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Children Accused of Being Witches Tortured, Tossed Out of Homes; Business Versus Biodiversity

Aired August 27, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, ANCHOR: Well, it's a story that has united in raged many of you. Nigerian children accused of being witches tortured and tossed out of their homes.

Our investigation tonight revealed this woman tossing out her three kids and crying out of fear. She believed they will kill her.

This is the show that gets you talking about the world's big stories on CNN. This is the hour we "Connect the World."

All this week we've been showing you what is (inaudible) concept of child witches. Well, tonight, a Nigerian official responds in a "Connect the World" special series.

I'm Becky Anderson in London. And also this hour, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter brings home another American prisoner from North Korea except this time, Pyongyang's dear leader is in Beijing. We'll explore why.

And business versus biodiversity, a special debate to end our series on "Earth's Frontiers." Do connect with me and the show, my Twitter is at beckycnn.

Well, first up tonight, we've seen how some impoverished communities can use children as scapegoats for their problems calling them witches who deserved torment, abandonment and even death they say.

Well, tonight, we investigate what's being done about this abuse at government level. Here's part three in our series by Christian Purefoy from southern Nigeria.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mother casting out her three children accusing them of being witches and causing the premature deaths of their two siblings with black magic. She is crying out of fear.

(on camera): How did she feel that her three children are witches?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Afraid - that they can also kill her too.

PUREFOY (voice-over): Child rights advocate Sam Ikpe-Itauma tipped off by someone in the community has come to join convince this poverty stricken widow to take back her children.

(on camera): If you don't come here to help these children, what could happen to them?

SAM IKPE-ITAUMA, CHILD'S RIGHTS AND REHABILITATION NETWORK: If we are not here, there's a possibility of them being thrown into river, buried alive or stabbed to death.

PUREFOY (voice-over): But no one believes him and he's forced to take them to his orphanage in safety. Sam Itauma has already rescued more than 200 children and believes thousands more are suffering abuse over unfounded witchcraft accusations here in southeast Nigeria.

The underlying cause for parents casting out their children he says, is not superstition, but poverty brought on by bad governance.

ITAUMA: The most vulnerable children, of single parents, divorced parents, dysfunctional families - are often prone to be possessed such spells.

PUREFOY: But local government however, accuses Sam Itauma and other child rights NGOs of using children to run a scam.

ANIEKAN UMANAH, AKWA IBOM STATE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER: We insist that the name of Akwa Ibom State must not be smeared and the people of the world should not be deceived by certain NGOs who are claiming to be taking care of stigmatized children of Akwa Ibom State - this is a ruse, they are making money for themselves.

PUREFOY: Scenes of NGOs rescuing children says the government are exaggerated, and claims a new child rights bill out lowering child stigmatization has ended the problem. Although despite some arrests, so far the government acknowledges there have been no prosecutions.

UMANAH: There may be problems, but it's been blown out of proportion and people are capitalizing on what ordinarily may be a social problem across the globe in painting Akwa Ibom State black.

PUREFOY: Sam Itauma and the other NGOs deny all accusations of impropriety and they say their financial funding records can be accessed by the public on the internet.

ITAUMA: Relevant government agencies, working on security and the protection of children must as a matter of fact, step up their efforts to make sure that any child that is stigmatized must - the parents, the pastors, the churches, the law must be evoked to make sure that such people face the law immediately, otherwise, it has to go on and on, on and on.

PUREFOY: Meanwhile, abandoned by everyone outside the children look for hope amongst themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello children - are you happy? You have to learn how to forgive your mother and your father, because if you forgive your mother and father, you will be able to honor them.

PUREFOY: As they try to forgive, they hope they are not forgotten. Christian Purefoy, CNN, Nigeria.


ANDERSON: Well, we want to point out, we have been trying to reaction from more than one ministry in Nigeria's national government so far no luck. UNICEF, there is one of the non-governmental organization working to stop this child abuse across the region. They call it a manifestation of deeper social problems.

Joachim Theis joining us this evening UNICEF child protection adviser in west and central Africa and he joins us now from Dakar in Senegal.

Whatever the reason for it, the abuse of kids accused of being witches is very, very real. As far as I can understand, Joachim, it's a problem that's getting worse.

JOACHIM THEIS, CHILD PROTECTION ADVISER, UNICEF: Yes, we know that it's a significant problem in several countries in central Africa, in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and some parts of Nigeria especially parts of the Niger Delta.

ANDERSON: The local government in at quite even stage, which is why Christian filmed this report, insists that witchcraft abuse stories are smears. You heard that in the report and that it is NGOs like the one that Christian was reporting on that who are actually making money out of these families. What is your experience?

