Due to ongoing conflict in Yemen about 75% of the population — 22.2 million people — are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million people in acute need, urgently requiring assistance to survive. Some 17.8 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 8.4 million are considered at risk of starvation. Acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children under the age of five.

But during conflict situations humanitarian aid becomes difficult to be delivered and medical professionals find it hard to reach out to affected population.

The world today is faced with challenges of new types of diseases. The Zika virus, Swine flu, SARS, Dengue, Chikungunya etc have become endemic in many parts of the globe. These need more research to fight back. Climatic changes are further worsening the situation; these are accompanied with various diseases, which may occur as a direct result of climate variations and also because of natural calamities and crop failures, which follow as a consequence of climate change. Increase in temperature by 2-3ºC would increase the number of people who, in climatic terms, are at risk of malaria by around 3-5%, i.e. several hundred million. According to World Health Report 2002, climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of worldwide diarrhea, and 6% of malaria in some middle-income countries.

Utilization of energy resources for production, maintenance, deployment and use of arms has grave environmental and climatic effects. A study on climatic effect of limited nuclear exchange cautions that two billion people would be at risk due to fall in temperature in various parts of the world leading to crop failure, malnutrition, conflicts and diseases in the event of limited use of about 100 nuclear weapons. A major nuclear exchange could lead to extinction of modern civilization.

Increase in spending on arms race causes serious resource crunch on health, education and development. The developing countries and poor in these countries are the worst-affected. Whatever resources are available are diverted away from common people. We have an example of Bengal famine where around 40 lakh people were reported to have died because the British government under Winston Churchill at that time in mid 1940s diverted food material to its soldiers in Burma thus depriving the people in Bengal and Odisha of their basic sustenance diet and landing them in extreme malnutrition and death.

The trend to increase arms spending has to be reversed. If the US increases its spending on arms, then do not expect other countries like Russia, China, India, Pakistan and others not to follow suit. This will have a collateral global effect and the world may be pushed to serious health crisis.

There is need for strong public movements. During the period of Cold War in 1986 there were 64,449 nuclear warheads on earth out of which the US had 23,317 and Russia 40,159. But the resistance to this nuclear weapons race was equally powerful. There were huge demonstrations around the globe against nuclear weapons. In the early 1980s, the revival of the nuclear arms race triggered large protests against nuclear weapons. In October 1981 half a million people took to the streets in several cities in Italy; more than 250,000 people protested in Bonn; 250,000 demonstrated in London; and 100,000 marched in Brussels. The largest anti-nuclear protest was held on June 12, 1982, when one million people demonstrated in New York City against nuclear weapons. In October 1983, nearly 3 million people across western Europe protested against nuclear missile deployments and demanded an end to arms race; the largest crowd of almost one million people assembled in the Hague in the Netherlands. In Britain, 400,000 people participated in what was probably the largest demonstration in British history. We lack such strong protests these days. Complacency and apathy can be disastrous. (IPA Service)