The U.N.’s Pan-American Health Organization, the United States and the international community “should be working with the Haitian Health Ministry to wage a more aggressive and effective effort” against the cholera epidemic that hit the country last year, and those efforts “should include not only clean water and sanitation systems but more antibiotics and cholera vaccinations,” a New York Times editorial says. “Ramping up manufacturing” of the cholera vaccine — of which there are less than 400,000 doses worldwide — “could be readily done and would have global benefits,” the editorial states.
The U.N. “announced Monday that Somalia’s famine had spread to a sixth area within the country, with officials warning that 750,000 people could die in the next few months unless aid efforts were scaled up,” the New York Times reports (Gettleman/Kyama, 9/5).
When a cholera outbreak began months after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, health workers used cell phones to help track the movements of people leaving the epicenter, allowing them “to alert medics to go where infected people might carry the disease,” according to a report published on Tuesday in PLoS Medicine, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “The second wave of cases did appear exactly in the areas where most of the population was moving to … out of the cholera zone,” public health specialist Richard Garfield of Columbia University said, the blog notes. Health officials also used the phones to send health advice to Haitians over voice mail or text messaging, according to the blog (Joyce, 8/31).
“A cholera pandemic that has swept poor countries in three waves over nearly four decades has been traced to a bacterial strain that first emerged in Bangladesh, scientists reported on Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The new probe, published in the British journal Nature, points to the likely role of modern travel in transmitting the bacteria — and the importance of the Gulf of Bengal as a ‘reservoir,’ or source from which the germ can always be transmitted,” AFP writes (8/24).
Lack Of Access To Water, Sanitation In Urban Areas Contributes To Disease, Impacts Economies, Water Conference Hears
“How best to provide clean water and sanitation to the world’s cities and their expanding slums is the overriding theme of World Water Week, which opened Monday in Stockholm,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (8/23).
FAO Holds Second Emergency Meeting On Famine; WHO Warns Of Cholera Spread; Turkish PM Visits Mogadishu
For the second time in one month, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an emergency meeting on Thursday in Rome “to take stock of the humanitarian disaster” in the Horn of Africa, the Guardian reports (Tran, 8/18). The officials “called for a twin-pronged approach to tackle the food crisis, stressing immediate relief and the strengthening of the resilience of affected communities to enable them to cope with future shocks in the drought-prone region,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/18).
“The number of cholera fatalities in Haiti has risen to just short of 6,000, the health ministry said Sunday,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. “By 31 July, 5,968 had died with 10 more people succumbing every day, the ministry said,” and “[m]ore than 420,000 people have been infected since the outbreak started in October and another 600 cases are registered daily,” the news agency notes.
“Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children already weakened by hunger, resulting in dozens of new fatalities,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/13). According to the WHO, “181 people have died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu, and there have been several other confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 8/12). UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado “said Friday that tens of thousands of children have died and countless more are particularly at risk of cholera and other diseases because of drought and violence in East Africa,” the Associated Press/NPR notes (8/12).
IRIN examines access to water and sanitation in Zambia, where “only 58 percent of Zambians have access to adequate sanitation and 13 percent lack any kind of toilet,” according to a 2008 study by the local non-governmental organization Water and Sanitation Forum.
The Economist in its current issue examines cholera, including the disease’s history, current outbreaks, and research into vaccines and sanitation. “Not all human waste has the deadly bacterium; but all of it is dangerous and better disposal of feces would go a huge way to stopping cholera and other deadly intestinal diseases,” the magazine writes (7/30).