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Use Of Sewage-Contaminated Water To Irrigate Crops Poses Disease Risk In Zimbabwe, IRIN Reports

IRIN examines how local Zimbabwean farmers’ usage of water containing raw sewage to irrigate their crops poses a risk of disease transmission to people who consume the vegetables. In the capital Harare, less than half of the raw sewage produced is treated before being sent back into tributaries, according to IRIN, which notes, “In a recent report, Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said 60 percent of the capital’s residents did not have access to clean water, and 10 percent relied on boreholes and unprotected wells.” Since a cholera outbreak in 2008, UNICEF and other international donors have been helping Zimbabwean municipalities treat their water, but the UNICEF program is winding down, leaving some unsure whether local authorities “can go it alone,” IRIN writes (4/16).

Cholera Vaccination Pilot Project Begins In Haiti

“A year and a half after cholera first struck Haiti, a tiny portion of the population on Thursday began getting vaccinated against the waterborne disease that has infected more than 530,000 Haitians and killed more than 7,040,” the New York Times reports (Sontag, 4/12). The pilot project, which will reach only one percent of Haiti’s population, “aim[s] … to show that it’s possible to give the required two doses over a two-week period to desperately poor and hard-to-reach people,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” writes. “If it works, the plan is to convince the Haitian government, deep-pocketed donors and international health agencies to support a much bigger campaign to vaccinate millions of Haitians at highest risk of cholera,” according to the blog (Knox, 4/12).

U.N. Launches $2.2B Appeal For New Initiative To Eliminate Cholera In Haiti, Dominican Republic

“The United Nations [on Tuesday] announced a new initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘The new initiative will invest in prevention, treatment, and education — it will take a holistic approach to tackling the cholera challenge,’ said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the initiative’s launch,” according to the news service (12/11). “With the number of reported cases exceeding 620,000 since the epidemic started in October 2010, [Ban] acknowledged the ‘heavy toll’ as he launched the 10-year initiative,” Agence France-Presse writes.

Cholera Strain From Guinea Identified As More Toxic, Contagious

“Scientists say the cholera outbreak that struck more than 7,000 people in Guinea this year was caused by a more toxic and more contagious generation of the bacteria,” and they “suspect the same strain killed nearly 300 people and struck more than 22,000 others in neighboring Sierra Leone,” VOA News reports. “Through genetic sequencing of the cholera bacteria found in Guinea, epidemiologists working with the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] have identified them as atypical variants of the O1 El Tor strain,” the news service writes. Francois Bellet, a member of UNICEF’s regional office for West and Central Africa, “said this discovery raises the alert level, requiring stronger epidemiological surveillance, preparedness and response to cholera outbreaks in Guinea and throughout the region,” according to VOA (Palus, 12/20). “This type of strain was present in Zimbabwe in 2009, in the Lake Chad Basin in 2009, and is found in Haiti currently,” IRIN notes (12/18).

‘Repackaging’ Of U.N. Cholera Initiative Detracts Attention From Epidemic’s Origin

“Those following the two-year-old saga of the United Nations and cholera in Haiti were startled by” the U.N.’s announcement last week of a $2.2 billion initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, freelance journalist Jonathan Katz and Tom Murphy, editor of the development blog “A View From the Cave,” write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Since [the crisis began in October 2010], scores of epidemiologists — including those appointed by the U.N. itself — have unearthed overwhelming evidence supporting the hypothesis that [U.N. peacekeepers] carried the disease and introduced it to Haiti through negligent sanitation,” they continue, adding, “In response, U.N. officials have ignored, dismissed, or mischaracterized it all.”

Some Diplomats, U.N. Observers Express ‘Concerns’ Over U.N. Appeal For Haitian Cholera Aid, Al Jazeera Reports

Following U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s announcement on Tuesday of a new initiative appealing for $2.2 billion over 10 years to fight cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Al Jazeera reports “there are concerns by some diplomats and U.N. observers that the funds necessary for the program would not be forthcoming from donors.” As part of the larger appeal covering the island of Hispaniola, in Haiti “[t]he new program dedicates $215 million from donors along with $23.5 million from U.N. funds towards programs in public health, capacity building, public education, and clean water systems,” according to the news service. However, “Haiti will need $500 million over the next two years for its own national cholera plan,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The funds allocated in the program would therefore cover only one year.”

Senator Leahy Calls For U.S. To Suspend Direct Aid To Haiti’s Government, Visas For Haitian Officials

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, “on Friday urged President Barack Obama’s administration to suspend direct aid to Haiti’s government and visas for its top officials until it ensures a fair and democratic outcome to disputed national elections,” Reuters reports.

Also In Global Health News: Cholera In Haiti; Food In Ghana; Health Care Access In Afghanistan; Violence Against Women In Somalia; Male Circumcision Study

CDC Report Documents Cholera’s Spread In Haiti Haiti’s cholera outbreak has spread across the country and infected more than 91,000 people, while more than 2,000 people have died as a result, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which was published on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times…

U.N. Says It Will Investigate Source Of Haitian Cholera Epidemic As Death Toll Rises

The U.N. is looking into establishing an independent commission to identify the source of Haiti’s cholera epidemic, Alain Le Roy, the U.N. under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said on Wednesday, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “We are urging and we are calling for what we could call an international panel,” Le Roy said at a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York. “We are in discussions with (the U.N. World Health Organization) to find the best experts to be in a panel to be completely independent,” he added.