Visual Impairment: Global Statistics

Despite impressive gains made by many countries in the last 2 decades in preventing and curing visual impairment, millions of people, especially in middle- to low-income countries are still affected by visual impairment. Following information is from the WHO:​

  • 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision.
  • Almost 90% of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries.​
  • Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.​
  • 80% of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured.​
  • An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired. Of these, 12 million children are visually impaired due to refractive errors, a condition that could be easily diagnosed and corrected. 1.4 million are irreversibly blind for the rest of their lives.

~ Gauri​

London Summit On Family Planning

  • Recently concluded London Summit on Family Planning has delivered a historic promise to improve women's health. The Summit was co-hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Donors have pledged $2.6 billion over the next 8 years to realize the goal of making affordable contraception available to an additional 120 million women and girls in developing countries by 2020. 
  • Highest contribution comes from the UK government ($800 million over 8 years), followed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($ 560 million over 8 years) and the UNFPA ($378 million by 2019). The US did not pledge any money at this summit on the grounds that it has already committed $640 million towards this cause in this year alone. 
  • This funding is expected to result in 200,000 fewer women dying in pregnancy and childbirth, more than 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies, over 50 million fewer abortions, and nearly three million fewer babies dying in their first year of life.

~ Gauri

GDP Per Capita In Eurozone In 2011

Following information was released by the Eurostat late last month, which shows that the per capita GDP (a common indicator of a country's welfare) within the 27 member bloc in 2011 ranged from 45% to 247%:

  • The highest level of GDP per capita in the EU27 was recorded in Luxembourg with a level of more than 2.5 times the EU27 average. 
  • The Netherlands were just above 30% of the average, while Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Austria were between 25% and 30% above. 
  • Finland, Belgium and Germany were between 15% and 20% above the average, while France and the UK were between 5% and 10% above. 
  • In Italy and Spain, GDP per capita was around the EU27 average.
  • Cyprus was around 10% below the EU27 average, while Slovenia, Malta, Greece, the Czech Republic and Portugal were between 15% and 25% lower, and Slovakia was around 25% below. 
  • Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania were between 30% and 40% lower than the average, while Latvia was around 40% below, Romania around 50% below and Bulgaria 55% below.

~ Gauri

2012 Millennial Values Survey: A Generation In Transition

A survey of college-age Millennials (Americans ages 18-24) was recently conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Here're some interesting tidbits from the 2012 Millennial Values Survey:  

  • Political identification: 45% of young Millennials identify themselves as Independent, while 33% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans.
  • 76% say that jobs and unemployment represent a critical issue. Majorities also report that the federal deficit (55%) and education (54%) are critical issues facing the nation. 
  • While only 11% of Millennials were religiously unaffiliated in childhood, 25% currently identify as unaffiliated, a 14-point increase. 
  • 23% believe that the Bible is the word of God and should be taken literally, word for word. Roughly 37% say that the Bible is a book written by men and is not the word of God.
  • 62% of the Millennials believe that present-day Christianity is “judgmental.”
  • A strong majority (63%) of younger Millennials agree that one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life. 
  • A slim majority (51%) of Millennials believe that having an abortion is morally wrong, compared to 37% who say it is morally acceptable.
  • 59% of college-age Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to 37% who are opposed.
  • Younger Millennials strongly support the central components of the DREAM Act – allowing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college (61% favor, 35% oppose).  

~ Gauri 

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

On occasion of the Asian/Pacific American Heritage month, here are a few interesting facts from the US Census: 

  • According to the 2010 census, an estimated 17.3 million US residents are of Asian descent - that's 5.6% of total US population.
  • Of these, Chinese Americans comprise the highest numbers - 3.8 million; followed by Filipinos (3.4 million), Asian Indians (3.2 million), Vietnamese (1.7 million), Koreans (1.7 million) and Japanese (1.3 million). 
  • Almost twice as many Asian Americans (50%) age 25 or older have a bachelor's degree or higher education compared with rest the US population.
  • Median Asian American household income in 2010 was $67,022. 
  • In 2007, Asian Americans owned 1.5 million businesses in the US, an increase of 40.4% from 2002. Total receipts of these businesses in 2007 was $506 billion, an increase of 54.9% from 2002. 

