Cesar Chelala

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The world is failing a generation of Iraqi kids

Iraqi children have been the victims of the country’s dire political situation even before the start of the war led by the United States. The negative effects on children started with the harsh United Nations sanctions against the regime of Saddam Hussein and were considerably aggravated by the war, whose consequences are still felt.

Even now, hardly a week passes in Iraq without violence leaving both children and adults with permanent physical and mental scars. Experts such as Dr. Haithi al-Sady from the Psychological Research Center at Baghdad University have warned of the high number of children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).…  Seguir leyendo »

Gang violence, fueled by the drug trade in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean, is having a serious effect on people’s lives and threatens to alter the social fabric of the countries in the region. Central American gangs, also called “maras,” named after the voracious ants known as “marabuntas,” are involved in a wide range of criminal activities such as arms and drug trafficking, kidnapping, human trafficking, people smuggling and illegal immigration.

In Latin America, gang violence is not limited to the Central American region. Gang activity has intensified throughout the continent and has even reached Argentina. In Japan, gang violence is also present.…  Seguir leyendo »

The spirit of Nuremberg

It is now 70 years after what was perhaps the most important trial in the history of mankind. What makes this circumstance particularly significant is that it was the first time in history that a murderous regime of a defeated state was put to trial by the victorious powers after a particularly cruel and vicious war. The defendants were tried for acts that confounded human understanding or were not considered criminal before 1945. The exception were those few cases that were prosecuted for war crimes after World War I.

Perhaps it would be easy to disparage Nuremberg saying that the defeated had been tried by the “victors’ justice.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Concern for the health of the poor is one of the critical issues in development. Poverty cannot be defined solely in terms of low or no income. Lack of access to health services, safe water, adequate nutrition and education are also essential components of poverty. Poverty and health are closely linked. Poverty is one of the most influential factors in ill health, and ill health can lead to poverty.

Poverty drains family savings. In addition, poor people are more exposed to several risks (poor sanitation, unhealthy food, violence, drug abuse and natural disasters) and less prepared to cope with them.

More than 1.5 billion people in the world — most of them children — live in extreme poverty, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 1979, with Paul Heath Hoeffel, I wrote “Missing or Dead in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

For this article, published as a cover story in The New York Times Magazine, we received the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the best article on Human Rights. For that article, I used the pseudonym Juan Montalvo, to protect my family in Argentina from possible military reprisals.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent decision to unseal U.S. files on Argentina’s “dirty war” is particularly valuable to us, since it will confirm our denunciations of the abuses by the Argentine military on that country’s civilian population.…  Seguir leyendo »

Intimate partner violence is the most common kind of aggression experienced by women worldwide. In Japan, the concept of the battered wife now also includes the battered parent or grandparent. This phenomenon is now so widespread that it has become a global public health issue.

After the National Police Agency changed its policies on domestic violence in 2011, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of reported cases, from 28,158 in 2009 to 49,533 in 2013. A significant portion of women suffered physical violence and an important proportion among them also suffer from psychological violence. However, because of cultural norms, many women do not report the abuse.…  Seguir leyendo »

A report from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer stated recently that there was enough evidence to rank processed meats such as ham, bacon and sausage as Group 1 carcinogens — the same category as cigarettes — because of a causal link with bowel cancer. The IARC report has caused considerable uneasiness in the general public and its conclusions have been violently rejected by the meat industry.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meats remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” said Dr.…  Seguir leyendo »

With two remarkable free kick goals, Messi contributed significantly to Barcelona’s victory over Sevilla and claiming the UEFA Super Cup. With characteristic modesty, he said after the game, “I’ve just been lucky enough to score those goals.” He didn’t say those goals required talent and hard work.

It is widely known that there are two ways of stopping Argentine Lionel Messi, arguably the best soccer player in the world: Either put a German tank in front of him or hit him repeatedly on his legs. The first option is not allowed on the soccer pitch, while the second has been tried by players from all teams facing off against Barcelona.…  Seguir leyendo »

Houthi soldiers defying the odds against them

In his book “Century of the Wind,” the late Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano tells how in 1927 the U.S. Marines landed in Nicaragua to quell a revolutionary revolt by Augusto Cesar Sandino, who led a ragtag army of Nicaraguan peasants to fight the invasion. Armed primarily with machetes and 19th-century rifles, Sandino’s army fought the marines, undergoing heavy losses in an enormously unequal fight. In November 1927, the marines succeeded in locating El Chipote, Sandino’s mountain headquarters. However, when the marines reached it, they found the place abandoned and guarded by straw dummies.

Despite massive efforts, American forces were never able to capture Sandino, and eventually, due in large part to the 1929 Great Depression, U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Important gains in the health status of the population have been achieved in the Middle East, thanks to improvements in technology, health service delivery and public health programs, but the region still faces big public health challenges.

Although the region shows decreasing rates of communicable disease, it has increasing rates of noncommunicable disease (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, which tend to be generally slow in progression. The four main types are cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory disease (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.

