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The Express Tribune Editorial 9 March 2020

Battle of the bulge


Heavy on grease and bursting with carbohydrates, Pakistani diets are surefire ingredients for obesity. Add to this regimen the junk food, and you have a recipe for disaster. Little wonder then, the country is left to wage the battle of the bulge.
Health professionals in Pakistan have described as a ‘wake-up call’ a recent study that says more than 50 per cent of the population is obese or facing obesity. This may lead to multiple diseases and health complications, they warn.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, 58.1 per cent people of Pakistan are overweight while 43.9 per cent of population is suffering from obesity. Not only adults and the elderly people, but children are also displaying these trends of obesity, with no urban-rural divide.
The latest figures came months after an international health body warned that Pakistan was now among the top 10 countries in the world facing absolute increases in diabetes prevalence.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) released these figures in November last year, highlighting the alarming growth in the prevalence of diabetes around the world. It reported that 38 million more adults were now estimated to be living with diabetes globally compared to results published in 2017.
Top physicians keep reminding us it was not diabetes alone, but obesity carries risks of several diseases, calling it mother of many ailments. From hypertension to diabetes and from cardiac issues to arthritis, there are several diseases which are mainly due to obesity, they point out, urging better lifestyles and diet.
It’s a disease we usually invite through our lifestyle and casual approach. Better lifestyle and a healthy diet can help one prevent obesity and diseases linked to it.


Climate change impact


A new report on climate change has sent alarm bells ringing among climate scientists. It says that climate change and sea level rise are currently on track to wipe out half the world’s sandy beaches by the end of this century. And the report links the global coastal degradation to global warming which is caused by humanity’s fossil fuel combustion i.e. the burning of coal, oil and gas which in turn produces environmentally harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The climate change phenomenon includes global warming and its effects, although the two are often used interchangeably.
For starters, climate change skeptics must remember that over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Each of the last three decades has been warmer than all previous decades since statistical surveys began in 1850.
As Pakistan is among countries considered most vulnerable to climate change, it is essential that we take immediate steps to combat it. First and foremost, we must move away from fossil fuels and focus on renewable energies such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. We must also reduce our consumption of energy and water through the use of more efficient devices such as LED light bulbs and innovative shower systems, promote methods such as public transportation and carpooling to help reduce CO2 emissions, emphasise construction of low energy buildings and renovation of existing ones in order to reduce CO2 emissions due to heating, air conditioning, hot water and lighting, and prioritise afforestation as well as greener and more efficient agriculture. Additionally, recycling must be emphasised and a waste management strategy devised for our mountainous areas where garbage is simply thrown in rivers and burnt in the open, hugely compounding the problem.


The spoilers

In the very first step toward peace, the United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or as they are more commonly known, the Taliban, signed a deal earlier this month.
The agreement, which appears to be vulnerable, will eventually end the longest conflict in Afghanistan. Under the accord, hailed as the greatest opportunity for peace, the United States promised to reduce the presence of its troops stationed in Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban promised to reduce violence in the country. But the very foundation of this truce seems to be shaking after last week’s violence, including an attack on a political gathering.
The country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, who also happens to be President Ashraf Ghani’s rival, narrowly escaped,but dozens were wounded. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, making it the first spoiler that could derail the fragile peace process in the country.
On the other hand, with the intra-Afghan talks between the nation’s authorities and the Taliban, inching closer, things are not looking promising. The government led by President Ghani rejected a prisoner exchange deal that was to take place before the start of the talks,exposing the president’s own intentions to derail the process.
In what appears to be a chain reaction to Ghani’s decision, the Taliban increased attacks on Afghan security forces. And in return, US warplanes bombed the militants. By rejecting the prisoner swap deal days before the crucial internal talk, Ghani, who seems to be on the losing end, has scuttled the chance for peace in Afghanistan.
The president, who has no legitimacy, is aware that if the peace process survives all the spoilers and the test of time, he will eventually have to step down to allow the legitimate stakeholders in Afghanistan to cobble together a plan for the future of Afghanistan – a future that has no role for Ghani.
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