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South Asia Leads Global Growth, But Challenges Persist, Says World Bank

Dhaka — South Asia is poised to outpace all other global regions in economic growth this year, with the World Bank forecasting a robust growth rate of 5.8 percent. This optimistic projection comes amid contrasting gloomy outlooks for China and East Asia, where growth rates are expected to be some of the slowest in five decades.

Key Factors Driving South Asia’s Growth

Franziska Ohnsorge, the World Bank’s chief economist for South Asia, points to several factors underpinning the region’s impressive growth prospects:

  1. Demographic Dividend: South Asia boasts a youthful and expanding workforce, a demographic advantage that contributes to economic growth.
  2. Catch-Up Potential: The region has ample room for economic catch-up, enabling it to grow at a faster pace.

However, Ohnsorge issues a cautionary note, stating that the growth in South Asia, while strong, may not be sufficient to meet governments’ ambitious targets of achieving high-income status within a generation. Currently, per capita income in South Asian countries averages around $2,000, only 1/12th of high-income nations. To reach high-income status, South Asian nations would need to maintain average annual growth rates of at least 8 percent over several decades.

Challenges on the Horizon

Ohnsorge highlights several challenges that South Asia must address:

  1. Private Investment: South Asian countries must do more to stimulate private investment and generate employment opportunities for their growing populations.
  2. Vulnerabilities: The region faces vulnerabilities such as climate change, weaker global demand, and high levels of debt.

Despite these challenges, Ohnsorge remains optimistic about South Asia’s potential for growth. The region possesses competitive advantages, including its youthful workforce, expanding middle class, and strategic geographic location.

“If South Asian countries can continue to implement reforms and attract investment, they can achieve their development goals,” she asserts.

This optimistic outlook serves as a reminder of South Asia’s economic potential and the importance of proactive measures to harness it. While hurdles exist, the region’s young population and favorable demographics present opportunities for sustainable growth and development.

Nepal’s Economy Poised for Recovery, World Bank Projects Growth

Kathmandu — In a recent report titled “Nepal Development Update: Restoring Export Competitiveness,” the World Bank has forecasted a promising economic rebound for Nepal. The country is expected to experience a 3.9 percent growth in fiscal year 2024, primarily attributed to several key factors.

Factors Driving Nepal’s Economic Rebound

  1. Delayed Effects of Import Restrictions: The lifting of import restrictions is beginning to yield positive effects on Nepal’s economy.
  2. Tourism Recovery: The gradual recovery of the tourism sector, a vital contributor to Nepal’s economy, is boosting economic prospects.
  3. Easing Monetary Policies: The gradual relaxation of monetary policies is supporting economic growth.

Projections for Fiscal Year 2025

Looking ahead, the World Bank anticipates even stronger growth for Nepal in fiscal year 2025, with a projected growth rate of 5 percent.

Risks to the Economic Outlook

Despite the positive outlook, the report highlights several risks that could impact Nepal’s economic trajectory. These risks include:

  1. Erratic Monsoon: An unpredictable monsoon could hinder agricultural growth.
  2. Commodity Prices and Export Bans: A resurgence in commodity prices or continued export bans on food products by India could lead to price increases.
  3. Inflation: Rising inflation could result in higher policy rates, increased domestic debt servicing costs, and potentially slow down growth.

Addressing Export Competitiveness

The report also emphasizes the need for Nepal to enhance its external competitiveness, as its exports currently account for only 6.9 percent of GDP, lagging behind other South Asian middle-income countries. The analysis attributes this lag to factors such as real exchange rate appreciation and low labor productivity across all sectors.

Green and Resilient Development Vision

Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, commended Nepal’s efforts in pursuing a green, resilient, and inclusive development vision to drive long-term economic recovery. He stressed the importance of improving external competitiveness through reforms aimed at boosting domestic productivity and reducing inflation differentials with trading partners.

South Asia’s Economic Outlook

The report also provides insights into South Asia’s economic prospects. While the region is expected to grow at 5.8 percent, surpassing other developing regions, it remains slower than its pre-pandemic pace and falls short of meeting development goals. Downside risks include fiscal vulnerabilities due to high government debt levels and the potential impact of China’s economic growth slowdown and climate change-induced natural disasters.

Economic Growth in South Asian Countries

The World Bank’s projections for South Asian countries in terms of economic growth for 2024 are as follows:

  • India: 6.3 percent
  • Bangladesh: 5.6 percent
  • Maldives: 5.2 percent
  • Bhutan: 4 percent
  • Sri Lanka: 1.7 percent
  • Pakistan: 1.7 percent

These projections offer valuable insights into the economic landscape of Nepal and South Asia, as the region strives to overcome challenges and achieve sustainable growth.

WHO Regional election sparks controversy on Merit vs Nepotism

By Our Staff Reporter

London — With less than four weeks left to elect a new Regional Director for the WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO), the choice before the voting member countries could not be clearer.

So far, there are only two candidates in the fray. Dr Shambhu Acharya, from Nepal, is competing againstthe Bangaldeshi candidate, Saima Wazed Hossain. 

A public health veteran, Dr Acharya holds a PhD in public health and has over three decades of experience of working with the WHO in various capacities around the world. He was instrumental in developing health systems at the local, national, and regional levels in many low and middle income countries in the fields of maternity and child health, family planning, population, infectious and non-communicable diseases. He also led World Bank-funded health and population programs in Bangladesh and helped establish the WHO Asia-Pacific Health Economics Network. 

In his manifesto, Acharya has accorded top priority to health promotion, disease and injury prevention, and planetary health, by addressing their root causesin the WHO South East Asia Region. 

“The Region’s investments in health have been increasing, exemplified by India’s efforts to bolster health programs. Thailand’s universal healthcare is also commendable. To leverage economic growth, my priority is twofold: first, promoting health investment as an asset, not just an expense, focusing on human capital development,” said Dr Acharya in a recent interview. “Secondly, fostering international partnerships with organizations like the Global Fund, the development banks on climate-focused initiatives. Collaborative investments can bring substantial value to healthcare, helping overcome resource limitations.”

