DR Congo’s Kasai conflict: ‘Millions face starvation without aid’

severely malnourished child in Tshikapa

The head of the UN food agency has appealed for aid to avert a humanitarian crisis in the conflict-wracked DR Congo province of Kasai.

David Beasley told the BBC that more than three million people were now at risk of starvation.

He warned that hundreds of thousands of children could die in the coming months if aid was not delivered.

Violence flared in August 2016 after the death of a local leader during clashes with security forces.

It has forced 1.5 million million people from their homes, most of them children.

Mr Beasley described the situation in Kasai as a “disaster”.

“Our teams are out in the field, we saw burned huts, burned homes, seriously malnourished children that had been stunted, obviously many children have died already,” the head of the World Food programme (WFP) said.

“We’re talking about several hundred thousand children there that will die in the next few months, if we don’t get first funds and then second food, and then third access in the right locations,” he added.

A malnourished child in the town of Tshikapa

He said the WFP currently only had 1% of the funding it needed to help people in Kasai and warned that the coming rainy season would soon make already poor roads impassable.

But delivering aid by air would see costs escalate, he said.

“If we wait another few more weeks before we receive funds, to pre-position food, I can’t imagine how horrible the situation is going to be,” he said.

“We need help, and we need it right now,” he added.

Map showing East and West Kasai in DR Congo

The conflict began when the government refused to recognise a traditional chief who went by the title Kamuina Nsapu.

He set up a militia but was killed in clashes. Since his death a number of Kamuina Nsapu militia factions have emerged, all fighting for different causes, but with authorities their common target.

More and more people have joined the fighting, which has spread to five provinces. Both security forces and the militias have been accused of gross human rights violations.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and the UN has discovered dozens of mass graves in the area.

Skulls of victims of fighting in KasaiImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMore than 3,000 people have been killed in the fighting

Survivors have described seeing their family members killed with machetes or drowned and say the continuing ethnic conflict means they cannot go home.

In March, militias ambushed and killed 40 police officers in Kasai, cutting off all of their heads.

The same month two UN workers, a Swede and an American, were abducted and killed in the same region, having gone to investigate the abuses.

India: Separated twin ‘opens eyes’ four days after surgery

Conjoined twin boy after surgery

One of the twin boys who were conjoined at the head has opened his eyes four days after a historic surgery to separate them in India, a doctor says.

Two-year-old Jaga has also responded to simple commands, including moving his limbs. He is on a ventilator and needs daily dialysis due to kidney problems.

His brother, Kalia, is not yet conscious and has suffered seizures.

The boys were born with shared blood vessels and brain tissues and a 16-hour surgery separated them.

A team of 30 doctors carried out the operation – the first of its kind in India – at a state-run hospital in the capital, Delhi.

Both boys are stable and doctors are satisfied with their progress so far, Professor Deepak Gupta, who was involved in the operation, told the BBC.

  • Living a conjoined life
Conjoined twin after surgeryImage copyrightAIIMS
Image captionDoctors say they are happy with their progress
Conjoined twins at Delhi hospital

The twins, hailing from a village in eastern Orissa state, were joined at the head – a condition known as craniopagus.

Even before the operation they had defeated the odds – craniopagus occurs in one in three million births, and 50% of those affected die within 24 hours, doctors say.

The first surgery was performed on 28 August when the doctors created a bypass to separate the shared veins that return blood to the heart from the brain.

Timely recognition of symptoms can prevent stroke, say doctors

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Experts said stroke was the second leading cause of death worldwide. Globally, a stroke takes the lives of more than 6.5 million people each year, and permanently disables another 5 million. Its incidence rate in India is significantly higher than in other developing countries, with approximately 1.8 million of 1.2 billion suffering from it every year. World Stroke Day is observed on October 29 every year. This year’s theme is “What is your reason for preventing stroke?”

According to Dr Nilesh Palasdeokar, consultant neurologist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Wanowrie, “…a stroke can be called a brain attack. It can result in permanent disabilities and damage to the brain. In extreme cases, even death. Survival depends upon immediate intervention of experts within the ‘golden hour’, which includes the first hour after the onset of a stroke. Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or a relative having one.”

