Sunday, September 30, 2012

Calotropis gigantea (Crown flower) a possible cure for cervical cancer

Calotropis gigantea (Crown flower) is a species of Calotropis native to Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and China. It is a large shrub growing to 4 m tall. It has clusters of waxy flowers that are either white or lavender in colour. Each flower consists of five pointed petals and a small, elegant "crown" rising from the centre, which holds the stamens. The plant has oval, light green leaves and milky stem.

The flowers last long, and in Thailand they are used in various floral arrangements. They were also supposed to be popular with the Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani, who considered them as symbol of royalty and wore them strung into leis. In India, the plant is common in the compounds of temples and is known as Madar.While in Cambodia, they are used in funerals to decorate the urn or sarcophagus and the interior of the house holding the funeral. The fruit is a follicle and when dry, seed dispersal is by wind. This plant plays host to a variety of insects and butterflies. In Indonesia its flowers is called widuri.

Calotropis is an example of entomophily pollination (pollination by insects) and pollination is achieved with the help of bees. In Calotropis, gynostegium is present (formed by the fusion of stigma and androecium). The pollen are arranged in a structure named Pollinia which are attached to a glandular, adhesive disc at the stigmatic angle (Translator Mechanism). These sticky discs get attached to the legs of visiting bees so that pollinia are pulled out when the bee moves away. When such a bee visits another flower, this flower gets pollinated by the sticky pollinia.

This plant has been used by several women in some parts of Papua New Guinea to threat cervical cancer as a traditional remedy. It really worked wonders for so many Papua New Guinean women who have used this plant. However, medically; the contents and composition of the minerals, nutrients, fibers, etc.., of the plant has not been listed and as well as the methods used. Therefore, it's a new and challenging avenue for vigorous research and further testing. For interested parties/organizations/schools/hospitals, etc...around the world who wish to carry out some research on this plant in Papua New Guinea, do not hesitate to contact me via the this blog. 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The faces of Kavieng, New Ireland Province, a.k.a Blias Ples in Papua New Guinea

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Changes in Vanimo-Green politics 

By Elias Nanau

Campaigning, voting and political affiliations took a new dimension in the 2012 general election in West Sepik, particularly in the Vanimo-Green River electorate. It was a political scene never experienced before. First and at the national level, Vanimo-Green MP Belden Namah was influential as the power-broker in the overthrowing of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare on Aug 2 last year. Namah subsequently became West Sepik’s first-ever deputy prime minister.

Balden Norman Namah being carried on a stretcher by his people
When the Supreme Court on Dec 12 last year ruled that Sir Michael be restored as prime minister together with his government because there was no vacancy in that office, Namah, being part of the controversial government led by Peter O’Neill, amended laws retrospectively to correct the errors highlighted by the Supreme Court. Namah and his team maintained uncompromisingly that they were a legitimate government. And in the ensuing period, when the Supreme Court for the second time restored Sir Michael’s government in May this year, Namah did a most unprecedented act of storming into the Waigani National and Supreme Court house with a band of military and police officers and ordered the arrest of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia who was presiding over a contempt charge against lawyer Tiffany Twivey.

The incident drove shivers up everyone’s spine. The events undoubtedly caused a great deal of dislike for Namah in his electorate. What became evident was that 17 candidates formed a group called the Sandaun Candidate Alliance to trade votes among themselves. Their ultimate goal was to ensure Namah did not return as MP. Among the group was Green campaigner Dorothy Tekwie and lawyer Dr Florian Gubon. Gubon was Namah’s runner-up in the 2007 national election. “If you do not want to vote for me, vote for another person,” Gubon said in his final day of campaign in Vanimo town, urging voters not to tick Namah’s name.

It is understood that the Sandaun Candidate Alliance for 2012 also became influential in the move to ask the Electoral Commission to have one-day polling for the Vanimo urban and the Wutung Onei Bewani local level governments – Vanimo Green River electorate. While this could not be confirmed, the candidate alliance group had intelligence information that chances of vote rigging were likely to occur if voting was conducted for more than one day. Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen gazetted the candidate alliance request and voters in both local level governments went to the polls last Monday, June 25.

This first-ever one-day polling on Monday ended without any major incidents. But serious allegations of bribery and conspiracy to tamper with ballot boxes surfaced on Tuesday. These allegations were raised by the Sandaun Candidate Alliance for 2012. Election manager Martin Anskar, provincial police commander Michael Tilai and Vanimo police station commander Robert Nalaik were accused of receiving vehicles funded by Namah. Namah and three officials have since denied this accusation. The candidate alliance was saying that the three officials had now compromised their position and it was highly likely that tampering of votes during storage of ballot boxes and counting could occur, allowing Namah to return.

Twelve candidates petitioned Trawen and copied Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga to immediately effect the suspension of Anskar, Tilai and Nalaik. The candidates include Gubon, Peter Wuni, Steven Kumusi, Tekwie, Martin Negai, Peter Onikre, Arnold Tom, Camilus Awi and Jacob Amatus. They are challenging Namah for the Vanimo-Green River seat. West Sepik regional candidates who were in support of the suspension include Clement Tumana, John Tekwie and Noel Mobiha. Though reasons contained in the petition were various including accusations of receiving vehicles and voters not finding their names on the electoral roll, the issue that sparked the call for suspension was to do with the late arrival of the ballot box from Namah’s Somboi village.

This ballot box arrived at the Vanimo police station at about 4am on Tuesday morning from Bewani. This was confirmed by the presiding officer of the team. “Some ballot boxes from outside of Vanimo have arrived late on Monday, June 25, after close of polling even though the drive is only three hours maximum from Vanimo,” the candidate alliance said. They were referring to the disputed ballot box. “We want the ballot boxes that arrive into the Vanimo police station after 9pm to be set aside,” the candidate alliance added.

