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Amnesty International Calls On UK Government To Do More For Saudi Arabian Blogger

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is urging the UK government to demand the freedom of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi. Unfortunately so far the government has responded with a muted response, saying only that they disagree with the public torture of Mr. Badawi. Many government ministers have condemned the public flogging of Mr. Badawi when the issue was put to them, however this was the least they could do given the UK has a policy of condemning torture and corporal punishment.

UK government must speak out

Amnesty International wants the government to more than speak out about the punishment, but also wants it to address the crime with which Mr. Badawi is charged and call for his freedom. David Cameron paid a visit to Saudi Arabia after the death of the Saudi king. Whilst Mr. Cameron praised the leadership of the late king he failed to make any mention of the many human rights abuses committed by the regime.

Public flogging

Mr. Badawi is a prisoner of conscience and was imprisoned simply for advocating for free speech. On the 9th of January he was lashed 50 times and continues to remain in jail awaiting his next set of lashes. The authorities in Saudi Arabia intend to publicly flog Mr. Badawi on a weekly basis until he has received 1000 lashes.

Freedom of speech

The reason for the sentence is Mr. Badawi’s conviction for creating the Saudi Arabian Liberals website which he saw as a platform for political and social debate. He was first arrested in June 2012 and was subsequently convicted of breaking Saudi Arabia’s strict technology laws and insulting Islam in May 2014. Mr. Badawi received a ten year prison sentence, 1,000 lashes and a fine that exceeded a quarter of a million US dollars.

The UK has the chance to make a difference

Despite public condemnation and an international outcry with over a million people signing the Amnesty International petition demanding that Saudi Arabia free Mr. Badawi, authorities in that country have refused to release him. The UK government must use its influence as a key trading partner and publicly speak out about the case and call for his release.

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Elderly At Greater Risk Of Lung And Bowel Cancer Says Cancer Research

Cancer Research UK

A new report supported by Cancer Research suggests that people aged 60 or over run an increased risk of being diagnosed with bowel or lung cancer during a hospital emergency compared to younger people. The report also suggests that the less affluent and women were also at a greater risk of an emergency lung cancer diagnosis. Researchers also found that single people which includes widowed, divorced or unmarried had a higher risk of emergency diagnosis of bowel cancer.

Emergency diagnosis has poor survival rates

The researchers examined twenty studies that included over half a million bowel or lung cancer cases where more than 200,000 cases were diagnosed following an emergency admission to hospital. In some cases patients were admitted after visiting a GP whilst others were admitted following a visit to the Accident & Emergency or Outpatient departments. The researchers were interested in understanding why so many people are emergency diagnosed, because such a diagnosis tends to have bad survival rates.

Few emergency lung cancer diagnosis patients survive more than a year

Approximately 25 per cent of bowel cancers and 40 per cent of lung cancers in England were emergency diagnosed during the time period between 2006 and 2010. Prior research suggests that just 11 per cent of lung cancer patients who were emergency diagnosed managed to survive for at least twelve months. This compares with 42 per cent of patients surviving at least a year when they were diagnosed following a GP referral. When it came to bowel cancer, the one year survival rate for emergency diagnosis was 49 per cent compared to 83 per cent for patients who had a GP referral.

“We need a better understanding of why some people are having their cancer diagnosis made via an emergency admission. This is important because we know that their survival chances are lower if people are diagnosed this way. This interesting review sheds some light on the factors that could be involved. We’re now funding further research on the subject and calling on the Government to ensure more cancers are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage because this can make such a difference for patients.” Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK said.

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World Vision Responds To Cyclone Pam

Cyclone Pam not only caused huge devastation in Vanuatu but made calls to world leaders by World Vision to prioritise children’s needs when dealing with disaster risks that much more important. The leaders had gathered to attend the World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan where it was found that many proposals were put forward.