These diseases are driven by factors that include aging, rapid unplanned urbanization and the globalization of unhealthy lifestyles, including unhealthy diets, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and obesity.…  Seguir leyendo »

One of the most notable changes in modern times is the rapid urbanization of our planet, which began in the 19th century. While in 1950, 29 percent of the global population lived in cities, that figure is estimated now at 50 percent and by 2030 it will reach 61 percent.

In Africa, urbanization experienced a rapid shift from 15 percent in 1950 to 41 percent today. It is estimated that by 2030, 54 percent of the population in that continent will be living in cities.

Not only are more people living in cities but the cities themselves are becoming larger and more densely populated.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just as the African countries were overcoming the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic, Ebola’s most recent epidemic is causing tremendous damage to the countries were the infection by the Ebola virus is spreading most rapidly: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

In addition, another serious crisis looms in the horizon: the countries’ economic development. The World Health Organization has issued a dramatic warning: the Ebola epidemic threatens the “very survival” of societies and could lead to failed states.

“I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already poor countries. I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure,” said WHO head Margaret Chan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ebola breaking away from efforts to contain it

As the Ebola epidemic is claiming increasing number of victims, there is widespread concern that efforts to contain it are inadequate. New and more effective measures are needed to combat one of the most dangerous epidemics of modern times.

“Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” stated Doctors Without Borders International President Dr. Joanne Liu.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s anguished letter to President Barack Obama, urging the U.S. Government to take a more aggressive policy to combat this deadly epidemic, stated the situation in clear terms: “Without help from your government, we will lose this battle against Ebola.”…  Seguir leyendo »

As the Ebola virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, issued a stern warning. Calling Ebola a “clear and present danger,” President Sirleaf said, “The scope and scale of the epidemic, the virulence and deadliness of the virus now exceed the capacity and statutory responsibility of any one government agency or ministry.”

Those few words underscore the need to rapidly contain the spread of the epidemic. The epidemic also draws attention to the fragility of most African countries’ public health systems and to the need to improve them.

“What we have done is to make sure we’re surging not just U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Female circumcision, also called female genital mutilation (FGM), is widely practiced in at least 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

More than 125 million women have been subjected to different forms of genital mutilation across Africa and in areas of western and southern Asia, and 2 million women undergo the procedure annually.
It is also carried out in Australia, Canada, England, France, and the United States among immigrants from countries where it is performed as a ritual. Female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
FGM has no health benefits for women.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two splendid goals by Lionel Messi against Nigeria (which Argentina beat 3-2) prompts this question among many soccer fans: Who is the better player, Messi now or Diego Maradona then? To answer that question it might be useful to seek help from a Greek oracle, since both are, or were, in Maradona’s case, exquisite players.

Maradona came from the humblest of homes to become the most talked about soccer player of his generation. His two goals against the British team in the World Cup in Mexico City are now legendary. The first, the famous (or, more properly infamous since it was scored with the help of his hand) became the now iconic “Hand of God” goal.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Diego Maradona was asked in 1998 who would win that year’s soccer World Cup being played in France, he said, “Countries organize the World Cup to win it,” thus suggesting that France would be the winner. And it was.

The same thing could be said for this year’s World Cup in Brazil. For most people, Brazil is favored to win the competition. History, however, may foreshadow a different outcome.

The year is 1950, when the fourth FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup was held in Brazil from June 24 to July 16.

Before qualifying for the final game Brazil had extraordinary performances: it beat Mexico 4-0, thrashed Sweden 7-1, and defeated Spain 6-1, to become finalist for its group.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two male political dissidents in Egypt, Omar el-Shouekh and Fadi Samir, reported that while in police detention in Cairo they were beaten, tortured and subjected to sexual assault.

Their claim brings renewed attention to a phenomenon that is largely ignored and poorly addressed but that causes significant psychological and physical damage to its victims: sexual abuse of males. New legal instruments have to be put in place to address what is a serious human rights and medical problem.

Male rape is widespread, particularly in conflict situations. Because few men report cases of rape, statistics under-represent the actual number of men who are sexually assaulted.…  Seguir leyendo »

A tragedy that took place in the vicinity of the 2014 Winter Olympics sites continues to be ignored. It’s where hundreds of thousands of Circassians who inhabited the area were were the victims of one of history’s most terrible genocides.

Circassia, a fertile plateau in the northeastern region of the Caucasus, was located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The region extends between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Historically, many Circassians considered Sochi their traditional capital city.

Most of Circassia’s population was brutally expelled from their country by Russia in the 19th century. The Russian-Circassian War, which began in 1763 and ended in 1864 with the departure of the Circassians from their territory in what many historians consider the ethnic cleansing of the Circassians.…  Seguir leyendo »

For 8-year-old Iranian Mahan Rahimi, life had become a torment. Balding because of an unknown illness, he was the target of unceasing bullying at school — like millions of other kids in the world.

He had a physical characteristic that made him different from the rest of the class. In becoming bald, Mahan was also becoming a victim of ridicule.

Although higher forms of violence usually receive a lot of media attention, it is only since the 2000s that the issue of bullying, characterized as emotional, verbal or physical abuse, started to be addressed by parents, teachers and researchers. According to 2010 statistics, 2.7 million students are bullied every year in the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »