The world has recently paid homage to the oat, stalwart comestible of Scotland’s larder. For the last decade, 10 October has been deemed World Porridge Day, thus canonising the brawny cereal that kept Scottish armies on their feet and built cities. Sadly, in recent years, this most unostentatious and proletarian of foods has been gentrified and made to dress up gaudily with superfluous additives such as honey, Nutella and cinnamon. In this way, I suppose it is deemed sufficiently respectable to be included among the breakfast choices of the mighty.
World Porridge Day shares its holiday with World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day. Other dates play host to more frivolous holidays. The blessings of today, for example, are shared by the holidays of brandied fruit, suspenders (braces, not the foundation garments) and office chocolate. These flippancies are put in their place, though, by the sloth, a languid and phlegmatic wee beast whose name is taken in vain to indicate indolence; 20 October is its day to shine.
World Porridge Day carries much more significance than the celebration of Scotland’s most industrious dish. It received its global designation from Mary’s Meals, the Scottish charity that aims to provide healthy school meals to children living in the world’s poorest communities. More than 1.5 million children are helped in this way but Mary’s Meals also points out that 64 million children worldwide go without an education while many more go hungry. “What’s important to us is the hungry child,” says Mary’s Meals’ chief executive and founder, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. “When there are hungry children in front of us, we’re going to feed them and, at the same time, we’re going to work on the solution to getting them fed in the long term, creating a global movement of people who believe in this vision.”
And what nutriment could be more equipped to help carry out this task than the versatile oat, the reliable and hardworking utility player of the human defence system? It’s easy to grow, resists rain and cold and is cheap to produce and transport. It can provide a robust, year-long breakfast for a child for less than £20.
Certainly, the global causes of the climate emergency are also to be found in countries that contribute to the much more profoundly obscene reality of human starvation. Western governments that declare support for carbon-free initiatives are eager to set targets that are reassuringly decades in the future. None of these politicians will be around to be held responsible for any failures to reach them. This gives governments plenty of scope to continue arming regimes that flaunt the initiatives. They will continue to trade with others who seek to exploit their great natural wildernesses and their indigenous peoples by selling land off to corporate investors.
At home and overseas, our governments pursue policies that also actively encourage the iniquity of universal human starvation. Tax breaks are routinely awarded to firms that strive to pay as little as they can get away with for as much profit as possible for the maximum satisfaction of shareholders seeking annual growth in their investment portfolios.
We permit our parliamentary democracy to be distorted and prostituted by corporations that can pay millions to access the levers of power and take the edge off legislation that might clip their gains. They are happy to secure photo-opportunities with any conveniently positioned cause but think nothing of selling arms, often illegally, to regimes that they know will use them to enslave and torture their own people and all political opponents.
Perversely, whenever developing countries sought to cancel debts racked up by old despots, the west maintained crippling rates of interest, thus restricting their ability to build their own sustainable economies. There were good capitalist reasons for this, of course. Struggling economies are great sources of cheap labour and much less able to resist the predations of global firms looking for a low-cost base to expand their empires.
It’s easy for young royals to seek popular acclaim on their luxury tours of these places by preaching about the climate crisis and overpopulation rather than ask difficult questions about why a world of plenty refuses to feed its poorest. It is far more convenient to say there are too many people on the planet than asking why we choose not to feed and house them.
Yet when was the last time you witnessed hundreds of thousands of people protest about the manmade causes of starvation in Africa and southern Asia? Perhaps, too, it’s more comfortable to protest about an iniquity that doesn’t possess a human face or ask uncomfortable questions about our rates of consumption. The images of the climate crisis are more comfortably wide-ranging and inexact than those of black children dying of starvation from wars waged with weapons manufactured here.
While Mary’s Meals and its charitable partners seek to provide cheap food for the victims of western excess, at home the Trussell Trust strives to maintain an ever-growing number of food banks. Politicians of all stripes routinely visit these places, too, and whisper words of encouragement to volunteers and users. None has found a way to stand up to the corporations that necessitate their use while maintaining parliamentary democracies that legitimise them. By all means let’s continue to march with Extinction Rebellion, but I long for the day when a million of us also take to the streets to protest against world hunger and to condemn the policies that cause it. That would be a much more important extinction rebellion.
• Kevin McKenna is an Observer columnist
Lavish Lifestyle of Billionaire Bachelor, Jowi Zazaa who Parades DSS Body Guards
He goes by the nick name Jowi Zazaa and they call him the new money bag in town.
Going by the words of late music maestro, Dr. Oliver De Coque, “being wealthy is useless when you are not generous enough to spoil yourself and others silly”.
Those words perfectly describe billionaire Jowi Zazaa who floats on so much wealth, fame and affluence.
This reporter gathered that as an only son, Zazaa inherited a multi-million naira business empire from his father and transformed it into a conglomerate.