THEIS: Well, we - we have been receiving reports about accusations of witchcraft against children for several years and so we commissioned a study to take a closer look at the academic evidence. So we want to turn on more about the phenomenon not just from NGO reports, not just from the sensationalist media reports, but to get a better understanding.

And so what we found was that it in fact is a very serious issue in many countries, in several countries and it is linked to a multitude of crisis to conflict (inaudible) family breakdown, migration, economic crisis.

So it's particularly in these kinds of situations where we find these almost epidemic outbreaks on accusations of witchcraft against children and that is a new phenomenon, and the accusations of witchcraft against adults, well-known in the literature, but that children are being accused that is very something new.

ANDERSON: What about these charges that these accusations are simply smears and that NGOs who are reportedly working to help these kids out. They're actually making money out of them. What was your reaction to accusations of those sort be?

THEIS: Well, the evidence is pretty (inaudible) and pretty overwhelming and we also know that in these poor countries, the justice system doesn't really function, certainly not in favor of poor and marginalized women and children.

ANDERSON: A child rights bill out to lowering child's stigmatization is actually on the books in the part of Nigeria that we've been reporting on. The government acknowledges there will be prosecutions although there have been people they say who have been arrested. This was a law put on the books in 2004. Why do you say nobody is being prosecuted?

THEIS: It's just a common weakness of justice systems in the whole region. It's very common. A lot of the countries have good legislation, but turning this legislation into prosecutions, into convictions is a whole another matter.

ANDERSON: Is the relevant government agencies working on security and protection of kids don't step up their efforts as they don't seem to be doing at this point to make sure that these kids aren't stigmatized then who will?

THEIS: I think there's a need to advocate and to put pressure on the governments to fulfill their responsibilities at the same time there's a need to (inaudible) among the population to mobilize leaders, work with religious groups, invest in education, but also provide services for children affected by this phenomenon.

And then very importantly, I think it's important to work closely with professional (inaudible) of judges and also even traditional (inaudible) because they play a very significant role.

ANDERSON: And for those finally who may not have been moved by what they saw, I'm not sure that it will be possible to not being moved by the pictures that we saw at the beginning of this show. How many children are we talking about?

THEIS: It's impossible to put a precise figure on it, but we can safely say we're talking tens of thousands.

ANDERSON: Joachim, we appreciate your time this evening coming to you out of Dakar, Senegal. Well, many of you - no other way of describing it - outraged by sharing your thoughts.

Denveric wrote to us on the blog, "Pity those innocent victims of immature believers and false prophets. People in this area need prayers and immediate action from U.N. authorities if the Nigerian government cannot handle the situation themselves."

Memzi says, "This is a 12 on a 0-10 wickedness scale. Pastors are targeting the poor. How come no rich people's kids are witches? Shame on all Nigerian moderates (including myself) for just watching!! This has to end!"

And from mymiracles, "Another story which grabs your heart and won't let you go. I cannot wait to hold my children in my arms when I get home."

Some of the great responses from you on the Twitter account as well @beckycnn. Remember Samantha said, "Shocking and said. The kids are abused and tortured. Poverty and ignorance work hand in hand."

And from Kara from New York, and (inaudible) Kolam (ph), "If indeed any children are under a spell, they need love and help not to be isolated from the rest of their family members or society."

Those are the tweets coming in and some of the blogs coming. Keep them coming. We'd also love to hear from you on this subject or any other - just head to the web site and don't forget to let us know where you are writing to us from as we make those connections for you.

This is "Connect the World." Of course, the former U.S. president wins a humanitarian release of a trip to North Korea, but apparently misses out of meeting Kim Jong-il.

What was so pressing of the dear leader reportedly chose to take a midnight train to China instead. We're looking to his intuitive meeting. That is coming up right after this.


ANDERSON: Well, joy and relief as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrives home after securing the release of an American citizen from North Korea. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was granted amnesty by the communist state's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il during a private mission to the country led by Mr. Carter.

Gomes had been sentence to eight years of hard labor for illegally crossing the border from China. Well, Gomes issued a statement saying, this has been a long, dark and difficult period for Aijalon and our family. We are grateful to all people who made today possible.

Thank you, President Carter for traveling to North Korea to bring him home and thank you to the government of North Korea for caring for him during his darkest days and agreeing to release him on humanitarian grounds.

Our Susan Candiotti is in Boston where the pair landed at Logan International Airport just a short time ago.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After eight long months in North Korea, Aijalon Gomes is finally home in Boston.

