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In Youth: Mental Health, Education, and Skills

  • Features
  • Written by
  • August 11, 2014

The present generation of Afghanistan’s youth has witnessed an era of war combined with political, economic, and social upheaval. Factual information states that youth comprise more than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s population. This ‘youth bulge’ as termed by demographers evidently means that it is the progress of youth which will shape the country’s future in the coming years. It is also known that in Afghanistan, young people face a spectrum of violence that is not only limited to war. The traumatic experiences caused by war and other violence in Afghanistan lead to psychiatric disorders along with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Research states that today one in five school children in Afghanistan are likely to suffer from clinical mental health problems. It needs to be acknowledged that mental health problems in young people in Afghanistan could be greatly assisted by quality education and skills, engagement in society, and resources invested in health and other youth based programs to guide them.

This year, International Youth Day provides an opportunity to governments, agencies, and institutions to draw attention to their youth and the success of this day’s theme - the importance of youth’s mental well-being. For a country such as Afghanistan this day must hold significant importance to ensure proper allocation of resources toward building the capacities of youth and promoting skills and education along with activities that value health and engage youth in peace and governance.

In Afghanistan, a lack of education and livelihood opportunities only works to halt the progress of a generation of youthful population. Other challenges include a lack of knowledge on rights and freedom, civil engagement, and gender inequality.

World Health Day 2014: Preventing Vector-Borne Diseases

  • Features
  • Written by CWS-P/A Communications Office and Mola Bux Umrani
  • April 7, 2014

More than one million people die every year from vector-borne diseases which include malaria and dengue. Vectors such as mosquitos, bugs, and ticks transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person to another. Malaria causes more than 600, 000 deaths every year globally, most of them are children under five years of age and more than 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue. These infections are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where populations have inadequate housing and lack access to safe drinking-water and sanitation 1. Vector-borne diseases are attracting attention globally and are also the focus of this year’s World Health Day.

International Women's Day - Bridging Gaps

  • Features
  • Written by Alison Sneddon
  • March 7, 2014

8th March this year marks the 103rd annual International Women’s Day. The worldwide event aims to celebrate the achievements of women around the globe while highlighting the progress, which still needs to be made in order to achieve equality. For many women in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this road to equality has been a long one and continues to be so, with many obstacles to overcome. Cultural constraints and restrictions inhibit the freedom of women and the conservative patriarchal society prevents them from participating in education and employment in both countries.  Violence against women including domestic abuse, sexual assaults and acid throwing are alarmingly common. Women are politically underrepresented and lack the opportunities, forum and institutional support to make their voices heard. Gender-specific issues, such as maternal healthcare, are therefore neglected, literally endangering the lives of Pakistani and Afghan women.

This year, International Women’s Day is challenging the global community to advocate for the advancement of women everywhere through the theme of Inspiring Change. Inspiration and change are certainly imperative to the realization of empowerment and equality for women and girls in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Inspiring women to strive for opportunities, and inspiring communities to celebrate and support their mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, are central to affecting positive change in the status of these marginalized women.

World AIDS Day - 'Getting to Zero'

  • Features
  • Written by
  • December 2, 2013

December 1 each year marks  World AIDS Day and is commemorated all over the world. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was marked in December in 1988. Ever since then, people around the world use this day as an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, create awareness, show their support toward people living with HIV, and  pay their respect to the many people who have lost their battle. The theme for Word AIDS Day from 2011-2015 is ‘Getting to Zero.’ The theme is used all year to advocate and remind governments and political leaders for the need to eliminate new infections in HIV.

Pakistan aims to halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015 according to the Millennium Development Goal – 6. For many years, the total number of HIV infected persons remains stagnant at approximately 90,000. This has been disputed by many as grossly underestimated and inaccurate. However, recently the disclosure of 800 newly identified cases in Sindh alone by the Sindh AIDS Control Program makes the MDG-6 seem a bit far stretched goal for Pakistan to achieve.

Afghan refugees in Pakistan are known to be one of the largest refugee communities in the world. UN records for 2013 show that around 1.6 million displaced Afghans live in Pakistan.[1] The Government of Pakistan estimates that there are an estimated one million unregistered refugees.[2] Life for the majority of Afghan refugees remains difficult and uncertain in Pakistan, and sources also report the hardships they face in finding employment. The UNHCR figures state that less than one quarter of Afghan refugees are employed and almost three quarters of children do not attend school. [3] The economic status of Afghan refugees and the education they are able to attain or provide to their children in the host country are correlated. At the same time, education previously gained in Afghanistan is often not recognized in Pakistan. This results in employment difficulties and lower economic conditions for refugee families.

In Pakistan, a large number of underprivileged Afghan refugees are deprived of education. Beside economic status, there are many other factors that contribute toward the inability of Afghan refugees to send their children to school. Many Afghan refugee settlements lack schools, learning centers, and resources. Issues of safety and security as well as the added cost of transportation also prevent families from sending their children to schools in other areas. More specifically owing to legal barriers, unregistered Afghan families are unable to enroll their children in government administered schools.

