Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 19 August 2023

WHO holds first traditional medicine summit

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

The World Health Organization opened its first summit on traditional medicine with the group saying it was seeking to collect evidence and data to allow for the safe use of such treatmentsTraditional medicines are a "first port of call for millions of people worldwide", the UN health agency said.

More about the summit

  • The two-day WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit takes place alongside a meeting of G20 health ministers in the Indian city of Gandhinagar.
  • The first global traditional summit, co-hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Ayush.
  • This summit is designed to foster political commitment and evidence-based action in the field of traditional medicine.
  • As a vital healthcare source for millions worldwide, traditional medicine will be closely examined and evaluated as a formidable force in addressing health and well-being needs.
  • With a wide array of engagement groups, working groups, and meetings, this event aims to represent the interests of the Global South countries within the G20 framework.
  • The theme of "One Earth, One Family, One Future" embodies India's philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

More about traditional medicine

  • The UN health agency defines traditional medicine as the knowledgeskills and practices used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness.
  • But many traditional treatments have no proven scientific value and conservationists say the industry drives a rampant trade in endangered animals -- including tigersrhinos and pangolins -- threatening the existence of entire species.
  • Use of homemade remedies soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a green herbal drink based on Artemisia that was promoted by Madagascar's president as a cure.
  • The plant has a proven efficacy in malaria treatment, but its use to combat Covid was widely scorned by many doctors.
  • In Chinatraditional medicine has a distinguished history, but top European medical bodies have previously demanded it be subject to the same regulatory oversight as conventional medical methods.


  • Of the WHO's 194 member states, 170 acknowledged their use of traditional and complementary medicine since 2018, but only 124 reported having laws or regulations for the use of herbal medicines -- while only half had a national policy on such methods and medicines.
  • About 40 percent of approved pharmaceutical products currently in use derive from a "natural product basis", according to the WHO, which cited "landmark drugs" that derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, drawing on formulations using willow tree bark.


New non-poor emerging in India

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day address that in the first five-year term of his government, “13.5 crore of my fellow poor brothers and sisters have broken free from the chains of poverty and entered the new middle class”. The 13.5-crore number cited by the PM appears in the second National Multidimensional Poverty Index report that was published by Niti Aayog on 17 July 2023 (Some highlights in chart). The first such report was published in 2021.

What is the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)?

  • The national MPI measures deprivations across the three dimensions of health and nutritioneducation, and standard of living.
  • Within health, it tracks three variables: nutritionchild and adolescent mortality, and maternal health.
  • In education, it tracks two variables: years of schooling, and school attendance. And in standard of living, it tracks seven variables such as sanitationdrinking waterbank account, etc.
  • The index is based on the methodology used by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to construct the Global MPI. OPHI and UNDP are technical partners in the formulation of the national index.
  • But India’s MPI is not exactly the same as the Global MPI. For instance, India’s MPI has 12 variables, while the Global MPI has 10. The two additional variables in India’s MPI are maternal health and bank account.

How does this reduce poverty?

  • It must be noted that this is a multidimensional poverty index and, as such, is not comparable to India’s traditional and official way of estimating poverty.
  • However, the Global MPI 2023 report, which too was released in July, states that 415 million people in India moved out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2019-21.
  • The Global MPI pegs India’s poverty ratio at 16.4% as against 14.96% in Niti Aayog’s MPI. This difference is on account of the two additional metrics, and some differences in definitions.

Does the reduction in poverty add to India’s middle class?

  • There is no official definition of the middle class in India. It is, therefore, difficult to say whether those who escape poverty necessarily join the middle class, or to what extent.
  • Estimates of India’s middle class provided by private research organisations peg the middle class at income levels that are considerably higher than those of the people who are coming out of poverty.
  • For instance, in a report, ‘The rise of India’s middle class’, published in July, People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE) divided all households into four categories: DestitutesAspirersMiddle Class and Rich. “…Households which are classified as Middle Class have an annual income in the range of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 30 lakh (at 2020-21 prices),” the report said. Destitute households were those with an annual income less than Rs 1.25 lakh.
  • According to PRICE’s survey, as of 2021, out of a population of 1,416 million, 196 million Indians were categorised as ‘Destitutes’, 432 million were the ‘Middle Class’, and 732 million were ‘Aspirers’.


JWST discovered Earendel

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

Astronomers have embarked on an extraordinary journey, utilizing the powerful gaze of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to measure the most distant star ever observed - Earendel. This celestial entity came into the scientific spotlight after its discovery by the Hubble Space Telescope in the previous year.

Earendel and history of the universe

  • The awe-inspiring expansion of the universe since the Big Bang has propelled Earendel's residence to a colossal 28 billion light-years from Earth.
  • This revelation underscores the dynamic and evolving nature of the cosmos, where space itself unfurls over immense timescales.
  • Earendel's presence in the distant reaches of the universe was initially pinpointed through the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, a phenomenon where the gravitational pull of a massive foreground object acts like a lens, bending and amplifying the light of a more distant celestial body. This allowed Hubble to identify Earendel's distant glow.

What is Earendel?

  • Earendel is a distant star that holds the distinction of being the most distant star ever detected.
  • It was first discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope and has recently been studied further using the James Webb Space Telescope.
  • Earendel's light has taken approximately 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, meaning that it was shining not long after the universe's creation following the Big Bang.
  • This star is of significant interest due to its extreme distance and the insights it can provide about the early universe.

JWST's exploration of Earendel

  • The James Webb Space Telescope, with its unique vantage point and ability to observe in infrared light, built on Hubble's observations.
  • Employing a similar strategy of gravitational lensing, JWST used the gravitational influence of a cluster named WHL0137-08 to further explore Earendel's mysteries.
  • The telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) provided captivating insights, revealing Earendel to be a massive B-type star, boasting a temperature more than twice that of our sun and shining with a luminosity a million times greater.

What is JWST?

  • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a powerful astronomical observatory developed by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • It is designed to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and is set to provide unprecedented views of the universe in infrared light.

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