(voice-over): A private plane accompanied by former President Jimmy Carter when he landed at Boston Airport, his family was waiting for him. He slowly walked down to the steps as they were waiting at the bottom those stairs with signs, with hugs and with cheers as President Carter - former President Carter stood up to the side.

One by one members of Gomes family walked over and hugged and congratulated President Carter thanking him for what he had done, winning a humanitarian release from the North Korean government. It remain unclear why the 31 year old teacher left South Korea back in January and crossed over into North Korea.

The North Korean said he has entered illegally and sentence him to eight years of hard labor and slapped him with a $600,000 fine.

(on camera): Then there were reports of a possible attempted suicide on the part of Mr. Gomes. His family says they don't know whether that is true. They can only speculate that when he went to North Korea, he had the best of intentions as one relative told me.

They describe him as outgoing and someone who wanted to teach and someone who wanted to help. Perhaps the real reason why he crossed the border will made clear in the days and weeks to come, but for now, his family says this human rights activist simply wants to go home and begin a long journey, as they put it, toward healing.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Boston.


ANDERSON: Well, pictures of Gomes arriving back in the United States accompanied by a former president may remind of a previous homecoming. The American journalist Laura Ling and Euna Lee were free just over a year ago from a mercy mission by Bill Clinton.

During that trip is the Clinton came face to face with Kim Jong-il. But this time, Mr. Carter isn't believed to have been granted an audience with the dear leader who's reportedly on a visit to China.

So is this a snub or does Kim Jong-il simply have more pressing issues to resolve. Our "Connect the World" panelist and big thinker, Gordon Chang has a view on this and he joins us out of New York.

Sir, what do you think?

GORDON CHANG,"CONNECT THE WORLD" PANELIST: I think this certainly was a snub. You know, Carter had planned this. He actually hoped to go to North Korea and was talking with the North Koreans, negotiating with the state department and the idea, of course, was to bring back Mr. Gomes.

But it was also for Carter to try to re-price his June 1994 diplomacy with Kim Jong-il's father Kim Il-sung. It was just totally by surprise that Kim Jong-il felt it was more important to do some sightseeing in Jilin Province in China than to meet Carter. So this is a very marked departure from prior behavior.

ANDERSON: Why did he do that?

CHANG: We don't know now, but there are a couple of things that I can think about and that is perhaps China did not want Carter to meet Kim Jong- il. But this - this is really such a marked departure from past patterns of behavior.

Kim Jong-il and his father have always been unpredictable, but their unpredictability has been within certain balance that has now been violated. So although we don't know what's going on, it certainly is very big for this happen in this manner.

ANDERSON: So it wouldn't surprise is what you're saying. If you were to find out that China had something to do with what happened today?

CHANG: Well, certainly because at this point, China has a large say on what goes on in North Korea. It's a critical moment for the North. Kim Jong-il is very weak. He's trying to pass power to his 27-year-old son. That plan is meeting resistance. The economy is failing once again.

Agriculture is not very good so at this point, you know, we've got mysterious deaths of North Korean officials over the last nine months. This is really a time, which is very important for the regime.

ANDERSON: Final question to you then, what do you think China's best case scenario for North Korea is going forward?

CHANG: I think that essentially Beijing would like to see the resumption of the six party nuclear talks, which involved North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia because that would mean more aid flowing to North Korea, which means if Beijing has to put in less aid if the rest of the world will help it.

Also I think that Beijing would like to see Kim Jong-un who is the 27 year old sort of express some sort of (inaudible) like statements to Beijing. So they've really want obedience on the part of the new regime after Kim Jong-il passes from the scene.


CHANG: So that I think is really the best part that they are looking for.

ANDERSON: Interesting. Gordon Chang, always a pleasure. We thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight, to a certain extent speculating somewhat in the story out of North Korea today, but fascinating stuff.

After the break, we've shown you eight countries in two weeks like you have never seen them before. Now, we hit our final frontier after crossing the globe looking at business versus biodiversity.

(Inaudible) part of our great debate team in just a moment.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. This is "Connect the World." I'm Becky Anderson. Now, for two weeks we've circled the globe taking you to some of the most incredible places on earth. It's nature you've never seen, signs that you've never imagined. So we are learning from a billion years of evolution.

We began in Equador's amazon jewel, the Yasuni National Park. Now buried deep below is a billion of barrels of untapped crude. The government says it will stay off limits if other nation's are willing to pay compensation. We've been to Madagascar where the ocean's clock is ticking. A daunting marine sensor is underway to catalogue the DNA of every form of life in the ocean. Can scientists win this race against time to record our species before they disappear?

We've also landed in Kazakhstan where a dramatic rescue operation is underway to save the shrinking Aral Sea. We took a look at the attempts being made to reverse what was once described as one of the world's most shocking manmade environmental disasters.

