Study: Childhood Obesity Soaring in Arab World

Geneva- A new international study has warned that childhood obesity has soared across the world and continues to do so in low- and middle-income countries, including the Arab world.

The study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) said that obesity rates in children and adolescents have plateaued in higher income countries, such as the United States and northwestern Europe although obesity levels remain “unacceptably high.”

Combined, the number of obese five to 19 year olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016, it said.

An additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity, the study added.

Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.”

The authors said that if post-2000 trends continue, global levels of child and adolescent obesity will surpass those for moderately and severely underweight youth from the same age group by 2022.

In 2016, the obesity rate was highest in Polynesia and Micronesia in boys and girls, at 25.4 percent in girls and 22.4 percent in boys, followed by the high-income English-speaking region, which includes the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The areas of the world with the largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents were East Asia, the high-income English-speaking region, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Among high-income countries, the US had the highest obesity rates for girls and boys.

WHO Warns ‘Moderate Risk’ of Madagascar Plague Spreading in Region

The World Health Organization said Tuesday there was a “moderate risk” that a plague outbreak in Madagascar would spread to other countries in the region, reported AFP on Tuesday.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters the current outbreak had more potential than most to spread further in Madagascar since it has already affected large urban areas, including the capital Antananarivo.

The WHO stressed that most people can recover from the plague if they are rapidly treated and urged anyone in the affected areas who notice respiratory symptoms to seek treatment, which is being provided for free.

The outbreak of both bubonic plague, which is spread by infected rats via flea bites, and pneumonic plague, spread person to person, has infected 133 people, killing 24 of them, since August 1, according to WHO numbers.

Madagascar has suffered plague outbreaks almost every year since 1980, often caused by rats fleeing forest fires.

Pneumonic plague, though rarer on the island, spreads more easily, he said, pointing out that 17 of the deaths recorded so far were due to the respiratory version of the disease.

“The overall risk of further spread at the national level is high,” Lindmeier said.

At the regional level, the risk was “moderate due to frequent flights to neighbouring Indian Ocean islands”, he said.

But the risk of a more international spread of the disease was “low”, he said.

For this reason, Lindmeier said the WHO was for now advising against slapping any travel or trade restrictions on Madagascar.

Yemen’s Legitimate Government Urges Holding Emergency over Cholera Outbreak

Cairo- Yemen’s internationally-backed government headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi urged that an emergency Arab League session be held for tackling the growing cholera crisis in the war-torn country.

Yemen’s Arab League Ambassador Riyad Al-Akbari delivered a letter from Yemeni Health Minister Nasser Ba’aom, to his Egyptian counterpart Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Emad Eddin Radhi, the head of the Executive Council of the Council of Arab Health Ministers.

In the letter, Ba’aom lists deteriorating humanitarian and health conditions in Yemen.

After meeting with Al-Akbari, the Head of the Executive Council of the Council of Arab Health Ministers said that he would call for an urgent meeting of the Executive Office to be in the first half of September to find out the reality of the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

For his part, the Egyptian minister expressed Egypt’s readiness to provide more humanitarian and relief assistance to support Yemen to overcome the humanitarian situation.

Both sides discussed ways for strengthening and expanding the support of Arab League member states to respond in a more effective way to the cholera epidemic, which is threatening many Yemeni governorates.

Yemen’s humanitarian condition has been in a downward spiral since a coup led by Iran-allied militias took over the capital Sana’a. Erupting in 2014, the street warfare has now logged into its second year and a half of ripping Yemen further apart.

Most of the population is in need of humanitarian aid, with some seven million people on the verge of famine, according to UN reports.

At the same time, the country is witnessing a major cholera epidemic outbreak, which has killed over 2,000 people and injured more than half a million others since last April, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.

Yemen’s Health Minister: ‘Efforts to Address Cholera are Improving’

Riyadh- Yemen’s Minister of Public Health and Population Dr. Nasir Baoum confirmed that efforts to address the cholera epidemic in Yemen are improving, noting that the rate of recovery from the disease has amounted to 99.2 percent.