Around the world, more people die of stroke every year, than of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, combined. Many survivors are often left with physical and mental disabilities, including memory loss, difficulty with movement, and difficulty expressing emotions.

Dr Kapil Zirpe, director, Neuro-Trauma Unit, Ruby Hall Clinic, said, “Knowledge is power. The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, aim for a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. Off late, we have noticed extreme rise in smoking, systolic hypertension, high fasting blood glucose level, and lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in youths age…”

Dr Bhushan Joshi, neurologist at Columbia Asia Hospital, said, “The only way a stroke can be treated is if the patient and his/her family members act FAST and notice symptoms like F: face drooping (look for uneven smile), A: weakness in arms, S: slurred speech and T – on time.”

Wireless connectivity silently creating medical problems: Expert

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A 39-year-old acoustic engineer who worked in a television studio for eight hours a day and six days a week for eight years went to see an ENT doctor after he felt the ground turn under his feet. He was also constantly ill at ease. The symptoms did not have a pattern and the doctor was not able to pinpoint a diagnosis. The engineer was asked to go on a month-long vacation in the countryside — sans most of the technology around him. When he returned, the symptoms had disappeared.

“In my area (of work), I see a lot of patients, especially young ones, who come up with complex symptoms. These symptoms were not so common earlier. I have been in the medicine field since 1985. I am talking about things (symptoms) of the last 10 years, which I did not see in my last 20 years before that,” Dr Vikas Nehru, an ENT (ear, nose, throat) surgeon by profession and training, told IANS in an interview here.

Nehru, who is now a Dubai-based specialist and worked as an Associate Professor at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here, has highlighted the growing instances of health issues related to the use of technology — especially the electro-magnetic (EM) radiation coming from the devices — in his recently released book ‘Global Wireless Spiderweb’.

“There are certain medical problems which we ourselves had also not seen earlier. We had no diagnosis and treatment. I researched a lot in this field. These problems are related to things that happened particularly in the last 10 years, though it started in the later part of the 20th century,” Nehru said.

“We are increasingly exposed to an invisible web of radiation all around us through the wireless devices we love so much. With the advent of cloud computing and the Internet of Things set to launch more than a trillion smart devices, the radiation is only going to get worse,” he warned.

In his book, Nehru breaks down the implications of a paradigm shift that has changed “invention from a child of necessity to a mother of greed”. Explaining what science tells us about the web of radiation, Nehru said: “We are seeing more brain tumours, higher incidences of infertility, more cases of electro-hypersensitivity, and numerous other disorders. Even more concerning, radiation is damaging the human DNA.”

“Huge corporations continue to fund their own studies offering a false counter-narrative to make people feel safe. They also employ lobbyists to deflect attention from public health to what’s in their own best interests. The governments are letting the usage of wireless technology to be implemented without realizing the health consequences of it,” he said.

Many institutions have looked at EMF and have not painted the dire predictions that the doctor says could be the outcome. A UN body cautioned against too much use of mobile phones, but definitive studies on adverse effect of EMF are not available.

Nehru says the “invisible waves are becoming denser and denser by the day. This is not good. Nobody is even talking about the bad effects of this radiation. People only talk about air pollution. There is not even a mention of electro-magnetic pollution.

Actor Juhi Chawla, who has read Nehru’s research and recently launched his book in Mumbai, is involved with a NGO that is creating awareness about the harmful effects of EM radiation. Nehru pointed out that to strengthen the network of mobiles and WiFi, mobile towers are being increased and boosters are being installed to ensure that signals reach all corners.

“A new layer has been added to our atmosphere by human activity. Starting from 1G and 2G which mostly used wired technology, we are now using 3G and 4G technologies which carry signals into space. The 5G technology, which we are looking forward to, can be very harmful,” he said. Mobile phones have come under attack from many NGOs and activists, but several studies have pointed to only mild effects.