The Bangladeshi candidate, Saima Wazed, doesn’t have any public health degree. Since 2019, she has been an adviser to WHO’s Director General on mental health and autism. She is a Bangaldeshi-Canadian citizen, and has worked as a school psychologist in Florida, United States.

Her manifesto fails to address major public health issues facing the region, observers say.

Interestingly, Saima is the daughter of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Quite predictably,Prime Minister Hasina seems to be leaving no stone unturned to get her daughter elected to the coveted post – that will oversee the public health priorities of nearly two billion people.

Early this year, in a letter to the Lancet – the world’s top medical journal – a group of public health experts called for greater transparency in WHO elections, including public debates rather than closed sessions to choose a new Regional Director. Financial Times, the London-based newspaper, quoted an unnamed senior health policy worker in Bangladesh saying that  Ms Wazed’s nomination showed the politicisation of country’s health sector. 

“She came from a political family and her mother is prime minister. Every single work that she does is highlighted by the government.”

Prime Minister Hasina took her daughter to regional meetings of BRICS, ASEAN and recently the G-20 summit in Delhi where Bangladesh was one of the invitees. Ms Saima tweeted her photo with US President Biden, herself and her mother.

Crossing the Fine Line

Dr Mukesh Kapila, who has worked in over 100 countries, as a physician and public health specialist, recently wrote that being introduced by her mother at recent high-level summits such as BRICS, ASEAN, G20 and the UN General Assembly to craft deals in exchange for votes may be seen as crossing the fine line between a government’s legitimate lobbying for its candidate and craven nepotism. “Intense political pressure from Bangladesh appears to have dissuaded good competitors from within Bangladesh and other countries. Nepal is now under intensified pressure to withdraw its nominee and allow Wazed to be anointed unopposed,” he added.

As the campaign to garner support from member states enters the last phase, articles supporting Bangladeshi candidate are also appearing in the media. One Prof Quazi M Islam has argued that it is a sovereign right of any member state to nominate a candidate of their choice. 

“There could be several other talent pools in Nepal from which the government could have nominated,” he said, insinuating that the candidate from Nepal also may not be the most deserving one.

Nepali officials, however, insist that Nepal government had short-listed Dr Acharya for nomination from a larger list of candidates for the post. Three successive governments from different political backgrounds upheld his candidacy. Given his vast experience in health policy finance, programme management and wide range of public health experience, Dr Acharya was an obvious choice. “We believe that our candidate is far superior to the Bangladeshi candidate in terms of experience, vision and competency,” they said.

Interestingly, Prof Islam claimed that “WHO does not need hardcore technocrats but require politicians who can listen to advisors, make decisions based on evidence and recruit people fairly to achieve the vision and mission.” Some Bangladeshi media reports are, meanwhile, claiming that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also projecting her daughter as her future political successor.

Nepotism and favoritism is not new in South Asia, where rulers usually tend to promote people usually on the basis of their lineage or loyalty. But to lead an important post like Regional Director, WHO SEARO, member states are expected to choose a candidate who knows public health issues affecting the region by heart and is all set to hit the ground running. The choice is but obvious – Nepotism vs Merit. 

The member states of WHO SEARO would do well by promoting merit in the WHO rather than rewarding nepotism.

Professor Mark Liechty awarded Prof Subedi Prize 2023

London – The Royal Asiatic Society has announced that Prof Mark Liechty has been awarded the first Prof Surya Subedi Prize which is awarded to Professor Mark Liechty for his book “What Went Right” (Amazon link), subtitled: “sustainability versus dependence in Nepal’s hydropower development”.

The judges were unanimous in there decision, noting that the book is exceptionally well written as well as diligently researched, a press statement issued by the Society said.  “It tells a story -that of the long and patiently determined career of Odd Hoftun who emerges as a development hero – and holds the interest of a non-specialist. Although its focus is hydropower development, it has much resonance into all sectors of development and beyond.  It would be valuable reading for anyone in any sector seeking to make a sustainable difference in Nepal,” the judges said.

Mark Liechty is a South Asianist with research specialization in the modern culture and history of Nepal. He is a Professor in the departments of Anthropology and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA. His teaching focuses on world history, South Asian colonial history, culture theory, youth culture, and cultures of the body. Liechty’s research has been supported by various organizations including several Fulbright research awards and a recent Fulbright “Senior Specialist” grant for Nepal.

His first three books (Princeton University Press 2003Martin Chautari Press 2010School for Advanced Research Press 2012) dealt with aspects of the emergence of a middle-class consumer culture in Kathmandu. His 2017 book on Western countercultural longing and the history of tourism in Nepal (Far Out: Countercultural Seekers and the Tourism Encounter in Nepal, University of Chicago Press) won the 2017 Kekoo Naoroji Book Award for Himalayan Literature and the 2019 Edward Bruner Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association.

As part of his application to the prize, Prof Liechty wrote an introduction to his work in What Went Right, which gives a good overview of the book:

What Went Right explores why Nepal’s hydropower sector is one the country’s few development success stories. Unlike almost every other “developing” country, in Nepal local firms design and build complex hydropower facilities using Nepali engineers, contractors, components, and labour. Nepal has largely avoided the trap whereby most poor countries are forced to accept energy infrastructure projects that are foreign designed, funded, and built—typically resulting in debt, dependency, and unsustainability. As a whole, Nepal has no other industrial sector that even comes close to the success of its hydropower industry.