In a phone call with Asharq Al-Awsat, Baoum called on international relief organizations to distribute aid provided by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center and immediately implement the environmental sanitation projects, including the provision of drinking water, stagnant water treatment and sanitation.

The Yemeni Minister questioned the reasons behind the failure of international organizations to equipping laboratories and promoting the delivery of adequate food to those infected with cholera.

“KSRelief and Kuwaiti and UAE Relief organizations have provided free treatment; however, there is a role that international organizations must play by providing medical supplies,… equipping existing laboratories and giving incentives to field workers who fight the epidemic,” Baoum told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He pointed out that the efforts to address the  cholera epidemic are improving significantly, noting that his ministry has recorded in the past two weeks only four deaths in all governorates of Yemen.

The Yemeni Ministry of Health has raised the level of alertness at health facilities because the epidemic can spread at any time, Baoum added.

The minister said that the improvement in the recovery rate is due to the intervention of the KSRelief in cooperation with the UAE Red Crescent and the Kuwaiti Relief Organization and the cooperation of other international organizations.

He stressed that what was published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its latest report were the cases that visit specialty clinics and reception centers only.

“More than half a million people in Yemen have been infected with cholera since the epidemic began four months ago and 1,975 people have died,” WHO said on Monday.

Each day there are more than 5,000 new cases of the waterborne disease, which causes acute diarrhea and dehydration, in the country where the health system has collapsed after more than two years of war, it said.

“The total number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen this year hit the half a million mark on Sunday, and nearly 2,000 people have died since the outbreak began to spread rapidly at the end of April,” WHO said in its statement.

“The spread of cholera has slowed significantly in some areas compared to peak levels, but the disease is still spreading fast in more recently affected districts, which are recording large numbers of cases,” it said, reporting a total of 503,484 cases.

The disease, spread by ingestion of food or water tainted with human faeces, can kill within hours if untreated. It has been largely eradicated in developed countries equipped with sanitation systems and water treatment.

Notably, Saudi Arabia, through its KSRelief, signed in early August an agreement to support WHO actions in Yemen with $33.7 million in the framework of facing the cholera epidemic in Yemen.

Cholera Count Reaches Half a Million in Yemen

New York, Geneva- Cholera is believed to have affected more than half a million people and killed 1,975 since late April, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Suspected cases of the deadly waterborne disease continue to rage across the country, infecting an estimated 5,000 people per day, a WHO overview showed.

“The total number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen this year hit the half a million mark on Sunday, and nearly 2,000 people have died since the outbreak began to spread rapidly at the end of April,” the organziation said in a statement.

“The spread of cholera has slowed significantly in some areas compared to peak levels but the disease is still spreading fast in more recently affected districts, which are recording large numbers of cases.”

Yemen’s cholera epidemic, currently the largest in the world, has spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions and disruptions to the water supply across the country. Millions of people are cut off from clean water, and waste collection has ceased in major cities.

A collapsing health system is struggling to cope, with more than half of all health facilities closed due to damage, destruction or lack of funds. Shortages in medicines and supplies are persistent and widespread and 30,000 critical health workers have not been paid salaries in nearly a year.

The “doctors and nurses are the backbone of the health response – without them we can do nothing in Yemen. They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The organization says that it is working with its partners around the clock to set up cholera treatment clinics, rehabilitate health facilities, deliver medical supplies, and support the national health response effort.

Dr. Tedros urged all the parties involved in the crisis to find a political solution to the conflict. “The people of Yemen cannot bear it much longer – they need peace to rebuild their lives and their country,” he said.

More than 99 percent of people sick with suspected cholera who can access health services are surviving. Furthermore, nearly 15 million people are unable to get basic healthcare.

Arab Parliament Speaker Lauds Saudi Efforts Combating Cholera in Yemen

Speaker of Arab Parliament Dr. Meshaal Al-Salami praised on Friday agreements signed by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid with World Health Organization (WHO) and with UNICEF, to combat and curb cholera in Yemen.

In an official statement, Dr. Al-Salami praised efforts exerted by the Kingdom to alleviate the suffering of the brotherly people of Yemen due to this deadly epidemic and to improve the poor health conditions surrounding Yemeni people in difficult living conditions.

He called on the international community, UN Security Council and the Arab, Islamic and international relief organizations to support efforts to combat epidemics and deliver aid to the affected areas, in Yemen to prevent the worsening humanitarian and health conditions.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid, dubbed KSRelief, had signed with the World Health Organization (WHO) a USD337-million-worth initiative to combat the cholera epidemic in Yemen.

The project was signed by Advisor at the Royal Court, KSRelief’s General Supervisor Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabiah and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Mahmoud Fikri, said the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Following the signing, Rabiah said that this second agreement was signed under the directive of Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, as an extension of efforts made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to alleviate suffering of the Yemeni people.

He said also that US66.7 million was allocated to fight the epidemic, as well as another USD8.2 million agreement signed with WHO several weeks ago tackling related challenges.

UAE Backs Cholera Fight in Yemen with $10 Million Grant

Dubai- The UAE has announced a grant of USD10 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the UN agency’s efforts in fighting a cholera outbreak in Yemen.

The announcement was made during a meeting held on Thursday between Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO.

Sheikh Mohammed and Dr. Ghebreyesus discussed relations and cooperation between the UAE and WHO and the UAE’s efforts to provide aid to people in disaster and crisis-hit areas around the world.

Sheikh Mohammed affirmed the UAE government’s commitment to continue developing healthcare services by establishing world-class healthcare facilities, providing specialized medical services, attracting best talents and producing high-quality cadres from local educational institutes. He also highlighted UAE’s efforts in the field of medical and pharmaceutical research.

Sheikh Mohammed expressed his appreciation for WHO’s efforts to enhance health conditions, rallying international efforts to combat epidemics and launching new programs to help in enhancing people’s quality of life.

The Vice President also affirmed UAE’s commitment to support WHO’s programs and initiatives.

Dr. Ghebreyesus praised UAE’s support for international efforts to fight epidemics and enhance healthcare services around the world. He also highlighted UAE’s healthcare programs and initiatives that significantly contributed in improving people’s lives around the world.

Cholera Epidemic Slows Down in Yemen, WHO Reports

Geneva– Cholera cases in Yemen hit 400,000 on Tuesday, yet there are signs the epidemic is slowing, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

Reuters reported that the number of people dying from cholera had a dramatic fall over the past month, from about 30 to less than 10 which reflects WHO’s successful strategy of setting up a network of re-hydration points for early treatment.

Cholera is spread by ingestion of contaminated food or water and can kill within hours if untreated.

The deaths figures indicate that 99.5 percent of patients now survive in Yemen, where a civil war and economic collapse left millions on the brink of starvation, according to Reuters.

President of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer visited Taiz on Tuesday and said: “We are confronted with the vicious circle where war destroys water distribution system, water is not available or contaminated and people are infecting themselves.”

He added that to cope with the crisis there is a need for fundamental change in attitude and behavior of the belligerents.

Latest WHO report showed 396,086 Yemenis were thought to have caught diarrhoeal disease by July 24, about 1 in 50 of the population with 1,869 associated deaths.

New cases are continuing at between 5,000 and 6,000 per day, but the epidemic curve peaked about three weeks ago, according to the WHO.

Usually, with such epidemics there are many cases after the peak as before, however, ICRC predicted that the number of people affected will have hit 600,000 people by the end of 2017.

The cholera outbreak has prompted the UN to revise its humanitarian assessment and it now calculates 20.7 million Yemenis are in need of assistance.

Cholera is also spreading in Somalia, Kenya, Congo, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Sudan, where WHO is about to start a vaccination campaign with 500,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine.

WHO reported that despite Yemen’s huge outbreak, the biggest in any country within a year, it has put off a vaccination campaign until 2018.

“A cholera vaccination campaign originally planned for July 2017 has been postponed at the request of the health authorities, in favor of a much larger preventive campaign next year targeting millions of Yemenis at risk of the disease,” a WHO statement said.

Top UN Delegation Visits Yemen’s Aden, Stresses Distribution of Humanitarian Aid


Taiz – A high-level three-member UN delegation arrived for the first time in the temporary Yemeni capital Aden on Monday to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country and organize relief, humanitarian and health aids efforts.