What was obvious, as observed by other candidates, was that the late arrival of the one ballot box alone could not withstand the allegation unless there was hard evidence of tampering with the ballot box and it could only be proven during counting. The other issue which led to accusations by the candidate alliance related to an empty ballot box that one presiding officer took to his home at Wutung after returning to Vanimo from polling. The presiding officer had said the empty ballot box was used to store HIV/AIDS awareness pamphlets and other materials as it was unused. Other polling teams did the same.

The polling official was understood to have been brought in for questioning by police early Tuesday morning and later released after it was clearly established that it was an empty ballot box. Election manager Anskar had clarified that the ballot box seals arrived in Vanimo later than the polling day and teams were advised to use the same ballot box for both the open and regional seat in the Wutung Onei Bewani local level government, unlike for Vanimo urban where two ballot boxes were used.

While candidates were concerned about the safety of ballot boxes and the likely tampering of votes, citizens went about their daily routines. Namah had denied he offered vehicles to the police personnel and election manager. Anskar said he had never met Namah in person, describing the accusations as malicious. PPC Tilai welcomed any investigations from the police internal investigations unit. Tilai said Vanimo police had only four vehicles which were used in police operations.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Gender Equity in Agriculture
By Barbara Tomi

Gender-based violence (GBV) against women is deeply entrenched in Papua New Guinea (PNG) culture. It contributes in a large part to the inequality and low status of women that exists today. For progress towards equality between men and women in contributing to development, especially in agriculture, GBV must be addressed. It is also proven that where there is high rate of GBV, the spread of HIV/AIDS is also rife. GBV and HIV/AIDS go hand in hand. To reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, GBV must first be addressed. GBV is the hidden and neglected aspect of society nobody wants to recognize as a problem that everyone has to be responsible to fight against.
Agriculture is a major economic activity of many people in rural PNG. More than 80% of the country’s seven million people depend wholly or partially on agriculture. Women make up 50% of the population with nearly 90% engaged in agriculture and related activities.  Women contribute between 50-70% of agricultural labour such as clearing, planting, weeding, harvesting, transporting, stocking and marketing. They produce the bulk of the nation’s food.  Cash income received by women from agriculture is mostly spent on food, health and education.  
These are done in spite of limited or no access to resources such as land, water, labor and basic services. Annastasia Wakon of the Family Support Centre at Lae’s Angau Memorial Hospital says GBV is the hidden and neglected aspect of society nobody wants to recognise as a problem that everyone has to be responsible to reduce its prevalence. 
GBV is widespread and is causing injury, suffering, long-term harm and sometimes even death.  For those who survive GBV, their medical and emotional needs remain hidden and are neglected due to unavailability of services in health facilities. Statistics collected by the Medecins Sans Forentieres-run center in Lae show 49% of sexual violence survivors are below the age of 18.

Of this, 5% are below the age of five, 17% are between five and 12 years and 26% are between the ages of 13 and 17. Health risks of sexual, physical and emotional violence include physical injuries, some of which can require surgery, sexually-transmitted diseases and even death. Wakon says GBV is the hidden and neglected disease that manifests itself as HIV/AIDS. Speaking to staff of the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), which included PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute, Coffee Industry Corporation, Oil Palm Research Association, Bris Kanda, National Agricultural Research Institute and PNG Women in Agriculture Development Foundation who came together in a workshop from last month  to mainstream gender and HIV/AIDS issues in their organizational policies, she emphasized that to effectively address HIV/AIDS, GBV must be given first priority for interventions. 

Wakon describes GBV as similar to a taro beetle and the damage it makes to the taro crop. The taro grower will not know that the taro crop is infested until it is harvested. Destruction made by the beetle is similar to the extent of GBV. In many cases, the end result is HIV/AIDS if treatment is not properly accorded. The National AIDS Council Secretariat (NACS) statistics show that women and girls are more vulnerable to contracting HIV. Young girls aged 15-24 years are two-three times more infected than boys in the same age group. Also lack of access to basic services (education, health and information) exacerbates vulnerability and lack of opportunity for self-advancement creates conditions for the spread of HIV. 
The NARS are critical to improving the status of women. Most women in PNG are the main food producers and providers of the family’s daily meals. Empowering them with skills to improve their agricultural practices and access to information, technologies and financial support to grow their agricultural business will go a long way in addressing gender and HIV/AIDS issues facing women.

Another factor which the NARS need to be wary about is the complex migration patterns of especially the labor force into plantations which fuel HIV spread. The 2010 statistics recorded 4,208 new HIV cases.  The cumulative total by end of December 2010 stands at 31,609. Of this statistics, women and girls, especially those at child-bearing ages (15-24 years), are infected most compared to men (25-35 years). As a starting point, it was recommended that NARS organizations’ workforce must be sensitized and trained on gender and HIV/AIDS-related issues. A trained workforce will enable GHA policies are adhered to, implemented and mainstreamed into programme and project activities. 

The NARS are already mainstreaming gender and HIV/AIDS (GHA) issues into their core activities without realizing it. Such activities include development and implementation of GHA workplace policy and programmes and economic empowerment programmes for women. 
However, there is still a lot more to do in the areas of quantity and quality of staff to cope with issues relating to GHA, addressing GBV, addressing stigma and discrimination in the workplace, legal protection for PLHIV and families, and nutrition for PLHIV. The efforts by NARS are critical to improving the status of women. Empowering them with skills to improve their agricultural practices and access to information, technologies and financial support to grow their agricultural business will go a long way in addressing gender and HIV/AIDS issues facing women and girls.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Flower gardens: A good way to keep your backyard look good....