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DAILY DOSE: A deadly drought plagues Somalia; Poland hints shows what a tech-led anti-abortion dystopia will look like.


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An unrelenting and merciless drought is crushing Somalia and beginning to cause excess mortalities to rise. According to a special report by the Associated Press, “Deaths have begun in the region’s most parched drought in four decades. Previously unreported data shared with The Associated Press show at least 448 deaths this year at malnutrition treatment centers in Somalia alone. Authorities in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are now shifting to the grim task of trying to prevent famine. Many more people are dying beyond the notice of authorities, like Salaad’s four children, all younger than 10. Some die in remote pastoral communities. Some die on treks in search of help. Some die even after reaching displacement camps, malnourished beyond aid.” While droughts are never good, this one is particularly ill-timed. Global funds have been sapped by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. With food prices rising globally, addressing Somalia’s natural disaster is proving challenging.


In a sign that the global Monkeypox outbreak is picking up speed and beginning to worry public health experts, officials in the United Kingdom have moved to officially recognize the threat the virus poses. Per Reuters, “The UK Health Security Agency said monkeypox would be designated as a notifiable infectious disease from Wednesday, meaning doctors in England will have to notify local authorities when they suspect a patient has the virus. ‘Rapid diagnosis and reporting is the key to interrupting transmission and containing any further spread of Monkeypox,’ Wendi Shepherd, Monkeypox incident director at UKHSA, said in a statement.” Expect other countries to follow suit.


Researchers gathering in South Africa have moved to officially address to problem of scientists from wealthier countries swooping into resource-poor countries and exploiting local populations and scientists in the name of research. Per Science, “When researchers from wealthy countries engage in ‘helicopter research’—thoughtless field research in poorer countries that extracts data without respectful collaboration—they violate research integrity and pose a moral problem, say attendees at last week’s World Conference on Research Integrity, held in Cape Town, South Africa. The scientists, ethicists, and others at the meeting hope their new framing will elevate the issue and help spur systemic solutions, rather than leaving the task of building fair collaborations up to individual researchers.” The conference saw the launch of the “Cape Town Statement” on equitable research partnerships. Consensus-gathering events at the conference compiled ideas that will feed into the eventual statement, which a team of collaborators plans to submit to an academic journal.


When the leaked Supreme Court memo indicating that they intend on overturning Roe vs Wade was made public, there was a lot of concern among women’s rights groups that technology would be used to spy on women and enforce anti-abortion laws. In particular, they voiced concern about menstrual period tracking apps. Turns out, it wasn’t just hyperbole. In an ominous indication of things to come, Poland appears to be demonstrating just how it might work. Per the Associated Press, “The government of Poland, where a near-total abortion ban is in place, faced accusations Monday of creating a ‘pregnancy register’ as the country expands the amount of medical data being digitally saved on patients. Women’s rights advocates and opposition politicians fear women face unprecedented surveillance given the conservative views of a ruling party that has already tightened what was one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. They fear the new data could be used by police and prosecutors against women whose pregnancies end, even in cases of miscarriage, or that women could be tracked by the state if they order abortion pills or travel abroad for an abortion.” Dark times ahead for women, regardless of where you stand on the issue. Abortion’s took place prior to its legalization and will take place when it is no longer legal. The only difference will be oversight, or lack thereof.


The cost of living in an area can be a serious drag on public health. An op-ed in The Lancet Global Health elucidates the ways it can hurt. According to the author, “Good nutrition, shelter, and the ability to lead a dignified life are essential foundations of good health. If unaddressed, rising living costs will leave people in health-harming, even life-threatening, situations in the short term, while embedding a public health timebomb for the future. For children, many have already faced educational and health challenges during the pandemic; adding a cost-of-living crisis will only worsen their prospects. Governments face a choice: to ensure that citizens can maintain a decent standard of living during this crisis or to allow population health fragmentation further. Instead of economists sounding the alarm, public health leaders must step up and speak out about the health consequences of failing to protect communities from the cost-of-living crisis engulfing nations.” Rising inflation around the world surely is not helping.


Researchers have been slowly incorporating information handed down by generations of indigenous populations into their research. The latest example to bear fruit is in the field of ecology. Per Nature, “Indigenous oral accounts have helped scientists to reconstruct a 3,000-year history of a large fire-prone forest in California. The results suggest that parts of the forest are denser than ever before, and are at risk of severe wildfires1. The research is part of a growing effort to combine Indigenous knowledge with other scientific data to improve understanding of ecosystem histories. ‘When I was a little kid, my grandmother used to burn around the house,’ says Rod Mendes, fire chief for the Yurok Tribe fire department, whose family is part of the Karuk Tribe of northern California. The Karuk and Yurok tribes have called the Klamath Mountains home for thousands of years. ‘She was just keeping the place clean. Native people probably did some of the first prescribed fire operations in history,’ says Mendes.” There must be a high ceiling to what can achieved by scientist-indigenous population collaborations.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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