Although his father was into importation initially, after taking over, Zazaa diversified and expanded the business with interest in oil.
According to multiple sources, Jowi Zazaa plays huge in the downstream oil sector and owns vessels used in the distribution of petroleum products to various marketers in the Nigeria and other countries.
Less than 30 years of age, Jowi Zazaa holds two Masters Degree from Coventry University London and the other from Pittsburg State University in America and there is no emphasizing the fact that he has mastered the art of enjoying life and living it to the fullest.
For instance, Jowi Zazaa’s garage is stuffed with some of the most expensive and luxurious cars you can think of. He also shops with some of the most expensive designers in the world, ranging from Gucci, Zara, Louis Vuiton and others.
Unlike those in the ‘audio money gang’ Zazaa flies on only first class to any part of the world and own houses in different countries around the world.
He is ranked among the wealthiest kids of billionaires in Nigeria with groundbreaking success in business. He is from Anambra State.
Mental health: young people in crisis waiting hours for A&E help
Thousands of young people undergoing a mental health crisis, including those who are potentially suicidal, are having to wait more than four hours for A&E care, NHS figures show.
Almost a fifth of the under-18s who seek A&E help in England for psychiatric problems such as depression and self-harm are not seen within the supposed maximum of four hours.
Figures released by hospital trusts to Labour under freedom of information laws showed that while 82.2% of such patients are seen within four hours, 17.8% are not. Across the 65 acute trusts that supplied data, 11,210 of the 13,205 under-18s with a mental health problem were seen within four hours but 2,357 waited longer.
In all, 26,593 children and young people aged 17 or under attended A&E last year as a result of mental health issues. If the 17.8% of them who had to wait beyond four hours at the 65 trusts was replicated across that entire cohort, that would mean as many as 4,733 waited that long.
The disclosure prompted warnings that troubled young people might harm themselves while waiting for delayed care and calls for under-18s suffering a deterioration in their mental health to be able to access help quicker so they did not have to turn to an A&E.
“Young people should have the support they need for their mental health to prevent them from reaching crisis point and no child should be faced with long waits for help in a crisis”, said Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health and social care, who obtained the figures.
Emma Thomas, the chief executive of the charity YoungMinds, warned that long waits could make things worse for a young person in crisis.
“We work with young people who have waited months for mental health support and who have started to self-harm or become suicidal, who then go to A&E because they don’t know where else to turn.
“But despite the best efforts of staff, it’s often a stressful and frightening environment, and not somewhere a desperate child or teenager should have to wait for hours before getting help.”
Thomas added that the “worrying figures” showed that, despite progress by the NHS in extending patients’ access to mental health crisis care, more services in schools and community settings were needed.
“If young people do reach crisis point, there need to be places they can go instead of A&E, where they can get the help they need in a space that feels safe”, she said.
NHS England has pledged in its Long Term Plan to ensure that everyone in England – children, young people and adults – can access mental health crisis services around the clock by 2023-24 by calling the 111 telephone helpline.
It plans to create “24/7 provision for children and young people that combines crisis assessment, brief response and intensive home treatment functions” and set up crisis resolution home treatment services for adults.
It also plans “a range of complementary and alternative crisis services to A&E and admission within all local mental health crisis pathways”.
The Conservatives did not respond directly to Labour’s findings. A spokesperson said: “One of the great changes of our age is to treat mental health on a par with our physical health. Demand for mental health services is rising and the stigma of the past being taken away.
“As a result, the NHS is treating twice as many people with mental health conditions than in 2010 and is delivering the biggest expansion of mental health services in a generation – backed by an additional £2.3bn in real terms by 2023-24.”
Polio: WHO official applauds Nigeria’s achievement, urges more efforts
Dr. Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator, Polio Eradication Programme, at World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa Regional Office, has commended the Nigerian Government over its achievements in the area of Polio eradication.
Mkanda, however, advised that more work needed to be done to stop the transmission of all types of polioviruses.
He made the recommendation on Wednesday, in Abuja, during the 37th Meeting of the Expert Review Committee (ERC), on Polio and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria.
He acknowledged the work done by the programme, especially by the frontline workers who, he said, continued to work, even in very challenging situations.
Making a presentation on behalf of ERC members, he assured Nigeria that if it got it right, Africa could be certified Polio-free soon, having achieved the milestone status of being wild polio-free for three years.
Mkanda said the African Regional Certification Commission (ARCC), for Polio Eradication Certification, would start conducting field verification and review of interruption of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) from Dec. 9.
“If the ARCC is satisfied with the national documentation and field verification, the WHO African Region could be certified to have eradicated WPV by mid-2020.
“Nigeria is one of the remaining four countries in Africa including Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Cameroun, that are yet to have documentation accepted for Polio Certification.’’
According to Mkanda, it is important for the Nigerian government and partners to avoid any complacency that can jeopardise Nigeria’s removal from the list of polio-endemic countries as the ERC meets periodically to evaluate progress made in ensuring a polio-free Nigeria.
