Children Given Antihistamines to Sleep Amidst Rise in Hunger
Severe food aid cuts in Afghanistan are leading many mothers to undertake desperate measures, including sedation with antihistamines, to calm their hungry children. Over ten million Afghans have stopped receiving emergency food from the United Nations World Food Program and other agencies due to funding shortfalls. Now, more than three million children are suffering from malnutrition, and over twelve million people are experiencing acute hunger. The two million households run by women in Afghanistan are disproportionately impacted by these aid cuts because the Taliban prohibits women from working, leading many women to rely on donations to feed their families. Many women are now using antihistamines and other drugs that involve sedation as a side effect to help their hungry children sleep. One woman said, “I give it so that she doesn’t wake up and ask for milk because I have no milk to give her. After giving her the medicine, she sleeps from one morning to the next.” She continued, “Sometimes I check to see if she’s alive or dead.”
Women’s Rights Focus of DRC Elections
Women’s issues are a centerpiece of current elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Nearly thirty thousand women are running for office, including national and provincial deputies and municipal councilors. DRC’s current President, Felix Tshisekedi, has also chosen women’s issues, such as free maternity care, as one of his campaign focal points. An initiative to make maternity care free of charge was implemented in September 2023, and many families have already benefited from the coverage. “Before free childbirth, if you didn’t pay, they kept you in the hospital until the bill was paid,” said one mother. Medical staff claim that this initiative saves the lives of mothers and their children, who often refuse care because of cost. The election results will start being announced today, with Tshisekedi taking the lead in initial polls.
Polish Abortion Legislation Violates Right to Privacy
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland’s abortion laws—which prohibits the procedure except to protect the life or health of a mother or in the case of rape—breached a woman’s right to privacy and family life. The case centered on a woman whose fetus was diagnosed with trisomy 21, or Down syndrome. The woman learned that her fetus had the disorder at fourteen weeks and scheduled an abortion. But the procedure was set for one day after Poland criminalized abortions, and her appointment was canceled. Although she was able to terminate her pregnancy in the Netherlands, Poland has been ordered to pay damages for interfering with her protected rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. “We expect the new Polish government to liberalize abortion law,” said a Polish woman’s rights organization that had lawyers representing the applicant. “A return to the legal situation before the ruling of the Polish constitutional court is not enough – what is needed is access to legal abortion regardless of the reason.”