The book examines the history of Nepal’s hydropower sector to ask why it is the conspicuous exception to the rule of Nepal’s woeful underdevelopment. The answer lies in the story of the Butwal Power Company (BPC) and the anti-establishment development logic of its founder, Odd Hoftun, a pioneering Norwegian development worker, missionary, and engineer. From the early 1960s onward, Hoftun insisted that Nepalis should develop technical skills needed to thrive in a modernizing society, a view that eventually led Hoftun to promote hydropower development as the means to literally power Nepal’s industrial future. Counter to prevailing logic, Hoftun insisted that, to the fullest extent possible, hydroelectric design, construction, and equipment should be locally-sourced—even if it was, initially, crude and inefficient. Self-sufficiency and sustainability could only come if every aspect of hydropower development could be done in Nepal, by Nepalis.

Over half a century, Hoftun worked with Nepalis and other foreigners to establish a family of inter-locking companies focused on hydrological design and engineering, equipment manufacturing, deep-mountain tunneling, and project installation. Starting with a tiny 50 kilowatt project in the 1960s and advancing through successively larger and more complex projects, by the 2000s Hoftun’s now independent and Nepali-owned companies, and many subsidiary spin-offs from them, had emerged as the backbone of a robust indigenous hydropower sector able to compete successfully in bidding for projects around Nepal and beyond.

Typically anthropologists and historians engage “development” in order to critique it. Much less often examined are the few bright spots on the global development landscape. The book’s aim is certainly not to hold up Nepal’s hydropower sector as some spotless paragon of development success, but simply to examine how and why it managed to largely overcome the global development odds stacked against it. Nepal’s hydropower experience is a success and one of the few ways that Nepal participates in the global economy aside from as an impoverished exporter of cheap manpower. By focusing on what went right instead of (or in addition to) what went wrong, this book is a useful contribution to ongoing debates over international development, foreign aid, and development philosophy.

This study represents a chance to lay out a particular development vision to examine its strengths and weaknesses. Given that “the BPC model” has arguably borne rich fruit in Nepal’s otherwise relatively barren development landscape, it is high time to bring this vision into vigorous conversation with other development strategies that have proven, repeatedly, to be less productive, the press statement said.

Global South Experts Concerned About Loss and Damage Funding Dispute Ahead of COP28

Experts from the Global South have voiced their concerns regarding the ongoing disputes between developed and developing nations over the eligibility criteria and funding arrangements for the Loss and Damage Fund (LDF). The controversy threatens to hinder progress on this critical issue at the upcoming COP28, the annual United Nations climate talks scheduled for December in Dubai.

At COP27 in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh last year, the creation of the Loss and Damage Fund was hailed as a significant achievement, marking the culmination of years of advocacy by climate-vulnerable developing nations. This fund’s primary goal is to provide financial support to countries highly susceptible to the severe impacts of climate change.

Recent ministerial consultations held in New York have highlighted stark disagreements between developed and developing nations. Developed countries are advocating for a restricted definition of “most vulnerable” countries, primarily limiting eligibility to Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. This approach excludes countries like Pakistan and Libya, which have recently experienced substantial climate change-induced damage. Developed nations also emphasize that all capable nations, particularly major emitters like India and China, should contribute to the fund.

Conversely, developing nations argue that the fund should be accessible to all developing countries impacted by climate change, especially those hosting vulnerable communities. They stress that this aligns with the principles of equity, considering countries’ historical and current contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts from the Global South believe that these actions by developed nations indicate a lack of commitment to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28. They argue that the proposed expansion of the contributor base, reduced eligibility, and private sector involvement undermine existing obligations and principles of equity.

Diego Pacheco, head of the Bolivian delegation and spokesperson of the Like-Minded Developing Countries at the UNFCCC, criticized the lack of connection between discussions on loss and damage and equity principles, suggesting it leads to a “dialogue of the deaf.” He accused developed countries of violating the Convention (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement by suggesting that financing should be shifted to other capable countries.

RR Rashmi, a distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), expressed concern that these disputes might divert attention and slow down discussions on loss and damage. Rashmi emphasized the importance of India insisting on consistency with UNFCCC principles of equity.

T Jayaraman, a senior fellow in climate change at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, pointed out that developed countries’ framing excludes countries like India and China, despite their lower historical emissions contributions. He stressed the need for developing countries to present a united front at COP28.

Indrajit Bose, Global Policy Lead at Climate Action Network-International, criticized developed countries for pushing for an expansion of the contributor base and a reduction in eligible countries. He called this a display of bad-faith negotiations and questioned the private sector’s role in funding loss and damage. Bose urged developed countries to honor the decisions made at COP27 and demonstrate a genuine commitment to addressing loss and damage.

The dispute over loss and damage funding remains a critical issue as the world looks ahead to COP28, where the outcome will have significant implications for climate-vulnerable nations.

Dozens dead after blast in southwestern Pakistan

Pakistan, Sept. 30: A powerful bomb exploded near a mosque at a rally celebrating the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 52 people and injuring nearly 70 others, police and a government official said.

The bombing occurred in Mastung, a district in Baluchistan province, where around 500 people had gathered for a procession to celebrate the birth anniversary of the prophet. Muslims hold rallies and distribute free meals to people on the occasion, which is known as Mawlid an-Nabi.

TV footage and videos on the social media showed an open area near a mosque strewn with the shoes of the dead and wounded after the bombing. Some of the bodies had been covered with bedsheets, and residents and rescuers were seen rushing the wounded to hospitals, where a state of emergency had been declared and appeals were being issued for blood donations.

Baluchistan has witnessed scores of attacks by insurgents and militants, but they usually target security forces. The Pakistan Taliban have also repeatedly said that they do not target worship places and civilians.

Those injured in the blast were taken to nearby hospitals and some were in critical condition, government administrator Atta Ullah said. Abdul Rasheed, the District Health Officer in Mastung, said 30 bodies were taken to one hospital and 22 others were counted at a second hospital.

A senior police officer, Mohammad Nawaz, was among the dead, Ullah said. Officers were investigating to determine whether the bombing was a suicide attack, he added.

Friday’s bombing came days after authorities asked police to remain on maximum alert, saying militants could target rallies making the birthday of Islam’s prophet.

Also Friday, a blast ripped through a mosque located on the premises of a police station in Hangu, a district in the northwester Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, wounding seven people, said Shah Raz Khan, a local police officer.

