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Time Square preparing for International Yoga Day celebrations

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In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York
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In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York
In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York (IANS)

New York: As the world celebrates International Day of Yoga on Sunday in a unique event that is in many ways an endorsement of the Indian way of life, more than 30,000 people are expected to participate in a mass demonstration of the ancient art in the city’s Times Square, after global leaders and diplomats from around the world launch the observance at the UN headquarters.

Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon is to deliver the keynote address at the start of the day’s celebrations at the UN headquarters in an open plaza along the East River. India’s Permanent Representative, Asoke Kumar Mukerji, told reporters here Tuesday. General Assembly President, Sam Kutesa and External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj are slated to speak on the occasion along with representatives of some of the nations that co-sponsored the International Day of Yoga resolution.

Sri Sri Ravishankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, is to give a lecture on the benefits of yoga and lead a demonstration by several hundred people at the UN and, through a video link, the thousands on Times Square – which is known as “the crossroads of the world.”

The UN celebrations are to be webcast on the UN network, and also are supposed to be shown on the NASDAQ market building’s giant, seven storey-tall video screen, and also on Times Square.

“Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spirtual health and well-being,” Ban said in his message for International Day of Yoga. “It promotes respect for one’s fellow human beings and for the planet we share.”

He said that he had tried out yoga by doing the tree pose or Vrksasana, and “appreciated the simple sense of satisfaction that yoga can bring.”

A manifestation of the universal value of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” — the world is one family, the UN General Assembly resolution for International Day of Yoga was co-sponsored by 177 nations, and adopted by acclamation by the 193-member organisation, Mukerji said. This was the largest number of co-sponsors ever for such a resolution, he added.

The idea of an International Day of Yoga was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the General Assembly last September, calling yoga “a holistic approach to health and well being” and to finding “the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

“Yoga embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; the harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

For yoga day to be observed starting this year, Mukerji said that the resolution for it had to be passed by the General Assembly before the end of last year but the calendar had already been set with no room for fresh items.

The Indian Mission found a way around this, by invoking the association Modi made between health and yoga, Mukerji said. They had the Yoga Day resolution introduced as part of the health agenda, that was already on the calendar for December, he said.

The Mission brought the full force of multilateral diplomacy to bear the project, he said. The Indian diplomats were able to have the 18-sponsors they initially had, which then snowball to reach a total of 177 co-sponsors. And when both the United States and China signed on, the effort gained momentum.

Asked by a reporter about the role of Muslim countries as co-sponsors, and the controversies raised in India by some Muslims, Mukerji said that yoga was presented as a health matter with no religious undertones, and he pointed out that 47 of the 56 members of the Muslim grouping, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, joined as co-sponsors. While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia did not co-sponsor, they did not object to the resolution either. (IANS)

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Ebola Outbreaks in Congo

Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour's flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.

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Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge.
Ebola virus outbreaks again. Pixabay.

Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak does not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency, the World Health Organization announced Friday, as health officials rushed to contain the often deadly virus (Ebola) that has spread to a city of more than 1 million.

The vast, impoverished country now has 14 confirmed Ebola cases, with dozens of others probable or suspected.

WHO officials, speaking after an experts’ meeting on the outbreak, said vaccinations could begin as early as Sunday in a key test of an experimental vaccine.

The health agency called the risk to the public in Congo “very high” and the regional risk high, with the global risk low. The Republic of Congo and Central African Republic are nearby and are among nine neighboring countries alerted. WHO said there should be no international travel or trade restrictions.

Dr. Robert Steffen, who chaired the expert meeting, said there was “strong reason to believe this situation can be brought under control.”

He noted the almost immediate response by WHO and partners after Ebola was announced in Congo last week. Without a vigorous response, “the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly,” he added. If the outbreak spreads internationally, the expert committee would reconvene to reconsider its assessment of the epidemic.

Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour’s flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.

For a health crisis to constitute a global health emergency it must meet th

Until now, the outbreak had been confined to remote rural areas, where Ebola, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected, travels more slowly.
Ebola Virus. Wikimedia.

ree criteria stipulated by WHO: It must threaten other countries via the international spread of disease, it must be a “serious, unusual or unexpected” situation, and it may require immediate international action for containment.

‘Major, major game-changer’

Ebola has twice made it to Congo’s capital in the past and was rapidly stopped. Congo has had the most Ebola outbreaks of any country, and Dr. David Heymann, a former WHO director who has led numerous responses to Ebola, said authorities there have considerable expertise in halting the lethal virus.

To read more on the same topic: How Chikungunya Virus Causes Arthritis Pain Decoded

The Ebola vaccine proved highly effective in the West Africa outbreak a few years ago, although the vaccine was used long after the epidemic had peaked. More than 4,000 doses have arrived in Congo this week, with more on the way, and vaccinations are expected to start next week. One challenge will be keeping the vaccine cold in a region with poor infrastructure and patchy electricity.

Just one Ebola death in the current outbreak has been confirmed so far. Congo’s health ministry late Thursday said the total number of cases is 45, including 10 suspected and 21 probable ones.

The health ministry said two new deaths have been tied to the cases, including one in a suburb of Mbandaka. The other was in Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week. It is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Mbandaka.

“This is a major, major game-changer in the outbreak,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO’s emergency response chief, warned Thursday after the first urban case was announced. “Urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do.”

Until now, the outbreak had been confined to remote rural areas, where Ebola, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected, travels more slowly.

Health teams

Doctors Without Borders said 514 people believed to have been in contact with infected people were being monitored. WHO said it was deploying about 30 more experts to Mbandaka.

Read more: Study Shows That Antibacterial in Toothpaste May Combat Severe Lung Diseases

Amid fears of the outbreak spreading to neighboring countries, the U.N. migration agency said Friday it would support the deployment of Congolese health teams to 16 entry points along the nearby border with the Republic of Congo for infection control and prevention.

The U.N. children’s agency said it was mobilizing hundreds of community workers to raise awareness on protection against the disease.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain. VOA.