And we waded through the Louisiana marshlands in the U.S. There some of the smallest organisms (inaudible) they got quite an appetite helping to clean up the oil slick that is threatening this delicate ecosystem. Just a few examples of extraordinary stories. You can find more at

Well, tonight, we are in London's Kew Gardens, the perfect setting to end our adventure. We invited some of the top minds in their field for a special debate, which I'm moderated.

The theme was centered around find balance between conservation and progress. Take a look at the - some of the highlights of that.


ANDERSON: Jon, the same way that climate change is no longer a concern for environmentalist, but for business. So to it seems is biodiversity can businesses afford to ignore biodiversity?

JON WILLIAMS, PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS: Absolutely not. Businesses really need to begin to understand what impact they're having on the world's nature, but also the dependencies they have on it. And they began to see natural capital that - you know, business depends on as an extension of the asset base.

If you like the plankton machinery, there's no way they would allow to depreciate of the right they would. In fact, they would find ways to preserve and grow the value of that asset in their supply chain. Just a small example, the pharmaceutical industry worth $600 billion a year is 40, 50, 60 percent dependent on biodiversity.

Why on earth will the chief executive of any pharmaceutical company not want to preserve the natural capital it depends on?


DR. PAUL SMITH, DIRECTOR, MILLENNIUM SEED BANK: Yes, I agree with that entirely. If you look at the pharmaceutical industry, we know that there are thousands of species used in traditional Chinese medicine and traditional medicine in India and Africa. That is our room for innovation.

All of that - that plant diversity gives us an opportunity to innovate in pharmaceuticals, but also in foods and in everything else. If we condemn it to extinction, that's a huge risk for us because we are reducing our options in the future.


AHMED DJOGHLAF, CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, UNITED NATIONS: Yes, biodiversity is natural asset of the world and therefore of the companies. So ignoring your natural asset will ruin your business. So the business of tomorrow has to be green and will be green.

We are living in an era of scarcity and therefore, the business who have already pick there to grab the opportunities, the business opportunities of tomorrow are the one that are going to succeed.

ANDERSON: We have - a quick thought from Philippe Cousteau.

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, ENVIRONMENTALIST: Well, I think one of the first things that we can do is to begin to adequately value economically the ecosystem services that the biodiversity provides and that the environment provides for us.

I'll give you one great example. During the Southeast Asian tsunami, I'll give you two actually, and during Katrina. The hurricane in the Gulf, that was so devastating to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Natural services that would have been provided by healthy mangroves, and wet lands in the case of Louisiana and healthy coral reefs and mangroves in the case of Southeast Asia were not provided and thus those storms, the tsunami, the hurricanes were able to ravage those coastlines and cost the lives of thousands - of hundreds of thousands people and cost the national economies hundreds of billions of dollars.

Those are two great examples of how we need to begin to understand the true value economically that these ecosystems provide so that they can be factored into when you lose biodiversity loss that should count against your GDP and the growth of country because you have to pay for it eventually. You have to pay it in one way, shape or form.

And I think that if we can begin to - and I know there's a lot of effort to put - to create economic models that factor the value of maintaining biodiversity per price tag on that. That is one big step forward in understanding that protecting biodiversity --


ANDERSON: head to the web site and find out what time the show is on over the weekend. It's the debate out of Kew Gardens - rounding out a series on biodiversity around the world. We'll prove hope for better lines. They leave their countries in search of work, but many find themselves in (inaudible) trapped defenseless. The pride of young women who end up in (inaudible) that is next. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: At just after 9:30 in London, you're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you here on CNN. Coming up, pounding the pavement or the surgeon's scalpel. There was a report tackling obesity, we take a look at why Brits are now more inclined to go under the knife to lose weight.

Some posting homemade videos to one of the world's biggest teen pop stars. One of your favorite Connectors of the Day, Justin Bieber, answers your questions.

And a colossal disaster getting worse. That's the assessment from a UN spokesman describing the situation in Pakistan. We'll have a special iReport on that a little later in the show. Those stories are ahead for you in the next 30 minutes here on CNN. First, let me get you a quick check of the headlines this hour.

News just coming in, we're getting word of an earthquake in northern Iran. The US Geological Survey puts the magnitude at 5.7. The closest city is Semnan, about 100 kilometers away. We'll continue to bring you the details as they come in here to CNN Center.

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the central bank does have the tools to reverse the slowing American economy. His comments came shortly after some newly revised GDP figures came out. They show the US economy grew at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the second quarter. That is down from the initial estimates of 2.4 percent.

