Childhood cancers  – A child health priority for MENA

Childhood cancers – A child health priority for MENA

  by Hedieh Mehrtash The current, and soon to be expired Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), is to reduce childhood mortality in under-fives by two thirds. In the past decade, global efforts to reach this goal have focused on scaling up access to childhood vaccines, oral rehydration salts, malaria treatment and prevention, and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Since the inception of the MDGs there has been increasing recognition of the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally, not just as diseases of high-income countries. The post-2015 development agenda seeks to accommodate this shift as articulated in roadmaps such as the WHO Global Action Plan for NCDs. This blog post looks at where child health and NCDs intersect in the MENA region, with a specific focus on the burden and available treatment for childhood cancers. The unique epidemiological characteristics of childhood cancers make a strong case for studying them separately from adult cancers. The most striking difference perhaps is that cancer is generally a rare disease among children – annual incidence of all cancer in children under 5 years of age in developed countries is only 0.5% (1). Moreover, adult cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors, whereas childhood cancers are not. Consequently, population based screening and prevention programs are not the best recourse for pediatric cases, which benefit instead from accurate early diagnosis and effective treatment (10). When the data on pediatric cancer is stratified by geographic location, the highest incidence of childhood lymphomas occur in North Africa and the Middle East, while leukemia accounts for a quarter of childhood cancers in the...
Far From Home: The Syrian Trojan Women Project

Far From Home: The Syrian Trojan Women Project

  by Amina Foda What began as a response to the mental health needs of Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan has grown into a captivating platform for the world to hear the voices of Syrian refugees. The Syria: The Trojan Women project produced a theatrical adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women on the grounds of the everlasting themes and consequences of war that continue today in the Syrian crisis. The play, performed by a group of Syrian refugee women, embodies the women’s journey with mental anxiety, depression and PTSD. It provides a sobering view into their lived experiences and raises awareness of their challenges. In the words of one of the Syrian refugee actresses, the sentiments of loss and the pain of displacement found in Euripides’ play, The Trojan Women, resonated with their experiences of the modern day Syrian crisis. “War is eternal, just the weapons have changed” — UK based producer, Charlotte Eagar, introduced the Project to an auditorium of Columbia University students in New York City (an evening organized by the Columbia Global Mental Health Program and co-hosted by Columbia College). The New York audience was connected to a group of Syrian refugee women in Amman, Jordan who shared their experiences and hopes to a growing Western audience. Originally scheduled to travel to the United States to perform their adaptation of Euripides’ classic anti-war tragedy, visa denials prevented their physical presence in NYC. As a saving grace, technology bridged the political roadblocks to sharing their story. The women were thoughtful and purposeful in their discussion with the audience. They shared their lived-experiences of building their new community...
العنف ضد المرأة

العنف ضد المرأة

تبرز لنا سارة اللمكي في تدوينتها هذه الوضع الحالي للعنف ضد المرأة ضمن جدول أعمال الصحة العالمية، وتناقش الحاجة للتركيز على نقاطٍ نوعيةٍ تستهدف “العنف” ضمن أنظمة العمل لما بعد عام 2015، للتوصل إلى تحقيق المساواة بين الجنسين. (ترجمتها للعربية: زينة المحايري) العنف ضد المرأة…هل يكفي ما قوم به؟ مع ختام الدورة السنوية الثامنة والخمسين للجنة المعنية بوضع المرأة (CSW58) لا يسع المرء إلا أن يتساءل عن سبب عدم ذكر العنف ضد المرأة بشكلٍ محدد، ولماذا لم يحتل الصدارة موضوع العنف ضد المرأة في جدول الأعمال. وانصب التركيز هذا العام على “التحديات والإنجازات في تطبيق الأهداف التنموية للألفية من أجل النساء والفتيات”، وعلى الرغم من اعتراف الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة بأن الأهداف التنموية للألفية “محدودة وتنحرف عن الرؤية الكاملة لحقوق النساء والفتيات المنصوص عليها في الاتفاقيات العالمية الرئيسية”؛ فقد ظلّ المؤتمر متجاهلاً ولم يرتكز بشكل مرجو على أحد العناصر الأساسية في هذا الانحراف، ألا وهو العنف ضد المرأة. ولم يمر هذا الإغفال دون أن يلحظه أحد، بل قوبل بموجةٍ من التعليقات في المدونات والمقالات ومن متابعي المؤتمر. 2,8,9وطالبت منظمات متنوعة بأهداف نوعية وأكثر استهدافاً للمساواة بين الجنسين، تركز بالتحديد على العنف ضد المرأة، للتأكد من عدم ضياع هذه النقطة الخاصة في خضم الانشغال بمهمة ضمان حقوق النساء والفتيات الشّاقة. خارج المؤتمر توُجد وفرةٌ من الحملات، والبرامج، ومطالبات التحرّك، والأدبيات والأبحاث حول العنف ضد المرأة، وجميعها ضمن نطاق واسع لا نهاية له من المصادر الساعية لإيجاد الحل الإصلاحي الأمثل، لكن بدون جدوى. وبقيت الأرقام خلال العقود القليلة الماضية في حالة ركود، وبصورةٍ صاعقة توقعت منظمة الصحة العالمية أن 35% من النساء حول العالم سيواجهن نوعاً من أنواع العنف ضدهن. 2 إن ذلك كله يطرح تساؤلاً: كيف يمكننا التقدم في حين...
Youth empowerment: investment, inclusion & information

