Improving health, promoting #SDG3 through Yoga

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07 May 2018, Harare –The United Nations in Zimbabwe, the Embassy of India, and the Art of Living in Zimbabwe today launched the International Day of Yoga (IDY) aimed at providing a holistic approach to health and well-being, and advance the prevention of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Zimbabwe.

IDY will be marked with a series of advocacy activities as a prelude to national commemoration in the third week of June 2018 under the theme “Yoga for Health, Harmony and Peace” through various activities and practical sessions expected across Zimbabwe with the aim of supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 3 on ‘Good Health and Well-being.’

Speaking at the media launch of IDY, UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Bishow Parajuli said, “To date, there has been a noticeable reduction in the prevalence of communicable diseases- HIV, TB, Malaria as well as water-borne diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid and many more though we still have a long way to end these communicable diseases as well.”

“In line with Zimbabwe’s commitment to universal health coverage and quality health for all under the SDG 3, the UN with the generous support from Development Partners such as the Global Fund, EU, GAVI Alliance, and the governments of Sweden, UK, Ireland and the United States is providing support in the areas of HIV response, Maternal and Reproductive Health, Neonatal and Child Health, and in general strengthening the health system,” added the UN Resident Coordinator.

Noting the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health, on 11 December 2014 - the UN General Assembly through resolution 69/131 proclaimed 21 June as International Day of Yoga. The world has since 2015 commemorated International Day of Yoga.

The adoption of IDY recognizes that global health is a long-term development objective that requires closer international cooperation through the exchange of best practices aimed at building better individual lifestyles devoid of excesses of all kinds.

Addressing journalists at the media launch of IDY, Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe His Excellency Rungsung Masakui said there was need to work with different societies of Zimbabwe in mobilizing Yoga. “Yoga is an ancient medical practice in India & knowledge about yoga is acquired from schools & hospitals. In Zimbabwe, together with the United Nations, we're launching this practice to generate great health benefits for all Zimbabweans,” said HE Masakui.

Events of Yoga in Zimbabwe will take place in Zimbabwe in the months of May and June in various cities which include Mutare, Rusape, Kwekwe, Gweru, Victoria Falls, Harare and Bulawayo.

Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. It is derived from a Sanskrit word “Yuj”, which means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body ad consciousness. Today, it is practiced in various forms around the world as it continues to grow in popularity.

The Art of Living Teacher, Professor Ebrahim Jassat said 30 percent of lung capacity was being used during breathing therefore there was need for every individual to exercise. “It is significant to note that breathing is vital to life but unfortunately, people use 30 percent of lung capacity when breathing.IMG_2329.jpg

Prof Jassat who gave a practical Yoga session to journalists and guests present at the IDY media launch said postures taken when exercising give the body fresh blood and lessen the chances of having diabetes. When the mind is strained one should exercise in order to feel fresh and alive. Yoga also slows down ageing and reduces risk factors of NCDs.

NCDs have been overshadowed by the prevalence of infectious diseases. Noting the recently launched Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination which will protect some 800,000 young Zimbabwean girls from 10-14 years of age from cervical cancer, Mr Parajuli said, “The incidence of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe is reported to be 34.5 per 100,000 women compared to the global average of 15.1. Similarly, diabetes, cardiovascular arrest, and other NDCs are on the increase.”

In Zimbabwe, NCDs account for 31% of morbidity according to findings of the World Health Organization. The high burden of NCDs is attributed to a change in population lifestyles which include physical inactivity because of the changing nature of work, other risk factors such as alcohol, smoking and substance abuse particularly among the youth, traffic accidents, and pollution. In addition, underfunding of the health sector due to low revenue realized from the fiscus that funds the national budget is also another factor.

Noting prevention as a logical, and cost effective to prevent disease than to deal with it once it has occurred, the UN Resident Coordinator Mr Bishow Parajuli said, “besides ongoing interventions to improve the health system including tackling NCDs in Zimbabwe, promoting the adoption of Yoga as a lifestyle for health and wellbeing is a strategic investment particularly in the prevention of NCDs.”

Paying special tribute to the media for continued engagement in development reporting, Mr. Parajuli said, “I look forward to our continued collaboration in development advocacy and to explore, in this regard, every effort including the adoption of Yoga as a daily physical and mental activity to advance healthy society in Zimbabwe.”