Former US president Jimmy Carter is back in the United States, along with a man who had been imprisoned in North Korea. Carter won the release of Aijalon Gomes during a visit to Pyongyang. Gomes had been sentenced to eight years hard labor for illegally entering the country.

Fresh flooding has displaced another one million people in Pakistan's soaked Sindh province. The UN's humanitarian affairs agency says, quote, "The already colossal disaster is getting worse and requiring an even more colossal response." The unfolding tragedy has claimed 1600 lives.

Sri Lankan officials are demanding an investigation into claims a maid was horrifically abused by her Saudi employer. Doctors spent three hours removing nails allegedly hammered into the arms, legs, and forehead of this 49-year-old woman after she complained about being overworked.

Accurate figures are difficult, but a recent human rights watch report says that there about one and a half million migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, and 660 or so thousand in Kuwait, 300,000 in Malaysia, and 200,000 in Lebanon. Many come from the Philippines, from Indonesia and, indeed, from Sri Lanka. They are often an important source of income. Filipino migrants, for example, sent home $19 billion in 2008, more than 11 percent of the country's GDP.

Those are people who decided to cross frontiers in order to make a better life for themselves or, indeed, for their families. But uncounted in their numbers are those who are forced to work against their will. By now, you know CONNECT THE WORLD is On the Trail of Human Trafficking. For the past few weeks, we've been following an expert in the field. Harvard University's Siddharth Kan -- or Kara, sorry -- as he crisscrosses south Asia, documenting what he finds. And what he's uncovered in his latest stop in Nepal is the most disturbing report that we've heard so far.

It deals with sex trafficking. Young girls forced into prostitution. My colleague, Max Foster, spoke with Siddharth about this leg of his travels. Have a listen to this.


SIDDHARTH KARA, HUMAN TRAFFICKING EXPERT (via telephone): It starts in Katmandu. I first started my research into sex trafficking here five years ago, and the scene is basically like this. There's hundreds of dance bars and massage parlors in the tourist area of Thamel that sell sex with very young Nepalese girls, many of whom are trafficked from surrounded rural areas, exploited in these venues for forced commercial sex, and then subsequently trafficked to India to brothels in Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata, et cetera.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You say they're coerced. What's happened there, then? Who's been coercing these young girls?

KARA: Basically, the traffickers promise opportunity to dance or work in a restaurant. And then, once they get to the bars, they're coerced to transact for commercial sex with clients. Men come in, listen to the music, sit at tables, and the women are coerced through threats against them, beatings, and then threats against their families back in the rural areas because, of course, the traffickers know where they're from.

So they have to try to seduce and transact with these men a certain number of times per night or they suffer the consequences.

FOSTER: Did you get evidence of this, then, from the young girls, and did you see that it was tourists, mainly, involved?

KARA: I've gone into many of these dance bars and massage parlors up the Dhangadhi sphere, then of course, seen the clientele who are in there. They're typically tourists.

In those venues, women aren't going to exactly speak about coercion and duress. Those stories come to me once I'm at a shelter or people who have escaped. And then they speak in more detail about how they were tricked or coerced into the dance bars, and then forced under various threats to transact for commercial sex with the tourists.

FOSTER: I just want to ask you a bit, Siddharth, about your last trip. Because your article about forced labor in India on our website has got a lot of response. And I just want to bring you a comment from George Molakal. He says, "It's a shame and a -- "


FOSTER: "Ignore the bonded labor market and exploitations in several industries in India and other parts of the emerging and under developed worlds." He says, "We need to mobilize local social leaders and local NGOs and the local senators to take up the leadership and the change. This has to be supported by educated global Indians and global citizens like us."

Do you agree with George on that? Is that how to find a solution on this?

KARA: Yes, I think George puts his finger on something very important here. You've got to --


KARA: A sociable shift. And that's from the bottom up. NGOs need support, full resources, and steeling to do the work they're doing. But you also need the people in government, lawmakers, law enforcement, the judiciary, to take this issue seriously. And that requires a shift in social consciousness in India to take this issue seriously where it hasn't been taken --



ANDERSON: Well, that comment you heard was just one of the many that we've received in response to Siddharth's blog. He's been writing for us throughout the journey, and you can read what he has to say about the families brought in to work in New Delhi's beautification projects, about the kids working in India's carpet factories, and about those supplying labor for Bangladesh's shrimp industry.

And of course, do join in the discussion by leaving your own thoughts. On the Trail of Human Trafficking begins at You can always tweet me, of course, @beckycnn.