Youth empowerment: investment, inclusion & information

  Sara Al Lamki looks at the obstacles facing youth around the world, and outlines how programs aimed at youth inclusion, investment and education are breaking the barriers to youth empowerment. There are roughly 3 billion young people in the world today. People aged 10 to 24 comprise roughly one quarter of the world’s population. It is the largest youth generation in history. They will shape the future, and not understanding what is necessary for this population to thrive would be a large oversight. According to recent figures from UNESCO, 63 million adolescents around the world were not enrolled in either primary or secondary school in 2012. And in 2013, young people aged 15 to 24 were almost three times more likely than adults to be unemployed.  In the Arab world alone, unemployed youth make up 25% of the total. In 2011, UNAIDS statistics showed that 41% of newly diagnosed HIV patients were between the ages of 15 – 24. These numbers point to just a handful of the myriad challenges faced by today’s youth, all with consequences on health and long term development. Figure 1 summarizes other barriers faced by young women in particular, and highlights how meaningful youth participation, education including comprehensive sexuality education and rights, and access to targeted health services can address these barriers.   Youth inclusion During the course of this year’s summer summits, assemblies, and conferences across various development agendas, from disaster relief to sustainability, there has been a single common thread: a call for youth voices. Youth inclusion is not a novel idea, but it has received a new lease of life in the last 5 years. Specific programs have begun to target youth, empowering...
HEYA launches childhood obesity campaign in Kuwait

HEYA launches childhood obesity campaign in Kuwait

  Mariam Bhacker & Hedieh Mehrtash When I spoke to Dalal Albohamad for the first time it was over a frustratingly bad internet connection between a Ban Suan apartment in Chiang Mai and a bustling, noisy Starbucks in Kuwait. Our technological issues however could not dampen the outpouring of enthusiasm and excitement that ensued during our conversation. We were discussing the launch of “HEYA”, a multidimensional media advocacy campaign targeting the prevention of childhood obesity in Kuwait – (dubious) title-holder for the highest rates of child obesity in the world. Off the top of her head, Dalal, who is HEYA’s Associate Program Manager, was able cite the frightening statistics from a 2011 study which revealed that 50 percent of students between the ages of 13 and 15 were overweight, 22.6 percent were obese, and only 21 percent were considered physically active. Forty eight percent also ate fast food more than three times a week. The health effects of obesity beget a vast range of medical consequences including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, early menarche and menstrual problems, fatty liver disease, as well as psychological and social consequences. Separately and collectively, these problems have lasting and devastating effects on individuals’ lives. The current health system’s curative approach cannot reasonably tackle this immense health fallout, and hence HEYA’s preventive focus is a welcome and timely initiative. The launch Launching today, May 11, at the Kuwait National Library, the first year of the HEYA campaign will focus on raising public awareness of child obesity and promoting the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. This initial awareness phase will provide a...
Violence Against Women & Looking Beyond the MDGs

Violence Against Women & Looking Beyond the MDGs

  Sara Al Lamki looks at the current status of violence against women within the global health agenda, and argues the need for a specific goal targetting violence in the post-2015 framework if gender parity is to be achieved. Violence Against Women – Are we doing enough? With the conclusion of the 58th session of the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) now over, one cannot help but wonder why violence against women (VAW) was not specifically addressed, and not on the very top of the agenda. The focus for this year was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls”, and while the UN Secretary General conceded that the MDG targets are “narrow and misaligned from the full spectrum of women’s and girls’ rights set out in key global agreements” the conference still neglected to place a major focus on one of the key contributors to this misalignment – VAW. This omission has not gone unnoticed, to a flurry of comments from blogs, focus pieces and followers of the conference.2,8,9 Varying organisations have called for a more specific and targeted Goal for Gender Equality that specifies targets on VAW to ensure it is not engulfed by the mammoth task that is ensuring rights for women and girls. Outside of the conference, there are a plethora of campaigns, programmes, calls for action, literature, and research on VAW– an endless spectrum of resources trying to find the best fix, with no such luck. Numbers have remained stagnant in the past few decades and the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that a staggering 35%...
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