World Vision a first responder

Amongst the first responders to the crisis in Vanuatu were World Vision emergency shelter and logistics staff who made their way to the island of Tanna. The emergency responders were part of a global mobilisation of aid workers to provide assistance to the disaster stricken nation. The workers joined their country based colleagues who faced immense struggles in their response to the needs of the survivors in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam. Wind speeds of 270km per hour caused disruption to telecommunications, water and power services as well as damaging buildings leaving 3,300 displaced and killing 24 people.

We need to think about the children

Richard Rumsey, who is director of disaster risk reduction for World Vision says that the storm should remind us of the vital need to provide protection against natural disaster and in particular there needs to be special focus on children’s needs.

“The loss of life and destruction wrought by Cyclone Pam underscores a simple but significant point. The threats posed by disasters are on the rise, and it’s children who are disproportionately affected when disasters happen,” said Mr. Rumsey.

The lesson should not go to waste

Mr. Rumsey called on world leaders not to let the lessons learned from Cyclone Pam to go to waste. Instead he says they should be the inspiration to make sure that the unique needs of children are taken into account with planning for disaster risk reduction. Michael Wolfe who is country director for World Vision Vanuatu said much the same thing adding that the organisation was extremely worried about the impact of the cyclone on communities and especially children.

World Vision needs your donation

Initial surveys of Port Vila the capital of Vanuatu carried out by World Vision suggest the devastation is so bad that many aid agencies fear the worst for other remote islands that are inhabited on the 82 island chain. There have been 37 centres established to cater to those have been evacuated and World Vision has flown in aid supplies from Brisbane. The agency has launched an appeal for donations in the countries the agency operates in.

Image Courtesy of World Vision

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World Vision Wants Global Leaders To Provide Support For Ebola Crisis

World Vision

World Vision is calling on world leaders that attended the European Union High-level Conference on Ebola to provide increased levels of support for West African children. New data suggests that in Sierra Leone alone over 8,000 children have been left orphaned. Whilst the crisis has subsided some what over the last few months the impact of the outbreak is still being felt acutely in West Africa.

Children are being badly affected by Ebola

A recent report issued by the government of Sierra Leone suggests that over 16,500 children have been directly impacted by the outbreak of Ebola since the disease was first detected in Guinea back in December 2013. A report from the World Bank goes on to add that nearly fifty per cent of those children have either lost one or both parents.

“Ebola has taken a huge toll on children’s survival and health in Sierra Leone and across the West Africa region. Before the outbreak, Sierra Leone already had the highest maternal mortality ratio and the second highest child mortality rate in the world and the country’s health system was among the weakest in the world, with acute shortages of qualified health care professionals, essential drugs and equipment. This situation has worsened in the past year and the Brussels conference is an opportunity for world leaders to commit further support for this incredibly challenged generation of young people,” says Leslie Scott, Director of World Vision Sierra Leone.

Number of Ebola orphans increasing

The latest statistics offered by Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health show that over 700 kids have been diagnosed with the disease which caused approximately 450 fatalities. All over West Africa, authorities are reporting an increase in the number of orphans that are aged under 5. Officials in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone reckon that as many as 25,900 children are in dire in need of help.

World Vision providing support

World Vision is offering support to temporary community care centres for children who have been orphaned and are being placed with extended families. World Vision has been engaged in development and relief programmes in Sierra Leone for nearly two decades and is working with the government to train teachers with the skills necessary to prepare them for schools to be re-opened later this month.

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Cancer Awareness Campaigns Are Working

According to the latest research published in the British Journal of Cancer, awareness campaigns have improved the general public’s knowledge of bowel and lung cancer symptoms. The increased knowledge has directly resulted in a rise in the number of people seeking doctor’s advice.

It has been more than six years since the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI) was established to help improve cancer survival rates in the United Kingdom. The latest research suggests that the “Be Clear on Cancer” campaign produced:

  • An increase of 27 to 42 per cent of people who understood that blood in their poo could be a symptom of bowel cancer.
  • The number of people who understood that having a hoarse throat or a cough could possibly signal lung cancer increased from 41 to 50 per cent.
  • Doctor’s visits for bowel cancer symptoms increased by 29 per cent.
  • Doctor’s visits for lung cancer symptoms rose by 63 per cent.