The visiting delegation was comprised of UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley and their accompanying delegations, and they were received by Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin-Daghr.

Bin-Daghr renewed his demand from the international organizations to relocate their headquarters from the rebel-held Sana’a to Aden.

The delegations’ visit is meant to organize the humanitarian and health relief supply to Yemen.

Bin-Daghr said that once the organizations relocate, the government will offer support to enable them operate responsibly, transparently and neutrally.

He expressed his hope that the visit will help in alleviating the Yemeni people’s suffering induced by the Saleh and Houthi militias coup, according to the Yemen news agency (Saba).

The premier hailed the international organizations’ offering of relief aid and help to curb the epidemic of cholera.

“The government is responsible for all the Yemeni people, from Mahrah in the south to Saadah in the north,” he said.

“The government reaffirms its commitment to partnership with the UN to reduce the impact of the coup on the Yemeni people,” bin-Daghr added.

He also said the militias are responsible for the prevalence of cholera and other epidemics in Yemen because of their irresponsible practices. The government has meanwhile contained the epidemic in its early stages of spread in Aden and neighboring provinces.

In regards to peace in Yemen, the premier said the shortest way to reach it is through the implementation of the recognized references for peace, the Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered initiative, the National Dialogue outcomes and UN Security Council resolution 2216.

Ghebreyesus stressed UN organizations’ commitment to the resolution, noting that all of the WHO’s activities are carried out in direct coordination with the legitimate Yemeni government, Saba said.

“The visit aims at helping citizens in different provinces to raise awareness of the dangers of the cholera epidemic, which has spread in all governorates,” he added.

For his part, Lake said that UNICEF provides humanitarian assistance to Yemen and aims to expand it through intensive programs.

The most important of these programs is “the protection of children in areas of armed conflict,” the UNICEF executive director said

He added that the normal place for students is schools, and that they should protect themselves with knowledge rather than arms.

ICRC President Visits Besieged Taiz

Sana'a, Yemen: ICRC teams talk to people whose houses have been damaged or destroyed in air strikes.

Taiz – International Committee Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer will visit Taiz in Yemen on Monday, according to Adnan Hazzam, a Red Cross spokesman in Sana’a.

Maurer will arrive in Taiz after his visit to Aden and he is expected to meet several officials to discuss the humanitarian situation and living conditions in the region, Hazzam told Asharq Al-Awsat.

ICRC President Maurer arrived in the interim capital of Yemen Aden on Sunday for a five-day visit, where he met with Prime Minister of Yemen Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar.

During the meeting, Bin Daghar expressed the government’s appreciation of the work of ICRC team in Yemen in alleviating the suffering of people who are in great need for support.

The PM assured that the legitimate government is ready to exchange prisoners with Houthis through the UN and ICRC.

“The government stands by your team and your proposal that may bring cheerful news to the families of detainees and prisoners,” Bin Dagher told Maurer.

Earlier, the ICRC issued a statement saying that the great tragedy is that the cholera outbreak is a preventable, man-made humanitarian catastrophe.

Maurer added in the statement that it is a direct consequence of a conflict that has devastated civilian infrastructure and brought the whole health system to its knees.

“I find this needless suffering absolutely infuriating. The world is sleepwalking into yet more tragedy,” Maurer expressed.

Further deaths can be prevented, but warring parties must ease restrictions and allow the import of medicines, food and essential supplies and they must show restraint in the way they conduct warfare, according to ICRC president.

With at least 10 families approaching the ICRC every week to report a missing loved one, Maurer will urge all warring parties during his visit to provide unconditional and immediate access to people detained in relation to the conflict.

In related news, a UN delegation including executive director of World Food Program (WFP), president of World Health Organization (WHO), and president of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will visit Aden on Monday and meet the legitimate government. The delegation will then head to Sana’a.

Sources close to the matter told Asharq al-Awsat that the officials will discuss the humanitarian situation with communities and officials on all sides of the conflict and the siege Houthi and Saleh militias impose on several Yemeni cities including Taiz.