Food is integral to human survival and viewed as an agricultural act that begins with planting. In modern industrial societies, food sources are further processed by mega factories mostly into ready-to-eat sustenance that originates from the land. Yet, food which is necessary to sustain life is not easily accessible by all. Today, almost 870 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished.[1]

The present need is to ensure that both poverty and hunger are minimized as outlined in the Millennium Development Goal - 1. This year on ‘World Food Day,’ the focus among stakeholders should include assistance to farmers around the world and especially in developing countries in the form of fair prices, certified agricultural inputs, and best farming techniques. These steps help support sustainable food systems which work to reduce hunger and increase food supplies for future generations. It is also important to note that agriculture remains essential for income generation and poverty alleviation in most developing countries. Statistics show that three-quarters of the poor live and work in rural areas and food also accounts for a major share of their expenditure.[2]

While a sustainable food system includes cooperation at all levels among various stakeholders, it also includes farming practices which prevent the degradation of the environment, ecology, and biodiversity. Such practices help our future food supply and improve ecological conditions which are essential to the success of this year’s ‘World Food Day’ theme – ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.’

Enabling Disaster Response for All: International Day for Disaster Reduction

  • Features
  • Written by Rhea Simms and Hira Sajjad
  • October 11, 2013

October 13 marks the annual International Day for Disaster Reduction. On this day all citizens are encouraged to raise awareness or take action on building communities which are disaster resilient. This year’s theme focuses on disaster reduction for those living with disabilities. Already a vulnerable group in society, persons with disabilities (PWDs) are often left completely dependent on family members in the case of disaster, with no concrete disaster response plan in place.

Pakistan is highly susceptible to disaster. Over the last decade alone over 100,000 people have lost their lives due to earthquake, flood, drought and other natural disasters (Dawn, 2011). Furthermore, tens of millions of people’s economic situation worsened after being left homeless, without their main source of livelihood, or without access to basic infrastructure. Frequent disasters, conflict, and inaccessible medical care and education have also left many people with disabilities throughout the country.

Statistics reveal that there are currently 1.3 billion people worldwide between the ages of 12 and 24. This figure is roughly equal to 18% of the global population and is anticipated to increase by the year 2035 to 1.5 billion.[1] Developing countries including Afghanistan continue to face a population boom.  International Youth Day presents an opportunity to mark the contributions of young individuals in Afghanistan. While Afghanistan’s population continues to climb, the rapid increase in the youth population is central to its development and stability. For this reason, the right initiatives must be taken to better serve youth and to move development forward. In 2011, UNICEF reported that only 49% of Afghan men (15 – 24 years old) were literate and for women this rate was lower at 18%. The unemployment rate also remains high.[2] Despite the challenges these statistics reveal, they indicate an opportunity for Afghanistan to move toward stability through job creation and youth empowerment.

World Health Day: Addressing the Causes of High Blood Pressure

  • Features
  • Written by Raheela Ghourio, Mir Hassan Balouch, and Rhea Simms
  • April 5, 2013

April 7 is dedicated to highlighting priority public health concerns across the globe.  This year’s theme for World Health Day is high blood pressure; a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. Unawareness plays a key role in the spread of this condition, particularly within countries such as Pakistan where health education and access to proper health facilities is often critically low in rural areas. Globally, 40% of people aged 25 and older are affected by high blood pressure, and it is suspected to cause 12.8 percent of total deaths (WHO, 2013). Within Pakistan, clear and accurate data on its prevalence is not easily found. An estimated one-third of Pakistanis struggle with high blood pressure. For this reason, high blood pressure has been known as one of the silent killers within the country (Tribune, 2011). However, steps can be taken by individuals, health care providers, and the humanitarian community to address the causes and reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure.

International Women’s Day

  • Features
  • Written by test
  • March 8, 2013

Women like Bakhzarina and others in Afghanistan are benefiting from health education and quality health services. This is made possible due to the efforts of Zuhra and dozens more health staff members and male and female community health workers. Together they are helping women make informed and better choices concerning health for themselves and their families. More significantly, many mothers now have access to health services and maternal health care which is proving to have many positive results.

This International Women’s Day, CWS-P/A celebrates the ability of women to better care for themselves and those around them and the health team whose commitment brings change over time.