The expert noted that the monitoring body also provided guidance to the government and development partners on best practices in routine immunisation in Nigeria.
He added that the 37th ERC members who converged to deliberate on key decisions concerning polio eradication and routine immunisation strengthening in Nigeria had identified critical gaps that should be bridged.
“This will help to maintain the present status towards polio certification.
“Experts are calling on the government to galvanise partnerships aimed at reaching children in inaccessible areas, having identified that Nigeria’s polio resurgence in August 2016, was largely due to insecurity in the Northeast.
“Their collective agreement hinged on the firm belief that interrupting transmission of polio requires systematic processes, focused on reaching children in inaccessible areas, providing timely and adequate resources, as well as strengthening RI,” he said.
Mkanda said that preliminary recommendations from 37th ERC included that the programme collaborated with the military in taking advantage of the dry season to accelerate the implementation of reaching children in hard-to-reach and inaccessible areas.
“It also recommended that the programme should fast track the roll-out of key messages, including engaging journalists to create awareness and to address the circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus (cVDPV2) transmission in the context of zero WPV1 status in the country.
“The ERC further recommends that the programme continues the engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders to sustain gains on immunisation,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the ERC members also debriefed the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on their observations and recommendations.
Once-a-month contraceptive pill developed by scientists
A contraceptive pill that needs to be taken only once a month has been developed by scientists.
The gelatine capsule, which has so far only been tested on pigs, dissolves in the stomach to a release a six-armed star-shaped polylmer structure that sits in the stomach for at least three weeks and releases synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Scientists say it could help to prevent unplanned pregnancies caused by errors in daily pill use.
Similar drug delivery systems have previously been tested on animals by the same team to deliver anti-malarial drugs and HIV antiretroviral therapy, while it has also been tested on humans for other drugs.
However, the new study is the first time the approach has been used to deliver contraceptives and shown to release a drug over such a long period.
Experts say the approach could add to the existing range of women’s contraceptive options. But Prof Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of the study, said the approach could eventually be applied to an even broader range of applications.
“I hope there will be pills that people could swallow that could last for any length of time to treat different diseases, like mental health diseases and opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s, Aids,” he said.
Writing in the Science Translational Medicine journal, Langer and colleagues report how they designed the capsule and polymer system, tweaking the latter’s structure to increase its surface area, monitoring the rate of hormone release, and testing the system to make sure it could withstand the acid conditions of the stomach.
They then tested two forms of the new monthly pill on a total of six female pigs. Instead of testing the ability of these monthly pills to prevent pregnancy the team looked at the level of the synthetic progestogen hormone released. They then compared these with levels for five sows given a single “daily” oral contraceptive pill of the same hormone.
The team found that both forms of the monthly pill showed a slower and more prolonged release of the hormone than the daily pill. At 21 days, pigs given the monthly pill still had levels of the hormone on a par with levels measured within about one day of pigs given a dose of the daily pill.
After 29 days the hormone was still present in their blood. By contrast the hormone was almost completely cleared within two days for pigs given a dose of the daily pill.
While x-ray imaging revealed that for some pigs the polymer structure of the monthly pill began to break down during the month, this did not result in a sharp drop in the hormone levels.
The team say a spinoff company called Lyndra Therapeutics will work on developing the technology. This includes ensuring the hormones are released over the desired timeframe, that the system subsequently leaves the stomach, and dosages are tailored to humans, with the aim of producing a pill containing synthetic oestrogen and progestogen that women can take just once a month.
Oral contraceptive pills are a popular form of birth control. Unlike long-acting methods such as the contraceptive implant, a pill does not require a clinical procedure to administer – something that might be particularly helpful in the developing world where healthcare services are limited.
However, previous research has suggested up to 50% of women using daily oral contraceptive pills miss at least one dose over a three-month interval, potentially leaving them at risk of getting pregnant. “Even when they are intending to take birth control, people forget,” Langer said.
While less than one woman in 100 are expected to become pregnant if a daily pill is taken reliably, in real life missed doses mean that about nine women in 100 will become pregnant while using such contraception.
Swallowing a monthly pill, the team says, could reduce such errors in use, potentially reducing numbers of unplanned pregnancies.
However, as with other forms of hormonal contraception the new pill, while effective, might have unwanted side effects.
Dr Diana Mansour, the vice president of the UK’s Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, welcomed the study. “The concept of a monthly oral contraceptive pill is attractive and has the potential to broaden contraceptive choice,” she said.
Mansour added that there were already many options for women who were looking for an alternative to a daily pill, including the copper IUD and contraceptive implant, both of which last for years before needing to be replaced.
“These are more effective than oral contraception with fewer than one woman in 100 becoming pregnant each year using these longer acting reversible contraceptives, compared to around nine in 100 women taking the pill,” she said.
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