Now, I want to take a moment to tell you of a brand new project that's all about the global connections that you can make. Each week, we're going to pick two countries that at first glance may not seem to have very much in common. We want you to tell us what they share. It can be historical ties, cultural traditions, or something more personal. Maybe you live in one country and have family in another, or your company does business in both. Do let us know, is where you can find out more. And if you go to the site, you'll find out what we're doing there.

Coming up, it's a weighty issue. There are staggering new figures out on the number of people turning to surgery to combat obesity. Is it the answer to a global epidemic. We're going to ask that very question up next.


ANDERSON: There is no question, the world is getting fatter. Obesity has become an epidemic, bringing with it a staggering cost to health systems around the world.

And it is a problem that desperately needs a solution. Diet programs have long been big business but, increasingly, people are taking more extreme options to shed the kilos. That is, they are going under the knife. Max Foster looks at the case in the UK.


DEBRA HARRIS, OBESITY OPERATION PATIENT: It really started around the time that I was pregnant with my daughter. I gained weight in pregnancy, as women do. And then, afterwards, I suffered from the most awful post- natal depression, and I guess I was hiding my feelings. And, of course, I started eating, consequently, gained weight.

FOSTER: And what weight did you get to in the end?

HARRIS: Around that time, I weighed about 19 stone. And then, gradually, yo-yo dieted over the years. Lost seven stone, had my son, and then had a little bit of post-natal depression and gained a little bit more again. But just yo-yoed, constantly, all the time.

FOSTER: When you're at your heaviest, what weight were you in kilograms?

HARRIS: Oh, dear. Do I really have to tell you this?

FOSTER: You don't have to. Only if you want to.

HARRIS: Well I -- I do. I do need to share it, really, 167 kilograms, which is around 26 stone 3 pounds, I think.

FOSTER: And that -- that's extreme. In terms of how that's classified, how is that classified in terms of obesity?

HARRIS: On the super, super, super obese scale. The highest that you can get to, really.

FOSTER: Which at the time felt normal, in a way, looking back on it.

HARRIS: Horrifying, that I'd let myself actually get to that state, really. But on a positive note, knowing that I was now going to be doing something about helping myself.

FOSTER: OK, and that decision ultimately was having surgery.

HARRIS: Yes, it was. Because I'd tried the pills. I'd tried slimming clubs. And none of them were working for me any longer.

FOSTER: Let's look at a -- the last picture we have -- where's the last picture of you before your surgery?

HARRIS: It's this one here at my daughter's wedding.

FOSTER: So this is you at your daughter's wedding.


FOSTER: Just before you had the surgery.

HARRIS: No, not just before I had the surgery. It was three days before I had my first consultation to see whether or not I was going to be a suitable candidate for surgery.

FOSTER: I'm going to put a hard question to you. This is something that people are debating today. Why couldn't you just stop eating as much? Why did you have to have surgery paid for by the public sector?

HARRIS: Well, in fact, I had stopped eating as much. I was following a Weight Watchers' point diet, and I just wasn't losing any weight. I'd gone to my doctor in between time and found out that I'd got a thyroid problem.

FOSTER: Would you say the surgery saved your life?

HARRIS: Yes, absolutely. Because I certainly wouldn't have been able to continue the way that I was with hypertension and just to say, I've already mentioned the diabetes. And who knows? I could have been heading for a heart attack, and I wouldn't have had the pleasure of seeing my grandson, who was born nine weeks ago.


ANDERSON: Max Foster reporting for you there. Obesity is a global epidemic, no longer a problem found only in wealthier countries. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 400 million adults were obese in 2005, and it projects that by 2015, that number will grow to 700 million. That is more than one in ten around the world.

Not surprisingly, surgery to combat obesity, then, has also increased around the world, not just in the UK. In the US, where a third of Americans are estimated to be morbidly obese, and that is a word, weight loss surgery has increased six-fold. The rate was even higher in Australia, which went from 400 procedures in 1994, for example, to almost 4,000 ten years later.

But is this the answer? I'm joined now by Dr. Martin Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins University in Washington. It'll be a question that many people are asking because surely, firstly, one should be concentrating on dealing with the problem, not dealing with how to cure it.

MARTIN MAKARY, SURGEON, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: It is sort of a primitive, last-ditch solution. It's not the -- a preventive strategy, and it's not going to work for everybody. But what we're seeing is that if somebody does not have the operation, they live on average ten years shorter, and they have a number of long-term health problems, which on a global level, threaten to burden health systems around the world.

ANDERSON: Isn't this a bit like, we used to talk about lawyers being ambulance chasers. Now the surgeons are being -- well, chasing whatever it is that we are doing wrong these days and charging for it. Not just privately, but public health sector, as well. There will be a lot of people watching this saying, "I don't want to pay for somebody else to have eaten too much."