Earlier breast cancer diagnosis could delay death

The results from this national campaign to raise awareness for bowel and lung cancer were just one of the topics that were included in this issue of the British Journal of Cancer. Other researchers were studying the mortality rate from breast cancer in elderly women which may have been delayed had they had their disease diagnosed at an earlier stage. What they found was that approximately 280 deaths from breast cancer could have been delayed by over five years for women aged over 75 in the UK if they were diagnosed earlier.

Melanoma prognosis could be improved

Researchers also studied the number of deaths from melanoma that could have been delayed had the diagnosis stage been the same for both women and men and if there was no difference between income groups. The study results shows that 215 deaths from melanoma could have been delayed in the UK by at least five years if men and women from all economic groups had the same amount of success in diagnosing the disease. The complete publication of all the papers focused on early cancer diagnosis came in advance of an Early Diagnosis Summit that will be held soon.

Image Courtesy of Cancer Research UK

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One In Two People In The UK To Develop Cancer

Cancer Research UK is forecasting that one in two people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lives. The research was recently published in the British Journal of Cancer and the new data highlights the urgent need to boost the NHS cancer services so it has the ability to cope with a population that is both growing and ageing. This means there is looming demand for improved diagnostics, earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Survival rates have doubled

Largely as a result of research, cancer survival rates have doubled in the UK over the last 40 years and nearly 50 per cent of patients now survive the disease for more than a decade. However as a larger number of people benefit from longer life expectancy and better healthcare, it is expected that the number of cancer cases will inevitably increase. The new research estimates that lifetime risk will now be 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer.

Age the biggest risk factor

The latest estimate replaces a previous one which was calculated using a different technique and predicted more than 1 in 3 would develop cancer at some point in their lives. The biggest risk factor for most cancers is age and the increase in risk is largely because people are simply living longer when cancer becomes more common.

According to the author of the study Professor Peter Sasieni of Queen Mary University of London:

“Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 per cent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65. If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point. But there’s a lot we can do to make it less likely – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. If we want to reduce the risk of developing the disease we must redouble our efforts and take action now to better prevent the disease for future generations.”

The NHS needs to plan for the future

Harpal Kumar who is the chief executive of Cancer Research adds that because we are living longer we are more likely to develop a number of diseases that are simply age related. This means there is a need to plan for the future to ensure that the NHS is able to cope. If the NHS fails to act and invest now, there will be a future crisis with outcomes from cancer regressing.

Image Courtesy of Cancer Research

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Amnesty International Urges British Government To Demand Raif Badawi’s Freedom

Raif Badawi the blogger from Saudi Arabia continues to face as long as a decade in prison and as many a 950 lashes simply for calling for free speech. So far the British government has failed to ask for Mr. Badawi’s freedom. We need to step up and demand that our government speak on Mr. Badawi’s behalf as he has effectively been silenced.

British government response has been muted

Amnesty International is pressuring the British government to call for Mr. Badawi’s release but has so far been met with a muted response. The government has only said that they disagree with Mr. Badawi’s public torture. The government is well aware of the case. David Cameron, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond amongst other government ministers have all condemned the public flogging of Mr. Badawi when the issue was put to them.

David Cameron visited Saudi Arabia and said nothing

This however is far from difficult because the UK as a policy condemns torture and corporal punishment. It needs to go further and Amnesty International is calling on the UK government to speak out not just about the punishment, but the so called “crime” with which Mr. Badawi is charged and call for his freedom. Recently David Cameron undertook a state visit to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences following the death of the country’s king, King Abdullah. Whilst the Prime Minister praised the late king he failed to make any statement on the many human rights abuses committed by the king’s government.

