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).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
“U.N. refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that relief groups should increase aid to war-battered and drought-hit Somalis to reduce the exodus to neighboring countries,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘Our objective is to create conditions for Somalis to be able to live in Somalia and for Somali refugees, when they have the opportunity, to go back home safely,’ Guterres added,” the news agency notes. “Tens of thousands of Somalis have in recent months fled to camps in Ethiopia and Kenya due to the drought, the Horn of Africa’s worst in decades,” AFP writes (8/30).
Progress In Reducing Child Mortality Rates At Somalia, Ethiopia Border Refugee Camps Is Slow, U.S. Official Says
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Reuben Brigety, “[t]he top U.S. official for refugee issues, … says that despite intensive efforts, relief agencies have made little progress in reducing child mortality rates at refugee camps along Somalia’s border with Ethiopia,” VOA News reports. Brigety, “comment[ing] as he returned from Dollo Ado, a sprawling camp complex in Ethiopia that houses 120,000 refugees from famine-stricken southern Somalia … tells VOA that humanitarian agencies have made impressive progress in establishing health facilities and registering the backlog of refugees arriving daily from Somaliaâ€™s famine zone. But he said children are still dying at an alarming rate of malnutrition and other complications, such as measles,” the news agency writes.
In this New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog post, journalist and author Tina Rosenberg examines the contrasts between refugee situations in rural camps — such as Dadaab in Kenya, where tens of thousands have sought relief from drought and famine in Somalia — and more urban areas, such as cities in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, where approximately 1.6 million Iraqi refugees are living. “At Dadaab, [refugees] receive food, medical care, basic shelter — the emergency relief they need,” but “[t]he camp lacks the money to provide even subsistence rations” and “the refugees give up their rights to move freely and to work,” she writes. In urban areas, refugees “get help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with an ATM card that allows them to withdraw money every month. … They buy their own food and rent their own apartments. They use the local schools and health clinics,” Rosenberg says.
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).
“Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh is facing disaster once more with heavy rains over the past five days, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA),” with at least 85 people reported dead and more than two million people affected, IRIN reports (9/5). Sharjeel Memon, Sindh’s information minister, said mobile health teams carrying malaria vaccinations and food aid have been sent to the affected districts, according to Bloomberg. “Pakistan suffered its deadliest floods last year, in which 1,800 people were killed and an area the size of Italy was devastated,” the news agency notes (Anis, 9/5).
Reuters examines how budget debates in Congress “could undo” President Barack Obama’s “‘smart power’ approach, which elevates diplomacy and development alongside military power as guarantors of U.S. security in a rapidly changing world.” Programs run through the State Department and USAID that provide “[f]ood aid to hungry countries, … improved medical services for expectant mothers and the U.S. response to natural disasters such as earthquakes and droughts could be hit in a major scale-back of U.S. assistance,” the news agency writes.
The Washington Post looks at the conditions within Banadir Hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. “The scenes … reflect the immense challenge facing this Horn of Africa nation, already besieged by multiple woes, from civil war to radical Islamist militants to a weak transitional government incapable of governing effectively, despite massive support from the United States and its allies,” the newspaper writes (Raghavan, 9/7).
U.N. Agencies, Pakistan Government Launch Rapid Needs Assessment, Provide Aid In Flood-Affected Regions
“United Nations humanitarian agencies have begun to assist communities in southern Pakistan that have been pummeled by monsoon rains which have claimed the lives of almost 200 people and destroyed or damaged nearly one million homes in an area still recovering from last year’s catastrophic floods,” the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. and the Pakistan government “have begun a rapid needs assessment in Sindh, with shelter, food, water, sanitation, hygiene and health care expected to be the priorities,” the news service writes (9/10).
A VOA News editorial says U.S. support to Haiti since the early days of an outbreak of cholera, which has affected more than 439,600 people since it was first detected almost a year ago, “remains unfailing.” The editorial continues, “To date, the U.S. government has spent more than $75 million on improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, … has established and operated treatment centers and trained Haitian health care workers in preventing, diagnosing and treating cholera,” among other treatment, prevention and monitoring initiatives. “While some humanitarian groups are gradually reducing their operations in Haiti, the U.S. remains focused on giving the Haitian government the aid and tools needed to prevent and treat this potentially deadly disease,” the editorial says, adding, “The medical and public health response has been effective in limiting deaths associated with the disease” (9/12).