He said the mud-brick mosque collapsed because of the impact of the blast and rescuers were removing the debris to pull out worshippers from the rubble. Police say it was not immediately clear what caused the blast.

No one claimed responsibility, and it was unclear what caused the blast when around 40 people were praying at the mosque. Most of the worshippers were police officers,

Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi condemned the attack and asked authorities to provide all possible assistance to the wounded and the victims’ families.

In a statement, caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti denounced the bombing and expressed sorrow and grief over the loss of lives. He said it was a “heinous act” to target people in the Mawlid an-Nabi procession.

The government had declared a national holiday for the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad, and President Alvi and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-haq-Kakar in separate messages had called for unity and for people to adhere to the teachings of Islam’s prophet. (AP)

Nepal can achieve only 60% of SDGs targets by 2030 if things are not corrected: Stakeholders

By Pritam Bhattarai, Kathmandu, Sept 29: Nepal seems to fall behind in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the progress is not satisfactory, warned stakeholders. 

However, as compared to only 12 per cent of the 140 SDGs targets likely to be achieved globally, Nepal has fared better.     

According to the Nepal Civil Society Report on SDGs-2023 published by the NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN), Nepal has achieved seven per cent of the targets, two per cent are progressing; 39 per cent have some progress it is at halfway to 2030, the deadline for meeting the SDGs. However, 18 per cent of the targets are regressing, whereas 26 per cent have limited and 36 per cent have missing values.     

Despite this progress, the country still faces challenges induced by many factors including the impacts of COVID-19, the economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war and geopolitical dynamics, said the NFN President Ram Prasad Subedi at a press meeting organised to provide information about progress on the SDGs.     

He alleged of the lack of coordination among the governments at all three levels, stakeholders and civil society for the ‘weak’ implementation of the SDGs. “The progress on the SDGs is not satisfactory eight years into its implementation. Given this sluggish progress, only 60 per cent achievement will be secured by 2030, the timeline for achieving the goals,” he said. He added that there is a weak part in collecting data and monitoring the implementation of the SDGs.     

Stating that the local and provincial levels are unaware of the SDGs, he called for empowering them to effectively implement them.     

Similarly, the NFN Secretary General Arjun Bhattarai called for equal participation of youths in the social, economic and political development endeavours as they he said play a critical role in the implementation of the SDGs. He also demanded the creation of a mechanism at the local level to collect data on the SDGs.     

Taking immediate action to increase women’s representation in leadership is essential and meaningful participation of the government at all three levels should be ensured, the participating stakeholders demanded. Likewise, the government should systematically collect, process and utilise disaggregated data to verify progress and inclusion in government programmes and overall SDG achievements. They also called for the management of the required budget, resources and partnership development to effectively implement the SDGs. (RSS)

Father of India’s ‘Green Revolution,’ Dr Swaminathan, passes away

London – Dr MS Swaminathan, an eminent plant geneticist popularly referred to as ‘Father of the Green Revolution in India’, died at the age of 98 on Thursday in Chennai, India, media reports said. He was also the founder of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

Born in Kumbakonam, in Tamilnadu state of India, he earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences at the Madras Agricultural College and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Cambridge, England.

He was a key figure in the Green Revolution, which was launched by the Indian government in 1965. This initiative played a big part in India becoming from food-deficient nation to one of the world’s leading agricultural nations.

Swaminathan was acclaimed by TIME magazine as one of the twenty most influential Asians of the 20th century and one of the only three from India, the other two being Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

In a tweet, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that (he was) deeply saddened by the demise of Dr Swaminathan. “At a very critical period of our nation’s history, his groundbreaking work in agriculture  transformed the lives of millions and ensured food security for our nation,” he said.

Dr Swaminathan was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1971, the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986, the First World Food Prize in 1987, the Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal, and the Mahatma Gandhi Prize of UNESCO in 2000, among others.

Study Reveals: Marrying Blood Relatives Linked to 10% of Type 2 Diabetes Cases in British Asian Communities

London, UK – September 27, 2023

A groundbreaking new study has shed light on a concerning health issue within British Asian communities, revealing that marrying blood relatives contributes to as much as 10 percent of Type 2 diabetes cases in these communities. The research, conducted by experts from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Queen Mary University of London, provides crucial insights into the factors influencing the higher prevalence of diabetes among South Asian populations.

For years, it has been known that South Asian communities face a significantly greater risk of developing diabetes, accounting for eight percent of all diagnosed cases in the UK, despite comprising only four percent of the total population. However, the reasons behind this heightened susceptibility had remained unclear, leaving scientists to explore whether genetics or lifestyle factors were the primary driving force.

Many South Asian communities practice consanguinity, which involves marrying blood relatives, often second cousins or closer. This practice, while rooted in tradition, can increase the risk of genetic problems in offspring. To understand the impact of consanguinity on health, researchers analyzed genetic data from over 400,000 individuals in Britain.

The study revealed a startling link between consanguinity and various diseases and disorders, including Type 2 diabetes, asthma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Among the findings, blood-related marriages were found to be responsible for approximately 10 percent of Type 2 diabetes cases among British Pakistanis and around three percent among British Bangladeshis. Moreover, it was estimated to account for eight percent of asthma cases in British Pakistanis and two percent in British Bangladeshis.

Daniel Malawsky, the first author of the study at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, emphasized, “While consanguinity has a smaller role in common diseases compared to other factors, it is still essential to understand its specific influence on health in these communities.”

The research highlighted a significant difference in the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, with approximately 33 percent of British individuals of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent being offspring of second cousins or closer, compared to just two percent of individuals of European descent.

Marrying close relatives can elevate the risk of passing on harmful gene mutations that run in families. A previous study among British Pakistanis found that one in 16 babies born to first-cousin parents had a congenital anomaly, compared to one in 38 children born to unrelated parents.

British Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are known to have a four-to-six-fold increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to individuals of European ancestry. However, the research team stressed that the health risks of consanguinity should be considered alongside the positive social benefits of the practice, such as family bonding. They also pointed out that other lifestyle factors, such as lack of exercise, smoking, and obesity, have a more substantial impact on health outcomes.

Coun Ahsan Khan, chair of the Genes & Health community advisory board and councillor at Waltham Forest, highlighted the importance of culturally sensitive approaches in health research. He said, “This work underscores the significance of culturally sensitive approaches in health research, acknowledging the delicate balance between social benefits and any potential risks.”

The study aims to guide future research to better understand these diseases and their underlying biology, ultimately contributing to the development of more effective treatments. It was published in the journal Cell, serving as a crucial step toward addressing health disparities in communities, particularly in diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

Nepal’s Record-Breaking Blitz: 314 Runs in 20 Overs, 50 in 9 Balls! T20I History Rewritten at Asian Games with 8 New Records

Hangzhou, China — In a stunning display of power and precision, the Nepal men’s cricket team etched their names into the annals of cricket history at the ongoing Asian Games cricket tournament in Hangzhou, China. Facing off against Mongolia in a historic showdown, Nepal’s cricketers shattered multiple records, leaving fans and pundits awestruck.

In a clash that marked the initiation of men’s cricket competition at the continental meet, Nepal put on a spectacle for the ages. The standout achievement came when Nepal amassed an unprecedented 314/3 in their allotted 20 overs, a total that now stands as the highest-ever in the history of T20 International (T20I) cricket, surpassing Afghanistan’s previous record of 278/3 against Ireland in 2019.

What made Nepal’s performance even more spectacular was their phenomenal hitting ability. The team launched an astonishing 26 sixes during their innings, breaking Afghanistan’s previous record of 22 sixes in a single T20I innings, set in 2019.

However, the crowning glory of Nepal’s remarkable feat came in the form of two individual records that will be etched in cricketing lore.

Dipendra Singh Airee, Nepal’s all-rounder, demonstrated his explosive prowess by reaching his half-century in just nine balls. This achievement obliterated the previous record held by Indian cricket legend Yuvraj Singh, who had taken 12 balls to reach fifty against England in the ICC T20 World Cup 2007. Airee’s innings concluded with a blistering 52* off just 10 balls, including eight massive sixes. His phenomenal strike rate of 520 is now the best in a T20I innings, underlining his dominance at the crease.

In a parallel record-breaking performance, Kushal Malla stunned the cricket world by achieving the fastest T20I century ever, reaching the milestone in just 34 balls. Malla’s sensational innings saw him accumulate 137 runs off 50 deliveries, featuring eight boundaries and an astonishing 12 sixes. Notably, this achievement surpassed the records held by T20I stalwarts like India’s Rohit Sharma and South Africa’s David Miller, both of whom had previously scored centuries in 35 balls.

The overwhelming display of Nepal’s batting prowess has set an imposing target of 315 runs for Mongolia to chase. As the Asian Games cricket tournament unfolds, fans eagerly await India’s men’s cricket campaign set to commence on October 3 in the quarterfinals. The tournament’s title clash is scheduled for October 7, promising more electrifying cricket action in the days to come.

Nepal’s astounding achievements in Hangzhou have not only raised the bar in T20I cricket but have also served as an inspiration for aspiring cricketers across the globe. The team’s audacious display of power hitting and record-breaking feats will undoubtedly be remembered as a watershed moment in the sport’s history.

China and Nepal Strengthen Bilateral Relations with Comprehensive Joint Statement

Beijing, September 26 – In a historic diplomatic development, the People’s Republic of China and Nepal have released a comprehensive joint statement highlighting the deepening ties between the two nations. This momentous occasion followed extensive talks between the Prime Ministers of both countries during the official visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to China.

During the visit, Prime Minister Dahal engaged in high-level meetings with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Qiang, and Chairman Zhao Leji of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. These discussions resulted in extensive consensus on strengthening the longstanding friendship between the two nations and addressing regional and global issues of shared concern.

The joint statement underscores the commitment of both countries to principles of mutual respect, equality, solidarity, and mutual assistance. It highlights their enduring partnership, which has thrived since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1955, despite international changes and differences in social systems and sizes.

Key highlights of the joint statement include Nepal’s reaffirmation of the one-China principle, recognizing the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing all of China, including Tibet. Nepal also pledged to stand against any separatist activities against China within its borders.

The joint statement places strong emphasis on infrastructure connectivity, trade, tourism, and investment. Both nations are committed to enhancing connectivity in areas such as ports, roads, railways, airways, and grids, with the aim of building the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network. This aligns with Nepal’s goal of transitioning from a landlocked country to a land-linked one and advancing its development agenda.

Furthermore, the joint statement highlights cooperation in various fields, including energy, agriculture, poverty alleviation, health, education, and disaster management. Both sides expressed satisfaction over their collaboration in these areas and pledged to deepen cooperation for mutual development.

The joint statement also stressed the importance of upholding true multilateralism and promoting democracy in international relations. China and Nepal pledged to work together within the framework of the United Nations and other multilateral mechanisms to uphold the interests of developing countries and promote global peace, security, development, and prosperity.

This joint statement marks a significant milestone in the ever-evolving relationship between China and Nepal, solidifying their commitment to closer cooperation across multiple domains. Both nations look forward to further enhancing their partnership for the benefit of their peoples and the broader international community.

Historic Second Pig Heart Transplant Successfully Performed at University of Maryland Medical Center

September 20, 2023 – In a groundbreaking medical achievement, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has announced the successful transplantation of a pig heart into a living human recipient for the second time in history. This extraordinary surgical feat was accomplished by the same transplant team that conducted the pioneering experimental surgery in 2022.