1000 lashes is the punishment

Mr. Badawi is a prisoner of conscience and was imprisoned simply for calling for free speech. He was lashed in public 50 times at the beginning of January and remains in prison awaiting the next set of 50 lashes. The authorities in Saudi Arabia intend to flog him once a week after every Friday prayers until he has been lashed a total of 1,000 times.

Calling for free speech is a crime

Mr. Badawi’s sentence is the result of his website ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ which he created to serve as a forum for both social and political debate. Mr. Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabian laws and insulting Islamic figures by creating the online forum. He was sentenced to a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyal (over a quarter of a million US dollars), 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison and has been banned from using any kind of media or travelling until 2034.

Over a million people have signed a petition

As a result of public condemnation and international outcry, over a million people have now signed Amnesty Internationals petition urging Saudi Arabia to free Mr. Badawi. So far however the authorities in Saudi Arabia have refused to release him and as a result Amnesty International is urging the UK government to apply more pressure on the Saudi authorities and secure his release.

Image courtesy of Amnesty International

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Help Concern Worldwide Make A Difference In South Sudan

On December 15 2013, in the city of Juba which is the capital of South Sudan, on a pleasant winter evening, shots rang out, marking the beginning of a protracted civil war which continues to devastate the country over a year later. Estimates suggest that to date, nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting, and over two million people have been displaced. The war has also meant that people lack the means to feed themselves because they were unable to plant before the rainy season which means there are no crops to harvest.

An impending food crisis

This means there is an impending food crisis that will affect nearly 6.4 million people in South Sudan during the first three months of 2015. It is estimated that a quarter million children are presently suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This is the worst kind of malnutrition and without treatment, could result in death. Fortunately Concern Worldwide is trying to do something about it.

Concern Worldwide emergency response

Concern Worldwide has been working in South Sudan since 1994, implementing emergency programs. When the civil war began in 2013, the agency immediately responded by trying to meet the needs of those that were displaced. The organisation began work first in Juba and then expanded its program to Bentiu where some of the worst fighting is taking place.

Heavy flooding hampers efforts

The Concern Worldwide team is working at a UN base in Bentiu were nearly 50,000 people have sought refuge. The base is located on a plot of land that was never supposed to house people and during the rainy season, the camp became heavily flooded. This led to the latrines collapsing, forcing people to live knee and even waste deep in raw sewage. People have no choice but to remain however, because the fighting continues unabated around the base.

Providing sanitation

Concern Worldwide is working to deliver clean water and sanitation in Bentiu. The agency is also distributing emergency supplies and treating malnourished children. In the aftermath of heavy flooding which destroyed the camp’s latrines, Concern launched an interim measure designed to improve sanitation using “PeePoo” bags which are fully biodegradable and self sanitising.

Flood protection

Concern is also working to reduce the impact of flooding in the camp by digging a drainage canal. The agency is also raising the shelters of those who are the most vulnerable. As soon as the dry season returns, Concern teams intend to construct more robust shelters as well as take a number of other measures which are designed to prevent severe flooding.

Providing food

Relative stability has returned to the city of Juba in recent months, and every month Concern is distributing food to more than 15,000 people who live on a UN base. The agency is also treating those who have been malnourished and are living at the camp. There is still lots of work to do in South Sudan as the fighting in some parts of the country remains fierce. By providing Concern Worldwide with a donation, you could help make a difference.

Image courtesy of Concern Worldwide

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RSPCA Tips For Helping Wildlife Get Through Winter

Its freezing in the UK at the moment and the onset of really cold weather can in some cases leaves people with very little time to prepare. Whilst that may be the case, there are some things that people should really try and do in order to cut the risk to their pets and provide assistance to wildlife. Here are a few tips for helping both your pets and wildlife make it through the coldest part of the year.

Small things can make a big difference

You could for example wipe down a horse following exercise which would cut back on the risk of chill. If you have rabbits indoors then an obvious thing to do is provide a tray of grass for them. There are many other simple things that lovers of wildlife can do, and these small things can make a very large difference. You should stop to consider how the weather is affecting not just the people around you, but the animals as well.

