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DGI Brief - Oct 18, 2016

Good Tuesday to all. Today's top 5 global issues #news are about #child #nutrition, #Syria #Burundi #Afghanistan and #Venezuela:

- WORLD: According to UNICEF, 5 in 6 children under the age 2 suffer limited physical and cognitive development due to lack of proper or sufficient energy & nutrients. Other data is just as concerning:

• One in 5 babies hasn’t been fed any solid foods by the age of 11 months.

• Half of children aged six months to two years are not fed the minimum number of meals for their age, increasing their risk of stunting.

• Less than one-third of children in this age group eat a diverse diet – meaning from four or more food groups daily – causing deficiencies in vitamins & minerals.

• Almost half of pre-school aged children suffer from anaemia.

• Only half of children aged six to 11 months receive any foods from animal sources – including fish, meat, eggs & dairy - which are essential to supply zinc & iron.

• The high cost of foods from animal sources makes it difficult for the poorest families to improve their children’s diet. In Sub-Saharan Africa & South Asia, only one in six children from the poorest households aged six to 11 months eats a minimally diverse diet, compared to one in three from the richest households.

Why it matters: Improving nutrition for young children could save 100,000 lives a year & have significant impact on learning & physical development. We produce enough good food on our planet, we just manage/distribute it appallingly poorly!

- SYRIA: The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Syrian/Russia forces will be halting their bombardment of Aleppo for “humanitarian pauses” on a recurring basis to allow civilians and rebels to flee the city. The first such pause is slated for 8 hours on Thursday. Why it matters: Surely the residents of Aleppo will appreciate even the tiniest respite in the brutal, indiscriminate slaughter reigned upon them, but know this, disgraceful Syria & Russia, there is nothing humanitarian in anything you do. It’s nearly impossible to get aid into Aleppo within an 8-hour window, because just halting bombardment doesn’t mean ceasefire is in place.

- BURUNDI’s President Nkurunziza approved a law that begins the process of withdrawing from the ICC, after the Court indicated it would investigate Burundi for recent violence, brought on by opposition to the President seeking a third term. Why it matters: Burundi will be the 1st country to ever withdraw from the ICC, delivering a blow to accountability & transparency in this troubled East African country. Will it inspire other autocratic, despotic, brutal leaders? Accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity? No problem, just quit the ICC & you won’t have to answer for your crimes. A new low for our world.

- AFGHANISTAN: Reports are surfacing that the Afghan government & the Taliban have restarted secret peace talks in Doha, Qatar after such efforts failed in 2013. Although no official confirmation are available – in fact the Taliban vehemently denied any talks today - senior Afghan, Talib & US official allegedly attended two meetings in September & October. Notably missing were Pakistani representatives. Why it matters: As the Taliban continues to advance throughout Afghanistan, political process is the only viable option, lest we want decades more of violence & suffering. Is the Taliban a stomach-churning negotiating partner? Absolutely. The Afghan governance is weak & often corrupt, but it won’t ever grow, mature & strengthen if the country continues to be engulfed in fighting. Everybody looses that way. What I find encouraging is that Pakistan seems to be loosing the Taliban’s trust. If in fact Pakistan wants to be of help, it should divorce itself from the group to give more negotiating leverage to the peace process. Without its long-standing safe haven in Pakistan, the Taliban may be more willing to seek peaceful solutions.

- The economic crisis crippling VENEZUELA – severe shortage of all basic commodities & supplies – is showing its other ugly, deadly consequence. The infant mortality rate – deaths within the first year of life – has skyrocketed to 18.6 per 1,000 live births, which is a significant increase from previous years. Why it matters: As infant mortality rates steadily decline around the world thanks to targeted developmental & poverty interventions – improved nutrition & health – Venezuela has now surpassed even war-torn Syria (15.4 per 1,000 live births). What is killing these babies? Crumbling healthcare system where sanitation & availability of basic supplies & medicines are almost non-existent. But the government keeps the dire conditions secret & continues to refuse foreign aid. Isn’t it obvious that President Maduro’s rule is not the answer for the country?

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