Watching the World
In the eyes of Oxfam, a leading development charity organization, the suffering of the world’s poor is severe enough to be termed a “silent holocaust,” according to the British newspaper Guardian Weekly. In a report launching a five-year campaign to help the world’s poor, Oxfam found that one fifth of the world’s population reside in the 50 poorest nations. Those same countries have seen their share of the world’s income plummet to a mere 2 percent. The gulf between the rich and the poor within countries is growing too. Mexico, for instance, has suffered from a severe financial crisis and widespread poverty but at the same time has seen the fastest growth in the number of billionaires. Says an Oxfam spokeswoman: “There is a sense that world leaders and the UN have . . . lost their way. We need a new vision for a new millennium.”
More Harmful Than Cigarettes
This is the conclusion drawn by a parliamentary committee in India regarding the bidi, also known as the poor man’s cigarette. It is estimated that more than four million men, women, and children produce over 300 million bidis a day, wrapping tobacco dust in tendu leaves and tying the small roll with thread. According to The Times of India, a recent report shows that the bidi has two and a half times the cancer-causing potential of cigarettes, can cause silicosis and tuberculosis, and contains 47 percent tar and 3.7 percent nicotine compared with the standard Indian cigarette that has 36 percent tar and 1.9 percent nicotine. Not only are smokers at risk. The millions of people who prepare the bidis are usually found working long hours in unhygienic conditions, breathing in the tobacco dust in poorly ventilated huts. Especially do child laborers suffer.
The Effect of Literacy on Mothers
Public-health experts have long believed that children in developing lands have a better chance of survival if their mothers are literate—but they have never been able to isolate reading itself as a decisive factor. According to New Scientist magazine, a study carried out in Nicaragua “is the first to demonstrate that educating women has a direct effect on their children’s health.” The study examined illiterate women who as adults took part in Nicaragua’s massive literacy program between 1979 and 1985. In the late 1970’s, the mortality rate for children of illiterate mothers was about 110 deaths per 1,000 live births. By 1985, the mortality rate for children of mothers who had learned to read in the program dropped to 84 per thousand. Their children were also better nourished. Experts are still uncertain as to why the children of literate mothers are so much better off.
The tiny town of Chesterfield Inlet on the Hudson Bay in Canada’s Northwest Territories has been rocked by charges of widespread abuse of schoolchildren. According to Maclean’s magazine, an independent report recently released by the government found incidents of sexual and physical abuse of native Inuit children over a 17-year period in the 1950’s and 1960’s at the Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School and at an adjacent residence run by the Catholic Church. The police completed a 21-month investigation into 236 allegations of abuse and decided not to lay charges—in some cases because the statute of limitations had expired; in others because the alleged perpetrators were elderly or even dead; in others because some former students could not identify the offenders with certainty. Noted Maclean’s: “Although the passage of time has clearly made punishing alleged offenders more difficult, it has not erased the pain of the victims.”
Family Life Deteriorating
How fares family life these days? According to the United Nations Department of Public Information, fathers worldwide spend on the average less than one hour a day alone with their children—in Hong Kong the average is only six minutes. Single parenthood is increasing. In the United Kingdom, for example, half of all births in 1990 were to unmarried women. Family violence is also increasing. It is estimated that of the children who live in the United States and Western Europe, 4 percent experience serious violence within the home each year. The elderly are having problems too. The UN report states: “Even in the so-called ‘developed’ countries of the European Union (EU), one fifth of the elderly population live in relative poverty, often isolated in urban ghettos without the support of an expanded family structure.”
Hazards of International Matchmaking
With the increased freedom to travel from Eastern Europe to Western Europe has come an unsavory by-product: international matchmaking. Since 1991 an estimated 15,000 women have gone from Eastern Europe to Western Europe as mail-order brides. Many women live in poverty and dream of a better life, so they answer an advertisement of a matchmaking agency. All too often, the dream turns into a nightmare when a woman ends up isolated in a foreign land and at the mercy of a brutal husband. One Polish bride was so badly beaten by her husband in Germany that she fled to the woods and hid there for two days in freezing temperatures. As a result of frostbite, her left foot and her right leg had to be amputated. Noted the English newspaper Guardian Weekly: “Many of the match-making agencies double as prostitution rings. They entice women abroad and then force them into brothels. Those who resist are routinely killed.”
Do you experience travel sickness? If so, you are not alone. Fully 9 in every 10 people are prone to motion sickness to varying degrees, reports the International Herald Tribune. Dogs, especially puppies, are also susceptible. Even fish when transported by boat on rough seas can get seasick! What is the remedy? Many people turn to medications, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. Here are other suggestions that may help: Do not read in a moving vehicle. Seat yourself where there is the least motion—in the front seat of a car, for example, or over the wing of an airplane. Focus on distant objects, such as the horizon. If you do not want to do that, close your eyes.
Air Pollution Worsening in France
Despite concerted efforts to combat it, air pollution is becoming worse and is posing a serious health threat to millions who live in Paris and other French cities. While in the past the primary culprit was heavy industry, today the automobile is responsible for 80 percent of urban air pollution. The number of vehicles in France has doubled since 1970, soaring from 12 million to 24 million, with 3.2 million in the Paris region alone. The Paris newspaper Le Monde says that a recent government study showed that for every increase in the concentration of toxic gases in the Paris region, there was a corresponding rise in the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to respiratory ailments. Little concrete action has yet been taken. Evidently, politicians fear that any measures severe enough to be effective will displease their voters who drive.
Speech Disorders Among Children
Researchers at the University Clinic for Communication Disorders in Mainz, Germany, have discovered that every fourth child of preschool age has a speech disorder. “I couldn’t believe the figures,” confessed Professor Manfred Heinemann, clinic director. Medical personnel carried out tests on children three and four years of age and found that between 18 and 34 percent had speech disorders. The corresponding figure in 1982 was only four percent. Why the increase? “Families are watching TV too much and talking too little,” reports the German newspaper Der Steigerwald-Bote. It seems that videos, TV, and computer games are taking over the role of the parents in many families. Researchers observed that some children who could hardly talk were nonetheless “as quick as a flash” when it came to computer games.