By Vinod Mishra, Robert D. Retherford, and Kirk R. Smith. AsiaPacific Issues, 8 pages. PDF at 

HONOLULU (Dec. 26) -- Indoor air pollution from cooking and home-heating with polluting fuels such as wood and animal dung kills 1.6 million people a year and causes 3 percent of total diseases around the world. It was recently ranked by the World Health Organization as the fourth biggest health risk in least-developed nations after malnutrition, unsafe sex and unclean water and sanitation.

Yet outdoor air pollution, which kills far fewer people and is ranked much lower as a health risk, receives virtually all the attention and funding.

"It occurs mostly in poor rural homes in developing countries and it's nobody's priority," said Vinod Mishra, a population and health researcher at the East-West Center. "Women and young children are exposed to pollution levels many times greater than the levels recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and WHO on a daily basis."

Mishra called the WHO's recent ranking of indoor air pollution a "landmark" in drawing major attention to the deadly problem, made more obscure by the fact that the biomass fuels used for cooking such as dung, wood and crop residues are collected from the land by the poor and "do not show up in any accounting ledgers."

Women, he said, are double-burdened by the pollution; not only do they perform all the cooking, their body chemistry makes them more prone to harm from such pollution than men. Exposure contributes to tuberculosis, serious respiratory illness, lung cancer, blindness and reduced birth weight of babies. Research by Mishra and his colleagues at the East-West Center four years ago was the first to identify the relationship between cooking smoke and TB.

"It has some of the same pollutants as tobacco smoke and smoke from motor vehicles and industries, and it causes similar health damage," Mishra said.

Mishra said governments should do more to promote clean fuel use, educate people to the risks of exposure to cook smoke, and provide and promote more efficient and better-ventilated cookstoves.

Vinod Mishra can be contacted at 808-944-7452 or [email protected]  Robert D. Retherford, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, can be reached at 808-944-7403 or [email protected]  Kirk R. Smith, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, can be reached at the University of California, Berkeley, at 510-643-0793 or [email protected] 


By Wali M. Osman. AsiaPacific Issues, 8 pages. PDF at 

To further its strategic interests and national security, the United States has intervened in Afghanistan twice in less than two decades, first in the fight against the Soviets and then the Taliban. Now, as Afghans attempt to rebuild, American interests are at stake again.

Before the Soviet takeover, Afghanistan had been moving slowly toward modernity, its development impeded by ethnic and tribal divisions that were kept in check by the monarchy's patronage system, writes Wali M. Osman, an economist at the East-West Center.

Today, the country needs not only a new physical infrastructure but also institutions that will enable it to function as a modern economy, while politically accommodating its diverse and divided population. Democratization and economic development offer the best hope for stability, and specific steps can be taken to achieve these outcomes, but the country cannot move forward without increased security. Warlords contest the authority of the transitional government, which is itself critically divided.

Beyond the issue of security, there is the urgent need for a more active, commitment of U.S. resources and influence to the political and economic aspects of the reconstruction effort.

Wali M. Osman can be reached at 808-944-7229 or [email protected] 


By Harry A. Kersey, Jr. AsiaPacific Issues, 8 pages. PDF at 

Nearly a decade has passed since the United Nations declared International Year of the World's Indigenous People. Yet issues of social and economic marginalization, inequality, cultural survival, and change related to indigenous peoples continue to challenge the global community.

In Aotearoa-New Zealand, the Pakeha (Caucasian) settler population for many decades dominated the political landscape, leaving little voice for the nation's indigenous Maori people struggling for greater rights, writes Harry A. Kersey, Jr., a history professor at Florida Atlantic University and a visiting fellow at the East-West Center.

Today, however, the growing Maori population makes New Zealand the only developed country in which the indigenous people's movement for self-determination is sufficiently large to promise the possibility of major societal transformations.

Over the past quarter century, regardless of which political party or coalition held power, escalating Maori demographic trends and increased political activism have encouraged the Crown to address Maori concerns and grievances. Today, with one out of four children under the age of 5 a Maori, the government has little option but to negotiate with a growing indigenous community.

Harry A. Kersey, Jr., can be reached at 561-297-3859 or [email protected] 

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