“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).
Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding
“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Helen Matzger, a program officer in new vaccine delivery at the foundation, writes about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and other areas, and says creating stockpiles of a recently WHO-approved cholera vaccine could help save lives in the future. “The creation of a cholera stockpile is not a panacea; … Still, the cholera vaccine works. Though many of us may never need it, millions of people living in some of the poorest regions of the world face cholera outbreaks all too often. We have a way to alter the course of an outbreak and save lives. Let’s use it,” she concludes (9/19).
An ongoing cholera outbreak continues to affect Sierra Leone, and the WHO said on Tuesday it is increasing efforts to fight the disease, “as fatalities from the water and food-borne disease continue to increase,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “In a press statement, the [WHO] confirmed that the total number of reported cases had reached 18,508, including 271 deaths, since the beginning of 2012, with the highest cluster of infections occurring in the western area of the country where the capital, Freetown, is located,” the news service writes, noting the agency is working with the government and other partners “to step up their response” (9/18).
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”
“Floods in Niger have killed 81 people since July, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] announced Thursday, adding cholera outbreaks have killed a further 81 people,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Thousands of homes, schools, health centers and mosques have been destroyed, along with large quantities of food supplies, according to the authorities,” the news service writes, adding, “Cholera is spreading fast in at least four places, making 3,854 people sick and notably affecting the Tillaberi regions lying by the Niger river and close to the border with Mali, OCHA said.” The news service notes, “In neighboring Burkina Faso, heavy rains have killed 18 people and made 21,000 homeless since June. … Senegal and Nigeria have also been affected by the bad weather” (9/13).
In three separate articles, IRIN reports on the implications of flooding taking place in Africa. “Tens of thousands of people have been affected by flooding in parts of central, eastern and southern Chad following heavy rains in August,” the news service writes in the first article, adding that the floods have affected 445,725 people and destroyed 255,720 hectares of cropland. “The flooding is occurring at a time when Chad is still grappling with food insecurity,” IRIN states, noting, “Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are endemic in some of the West and Central African countries, often peaking during the rainy season between August and December” (9/7).
“Almost two years after the deadly disease first appeared in Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, the story of cholera is one of both success and failure,” columnist Catherine Porter writes in a Toronto Star opinion piece. She says though progress has been made in bringing down the death rate from cholera, educating the population on prevention, and getting people with the disease into treatment more quickly, aid agencies’ funding has “dried up and most have ended their cholera programs.” She continues, “In most instances, the Haitian government has not picked up the work that had been done by departing aid agencies. … For its part, the Haitian government has focused on surveillance and prevention — plastering the city with posters about hand-washing and disinfecting water.”
In this post in the ONE Blog, John Anner, president of the East Meets West Foundation, discusses how the foundation is helping to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among poor populations. “As leaders gathered in Stockholm last week for World Water Week to discuss the future of our most precious natural resource, we are soberly reminded that for millions of people around the world, water safety is compromised because of poor sanitation and hygiene, which are the cause of numerous infections and waterborne illnesses,” he writes. “With the support of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, East Meets West is pioneering a new approach to behavior change — one that we believe can help transform the sanitation and hygiene practices of those living in the most disadvantaged communities in Vietnam and Cambodia,” he continues, and details the community-based approach (9/4).
“Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine,” according to a study from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The effect is called ‘herd immunity,'” the blog notes. According to “Shots,” “half the people in six rural and urban areas received two doses of oral cholera vaccine,” and “[f]or those who got it, the vaccine was 79 percent protective against the disease” while “their neighbors who didn’t get vaccinated had almost as much protection.”