The recipient of this groundbreaking procedure, 58-year-old Lawrence Faucette, is now breathing on his own, and his new pig heart is functioning efficiently without any reliance on supportive devices. Mr. Faucette had been suffering from end-stage heart disease and faced complications like peripheral vascular disease and internal bleeding, rendering him ineligible for a traditional heart transplant. He was admitted to UMMC on September 14, experiencing severe symptoms of heart failure.

Desperate for a lifeline, Faucette willingly chose to undergo this experimental xenotransplant surgery. The procedure was authorized under the US Food and Drug Administration’s “compassionate use” program, which allows patients with life-threatening conditions to access investigational medical products when no viable alternatives are available.

The pig heart used in the surgery was sourced from a genetically modified pig developed by Revivcor, a subsidiary of the United Therapeutics Corporation. This pig had undergone extensive genetic modifications, including the inactivation of three genes to eliminate the alpha-gal sugar present in the pig’s blood cells, a substance known to provoke severe immune reactions in humans and cause organ rejection. Furthermore, six human genes were introduced into the pig’s genome to enhance compatibility with the recipient’s immune system. The FDA had previously approved the use of these gene-edited pigs in 2020 for potential therapeutic applications and consumption.

To prevent organ rejection, doctors are also administering an experimental antibody treatment to Faucette while closely monitoring him for any signs of rejection or the development of pig-related viruses. The donor pig underwent rigorous screening to ensure the absence of any viruses or pathogens.

Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant and a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, expressed gratitude for Faucette’s bravery and commitment to advancing medical knowledge in this field. Faucette provided full consent for the experimental treatment, underwent thorough psychiatric evaluation, and engaged in discussions with a medical ethicist.

Lawrence Faucette, a married father of two from Frederick, Maryland, and a retired 20-year Navy veteran who had previously worked as a lab technician at the National Institutes of Health, is cautiously hopeful. His wife, Ann Faucette, stated, “We have no expectations other than hoping for more time together, which could be as simple as sitting on the front porch and having coffee together.”

It’s important to note that there are currently no ongoing clinical trials utilizing pig organs for transplants in living human recipients. The first experimental surgery of this kind was performed by the University of Maryland on David Bennett in January 2022, but he sadly passed away two months after the procedure due to heart failure resulting from various factors.

According to federal government statistics, over 113,000 individuals are currently on organ transplant waiting lists in the United States, including 3,354 in need of heart transplants. Tragically, 17 people lose their lives each day while awaiting a donor organ, according to Donate Life America. The recent success of this pig heart transplant offers a glimmer of hope for those in need of life-saving organ transplants and represents a significant step forward in the field of medical science.

Health Exchange Nepal UK (HExN) Marks 15th Anniversary with Charity Ball in the UK

London — North-West England, September 23, 2023 – Health Exchange Nepal UK (HExN), a charitable organization dedicated to supporting healthcare initiatives in Nepal, celebrated its 15th anniversary with a grand charity ball. The event, held at the prestigious Shaw Hill Golf Course in North-West England, was attended by prominent figures, including Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the Ambassador of Nepal, HE Gyan Chandra Acharya.

The guest list also featured renowned medical professionals, including President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Prof Andrew Elder, Immediate past President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Prof Michael Griffin, and Member of Parliament Sir Mark Hendrick. A total of 170 attendees, primarily doctors from the UK and Nepal, graced the occasion.

In his address, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle expressed his deep gratitude to Nepali doctors for saving his life. He highlighted his commitment to supporting Nepal, referencing a recent event held at the Palace of Westminster to introduce the Kathmandu Institute of Child Health, a vital initiative backed by HExN.

The two Presidents, Prof Andrew Elder and Prof Michael Griffin, shared their close ties to Nepal through HExN and discussed various initiatives aimed at enhancing clinical training standards in Nepal. Prof Elder also revealed that the MRCP PACES examination will soon be conducted in Nepal, a significant development for medical education in the country.

Prof Satyan Rajbhandari, General Secretary of HExN, emphasized that the organization has been providing invaluable clinical and educational support to Nepal since its establishment in 2008. HExN has been involved in numerous training programs, disaster relief efforts during earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic, and has played a pivotal role in training doctors and nurses in the UK. The charity continues to grow in strength, providing a platform for the Nepalese diaspora to contribute to their homeland’s well-being.

The evening’s festivities included the serving of Nepali Beer called ‘Khukuri’ and captivating Nepalese dance performances by 11-year-old Mishika Thapa, Ms. Prasuan Kandel, and the couple Ramesh and Pramita Khoju. The night concluded with a lively disco featuring Nepali songs, thoroughly enjoyed by all the guests.

HExN’s 15th-anniversary charity ball not only celebrated its significant accomplishments over the years but also reaffirmed its commitment to improving healthcare and medical education in Nepal. The event served as a testament to the enduring bond between the UK and Nepal in the field of healthcare.

Shenanigans in WHO South-East Asia as Politician’s Daughter Contests Regional Director Election

Mukesh Kapila
Election fever is sweeping through the World Health Organization (WHO) in three of its six regions – Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), South-East Asia (SEARO), and Western Pacific (WPRO). It matters who becomes their regional directors because they have considerable decentralised authority to influence the health chances of billions.

Its regions also make or break WHO globally.  Close squeaks, as with Ebola and COVID-19, show that a divided WHO can be catastrophic. Conversely, a united WHO is a vital defence against borderless health threats yet to come.

Take SEARO – the focus of this article, after we earlierconsidered EMRO. The South-East Asia Region is special in WHO annals as it is the first regional office that opened – in 1948 in New Delhi where it is still based.

SEARO’s 11 members are home to two billion people – a quarter of humanity. They range from mighty India (1.4 billion) to the tiny Maldives (0.5 million), with Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, and Bhutan in between.

Remarkable progress

WHO was a household name during my childhood.  I got my immunisations at its centres and treasured the stickers I received as a reward.  We did not know what the WHO acronym meant but felt its goodness.

