker.

The impeachment inquiry focuses significantly on allegations that Trump sought investigations of former Vice- President Biden and his son — and the discredited idea that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election — in return for the badly needed military aid for Ukraine and the White House visit.

In Moscow yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was pleased that the “political battles” in Washington had overtaken the Russia allegations, which are supported by the US intelligence agencies.

“Thank God,” Putin said, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Sondland said that conditions on any potential Ukraine meeting at the White House started as “generic” but “more specific items got added to the menu, including Burisma and 2016 election meddling”.

Burisma is the Ukrainian gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board. And, he added, “the server”, the hacked Democratic computer system.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?

“As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” he said. Sondland said he didn’t know at the time that Burisma was linked to the Bidens but has since come to understand that, and that the military aid also hinged on the investigations.

“President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on meetings,” he testified.

“The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting… The aid was my own personal guess … two plus two equals four.”

Sondland’s hours of testimony didn’t appear to sway Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate. Mike Braun of Indiana said the president’s actions “may not be appropriate, but this is the question: Does it rise to the level of impeachment?

And it’s a totally different issue and none of this has. “I’m pretty certain that’s what most of my cohorts in the Senate are thinking and I know that’s what Hoosiers are thinking… and most of middle America.”

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and Trump donor, has emerged as a central figure in an intense week in the impeachment probe that has featured nine witnesses testifying over three days.

Both Democrats and Republicans were uncertain about what Sondland would testify to, given that he had already clarified parts of his initial private deposition before lawmakers.

Sondland appeared prepared to fend off scrutiny over the way his testimony has shifted in closed-door settings, saying “my memory has not been perfect”.

He said the State Department left him without access to e-mails, call records and other documents he needed in the inquiry. Republicans called his account “the trifecta of unreliability”.

Still, he did produce new e-mails and text messages to bolster his assertion that others in the administration were aware of the investigations he was pursuing for Trump from Ukraine.

Sondland insisted, twice, that he was “adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid” for Ukraine.

“I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president.”

The son of immigrants, who he said escaped Europe during the Holocaust, Sondland described himself as a “lifelong Republican” who has worked with officials from both parties, including Biden.

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PAJ honours veteran journalists

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PAJ honours veteran journalists

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) yesterday honoured four veteran journalists/broadcasters for their contribution to the field at its annual Veterans’ Luncheon at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in New Kingston.

Here three of the awardees pose with their citations.

From left are: Photographer Headley “Dellmar” Samuels; deputy CEO at the Jamaica Information Service Enthrose Campbell; and Jamaica Observer Senior Reporter Balford Henry.

Absent is Irie FM broadcaster Elise Kelly.

(Photo: Michael Gordon)


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Jamaica close second on UN-compiled femicide list

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PARIS, France (AFP) — Every day in 2017, 137 women and girls were intentionally killed by their partner or a family member somewhere in the world, according to UN statistics.

This adds up to more than 50,000 women’s lives ended by those closest to them, a scourge blamed on deep-rooted gender inequality and damaging stereotypes of women as weaker and less valuable members of society.
Here is an overview of the worldwide killings of women, also called femicide.

The toll

In 2017, some 87,000 women and girls were murdered worldwide, according to a 2018 report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Of these, 58 per cent had their life taken by someone in their inner circle — 30,000 by their spouse or intimate partner, and another 20,000 by a member of their own family.

The report showed that men were four times more likely than women to fall victim to homicide (they form 80 per cent of all murder victims), but more often than not died at the hands of a stranger.

Fewer than one in five murdered men were killed by their life partner, compared to 82 per cent for women.
Women in Africa are most likely to be killed by a spouse or family member, with a rate of nearly 70 per cent (19,000 murders) compared to 38 per cent (3,000 murders) in Europe, the region with the smallest share, said the UNODC.
In absolute numbers, Asia had the most severe toll, with 20,000 women killed by a partner or family member in 2017.

Husbands, fathers, brothers, mothers

The high murder rate among women is a consequence of rampant gender-based violence.

Nearly a third of women who have been in a relationship reported having experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, or a non-partner, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Many of the victims of ‘femicide’ are killed by their current and former partners, but they are also killed by fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, and other family members because of their role and status as women,” said the UNODC.
These killings, it added, do “not usually result from random or spontaneous acts, but rather from the culmination of prior gender-based violence. Jealousy and fear of abandonment are among the motives”.

The WHO report also blamed “unequal power of women relative to men” and the “normative use of violence to resolve conflict”.

War

Emergencies such as poverty, war and humanitarian crises make women even more vulnerable.

Countries topping a UN-compiled list of “intentional homicides, female” are mostly in Latin America and Africa, regions which struggle with gang and ethnic wars, unemployment and privation.

Topping the list is El Salvador with 13.9 out of every 100,000 women murdered in 2017, followed by Jamaica with 11 per 100,000 in the same year.

The Central African Republic was in third place with 10.4 per 100,000 based on 2016 statistics, followed by South Africa with 9.1 per 100,000 in 2011.

The real numbers are likely to be higher, with reports based on whatever data is gathered by national statistical systems — severely lacking in many countries in Africa and Asia.

Many wars, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi to Kosovo and Iraq, are known for the tactic of targeting women, who are raped, beaten, taken as sex slaves, and often killed, as a “weapon of war”.

Family

According to the UN, some 1,000 of the 5,000 so-called “honour killings” reported around the world every year, are committed in India.

These are crimes committed by close relatives after a woman or girl is deemed to have diverted from religious or traditional mores and values — often for falling in love with a man from the wrong family, or for engaging in sex before marriage.

They are shot, stoned, burned, buried alive, strangled, smothered, or stabbed to death with what the UN describes as “horrifying regularity”, often in countries where the laws exempt the perpetrators from punishment.
Pakistan sees hundreds of these killings every year, while in Afghanistan 243 cases were recorded between April 2011 and August 2013.

Change coming?

Spain is hailed in some quarters for turning the tide in the battle against femicide through a 2004 law against gender-targeted violence that sought to address the problem in different spheres simultaneously — social, educational and correctional.

About 100 special courts and police units were also set up.

Last year, 50 women were murdered in Spain, and 51 so far this year, down from 71 in 2003.

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