World AIDS Day:Denying the Zero

  • Features
  • Written by
  • November 30, 2012

The theme for World AIDS Day will remain ‘Getting to Zero’ until 2015. The theme aims to achieve ‘zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths’. On the global front there seems to be great progress in trying to achieve the ‘zero’ figure benchmark as indicated by the recent annual report on the state of the global pandemic by UNAIDS launched in November this year. In its report UNAIDS stressed that 25 low- and middle-income countries had managed to at least halve their rate of new HIV infections, more than half of those countries were in Africa, the region affected the most by HIV. Globally, the overall number of newly infected cases fell to 2.5 million from 2.6 million in 2010. The number of newly infected HIV children has also dramatically reduced. The number of AIDS related deaths also fell to 1.7 million people, which is a 24% drop rate from the peak recorded in 2005. [1]

Planning for the Future: An Exploration of Child Rights and Socio-Economic Development

  • Features
  • Written by Rhea Simms and Donna Fernandes
  • November 16, 2012

“No social problem is as universal as the oppression of the child ... No slave was ever so much the property of his master as the child is of his parent ... Never were the rights of man ever so disregarded as in the case of the child.” – Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

Feeding Afghanistan

  • Features
  • Written by Rhea Simms
  • October 15, 2012

It is World Food Day once again. A day that, no matter who you are or where you live, is relevant to you. Everyone needs food. Some may have a lot of it while others struggle day after day to survive on a diet that barely meets their nutritional needs. One country where the latter rings true is Afghanistan­­ - a country where an estimated one third of the population is food insecure[1].

My husband shouted that it’s a flood; take some of the important belongings and valuables then evacuate the house as we are moving to higher place,” shared Benazir, 30 years old, a flood survivor from Thatta District, Sindh Province. Benazir is one among millions of women who stood side-by-side their families and made extraordinary efforts to survive the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history, the 2010 floods. They demonstrate the strength to minimize the loss both economical and human. However, in many developing countries which are prone to disaster, women’s efforts are often overshadowed by the resilience associated with men. The reality, however, indicates that women play a significant role in survival following a disaster as well as implementing disaster risk reduction practices in their communities.

World Peace – an elusive dream

  • Features
  • Written by Aishah Nisar
  • September 20, 2012

Peace begins with a smile” - Mother Teresa.

A beautiful and naturally abundant gift of the Lord, a smile, is something we, the mortals have forgotten to use. Who is to blame? Is it the persistent struggle for power and wealth; the economic systems; heavy influx of information; cross culturalism – or something else? No one knows. World peace is the one objective every great leader in the world has tried to achieve in history in order to make his or her mark in the world, but not one has fully succeeded.  Of all the things the world has lost in the past few decades, peace is what cannot be replaced.

All around the world movements, conferences, brotherhoods and fraternities, and organizations have been created to find a lasting solution for peace. However, the statistics related to attaining world peace keep falling by the day. How did the modern world come to this state? Let’s rewind and go back into history.

Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth

  • Features
  • Written by
  • August 10, 2012

August 12th marks International Youth Day, and the theme for this year is ‘Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth.’ Over time countries have brought together forums and held conferences to promote the welfare of youth. While the day presents a significant opportunity to work with other countries in framing a worldwide plan for the development of youth, it must be made part of a holistic mandate that includes a political, social, and economic scope. This remains true for Pakistan and Afghanistan, two countries where opportunities that promote the welfare of youth remain deficient. International Youth Day is an opportunity to reflect upon the role we have in developing youth, acknowledging the achievements of individuals, and evaluating the systems that are meant to protect the well-being of all children and adolescents.

World Health Day: Ageing and health: “Good health adds life to years”

  • Features
  • Written by Dr. Qamar Zaman
  • April 4, 2012

Statistics and world demography tell us that by the year 2050, 20% of world’s population will be elderly people, and we have to work today in order to scale up and be prepared to face this challenge and address the issue.

Europeans today are living longer than ever before and are expected to live longer and longer. Today, 1 in every 6 citizens is aged 65 or over. In less than 50 years time, almost 1 in every 3 citizens will be 65 or over.

Pakistan has a population of 180 million, but if we look at Pakistan’s demography pyramid we will find only 4.5% of the population in that pyramid to be elderly. Pakistan has a high fertility and high mortality rate whereas in developed countries there is low fertility and low mortality.

Honoring Afghan Women

  • Features
  • Written by Donna Fernandes and Qais Fazli
  • March 5, 2012

“As the headmistress, I constantly motivate students to keep striving to learn more. When girls graduate, I encourage them to gain a higher education. This will make them well-educated and increase the participation of women in Afghan society,” shares Liluma, a headmistress at Qarghai Girls High School in Laghman Province. A World Bank report published in 2010 revealed that the 2009 labor participation rate for females in Afghanistan was 33.10%. In addition to low female participation, years of war have pushed the country into deep economic hardship with weak infrastructure and governance.

Approximately one hundred guests attended the launch of the Mobile Knowledge Resource Center (MKRC) held on December 12, 2011 in Karachi’s Beach Luxury Hotel. The event is a milestone in disaster risk reduction and helps communities stay prepared through innovative techniques that reduce their vulnerabilities and increase their capacities for the future disasters. Among others these innovative approaches include town-watching exercises, sandbag preparation, life-saving bottle making, and constructing a rescue boat. Additionally, communities will receive emergency bags and first-aid training.

Youth and HIV

  • Features
  • Written by Beenish Hashwani
  • November 29, 2011

The first World AIDS Day was celebrated on December 1, 1988. The World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice, and improving education. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away and that there are many things still to be done.

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