Global health’s biggest battles were waged in SEARO with notable successes including the eradication of smallpox, wild poliovirus, and maternal and neonatal tetanus. Several countries have vanquished other conditions: Nepal eradicated trachoma, Maldives eliminated lymphatic filariasis while yaws went from India, rubella from Timor-Leste, measles from Bhutan, and malaria from Sri Lanka. 

The region’s people live better with all countries approaching and four exceeding global healthy life expectancy (63.7 years). World Health Statistics indicate that SEARO has posted the fastest decline (57%) in maternal mortality ratio since the millennium and reduced its under-five mortality by 78%. New HIV infections have declined by 50%.

That is not all. The region has hot-housed crucial service innovations such as community health workers and financing, essential drug kits, integration of traditional healthcare systems,  malnutrition management, reproductive health outreach, small-scale water and sanitation technologies, and mass health education, among many examples.

To be accurate – these advances did not come from WHO but from increasing prosperity. All  SEARO countries except DPRK are now middle-income with Thailand and Indonesia in the upper-middle-income category. 

There are also hordes of well-qualified professionals, passionate health advocates and civil society groups in the region. WHO wisely partnered with them to build significant national capacities. That is how WHO accompanied South-East Asia’s post-decolonisation to help countries stand on their feet. It also eased the birth pains of newer nations emerging from bloody civil wars: Bangladesh and Timor-Leste.

Where next for SEARO? 

With increased geopolitical interest in health, WHO punches above its weight more than other technical  agencies as seen by its participation in political fora such as the G20 whose latest summit was in India.  Where does SEARO go next?  

It has plenty of unfinished business. COVID-19 was a reality check causing six million indirect excess deaths – the largest among all regions.  Service disruptions meant that immunisation rates dipped, and tuberculosis treatment declined. SEARO will catch up but remains ill-prepared for the next pandemic with a low 68% score for self-reported International Health Regulationscapacities.  

Women’s health struggles with 47% anaemia prevalence, the world’s highest. Child stunting rates of 30% with its most severe ‘wasting’ form contribute an embarrassing eight million of the 13 million children afflicted worldwide.  Water and sanitation coverage lags dismally, contributing 40% of preventable global deaths. With urbanisation edging 40-50% across SEARO, record levels of particulate air pollution and road crashes take years off lifespans.

 Storm clouds on the horizon include rapidly increasing anti-microbial resistance. That is on top of climate change causing changes in vector and pathogen behaviours, risking the re-emergence of defeated conditions or increased virulence of familiar infections.  Meanwhile, richer lifestyles fuel non communicable diseases risks such as rising blood pressures and obesity across the region.

How will SEARO health systems respond? A prospering but grossly unequal region is pushing 100 million into catastrophic poverty through the world’s highest out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Ironically, the region is a mecca for medical tourism – valued at S$7.5 billion in India alone and projected to rise to $42 billion this decade.

 SEARO’s fast-digitising population has high expectations that won’t be satisfied by community health workers. They expect hospital-centered technology-dependent specialist attention.  However,SEARO is short of around seven million health workers with only DPRK and Maldives above the WHO thresholdof 44.5 per 10, 000 population. That is not for lack of training. India has the most medical schools in the world and exports thousands of doctors and allied personnel to OECD and Gulf countries.

Contradictory trends mean that SEARO’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) index has crawled to a disappointing 61 (on a 100-point scale). There is no chance of reaching the SDG target of 80 by 2030 by following WHO’s standard prescription. Where are the new ideas?

Expectations from the new regional director

In short, SEARO has already plucked the low-hanging fruit, and residual and new challenges are not amenable to quick fixes.  What is to be expected from the new SEARO regional director elected on 30 October – 2 November by 10 voting states (Myanmar’s military regime is disenfranchised under UN sanctions)?

The new leader must be humble to understand that whereas WHO was once indispensable to advancing health in the SEARO region, that is no longer the case. As ever-stronger nations grip their own destinies, and their populations’ health is dictated by externalities that only they can manage, SEARO (and wider WHO) must recalibrate its role.

The region has a cornucopia of strategies, frameworks, goals and targets bestowed by global and regional governance bodies or special interest lobbies. The incoming regional director needs political courage and clarity of purpose to cut through them to define the few essential works that SEARO is best placed to do.

Change at the regional level means more than moving into its smart new premises, a $30 million gift from the Indian government. It requires re-setting the bloated Delhi regional office with its wasteful, initiative-sapping rituals and regulations that have left staff at their lowest morale. A more collegiate leadership style and greater diversity of appointments from around Southeast Asia should reduce a stultifying atmosphere more reminiscent of the British Indian Raj than modern corporate management.

 A murky election

Who can do this? Astonishingly, Southeast Asia’s vast reservoir of talent has turned up only two candidates (compared to six in EMRO and five in WPRO elections). The SEARO contenders are from Bangladesh and Nepal.

 Bangladesh’s nominee, Saima Wazed, also holds Canadian citizenship. She has a Master’s degree in psychology and specialises in autism. Her passion for this neglected aspect of mental health is admirable. Her pitch emphasises the continuity of SEARO flagship programmes while promoting partnerships and inclusion of marginalised groups.

Unfortunately, her own capability statement does not reveal the “strong technical and public health background and extensive experience in global health”, required by the official criteria for the role. Or the mandatory substantive track record in public health leadership and significant competencies in organisational management. 

Her rival is Nepal’s Dr Shambhu Prasad Acharya with a public health doctorate and Masters qualifications in business administration and sociology. He has 30 years of substantive leadership and management experience at WHO headquarters, SEARO, and at country-level organising practical programmes in many places. 

Born in a rural farming community, he appears committed to diversity and sensitive to social disadvantage concerns. His future vision seeks population well-being, accelerated Universal Health Coverage, strengthened future pandemic and emergency preparedness, innovating  to bridge inequities, and championing an inter-connected WHO.

It is banal to say that the best candidate should get the job in a fair competition. But the SEARO election is no ordinary process.  Wazed is the daughter of the Bangladesh Prime Minister. Of course, that should not he held against her as even the offspring of a privileged public figure has the right to make their own career.