~ Gauri

Women In Agriculture

Following information is from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Half of all farmers in the developing world are women, and women farmers can grow 30% more food if they have access to the same resources as men. 
  • Women in the developing world are 5 times less likely than men to own land, and their farms are usually smaller and less fertile.
  • Many women work 6 hours more a day than men on tasks like cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, which limits the time they have to farm.
  • Women have much less access to financial tools that can help them invest in their farms and be more productive. Women farmers receive currently just 5% of available credit.
  • Knowledge is one of the most important tools a farmer can have. Women have less access to technology and experts who have critical information to help them be more productive. 
  • When women grow more and earn more, they spend it on food, clothing, healthcare, and education for their children. Greater yields from women farmers can increase food security and reduce dependence on aid. By helping women farmers boost production, we could reduce global hunger by 150 million people.

~ Gauri

One Third Of The World Is Now Online

Following information is from the UN ITU's (International Telecommunications Union) 2011 report:

  • One third of the world's population is now online, with 45% of Internet users under the age of 25.
  • 25% of the world's Internet users come from China.
  • Europe leads in broadband connectivity, with fixed- and mobile-broadband penetration reaching 26% and 54%, respectively. 
  • South Korea has the highest speeds of broadband conenction, with almost all of its fixed-broadband connections equal to or in excess of 10Mbit/s. 
  • Over the last few years, the cost of broadband service has dropped gobally; however there are still significant differences between high-income economies and low-income economies. 

~ Gauri

Global Obesity Epidemic

Following information is from the WHO: 

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.
  • In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
  • Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010. 
  • Once considered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. Close to 35 million overweight children are living in developing countries and 8 million in developed countries.
  • Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. 
  • In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

~ Gauri

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Children At Auschwitz; Image Source:Wiki

Each year January 27th is marked as the 'International Holocaust Remembrance Day'. It was on this day in 1945 that Auschwitz - the largest death camp run by the Nazis - was liberated by the Soviet troops. The UN has dedicated this year's remembrance to the memory of children who perished in the holocaust.  

  • Almost one and a half million children, including more than a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Roma children were killed by the Nazis. 
  • Many died at the death camps, while some died of abuse, neglect, illnesses and starvation. Several children were sent straight to the gas chambers upon arrival at Auschwitz.
  • At least 5,000 disabled children were killed in Hitler's 'Euthanasia Program' which targeted children with serious physical and mental disabilities. 
  • Many children, especially twins were used by German researchers in their various, dubious medical experiments, which either killed the kids or the kids were killed at the end of the experiments when they were no longer needed by the Germans.
  • Adolescents were recruited in forced labor camps. 
  • Countless children who survived the holocaust found themselves orphaned at the end of this nightmare.  

~ Gauri

India On Track To Be Polio-Free

This week the WHO announced that there have been no new registered cases of polio in India since January 13, 2011. Now if all the pending samples test negative for the polio virus (testing expected to take 4-6 weeks); then the country is on track to achieve a historic milestone of being polio-free. 

  • Historically India along with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are considered the epicenter of polio in the world. Eradication of polio from India is thus a major achievement.
  • India's mass vaccination efforts - immunizing more than 170 million children under the age of five annually with additional children (up to 70 million) who are deemed high risk immunized multiple times - is credited with this achievement. 
  • India is one of the largest donors to polio eradication efforts, being largely self-financed. By 2013, India will have contributed US$ 2 billion towards polio eradication.

Indian government has received praise from all over the world for its dedication and good work towards polio eradication. 

~ Gauri

Apollo 8: Christmas 1968

Following information & image are from NASA:

'Earthrise' from NASA


Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts--Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders--held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth." They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.

~ Gauri

Most Expensive On Earth: Tokyo, Oslo, Geneva...

