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

Papua New Guinea on the chopping block

Although Papua New Guinea seems a world away and lost in time, the West is implicated in the destruction of its forests

Eight members of the Kimadi tribe stand, crouch or sit on the hard ground, knotty with exposed tree roots, enjoying the relative cool offered by a verdant canopy of leaves overhead. Just a few metres away, the quiet clear waters of a Bismarck Sea lagoon, filled with small schools of striped tropical fish, lap against the grassy bank. The setting is tranquil and bucolic – but not for the Kimadi, who have travelled from their traditional territory in Madang province in Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific to consult with an NGO, the Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG). Founded in 1996 and headquartered just outside the town of Madang, BRG provides consulting services and advice to Indigenous groups like the Kimadi who are fighting ever-growing threats from logging and palm oil development on their lands.

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Trees and the laws of supply and demand

Illegal import bans and ecotourism protect tropical forests

Worldwide, Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme estimate the value of the yearly trade in illegal harvested timber at between US$30 billion and $100 billion, or 10-30% of global wood trade.

About 7.3 million hectares of forest – an area the size of Panama – is lost every year to deforestation, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. At the current pace, the Earth’s tropical rainforests will be gone within the next century.

The demand side

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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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