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Roberta Staley is the editor of the Canadian Chemical News and freelance writer who reports from conflict and post-conflict zones.

Breastfeeding for the apocalypse

The need for more effective policies for infant feeding during emergencies

To say that Lourdes Santaballa of Puerto Rico was lucky is an understatement. When Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean archipelago on September 20, Santaballa, single mom to an 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, was hunkered down at home with stores of food and water in her concrete house, west of the capital of San Juan. Santaballa’s former mother-in-law was also sheltering with the family. Together, they waited for the hammer to fall.

And fall it did. For 30 hours, Hurricane Maria, nearly a Category 5 storm, severely damaged or destroyed roadways, bridges and residences and left citizens without power or clean running water. At Santaballa’s home, a huge mahogany tree, which stood in a park directly opposite, was uprooted and catapulted by the tempest almost to the front door. It was a blessing in disguise. The tree’s vast green crown blocked the 250 km/h winds. “There was water and mud in my foyer but the glass windows weren’t broken,” Santaballa says.

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The cola kids of El Salvador

Youth in El Salvador are addicted to soft drinks, resulting in an epidemic of childhood tooth rot and gum disease.

SAN SALVADOR — What could be duller than waiting to see the dentist? “Muy aburridos” — so bored! — four boys say as they roll their eyes. It’s just after noon, and Oscar, Josué and Eduardo, all 10, as well as Vladimir, 11, are in line with hundreds of others at a government building in Santo Tomás, El Salvador. They’re waiting to see one of the Canadian doctors or dentists who are here on a Canadian medical mission organized by Speroway, a faith-based charity started 13 years ago to help the needy. Like the boys, many of those in the queue have been here since 7 a.m. to ensure they snag a place with one of the health professionals.

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Telehealth gives access to all

Doctors are using technology in creative ways to treat those isolated from modern health care conveniences.

Dr. Raghu Venugopal – along with other staff at Am Timan Hospital in Chad – was stumped. The two-year-old patient he was attending to was feverish, his legs and back covered in an ulcerating rash.

“I had never seen it before,” says Venugopal, who was medical team leader for a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mission last year in Chad, a north-central African nation roiled by decades of civil strife, war, famine and drought.

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Up, up and away

Modern cargo airships are being designed to carry enormous payloads into disaster zones and other remote areas.

Last November, Typhoon Haiyan left a swath of destruction through Southeast Asia, flattening buildings and killing and maiming thousands of people. The suffering was exacerbated by a thwarted emergency response. In places like the Philippines, survivors endured hunger, thirst, exposure and a dearth of medical aid for days while disaster response teams – military and civilian – were bottlenecked at airports. Key infrastructure was destroyed, so teams were prevented from delivering their life-saving cargo. Aircraft couldn’t land. Vehicles couldn’t safely pass through the razed landscape.

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Own or share?

No longer just an urban experiment, car and bike sharing services are catching on with a younger generation.

Everything in life is somewhere else,” wrote American author and essayist E.B. White, “and you get there in a car.”

No truer words were spoken about North America’s love affair with the automobile, from 1957 tailfin Chevrolets to Ford Mustangs through Chrysler minivans and Ford SUVs. But shifting economic sands, rising fuel prices and the spectre of carbon-emission-linked climate change are chipping away at that obsession. Although there is still nearly one car for every two people in the United States, a tectonic force – the fee-based sharing of cars and bicycles – is starting to be felt.

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