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Its a tradition that Indians believe will bring their children good luck and protect them from disease.
And scores of parents have been lining up in the tiny village of Betul in Madhya Pradesh to roll their youngsters in cow pat.
People in the small village believe that smearing the dung on their young sons and daughters help to give them a healthy life free from ailments.
Women perform a special Hindu prayer called the “Gowardhan Pooja” before dunking their kids in piles of cow pat in a ceremony which last from sunrise to sunset, with all villagers taking a turn at placing their children in the excrement.
Despite their attempts to escape, the youngsters are forced to stay and roll around in the dung, which is covered in decorative orange flowers.
The ritual is centuries old and takes place annually the day after Diwali, India’s biggest Hindu festival.
It is practised by the residents of Besul in the Madhya Pradesh region, who believe the ritual will bring their children good health and protect them from diseases.
However, doctors have raised their concerns over the tradition – saying it could be dangerous for kids.
Dr Mangilal Rathore of Pooja Hospital in Betul said: “It is an old practice followed by a particular community here.
“I would not criticise it but at the same time I would not advise it as it could be seriously dangerous for the children, especially if they have some wounds or open injuries.
“The bacteria in cow dung could also harm the sensitive skin of children.”
Cows are one of the most sacred animals in Hinduism, with many preachers believing that cow urine and dung have medicinal properties.
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More than 70 million displaced worldwide, says UNHCR
The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million globally last year – the highest number in the UN refugee agency’s almost 70 years.
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The almost 70.8 million people forcibly displaced is up 2.3 million on the previous year, according to the agency’s annual Global Trends report.
This is also double the level recorded 20 years ago.
The number averaged out to 37,000 new displacements every day.
“What we are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict and persecution,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“While language around refugees and migrants is often divisive, we are also witnessing an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting large numbers of refugees.
The actual figure is likely to be higher as the Venezuela crisis is only partly reflected, the report states.
Around four million Venezuelans have fled their country, according to some figures from countries taking them in, making it one of the world’s biggest recent displacement crises.
The report identifies three main groups.
Firstly, there are refugees, or people forced to leave their country because of conflict, war or persecution. In 2018, the number of refugees reached 25.9 million worldwide, 500,000 more than in 2017. Included in this total are 5.5 million Palestine refugees.
The second group is 3.5 million asylum seekers. These are people outside their country of birth who are under international protection, but are yet to be granted refugee status.
Thirdly, there are internally displaced persons, or IDPs. These people are displaced within their country and amount to 41.3 million globally.
More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide came from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
Syria had a considerably higher number than any other country with 6.7 million, followed by Afghanistan with 2.7 million.
Only 92,400 refugees were resettled in 2018, fewer than 7% of those awaiting resettlement.
The global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 43.3 million in 2009. Most of this increase was between 2012 and 2015 as a result of the Syrian conflict.
However, other conflicts have cropped up and continued across the globe, for example, in Iraq and Yemen in the Middle East, as well as parts of sub-Saharan Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
The massive flow of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh at the end of 2017 after they were driven out of Myanmar’s Rakhine state during military crackdowns was another major crisis.
At more than 1.5 million, Ethiopians were the largest newly displaced population in 2018, 98% of them internally, more than doubling the previous number.
These were mainly attributed to inter-communal violence throughout 2018, with communities living along disputed boundaries most affected.
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