MAKARY: It is a mammoth problem around the world. If we look at the root cause, we are seeing parallels in the rise of obesity similar to the growth of processed food, the western diet, and the western food culture growth around the world. That is, the foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, high in calories, and have large portions. The super-size portions and -- as we have here, the Wendy's Triple Baconator, a sandwich which, in public health, we call that weapon of mass destruction.

ANDERSON: Yes. Let me ask you. Can you give me a profile of a classic patient?

MAKARY: Most patients struggle with diets. They are often told that they need to exercise when, in fact, weight loss is probably more three or four parts diet and one part exercise. Ninety-seven percent of people who try to lose weight with a diet are unsuccessful, and that's why the surgery is an option they turn to frequently.

ANDERSON: Is this an option that they turn to frequently only in the developed world, or is this becoming more regular in the developing world as well?

MAKARY: It's really in the developed world where we are seeing this grow like crazy. We're seeing surgeons and hospitals set up centers where they're doing, sometimes, 10 or 20 of these operations every week. So it's a huge growth area in world medicine. Partly because we don't know what to do about the obesity epidemic. We call it in public health the new tobacco.

ANDERSON: All right, let me ask you this, then. How much does an average operation cost?

MAKARY: About US $30,000. Now we have found in our research that the annual health care costs go down about $10,000 for the person that has this done. Because the diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure often times go away after the operation.

ANDERSON: For the numbers, when you do the math, it's actually cheaper to do these operations even in the public health sector than it is to actually have to treat people who have problems of obesity and diabetes, yes?

MAKARY: And that's why, Becky, many people are adopting this in health care systems around the world, regulators, governments. They're seeing the cost savings.

ANDERSON: Final question to you. What are the after-effects?

MAKARY: There have been studies that have shown at five and ten years, if you don't keep that discipline, 40 or 50 percent of the people can regain most or all that weight. There's a one percent death rate from the surgery. It can range as low as 0.2 percent to 2 percent. But there - - you need to take vitamins every day for the rest of your life, and there are things to watch out for.

ANDERSON: We do appreciate your time this Friday. Out of Washington, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Fascinating stuff.

Our Connector of the Day series is celebrating its first birthday this week, and we've had everyone over the last year from Bill Gates to Shakira. Up next, as promised, we reveal the most popular Connector on our website this year. A pint-sized pop star with a huge following.


ANDERSON: All this week, we've been celebrating Connector of the Day's first birthday. It's part of this show on a regular basis, of course. On Wednesday, we heard from Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO of the Acumen Fund, and the third-most popular Connector on the website this year.

On Thursday, we brought you back a glamour girl by popular demand. Our interview with burlesque beauty Dita Von Teese got you clicking, and she nabbed the number two spot. That music went a bit off, didn't it?

You've been connected to a whole host of famous faces on CNN, among them, Bill Gates, Morgan Freeman, and Tony Blair. So the big question, who was your ultimate favorite? Drum roll please. With --

(MUSIC - "One Time")

ANDERSON: With 32,000 clicks on our website, Justin Bieber stole the show. In 2007, the pop star was an unknown for three years, and with songs like "One Time," he's causing teenage hysteria around the world. Fans are snapping up his albums by the thousands.

Back in May, I caught up with the pint-sized pop star and began by asking him how's handling the transition from normal teenager to global singing sensation.


JUSTIN BIEBER, MOST POPULAR CONNECTOR 2010: It's been pretty amazing. I'm really glad I've just been able to do what I love and I'm really glad that I get to travel the world and do what I love to do.

ANDERSON: All right. Got some questions from the audience here. Eric Williams from Texas. "What do you consider to be the most important event in your life so far? Was it being discovered, producing your first record, what?"

BIEBER: I've done a lot of cool things. I got to present at the Grammies, present at the VMAs. I performed for the president of the United States. So I got to do a lot of cool stuff. But probably perform for the president is one of the coolest things.

ANDERSON: All right. Well, that leads us right into the next question. Solomon Obi has written in to you, Justin, he asks, "How did you feel performing for Obama? Was it different" --


ANDERSON: "Normal concert?"

BIEBER: Yes, definitely. I didn't really hear a lot of loud-pitched screaming when I performed for Obama.


ANDERSON: Lovely. Teehram from Pakistan. "What do you enjoy the most while being a super star," my love? Do you like traveling, screaming girls, for example? Or attending the awards ceremonies, or shows, or concerts?

BIEBER: I like performing. Overall, I like to just perform for my fans and be able to entertain them. That's what I love to do the best.

ANDERSON: You have the most unbelievable following. Are you used to all these screaming fans by now?