This week the ECA International released its global rankings for 2011 based on the cost of living. Here are some interesting tidbits from the ECA report: 

  • Top five most expensive cities in the world (in descending order): Tokyo, Oslo, Geneva, Nagoya & Zurich. 
  • Angola’s capital, Luanda at #11, is the most expensive city in Africa.
  • In North America, Vancouver at #43 followed by New York's Manhattan at #46, are the most expensive areas. 
  • The most expensive locations in mainland China are Beijing at #35 and Shanghai at #41. 
  • Venezuala's capital, Caracas at #13 is the most expensive city in Latin America. 

~ Gauri

The American Thanksgiving Tradition

  • The National Turkey Federation reports that an estimated 46 million turkeys were consumed by Americans on Thanksgiving Day 2010. That amounts to 736 million pounds of turkey meat eaten during a single holiday. 
  • Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which first started in 1924, is now watched every year by an estimated 3 million people who line the streets of New York and another 50 million who watch it on the TV.
  • In 2010, according the American Automobile Association (AAA), an estimated 42.2 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving. 
  • The first national Thanksgiving football broadcast by NBC radio was in 1934, when the Detroit Lions played against the Chicago Bears on the Thanksgiving Day. Since then the Lions have played a game every Thanksgiving Day, except in 1939 & 1944.

~ Gauri

Global Intellectual Property Trade: $180 Billion Annually

Earlier this week, the Geneva based UN organization - WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) - released a landmark report about the global economics of intellectual property (IP) trade. Here are a few highlights from the WIPO report:

  • Global revenues from royalty and licensing fee have vastly increased from $2.8 billion in 1970 to $27 billion in 1990, and to almost $180 billion in 2009. This surpasses the rate of growth in the global GDP over the same period. 
  • Global R&D expenditure almost doubled in real terms from 1993 to 2009. Most R&D spending still takes place in high-income countries – around 70% of the world total. They spend around 2.5% of their GDP on R&D – more than double the rate of middle-income economies.
  • Low- and middle-income economies increased their share of global R&D expenditure by 13% between 1993 and 2009. China accounts for most of this increase – more than 10 percentage points – propelling China to the world’s second largest R&D spender in 2009.
  • Demand for patents has risen from 800,000 applications worldwide in the early 1980s to 1.8 million in 2009. This increase has occurred in different waves, with Japan driving filing growth in the 1980s, joined by the US, Europe and South Korea in the 1990s and, more recently, by China.
  • Trademark applications worldwide increased from 1 million per year in the mid-1980s to 3.3 million in 2009. Similarly, industrial design applications worldwide more than doubled from about 290,000 in 2000 to 640,000 in 2009.

~ Gauri 

International Tourism Is Booming

Following data is obtained from the report (titled 'Tourism Towards 2030') released earlier this week by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 

  • The number of tourists travelling outside their countries is projected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, with emerging economies responsible for the highest growth rates.
  • An average of 43 million additional people are becoming international tourists every year; which amounts to a 3.3% annual increase in the tourism industry.
  • By 2030 five million people will be crossing international borders every day.
  • By 2015, emerging economies will receive more international tourists than advanced economies, and by 2030 their share is expected to reach 58%.
  • By 2030 North-East Asia will be the most visited region in the world, taking over from Southern and Mediterranean Europe, and most tourists will come from Asia and the Pacific, followed by European travellers. 

~ Gauri

Global Literacy Rates Improving But 796 Million Cannot Read & Write

Image Source: UNESCO

The International Literacy Day was celebrated recently on September 8th. This year's theme was the co-relation between literacy and peace. Here are some important facts about world literacy from the UNESCO:

  • In 2008, 796 million adults worldwide (15 years and older) reported not being able to read and write and two-thirds of them (64%) were women. 
  • More than half of those unable to read and write – 412 million – lived in Southern Asia. A further 176 million adults were in sub-Saharan Africa. Together, these two regions accounted for three-quarters (74%) of adults unable to read and write worldwide. 
  • The adult literacy rate increased by about 8 percentage points globally over the past 20 years – an increase of 6% for men and 10% for women.
  • In almost all countries, youth literacy rates (i.e. for the population aged 15-24 years) were higher than adult literacy rates in 2008. Thus, adult literacy rates will continue to improve in the coming years due to progress among younger generations. 