Winter is particularly challenging for animals

Winter can be particularly challenging for squirrels, hedgehogs and birds. Anywhere between one to two thousand wild animals are taken to RSPCA shelters every year between December, January and February. These animals are usually suffering from hunger, cold and dehydration. This means it is important for people to understand how to handle situations like this.

There are lots of things people can do to help

There are lots of things individuals can do. For example, you could make your garden friendly for wildlife. This means leaving out food and maintaining your garden pond. Access to unfrozen clean water can make all the difference to whether animals in the wild are able to survive the colder months. Just melting a small hole in your garden pond can make all the difference.

Make sure your cat has access to indoor litter

If you have a cat at home, the RSPCA is recommending that you make sure you provide them with enough litter trays indoors, not just during the cold months, but throughout the year. During the icy weather, the ground outside may end up frozen and if your cat usually goes to the toilet outside, it may be put off from doing so. This means it is really very important to ensure your cat has suitable indoor toilet facilities.

Leave a little food outside for wildlife

If you own a dog, then make sure you dress them in reflective coats when taking them on walks during the night which will help both of you to stay seen and safe. Nicola White, an expert from the RSPCA says it’s the small things that can make the difference. If you leave just a little bit of extra food outside, a hungry badger or robin may be able to last the whole winter.

“We can all struggle when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and our wildlife friends are often the most vulnerable to the extremes the elements take. They just need a bit of a helping hand sometimes.”

Image courtesy of RSPCA

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Cancer Research UK Says We Need To Encourage Healthier Lifestyles

According to the results of a new study published in The Lancet Oncology an astonishing 418,000 new cancers globally were the result of an expanding waistline. The vast majority of these cases occurred in developed countries which have been plagued with an epidemic of obesity to which there is no end in sight.

Obesity related cancers could easily swell

The study was conducted by Dr. Melinda Arnold from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and found that 64 per cent of obesity related cancers were diagnosed in Europe and North America. If nothing is done to combat the growing problem of obesity, the researchers are warning that the future burden of such types of cancer could easily swell.

Women more at risk than men

The results come from data collected from over 184 countries, including the agencies own internal database known as GLOBOCAN. Tom Stansfeld of Cancer Research UK says according to the study’s results, 4.4 per cent of cancer in UK males could be attributed to high BMI. The situation for women in the UK was much worse with 8.2 per cent of all cancer cases linked to a high BMI.

Fatty tissue is the culprit

The differences seen between genders in the UK was largely replicated around the world, which the researchers think is mainly due to post menopausal and endometrial breast cancers. Obesity can be linked to a variety of other cancers and the additional risk is in response to the fatty tissue in the body producing extra hormones which impact the way cells work.

Most cases of obesity related cancer in North America

Obesity related cancers were most prevalent in North America which recorded 111,000 cases or nearly 23 per cent of new obesity related cancers globally. In last place was sub-Saharan Africa which contributed just 7,300 cases. Of the total number of European cancer cases that could be attributed to a high BMI, Eastern Europe accounted for just over a third, or 66,000 cases.

Obesity is a challenge

Dr. Arnold says the result emphasised the need to deal with the challenge posed by obesity. Obesity in adults has nearly doubled since 1980. Mr. Stansfeld agrees and said the figures illustrate just how important it is to tackle the problem of obesity which could end up helping to save lives.

“While losing weight is never easy, making lasting changes that you can maintain in the long term is the most effective way to keep a healthy weight. More than 4 in 10 cancers in the UK can be prevented through lifestyle changes like not smoking, drinking less alcohol, keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly, and enjoying a diet that is high in fruit and veg and low in red and processed meat and salt.” Mr. Stansfeld said.

We need to encourage healthier lifestyles

If we want to protect future generations from unnecessary risks, it is critical that we encourage healthy lifestyles by taking more aggressive action which will make it easier for individuals to opt for healthier choices as opposed to junk food.

Full-Figured Man by Tony Alter, on Flickr

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