BIEBER: Yes, I guess. I just have fun with it. My fans are amazing, they're always responsive on Twitter and Facebook. And I just have the greatest fans in the world.

ANDERSON: All right, Paula has written in. She says, "Some of your fans are known to be pretty extreme. A few days ago, some even threatened Kim Kardashian. Do you think that your fans go a bit too far sometimes?" Are they a bit too obsessed, Justin?

BIEBER: No. I think my fans are really supportive. I'm really glad that I have really devoted fans. And I guess they do what they've got to do.

ANDERSON: DJ Khaled from Nigeria. He's written in, Justin, he says, "Being a celebrity at such a young age, have you gained or lost anything?"

BIEBER: I think that I'm -- I definitely -- I don't get to see my friends as much as I'd like to, but I still get to travel the world and do what I like to do, so I wouldn't change it for the world.

ANDERSON: You are a lucky lad. Marcel from Cameroon asks this very simple question. "Are you still at school and, if you are, what are your favorite classes?"

BIEBER: I don't go to a school. I have a tutor that travels with me and stuff. So, yes. I still do school.

ANDERSON: If you still do school, then, what are your favorite subjects?

BIEBER: My favorite subjects are probably, like, English. And then I don't really like math.

ANDERSON: Hardly any of us like math. Jane asks, "What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a young musician in the music industry?"

BIEBER: Being in the music business sometimes can be a little shady. There's a lot of people that try to get inside and try to mess thing up. But you've just got to keep your family close and remain humble and that's -- you'll go far.


ANDERSON: Wise head on, it's got to be said, very young shoulders. Well, you've got a cracking week of Connectors coming up next week, including the real deal. Yes, former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield will be in the house. For right now, he's swapping his boxing gloves for a fistful of cards. Tune in next week when this star will reveal all. And send in your questions. Remember to tell us where you're writing in from. Head to We'll be right back tonight.


ANDERSON: Through the lens, tonight, Pakistan, where devastating floods have taken and shaken every day lives -- everyday people's lives. We start in Sindh province, where this villager carries his belongings onto higher ground after fears of more rain.

Next up, this is Thatta District, where this woman is making due preparing bread at her makeshift stove.

In this relief camp in Punjab, children displaced from their homes are forced to sleep under their tent.

In Sukkur, this man looks over the site of a relief camp. He could be there for sometime. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari warned that -- his nation it could take years to recover from these floods.

A fight for food in Lal Pir. Flood survivors try to catch food bags from a relief helicopter there.

And finally, welcoming new life amid the crisis. This little girl kisses a newborn baby at a hospital in Nowshera. Pakistan and its people in Your World in Pictures tonight. Lest we forget, of course.

Staying with Pakistan, where a million more people have been displaced in the last two days, according to the UN. Tonight, we'd like to share with you a very passionate iReport from one of our viewers. Watch this story and what he calls the forgotten people.


TOM HOWARD, I-REPORTER: Hi. My name is Tom Howard. I'm here in Montreal. I worked seven months in Pakistan back in 2007. And I came to the conclusion that Pakistan is the forgotten nation.

Proof is in the news. No one wants to help Pakistan. These people do not live in the picturesque valleys, where the rich go on holiday. Did you know it's going to rain again?

These people belong to that forgotten part of humanity that has quietly worked the land for centuries. The farmers, the peasants, the farmhands, generations of people who are born and work and die on the same small piece of land.

These areas are of no strategic interest to anyone, because they have neither exported terrorism, nor do they have the ambition to join a fight against it.


ANDERSON: One of our iReports, and a very passionate one at that, You can find out what you can do for the people of Pakistan. A million more displaced in the last two days, is what the UN is telling us.

I just want to get you some comments just before the end of this show, coming in by my Twitter address, @beckycnn, regarding our top stories tonight, children accused of being witches in one part of Nigeria. We've shown you how they -- their own families cast them out or worse over this fear.

Well, Luxemburg1991 writing in tonight, "This story is heartbreaking and makes me very sad. Why doesn't the government intervene? Why don't they react?"

MyAGB, or MYAGB says, "It shows a level of ignorance in the use of Christ's name to divide families for the gains of these fake pastors."

Mkedrick (ph) has written to us tonight saying, "People are acting like that because of two factors. First of all, ignorance. And a second one, which is more important, is poverty."

And this from NABobs221 (ph), "The witchcraft is a phenomenon in the developing nations, where poverty-ridden populace are vulnerable and exploited through religion."

Your thoughts on our top story this evening. That's your world, connected, here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in London. "BackStory" is up right next, right after this check of the headlines.