|HEALTH TRIBUNE||Wednesday, January 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
THE AIDS PROBLEM
AYURVEDA & TOTAL HEALTH
Tackle brain drain with more brains
The term "brain drain" must rank as one of the most overworked rhyming cliches ever coined. Yet it shows no sign of being retired. The reason is that the problem that led to its coinage has not disappeared. But the solution, writes a well known African media commentator, has to be creative and progressive, not backward-looking.
Item: The number of foreign nurses registered to work in Britain rose by 41 per cent last year.
Item: A new project to stem the tide of skilled migrants from Southern Africa has just been unveiled inJohannesburg.
Item: Pakistan is facing a massive brain drain as foreign embassies are deluged with record numbers of visa applications from Pakistanis desperate to leave their country.
And so it goes on. Why is it that the brain drain is widely recognised as a major deterrent to development in the South, yet Southern governments seem incapable of doing anything to solve it?
The answer lies in the very nature of the brain drain. People who are receiving training to practise certain skills do not generally set out to desert their country as soon as they have become qualified. Their minds are made up for them by a combination of factors. High among these is expectations. Students face many hardships during their training and they see the successful ending of their training period as their opportunity to reap rewards, such as good jobs.
If these rewards do not materialise, perhaps because they were based on excessively high expectations, they start packing their bags.
They rely upon word-of-mouth advertisements by their peers to determine where and when to go. No matter that these reports are often exaggerated to add glamour to the "greener pastures" that lie overseas - once disaffection with the home scene sets in, the only cure is a quick exist.
Recently, a fully-qualified gynaecologist from Afghanistan was on the radio in London describing what she had had to endure in Britain, trying to obtain a job. She had written no fewer than 100 applications but received only one reply. After being interviewed, she was told she was "over-qualified" for the job. She had only been employed once since arriving in Britain. That was as a laboratory assistant — way below her qualifications.
What makes a person choose to go through an experience like that?
In this case, the ruling Taliban militia in Afghanistan had already dehumanised her by prescribing what clothes she must wear and the conditions under which she must go to work (if she was allowed to work at all, as she is a woman).
Her country's rulers, in short, had created such a stifling atmosphere that few people able to leave stayed back.
Key to the continuing exist of skilled people from the developing countries, then, is this : most of our societies pay to train their brain-power to the highest level possible, technologically.But while the students are acquiring technological know-how, they are benefiting from the high intellectual standards to which they are automatically - and simultaneously - exposed, through the exciting wonders of information technology.
The world of ideas is bared to them like the genie in the bottle. And once information is acquired, it cannot be unlearned.
It is no longer possible for an engineer, doctor, economist or sociologist, to limit their participation in society's affairs to the mere practice of their own specialised skills. They will apply their analytical skills to every aspect of society, and if any jumped-up politician or religious zealot orders them to confine themselves to their field, they will resist.
If they feel that their quest for debate and change in society poses a threat to their livelihood as a professional - or their actual life, as happens only too often - they will leave.
Developing countries must face that in the modern age, it will become more and more difficult to acquire and retain the skills needed to advance society, if no commensurate effort is put into creating the enabling atmosphere that will spurt society forward.
Of course, not every country can tackle all the issues posed by the brain drain, but a few are seeking ingenious ways to deal with its consequences. One of the most imaginative schemes occurred in Ghana at the end of July this year, when "a homecoming summit" was organised in Accra for hundreds of Ghanaians scattered around the world.
The idea was to offer them an opportunity to engage in a live dialogue with newly elected President John Kufuor and members of his cabinet. From all accounts, the meeting went well.
Kufuor expressed gratitude for the fact that money repatriated home by Ghanaians abroad constitutes the third largest source of foreign exchange for the country. His government, he said, realised that this meant that such a powerful group "deserves to be heard."
The Diasporans gave the government first-hand details of the difficulties that deterred many of them from returning home. Among their reasons: corruption and vindictiveness encountered at the country's airport and sea-ports; indifference and jealousy exhibited towards them by local bureaucrats; and the lack of infrastructure that prevented those who had made money abroad from investing profitably in Ghana.
In Southern Africa, too, a new initiative has been adopted to try and take advantage of those who have left their countries. Sponsored by the UN's International Organisation for Migration(IOM), the scheme is known as Migration for Development. It seeks to bring Diaspora skills and capital back to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, to promote sustainable development.
Speaking about the scheme, Katrin Cowan-Louw of IOMexplained that straight-forward repatriation had been tried in 1993-1998 with funds provided primarily by the European Union, and had successfully placed more than 2,000 skilled Africans back into targeted countries.
But the scheme petered out due to the high cost of repatriation.
What the new initiative sought to do was to organise temporary return, virtual return and economic return.It would "allow skilled Africans working abroad to contribute to the development of their home countries, without giving up the better salaries and lifestyles that they had left to pursue," Cowan-Louw said.