~ Gauri

Global Neonatal Mortality: An Uphill Battle

The WHO along with Save the Children released a new landmark report in Geneva earlier this week on global neonatal mortality (deaths in the first four weeks of life). Here are some highlights: 

  • Each year more than 8 million children die before their fifth birthday from mostly preventable and treatable illnesses.
  • Globally newborn deaths have decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009, however neonatal deaths still account for 41% of total deaths in children under the age of five.
  • Three most common causes of neonatal deaths are: preterm delivery (29%), asphyxia (23%) and severe infections, such as sepsis and pneumonia (25%). Simple interventions such as improved hygiene during labor and delivery can significantly improve the baby's chances of survival. 
  • Almost 99% of newborn deaths occur in the developing world, with more than half of these deaths occuring in just five countries – India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
  • India has the highest number of newborn deaths in the world with more than 900,000 newborn deaths per year, nearly 28% of the global total.
  • With a reduction of 1% per year in neonatal mortality, Africa has seen the slowest progress of any region in the world. At the current rate of progress it would take the African continent more than 150 years to reach U.S. or U.K. newborn survival levels.

~ Gauri

Help Urgently Needed In Horn Of Africa

Following map is from the UN's WFP (World Food Programme), depicting the dire food crisis in the Horn of Africa, which is experincing the worst drought in six decades. In the map, click on 'show legend' to better understand the extent of food crisis. You can donate to the WFP by clicking on 'DONATE NOW'.

You can also donate via texting: In the US text the word AID to the number: 27722 to donate $10. In Canada, text the word RELIEF to the number: 45678 to donate $5. In the UK, text the word AID to the number: 70303 to donate £3. And in South Africa, text the word FOOD to the number: 38727 to donate R10. Money goes to the WFP, which is providing free food to millions of starving Africans. 


~ Gauri

China's Massive Desertification

Desertification, a process by which arable land is gradually degraded into non-arable land and a desert landscape due to a combination of climate change and human causes like rapid population growth, improper farming practices, over utilization of land resources etc., is a global concern. However no country is more affected by this phenomenon than China.

  • Today over 30% of the total land territory in China has been lost to deserts. 
  • China has lost close to 660,000 squares miles of land to deserts just between 2005 and 2009.
  • This has adversely impacted the livelihoods of more than 400,000 million Chinese people, who are unable to sustain livelihood in a non-arable landscape. 
  • To combat this problem, China has launched a massive tree planting campaign, to re-vegetate the land, with planting shrubs and trees. 
  • Despite these efforts, earlier this year Chinese officials warned that it will take the country 300 years to reclaim China's deserts, at the current rate of progress.

~ Gauri

End Of An Era For NASA's Space Shuttle Program

At 5:57 a.m. EDT on July 21, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis landed for the final time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center after 200 orbits around Earth and a journey of 5,284,862 miles on the STS-135 mission and final flight for the Space Shuttle Program (SSP). (Image and information are from NASA.)

Atlantis Landing @ Kennedy Space Ctr, Image Source: NASA

  • The Space Shuttle is considered the most complex machine built by humans and is the fastest winged vehicle ever to fly, with an orbital velocity of 17,500 mph. 
  • The SSP started off with the launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981 and has had 135 launches since then. 
  • Over the past 3 decades, the SSP has launched 802 crew members into space, and carried more than 3,450,143 pounds of cargo on board. 
  • Over the life of the SSP, the total operational costs (not adjusted for inflation) have been $113.7 billion.
  • Due to diligent efforts by innumerable people, including the men and women who perished aboard Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003); the SSP has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of this planet and the universe we live in; that has translated into significant scientific and technological progress. 

~ Gauri