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Munich Security Conference: African Leaders Absent From Sahel Talks
At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.
In the crowded Bayerischer Hof Hotel, African delegates were in the single digits. Not a single head of state from the continent attended, despite the growing threat of terrorism and the armed conflicts tearing it apart.
A report by Save the Children, published as world leaders convened in Munich, Germany, said at least 95,000 children had been killed or maimed across the world since 2005. Tens of thousands were abducted and millions were denied access to education.
African children were the worst affected, according to Save the Children. Some 170 million across Africa and the Middle East are living in war zones. "You will see that most of the violent conflicts do not feature," Dan Smith, director of SIPRI, an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament, told DW.
Smith is disappointed the international community is not paying attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa. "They (Africans) are not part of the thinking of the security community that is gathered here," Smith adds. "That doesn't mean that this community's concerns are irrelevant, but they're not focused on the Sahel; they are not focused on the Horn of Africa."
Security experts say the West doesn't care because armed conflicts in the Sahel, West Africa and the Horn are far enough away that they don't directly impact EU countries. "When something happens in the Sahel, unless it affects the flow of migration towards Europe — Europe is not particularly concerned about it," Smith says.
Germany Makes a Case for the Sahel
In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa.
"The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism," she said, adding: "That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well."
Kramp-Karrenbauer's statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic's defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara. "I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision," the CAR defense minister told DW.
Koyara said this was not just about politics, but about caring for humanity. The Central African Republic has been stricken by civil war since 2012. A Muslim-dominated coalition of armed groups known as Seleka took over the capital, Bangui, in 2013. Since then, the country has seen thousands killed amid clashes with Christian militias.
"If you look at the million children suffering, the women who are running around to save their own lives, the women who are raped and entire villages bombarded, humanity should not tolerate it," Koyara said, supporting Germany's call for action in conflict-afflicted areas in Africa.
World Bank Beefs up Support
A climate change panel discussion preceded the Munich Security Conference. It reminded the security and political heavyweights in Munich that the war in Darfur 17 years ago was triggered by the effects of climate change and claimed the lives of 300,000 people.
The conflict has since exacerbated environmental degradation in Sudan, forcing more than 2 million people into refugee camps.
Today, climate change-related conflicts are spreading rapidly in the Sahel region.
Some 4.2 million people have been displaced as of March 2019 — one million more than the recorded number in 2018. Violence escalated in 2019, particularly in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the areas around Lake Chad.
In response to the crisis, the World Bank is dispatching its director of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, to the region. "We plan, in the next three years, to provide $53 billion (€49 billion) to the Africa region," he said ahead of his visit to Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Mauritania. "Special attention will be given to the fragile states like the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa and Lake Chad," van Trotsenburg told DW.
The World Bank says it has put a lot of emphasis on good governance and strict controls on the use of "our money." The Sahel countries are marred with issues of mismanagement and corruption, among other problems. "That means if there's corruption and we find out, we will go after those who are abusing the money."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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