The scheme bears an uncanny resemblance to what the Ghanaians are doing. It could therefore, gain wide acceptance as an idea whose time has come.
Certainly, in today's competitive world, any country that merely sits and moans about "unpatriotic nationals" who have fled with their skills, will be left behind. But if a creative initiative is put in place to integrate the Diasporas into the development process, the result could be a pleasant surprise. — Gemini News
Cameron Duodu is a Ghanaians writer and journalist who is settled in London.
YOUNG people are at the centre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. An estimated 11.8 million people aged between 15 and 24 are living with HIV/AIDS, and half of all new infections — almost 7000 daily — are occurring among young people. Young people are particularly susceptible to HIV infection and they also carry the burden of caring for family members living with HIV/AIDS. Around the world, AIDS is shattering young people’s opportunities for healthy adult lives. Nevertheless it is young people who offer the greatest hope for changing the course of the epidemic.
The Chief Executives of the seven largest international youth organisations, representing almost 100 million young people in the world, want to help those who are infected with HIV and stop more from becoming affected by AIDS.
UNAIDS endorses the work of the seven largest international youth organisations in their efforts to empower young people. These youth organisations give young people appropriate information, education and opportunities to make responsible decisions about their own lives and they empower young people to participate in decisions about the policies, services, information and education provided to young people to prevent HIV/AIDS.
The signatories to the statement are:
1. Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS, 2. Jacques Moreillon,
Secretary-General, World Organisation of the Movement, 3. Lesley
Bulman, Director, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, 4.
Nicholas Nightingale, Secretary-General, World Alliance of Scout
YMCAs, 5. Musimbi Kanyoro, General Secretary World Young Women’s
Alliance of YMCAs, 6. Paul Arengo-Jones, Secretary- General,
International Award Association, 7. Didier Cherpitel,
Secretary-General, The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 8. Rick
Little Secretary-General, International Youth Foundation.
AYURVEDA & TOTAL HEALTH
RIGHT from pea to planet, the five great elements can be seen to exist in the universe at all levels. Ayurveda believes that in the body of a living organism, man for example, they acquire a functional form. At this stage these elements are coded into three biological forces and are called tridosha (humours) — vata, pitta and kapha. This Tridosha Theory forms the basis of ayurvedic physiology and decides its approach towards diagnosis and treatment.
Interestingly, in Sanskrit "dosha" means a fault or a defect. This alerts us to the fact that in balance these doshas are life supporting, but when imbalanced, they are the agents of disease and misery. Each of these doshas is composed of two great elements as vata of air and space, pitta of fire and water and kapha of earth and water. Having both philosophical and physiological connotations, this Tridosha Theory in itself is very complex and exhaustive. But still it can be looked upon in a simple and brief manner by studying some of the important characteristics of each of these doshas.
Vata:It has been described as subtle, clear, dry, cold, rough, flickery and dispersing. Vata is the psychosomatic force of initiation and transmission. It supports the mind, heart, sense organs and intelligence and governs the process of respiration. It initiates the thought process and speech, sends impulses and regulates enthusiasm and endurance.
Vata is also responsible for bodily movements, the transportation of food even to the minutest cell and the segregation of the wastes. It regulates the bowels, urination, the expulsion of semen, the menstrual flow and the foetus. Vata gets vitiated due to fasting, irregular dietary habits, erratic daily routine, excessive exercises and stressful conditions like anxiety, fear, worry and grief. Substances having similar properties as vata also intensify it while those having opposing properties pacify it.
Pitta: It has been described as hot, sharp, light penetrating, unctuous and free-flowing. Pitta controls all types of biological energy in the body and the mind. An array of other complex activities like digestion, metabolism and the hormonal system, too, fall under the realm of pitta. It helps in blood formation and regulates the normal temperature of the body besides producing natural urges like hunger and thirst.
Pitta provides complexion to the skin, maintains vision and supports mental phenomena like intellectual comprehension, conviction, courage and valour. Pitta is aggravated by substance or activities having similar properties to it including the eating of hot, salty, pungent, sour and spicy and non-vegetarian food and exposure to sun and heat. It gets intensified due to anger, hate and jealousy — and in volatile and competitive situations.
Kapha: It is perceived as static, slow, dense, cold, unctuous and heavy. Kapha represents the somatic stability of the universe and governs the structural integrity of all cellular components in the body. It imparts immunity, maintains cohesion between the organs, and regulates the lympathic system, the sense of taste and all the mucous secretions. Kapha also nourishes the joints and maintains the fluid balance of the body.
Psychological phenomena like emotional stability and determination are governed by kapha. Eating heavy and oily food, exposure to cold, excessive sleep and adhering to lethargic and sedentary lifestyle aggravate kapha and opposite conditions pacify it. (Next week - Bhringaraja: something more than a hair tonic).
Dr R. Vatsyayan is an ayurvedic consultant based at the Sanjivani Ayurvedic Centre, Ludhiana. (Phones: 423500 and 431500; E-mail- [email protected])