Three significant events come together in the month of April. The first is the second anniversary of the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombing, which killed more than 250 people at three Churches and tourist hotels in Colombo and Batticaloa.
The second is the Sinhala-Tamil New Year festival and last, but not least, the World Health Day, which fell on April 7.
In 1950, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised April 7, as ‘World Health Day’. A celebration to focus worldwide attention on important aspects of global health. The aim is to create awareness on the scale of health deficiencies large sections of the global population face. Additionally, it seeks strategies to overcome the problem. The day also highlights priority areas of concern of the WHO.
In today’s Covid-19 hit world, many groups struggle to make ends meet with their daily income hard-hit. The country’s children are lacking in nutrition. In the field of education, poorer families are being left behind. In the future, they will face fewer employment opportunities, and have less access to health services. This is not only unfair, it is unjust!
In our own country; since the outbreak of Covid-19, thousands of daily-paid workers, were thrown out of employment overnight. In the mercantile sector, salaries were slashed by 50% with workers receiving around Rs.14,500/- per month. In the plantation sector, workers received Rs. 750/- per day for less than 20 days work per month. A survey carried out by the ‘Daily Mirror’ showed a family of four needs over Rs. 25,000/- for just two basic meals a day.
A majority of the country’s children have missed out on their education since the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2019 Computer Literacy Statistics of the Department of Census and Statistics reveal only 22% of households in the country own a desktop or laptop computer, which in turn means for the period of one year nearly 78% of the country’s children have been cut off from their studies.
As though the already existing problems -brought on via the Covid-19- were not bad enough, with the Sinhala-Tamil New Year almost upon us, the Director General of the Standards Institute revealed that imported sub-standard coconut oil contained the carcinogenic chemical Aflotoxin. Carcinogenic chemicals have the potential to cause cancer and the police discovered bowsers containing carcinogenic-contaminated coconut oil at coconut mills! The importation of coconut oil has been continuing over a period of years. Little wonder than that today, Cancer is a leading cause of death in Sri Lanka.
According to the Registrar General’s Department, the crude annual cancer mortality rate has increased from 27.9 per 100,000 people in 1985 to 43.6 per 100,000 in 2003. According to statistics, in the year 2006, 14,080 newly-diagnosed cancer patients (Crude incidence rate 70.9 per 100,000 people) reported to the government cancer treatment centres. Another national daily on February 10, 2020 reported 38 cancer patients die daily in the country, while 64 new cases of cancer are detected. In 2018, Sri Lanka had a total of 23,530 cancer patients and of this number, 14,013 died from various types of cancers.
The bowsers found in the vicinity of mills at Dankotuwa raises fears that local coconut oil producers are mixing the cheap imported sub-standard oil containing carcinogenic chemical with the locally produced oil prior to marketing it to an unsuspecting public.
However, contaminated coconut oil has not been shown as a major source of cancer in the country. The body is made up of many types of cells. These cells grow and divide in a controlled manner to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new ones.
But sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. The Genetic Material (DNA) of a cell can get damaged and produce mutations. When this happens, cells do not die. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumour. Not all the tumours are cancerous; Benign tumours aren’t cancerous. They can often be removed.
Many studies have shown positive associations between pesticide exposure and solid tumours. The most consistent associations were found for brain and prostate cancer. An association was found between kidney cancer in children and their parents’ exposure to pesticides at work.
Studies show 40% of cancer can be prevented by adopting a healthy diet not using tobacco and engaging in physical activity. Finally, our bureaucrats would do better exposing businesses bent on making profit at the expense of the health of the country.