But being introduced by her mother at recent high-level summits such as BRICS, ASEAN, G20 and the UN General Assembly to craft deals in exchange for votes may be seen as crossing the fine line between a government’s legitimate lobbying for its candidate and craven nepotism.

Earlier, intense political pressure from Bangladesh appears to have dissuaded good competitors from within Bangladesh and other countries. Nepal is now under intensified pressure to withdraw its nominee and allow Wazed to be anointed unopposed.

The waters are further muddied by a complaint to WHO legal authorities alleging that  Wazed may have faked her academic credentials and lacks the constitutionally required qualifications and experience. The requested investigation cites the dismissal of the previous Western Pacific Regional Director as an example of the Organization’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards lack of integrity.  But it is unlikely that Geneva will wade in and future investigations – if any – will be long after the event.

Such shenanigans in SEARO plumb a new low in multilateral ethics and standards.  They undermine the WHO when we need global health cooperation more than ever.  Whether raw politics or principled professionalism will decide the election of the next regional director remains to be seen while, regrettably, the health of Southeast Asians is just an afterthought.

Mukesh Kapila is a physician and public health specialist who has worked in 120 countries, including as a former United Nations (UN) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan and a UN Special Adviser in Afghanistan.

Nepali embassy in London marks Nepal’s National Day

London – On the occasion of the National Day of Nepal, a Special Ceremony was organised at the Embassy premises on Wednesday. 

In his welcome remarks, Ambassador of Nepal to the UK,  Gyan Chandra Acharya highlighted the importance of the current Constitution, its salient features and the foreign policy of Nepal. Sharing the progress made by Nepal in various areas over the decades, he stated that the government’s efforts are now focused on achieving the solemn objectives of the Constitution, including through the restructuring of the economy and further enhancing the quality of life of people. He also informed about Nepal’s contributions in promoting regional cooperation, and the world peace including through the UN peacekeeping operations around the world. “Nepal is now the second highest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Force in the world,” he said.

Ambassador Acharya highlighted the historic nature of the bilateral relationship between Nepal and the UK, with the foundational link of the British Gurkhas. He outlined that this relationship now covers many different areas including political, economic, commercial, investment, educational, people to people interactions and a growing presence of the Nepali diaspora. Highlighting the fact that this year is the centenary of the signing of the Nepal-UK Friendship Treaty of 1923, he underscored the significance of the treaty in ushering in a new era in modern diplomatic engagements. He also underlined the importance of the 70th anniversary of the first ascent of Mt. Everest. 

In her speech as the Chief Guest, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State in Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), extended her best wishes on the constitution day of Nepal. Minister Trevelyan applauded the depth and warmth of Nepal-UK relationship, which has the potential to expand further into many different areas including trade, investment and collaboration on the issues of global concerns such as climate change. Recalling her visit to Nepal in March this year, she appreciated the cordiality of the people and the mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries. She expressed happiness over the important milestones in Nepal-UK bilateral relations including the centenary of the Friendship Treaty and the 70th anniversary of the first expedition of Mount Everest, which was led by the British team. She also highlighted the contributions of the British Gurkhas in expanding people to people ties between the two countries. 

 On the occasion, some Nepali cultural dances were performed by Nepali children artists in the UK. Nepali cuisines were served to the guests. The ceremony was attended by members of the British Parliament, senior government officials, British friends of Nepal, Ambassadors, High Commissioners based in the UK and leaders and representatives of the Nepalese community in the UK.

Appropriate treatment for hypertension could avert 76 million deaths globally by 2050: WHO

Geneva, Switzerland – The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first-ever global report on the impact of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, revealing it as one of the leading risk factors for death and disability worldwide. The report emphasizes the urgent need to address this “silent killer” and offers recommendations for effective prevention and management.

Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher, and it currently affects one in three adults globally, according to the WHO report. This condition often leads to severe health complications, including strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, and kidney damage.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, stated, “Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it.”

High-performing countries like Canada and South Korea have already implemented comprehensive national hypertension treatment programs, resulting in over 50% of adults with hypertension having their blood pressure under control.

The WHO estimates that increasing the number of people effectively treated for hypertension to levels seen in these high-performing countries could prevent a staggering 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2030.

The report recommends a multifaceted approach to prevent and manage hypertension. This includes promoting healthier lifestyles by adopting a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, refraining from alcohol and tobacco use, and engaging in regular physical activity. These strategies should be incorporated into specific settings such as schools and workplaces to encourage healthier choices.

Another critical tactic involves reducing daily sodium intake. The WHO suggests that reducing salt consumption is a powerful way to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The recommended daily sodium intake varies by country, but the WHO advises consuming less than 2,000 milligrams per day. However, the global average salt intake currently exceeds this recommendation, standing at 10.8 grams per day.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Unfortunately, the average American consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium daily.

In 2013, all 194 WHO member countries committed to reducing sodium intake by 30% by 2025. However, a recent report revealed that only 5% of these countries had implemented comprehensive sodium-reduction policies. The United States scored a rating of 3 out of 4 for having at least one mandatory sodium policy and declaring sodium content on pre-packaged food items.

Hypertension is prevalent in the United States, affecting approximately 32% of individuals between the ages of 30 and 79. The WHO report estimates that effectively controlling hypertension could prevent 1.2 million US deaths by 2040. To achieve a 50% control rate, an additional 693,000 people with hypertension would need effective treatment.

Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former CDC director, highlighted the gravity of the situation, stating, “Every hour, more than 1,000 people die from strokes and heart attacks. Most of these deaths are caused by high blood pressure, and most could have been prevented.”

In addition to the human toll, hypertension and its complications result in substantial costs for patients, healthcare systems, and national economies worldwide. Dr. Frieden stressed the importance of commitment from governments worldwide, stating, “Good hypertension care is affordable, within reach, and strengthens primary health care. The challenge now is to go from ‘within reach’ to ‘reached.'”